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Outdoor Research Sonic Balaclava

photo: Outdoor Research Sonic Balaclava balaclava

Outdoor Research's Sonic Balaclava is windproof and well-made. However, the overall design seems for use in mountaineering (and skiing?) only. With goggles, the balaclava performs well. Without goggles, it ranks towards the bottom of the balaclavas I have used. I don't believe backpackers and other non-goggle users will find much value with this product.


  • Material blocks wind as advertised
  • Fleece lining is comfortable
  • Did not notice fogging wearing goggles


  • Too baggy around the eyes
  • Without goggoles, minimal wind protection
  • Regular glasses fog

I bought this balaclava for my climb of Mt. Rainier in 2015. I normally wear glasses, but I wore contacts for that trip so that I could rent and wear goggles and glacier glasses on the mountain. If my review was solely based on that experience, I would have given the Sonic higher marks. It functioned well. With the goggles in place, the 40mph winds we encountered were blocked out. I never gave thought to the balaclava, which to me is a sign that it is doing its job (Generally, if I'm noticing a piece of gear in adverse conditions, it means it's not working well.).

But I don't live near mountains, and I've only climbed one. I don't even own a pair of goggles, because I don't need them, and I wear glasses day in and day out. That's where the Sonic fails to perform. Here is a three minute video of me walking home from work on a cold windy, Illinois day. If you want to skip it, I've recapped below...

The Sonic is simply too baggy around the eyes. Any wind protection from the material is negated by the wide gaps that allow the cold to blow in around the head. Simply put without goggles, the Sonic can only serve as a hood.

20170101_162638.jpgNotice how wide the gap is around my eyes. 

20170101_162859.jpgI could easily fit in more fingers on each side,
but the picture wouldn't show the wide gap as well.

In fact, the Sonic is so baggy, it can't even be worn as a neck gaiter. Notice how loose the Sonic is around my neck in the picture below. 


To avoid condensation, the Sonic provides a slit for the nose and mesh over the mouth for exhaling (Look closely at the first picture, and you can see my mouth through the mesh). 

On Rainier, I did not have any fogging issues. I don't know if that is because of goggle design or the winds we were dealing with. Off the mountain, my glasses fog up in calm/no winds. So I don't feel this was the final solution.

This is not the balaclava I would recommend for backpackers and winter enthusiasts. I would be interested in hearing from true mountaineers and skiers if the product is something they would use and/or recommend.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $30

A great baclava for all your winter needs.


  • Warm
  • Windproof
  • Vented nose
  • Good quality

I have used this in the Adirondack High Peaks to wear while soaking in some of the best views in the country and to sleep in during winter backcountry camping. I absolutely love mine and it fits perfect, blocks wind, is warm and has some water resistance to it.

If needed I always wear a beanie over it instead of under so it doesn't stretch out. I wouldn't recommend wearing a hat under it.

To the other reviewer, either you have a knock off or an imperfection one since these are a one size fits all. O/R has an excellent customer service department and backs all their products 100 percent. I would contact them and notify them of the issue and I'm sure you will get a new one right away....If it is authentic.

I own several O/R products and believe they are of high quality and rank up in the top 10 for outdoor gear. It's definitely worth checking into.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $40

Have worn cycling down to 19 F windchill ca. 5 F. Gore Windstopper fleece blocks the wind and insulates nicely.

Price Paid: $29

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Price MSRP: $40.00
Historic Range: $14.34-$44.95
Reviewers Paid: $29.00-$40.00
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