Thursday, January 11, 2018

Cold Weather Head Gear Strategy

The Blackborow DS post ride.
Everytime we get some "Real Winter" to enjoy I am thinking a lot about how to deal with the cold weather. I have a lot of my cold weather strategies figured out now after having the opportunity to be on a fat bike every year since 2011. Even the few years before that I was regularly out riding 29"ers in the Winter trying different things to stay warm.

One thing that has often been a struggle for me is how to keep my face warm when it gets around 0° or below with any wind at all. Exposed skin is vulnerable to frostbite pretty quickly in these temperatures and the first instinct is to cover everything up. That may work for some folks, but for me, it was never an option. Everyone has their own issues, preferences, and style when it comes to cold weather head gear, but I thought it may be helpful for some of you dealing with these things to read about a solution I have found works great for me. But first, here's what I don't like.....

I don't like balaclavas because I feel uncomfortable in them and they shift on my face enough that I spend way too much time futzing with the position to get it "just so" that I get frustrated. I have tried using the Cold Avenger thing which I found wasn't dealing with my air intake efficiently and it just felt awful to me. It didn't fit right and no amount of positioning could help with that for myself, anyway.

Then I tried Buff type fabric tubes. This has been a lot better deal for me, but I still had issues with how the fabric, in my case the synthetic type meant for cool weather uses, compressed my nose down if I tried using it as a face mask/balaclava-like deal. I almost always pulled it down to just cover my mouth, if that, and well.......then your nose is sticking out there. Not ideal in sub-zero weather.

Cruising some internet information on fat bikes I started to notice guys wearing strips of fabric across their noses which were like bandanas. Separate from whatever they had on their face/jaw area. Jay Petervary then posted about what he was doing. He used a cut down Buff and then put it around his head to just cover the nose with another fabric tube used lower down over his jaw/mouth area. Of course, he had head gear on up top, but that isn't hard to figure out. I decided to give that idea a try this Winter.

Not much  for looks! But it was the best set up I've tried.
I happen to have about five fabric Buff-like tubes, all stretchy, thin ones meant for warmer weather use, but for my uses, work perfect in Winter. Anything that keeps the wind off is all I need, typically. That said, Buffs come in heavier fabrics like wool if you want to go with a more insulating layer.

My head gear layers went something like the following:
  • Polarfleece beanie
  • Twin Six Wool hoodie
  • Buff fabric tube over the top (The camo piece you can see in the image here.)
  • Red cotton bandana rolled up to just cover my nose with a corner draped down over my mouth.
  • Spy Optic amber lensed "shield"type eyewear.
  • "Old Man Winter" Bontrager coat
That was it. The temperatures I was riding in were at 5°F or slightly below with a bit of wind, so the windchill was well below zero. Now typically I would be only able to put up with cold on my face like that by either using a system I was unhappy with and had to fuss over constantly, or this new set up which was a joy to use. The difference maker was the bit over the nose and how I had it set up.

With the bandana corner hanging down over my mouth, I had a couple things going on that were pluses. One was that my breath was directed away from my glasses which kept them fog-free throughout the ride. Secondly, if I needed to drink, spit, or just wanted to have my mouth free I simply flipped that corner of fabric up and I could easily have access to my mouth or be able to spit, etc. Note- The bandana froze at the corner which made this even easier to do.

Now, I am not saying this is "the way to go" for everyone. I am suggesting that what JayPee and others are doing is a smart solution and by using different fabrics and arrangements you probably could achieve similar results. As for myself, I am good with my simple, easy to use, and readily at hand solution for these brutal temperatures and conditions. I rode 2.5hrs with this set up and went home only because I wanted to. I could have ridden a lot longer in total comfort.

By the looks of things, I may not have to bust this system out again this Winter, but if the really cold stuff comes back, I will be ready.


Michael said...

That's good thinking with the double buff type set up. I was using a a single wool buff and ski googles, but always had to fiddle with it and didn't like how much moisture from my breathing ended up in it.

Rydn9ers said...

I have seen pictures of Greg Gleason, Jay and Joe Stiller with the strip over their nose and was wondering what they were using. Someone is going to jump on the idea and make a mint on the nose coozie... schnoozie?

Tim said...

There is a product called "Frost Tape" which is made in Europe. It's used by Nordic skiers. 3 pre-cut strips for nose and cheek bones. Adheres to skin without damage for many hours. It has worked for me in long distance training. I live in the frozen, flat tundra of North Dakota.

KC said...

I've had great luck with The Weatherneck, I think Ben from MBR has talked about them before. It's a hat with a tail that covers your neck and a separate bandana-like mask that attaches with magnets to the hat. Both have a mesh strip down the middle that let out just enough heat to prevent overheating but hold in enough to stay warm. That center strip also keeps the fabric from saturating and getting that fun waterboarding feel that Buffs always gave me.

Smithhammer said...

You can also just get a lightweight fleece 'earwarmer' and lower it over your nose and cheeks.