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POC Thermal Balaclava



Warm, windproof and comfy head and face protection for cold weather, but expensive
Plenty warm
Very comfortable
Wind resistant
Steamy with glasses
Inside gets clammy

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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POC's Thermal Balaclava does a great job of keeping your face and head warm on chilly days, but it can get a bit steamy if you wear glasses.

It does double duty in both keeping your head warm and protecting your face from wind chill with its windproof front panel.

> Buy now: POC Thermal Balaclava for £45 from POC Sports

This is not your five quid army surplus shop balaclava. The main body is made from a merino/acrylic/elastane blend that's soft, warm and comfortable, as well as being thin enough to fit under a hat or helmet. The front panel, from your eyes down to your neck, is made from a very thin windproof material with holes backed by mesh for breathing.

On the whole it works really well. On a ride this morning when the thermometer was showing just one single degree Celsius, my head and face were completely comfortable, and my face was unaffected by windchill on the descents.

> Winter cycling clothing – 49 of the warmest garments you can buy

However, I've got to admit that I think I'll continue just pulling a fleece Buff up over my face; the POC Thermal Balaclava has too many niggly annoyances.

For starters, it makes your glasses steam up when you're working hard at low speeds, such as a steep climb. You can just pull it down, of course, and that helps, but it's a faff.

And while the windproof panel is great for stopping that frozen face feeling, it does get damp and clammy which is a bit unpleasant, especially if it gets cold on a descent.

2023 Poc Thermal balaclava - 2.jpg

Aaand it's 45 quid, which is a silly amount of money when there are merino balaclavas out there for less than £25.

I can see myself reaching for the POC balaclava if I had to ride in snow, though. In fact that's the only situation I've used a balaclava for in the past, because keeping driving snow off your face is a big improvement in comfort, and riding when it's actually snowing makes you officially a Rule #9 badass.


As I said, though, it's very expensive compared with others out there. I hear good things about the GripGrab Thermal Balaclava and it gets good user reviews, and it's £27.95.

We liked The Weatherneck System breakaway balaclava when we tested it a few years ago, which was £39.99, but it doesn't seem to be available in the UK at the moment.

Probably the strongest contender for the crown of best cycling balaclava is the Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Head Gaitor, which Mike Stead called 'a great bit of winter kit I never knew I needed until I tried it'.

The POC balaclava is quite a bit lighter, so it'll work in conditions that are just chilly rather than the Full-On Minging weather in which the Sealskinz super-balaclava excels, but the Sealskinz is £28.


For a cyclist, a balaclava is very much a specialist piece of kit. You're only likely to reach for it when the weather is seriously cold and you've no option but to ride. If you live somewhere that's regularly subject to icy cold, and you're determined to ride no matter what, then a good balaclava is a sensible long-term investment.

The POC Thermal balaclava fits the bill for UK conditions (folks who live in Minnesota or Alaska, where it's going to be -20°C this week, are probably smiling indulgently right now), and the windproof front panel is a nice extra detail. It's warm and comfortable while being light and unobtrusive to wear, but I suspect the price is going to be a deal-breaker for many.

Who should buy the POC Thermal balaclava

If you need to ride in crummy, cold and wet weather, then it's worth considering, though the price makes it very much a luxury option.

Or maybe if you're thinking of turning to crime... If you're going to hold up a bank, don't be like McArthur Wheeler and Clifton Earl Johnson, who thought that because you could use lemon juice as invisible ink, wearing it on their faces would make them invisible to security cameras. Hide your face with the POC Thermal Balaclava and stay warm during your get-away.


Warm, windproof and comfy head and face protection for cold weather, but expensive test report

Make and model: POC Thermal Balaclava

Size tested: L/XL

Tell us what the product is for

Keeping your head warm in very cold conditions.

POC says:

"Giving warmth and comfort on the coolest rides, the Thermal Balaclava fits snugly under a helmet and gives extra space around the mouth for maximum breathing comfort.

The Thermal Balaclava fits snugly under a helmet and keeps you warm on the coolest rides.

A windproof front section keeps the chill off the mouth and nose, and laser-cut holes around the mouth enhance breathing comfort and minimise condensation."

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

POC lists:

Merino Blend

Constructed from a blend of acrylic, Merino wool and elastane for comfort and weather protection.

Windproof zones

A stiffened zone of windproof material keeps the chill off your face.

Laser-cut ventilation

Laser-cut ventilation holes around the mouth make it easier to breathe and help reduce condensation.

Fits under a helmet

The balaclava fits snugly under a helmet for both warmth and protection.

Rate the product for quality of construction:

Very well made to the standard we expect from POC.

Rate the product for performance:

It's warm and comfy, and the windproof panel is very effective.

Rate the product for sizing:
Rate the product for weight:
Rate the product for comfort:
Rate the product for value:

It's really quite expensive.

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

Despite occasional steaming up, it generally works very well.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Having a warm head.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Steamy glasses and the windproof panel getting clammy.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on

I hear good things about the GripGrab Thermal Balaclava, and it gets good user reviews and costs £27.95.

We liked The Weatherneck System breakaway balaclava when we tested it a few years ago, which was £39.99, but it doesn't seem to be available in the UK at the moment.

Probably the strongest contender for the crown of best cycling balaclava, though, is the Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Head Gaitor, which Mike Stead called 'a great bit of winter kit I never knew I needed until I tried it'. It's £28.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? No

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Only if they were wealthy!

Use this box to explain your overall score

Overall, this is a very good balaclava despite niggles, but it loses a point for that price tag.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 56  Height: 5ft 11in  Weight: 100kg

I usually ride: Scapin Style  My best bike is:

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

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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