When hiking above treeline in winter, it is very important that you have several forms of protection to protect your face and head from cold and wind. The fact of the matter is that you can freeze your face off unless you are very careful.
My above treeline headgear consists of a neoprene facemask, windproof balaclava, ultraviolet filtering glacier glasses, ski goggles, a hat, Dermatone to protect against sunburn, and the hoods and collars of my jackets.
What you see in the photo above is a Seirus Innovation Extreme Neoprene Masque that I wear when it’s really windy. Neoprene is a good material for this application because it’s wind proof and it conducts very little of your body heat to the surrounding environment, which is the reason why it’s used in wet suits.
I originally bought this face mask last winter for my Mt Washington ascent. It protects my nose against sunburn, the tops of my cheeks, and the front of my neck. It has velcro fasteners on the back and is pretty good at venting hot air through the nose slit and holes over the mouth. Fogging is a real problem in winter if you wear eye glasses.
The one problem with the Serius is that you can’t eat or drink water when you are wearing it. This is a real problem if you will be above treeline for any length of time because you need to keep eating and drinking water in winter to remain warm. To address this, I’ve cut a small hole over my mouth with a pair of scissors – a common technique used by winter hikers and mountaineers. Don’t be afraid to modify your gear, within reason.
This hole works pretty well. I can sip water out of a bottle with it and get small pieces of food into my mouth like peanut M&Ms, nuts, small chunks of chocolate and hard cheese. Although the hole does expose some skin, I wear this face mask under a windproof balaclava which covers my mouth, so there’s little danger that the skin will be exposed for any length of time.
The reason, I cut the hole where I did is that the Serius has a vertical seam that runs down the center of the face. Cutting these stitches would probably lead to garment failure, so I cut a hole into the already perforated mouth section to impact the structural integrity of the mask as little as possible.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.
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