We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.
Culinary

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What is a Balaclava?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated: Feb 28, 2024

A balaclava is a combination head and neck covering that provides a great deal of warmth. One most commonly sees them on skiers or worn as a part of military outfitting to reduce the wearer’s visibility to others. To US English speakers, the term is not very common, and one would traditionally see the term ski mask used instead.

The common balaclava is typically made of wool, though some may also be made of acrylic, cotton, or fleece. The item covers the head, ears and neck, but has an opening for the eyes. Usually, it also includes a tiny opening near the nostrils for easier breathing. The hat/scarf combo can just become a hat by rolling up the scarf portion in many models. If the neck or chin becomes too warm, the headgear can be easily converted.

The name comes from the town of Balaklava, Crimea. During the Crimean War of 1854-1856, many British troops were unused to the extremely cold winter conditions. People from the town sent these hand knitted “ski masks” to help provide extra warmth for the British soldiers.

One often sees balaclavas worn in outdoor winter sports. Those made of black silk might be most associated with ninjas, and any modern ninja costume tends to include a portion that covers the face. Sadly, the garment is also associated with terrorists and criminals, who wish anonymity while committing illegal acts.

Frequently, competitive auto racers use a flame retardant balaclava underneath their helmets. This is thought to protect the face should a race car accidentally catch fire. In addition, it allows some filtration of smoke by shielding the mouth, providing the driver with slightly more time for rescuers to reach him or her.

The term is occasionally confused with baklava, which is a Middle Eastern dessert made from layers of puff pastry, nuts and honey. Confusing the two might have one literally eating his or her hat.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
Share
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.