SmartWool Balaclava

Priced: $39.95 - $40.00 Rated:   - 5 stars out of 5 by 32 reviews.
SmartWool Balaclava
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SmartWool Balaclava -
When the ridgeline above your favorite chute looks like a cresting wave in an offshore breeze, you’ll be happy you brought the Smartwool Balaclava as backup. Pull it out, and you’ll doubt that it has the nuts for the weather. Put it on underneath your beanie and doubt no longer—thin as it is, the Balaclava’s superfine Merino wool is an excellent insulator. It doesn’t stifle your head or block your hearing like its thicker fleece brethren, nor will it change the fit of your helmet. What it does is take the sharp edge off the wind, shield your chin and ears from frostbite, and maintain its temperature-regulating properties even if it gets wet. And when the sun comes out, it stuffs back in your pocket without looking like a dinosaur egg.


  • Fine merino fibers are soft and flexible and, therefore, don't itch like other wool
  • Soft merino wool insulates, wicks away moisture and breathes—naturally!


  • 3-panel design with flatlock seams creates a comfortable, functional fit


  • Long length offers excellent coverage


  • SmartWool logo on back

Extremely cold days call for the best in protection! The soft and snuggly SmartWool balaclava uses pure merino wool to keep you warm while also managing moisture.

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Average Price History: Price History
Review RatingNumber of Reviews
Fabric:Merino wool
Hat style:Balaclava
Moisture wicking:Yes
Quick drying:Yes
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SmartWool Balaclava Reviews:

Positive Reviews:

I have three different thin balaclavas, and this is probably my favorite. I typically wear them for winter bike commuting, but they all pull double duty on the trail. One is a stretchy standard polyester Mountain Hardware Power Stretch and the second is an Outdoor Research Sonic with mesh over the mouth and a nose hood. The Smartwool is easily the most comfortable of the three; it's stretchy enough to fit, but doesn't smoosh my nose like the MH. It also breaths a lot better than the MH, which is most noticeable when your glasses or goggles are fogging up. The OR keeps eyewear from fogging up the best, but at the expense of cold lips and being somewhat uncomfortable because of it's design. The Smartwool is also flexible enough to be worn with my face completely uncovered. The MH being less breathable and polyester also starts to smell after just a couple uses around the face, the Smartwool does not. I think it's so breathable and comfortable because it is the thinnest, but it doesn't sacrifice any warmth, because surprisingly it's easily as warm as the other two, even with the wind of riding. For scale, I typically wore this (and the other two) between 35F and 5F actual temp, swapping to something much thicker below 0F.
The one negative is that the Smartwool, by virtue of the fabric, doesn't rebound from being stretched as well as a synthetic fabric. After a couple uses the face area below the "hem" around the opening can get slightly stretched out, especially if I'm pulling it down over my face a lot. A wash restores the shape.

Ghost at on 11/08/2010

Great, and light!

I really like this balaclava. It's Smartwool, which is awesome. I own Smartwool socks, an entire baselayer, glove liners, and now this balaclava. I really enjoy Smartwool because it's 100% (Smartwool treated) wool, which means it stays warm, it never seem to stink (and as you can guess, a base layer can get smelly), and it still insulates when wet.

I picked this up because I've never had a bad experience with Smartwool.

The whole thing is thinner and takes up less space than the OR Option balaclava, which is a comparable product. If you're familiar with Smartwool baselayers, the material on the balaclava is about as thin as their medium baselayer, which is thinner than the OR balaclava.

This balaclava weighs in at 1.75 oz, slightly less with the tags removed, and when folded takes up less room than a normal, white sock.

Keeps me very warm despite its thinness. I've worn it in below freezing weather and can't wait to take it snowboarding and ice climbing.

It's a little expensive given what it is, but you pay a premium for Smartwool and the brand always performs well. I would use in the snow and ice, but probably would opt for some sort of windstopping balaclava (like the OR Helmetclava) to go into really horrendous conditions. Otherwise, I highly recommend this for 90% of winter conditions and love the fact that it seems to be the lightest balaclava on the market and takes up so little space yet performs so well.
Dr. Science at REI on 10/10/2009

A Little Loose But Does The Job

I picked up this balaclava to replace a light weight helmet liner I had been using as protection for twenty to fifty degree days when cycling seven miles to and from work. I needed something that would be warm while also fitting under a cycling helmet. I chose SmartWool as a brand because I use their socks and the fabric feels great while doing all of the things a wool fabric is meant to do.

Overall, the balaclava feels good. It slips on just fine, has plenty of lenght to cover the neck, and fits under my helmet nicely.

However, the opening was loose on my face. I'd like it to be a little bit more snug and snappy when I pull it up over my nose. Also, I'm not crazy about the seam that runs down the middle of the front of the balaclava. My previous piece had this short-coming and frayed threads right where my mouth met the fabric were annoying. I'm hoping I don't run into that occurance.

