You can dress as warmly as you want when running in cold weather, but if your neck is exposed even just a tiny bit, you can guarantee that a sneaky breeze will find a way in.
There are actually plenty of benefits to running in the cold, but it’s still essential to gear up properly and not leave yourself open to freezing out there. Not only is there a chance of catching a cold, but your run is less likely to be enjoyable if you’re not comfortable.
The best neck gaiters for running are designed to keep you warm but not get in your way or be obstructive while you’re on the move. And they don’t just protect your neck – they’re wonderful as a face covering, and many are flexible enough to cover the whole head as well. (Editor’s note: there is evidence to suggest that gaiters made from technical fabrics are not effective face coverings for COVID-19 purposes. While outdoor transmission of the virus has been shown to be extremely rare, we recommend that you not think of your neck gaiter as a replacement for a proper mask when running in groups)
We’ve chosen the BUFF Lightweight Merino Wool Multifunctional Headwear as our top pick. Merino wool is soft and warm, as well as being wind-resistant. It also has some great moisture and odor control properties, and as a bonus, you can wear it in 10 different ways depending on the temperature and weather.
Here are the neck gaiters we recommend for runners who like to exercise in cold weather.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
BUFF Lightweight Merino Wool Multifunctional Headware
TrailHeads Contour Microfleece Neck Warmer
Nike VaporKnit Strike Winter Warrior Snood
1. BUFF Lightweight Merino Wool Multifunctional Headwear
Merino wool is always a winner when it comes to warming gear. This useful multipurpose buff is made of 100% Merino wool, which is lightweight and suitable for year-round use.
For running in the cold, this buff provides warmth and resistance to wind, which is extremely helpful if you’re in an area with a daunting wind-chill factor.
It’s also quite a bit longer than the usual buff-style neck gaiters, so there’s not much chance of a breeze sneaking in and chilling you to the bone.
Another great feature of Merino wool that’s perfect for both winter and warm weather running is that it has natural moisture management properties. So whether you’re sweating or running through light rain or sleet, you won’t get bogged down with a wet gaiter.
It also has natural antimicrobial properties. Bacteria will find it harder to grow in this material, so you won’t need to worry about it developing a smell. You still need to wash it, though.
You can get quite creative with how you wear this gaiter. Because it’s longer than average, you can wear it in about 10 different ways, depending on the day, your style, and your reason for wearing it. It can double up as a cold weather running mask, scarf, or even a head protector.
It’s important to note that this buff is deceivingly thin. Don’t be put off when you get it – it may not be as thick as you expect, but it still does the job and provides all the wonderful benefits of Merino.
- Multifunctional, with 10 ways to wear it
- Made from 100% eco-friendly Merino wool
- Semi-seamless for comfort
- Wind-resistant but breathable
- Although warm, this buff is quite thin and some may not like that
2. Under Armour Storm Gaiter
Under Armour comes a close second with the Storm Gaiter. It’s made from 100% polyester, which means it’s warm and comfy but doesn’t come with the Merino price tag.
UA has made this gaiter from Armour Fleece, which is warm but still light on your neck and quick-drying in case it does get wet.
An interesting bit of tech is the ColdGear Reactor lining. This “living” lining picks up on your body temperature and adapts to allow you the right balance of breathability and warmth.
The Storm finish repels water but also keeps the material breathable. It wicks away sweat before it can roll down your neck and make you shiver, and if it does happen to get quite wet, it doesn’t take long to dry again.
You can get quite a nice custom fit on this gaiter thanks to the bungee cord adjustment. The bottom hem is also shaped slightly, to cover more surface area.
- ColdGear Reactor lining
- Adjustable for a secure fit
- Armour Fleece construction
- Bungee cord closure
- May be a bit too thick for comfort for some runners
3. TrailHeads Contour Microfleece Neck Warmer
Made from polyester spandex, this stretchy little gaiter is our top value choice. There’s no fancy technology in this buff, but it does its job well and isn’t bulky or uncomfortable.
