Lifting the Fog

For some time now my family and my friend John have been attempting to make me less Fred. Sure, I encouraged it in some cases — I even posted some bike-related Christmas gift suggestions on my personal blog with a big “Hint, hint!” One of those suggestions, the Hind Balaclava with breathable mesh, found its way under the tree this Christmas and I was chomping at the bit to give it a try.

Hind Balaclava

I had tried one balaclava and hated it. Anytime I dropped below 8 MPH or, heaven forbid, had to stop at a stop sign or signal, my glasses would fog up – I mean REALLY fog up. Riding for a few seconds at a good clip would clear it up but neither looking over my glasses or riding blindly along with the fog was a very good idea. I’d settled into a routine and was surviving the commute with just the hood of my jacket, or hooded sweatshirt cinched up with my helmet strapped on over it. No fog, but when temperatures dropped below 1° F (-° C), my face got a bit cold. That wasn’t the only disadvantage of riding with the hood (desperately attempting to resist a Riding Hood pun…); once I arrived at my destination and took the hood off, my head would be fairly sweaty – plus – it just looks a bit dorky.

The temperatures during the first half of January stayed above freezing, so I didn’t get a chance to really test this balaclava out until the end of January. The mesh certainly helps cut down on the fogging up, but it took a little playing around to find out how to eliminate the fog altogether. The first couple of days I breathed normally and fogged up. The next couple of days I would huff and puff when I had to come to a stop or slow down – I don’t recommend this method because hyperventilating in traffic just isn’t a good idea. Day five I settled on pursing my lips a bit and just blowing a bit upon exhale. Works like charm.

The only time I’ve noticed my face getting cold while wearing the Hind was when the temperature was ° F (-1° C) and I had to ride into a 25 MPH wind. There were other bonuses besides a warm nose and cheeks; the first day I was rather surprised to discover that my head wasn’t sweaty and my torso wasn’t nearly as damp as it normally would have been. I guess the balaclava allows some of the heat to dissipate. Also, rather than the dorky look of the hood under the helmet, I now look like some kind of urban cycling ninja. Well, in my mind I do…

Bike Ninja

I’ve asked some others about their balaclavas and fellow KC area bike commuter, Noah, had this to say:

Mine is a cheap Seirus polyester flannel balaclava from Dick’s. It works well, but the trim around the face opening started to come off. I repaired it with a sewing machine a few months ago, and it’s okay now.

I use my balaclava when it’s below 50 or so, but rolled up so it covers my head and ears only. I’ve considered buying some 180s ear warmers instead.

Near freezing, I wear it so it covers my forehead, ears, and neck, so my whole face is exposed.

Below freezing, I wear it like a ninja mask with only my eyes exposed. If I have trouble breathing, I’ll open it up to uncover my nose. If I get too warm, I drop it down below my chin like mentioned above.

If my eyes or upper cheeks start feeling windburn (usually below 15 degrees Fahrenheit when I’m riding at a good clip) I’ll put on ski goggles. Mine are a cheap set of UVEX that I bought almost ten years ago. They’re yellowish tinted like 90’s driving glasses. Even when it’s dim or dark out, they’re not too bad. In the “twilight” when it’s overcast or the sun is setting/rising, they bring out a lot of contrast. They’re the typical double-walled lens goggles with foam vents. I never have a problem with fog, even below zero.

So, the Hind gets 4 out of 5 stars from me. What has been your experience with the balaclavas you’ve tried?

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0 thoughts on “Lifting the Fog”

  1. RC says:

    I use a typical, generic construction worker balaclava. It works great down to -20degC with wind chill down to -30degC. I typically leave it covering my nose and mouth until I get my internal temperature up and then slip it off my mouth so that breathing is unencumbered. As long as I keep my pace up I have no problem adn then when I slow down I slid it back up.

    I think what works for any particular person depends heavily on what you are used to. Here in Halifax I get used to such temperature as they persist for weeks on end. The first ride with the low temperatures is bad but the bodily adjusts quite rapidly.

    As a corollary, I find the +30degC weather way worse likely because of its irregularity.

  2. Steve says:

    I use a balaclava when it’s below about -15C or so, otherwise I just use a neck gaiter and skull cap. My trick is to put a layer of vaseline on my face as that works really well for blocking wind.

    I have a problem with my glasses fogging up, but it gets cold enough that the fog turns to ice and scrapes off pretty easily. Above -10C or so it doesn’t ice up so it smears more.

    Here in Halifax (Nova Scotia, RC?) the temperature has been pretty cold for the past month (low of -21C, average in the morning has been around -18C) but it looks like we’re getting a blast of warm air with the temperature predicted to have highs up around the freezing point or a degree or two over. The downside is all the snow and ice will turn into a slushy mess, though…

  3. I use ski goggles when it gets bellow -10 C with a good hat and have no problem. If unless it is windy a balaclava can get quite warm when paired with ski goggles… I am from halifax as well…

  4. Fritz says:

    My balaclava is a Seirus with a ventilated neoprene face mask. The mouth ventilation effectively prevents eyeglass fogging. The balaclava comes on when the temperature is below about the teens Fahrenheit (-10 C). It works well.

  5. John says:

    I picked up this little gem at LLBean last year. It has done me very well.

    Most importantly, I can put it on or remove it easily. Mine is only a velcro strap on the back.

  6. Warren T says:

    Ooooh. That one looks cool John. Does it keep your ears warm enough or do you have to use something else?

  7. I own both a classic Hind and a Craft balaclava. The Hind seems to be made of better, stronger material but the Craft has held up well and doe’s not seem to be stretching out too much despite constant chin-to-under-nose movement on milder days.

  8. I hate baklava too…just somehow cannot get used to it.

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