Call them what you will—buffs, neck warmers, tube scarves or neck gaiters—the magical ring of fabric has come to have many uses and styles of wear. With the winter season soon upon us, it is time to start stocking up on the best neck gaiter for hiking, skiing and snowboarding. After all, keeping your neck warm is as important as protecting your fingers and toes from frostbite.
There are too many styles and brands to count when it comes to neck gaiters, but which ones are the best? Let us show you.
Benefits of Neck Gaiters
First off, you might be wondering why a neck gaiter is better than a scarf or a balaclava. Perhaps you only want to use them for pandemic purposes. Well, there are a few reasons why neck gaiters are more useful as part of your outfit for skiing, snowboarding, or hiking.
Neck gaiters function both in the summer and winter, depending on the materials they are made out of. In terms of wintertime neck gaiters, the benefits are as follows:
- Multiple functions and ways to wear
- Keeps your face and neck warm
- Prevents wind burn
- Dries quick and wicks away moisture
- Protects your skin from UV exposure
- More insulation than a scarf
That means that anyone who loves spending time outdoors can benefit from a neck warmer or two. Hikers, travelers, backpackers, hunters, skiers, and the like will find that neck gaiters help hold in the heat and make spending time out in the cold much more enjoyable.
What is the Best Neck Gaiter?
Finding the right neck gaiter for you can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of options with a range of prices to suit your style and budget. To help you narrow down some options, we have come up with a short list of highly-rated, warm, comfortable, and affordable neck gaiters for everyone in your family.
The Best Men’s Neck Gaiter: Buff Men’s Lightweight Merino Woo
If you’re the type of guy who loves doing things outdoors, even in the extreme cold, then you are going to need a neck gaiter that gives you thermal protection. Buff makes one of the best merino wool neck gaiters around. This neck warmer is soft to the touch yet lightweight enough to not feel restrictive or too tight. The wool is organic, odor resistant, and won’t itch. If it gets wet, you will still feel warm, which is a huge bonus while skiing or snowboarding.
- The lightweight construction makes the Buff Merino Wool Neck Gaiter ideal for all seasons
- One size fits all for adults
- Long length (27 inches), so you can wear it multiple ways
- Fits snug but not overwhelmingly tight
- Comes in several neutral colors, such as black, gray, and blue
May be too long for some people. In that case, purchase Buff Unisex Thermonet (which is only 19.5 inches long).
Has a large tag that may be scratchy and may want to cut out prior to use
Honorable Mention: MERIWOOL 100% Merino Wool Neck Gaiter
If you are looking for something a little thicker and shorter than our previous mention, then consider the MERIWOOL neck gaiter for men. Both neck gaiters feel the same in terms of softness, but this one offers a slightly heavier protection around the neck against winter’s chill. It also has odor resistance and moisture-wicking properties. The MERIWOOL neck warmer is slightly less versatile than the Buff neck gaiter, but you can still use it as a headband or ear warmer.
- Made of 100% Merino wool
- Itch-free and super soft
- Ideal for skiing and snowboarding
- Snug fit to lock in heat
- Helps with temperature regulation
- Comes in gray, black, khaki, wine, pink, and blue
- May be loose on a smaller individual
- Too short to be worn a number of ways – not as versatile as Buff brand
The Best Women’s Neck Gaiter: Smartwool Women’s Outdoor Athletic Neck Gaiter
Smartwool is a brand that many outdoor enthusiasts love and trust for their socks, so when it comes to their Women’s Neck Gaiter, you know that you are getting a reliable product that is durable. There are two sizes and thicknesses—the 150 and 250. This neck gaiter, the 150, is longer and lighter, so you can wear it any number of ways without getting overheated. Although the product is not 100% Merino wool, the nylon core was added to enhance longevity of the product without increasing the weight. Because of that, you get perfect insulation without any of the bulk.
- Made of Merino jersey, making it extremely lightweight and comfortable
- Can be used throughout the year
- Locks in heat without making you too hot
- Moisture-wicking and odor resistant
- Can be pulled up as a face mask
- Highly portable – folds up nicely to fit into a pocket when not in use
- May be a bit loose for petite women
Honorable Mention: Heat Holders Women’s Thermal Neck Warmer
Are you one of those ladies who wants to look stylish while hitting the slopes? Then the Heat Holders Women’s Thermal Neck Warmer may work for you. Although this isn’t a neck gaiter in the traditional sense—as it has far less versatility—it does an incredible job at keeping the neck warm without moving all around like a scarf or muffler would. The super soft material keeps in heat but doesn’t feel restrictive or itchy. Also, it is thick enough to keep out freezing wind.
- Incredibly warm and soft
- Great for extremely cold and windy days
- Comes in an array of lovely colors, like purple, pink, gray, fawn (light brown), and white
- Made of moisture-wicking material
- Very stylish knit
- Thick and chunky – can only be worn as a neck gaiter
- Too short to pull up over nose
- Not snug – the top of the product will hang slightly open, exposing some of the neck
Best Unisex Neck Gaiter: Buff Unisex Midweight Merino Wool
Though this may be one of the pricier options on this list, the Buff Unisex Midweight Merino Wool Neck Gaiter is all about comfort, warmth, and durability. You get your money’s worth! Made from 100% Merino wool, this is a sustainable option. The fabric is dyed to have a stylish melange effect. Breathable and odor resistant, you can wear this neck gaiter for hours and may even forget that it’s on.
