If you’re the kind of person who values warmth and doesn’t care about fashion, the Outdoor Research (OR) Windstopper Gorilla balaclava will make an excellent addition to your outdoor gear wardrobe.
Most of the time I wear this, it’s underneath my bike helmet when I’m cycling in cold weather. Not just any ol’ cold weather — really cold weather. -25C cold, usually with nasty cold wind on top of that…
Warm, warm, warm!
This really is one of those things you put on and think, “wow – it works!”
Not overly tight.
Unlike most balaclavas, this isn’t skin-tight. On the other hand, it is a heavy duty balaclava, so it’s not as comfortable as one that’s silk or a silk-weight synthetic.
Decent neck tube length.
Some balaclavas are too long and bunch up uncomfortably under your chin. This can be especially uncomfortable if you have your jacket zipped up tight around your neck, or if you wear it with a helmet strap. Others are too short and let in unpleasant gusts of wind.
Removable face mask / customizable fit.
Not only is the nose-cover/face mask removable, but the entire front can be released on one side. This means that to eat or drink, you don’t have to stretch the opening down below your chin or take the whole thing off. Because the attachments are velcro, the face mask can be moved up or down so it provides a bit of a custom fit. The entire front part can also be adjusted by choosing between two different velcro strips. Most importantly, it makes it easy to quickly peel one side away to launch the infamous snot-rocket while you’re riding.
Good moisture wicking.
The material does a good job of wicking moisture away from the face mask area, so you don’t end up with a soggy mass of frozen breath.
Excellent wind resistance.
With a name like Windstopper, you’d expect this balaclava to be windproof, and it is.
Tough to breath through.
If you exert yourself and breath heavily, the Gorilla can be hard to breath through. It’s also quite noisy inside the balaclava when you’re breathing hard.
Stitching on inside.
This is really quite annoying and I’m a little surprised that Outdoor Research let this go… On the inside of the balaclava, there are are two thick, heavy rows of stitching that come all the way down to the front of the balaclava. If you wear this under a helmet, you’ll end up with two long dents on your forehead…
If you’re active outside in really cold weather, this will be the last balaclava you ever need to buy.