My love/hate relationship with my balaclava…..

You ever have one of those products that you don’t think you can live without, yet you hate it none the less?  Well, I do.  It’s my balaclava. 

Yes, that is frost....


Which, by the way, is nothing more than a glorified ski mask.  I wonder what happened that we stopped calling them something simple?  I can hardly say the word – balaclava, when I do, I get all those a’s and l’s wrapped around my tongue and it comes out sounding something like bologna.  Anyway, I looked them up on Wikipedia and found:

The name “balaclava” comes from the town of Balaklava, near Sevastopol in Crimea, Ukraine. During the Crimean War, knitted balaclavas were sent over to the British troops to help protect them from the bitter cold weather. They are traditionally knitted from wool, and can be rolled up into a hat to cover just the crown of the head.

I use one because I’m a weanie when it comes to the cold.  If I can keep my face, ears, hands and feet warm when I’m riding, I’m good to go.  If one of those start getting cold, forget it.  I’m reduced to a shivering pile of bones in seconds.  Therefore, I use a balaclava over my normal skull cap if the temperatures get down to around the mid-30′s.  At that temperature, I can usually tolerate rolling it up to provide an additional layer over my ears.  At about the freezing mark, I need to pull it down over my face….and it’s at that point I begin muttering to myself about it.

I have two faults with the thing…actually three when I think about it.  First, using the balaclava over my full face necesitates taking my glasses off.  If I don’t, they will fog over the first time I stop pedaling.  When I do that, the cold wind immediately causes my eyes to tear up and that makes it nearly as hard to see.  Not to mention making me look look like I’m bawling my eyes out if some driver happens to look at me at a stoplight.

Secondly, it’s just kind of tough to breath through the material of the mask.  I feel like a fish out of water as I pedal my way up the hill out of our subdivision struggling for air.  You’ve got to kind of keep your mouth open the entire time.

Which brings me to the really objectionable reason I dislike using the balaclava.  After you breath out of your mouth for a while, the warm breath you’re exhaling pretty much condenses out as moisture on the inside of the mask.  It’s not long before you’ve created a mighty pool of drool on the inside of your mask.  Then, invariably my nose will start to run because of the cold.  If my nose is also covered, ugggh!  It’s too much to think about…all that junk running together right where you’re trying to breath! 

Actually, there may be a solution for me out there.  I’ve seen advertisements for balaclavas that cover your chin but leave both your mouth and nose exposed.  The problem is that the only one like that I could put my hands on was at one of the outdoor stores here in town, and it was pretty darn expensive.  I had a hard time justifying paying that much for a “ski mask”.

So there you have it.  Would somebody please invent a better way to keep your face warm?

God bless….


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7 Comments on “My love/hate relationship with my balaclava…..”

  1. Randy Says:

    I use one of these:

    It’s a neck gaiter, basically just a tube of stretchy material that you can wear around your neck, or stretch up over your mouth & nose. It’s a looser fit than a balaclava, so not quite as warm, but I find the side effects less objectionable than the balaclava.

  2. Steve A Says:

    A balaclava with breathing holes at the nose works well for me. I can leave my nose & mouth exposed if temperature permits.

  3. Scott Says:

    Like the comments above, I’ve found an alternative to a balaclava. I use one of these

    It’s a neck gaiter that has velcro in the back to secure it, and a mesh breathing patch over your mouth.

    The mesh patch over your mouth is not as warm for the first mile or so, but the breathability makes a huge difference for me. I hate trying to breathe through fabric. Yes, you still get the unavoidable goo buildup on the inside of the gaiter… but there’s more airflow so I’d like to think it isn’t as bad.

    I combine that with a pair of those wrap around clip on ear warmers (180s) and a lightweight beanie, and of course my helmet. I’ve used this in 9 degrees (F) and my head has been toasty warm, but I generate a lot of heat when I’m riding hard, so it may not work for everyone.

  4. bikinginla Says:

    Those are quite popular here in L.A. as well, despite our warmer weather. Although you usually see them worn by people with guns entering banks and liquor stores…

  5. xiousgeonz Says:

    Indeed, I’ve worn hats and helmets and what have you and pushed the limits of what the sign says not to wear in the bank… but they actually asked me to remove the balaclava. (It’s not that I like pushing limits — I usually have my hands full or somethign…)
    I keep pulling the silly thing off my face, especially ’cause it’s really hard to smile at people when they can’t seem my lips andteeth.

  6. I cut a small hole in mine right over my mouth and that helped a lot with the breathing issues, although sucking air through it can freeze the tip of my tongue if I’m not careful!

  7. Chris Says:

    I also use a fleece “neck gator” with a draw string on one end and elastic on the other. I run the top under my chin and then over the top of my head. I wear a tuque over that and have my helmet over that (removed the pads). I also sport a beard, which helps. I have gone to -30F with this setup without issue other than a flaky freewheel.

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