- Superior warmth and coziness
- Multipurpose – can be worn as a headband, ear warmer, and more
- Thick enough to tackle freezing temperatures
- Keeps the wind out and heat locked in
- Odor resistant
- Has a massive tag that will need to be removed.
- May be on the shorter side for some people (about 20 inches long) and less versatile
- Not as breathable in cooler/warmer temperatures – use it during the winter months
Best Budget Neck Gaiter: Condor Thermo Neck Gaiter
Still trying to decide if neck gaiters are right for you? Try a fairly cheap neck warmer for starters. Who knows? It might be exactly what you’ve been looking for. The Condor Thermo Neck Gaiter is a great purchase for those who want a snug fit without a whole lot of thickness. The microfleece is warm and breathable, and the elastic band around the top works to keep body heat in. Since this neck gaiter is on the thinner side, you can use it alongside a higher neck winter coat to really seal in the heat. It can also be worn as a face mask when needed.
- Super lightweight
- Amazing quality for the price
- Made from breathable microfleece
- Durable and water resistant
- Can be machine washed
- Elastic neckline helps keep the cold air out and warmth in
- The elastic band at the top has a slightly awkward fit
- A little on the short side
Buyer’s Guide for the Best Neck Gaiter
Now we’re going to introduce some things to consider as your shop around for the best neck warmers for winter. Keep these little tips and bits of wisdom tucked in the back of your mind.
What is the purpose of a neck gaiter?
Did you know that the earliest version of the neck gaiter was invented in 1982 by Millie Merrill, who went on to launch Turtle Fur? Since then, neck gaiters have gotten popular for their ability to warm the neck. Since neck gaiters are multi-functional, many outdoor enthusiasts and travelers usually have at least one. Neck gaiters can also be pulled up over the mouth and nose to protect you from sand and wind.
What fabric is used for neck gaiters?
You will find as you shop around for the best neck gaiter that they come in an array of materials. Some are meant for winter use, while others are better for summertime.
Winter neck gaiters:
- Synthetics – polyester, etc.
- Merino wool
Summer neck gaiters:
While you can use summertime neck gaiters in the winter, they will not be as insulating and are used most often as a base layer beneath a scarf. Wool and fleece are the best materials for neck gaiters if you plan on going hiking, skiing or snowboarding. Some neck gaiters are also wind- and waterproof. That can come in handy if your outdoor activities are to be done in poor conditions.
When should I use a neck gaiter?
Whenever you want! Neck gaiters make for a great necessity, no matter what you plan on doing. Since some of them are made with stretchy materials, you can wear them a number of ways, like as a wristband or beanie or hat liner or head/hair band. The ways are countless. You can even wear 2 neck gaiters at a time to make a balaclava.
Further, you can layer your neck gaiter with other items, such as a visor or helmet, to protect yourself from wind, rain, sun exposure, and extreme temperatures. Whenever you sweat, a moisture-wicking neck warmer will come in handy, too.
What features should I look for?
Here are some features to know about and look out for:
- Moisture-wicking – As mentioned earlier, a neck gaiter that wicks away moisture will help control your body temperature and keep you comfortable.
- Breathable – Again, this is for temperature control. A breathable material will help you stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
- Warmth – Some materials are better at locking in body heat than others. If you want to use your neck gaiter in the winter, look for wool.
- Style – Winter vs. Summer neck gaiters. Also, while most neck gaiters are unisex, the main difference between men’s and women’s is the colors and patterns offered.
- Price – Depending on the materials used, some neck gaiters are going to be more expensive than others.
- Size – Not every neck gaiter is going to be one size fits all. Some come with S/M, M/L, L/XL sizing—all of which are based on the diameter of your skull. If it is a one size fits all neck warmer, it is most likely made of super stretchy materials.
Neck Gaiter FAQ
Still have some questions about neck warmers? We’ve got the answers!
Do neck gaiters keep you cool?
Sometimes! Not all neck gaiters are made to lock in heat. Some are designed with materials and other features to keep you cool. Such neck gaiters will most likely be marketed that way, so you should have no problem finding them online or in a physical store.
How is a neck gaiter different from a balaclava?
A balaclava, if you have never seen one, is a combination of a close-fitting hood and a face covering. It provides full head protection and locks in heat, which is why balaclavas are mainly used in the wintertime. Neck gaiters can be used in both hot and cold weather, depending on the materials, and is also fast drying and multipurpose.
How do I clean my neck gaiter?
Cleaning a buff largely depends on the fabric that it has been crafted from. Lighter neck scarves made from quick-drying synthetics can be put in the washing machine or hand-washed with warm, soapy water. Heavier materials, like wool, require hand washing only. Never put a wool item in the washing machine. Also, do not use fabric softener or dry cleaning for your neck gaiters.
Still confused? Read the product’s label before giving it a wash. Most come with clearly written instructions for care.
What are some other names for neck gaiters?
There are dozens of nicknames around the world for the humble neck gaiter. No wonder people sometimes get confused when shopping for them. That is why we decided to make a list of all the names for neck warmers, so you can define your search better and find the best neck gaiter for you.
- Neck gaiter
- Neck warmer
- Thermal tube
- Double tube scarf
- Tube scarf
- Neck scarf
- Buff neck warmer
- Neck sun protector
- Neck tube
- Thermal neck gaiter
Neck gaiters can be called a number of things, but they are definitely one of the more essential items to have with you when you go skiing, snowboarding, or hiking in the wintertime. So, whatever you decide to call them, make sure you have one or two handy!