I was shopping at mec the other day looking for a balaclava. My intended use for this was going to be two fold, first some of what I might call light winter cycling (-10c and warmer), and walking the dog when it’s really cold out (-20c to -35c).
Since I would wear a toque along with the balaclava when out walking, I figured a lighter weight balaclava would work well. Also cycling in moderate winter conditions would not call for a heavy weight material.
I ended up settling on the ‘Lumen‘ balaclava by Outdoor Research. It’s made of a thin merino wool material. In addition to being used like a traditional balaclava were the face is mostly covered, it can be worn with the face open, only around the neck, and as a toque.
I had an opportunity to test this piece of gear out yesterday as I set out on my Kona Jake to a friend’s house out in the country. The temperature was in between 0c and -5c all day with a 20km/hr wind with higher gusts at times. Total distance was 55km of mostly flat urban and back country roads.
When I first got out in the open and felt how cold the wind was on my face, I was frankly a bit concerned that it might go right through the balaclava. I was wrong and pleasantly surprised. The wind stayed off my ears, neck, and covered part of my face. My other concern, cold ears, was not an issue either. The thin merino wool kept my ears warm. It also wicked away any moisture, not allowing it to freeze (unlike my cotton socks which I had mistakenly worn).
Overall I am very happy with this product. The next test will be more extreme temperatures later this winter. I’ll likely write a followup post to comment on that.