Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Clothing > Hats, Caps and Visors > Buff ThermoNet Hinged Balaclava > Test Report by Mike Lipay

Buff - Thermonet Hinged Balaclava
Mike Lipay

Reviewer Information

Location:Plum, Pennsylvania, USA
Height:5' 6" (1.6 meters)
Weight:162 lb (73.5 kg)
Background:I’ve been hiking since ’65 with occasional backpacking trips (backpacking became a love affair in the early 80’s). My first sleeping bag weighed in at 8 lb (3.6 kg) by itself! These days my loaded pack only weighs about 15 lb (6.8 kg) sans food. While most of my adventures are in the Northeast I’ve also been spending a good deal of time in the desert Southwest and most places in-between. My trips tend be in the cooler months - September through May - as I’m not much of a hot-weather person.

Initial Report December 12, 2021

Product Information

Manufacturer: Original Buff, S.A. Spain
Sizes: One-size and Junior
Colors: Pure Black, Dabs Rose, Ambit Grey, Forestone Khaki (Junior)
MSRP: $30 US (Junior is $27 US)
Material: PrimaLoft® Yarn - 53% Recycled Polyester, 43% Polyester, 4% Elastane, mouth area is made of VaporGrid
Care: Wash in warm water with mild soap, no fabric softeners, no bleach, dry flat, do not iron.

The Buff Thermonet Hinged Balaclava is made of new and recycled materials. The balaclava is hinged to make it easier to push back off the head to enable it to be worn as a scarf, face covering, or as a cap. The hang tag says it can be worn in twelve different ways, but only the three just mentioned (plus balaclava) are shown. There is also a ventilated mouthpiece sewn in to make breathing easier and to lessen fogging of glasses and goggles.

The balaclava material is made with a 4-way stretch fabric to enhance the fit and comfort, and promises a chafe-free neck.

Initial Impressions

After taking the Thermonet Hinged Balaclava out of its packaging, and removing the hang tags, I tried it on and found that in the standard balaclava mode (left image) it fits perfectly and feels very comfortable. Breathing is indeed improved over my other balaclavas due to the ventilated mouthpiece.

When I switched over to the face mask mode (cap section pushed back, right image) I found the Thermonet Hinged Balaclava to be tight, especially in the nose and chin areas. I am hoping this is because it is new and needs to stretch out, otherwise it will be somewhat uncomfortable to wear for hours at a time.

Folding it up by stuffing the lower section into the upper so as to wear the Thermonet Hinged Balaclava as a cap (left image) I was pleased to find that it is much more comfortable than in the face mask mode. I also found the balaclava to be comfortable when worn as a scarf (right image). It seems that, in the four modes I am aware of, the only uncomfortable position is as a face mask (hoping that will be a break-in condition).

First Use

We happened to get a short break from the unusually warm weather, after a cold front moved in temps came down to a brisk 33 F, with a wind chill of 27 F (0.6 C and -2.8 C, respectively). I wore it today as a cap when I took the dog out for his evening walk. The Thermonet Hinged Balaclava kept my head, and most importantly, my ears nice and warm. Now, in cap mode the balaclava’s fabric is doubled up, and a bit tight. I wanted to wear it in cap mode so as to assess it against the bare skin of my face and neck, and there was a stark difference. As I said before, my ears and head were warm, while my cheek and neck certainly felt the cold.

