Outdoor Research Option Balaclava


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Soft and practical, the Outdoor Research Option Balaclava offers 3-in-1 versatility. This light and stretchy hat is your ticket to storm day protection. The Thermodynamic fabric has a durable nylon face and a soft fleece interior for next-to-skin comfort. It's stretchy enough to work as a comfy neck gaiter at the ski resort as a complement to your helmet and easily converts into a full balaclava or even just a hat. Wear it with a helmet or hood, or use it as a standalone hat. You'll love the versatility of the Outdoor Research Option Balaclava on storm days extended mountain adventures. It's sure to help you retain valuable BTU's.


  • Material: Thermodynamic™ fabric; 63% nylon, 23% polyester, 14% Spandex
  • Durable nylon face and looped polyester interior
  • Flat-seam construction
  • Contoured shape

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Review Summary

4.7 out of 5

23 Reviews

  • Build quality: 4
  • Ease of use: 4
  • Great design: 4
  • Great value: 4

  • Cost: 1
  • fitting was not ideal.: 1
  • none: 1
Quality: 4.7 / 5
Comfort: 4.2 / 5
Durability: 4.2 / 5
Warmth: 3.3 / 5

23 Ratings & Reviews

Comfort: 4 / 5
Durability: 4 / 5
Quality: 5 / 5
Warmth: 4 / 5
from Mountain View, CA
35-44 yrs

GREAT under helmet piece of headgear
February 08, 2013

Wow, like all the OR products I've bought this one too does not fail to disappoint. It is form fitting, warm and fits nicely under a climbing helmet. I'm all set for headgear and a toasty head.

Pros: Great design, Build quality, Ease of use, Great value
Comfort: 4 / 5
Durability: 4 / 5
Quality: 4 / 5
Warmth: 4 / 5
from Denver, CO
25-34 yrs

Great for skiing
December 21, 2010

The Option balaclava is great for wearing under the helmet for skiing. It offers great warmth considering it is relatively thin and low profile, and reaches far enough down the neck to offer pretty good protection. Doesn't really stay over the nose while you ski, but you can pull it up for the really cold lift rides. Packs down really small in case it warms up and you want to pocket it. Great product for the money.

Pros: Great design, Build quality, Performance, Ease of use, Great value

Great balaclava without ideal full coverage including nose
December 09, 2009

This was my first balaclava purchase, and I was really looking forward to using this item and expecting to love it. As I found, it is a great balaclava as the other reviews say. The material provides a snug fit while being stretchy enough to be worn in more ways than I'd ever use (beanie/skull cap, "full" balaclava, balaclava with exposed nose and mouth, neck gaiter, and venting hat). It's also thin enough to fit nicely under my bicycle helmet when worn as a "full" balaclava yet seemed to be warm enough for whatever cold weather I'd face around town. Even with the balaclava covering my mouth, it seemed quite breathable. However, one shortcoming in design left me disappointed. I'm confident that many others would consider a "full" balaclava's coverage to include the nose so that only the wearer's eyes would be exposed. According to the diagram on this product's packaging and my experiments in eyes-only coverage, this balaclava is not designed to offer what I consider an ideal "full coverage" option that leaves only the user's eyes exposed. I found that I can cover my nose in two ways, each with its downside. Firstly, I can simply tug the balaclava's bottom portion up to cover my nose. However, this creates wrinkles to the sides of my eyes that bump up to allow (cold) air inside. Secondly, I can follow up the first method with also stretching the upper portion of the balaclava so that the previously mentioned wrinkles will stretch flat back against my skin. However, this basically left the balaclava moved up in its position on my head so that much of my forehead was exposed. This looked strange and probably would leave me colder than is ideal. If nose coverage isn't important for you, this balaclava will probably be excellent. If like me, you expect a balaclava's full coverage to have a snug fit with only the eyes exposed and the nose and mouth kept warm, I recommend something else.


Light but warm
March 14, 2010

When the temperature here in Minnesota drops below zero, you really need facial coverage. The Option Balaclava provides warmth and protection without bulk. It is light and comfortable and breathes quite well. I've yet to try all the options but I find it quite useful. Finally, I have a great big head - literally - and the large/extra large is very comfortable.

Great service and product.
December 28, 2009

Perfect for riding in our low 40 degree temperatures. Fits nicely under bike helmet, and I like to be able to wear it in different configurations as the temperature changes.

Does what it says...
January 17, 2009

I love this thing and on cold, windy days I'll usually throw it on. It's one of the best ways I've found to keep wind off my ears. It's thin and stretchy, but it does a good job blocking the wind. I usually wear it pulled down below my chin and it works fine that way, or you can tug it up to cover your mouth. The fabric is breathable enough so that you don't feel like you're drooling on yourself after a few minutes of exhaling. I wear this cycling and found it to work great down to 30 degrees or so, and you can always layer on top of it.

Comfort: 4 / 5
Durability: 3 / 5
Quality: 5 / 5
Warmth: 2 / 5
from New York
25-34 yrs

Small adjustment and it would be awesome
December 21, 2011

Until now I've had two pieces...hat and neck warmer. I bought this in the hope of having only one piece. The head part is perfect. Not too warm that I want to take off my helmet but using the same material for the neck means that my neck is a little cool. I've continued to bring along an extra neckwarmer which I have had to put on when the winds pick up near the peak. Still it's usually more than adequate as long as my jacket is zipped to the top. While I really stick to wearing it the traditional way, I really like the multiple ways that you can wear it.

