When you rent a go-kart, the track will provide you with two pieces of equipment: a go-kart helmet and a go-kart balaclava. The organizers at my local track told me that balaclavas are very cheap and disposable (you can only wear them once). But, some fellow racers mentioned that they’ve bought their own balaclavas.
Go-kart balaclavas, or go-kart head socks, are the most essential underwear a karting racer needs. While they don’t provide protection, like a neck brace or a rib protector, balaclavas are very important for personal hygiene and for the longevity of your helmet. This is also why every track provides you with one before your session.
That said, there are several go-kart head socks to choose from. So, after I did my research, I thought it’d be a great idea to let you know what aspects to look for in a go-kart balaclava and the best ones that you can buy right now.
What to Look For in a Go-Kart Balaclava
The right karting balaclava can give you tons of benefits when you’re racing. But, you’ll need to focus on specific factors to choose the best one for you, depending on your karting aspirations. Before I tell you about some of these factors, don’t forget that most of the time, a $5 balaclava will be as good as a $30 one.
The main reason why you need a go-kart head sock is for the comfort it provides. During my karting sessions, I’ve had times when my helmet was moving around because of my sweaty head. Plus, a go-kart helmet can often be uncomfortable or irritating on your head.
That’s why karting head socks are practically essential. Their main purpose is to have a soft feel and be comfortable to wear. So, you should try out different ones and find which one is more comfortable for you. One key thing to note is that karting balaclavas with exterior stitching are always more comfortable.
But, you’ll also need to consider what material the balaclava is made from.
Most karting balaclavas are made from cotton or polypropylene. Both materials are really comfortable on your head, so you should have no issue picking either in terms of comfort. They are also very stretchable, which is why go-kart head socks are one-size-fits-all.
On top of that, both of these are heat-retardant. I’ve found this a massive necessity because karting during a warm day doesn’t only make you sick, but you also sweat a lot.
Some advanced karting balaclavas are made from Nomex. Nomex is fire resistant, and it’s used in a lot of go-kart equipment, like go-kart gloves or even go-kart racing suits. While these are excellent for karting, accidents that go-karts rarely catch on fire, so you won’t need to pay the extra bucks for Nomex.
If you’re karting leisurely, you won’t need a certified karting balaclava. Even if you’re taking part in regional championships, most tracks won’t ask you for a certified balaclava. But, you’ll need to check the organizer’s safety requirements to ensure that you won’t need a homologated one.
Still, some go-kart socks from brands like Alpinestars and OMP have an FIA 8856-2000 or FIA 8856-2018 homologation. These are most often used in automotive racing, where a certified balaclava is necessary since fires are more common.
Well, unfortunately, you won’t be able to show off your style with your karting balaclava. Either way, most of them come in plain colors, so there’s isn’t that much variety to choose from. But, there are still a few different designs that you can pick, which add to your comfort and breathability: the partial open-face and the full open-face.
The partial open-face design covers your head and mouth while it leaves your eyes and nose uncovered. The full open-face design is the same as the partial one, but it doesn’t cover your mouth. While I’m karting, I’ve noticed that breathing from the nose is essential, so either of the designs will be great. The open-face one, however, will also allow you to breathe from your mouth if needed.
Go-kart balaclavas are the most affordable piece of karting equipment. Most karting head socks cost from $10 to $30, while several ones cost around $5-$7. While paying $30 for a balaclava might seem outrageous, in a competitive setting, the additional comfort might be the reason why you win the race.
That said, let’s take a look at a few of the best go-kart balaclavas that I’ve found.
My Top 3 Go-Kart Balaclavas
When I tried to find the best go-kart balaclava, I was told that there’s no such thing. The organizers at my track told me that any cheap one would do the job, while fellow racers bought theirs years ago. So, I scoured the internet for karting head socks that the karting community suggested.
So, here are my top 3 go-kart balaclavas.
Best Overall Go-Kart Balaclava: Alpinestars Open Face Balaclava
I’ve included Alpinestars in most of my go-kart equipment reviews, and they’re also present on this one. Their unnamed open-face balaclava is the best one I found because of its design and its various properties.
For starters, the Alpinestars Balaclava is made from a heavyweight material with moisture-absorbing properties. While the material isn’t named, it’s safe to assume that it’s polypropylene, which is heavier than cotton.
The head sock is overall very soft and comfortable to wear. It also has good ventilation, and, along with its moisture-wicking, you can be sure that it’ll absorb all of your sweat during a race. Another benefit of this karting head sock is that it extends to your neck.
Best Premium Go-Kart Balaclava: RaceQuip Head Sock
While RaceQuip usually makes cheap go-kart equipment, this one is on the premium side. This is mostly because the RaceQuip head sock is made from fire-retardant cotton and aramid blend. These make the balaclava moisture-proof and fireproof.
Apart from that, it’s just like any other karting head sock. It’s very comfortable to wear, and it’s really lightweight (nearly half the weight of the Alpinestars one). But, because it’s made from a blend of fabrics, it can irritate your skin.
You can find the RaceQuip Head Sock on Amazon.
Best Affordable Go-Kart Balaclava: K1 Race Gear Balaclava
The K1 Race Gear Balaclava is the one that I’d suggest to everyone. It’s cheap, it’s lightweight, it’ll absorb any moisture from your head, it has a neck extension, and it has exterior stitching for extra comfort.
Basically, this karting head sock is very comfortable to wear, and it does its job perfectly, while it costs less than $10. You can easily clean it in a washing machine, and it also comes in a few different colors. It’s definitely one karting balaclava that you should check out.
This is all I had to say about karting balaclavas. At the end of the day, a cheap balaclava from your local track will do the trick, so you don’t need to splurge out tons of money on a head sock.
Stay tuned for more articles just like this one!