It is no secret that I love winter sports—what you might not know is that I have asthma, and strenuous exercise in sub-zero weather can easily put an asthmatic in the hospital. Ten years ago I couldn’t exercise outside when the temperature dropped below 40 degrees without having an asthma attack, but thanks to several different pieces of protective gear I am now able to comfortably ride in temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit (the lowest recorded temperature in my area is -31F). One of the most effective pieces of cold-weather gear I own is the Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava. I’ll divide this review into two parts, first the ventilator on the face mask and then the head covering.
This balaclava has a medical-grade polyurethane ventilator that covers your mouth and nose and it mixes the warm air your expel from your lungs with fresh air from the outside—the result is that you breathe in warm, moist air (and to an asthmatic this will probably keep your lungs from getting inflamed from the cold air). This ventilator will raise the temperature of the air your breathe in from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (for example, if the air temperature is zero Fahrenheit, you should be breathing in air that is somewhere between 40 and 60 degrees). This polyurethane ventilator is both non-toxic and anti-microbial. If you head out for a bike ride in the morning in the cold and it warms up in the afternoon you can easily remove this face mask and just use the head covering.
The material that covers your face, neck and head is made of “soft-shell” Polartec Wind Pro fleece and without question this is the warmest balaclava I own (and I own a lot of balaclavas). The manufacturer claims that this product will block 95% of the wind, and in my experience they are absolutely correct. This balaclava is also longer than any other balaclava I own—it completely covers your neck and throat area. I’ve not had any problems with my glasses fogging up while wearing this balaclava. However, by the time it is cold enough to use this balaclava I wear ski goggles instead of cycling glasses (and the ski goggles I use are pretty much fog proof anyway). I’ve worn this balaclava under both cycling helmets and ski helmets without any trouble.
My only criticism of this balaclava is that the fit is a bit sloppy, i.e., it is not as form-fitting as I would like. I am of average size and this product is a bit loose on me. However, since the face mask attaches to the hood with a wide Velcro patch I can usually adjust it so that no cold air gets through to your skin.
The Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava is made in the U.S.A and retails for $80, but you can find it on Amazon.com for $56. This product comes with a one year warranty against manufacturer defects.