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Reviews > Clothing > Hats, Caps and Visors > Buff ThermoNet Hinged Balaclava > Test Report by joe schaffer

Buff ThermoNet Hinged Balaclava

Test Report by Joe Schaffer

INITIAL REPORT - December 12, 2021
LONG TERM REPORT - April 1, 2022

NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(at)yahoo(dot)com
AGE: 74
HAT SIZE: 7 1/2

     I enjoy California's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to match my age in nights out each year. For comfort I lug tent, mattress, chair and such. Typical summer trips run 5-8 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food and water related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day in the bright and sunny granite in and around Yosemite. I winter base camp most often at 6,000 to 7,000 ft (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); snowshoeing a mile or so (1.6 km) towing a sled.

Product: ThermoNet Hinged Balaclava

Manufacturer:  Buff, Inc.

    Features: lightly edited from website   
    VaporGrid™ mouthpiece--cut holes for breathability, less goggle fog
    Articulated, soft, chafe-free full coverage neck
    Ponytail flap opening in the back
    Product Dimensions: (approx.) 23.6 (L) x 9.5 (W) inches (60 x 24 cm)
PrimaLoft yarn
       53% recycled Polyester
       43% Polyester
        4% Elastane
    Colors: Dabs Rose; Ambit Grey;
Itakat Bark;
                 Coast Multi; Ethereal Aqua
                 Black (requested & rec'd)

     Sizes: One-size adult

    Origin: Barcelona, Spain

    Care Instructions
        Hand or machine wash in warm water with mild soap
        Do not use fabric softeners
        Do not bleach
        Do not machine dry
        Do not iron

frontMy Specs: 
Weight: 2 1/4 oz (63 g)
        Length, top of head to bottom of chin, flat: about 18 in (
46 cm)
        Circumference at nose: about 18 1/2 in (47 cm)          

MSRP: US $30

Warranty: Refund or replacement if not satisfied.

Received: 12/10/2021

My Description:
    ThermoNet balaclava provides nearly total head and neck coverage as desired, with an oblong slit for the eyes at maximum coverage; and can be 'hinged' down over the chin, or under the chin when more exposure is desired.

    Material is polyester in a smooth, twill weave, more likely to wick away moisture and less likely to sponge it up than a more cuddly fuzzy finish. Construction is 7 panels. Front and back are each one panel. Each side has a 2 3/4 in (7 cm) wide panel running vertically about 11 1/2 in (30 cm) from the bottom hem to about the top of where ears would be. A 2 3/4 in (7 cm) high horizontal panel covers the forehead area. From the forehead panel over the top of the head runs a 2 3/4 in (7 cm) wide panel, to the lower back of the head.

    On each side the garment has what initially looks like an unsecured pocket about 5 in (13 cm) wide by about 3 in (8 cm) deep; with no closure at the bottom. Center-back of head above neck has a similar though
"upside down" construction about 3 in wide by 1/2 in deep (7x1 cm). Material is double-layered in these constructions.

    At the mouth coverage area 17 rectangular cutouts of about 1/8th in wide x 3/16-5/16 in high (3 to 5-8 mm) enhance ventilation over an area about 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 in (4 x 4 cm). This area is reinforced on the outside with a glued layer of thin, non-thread material (like tape).

    A 1 1/8 in (3 cm) circular Buff logo graces the center-right side of the garment; and a 7/8 in (2 cm) triangular fabric-brand logo on the bottom left side.
Polyester to me has the best synthetic feel. Given the snug fit, any irritation from the fabric would quickly present an issue. On the matter of fit, the garment feels immediately too tight over the nose. Working the balaclava completely over the head and pulling out all slack relieves some of the tension, but not enough. My intention would be to sleep in it. I have a lighter-weight silk balaclava that feels not as snug over the nose and it sometimes interrupts a dreamy night.

    That the garment can be pulled below the nose and below the chin as well offers useful flexibility. I like that it fully covers my neck; and that it can cover everything except the eyes. Actually, it can be pulled up to cover the eyes as well, but the cuff pulls snug across the eyelids so much as to deny any meeting with Hypnos.

    One of the reasons I wear a balaclava, and probably most often, is to sleep in chilly weather.
I can't count sheep when my cheeks or nose get too cold. I don't like pulling up my sleeping bag to a 'blow hole' and much prefer addressing cold with a face covering; and in summer outings I often chance using a blanket--no hood. One of the things I'll be testing is the mouthpiece on this garment. None of my balaclavas has a mouth opening. Restricted ventilation tends to reflect warmer, exhaled air over cheeks and nose; and incoming air warms slightly as it passes through the warmed fabric. If I wake up with a sore throat, I'll know I don't care for this garment's mouthpiece that allows straight shots of cold air to the tonsils. Of course on particularly damp nights reflected air can accumulate too much moisture in the fabric, then making the face feel too cold on the inhale. As well, reflected air under the eyes will almost always fog glasses, requiring the balaclava to be pulled down, thereby exposing more skin to the elements. It will be interesting to see if Buff's breathing ports actively reduce that issue.

