The best neck gaiters are meant to protect your face and neck from the elements, and they’re designed to be breathable, which is just one reason runners and hikers swear by them. The main selling point of neck gaiters may also be their biggest drawback, though, in the coronavirus era: The more breathable a face covering is, the more likely it is to be made from loosely woven fabrics – which are less effective at containing droplets and therefore at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
That said, neck gaiters aren’t “worse than no mask at all,” despite the bad press they got following a recent Duke University study. (The study, contrary to headlines, was not even designed to evaluate face coverings but rather to establish criteria for doing so.) The CDC recently updated its recommendations on masks, advising against neck gaiters and face shields, saying that “Evaluation of these face covers is on-going but effectiveness is unknown at this time.” The TL; DR is that we still do not know if gaiters are any more or less effective than masks.
“Anything that is two-ply, like a simple cotton mask with two layers, is effective at filtering out the majority of viral particles,” says Dr. Monica Gandhi, the associate division chief of the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at UCSF / San Francisco General Hospital. “There is no way to know at this moment how well every material works. Anytime you put on a cloth face covering, the country is doing better. Anything that protects you is good, but we do not know the exact level of protection with every type of fabric. ”
Basically, face masks are a better option than neck gaiters. But if you must wear a neck gaiter instead of a cloth face mask, you should look for the same qualities that you would look for in a mask: According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, face coverings should be made of densely woven, ideally non-stretchy cotton fabric, have two or more layers of fabric, and have as little gapping as possible (gaiters at least have the latter going for them). To look at the tightness of the weave, hold the fabric up to the light; if you can see the individual fabric fibers, it’s not a dense weave.
We parsed through the many neck gaiters on the market to find the ones that most closely meet the criteria: Most are made of cotton, and where cotton was not an option, we recommend either two-ply gaiters, or layering two neck gaiters together for better protection.
Modestly colored, washable, and with all the inherent benefits of wool, this Smartwool gaiter is our pick for the guy using his facewear across a variety of scenarios. Buy it for life.
Polar fleece has that nostalgic vibe about it, but prior to the hype, it was just a warm, comfortable fabric. Stoic’s option is available in a variety of fun colors, all comprised of the same legendary synthetic fabric.
So original that it bears the name of the entire category, Buff’s buff has been a staple in the outdoors for decades. It’s a natural pairing, then, that it would sublimate some of the most legendary outdoor spaces on its neckwear. Grand Teton may be pictured here, but a variety of national parks are featured on individual items, including Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Glacier, and more.
UA makes one of the best face masks to wear while working out. So it stands to reason that they’re venturing into gaiter territory. This particular one has a structured design that sits up off the face and lips for added comfort and breathability. The outer shell is fleece. The inside layer is anti-microbial to keep things fresh.
We like the contoured shape of this combo gaiter and mask; it fits securely over your nose. It’s made with HeiQ V-BLOCK anti-microbial and odor control treatment, which means it will stink (a lot less). It’s a two-layer fabric, which is another point in its favor.
If you’re truly all about comfort, try this gaiter. It’s lightweight, cooling, and moisture-wicking.
This gaiter, which comes in several colors, is 90 percent cotton and 10 percent spandex. Which means you get the protection that tightly woven cotton provides, coupled with the stretch that makes it comfortable to wear.
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