Pros: Performance, Ease of use, Cons: Cost

Perfect Item for Base Layer or Above Zero (F) Wind shield
December 09, 2007

I'm outdoors with Minimal movement for periods of 4-5 hours at a time. This item Works Great, and does not add bulk. As a stand alone item it functions great for temps Zero or above with 5-10 MPH winds. Below that it is a Awesome base layer/wicking layer. With a simple scarf it immunizes you against wind and temps into the below zero range. Must have for outside workers!


Comfortable and Light
July 30, 2010

Balaclava is very comfortable and has a great feel to it. Lightweight and just what I was looking for. I am a tall female and the S/M fits well. I look forward to being able to use it in cold temperature this winter.

Perfect weight and fit
February 09, 2007

I was concerned this balaclava would not be warm enough since my previous one was made from windstopper but everything is perfect. The balacalava fits nicely is easy to pull over your mouth and blocks the wind.

Good Wind Protection and Warmth
November 30, 2009

Tested at 12,200 feet. Kept my face warm, until the moisture built up from my mouth (that is to be expected). I would have been miserable without it. It saved my ears from temps and wind in the teens. Would have rated 5 but the hole is slightly too large. Fits under my chin and I got the small. Overall a good buy, but I would recommend the Under Armour one if you can find it on sale.

Lightweight yet warm
December 09, 2007

I bought this to keep my (very bald) head warm when winter cycling, and although thin it does the job admirably. It stops the wind perfectly and has become my most treasured outdoor apparel. I have a 57cm head and chose the smaller option which fits nicely. The neck could be a smidgin longer but I heartily recommend it.


Very versatile
December 29, 2009

I've been using this balaclava as a scarf in the mornings and a full on face/headwrap in the evening descents during my bike rides. Wind is significantly reduced as it shields cold air from entering through the top of my jacket. The material is thin but it's warm and lightweight to carry in your camelback.

Light Warm and Versatile
May 08, 2010

I am very happy with my recent purchase of Outdoor Research Option Balaclava. It kept me warm on a recent 40 mile trek on the AT and will be the first thing I pack on my Rainier summit trip this July.

ComfortShoes: 4 / 5
Durability: 5 / 5
Quality: 5 / 5
WarmthGloves: 4 / 5

Option Balaclava
October 12, 2010

This balaclava is comfortable and will do a great job keeping your face warm on those chilly winter mornings hitting the slopes or during a winter snow storm. The one drawback that I found was that that it wasn't as snug as I would have liked when covering the mouth and nose area. The extra fabric kind of bunches up near the eyes. Perhaps a smaller size would have been better.

Pros: Build quality, Great value, Cons: fitting was not ideal.

Just what we needed
May 11, 2010

Lightweight but warm. Versatile and comfortable. Bought three for myself and two kids and we all are very happy with them.

Comfort: 5 / 5
Durability: 5 / 5
Quality: 5 / 5
from new york
55-64 yrs

Option Balaclava
February 09, 2011

Purchased for the cold nasty weather we have been having in NY this winter - great fit, very comfortable - haven't figured out how to make it into a cap yet but all other ways to wear it are really neat. Ability to move the facial opening to various positions a plus, plus lightweight fabric allows putting on a baseball style cap without any problems . Overall great to cut down quite a bit of the wind that bites your face in the winter.

Pros: Great design, Build quality, Ease of use, Great value
Comfort: 4 / 5
Durability: 4 / 5
Quality: 4 / 5
from Alaska
45-54 yrs

Option Balaclava
July 26, 2013

A balaclava is critical for mountaineering and this Option Balaclava is an idea weight. Aside from good mittens, it is perhaps the most important article of clothing. Personally, I would carry two for cold conditions (doubled) and carry one hat--to repel the elements. There's an old saying, if your feet are cold--put on a hat.

Pros: Great design, Cons: none

Fits Well
August 22, 2010

Purchased to fit under other OR balaclavas and fits fine. Recommend this product.

Really comfortable and warm
June 28, 2010

I bicycle year round, so it's important that this balaclava was warm and wind resistant. I got it in the summer, actually, when it isn't so useful for that, but I've worn it in the heat and found it breathable and lightweight. The flat stitched seams don't chaff at all. The face opening is kinda large, and if you pull it up over your nose, it'll fold open a little at the eyes. I measured my head at 22" before buying, and find the S/M size is a good fit.

I get dual usage from it!
December 20, 2009

Not only is it a great balaclava I use in the cold mornings when I have to go out and scrape my car window or clear the snow off ( especially in a blizzard ). I also wear it for sleep at night under my CPAP facial mask. The straps always put big red marks on my face and also wear away at my bald spot. Putting this on first cushions the straps very well!

Awesome fit & comfort factor
November 11, 2008

I bought this for using under my helmet when I ride my Vespa during these cold months and it works perfectly! It's super-thin, yet keeps my head, ears and chin warm. No more arriving at my destination wishing I had driven my car.


As warm as advertised
January 05, 2010

Great hat providing the warmth and wind resistance as advertised. The OR logo is not embroidered and peeling eliminating the reflective opportunity when I exercise at dawn. Not a bother, but surprising on a quality garment.

Also Available

Outdoor Research Option Balaclava Photo

Black and Coyote.

Available sizes, while supplies last, include size s/m and size l/xl: s/m, l/xl.

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