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Verdict: 
Superbly well designed tunable headwear for riding and general outdoor use
Weight: 
102g
The Weatherneck System breakaway balaclava
8 10

The Weatherneck Sysyem breakaway balaclava is, as the name suggests, a convertible balaclava, neck gaiter and hat combo. Very competent in all modes, it packs down very unobtrusively should the temperature suddenly spike. Brilliant for road or trail riding, it's lent itself well to spring motorcycling and is likely to find favour among runners and skiers too.

Materials

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava - scarf side.jpg

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava - scarf side.jpg

The system is made in the USA from high quality breathable polyester, which keeps the price competitive, moisture management sensible and the garments easy to care for. Better still, they can be purchased separately and being black, colour clashes are a moot point.

Early spring can be a very unpredictable time, freezing cold one minute, strong sunshine and 18 degrees the next. Most convertible kit employs Velcro or poppers, which ensures a secure connection but eventually warps and can prove tricky to adjust mid-ride.

Buy The Weatherneck System

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava- magnets.jpg

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava- magnets.jpg

The Weatherneck uses slim button-type magnets, which connect hat and gaiter components. The only downsides are they're not supposed to be machine washed and have the potential to interfere with pacemakers. Ours was kidnapped by the household wash but emerged seemingly unscathed.

Mullet Cap

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava - hat only.jpg

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava - hat only.jpg

First up, we have the amusingly but aptly named, Mullet Cap, which is crudely, a skull cap with an integral neck gaiter to protect the nape area from wind, rain, snow, harsh sun and of course, icy blasts than can sneak inside jerseys and jackets.

Long enough to slip beneath a jacket or jersey collar, there's no danger of it flapping about in the wind. Acres of perforated mesh are designed to promote airflow here and around the skull-cap's temple region, overcoming the sense of overheating as temperature and rider effort increase.

As one fits all designs go, ours graced me perfectly. Thoughtfully, there's a dedicated flap for ponytails, which also seems to align nicely with helmets.

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava - logo.jpg

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava - logo.jpg

The magnets embedded in the cap and the balaclava component can be doubled up to suit smaller heads, or, for bigger faces, relaxed completely. Simply fold or relax the balaclava component before connecting the magnets. They've also incorporated a pocket within the hat; useful for stowing a fiver for cafe stops/contingencies, or emergency contact details.

Generally speaking, unless the air temperature falls to around zero, I tend to find hats leave me feeling that bit too toasty. Thanks to the relatively thin fabric and perforated mesh, I have remained comfortable when the mercury has climbed over the course of a ride to around 10 degrees.

At the other extreme, on those late night rides when starry skies have dragged temperatures to zero or thereabouts, it's offered excellent defence against chill and wicks a lot faster than traditional thin pile skull caps. The flat profile also ensures it's unobtrusive beneath helmets and for several hours.

Facemask

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava.jpg

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava.jpg

This is also sensibly generous, offering excellent protection to the nose, face and neck. Though I can usually shake a heavy cold in a matter of days, I'm prone to chest infections and that phlegmy 'chain smokers' rattle often lingers for weeks.

On bitterly cold 1 in 4 descents, I've tended to tuck it into my jersey for maximum protection but either way it doesn't flutter annoyingly, impair conversation, or lead to soggy face syndrome when you're combining chat and decent tempo. Those magnets mean, with a bit of practice, it's an absolute cinch to remove and reinstate.

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava - scarf.jpg

The Weatherneck The System breakaway balaclava - scarf.jpg

The system also lends itself to motorcycling. I dislike full face helmets, so found the gaiter provided welcome protection from early spring wind blast. Stopping at the lights, donned in full leathers and goggles, it adds to the Mad Max dystopian road warrior look and much to my amusement, drew some uneasy glances from drivers in the other lanes.

Tube type systems can turn very soggy when the heavens open. The Weatherneck will obviously become wet but this doesn't linger, let alone give rise to the sensation of being water-boarded. It takes about 15 minutes before the polyester feels properly wet but to date we're not talking the point of saturation. Even plodding along at 15mph with a gentle breeze should dry it in around 15 minutes.

Given the design brief, there's little to dislike and it's a wonder why someone hadn't come up with this sooner. Compared with a traditional balaclava, or Buff-type sleeves, it's relatively pricey but performs better than the former in every respect. That's not to say Buffs and their imitators aren't extremely versatile and have some obvious benefit in milder conditions, mind.

Verdict

Superbly well designed tunable headwear for riding and general outdoor use

road.cc test report

Make and model: The Weatherneck System breakaway balaclava

Size tested: One size

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Weatherneck say: " A Breathable, Breakaway Balaclava

Our unique magnetic design gives you the choice. The "System" includes the Mullet Hat + Facemask. They work together (hat has metal, facemask has magnets) to create The Weatherneck System!

Too hot? Just rip off the face mask without stopping.

Too cold? Simply tighten up the mask for a snug feel.

Layering is rule #1 for cold weather comfort and The Weatherneck System is the only balaclava that lets you adjust to your environment while breathing easy.

It's a hat, a facemask and a balaclava all in 1, but there is more to it".

My feelings "A superbly designed and practical balaclava system for riding and other outdoor sports".