It consists of a single layer of brushed microfleece, which keeps it nice and light but still retains warmth. It also draws moisture away from the skin, preventing you from getting cold if the gaiter gets a little damp.
The gaiter is 10 inches wide, but can stretch thanks to its spandex construction, so it fits over most heads. Some may find it to be pretty snug over their faces, though.
It’s also contoured to provide the most coverage possible. The front section is 13.5 inches in length, and the back is 11.5 inches long. This allows you extra space to pull the front section up to cover your face if necessary.
Use it like a scarf to protect your throat while running, or pull it up over your nose for even more protection.
- Contoured shape for comfort
- Single-layer brushed micro fleece
- Four-way stretch
- Draws moisture away from the skin
- Some may find the gaiter to have a very snug fit
Top Women’s Gaiter
4. Smartwool Merino 250 Reversible Pattern Neck Gaiter
Our favorite women’s gaiter is also crafted from versatile Merino wool. One of the things we like about it is that it’s reversible, so you have a couple of style options – one patterned and one plain.
This neck gaiter is double-layered, so it’s perfect for deep winter weather! Don’t think the two-layered construction makes it bulky, though. It’s still lightweight and well-finished, so it feels great around the neck.
The Merino wool has been knitted with an interlocking knot for superior comfort and breathability. As with all Merino products, it’s thermoregulating and keeps you warm when it’s cold out, and cool when the weather is heating up.
It seems that these neck gaiters run slightly small, so go half a size up if you’re buying. They’re thick enough to still work well if you choose one slightly larger.
- Reversible for style choice
- Double layer for extra warmth
- Thermoregulating and odor-resistant
- Breathable and comfortable
- May run slightly small
Best for Wind Protection
5. The North Face WindWall Neck Gaiter
The North Face is known for their great cold weather gear, and their neck gaiter doesn’t disappoint!
It has a contoured bottom hem to fit securely over the shoulders and hang down to provide extra coverage on the back and chest.
Their windproof WindWall paneling keeps the wind far away from your neck, keeping you toasty even on the coldest of days. In fact, you may actually have to loosen it a bit to let some warmth out!
For it to be most effective, adjust the drawcord to fit snugly around your neck without being uncomfortable. You can pull it up over your nose if you want even more protection.
- Adjustable drawcord
- Windproof WindWall panelling
- Contoured hem
- Made from stretchable material
- The cut may be uncomfortable for some
Top Nike Gaiter
6. Nike VaporKnit Strike Winter Warrior Snood
There’s no denying that Nike is one of the most well-known apparel brands in the athletic world. This is their gaiter offering, the Strike Winter Warrior Snood.
If you have no idea what a snood is, it’s pretty similar to a buff. It’s designed to cover your neck, ears, and the lower part of your face, and prevent wind from creeping in.
It’s a slightly different shape than the others and could be considered to be more form-fitting. An adjustable drawcord at the back allows you to get the best fit possible, and it hooks securely over your ears, which serves the dual purpose of staying in place and keeping your ears warm.
The soft fleece has Nike’s DRI-FIT technology, allowing it to wick away moisture and keep your face and neck dry and comfortable.
When you get home, it’s as simple as throwing it in the washing machine and letting it air dry to be ready for tomorrow’s run.
- Hooks over your ears
- Adjustable cord for custom fit
- Built-in mesh for breathability
- Some people may find that the gaiter needs to be adjusted while running
Best Adjustable Gaiter
7. Columbia Titanium II Omni Heat Gaiter
There’s nothing wrong with using a gaiter that’s stretchy, but having the ability to adjust it completely to your liking makes wearing a gaiter much more comfortable.
The Omni Heat gaiter may not look like much, but it has some useful built-in tech that makes it a good choice.
Omni-Heat reflective technology is an interesting feature. The inside of the gaiter is covered in minute silver dots. Surprisingly, this contributes significantly to how warm the gaiter is, as these little dots pick up on your body heat and reflect it right back to you.
In between the dots, you have mesh, which keeps this neck gaiter quite breathable. It also features Omni-Shield, which repels water and stains, keeping you dry and clean for as long as possible.