Return to top

Long Term Report - April 1, 2022

January 7, 2022 - Ferncliff Natural Area, Pa
Distance Altitude Weather
4.5 mi
7.2 km
1,155 - 1,309 ft
352 - 399 m
Temp 19 - 18 F / -7 to -8 C
Wind speed 12 - 14 mph / 19 - 23 kph
Wind-chill 4 - 6 F / -16 to -14 C
The purpose of this hike was to test out some snowshoes my kids got me for Christmas, we just had a decent snowfall and the temps were low enough to keep it around. A good time to test the Buff Thermonet balaclava as well. I mention the snowshoeing because it’s a different activity than hiking - more physical effort means generating more internal heat and more of a cooldown when stopped. I’m glad I got this opportunity because the Thermonet balaclava performed much differently than on hikes. What were disappointments on hiking were big pluses when snowshoeing: while cooler on hikes now it kept me warm while dissipating excess heat; the mouthpiece allowed a lot of the moisture to escape rather than build up inside my sunglasses, lessening the fogging of the lenses; finally, it was nice to be able to shove the top part back and allow my head to cool off when I did get too hot from the activity. While I did stop once for a look at the rapids that form the Ferncliff peninsula (and a light snack), it wasn’t long enough to cool down so much that the balaclava became uncomfortably cool (even with the stiff breeze).
January 28, 2022 - Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, mm 57-65
Distance Altitude Weather
16.2 mi
26 km
2,425 - 2712 ft
739 - 827 m
Temp -1 to 13 F / -18 to -11 C)
Wind speed 5 - 15 mph / 8 - 24 kph
Wind-chill -21 to 5 F / -29 to -15 C
This was an incredibly cold hike, especially when the wind chills are added, add to that a cloudy morning and hiking along the ridge line and a better day to test a balaclava would be hard to find. I wore it at the start of the hike for about 1.5 hours, expecting things to get better as I warmed up, but they didn't (not entirely). The chill from the thin layer of material did disappear as my body warmed up to the hike, but the wind and cold air penetrated the mouthpiece far more than I was comfortable with. I ended up swapping out the Thermonet balaclava for my old standby one - it also has a breathing area, but it is made of thinner layer of the insulation so the incoming air is not as cold. Towards the end of the hike (last 45 minutes) the sun came out and, even though it was still cold, warmed things up a bit. I've always been fascinated by how the sun alone can make me feel warmer, even though the temperature hasn't changed (or maybe it's just me feeling better because the sun is out). I switched back to the Thermonet at this time (the wind had also let up) and it was much more enjoyable to use than in the morning (though the mouthpiece still made breathing less than desirable).
Mar. 18, 2022 - Duff Park to Pleasant Valley Park, Pa.
Distance Altitude Weather
8.8 mi
4 km
999 - 1,261 ft
304 - 384 m
Temp 38 - 42 F / 3 - 6 C
Wind speed 5 - 9 mph / 8 - 14 kph
Wind-chill 32 - 39 F / 0-4 C
Pleasant enough hike; temps, even with wind-chills, weren’t overly cold. I used the balacava as a cap to keep my head warm. In cap mode the material is doubled up so it keeps things warmer than a single layer usually does. The only issue is that with the lower part of the cap folded into the upper (to make the cap) it’s a bit snug. Even with my hair newly cut (less hair, less stuff for the cap to go over) I still found the balacava a bit too snug for my liking.
Mar. 30, 2022 - Coronary Loop, Duff Park, Pa.
Distance Altitude Weather
3.2 mi
5 km
926 - 1,214 ft
282 - 370 m
Temp 17 - 22 F / -8 to -5 C
Wind speed 25 - 38 mph / 30 - 61 kph
Wind-chill -9 to 26 F / -23 to -3 C
Ok, so this was a cold hike, probably not one of my better ideas, but to my defense the wind wasn’t supposed to be that bad (IOW, the weather people got it wrong). Coronary Hill got its name because the entire elevation gain (282 ft/86 m) is done it about 0.5 mi (0.8 km), and, of course, the wind was blowing downhill right into my face - talk about cold! At the beginning I noticed the wind through the thin balacava material, but after the first 1/4 of the climb I started warming up and only the exposed areas of my face (plus the mouthpiece) were still feeling the cold.

Final Observations:

Overall I like the Buff Thermoset Hinged Balacava, nice styling (over the plain black I find in stores), though I still wish that it came with instructions on how/what-are the 12 different ways to wear it, I still can only figure out three ways (balacava, cap, scarf). The light weight makes it easy to stuff into a pocket so it’s ready to pull out when needed, or shove into when the need has passed. The thinness of the material makes it not as warm as I would like in wind chills, though it is fine when the wind chill isn’t much of a factor. The mouthpiece makes it easy to breathe, and doesn’t fog up my sunglasses like other balaclavas that I have, but it also lets in cold air a bit more than I would like. Maybe a thin fabric inside the opening would help with that. It would also be nice to have sizes, I find the one that have a bit too tight (tight enough to be annoying), especially in cap mode.



A note of interest: the balaclava was created during the Crimean War (8153-1856) when the ill-prepared (for the cold weather) British troops came up against the better prepared Russian army. British wives knitted the first of these caps and sent them to the troops stationed in the little town of Balaklava.

What I like about the Buff Thermonet Hinged Balaclava:

  • Lighter weight than my other balaclavas.
  • Colorful, instead of the plain black ones I have.
  • In the first test it did keep my head warm.

What I don't like about the Buff Thermonet Hinged Balaclava:

  • In some ways of wearing it the balaclava is tighter than I would prefer.
  • Claims there are 12 ways to wear it, but there are neither instructions nor pictures of these different modes (as they call them). Even the website lacks information on this.
  • Mouthpiece lets in too much cold air.


This ends my Long Term Report, I’d like to thank Buff and for the opportunity to test the Thermonet Hinged Balaclava.

Read more reviews of Buff Headgear gear
Read more gear reviews by Mike Lipay

Reviews > Clothing > Hats, Caps and Visors > Buff ThermoNet Hinged Balaclava > Test Report by Mike Lipay

Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

All material on this site is the exclusive property of
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson