Everything You Need to Know About the Balaclava

Everything You Need to Know About the Balaclava

You’re gearing up for your next mountain adventure. Winter jackets, hats, and gloves call to you. They are the armor you’ll wear as you shred powdered tree glades on ski days and snowshoe in the backcountry. One gear item you may be tempted to overlook is the balaclava.

What is a Balaclava?

The balaclava, used by the most hardcore outdoorsmen and women, is a necessity for skiers, winter hikers, snowshoers, and hunters alike. Never heard of it? Don’t worry, we’ll give you a crash course and explain why this is a must-have piece of winter apparel.

The History of the Balaclava

The history of the Balaclava is an interesting one. During the Crimean War (1853-1856), British soldiers donned knitted headgear that covered the top and lower portion of their face, exposing only their eyes, to keep warm during The Battle of Balaclava. The town of Balaclava was nearby and, over time, the name came to be associated with the unique face masks worn by the troops. Traditionally, Balaclavas were made of wool but now they are comprised of a variety of fabrics including silk, fleece, and bamboo. Balaclavas are also worn for protective purposes by firefighters, police, race car drivers, electrical workers, SWAT, and special forces personnel.

Sports in which Balaclavas are Utilized

For winter sports lovers the balaclava is a trusted best friend. Skiers and snowboarders utilize this handy item to protect them from chapped skin and, in extreme conditions, frostbite. Winter mountaineers wear balaclavas for added warmth and protection. Snowmobilers, motorcyclists, and bicyclists also benefit from balaclavas which keep the wind from wreaking havoc on their skin.

Purpose and Function

The most obvious purpose of the balaclava is to keep the wearer warm and dry. Because balaclavas cover the head and lower part of the face, heat from the top of your head doesn’t escape, but the breathable material of balaclavas prevents fogging on goggles. Helmets can be worn over balaclavas making them ideal for skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling.

Which Balaclava is Right for Me?

When choosing a balaclava, researching the materials are key. You don’t want a heavyweight balaclava in late fall and early winter because you’ll sweat your face off — and you certainly want to make sure that you have headgear that will perform in the dead of winter when you’re hunting for powder stashes. Luckily, Turtle Fur has a balaclava for every season, every sport, and every situation.

Classic Heavyweight Shellaclava, Balaclava for skiing, Skiing facemask

Classic Heavyweight Shellaclava

An excellent choice for brutally cold days in the mountains, this heavyweight balaclava will protect from the alpine chill while ensuring that you don’t sweat your face off. Perfect for long days on the slopes when the wind chill has it feeling in the negatives, this impressive piece of gear is made of of our technical performance fabric and our classic fleece. It can be worn comfortably under helmets and hats. An added bonus, the antimicrobial fabric at the crown guarantees that there are no funky smells if you’re sweating through your winter adventure.

Alpha Tek MAX-DRI Balaclava Liner

Bamboo Balaclava Liner, Lightweight Balaclava

Made of Alpha Tek™ MAX-DRI, this tactical liner has a contoured neck and hinged face, providing full head and neck coverage. If you’re looking for a balaclava that’s a bit more lightweight, but excellent for days when you might be working up a sweat, this is the balaclava for you. The honeycomb texture of the fabric works hard to keep you warm while controlling moisture and odor, so you can stay dry even when your adventure takes you to new heights (and challenges).

Quantum Balaclava, Balaclavas for skiing, Skiing facemask

Quantum Performance Balaclava

This midweight balaclava has a ton of great features. This specific piece of gear has a hinged convertible top that can be worn up or down, and is made of a moisture-wicking, breathable, and quick-drying material - meaning it’s a great accessory for those days that you might work up a sweat on the mountains or on the trails. Getting too warm? Take the hood off, and your face and neck remain protected from the sun’s rays, cold, and snow.

Classic Midweight Balaclava, Balaclava for skiing, Skiing facemask

Classic Midweight Shellaclava

The Chelonia 150 Fleece balaclava is a neck warmer and hood all in one — it keeps the wind off of your face and wicks moisture away from your body. Long enough to be tucked into your jacket, it will keep sleet and snow out while making sure heat stays in. This must-have midweight gear item comes in a variety of colors and is perfect for days when it’s dumping snow on the ski hill or you’re blasting through pines on a snowmobile.

MaxClava Balaclava, Balaclava for skiing, Skiing facemask, Snowboarding Balaclava

MaxClava Balaclava

The MaxClava Balaclava is made of Comfort shell™ UV Performance Fabric that will keep you warm and wind-burn free while on your ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, and snowboarding adventures. Lightweight and breathable, this balaclava is an essential accessory and will keep your head and hair dry while blocking harsh winter sun rays which can be a big issue at high altitudes.

Switchback Maskot Balaclava

Switchback Maskot Balaclava, Balaclava for skiing, Skiing facemask

This breathable and quick-drying option is excellent for skiing, snowboarding, biking, hiking, and pretty much any other sport that takes you into the windy, cold wilderness. The single-layer hood joins together with a double-layer neck, giving you full coverage from the elements. With Polartec® Windbloc® Fleece lining the front and a perforated mouth, breathing is made easy with this balaclava. Bonus? You won’t need to worry about your goggles icing up (even when the temps drop below zero). Oh, and did we mention it has a durable water repellent finish? You stay dry, without sacrificing breathability. Perfect for the active individual who isn’t afraid to get out there on winter’s harshest days.

quattroClava with Storm Flap™

This revolutionary balaclava is built upon one of our most successful neck gaiters – the Totally Tubular™. We added a vented face and nose area with a flip-up Storm Flap™, so you’re covered from every angle, but still have maximum breathability. The Comfort Shell™ active performance fabric is moisture-wicking, provides long-lasting warmth (without weighing you down), and is odor-resistant, making this a perfect option for long days on the mountain, or back country romps where you might work up a sweat. The on-demand, flip-up Storm Flap™ can either provide an extra layer of warmth at the neck, or can be worn flipped up to cover the meshed nose and mouth area.

So, Why Do You Need a Balaclava Anyway?

Any avid skier, snowshoer, or hunter shouldn't step into the wilderness without a balaclava. The added protection from elements such as sun and wind is invaluable, particularly in high alpine terrain. Turtle Fur Balaclavas make winter exploits more comfortable and more safe; in a survival situation, a balaclava will protect you from nose and cheek frostbite. This essential piece of winter gear is bang for your buck in more ways than one. Most balaclavas are compatible with a ski helmet and fit comfortably under your favorite hat. If the urge to winter camp strikes, throw on a balaclava and cozy up in the backcountry around a roaring fire. Some even choose to sleep in a balaclava so that no heat escapes overnight.

Is a balaclava too much coverage? Looking for something a bit more simple? Check out our guide on how to choose the best neck warmer.