The adjustable drawcord is easy to reach and locks in place once you’ve got the perfect fit.
- Omni-Heat reflective technology
- Soft knit construction
- Omni-Shield advanced repellency
- Reflective detailing
- Some may feel that this gaiter is too thin
Top Merino-Blend Gaiter
8. Salomon RS Warm Tube
If full-on Merino wool is too warm (or too pricey) for you, you might want to consider a merino blend. This gaiter, from rugged apparel giant Salomon, is a blend of Merino wool and technical fabric, offering the best of both worlds.
The Merino contributes to the warmth, retaining body heat, and regulating your temperature so you stay warm but don’t overheat.
You also get the benefit of its antimicrobial properties, which will keep you fresher for longer.
It’s comfortable on the head and face as well, and can be pulled up around the face to protect the nose and ears, while remaining breathable.
- Blended with Merino wool
- Retains heat and regulates temperature
- Machine wash cold
- Can cover ears and nose
- Some may find it to be slightly too short to block out the winds
Best Bandana-Gaiter Combo
9. Oakley Switch It Up Bandana
If you’re looking for a versatile gaiter-type accessory that you can use as a face-mask in a pinch and a bandana when you need extra head covering, this could be the one.
Available in a range of bright colors, the soft polyester bandana can be used in multiple ways. It has a super-easy Velcro closure so you don’t have to worry about flailing around behind your head trying to tie it.
It’s easy to switch between using it as a face covering and a bandana. It’s simply a case of positioning it differently.
The Velcro closure is somewhat adjustable, making it suitable for most sizes.
- Adjustable Velcro closure
- Made from polyester fleece
- May be too warm to wear indoors for a long period of time
Top Sweat-Wicking Gaiter
10. Turtle Fur Merino Wool Totally Tubular Neck Gaiter
Although you’re likely to be using your gaiter in winter when it’s freezing or below, if you’re running you’re still going to sweat.
A sweat-wicking gaiter is a good idea. Nobody likes the feel of sweat dripping down their neck, or saturating their gaiter, either!
This neck gaiter is the best sweat-wicking one we’ve found. It’s super-soft, consisting of 30% Merino wool and 70% lyocell.
Lightweight and durable, it can be used not only as a neck protector, but also as a head covering or balaclava-type accessory.
It’s breathable, wicks sweat and other light moisture away from the body, and as an added bonus, is UPF35 protective.
This gaiter is also biodegradable! It’s made from TENCEL fibers, which come from renewable wood sources.
- UPF35 protection
- 100% biodegradable
- Moisture wicking
- Slightly pricey
Not sure about neck gaiters for running, or if you even need one? Here are some frequently asked questions for more information.
What Is A Neck Gaiter Or Warmer?
A neck gaiter is a simple accessory that’s worn to keep the neck warm, cozy, and protected from the wind.
It can often also be used to cover the lower half of the face, the ears, or even the whole head. They’re pretty versatile!
Usually, they’re nothing fancy and simply look like a tubular bandana.
Do Neck Gaiters Come In Sizes?
Many neck gaiters are elastic and one-size-fits-all. They’re stretchy, or adjustable with a drawcord. Some, though, do have sizes.
If it’s a no-stretch gaiter, you’ll need to buy based on head diameter, so you’ll have to measure yours.
What Is The Difference Between A Neck Gaiter And A Balaclava?
A balaclava is a similar accessory. The biggest difference is that a balaclava covers the whole face and head and the neck, with just a small space for the face.
A neck gaiter is mainly for the neck, but can be adapted to cover parts of the face and head too.
What are the Benefits Of A Neck Gaiter?
Using a neck gaiter can be a lifesaver in cold weather and a surprisingly useful thing in the summer months.
In winter, the neck gaiter keeps your neck and possibly your face and head warm and shielded from the icy wind.
In summer, using one can prevent sunburn – many offer UV protection.
They’re all moisture-wicking and quick-drying, so they’ll also keep you cool and dry.