When you’re spending hours out on the slopes on sub-zero winter days, it’s important to keep every inch of your body accounted for when it comes to warmth and comfort. One area of the body that’s especially susceptible to the elements when skiing or snowboarding is the neck and face. Luckily, there are a whole host of neck warmers/neck gaiters for skiing and snowboarding that will protect your face from cold air, wind, and snow.
Neck Warmers vs. Neck Gaiters: What’s The Difference?
Sometimes known as “neck gaiters,” “neck warmers,” or “buffs,” these circular pieces of fabric seem to come with a variety of names. There really isn’t a difference between neck warmers and neck gaiters, except that neck warmers are always meant for cold weather and there are technically neck gaiters for warm and cold weather. Both will protect your neck and face warm when used for skiing, snowboarding, or other snow sports.
For the purposes of this review, we’ll be using the terms interchangeably. Toe-MAY-toe, toe-MAH-toe, right?
What to Look For When Buying Neck Gaiters for Skiing & Snowboarding
Material & Weight
The best neck warmers for skiing should be breathable, lightweight, moisture-wicking, and warm. While you’re out on the slopes, the last thing you want is to be inhaling a swamp of your own spit and snot all day! High quality neck gaiters for cold weather will be made of one of the following: fleece, Merino wool, or a synthetic blend. Do not purchase or wear moisture-absorbing fabrics like cotton on the slopes.
Another consideration when purchasing neck gaiters is the weight of the fabric. Merino wool and fleece can come in a variety of weights, from thin, lightweight material to heavyweight fabrics. The heavier the weight, the less breathable the fabric, so it’s important to strike a balance when choosing your neck warmer. The best neck gaiters for skiing will fall somewhere in the middle, with a midweight fabric that’s both warm and breathable.
Fit & Comfort
Because you’ll be wearing your neck gaiter all day, often in uncomfortably cold temperatures, it’s super important that you choose one that fits well on your face and feels comfortable and non-suffocating. Not all models will fit all faces, so we’d recommend trying out a few before choosing one to take with you in the snow.
If you’re at all familiar with alpine weather, you’ll know it can be snowing heavily one minute and totally sunny the next. It would be a total pain to have to change out your neck warmer throughout the day – or even worse, wear one that’s too hot – so choosing a model that’s versatile is important.
Color & Style
Let’s be real: while colors and patterns don’t generally impact the performance of a piece of gear, it’s a central part of many people’s buying decisions and shouldn’t be overlooked. In our review, products got a small edge if they came in a variety of colors and patterns. If you look good, you feel good, and having a warm neck gaiter that matches your other ski gear is a huge plus!
Best Neck Gaiters for Skiing & Snowboarding
As I mentioned before, we evaluated several different neck warmers for skiing and snowboarding, taking into account personal impressions and recommendations, online reviews, brand reputation, and the criteria above. To protect the integrity of our recommendations, we did not include any options in our search that a) were not branded as unisex and b) were made by unknown brands that do not specialize in outdoor gear.
Here are the 7 best neck gaiters for skiing and snowboarding that we found in our search (or you can scroll all the way down to hear our final recommendations):
BUFF is one of the original manufacturers of outdoor neckwear and they make some of the best neck gaiters for skiing. Their midweight merino wool gaiters are some of the best in the market for cold weather.
- Pros: The #1 best in versatility, BUFF headwear can be used for all kinds of outdoor activities, including snow sports, hiking, biking, and more
- Cons: BUFF’s circular design doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s a bit on the expensive side
There are few brands as well-known in the snow sports industry as Burton, and their Ember Fleece neck warmer provides warmth and comfort for high performance.
- Pros: Made of super thick, high-quality fleece that is very warm
- Cons: Slightly bulky, expensive
Turtle Fur is a popular brand for headwear, and their claim to fame is inventing fleece neck gaiters for winter sports. Their classic Fleece Neck Warmer is a popular choice for skiers and snowboarders on a budget.
