Readers of SnowTech Magazine should be familiar with the No-Fog facemasks that our test riders have been wearing for over 20 years; 28 years to be precise. While the exact set-up of balaclava and No-Fog mask is a very personal combination, suffice it to say that all of our Midwest test riders wear a No-Fog mask to keep their face warm and goggles clear of breath fog.
Even with a product as good as the No-Fog mask, there have been several updates and additions to the No-Fog line-up over the years, and just last winter our test riders were able to try out some of the latest versions that prompted us to give you an update on the changes and new models.
One of the most significant improvements comes in the form of using new materials in certain parts of the mask construction. One of these is called “Dry Face Technology” where there is a new blue-colored material that rests against the mouth, compared to the older versions that had neoprene by the mouth. This new Dry Face fabric by the mouth stays a lot dryer and comfortable over the course of the day (thus it is now standard on the high performance No-Fog models like the High Performance and Xtreme models).
Our staff favorite has long been the #007D High Performance No-Fog, but now there is a new #007 “Xtreme” mask that improves the extreme cold comfort by adding an extra piece of fleece-neck extension sewn on the bottom.
One of the biggest improvements over the years was the addition of what we call the “Z Strap” to the original No-Fog design, which was a red strap with Velcro on the ends that went up over the top of your head to keep the No-Fog mask up on your head and tightly sealed against your face for the most secure “seal”. You see, the success of a No-Fog mask is all about the “seal”. Every time you put one on you are seeking the perfect seal to keep any and all breath moisture going down and out of your helmet, not giving it an open path to sneak up along your nose and get inside your goggles. The red Z Strap was wonderful in that it kept the mask securely located on your face, not allowing it to slide down over the course of the ride. The No-Fog mask straps to your face kind of like a kidney belt, you place it around your nose and mouth then tension it slightly for a tight seal, securing the mask around the back of your neck with the generous amount of Velcro. But, by virtue of how your face is slightly tapered down, the original masks used to slowly creep down your face and could allow a breach to the seal. Now with the Z Strap, this does not happen. Once you get the Z Strap in the right place (tension and alignment with your ears) we never move it, it stays fixed to the No-Fog mask from that point on.
Now the latest versions of the premium No-Fog models have a new style Z Strap (the latest ones are now blue) that has been made more stretchy and longer for comfort. Same basic function, with improved versatility.
Another new product is the addition of the No-Fog Gator model. This is a one-piece No-Fog and balaclava, together, as a single mask. This one is quickly becoming very popular as it eliminates the seam where a traditional No-Fog meets up with the balaclava on your face. Since the Gator is a single piece, it is seamless and there is no chance the goggles will have any problems sealing against the different thickness of layers caused by the traditional two-piece system. Truth be known, our test riders have tried the Gator version and really like it for warmer riding, but we still prefer our time-tested two piece balaclava and separate No-Fog. This way we can wear a different style of balaclava as conditions vary, and it allows us to take off the No-Fog mask during rest stops and warm it up on top of the engine while allowing us to leave the balaclava on our heads to keep us warm. To do this with the Gator you have to remove the entire balaclava/No-Fog as one piece, which means pulling the balaclava out of our jacket and then exposing our heads. To each their own, the Gator is still an excellent new item and is preferred by many riders. It does provide a superior seal since it eliminates the different thickness layers where the No-Fog and balaclava are both on your face, specifically in the cheek bone area that your goggles need to seal against.
For a lower cost there is the #007 Binary, which is the traditional neoprene material (without the Dry Face fabric) but it still has the adjustable and removable red Z Strap. Then there is the NFL, or No-Fog Lite. This is a lower cost, value priced version that is made of all neoprene and has a fixed Z Strap that is sewn to the No-Fog, making it a simple option for even less money.
One of the things some riders notice is how the breath flap gets wet, and this is a simple case of condensation where the cold breath flap will condense the moisture from your warm breath as it exits the helmet. This is why we like to place the No-Fog on top of a hood vent, or on top of the engine, when we stop for a break to allow the breath flap to dry out completely and also get nice and warm for when we put it back on our face. But this also brings to light the fact that you should be washing your No-Fog very often, since your breath is condensing on the mouth piece and breath flap. The materials dry quickly so it is no big deal to give it a quick wash and let it air dry overnight so it is clean and ready to go in the morning.
The other thing some riders have difficulty with is how the No-Fog breath deflector will require some extra space in the front of your helmet for it to fit properly. Some helmets are tighter in this area, some have more space. You do not want to smash the No-Fog deflector into a tight space, as your breath won’t be able to get out as easily. Helmets with a built-in breath deflector (which do NOT seal against your face) should have the built-in deflector removed to provide the needed real estate (space) for the No-Fog breath deflector.
Again speaking from years of experience, you need to change how to put your helmet on with a No-Fog on your head. You will spread the helmet at your ears to get it to slide down over your ears and No-Fog, without pulling the No-Fog down away from your face. Sometimes the No-Fog will move down slightly as you put your helmet on, so we pull it back up to cover the cheek bones and make sure it is in the right place before setting our goggles. This is what we are talking about when we refer to a “good seal”.
Don’t be discouraged if this sounds like a lot to worry about, it is quite simple and quickly becomes second nature. We are simply sharing many tips and tricks that we have learned using the No-Fog masks, and we would not ride in the cold without one. There will be days that the riders who wear faceshields and full face helmets can not see due to shield fogging, where our riders with a MX helmet and a No-Fog can see clearly at far colder temperatures than anyone else. Your helmet has to have enough room in front of your mouth to house the No-Fog, and your goggles need to fit inside the opening in your helmet, but once you get the system figured out you will probably never go back to whatever system you use right now. We have trained many riders on the process and they all use it to this day, and wonder how they could see without it. Icy goggles or ones that are fogged are a safety hazard, and wearing a No-Fog mask is the best solution to a problem snowmobilers have been fighting since day one – fogged shields and goggles.
No-Fog masks are sold through most every major snow parts distributor, and are also sold through both Castle and Arctic Cat. That means any dealer can get one for you, you can order one from many catalog distributors, or you can go to any Arctic Cat dealer and they usually have them on hand. Pricing starts at $39.99 for the basic Binary model, up to $59.99 for the High Performance model. Ask for it by name, as there are some imitators that do not fit as well and are not made of the same materials. We’ve tried them and they do not work as well, so beware of close-out specials on some of these lesser quality products.