Gear Review: North x North Hooded Neck Gaiter and Handkerchief
Layering is one of the most fundamental skills of any outdoorsperson, regardless of location or activity. The ability to gauge the climate and weather and then to don the appropriate layers will make any outdoor activity more comfortable and enjoyable. Gear pieces that can serve many different purposes in different conditions quickly become favorite pieces for backpackers who have limited space in their packs.
The North x North Hooded Neck Gaiter and Handkerchief are meant to be used to protect your head and neck from the elements, be it rain, snow, wind, or sun. They can be adapted to serve a variety of purposes, making them a welcome addition to a utility-minded backpacker. Similar to the well-known Buff®, North x North’s Hooded Neck Gaiter is a multifunctional garment that can be used as a hat, neck warmer, balaclava, and more. The Handkerchief is exactly what it sounds like, a large square of fabric that can be used for anything the imagination invents. Mostly, I used it as a neck or head cover. Both items are made of merino wool, a superfine jersey knit Australian merino wool (weight: 160-165 gsm/18.5 micron). Basically, it’s a square and tube of high-quality merino wool and I dig it.
- 100% merino wool
- Moisture wicking
- Quick drying
- UPF 45+
- Water repellent
MRSP: USD $35
Weight: 2.6 ounces (74 g)
Dimensions: 25” x 25”
MRSP: USD $30
Weight: 2 ounces (57 g)
Dimensions: 26” x 10”
For reference, an Adult Original Buff weighs “less than 2oz/50 g” and at 20″ x 9″ is 6” shorter than the North x North Neck Gaiter. The Neck Gaiter is also available in a doubleweight version for those who want an even warmer option.
Circumstance of Review
I received the Neck Gaiter and Handkerchief in early January, right in the middle of Canadian winter. As such, I immediately integrated them into my layering system. I used them while hiking, cross-country and downhill skiing, skating, and other general winter outdoorsy activities. These activities took place in a variety of weather, including sun, snow squalls, freezing rain, wind, and wet. Temperatures ranged from as low as -15°F and as high as 55°F (it’s been a weird winter).
We love wool. Wool is an outdoor person’s best friend. It’s odor-resistant, wicking, quick-drying, and breathable. It doesn’t need to be washed often. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter, all the while remaining lightweight. Merino is an especially pliable and comfortable type of wool fiber. The merino used in the Neck Gaiter and Handkerchief is extremely fine, making for a soft feel and a very tight weave. The material is thin enough to be breathable and useful in warm and cold conditions, but also thick enough that it doesn’t feel like it would wear through without very significant use and wear.
Due to its inherent odor-resistant and quick-drying properties, wool does not need to be washed as often as other materials. However, when you do wash it, you must take great care to maintain the wicking properties. Wool should always be washed on a gentle cycle, generally with warm water. Never put wool in the dryer. Although these North x North products are supposedly machine washable, I generally avoid machine washing any pure wool products to extend their quality and lifespan. Instead, I handwash them and either hang or lay them out to dry.
The care instructions on the North x North website give the following wash instructions: “CARE: Machine wash warm in wool detergent. No bleach. Line dry or gentle cycle air only, no heat. Low iron (steam or dry). Dry cleanable.” It is important to note that not following these instructions can void the lifetime quality warranty, so you may want to handwash these products using a dedicated wool detergent. For the sake of this review, I did machine wash the items (following the above instructions and a generic wool detergent). I did not see any noticeable wear in the material.
These products can be used in a plethora of different ways. The North x North website boasts 100 supposed uses for the basic kerchief and hosts a lot of videos demonstrating these creative methods.
Their many other how-to videos can be found here.
I mainly used the Neck Gaiter in the same way I would use my Buff—mostly as a scarf, balaclava, hat, or headband. The Handkerchief served as an additional scarf layer that covered the V opening of my coat (in warmer conditions), or as a mouth cover. One time I used it to briefly protect my hair from the rain.
I went out on a long cross-country skiing jaunt and was wearing the Neck Gaiter as a balaclava for warmth. Several miles out, the weather took a turn for the worse, and a snow squall developed. I skied home through icy winds and whipping snow. Like most materials, the merino of the Neck Gaiter will accumulate ice if you wear it over your mouth in subfreezing conditions. However, due to the wicking properties, that moisture was wicked away and—despite my somewhat rattled expression and frozen eyelashes in the after photo above—my face stayed surprisingly warm and dry.
One of the greatest qualities of these products is the material. Unlike a lot of 100% merino products, it is not itchy at all (the biggest downside of merino, in my opinion). It is soft and comfortable while maintaining all of the many other positive qualities of merino wool.
The other main highlight of these products is their versatility. The extra 6” in length that the Neck Gaiter holds over a standard Buff allows for a one-piece balaclava option that I found to be very useful for winter outdoor activities.
North x North offers free returns for unworn products and a lifetime quality guarantee for defective sales.
I like the extra length that North x North has added to the Neck Gaiter, but I think they should have taken that feature even further—perhaps another 2 inches. That way, when being used as a balaclava, the remaining length would cover more of my neck, preventing any cold gusts of wind from sneaking in the gap. It could also do with a flare out on those bottom inches so that it would extend lower and not bunch up around the bottom of the neck. As is, I used the Handkerchief to cover my neck and décolletage, but if the Neck Gaiter was a little longer, it could probably serve as a one-product system. If you zip up a high-collared fleece or jacket, it should cover most of your neck.
Supply Chain Sustainability
Merino wool is fully biodegradable and renewable. According to the North x North website, their merino wool is directly sourced from non-mulesed or ceased-mulesed farms in Australia. Mulesing is a controversial practice that involves the removal of some skin on the rear of a sheep to prevent a common parasitic infection known as flystrike. These products are dyed with 40% less water than conventional dyeing. The wool wash that they sell on the site (Grangers Merino Wash) has a Blue Sign sustainability certification. This wool wash was not tested as part of this review. Finally, their products are all hand-sewn in the USA at a locally owned sewing factory. North x North is currently working through the Climate Neutral and Plastic Neutral accreditation processes.
The versatility of these products means that I’ll use them both in the backcountry and back in the city. They’ve served me extremely well over the winter months, and continue to do so as the weather gets warmer. I haven’t had the chance to take them on a backcountry trip yet, but intend to do so this summer.
These are high-quality material and come with an accordingly high price tag, especially the larger Kerchief (MRSP 75). I was perfectly happy with the Handkerchief size and do not intend to size up to the full Kerchief, especially at that price point. However, the Neck Gaiter is priced comparably (or better than) equivalent products like the merino Buff (MSRP $29) or Buff’s Lightweight Merino Wool Balaclava (MRSP $37). However, once purchased, these high-quality items could last years with proper care, making them a good investment.
These products were donated for the purpose of review.
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