- Pros: Very warm material, inexpensive, and comes in a variety of fun and bright colors
- Cons: Slightly bulky, some customers report shedding and pilling, certain colors come out in hot water
For extra thick, double-layered protection against wind, cold, and snow, Turtle Fur makes a double layer version of its signature Neck Warmer – the Chelonia 150 Fleece. This added thickness provides an additional layer of warmth, which is often necessary on the coldest days of ski season.
- Pros: Super thick and warm, inexpensive, made for extreme winter conditions, comes in lots of fun colors
- Cons: Customers report inconsistent quality on this product (more so than their signature product), not durable
Smartwool is one of the leading manufacturers of merino wool products for outdoor adventures, and their Merino 250 neck gaiter is a fantastic option for spending hours in the snow. Breathable, warm, and moisture wicking, this is definitely one of the best neck gaiters for skiing on the market.
- Pros: Super soft and breathable merino wool material, warm and thick, fun colors and patterns
- Cons: None, really, although it’s a bit on the expensive side compared with a few other options on our list
Helly Hansen has been a leader in high-end ski gear for decades, and their neckwear is no different. The Polartec Neck Gaiter is warm, lightweight, and soft, perfect for spending days ripping through fresh powder. It’s also made from 100% polyester, so it’s less likely to irritate skin or feel bulky.
- Pros: Lightweight, warm, and breathable. Made of Polartec fabric which is a synthetic material (so for vegans and those who are sensitive to wool, this is a great option for you!)
- Cons: Black is the only available color
On a budget but still want to stay warm? The Condor Thermo Neck Gaiter is less than $10 and is made of thick fleece, perfect for long days where the snow is falling quickly.
- Pros: Warm material, water resistant, inexpensive
- Cons: The design is shorter than the other neck gaiters on our list, so some customers complain of less coverage when using over the nose and mouth
Our Final Recommendations
No matter which product you choose, a neck gaiter/warmer is a MUST for skiing and snowboarding. You’ll have a much more pleasant and comfortable ride with a warm face and neck, and it will protect you from the painful effects of sunburn and windburn by retaining heat where it matters. Any of the products on this list will achieve this – our final verdict is just a matter of preference and durability.
So, which products really are the best neck gaiters for skiing and snowboarding? Based on our complete assessment, here are the front runners:
All-Around Best Neck Gaiter for Skiing & Snowboarding: Smartwool Unisex Merino 250 Neck Gaiter
While all of the options we’ve reviewed here are excellent choices that will work just fine for skiing and snowboarding, there’s one clear winner for the most outstanding product – the Smartwool Unisex Merino 250 Neck Gaiter. As the only product on our list made of merino wool, it’s definitely a worthy investment for avid skiers and riders who plan to spend a lot of time on the slopes. Plus, it’s versatile enough to use for other activities, like hiking and cycling. When you buy a Smartwool neck gaiter, you’re guaranteed a high-quality product that will feel good on your skin and will last for many years.
Best Neck Warmer for Extra Cold Temperatures: Burton Ember Fleece Neck Warmer
Burton’s Ember Fleece neck warmer has a LOT going for it, and if it weren’t so heavy-duty, it may have beat out Smartwool on our list of the best neck warmers for skiing and snowboarding. We’ve decided to give it an honorable mention as the best neck gaiter for extremely cold temperatures. The product’s fleece material and heavier weight make it a great candidate for those days when the snow is super heavy or the temperatures are uncomfortably low. This cozy, durable neck warmer will definitely provide a necessary layer of protection for years and years on the slopes.
Best Budget Neck Warmer: Turtle Fur Fleece Neck Warmer
If you’re looking at the other options we’ve picked out and are cringing at the $30+ price tags, don’t worry. The OG skiing neck warmer – Turtle Fur’s Fleece Neck Warmer – is a perfectly suitable option for long days on the slopes. While customers say it is a little less durable, the lower price tag will mean you will feel less guilty wearing it out on cold, windy winter days. It will keep you warm and comfortable, and you still have your pick of the widest variety of colors out of any of the options on our list.