TESTED BY NICOLA
Masks have played a starring role in our lives for the past two years. But they’ve been around a lot longer than that for skiers in the form of balaclavas and neck gaiters. With the mask culture of today, many of us have probably learned a thing or two about how some masks offer more comfort or breathability than others, and also why that is important as we ride.
When you think about what you use to cover your face when you ski, you might feel it is time to upgrade that tatty old snood or neck gaiter with something a little more specialised. Well, no company is packing as much specialised tech into their ski masks than NAROO.
The Korea-based company has been making easy-breathing sports masks for 19 years now, and they have a slew of offerings tailored to your skiing needs. I tested the Z5H model (£50). Available in a range of colours, it looks like a plain balaclava-style buff, but NAROO have crammed it with tech – hence the higher-than-average price tag.
The Z5H features something called the EX-BONE III, which is a flexible, plastic exoskeleton-like frame that rests over your mouth and keeps the material away from your face, so it remains dry and highly breathable. It took me a few minutes to get accustomed to, but I found the fit to be comfy enough. For me personally I found the frame to be overkill, but for someone who dislikes material covering their mouth, but still would like the warmth advantages of having some fabric protection, I can see the appeal. I did notice that the frame created a pocket of warm air around my face, which is a nice effect.
I find that some neck gaiters/balaclavas can be itchy, especially when you work up a sweat, but I found the Z5H fabric to be soft and quick-drying, and overall very comfy.
Personally, I would choose one of NAROO‘s more traditional all-fabric models, such as the N1 (£30).
It has venting holes where the mask rests against your mouth so that you can breathe more easily than a traditionally stitched neck gaiter.
This means you can wear the gaiter in the most frigid conditions, without the risk of fogging up your goggles. Win!