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

The "System" includes the Mullet Hat + Facemask. They work together (hat has metal, facemask has magnets) to create The Weatherneck System! Polyester/Lycra mix

90 % Polyester.10% Lycra

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

Unique design that works extremely well as a system and converts very readily to suit conditions.

Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10

So long as machine washing is minimised, there's no reason it shouldn't lead a very long and productive life.

Rate the product for fit:
 
8/10

Easily and quickly adjusted to suit different wearers.

Rate the product for sizing:
 
8/10

Surprisingly well tailored and easily tuneable.

Rate the product for weight:
 
7/10

Magnets add a bit of additional weight but fabrics and construction are reassuringly good.

Rate the product for comfort:
 
8/10

Merino wool might have an edge but otherwise, superior to conventional balaclavas between 0 and +10 degrees.

Rate the product for value:
 
8/10

Not cheap in the commonly accepted sense but well executed, so chances are you'll get a lot of use from it.

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Best hand-washed, which admittedly is less convenient than machine washing but hardly taxing. Ours survived machine wash cycles too and everything looks and performs perfectly.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Overall, the weatherneck system performs extremely well. Designed with exertion in mind, the perforated fabrics do an excellent job of trafficking rider generated out, while retaining an ambient temperature. No risk of wet, clammy faces. Mullet cap also offers excellent protection against precipitation, preventing rain and similar creeping inside garments. Neck gaiter also extends long enough to shut out icy blasts and is effortlessly whipped on/off should conditions change.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Well engineered design using decent quality fabrics-pretty much everything,

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Nothing given the design brief.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Definitely

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

Extremely well conceived and executed headwear system.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 1m 81cm  Weight: 70kg

I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset  My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,

Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)

19 comments

Avatar
Ush [923 posts] 2 months ago
6 likes

They should just have called it the Velo Niqab.

Avatar
skull-collector... [144 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

Jeez, Muslim much?

Avatar
dodgy [223 posts] 2 months ago
4 likes

Just in time for summer.

Avatar
Peowpeowpeowlasers [505 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes

Silly muslim comments aside, how does this garment work with glasses?  I've never found a balaclava that doesn't stop my glasses steaming up the instant I start cycling in cold weather.

Avatar
boardy [63 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Wiggle sell a neck tube with a mesh section that i've found pretty good at stopping glasses from fogging up and preventing the nasty soggy fabric over mouth feeling http://www.wiggle.co.uk/dhb-windslam-neck-tube/

Avatar
belabatnom [19 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes
skull-collector-not-really wrote:

Jeez, Muslim much?

God forbid someone would risk looking like a Muslim woman. 

Avatar
shay cycles [385 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes

Has nobody else realised that it just looks a bit....

well....

silly?

Avatar
mike the bike [907 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes
shay cycles wrote:

Has nobody else realised that it just looks a bit....

well....

silly?

 

Yes, but apparently it's "tuneable" so that's alright then.

Avatar
Freddy56 [256 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

a system! 

you can buy a skull cap, a buff and a balaclava  for £39.99, and each will do the job better.

NEXT!

Avatar
The_Vermonter [42 posts] 2 months ago
5 likes

This will trigger UKIP and EDL members

Avatar
Leviathan [2600 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes
dodgy wrote:

Just in time for summer.

Winter is coming!

Avatar
handlebarcam [983 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes

Ninjas have really let themselves go since their heyday in feudal Japan.

Avatar
skull-collector... [144 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:

Silly muslim comments aside, how does this garment work with glasses?  I've never found a balaclava that doesn't stop my glasses steaming up the instant I start cycling in cold weather.

 

Just look how Muslims do it - you see plenty of them with glasses poking out of the postboxes

Avatar
skull-collector... [144 posts] 2 months ago
4 likes
belabatnom wrote:
skull-collector-not-really wrote:

Jeez, Muslim much?

God forbid someone would risk looking like a Muslim woman. 

You wouldn't want to get shot by armed police , innit?

 

Avatar
peted76 [625 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

I like the face warmer with the mesh idea, that solves a problem, but that hat... nope there's simply no need for that.

Avatar
WolfieSmith [1380 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes

Is there a checkered Puegeot/P.L.O option? 

Seriously though. This looks stupid. I've never felt it's so cold that to need to cover the lower half of my face in winter. If it was that cold there would still be ice on the road and I would stay indoors. 

Useful for robbing banks but you'd have to leave your bike unlocked to make that quick getaway...

 

yes

Avatar
MNgraveur [92 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

Perhaps things are different in the UK, but I could walk over to any outdoor, sport or hunting store here in MN and walk off with essentially the same thing for about $5. Of course it wouldn't be cycling branded.

Avatar
bechdan [121 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

I ordered the weatherneck (buff) part only from the US soon after it came out, cost about £11 but got stung with a £12 import charge, cheers for that customs.

Its much better than a standard neck tube by the main feature that it can be removed without taking off glasses/helmet etc. Its actually pretty good and well made.

I agree with the above comments that the hat part isnt needed, however I completely disagree with the anti muslim comments, why even bring that up? Youll be wearing it with a helmet anyway and itll look the same as any hat/buff combo.

All well and good knocking this product but who else has actually tried it?

Avatar
Bikebikebike [308 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

Washing and pacemakers not the only downside to little button magnets.  Very dangerous if swallowed by kids.