Being from Arkansas, where the weather can vary from freezing hail to blazing humidity in a single day, I know how to pick a balaclava that’s warm, breathable, and versatile.
I recently decided to look at the new balaclavas out there on the market, and I found five that stood out in quality, value, and effectiveness.
The Best Motorcycle Balaclavas Reviewed
Alpinestars Touring Winter Balaclava
My favorite thing about the Alpinestars touring balaclava is the fit around the nose and mouth. Unlike many balaclavas and masks, it has extra space in the nose so that it doesn’t become uncomfortable over long periods, which is why this is called a touring balaclava.
Overall, this balaclava has a snug fit that will keep you warm. The long neck and shoulder skirt can be loosened or tightened with a spring lock, so you can tuck it comfortably into your clothes and keep out wind and water. Still, it doesn’t overheat due to ventilation and advanced sweat-wicking material.
This balaclava really considers comfort.
Balaclavas or hoods often have seams that can be uncomfortable when smashed in between your head and the helmet, especially when they’re not specifically made for motorcycling. Alpinestars designed their balaclava with a flat seam, though, so this doesn’t happen.
- Enhanced fit around nose and mouth
- Long, adjustable neck and shoulder skirt
- Water and windproof
- Sweat-wicking fabric
- Flat seam on head
- Single size can run small
Dainese Total WS EVO Balaclava
The Dainese EVO is a high-quality balaclava that focuses on versatility. A wind-breaking, insulated material combines with Coolmax fabric inserts to keep you warm in frigid temperatures and cool when it warms up.
The EVO has a neck and shoulder skirt that protects you from wind at the collar, the place usually most vulnerable in the cold.
For such a top-shelf balaclava, I wish the skirt were a bit longer and more form-fitting, especially at the shoulders, but you can certainly tuck it under a jacket if you have it zipped up.
The fit is another big plus of the EVO, and you can pick between small, medium, and large to get the best for your head size. Specific seams around the nose also allow it to stretch without smashing down but still grip your face, so it doesn’t slip down.
- Wind-breaking material for cold weather
- Coolmax fabric inserts for warmer weather
- Neck and shoulder skirt
- Multiple sizes
- Comfortable fit at the nose
- Skirt a bit short at the shoulders
Tough Outfitters Balaclava Ski Mask
This Tough Outfitters balaclava is my favorite budget option, a basic but solid ski mask that will serve you motorcycling, skiing, hiking, or just walking around town.
This is mostly due to the flexible design. The cap and mask are sewn together with a significant amount of give, which allows you to make the eye hole as thin or wide as you want. That way, you can wear goggles or motorcycle glasses or just position it more comfortably on your face.
It’s surprisingly comfortable for a budget balaclava as well. The fabric is super stretchy and lightweight due to its 89% polyester, 11% Spandex blend. It fits snugly around the nose and throat without pressing in too much. The only exception is seams on the head that bulge slightly and could be uncomfortable against a tight helmet.
This balaclava only comes in one size, and it runs big. If you have a particularly small head, this might not be the best choice. Otherwise, the Spandex provides a one-size-fits-all stretch.
- Great value
- Flexible design good for many uses
- Easy to wear with goggles or glasses
- Lightweight, breathable fabric blend
- Thick head seams
- Single size runs big
- Short neck
AstroAI Windproof Balaclava
The AstroAI balaclava is another budget option that’s a great addition to your gear if you live in a place with dynamic weather that can suddenly get cold. Specifically, it works well for those in the Midwest who have to deal with biting winds on top of cold temperatures.
The stretch fleece fabric has three layers to protect against the wind and water. It helps that the neck even flares out at the shoulders, more protective than most budget balaclavas. You can tuck it into your collar.
At the same time, it wicks away moisture so that it doesn’t get suffocating. The nose fits a bit tight, but that’s because it’s designed to prevent fogging with glasses. Those who wear glasses or have a problem with their helmet visor fogging can benefit from this feature.
- Great value
- 3-layer wind protection
- Longer, flared neck
- Sweat-wicking fabric
- Anti-fogging nose design
- Tight nose
- Single size runs small
- No shoulder skirt
Irelia Winter Fleece Balaclava
The Irelia balaclava is a unique model because of its 3D mesh face insert. The front of the mask covering the nose and mouth is made of a thicker fabric that actually has ventilation holes and a breathing hole for the nose.
On top of that, you can remove the face mask. This balaclava is extremely versatile, with six different ways to wear it. The cap, neck gaiter, and mask are all separate parts.
I love this, first because I can use the balaclava for riding in tons of different weather conditions, from dry October wind to freezing January rain. It also works great for other activities like skiing and cycling.
As for comfort, the hard face mask does take some getting used to, and it has a strange chemical smell when you first get it. The removable cap does make it great for full-face helmets, though, if the seams are pressing against your head.
- Mesh face mask with breathable holes
- Six different wearing options
- Separable neck gaiter, face mask and cap
- Great for multiple activities
- Can fog up glasses
- Face mask has strong chemical odor when new
- Short neck
Most balaclavas look pretty similar, but they actually have features that vary quite a bit. Here are some things you should consider before you buy one.
You want a balaclava that isn’t too small. The seams will press down on your skin, and the fabric will smash your nose in. As someone with a big bulbous head, I know it’s no fun to take a face mask off only to have a permanent red line across your forehead for the rest of the day.
You don’t want one that’s too big either, though. In this case, it may slide off your nose while you’re riding, exposing it to the cold, or slide around and become uncomfortable.
Since most balaclavas are made of a stretchy fabric like Spandex, they tend to be one size fits all. Usually, this is true, and you shouldn’t have a problem.
However, if you have an extra large or small head, take note of how the balaclava “one size” runs and consider getting one with sizing options.
Material and Ventilation
The point of a balaclava, of course, is to keep your face warm. But what all does this imply? For starters, you want windproof or wind-breaking material because even if the balaclava keeps you warm on the street, the strong winds while riding a motorcycle can be freezing.
Waterproofing is a good bonus, too, and is especially useful if you live in cold, wet environments. This could mean the Midwest and Upland South where winter usually means freezing rain and sleet. (Read more about riding a motorcycle in the rain.)
That said, you do need to keep in mind that over time, it can get too warm inside your balaclava, especially if you’re moving around. For this, a material that’s well ventilated and wicks sweat is ideal.
Balaclavas differ most in their design. For instance, some may have long neck gaiters that even flare out into skirts that cover the shoulders. This is ideal for motorcycle riding where wind can enter through the collar.
Other convenient designs include flexible caps and eye holes that allow you to fit the balaclava more comfortably on your head as well as separable pieces that let you customize it to your needs.
One small but important factor is seams. When you’re wearing a helmet, the seams on the top of the balaclava can get pressed against your head and cause discomfort. Well-designed balaclavas, especially those made specifically for motorcycle riding, use flat seams to prevent this.
Balaclavas are an essential part of your winter motorcycle gear. You want something that will keep out the wind and cold without suffocating or getting uncomfortable.
That’s why I recommend the Alpinestars Touring Winter Balaclava, which has a long shoulder skirt made of warm material that you can tuck into your collar.
If you live in a climate that only requires occasional use of a balaclava, you might also consider our favorite budget option the Tough Outfitters Balaclava.