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Balaclavas for Hiking

A balaclava is a headgear that is designed to cover the head and face, and only leave the eyes, nose and mouth exposed. It’s also known as a ski mask or balaclava helmet. Balaclavas are used by cyclists, skiers, runners and hikers who venture out in cold temperatures. 


In Kenya, this item of clothing is necessary if you plan to hike Elephant Hill, Aberdare Ranges or Mount Kenya. It’s made of breathable material and protects hikers from the oxygen sucking altitude and the cold breeze in the Aberdares. 

Balaclavas for hiking: 7 Things You Should Know: 

1. Do Balaclavas Keep You Warm?



Balaclavas keep you warm and protect you against the draft and cold breeze. I bought a pair to help me hike Elephant Hill and I’m glad I did. Balaclavas can function as ninja hoodies, neck warmer and half masks.


The half-mask option is particularly great for hiking the Aberdare Ranges where your body temperature decreases with every exhale.  They help in retaining heat. I also found from my own personal experience that for those whose ears are affected by the attitude increase, balaclavas can provide some relief.


2. Are Balaclavas Irish?



But they get their name from their use at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean war of 1854.  Balaclava is a Ukrainian port town that served as a backdrop for the Crimean war.


3. What is a balaclava used for?

Apart from hiking, balaclavas are also used for:

  • Skiing.
  • Snowboarding to help against frostbite and
  • Winter mountaineers for added warmth and protection.
  • Runners in old countries.


4. What is the difference between a ski mask and a balaclava?

There is no difference between a ski mask and a balaclava. The two can function the same and be used interchangeably. 


5. Are Balaclavas for bad or cold weather?



Balaclavas form a huge part of Eastern European culture and Eastern European militia. Not only are they used against cold weather, but they have become a huge Fashion statement in Europe and across the world. Of course, this does raise the question of appropriation versus appreciation discussion but that’s a discussion for another day. 


6. Are Balaclavas trendy?

In the past year, Balaclavas have taken off especially on TikTok, with more people buying crocheted balaclavas in various styles, and crocheters showing off by making colourful and stylish balaclavas to suit the growing demand. 


7. Are Balaclavas Offensive?

Personally, it depends on the occasion and where you wear it to. As a writer from a tropical country, I’d only wear it when hiking the cold hills and mountains. But for a person living in a Western country,  the context changes.


The point of friction is that the Balaclava is similar to the hijab, which is often seen as a tool for oppression. While white women might wear the balaclava and experience no friction, the same cannot be said for hijabi women living in the same country.


At the end of the day, only the person wearing the item knows the intent behind their decision. However, the double standards should cease, if balaclava-wearing children can go to school and attend class, hijabi girls should be able to do the same.


If you are Kenyan and would wish to buy a pair or two, you can do so at Amazon, Decathlon, or from Patch Hiking Gear at Parklands.

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