A Balaclava for the Arctic of Arctics

P1020032The ColdAvenger isn’t perfect, but by God it’s a big help when the temperature plunges past the -30C mark.

I had a chance to use the ColdAvenger Balaclava combo extensively this winter while spending time in Canada’s Arctic Circle. Since it stands up well to those conditions, I’d give it an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

For me, winter’s a bit of a conundrum when it comes to facial comfort/cranium comfort. I wear eye-glasses, which presents it own challenges, and I’m prone to bronchitis, which presents another set of challenges. I also suffer from respiratory allergies, which means that sometimes contact lenses just aren’t an option, due to eye inflammation.

So generally speaking, I have to choose between being able to see and keeping my lungs warm. Talk about conflicting aims!

The ColdAvenger helps out enormously with that dilemma, although it’s not perfect. When I can wear my contact lenses, it’s an awesome addition. Unfortunately, I can’t use it with my glasses, as there’s simply too much in the way of warmth seeping out the bottom edge of the eye-opening.

I’ve heard some people say they can use the ColdAvenger with their glasses… I’d challenge them to explain to me how they’ve done it and at what kind of temperature. It simply doesn’t work for me at below -20 and -30 Celsius.

My solution has been to doff my glasses as necessary, which isn’t ideal since I’m extremely near-sighted. I prefer that, though, to spending a day or two of coughing after a few hours outdoors walking or snowshoeing.

The designers at ColdAvenger shouldn’t feel too bad about that though. It’s not like I’ve found anything else that works either, and that includes goggles. If there’s a goggle made that I can’t get to fog up, I haven’t seen it yet.

When I first arrived in Canada’s Northwest Territories, my face mask of choice was a Polarwrap. This is quite similar in concept to the ColdAvenger. It uses coils of wire built into a mouthpiece to capture, humidify and warm the air you’re breathing. It does a phenomenal job of that. In fact, for warming the air, I’d rank it somewhat ahead of the ColdAvenger.

vent1It has a serious design flaw, though. It also restricts your air flow, leaving me gasping for breath as soon as I pick up my pace beyond an average walking speed. It also takes hours to dry after use.

That’s quite unlike the ColdAvenger, which doesn’t restrict your breathing beyond a very minimal level. I suspect some of that is simply psychological, the inevitable result of having something over your mouth.

The Darth Vader-like mouth piece also works well to humidify and warm the air as you breathe in and out. It will also attract some attention and some interesting looks!

The only downside, and it’s not a big one, is that the drain ports on the bottom of the mouthpiece allow water to drip onto your coat. That means, in the kind of temperatures I’ve been using it in, you wind up with a block of ice on your jacket, but I don’t find it a big deal.

The balaclava, which is quite suitable as a hat, can be used with or without the mouthpiece, which fastens by Velcro strips. The one major design flaw is that the mouthpiece can’t be used without the Balaclava, unlike the ColdAvenger Classic.

All in all, if ColdAvenger can solve my fogging/freezing eyeglasses issue, it would be the perfect cold-weather accessory. As it is now, I’d still give it at least an 8 out of 10 rating.

For more information on the ColdAvenger, visit www.coldavenger.com.

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