Polar Hood

This fleece hood features an extra long neck and can be volded up within itself to form a variety of useful configurations, including a face guard, gator, scarf and mombo hat (see diagram). Unlike a plain balaclava-style headgear, this has drawstrings which enable it to hug the face exactly as tight as you need in order keep the wind out. I’ve been using mine for five years to be comfortable outside for long periods of time in the coldest days of a typical Ottawa Winter (-35 Celsius or so). I tend to go for the full-face mode until I want to interact with someone more openly, and then just pull down the face covering (I’ve become quite conscious of just how much I use my face to communicate). Then if I’m inside for a few minutes I put it in neck-warmer mode.

On its own, the Polar Hood doesn’t always provide enough protection from particularly harsh cold and wind, but the crucial service it provides in my winter ensemble is its unmatched facial protection. In the pic below, I’m also wearing my coat’s faux-fur hood, along with a Nepalese-style winter hat underneath both hoods. The photo was taken near the beginning of a roughly hour-long walk home in what was apparently -24 Celsius weather, -33 with wind chill. I was happy as a clam the whole walk home.

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My hood also served me well snowshoeing last winter. I can’t vouch for its usefulness while going downhill at high speeds, but I have used it in pretty high winds. It feels like the wind can cut through the top of the hood easier than it can cut through to the face. In any event, a warm hat underneath the hood turns a previously frost-biting wind into an innocuous and even pleasant breeze.

Taiga and others make a similar, but seemingly more complicated and slightly more expensive version. Since mine is just one piece of material, it is simple to use and easy to clean and dry. When it gets moisture-laden from my breath condensing in it, I just pull it straight and lay it over something and it dries quickly because all its surfaces are exposed.

-- James MacAulay  

Polar Hood
$25
Available from Cartom