If you enjoy winter sports like snow biking or hiking you probably already own a balaclava to keep your face from freezing. A good balaclava will certainly keep your face warm, but if you want to protect your lungs from being damaged by the bitter cold you should get a Psolar Balaclava Heat Exchange Mask.
The Psolar Balaclava Heat Exchange Mask combines a regular balaclava with a small heat exchanger (a lightweight thermal conversion module) over the mouth that traps warm air as you breathe out and then allows you to inhale warmed air. The heat exchanger looks like a very small air filter and requires no batteries to operate. The company that makes the mask claims that on a 0 degree day (Fahrenheit) your inhaled breath can be warmed to over 75 degrees before it enters your body. After several winters of use I have to tell you it works perfectly! Not only does the heat exchanger warm the air you breath in, but it also humidifies it as well (this will help keep you from getting bronchitis).
The Psolar Balaclava is not sold as a medical device for asthma patients. However, I do have asthma and I can tell you that if it were not for this product I wouldn’t even dream about participating in winter sports. I’ve gone on long winter bike rides while wearing a Psolar Balaclava when the temperature was well below zero and have not had any lung problems as a result.
The Psolar Balaclava is available in several different models. The Psolar.HX Balaclava is a little thin on the top layer and is designed to be worn under a helmet. The Psolar.BX Balaclava is thicker on the top and is designed for hiking, skiing and snowshoeing (this is the one I wear when I am running my snow blower). They also have models available that do not cover the top of your head at all, just your face and neck.
The only downside to this mask is that it can cause your glasses to fog up when you are not moving. The company sells a Vapor Shield, which is a is a small foam device designed to prevent this from happening—but it does not always work. When it is cold enough to wear the Psolar Balaclava I stop wearing my cycling sunglasses and start using a pair of ski goggles. I’ve never has a problem with this mask fogging up while wearing the ski goggles.
The Psolar Balaclava Heat Exchange Mask retails for $40. At the moment the only place I can find this item online is at The Museum Store in Milwaukie, Oregon. I might be wrong, but it appears that the Psolar Balaclava is being replaced by the ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava (review coming soon).