Well, folks: here we are. I started this year with no idea what a neck gaiter was and fully intended to end it the same way. But circumstances have forced my hand, and so now I'm adding "neck gaiter" to the ever-growing list of terms I'd never given a second thought to that've slowly become part of my day-to-day vernacular. Turns out, that one friend you have from college who's always been super into running was actually on to something. (And it wasn't the importance of investing in the right gear before you try and tackle your first cold weather run, though, sadly, he's got a point there too.)
A neck gaiter sounds like the sort of monster that waddles its way out of a Florida swamp every now and then and dominates the timeline for, like, half an afternoon or something. A neck gaiter sounds like the showboat-y move an oiled up, early aughts WWE star turns to when he wants to really get the crowd going. A neck gaiter sounds like the charmingly twee euphemism your grandmother would use to ask about your poorly concealed hickey. I'm sorry, ma'am, are you saying "gaiter"? What the hell is a gaiter? Can you use that in a sentence, please?
The reality, as it turns out, is far more mundane. The gaiter, a knit tube of fabric worn around the neck and favored by runners for its cold weather protection, is suddenly everywhere. Despite a widely-shared study published this summer that temporarily cast doubts on the style's efficacy, the gaiter's (sort of?) sleek, (somewhat?) aerodynamic design has made it the face mask alternative of choice among runners and non-runners alike. And if you're eager to see what all the hullabaloo's about, I rounded up some of the best neck gaiters money can buy so you can find out for yourself. (Remember, though gaiters can act as effective coverings — and are certainly better than wearing no covering at all — fit is still paramount. Make sure whatever style you buy sits snugly over your nose and the lower half of your face.)
From here on out, let's try and keep the rest of the terms I add to that list somewhat pleasant ones, okay? I really can't handle much more of this shit.
Lands' End's comfortable fleece option is perfect for making on-the-fly (or, ah, run) adjustments—and at half off, its value proposition just got a whole lot harder to resist.
There's a reason some of the best gaiters on the market right now are made out fleece: The fabric is warm but not precious, so it can withstand the worst of what the elements throw at it, no problem at all. Eddie Bauer's take boasts a fall-ready motif that looks retro in all the right ways.
Banana Republic made one of the best gaiters around by combining a stretchy jersey fabric with an adjustable drawstring detail to ensure a snug fit while you're on the go.
Columbia harnesses the power of fleece yet again in a cobalt blue style complete with thermal reflective detailing.
The workwear brand behind some of the sturdiest designs on the market also makes a mean neck gaiter, iconic patch logo and all.
The bigger swath of fabric on Mission's gaiter means you can fold it over itself for multi-layer coverage.
Mack Weldon's Warmknit gaiter is exactly what its name suggests: a super warm gaiter knit out of a mix of fabrics including a moister-wicking wool and a touch of spandex for added stretch.
Check out the pros and cons of a bunch of interesting approaches from outdoors- and fitness-oriented brands.
Because really, if you can't turn to the Swoosh to kit you out in highly functional performance gear that still looks sleek as all hell, who can you trust?
The sportswear giant behind one of the year's best face masks also (shocker!) makes a highly breathable, water-repelling gaiter that puts most others to shame.
The beloved OG gorp-heads behind everyone's favorite fleece also churn out some of the season's best gaiters, including this eye-catching beauty done up in a super-soft microfleece made out of recycled polyester.
Inspired by the brand's Denali jacket, The North Face's digi-camo gaiter offers a vibrant take on a bona fide outwear classic.
Lululemon's neck warmer was specifically designed with the needs of cold-weather runners in mind. It's breathable and sweat-wicking, but also warm enough to keep you toasty through the worst of winter.
It'd be near blasphemous for Smartwool to make its neck gaiter out of anything other than the brand's signature heavyweight merino wool, which offers enhanced insulation without sacrificing an ounce of breathability.
Mountain-suitable face mask options abound, and while it's tempting to grab whatever old neck warmer has been sitting in the bottom of your boot bag since 2005, it's a good idea to take stock of them. Here are 12 of the best for the slopes this winter.