February 8, 2021
I often feel that although your hands and feet get a huge amount of sophisticated attention - in terms of cold and storm protection - the face is often left out in the cold. People tend to cobble together some sort of system that includes the following: - Buff - Hat - Storm Cap (ear flaps) - Balaclava (open face) - Goggles - Neck gaiter - Scarf - Shemagh - Plastic motor cross mask - Neoprene face mask - Fur hood trim - Storm hood - Mil face mask (US or UK) - Tape On some trips you might carry all of the above (the fur-trimmed hood is probably the most effective if it’s well constructed), and will often struggle with all of them.
Some high tech options look as if they’re going to be perfect, such as the Outdoor Research Gorilla style face mask, but if you’re dealing with a lot of hore frost you’ll find the velcro just stops working (this is why many mil-spec masks feature velcro and buttons). Balaclavas are OK, but they don’t cut out wind generally, and windproof ones are both too sweaty and reduce your hearing (it’s important to have all your senses about you in a storm!). Balaclavas also tend to shift under a helmet, meaning they creep down over your eyes (adding some velcro to your helmet can stop this).
The Norrona Arktis facemask is an interesting design, as it draws in a number of great design features seen in older designs (from Helly Hansen and PHD ), such as the neck collar, solid nose and face protection (windproof fleece around the nose and mouth reduces the ingress of moisture into your goggles), mixing power-stretch and windproof fleece, and doing away with velcro all together. It’s not surprising it’s a solid attempt at a storm solution, as it’s been designed by Borge Ousland, the ayatollah of gnarl!