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The 10 Best Neck Gaiters to Buy If You Really Can’t Deal With Masks

They're not worse than wearing nothing, but you'll want to choose wisely. Here's what you need to know.

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 don’t 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 don’t 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 wasn’t an option, we recommend either two-ply gaiters, or layering two neck gaiters together for better protection.

This 95 percent cotton neck gaiter has an optional filter pocket for added protection.

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.

This gaiter is a polyester/spandex blend, which isn't ideal, so we'd recommend doubling up and wearing one on top of the other to minimize the spread of droplets.

If you're truly all about comfort, try this gaiter. It's lightweight, cooling, and moisture-wicking .

Ideal for being out in cold weather, this sweat-wicking gaiter has a convertible fold-over design that lets you adjust your coverage.

When you're ready to be bold, here's the gaiter for you. It's loud, it's moisture-wicking, and it's made from polyester.

These reversible gaiters, which come in a pack of three, are a blend of polyester and spandex.

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.

Most of us are stuck at home. So pretend you're actually going somewhere by wearing this gaiter, which features a Yellowstone National Park map and is made from a soft, stretchy microfiber fabric that wicks away moisture.

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