How to Protect Your Face from Bitter Cold and Wind

February 23, 2015


Your face is at risk for frostbite in bitter cold and freezing wind, especially in above-treeline winter conditions. To fully protect it, you need two things: a facemask and goggles.

  • A good mask fits snug against your face and nose with no gaps whatsoever; the smallest exposed sliver will rapidly frostbite in severe winter conditions.
  • Be wary of facemasks integrated with a fleecy neck gaiter or balaclava. They seldom fit well.
  • Larger goggles offer a better field of view and good ventilation that minimizes fogging; higher-end models feature double lenses that further reduce fogging.
  • A variety of anti-fogging products are available. They all help, but none work perfectly.
  • Amber, orange, or yellow lenses enhance contrast; gray lenses provide true color transmission.
  • In strong winds, placing the goggle strap over your jacket hood helps keep the hood securely in place.
  • Test your face system before you crest treeline. You will have no time to fiddle with it once you enter the winter alpine zone.

This column originally appeared in the print edition of AMC Outdoors along with the column “Warm Thoughts: Protect your head and neck from the cold

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.