Winter Or Summer We’ve Got You Covered 

The Best Neck Buffs, Gators & Balaclavas for Skiing & Snowboarding 2024

Exposing your gizzard while you are skiing and riding can be unbearably uncomfortable on chilly days. Neck gaiters and Balaclavas have become integral comfort and style pieces on the mountain in the last decade. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have oodles of respect for the old school powder filled beard, or an exposed red chin at -20 Celsius, but let’s get real, it’s just not practical.  

Wearing a neck gaiter or a balaclava keeps your face from freezing, keeps your neck warm and also helps retain overall body heat sending it down into your mid layers. Unless it’s a toasty sunny day, I’ll always be wearing some sort of neck protection, I’ve simply fallen in love with the feeling. There’s an old saying, “Once you go gaiter, you’ll never go back”….

Okay, that’s probably not a saying, but the emotion rings true. Most skiers and snowboarders will fall into one of two parties. Team Neck Gaiters or Team Balaclavas. Both look great, and function awesome. My personal preference is a neck gaiter because I always keep it underneath my lower lip so as never to breathe through it. Either way, you can’t go wrong with some additional face warmth and protection.


Practical advice about ski facemarks and fog reduction 

I see people struggle with foggy goggles all the time. This happens for two reasons. One, you didn’t dry your goggles out well enough after your last ski day. Two, you probably were tucking in your face mask or keeping it too close to your goggles. If you want more tips, I’ve written a whole post on preventing fogging in ski goggles. 

In my opinion, the best way to wear a facemask is to keep it under your lower lip. This keeps the majority of your face covered but allows you to breathe freely on the mountain. If I keep my face under my mask all day it gets really wet, disgusting and tends to push moisture up to my goggle lenses. On super chilly days, I’ll keep my mask around my chin skiing down while I’m breathing heavy and put it over my face and mouth when riding the chairlift up and breathe out of my nose. This little strategy helps me stay warm all day without fogging up my goggles or having to deal with the discomfort of a gross neck gaiter or balaclava.


Synthetic Materials vs Merino Wool

When buying a neck gaiter or a balaclava you need to decide which material feels best on your face. I personally like to run synthetics, simply because my beard hair seems to get itchy in merino. The synthetic material mixes are pretty damn good in terms of breathability, wicking moisture and insulation. However, when it comes to base layers and staying warm and dry, nothing beats merino wool. You’re probably going to have to try both merino and synthetics on the mountain before you know what works best for you. Good news, if you hate one or the other, just wash it and gift it to a family member, neck gaiters and balaclavas never go out of style.

Now that we’ve got the housekeeping tips out of the way, let’s dive into the good part.

Here are the best Neck Gaiters & Balaclavas for Skiing & Snowboarding in 2024


Best Overall Synthetic Neck Gaiter 

Buff Original EcoStretch Neckwear

Materials95% Recycled Polyester, 5% Elastane
Insulation Medium

The Ecostretch is the newest iteration of the traditional Buff tube neckwear that we know and love. It offers an insanely comfortable multifunctional fit and is great for summer or winter with UPF 50 sun protection. You can wear this thing as a gaiter, headband, neck warmer, a tube top… whatever your please. The Original EcoStretch Neckwear is simple, but they’ve really knocked it out of the park with their patented 4-way stretch design. Since this is designed for 4 season use, it’s not going to be as warm as other designs, but if you ski hard and run hot, it’s perfect! 5


Warmest Synthetic Neck Gaiter 

Buff Polar Neckwear

Materials97% Recycled Polyester, 3% Elastane
Insulation Warmest

This is Buff’s go-to multifunctional cold weather neckwear. Some riders find the original a little too chilly in winter so they’ve designed this one for those that run cold. What makes it special is the warm fleece at the bottom which offers that traditional neck warmer feel with more breathable gaiter performance on top. It’s made with recycled materials and not merino so you’re not going to get that wool itch that some people simply can’t stand. The big bonus of a long length buff is that it can always be worn as a hat or ear band when you are climbing uphill on a ski tour or looking cool putting beers back at the apres. 



Best Ultra-Light Neck Gaiter

Buff Merino Lightweight 

Materials100% Merino Wool 
Insulation Low


For all you merino lovers, don’t worry, Buff hasn’t left you stranded. The Merino Lightweight Neckwear is the perfect mix of lightweight protection and comfort. It dries extremely fast and doesn’t get stinky over multiple days of use. For many, this layer will feel too thin in the winter time, but is a great option for sun protection on sunny spring days. 


Best Overall Synthetic Balaclava 

BlackStrap Hood Balaclava 

Materials80% Nylon, 17% Elastane, 3% other fibres
Insulation Medium


I’m a gaiter guy currently, but I was a balaclava brother for most of my life. There’s something about that burglar feel and look that you just can’t beat. Blackstrap is making some of the best feeling and looking face coverings in the game. The Hood Balaclava is the quiver killer for all your face covering fantasies.

The Blackstrap Hood fits perfect under your helmet and their patented ExoHinge technology allows for the perfect amount of mobility and ergonomics around your ski goggles. The fabric does a great job wicking moisture, stays fresh from smell and has 50+ UPF sun protection.


Best Insulated Synthetic Balaclava

BlackStrap Expedition Hood Balaclava 

MaterialsSynthetic Tri-blend
Insulation Warmest

If you want something a little more heavyweight when storms start stacking up, opt for the BlackStrap Expedition Hood Balaclava. The Expedition has an identical design to the classic hood model above but features a 360 degree PERFA dual-layer mesh liner which adds more warmth without sacrificing breathability. If you run chilly and love feeling toasty warm all the time, reach for the expedition over the classic. 


The Warmest Merino Balaclava

Mons Royale Olympus Merino Balaclava

Materials97% Merino Wool, 3% Elastane 
Insulation Warmest

If you’re a fan of Merino, wave hello to Mons Royale. These Kiwis are the the kings of Merino outerwear, it’s all they do. The Olympus is pretty much a central heating system for your skull. It’s extremely toasty and can be trusted on the stormiest days. It’s got a handy hinge so you can wear it up or down depending on which direction the wind is roaring. Even though it’s warm with wooly goodness, it still fits great under a helmet or a beanie.


Best Balaclava For Women (or long haired people)

Mons Royale Santa Rosa merino flex Balaclava 

Materials81% Merino, 12% Nylon, 7% Elastane
Insulation Medium

Mons Royale kept women skiers and riders top of mind with this extremely comfortable and warm balaclava with a ponytail hole. The mix of Merino and Nylon fits amazing around your face and it’s hinged for flexible positioning. There is a drop front neckline to seal in warmth and it breathes like a dream. Even my heinous head of hair got locked into the Santa Rosa.


Best Merino Neck Gaiter

Smartwool Thermal Merino Reversible Neck ‘Warmer’

Materials100% Merino Wool
Insulation Medium

Smartwool gaiters are a classic and you can’t really go long. I find that the tube is a little to short for my liking so I can’t get it around my head and face comfortably, but for many skiers and riders, this one is a favourite, especially those that just want a lightweight classic neck warmer fit and feel.


Most Affordable Neck Gaiters & Balaclavas 

Neck Gaiters and balaclavas are an extremely simple technology. It’s more likely than not, that if you do some digging on Amazon, you might find something with just as good fit and function like MerinoTech which is very similar to some of the name brands above. 


Whether you’re a gaiter gal or a balaclava bro, any of the brands I mentioned above will make your face fabulously happy.



Let me know in the comments what your favourite face covering is?

Stay Spicy!

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