Neck gaiters have long been popular with outdoor enthusiasts, who appreciate the surprising versatility of a simple tube of fabric. But the global pandemic has revealed yet another use for the versatile neck gaiter which is making them a more common sight -- as a covering in place of purpose-made face masks.
Once seen mostly on ski slopes or hiking trails, neck gaiters are quickly becoming more mainstream as people use them to cover up and discover their unique benefits in the outdoors. But what is a neck gaiter anyway? Should you wear a neck gaiter as a face mask? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about neck gaiters. We’ll cover what they are, how they’re used, what they’re made of, how to size them, and if they work well as a face mask replacement.
At their simplest, neck gaiters are tubes of fabric worn around the neck that are multi-functional for both warm and cold weather activities. Traditionally they have served as neck warmers for skiing, but as we will explore, they have a variety of other uses depending on how you choose to wear them.
Neck gaiters are made from different types of synthetic fabrics that can either keep your neck and head cool in warmer weather, or warm when it’s cold out. They also offer protection against:
The original claim to fame for neck gaiters are their ability to act as a neck warmer. Heavier materials such as fleece or wool can provide a high degree of insulation on an area of the body that is not usually covered up. That’s what makes them so popular among skiers, snowboarders, or most winter sports enthusiasts.
Using them as an everyday neck warmer is commonplace too. If your office building turns into an air-conditioned freezer or is just not heated to your liking, a neck gaiter can keep you warm, while doubling as a stylish accessory.
Outdoors Mag explains more technically how neck gaiters work to keep your warm:
“A neck gaiter can prevent what is known as the “chimney effect.” Warm air rises, which means that the precious body heat inside your jacket will escape upward and out through an open jacket collar. A neck gaiter, however, can effectively seal this gap and keep your body heat around your torso where you want it.”
Depending on the type of fabric and construction, neck gaiters have a number of uses and a number of ways to wear them. A neck gaiter can offer additional warmth while hiking on a chilly morning. It can keep you from swallowing dust or insects while cycling. It can protect your tender neck from harmful UV rays reflected up from the water while fishing or kayaking. A neck gaiter can also serve as a face covering in certain situations, as we’ll describe next.
In certain situations, it may make sense to use neck gaiters as a COVID-19 face covering. Some people prefer to wear them rather than face masks while exercising, as neck gaiters can quickly and easily be pulled up over the face if necessary. You can wear them around your neck while running, biking, or hiking, then pull them up over the mouth and nose when entering a crowded area.
If you prefer to keep your face covered while exercising, a neck gaiter provides higher breathability than most face masks. It’s also more likely to stay in place during strenuous activity, since it doesn’t require straps or ear loops.
However, most neck gaiters are not the recommended number of layers for a face mask to slow the spread of COVID-19. The World Health Organization recently issued new guidance recommending face masks be three-layers thick. Neck gaiters are suitable for use while exercising, especially if breathability concerns or strenuous activity make a regular mask impractical.
They are also handy to wear around your neck during a jog or a hike in case you unexpectedly encounter other people. But they should not be used regularly instead of a multilayer face mask that is intended to fit better and serve that exact purpose. We’ve created a deep dive into the best face masks for COVID-19 to help you learn the options available.
Lightweight neck gaiters designed for hot weather use are typically made from stretchy synthetic fabrics with moisture-wicking and fast-drying properties. Heavier neck gaiters intended to be used as neck warmers are commonly made from a fleece or wool material to keep you dry and warm.
However, as textile manufacturing continues to grow and evolve, so too do neck gaiters. A growing number of consumers prioritize buying eco-friendly garments, especially in the world of outdoor sports. At the same time, companies are more than ever embracing sustainable processes that avoid the environmental and ethical pitfalls of traditional garment manufacturing. As a result, increasing numbers of neck gaiters are available using eco-friendly fabrics, such as recycled polyester.
We've chosen to use REPREVE® for our Insulated Neck Gaiter style, an advanced fleece-backed material made from recycled plastic bottles. Give it a try yourself and feel the difference an eco-friendly fabric can make.
This advanced yet lightweight feeling fabric is not as heavy as most winter neck gaiters, yet provides substantial warmth and breathability for use during use during cold months, skiing, and snowboarding. Our Insulated style is available in all 40+ neck gaiter designs.
A one-size-fits-all sizing approach is most common for neck gaiters, but that can lead to a loose or tight fit for certain bodies and shapes. Since neck gaiters are multifunctional and can be worn in a variety of ways, they tend to have some stretch to them which makes a single size possible.
Typically they are between 8” wide and 10” wide, so they easily fit over your head and stay snug on your face when pulled up over your nose. The height of neck gaiters can vary widely depending on their intended use. Cold weather neck gaiters are usually shorter than lightweight, warm weather options. However, most varieties are between 12” and 21” long.
There's no right or wrong approach to sizing, however you may want to take some measurements before ordering a neck gaiter if they come in multiple sizes to make sure it will fit you best.
The right neck gaiter for you depends entirely on what you’ll be doing with it. They are designed to be multifunctional, but the fabric, weight, and sizing are all personal choices - and that doesn’t even include the color or design!
If you spend a lot of time on the water, a lightweight option with a high UPF rating can protect your delicate throat and neck from a painful sunburn. On the other hand, if you’re counting down the days until winter, you’ll probably want a warm, insulated neck gaiter to ward off the icy wind.
And if you’re just intrigued by the idea of a single garment that can hold its own as a beanie, headband, scarf, bracelet, or emergency face mask, the color and pattern of your neck gaiter may matter more than its functionality. Neck gaiters come in a wide range of designs, so look for one that fits your wardrobe and personality.
Since neck gaiters are designed for different uses, it makes sense to choose one that fits your lifestyle. Though most neck gaiters are made from a tube of fabric, the size, weight, and material can vary considerably. Lightweight neck gaiters offer sun protection and a way to cool off in hot weather, while heavy, insulated neck gaiters provide extra warmth in cold environments. You may also prefer to shop according to your values, and choose an eco-friendly neck gaiter made from recycled materials.
While neck gaiters aren’t designed to protect against viruses like COVID-19, they do make appropriate face coverings in some instances. If you want to keep your face covered during strenuous exercise, a neck gaiter provides more breathability than a face mask, and is more likely to stay in place. They are also convenient to wear around your neck while outdoors in case you unexpectedly encounter a crowded hiking trail or sidewalk.
Ultimately, choosing the right neck gaiter is simply a matter of deciding which functionality you need, and then finding one in a design you like. You may prefer a cozy wool neck gaiter to provide extra warmth this winter, or maybe an ultra-lightweight model with a high UPF rating to keep the bugs out of your mouth while cycling. Either way, a neck gaiter can be a versatile addition to your wardrobe, while doubling as a face covering during exercise or unexpected human contact.
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|Adult Standard||Adult Small|
|5" x 9"
Fits most male adults.
|4.5" x 8"
Fits most women and young adults.
|9.5” x 14”
Fits most men and those with larger heads.
|8.5" x 14"
Fits most women and kids.
|2.25" wide||2.75" wide||3.5" wide|
|58" long||62" long||66" long|
|Adult||Kids Pre-Tied||Baby Pre-Tied|
Adjustable for necks 14-18"
|Ages 2 and over
Adjustable velcro closure
|Ages 2 and under
Adjustable velcro closure
|Comparable to 0-14 in Women's sizing
Comparable to Small or Medium in Men's sizing
31" wide at the waist
|Comparable to 16-26 in Women's sizing
Comparable to Large or X-Large in Men's sizing
35" wide at the waist