    Care instructions are as persnickety as wool, but it's not wool. I do sometimes fuss with wool garments, so it will not
sidebe an undue burden to manage laundering this garment by hand if I like it. Not being wool I won't be as concerned about shrinking.

    On the other hand, it may not be as likely to stretch, either, and already I hope it does.

    Though I'm pretty sure my helmet-requiring adventures are behind me, the ThermoNet will fit under my helmet. I'll have to see how well it fits under my sherpa hat as the balaclava does not appear thick enough for lively dips in temperature on a pate rapidly requiring supplemental heat-retention equipment.

    It's light and squishes to about the size of a tennis ball. Buff ThermoNet can become a permanent part of my clothing pack as one never knows what the weather gods may dish out even in summer Sierra scampers.

Field  Conditions:
    1. Jan 16-18, 2022:
Stanislaus National Forest, California. 2 nights, 3 mi (5 km); pack & sled weight 85 lb (38 kg); 7,000 ft (2,100 m);Clear and calm, 45-20 F (7 to -7 C); 1 camp.

    2) Feb 27 - Mar 1, 2022: Pt. Reyes National Seashore. 2 nights, 13 mi (21 km); 35 lb (16 kg); 0 - 1,400 ft (425 m); clear, calm, and warm days; 70-40 F (20 to 4 C); 2 camps

    I slept in the Buff part of each night. Fitting snug as it does put pressure on my nose (note the flattened 'boxer-pug' in the pic) that was not comfortable. Pulling the cuff higher up the schnoz in an effort to relieve some of that pressure doesn't help much and causes the cuff to press into my eye lids.

    The 'hard' finish on the material never felt warm. The top of my head got so cold I had to pull the sleeping bag hood over me, which is tolerable but not preferable
on mildly-chilly nights. For reasons that did not make themselves clear in my slumbering attempts, efforts to obtain a comfortable installation of the sherpa hat were not successful.

    The holes in the mouth area let in too much 'unwarmed' air and did not help inhibit sore throat from inhaling cold air all night.

    With the balaclava pulled under the nose, ThermoNet is still snug but not uncomfortable. When my nose and cheeks get too cold I wake up.

    For test purposes I tried pulling the balaclava down under the chin, which was tight enough to induce a sensation I might gag. With ThermoNet pulled off the head and gathered around the neck it was snug and tolerable for the few minutes I tried it. (
I should add that I don't find any kind of compression wear comfortable after more than a few minutes.) So much material around the neck makes ThermoNet certainly suited to the purpose of a robust neck warmer.

    Left in full deployment ThermoNet kept my ears and neck warm all night. Breathing is not at all restricted. Material around the mouth opening and cheeks got barely damp from exhaled vapors.

    Ample material down the front of the neck prevents direct contact with cold air while at the same time allowing the area to ventilate through the open space behind the material. Even in cooler temps the body sends a lot of heat and humid vapors up from the chest, and the generous amount of loose material below the chin allows the neck openings of other layers to be relaxed without cold air getting to skin.

    As the pics illustrate the sunglasses I had on fit fairly close to the face. Fogging was a major issue anyway and with the balaclava pulled over the nose full blindness developed in about three exhales. In my experience with face coverings this result was not at all surprising. I'm thinking of getting rich quick with a breathing tube routing the exhale directly outside and over the shoulder, perhaps adding a bit of jet propulsion on steep inclines.

    Pt. Reyes camping at Sky Camp is often relatively warm overnight with low humidity. I really only needed the Buff to cover the top of my head. Having it bunched up below my nose was not uncomfortable, but not needed. At Coast Camp the temperature drops a bit more and the air is very heavy with humidity. There I was more comfortable with the balaclava covering so much area, though not over the nose.

Total hours wearing: 11

Summary: Too tight for me--hard to appreciate ThermoNet's virtues.

Quick Shots:
a) light
b) packs small
c) multiple coverage choices
d) snug fit

Thank you Buff, Inc., and for the opportunity to test this product. Test completed.

Read more reviews of Buff Headgear gear
Read more gear reviews by joe schaffer

Reviews > Clothing > Hats, Caps and Visors > Buff ThermoNet Hinged Balaclava > Test Report by joe schaffer

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