The Weatherneck is a sort of modular balaclava consisting of a hat and face mask. The hat covers your head, ears and—thanks to a long beavertail-shaped, mullet flap—your neck. The face mask connects to the cap, courtesy of magnets in the face mask that mate with three small, steel tabs that are sewn into the back of the cap. Get too hot in the middle of the ride? You just reach up and pull the face mask off. You can accomplish this one handed and (depending on how bulky your winter riding gloves are) stash the mask into a jersey or pants pocket without stopping. The mask wads up into a tidy, fist-sized ball of fabric.
The Weatherneck Details
• Modular--separate cap and face mask
• Magnetic attachment system
• Mesh panel improves breathability/reduces fogging
• One size fits all--magnet system allows for adjustments
• MSRP: $39.99 USD
If a two-piece balaclava sounds gimmicky to you, I'll readily admit to actually being intrigued by the idea of the Weatherneck. I have a couple balaclavas mouldering away in my dresser drawer. They don’t get out much. For starters, there are only about three months of the year in Western Washington that merit the things. But even when I lived in Buffalo, New York, which has no shortage whatsoever of deep-freeze conditions, I found balaclavas to often be too much of a good thing.
Yes, they kept my head and neck and face from going all rubbery and numb (and those are the good days), but they often did so while simultaneously creating a humid, jungle zone just below my nose. Snot, sweat, condensation….it all just sort of builds up there. Trying to breath through what amounts to a warm, wet washcloth while you're pedaling your heart out is less than awesome. That complaint, of course, can’t be levied at every balaclava out there—some offer better ventilation or more breathing room—but no matter which balaclava I used, I inevitably found myself fiddling with the thing throughout the ride—pulling it down below my mouth on climbs, snugging it back up just before a big descent. Up. Down. Up. Down. Annoying.
As a result, I generally just ride with a skull cap when there’s snow or ice on the ground. When it's truly cold, I'll pair a cap with a Buff, which I use as a neck gaiter. The idea of the Weatherneck made intuitive sense to me--it's basically the same thing, but purpose built and, potentially, easier to use.
The mullet flap may not earn bonus points for style, but the extra warmth makes up for that. It's also one of the reasons you might still be using the Weatherneck on those days when a full balaclava isn't called for.
The face mask portion of the balaclava features a sheer, mesh section that lets you draw in and breathe out in a largely unrestricted fashion--no need to constantly adjust the face mask as you heat up or cool down..
To cut to the chase, the Weatherneck actually works as advertised--installing and removing it takes mere seconds. It's no hassle. But there’s something worth noting here—you may not find yourself having to remove the Weatherneck's face mask during your rides--or at least not as often as you would find yourself fiddling with a typical balaclava. The Weatherneck does a good job of keeping you warm without making the front of your face feel like a sauna. The cap features a strip of mesh in the center that provide a bit of ventilation. Ditto for the central part of the face mask; you can breathe through your nose or through your mouth with fairly little restriction when wearing the face mask. If you’re pounding away hard enough on a long climb or it gradually warms up over the course of an all-day ride, you’ll find yourself taking advantage of the quick-detach feature, but thanks to the smart use of mesh, you’re able to comfortably rock the full ninja/bank-robber look in a wider range of conditions than is typically the case with a balaclava.
I wound up using the Weatherneck a lot this season. For starters, it’s been cold. And, yeah, I realize that -6 °C (20 °F) is “not cold” to the many of you out there who are reading this post on a laptop whilst hunkering inside the abdominal cavity of your tauntauns on the Ice Planet Hoth. You're rugged ice-men. Got it. But if there’s snow on the ground, I’m safely going to call my conditions cold.
But more to the point, I’ve been wearing this thing a lot because even when it isn’t cold enough to merit a full balaclava, the Weatherneck cap often provides just the right amount of warmth. The cap features a felt liner, which is downright cozy on your neck and ears and, as mentioned earlier, the sheer mesh strip in the cap’s center helps dump off a bit of excess heat. The little mullet neck flap has a dirty, Nascar/gun show vibe to it, but, comfort wins out over style when the mercury drops.
On a side note, there’s a little stash pocket sewn into the inside of that beavertail/mullet flap. While you're not going to stow car keys, a cell phone or wallet on the back of your neck, Weatherneck points out that you could tuck one of those disposable, air-activated hand-warmer packets in there.
Your cold may be colder than my cold. Moving on.
For the record, the flap is warm enough on its own for most cold weather conditions and I tend to think of those packets as being better employed in your gloves or shoes, but it's an interesting feature all the same.
I wasn’t so sure about the whole magnetic-attachment system prior to testing the Weatherneck, but it proved easy to install the face mask and I didn’t have any problem with slippage. The three steel tabs sewn into the back of the hat also give you the ability to fine tune fit, which is pretty cool.
Complaints? I’m starting to see a few minor runs develop on the inside of my facemask. The fabric is thick enough to keep you warm, but thin and pliable enough to allow you to quickly stash it in your pack, which means it’s also less “bomber” than, say, a sheet of Cordura. Common sense really, but I still wound up cramming the mask into a pocket that already housed a multi-tool. That’s operator error on my part, but if you give one of these things a try, it’s worth bearing in mind.
Magnets mate with three small steel tabs sewn into the back of the cap. End result? You can adjust the fit of the Weatherneck and, should things heat up, you can remove it, on the fly, in a couple seconds flat.
|As with most balaclavas, the Weatherneck takes the sting out of a freezing conditions. What sets this one apart is that you can work hard in it without feeling like you are being slowly smothered with a wet towel. It breathes exceptionally well and, should temperatures warm during your ride, removing the face mask can be done on the fly, in seconds. - Vernon Felton|