The head loses more heat quickly than any other part of the body so never underestimate the importance of balaclavas in cold weather. I never leave home without it especially when I know it s going to get terribly cold. They re not just for ninjas and special forces.
But Outdoor Research is reportedly making them for ninjas and calling them Ninjaclava, a cool looking balaclava that covers your nose and face (like a ninja). The Ninjaclava has an overlapping design and can be peeled easily for ventilation or when it gets too hot.
While the Ninjaclava covers everything but the eyes, some leave the whole nose exposed. Some of the smarter ones make holes for breathing while keeping the nose covered like Mountain Hardwear s Windstopper Flex Balaclava.
Outdoor Research s Wind Pro Balaclava, Baffin Balaclava and Windstopper Gorilla Balaclava have a mesh port for easy breathing.
Balaclavas with big openings are still useful though. Over my balaclava I use a cap to shade my face. At the beginning, my balaclava would address my but when it starts to heat up I roll it up over the visor of my cap so my neck can radiate the heat out while I keep my ears http://www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit/campingfees.htm covered.
You can also roll most balaclavas up so they make a hat.
Probably the best fabric for balaclavas is fleece. It s lightweight and keeps you warm even when wet.Modern balaclavas use a variation of or branded fleece like Polartec Windstopper fleece and some with Lycra for stretchiness.Wool and pile are also a common material for balaclavas. Pile requires a shell for protection against wind but it only absorb two 2 percent of its weight in water. Wool on the other hand absorbs fifty percent of its weight in water.Silk is comfortable but it tends to get soaked by sweat and get very smelly. Nylon and polyester are also used in balaclavas.
Lightweight warmers like headbands are great for people whose ears tend to get cold and head too cold. They re a good backup for ultralight balaclavas or baseball caps.On windy days, you can use it to restrain you hood.Ear bags are great too. They re extremely lightweight and very compact. It s one of those things that s so light you d want them to always be in your backpack.Fleece hats or other variations work great also. I use them on a hiking trip as well as trips to the city.