I ordered the balaclava through the REI site, as the local outlet was sould out. I'd reccomend trying one on before deciding if it's right for you. I still give the item four stars for warmth and weight.
sTmykal at REI on 03/03/2013

Surprisingly Warm for its Weight

Just over a year ago I purchased a Smartwool headband for running during cold weather. I discovered the headband worked great for my daily bicyle commute to work, but I really needed something warmer for colder days. I liked my Smartwool headband so much, I decided to try the Smartwool balaclava.

This balaclava is wonderful. It is very thin which works great for cycling as it easily fits under my helmet. It is surprisingly warm considering how thin it is. One morning this week was 23 degrees, and this balaclava kept my head and ears warm, and I am not a warm-natured person.

I use this balaclava for commuting when the temperature drops below the low 40s. I use my Smartwool headband for temperatures in the mid-40s to low 50s. The low 20s is the coldest I have ever ridden with this balaclava, but I believe it would be comfortable into at least the low teens.
Michael Z at REI on 12/12/2012

If you haven't been acquainted with the magical material known as merino wool, you need to get your sh*t together. For those who aren't familiar, it has an incredible warmth to weight ratio, dries quickly, is naturally antimicrobial, and you can wear it for days, sweating like a sumo wrestler, and the stuff miraculously doesn't smell. All my base layers are pure merino wool, and I will never change materials. As far as this balaclava, it lives up to it's merino reputation. Thin enough that your head doesnt sweat, but still perfectly warm. And also thin enough that when the mask is in front of your mouth, you can breathe naturally through it without your breath being forced up into your goggles and fogging them up (my pet peeve for face masks). So if you're looking for a solid mask made of the best layering material on planet earth.... look no further.

Ben Givens at on 02/14/2013

This balaclava is great. Fits my big head. Neck length is generous (most balaclava are too short in the neck for me). Well-designed and versatile -- I can wear it normally, or can cover everything but the eyes, or if I get too warm can pull it down and wear it like a neck gaiter. Comfortable and warm without bulk, as the merino is thin and dense. The only annoying thing is the big tag inside the neck part. For my hikes in the New Hampshire winter woods, it's warm down to maybe 15 F. For lower temps, I wear an additional hat and neck gaiter over the balaclava (same brand). I've had this almost a year, washed it a couple times, and it's held up fine. Fashion-wise, you will look like a scuba diver or a ninja. My husband laughs at me when I wear it :-)

spnh at on 02/13/2013

I LOVE this balaclava! It's thin, but it's warm and more wind resistant than I thought it would be. I have been wearing this on the bike trail on below zero windchill days and it keeps my face warm. I wear a MH windstopper hat on top and my ears stay nice and toasty. Like other reviewers have mentioned, I love that I can pull it down and uncover my entire face or use it as a neck gaitor. I like to periodically uncover my face and some of the other brands are thicker and too tight to be comfortable when I pull it down under my chin. I do get some fogging on my sunglasses, but not as much as with the synthetic balaclavas. I would buy more of these if they were in stock. Highly recommend.

syd2532114 at on 12/28/2010

Feels great. Fits well. Very transportable. I carried it in the pocket of my pants when not in use. When needed, it is versatile--it can cover:
1. Just your neck
2. Neck ,top of head, sides of face
3. All of above and chin
4. All of above and mouth
5. All of above and nose
Making a quick transition between the areas of your face that are covered is essential when trekking in very cold temperatures, as your perceived temperature changes every minute depending on whether you are walking/climbing/resting and on whether the sun is blocked out by clouds, ridges/cliffs, etc. Transitions are fast with this balaclava. And the wool feels great. This is a thing balaclava, but I never felt that the warmth provided was not enough. Served me well on Mount Kilimanjaro, and likely will on many more trips.

timp371134 at on 02/26/2013

Great balaclava for the cold!

I love to winter hike and snowshoe...and I'm always froze. I really need to bundle up to keep warm. Stuffing my face down in my jacket or wrapping a scarf around my face was getting old, so I did some research and ordered this balaclava. I love it! It's all wool (which does rub your face a bit but isn't enough so to drop a star) and it keeps my face/nose VERY warm. When I get too warm, I can slip the face portion down under my chin and it stays there. It also stays up on my mouth nose the whole time - it doesn't ride down. I can't get over how warm it keeps me versus how lightweight it is. This is a piece of gear that I'm very glad to have.
stacky at REI on 02/02/2012

Great warmth and very thin

I've been a bicycle commuter for about 20 years. I've owned many balaclava's in the past. This one is the best. I use mine for cycling and hiking. The coldest here in Dallas that it's been this year is about 28 degrees celcius and it worked very well to keep me warm. Since it's very thin, it fits under my bike helmet easily. It also fits under my chin or over my nose and mouth. I agree with another reviewer that said if your in extreme weather, you'll probably want to suplement with a wind breaker of some sort. Overall, I'd recommend this product highly.
Mark Herke at REI on 12/12/2009

Neutral Reviews:

too thin

for [$] you would think this would be warm enough for all but the coldest temperatures but its too thin to keep ears and cheeks warm in cold weather, you're better off going with an under armour or OR balaclava. good for more mild weather or to wear under a hat, if only it were a little thicker
ultrarunner kenny at REI on 12/12/2009