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I have several friends with full beards. After talking at length with one, he started to convince me the protection it offers might be worth it.

So, I thought I would come and ask. What are the Pros and Cons of beards as they relate to the outdoors? Does it provide any protection from the elements? Fires? Bugs? Does it keep you cooler or warmer in the summer? How about the winter?

I understand the choice to wear a beard is a personal one, but I would like an answer that outlines actual practicality (assuming there is some) beyond looks.

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Despite some possible pros and cons - not sure this has a definitive answer... –  LBell Jun 8 '12 at 0:13
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@LBell the question of "Should I wear a Beard?" Is far to personal, but I thought "What should I consider when making this decision?" would be perfect for the site. –  MaskedPlant Jun 11 '12 at 14:23
    
I feel compelled to share this from Edward Lear: His mind is concrete and fastidious, His nose is remarkably big; His visage is more or less hideous, His beard it resembles a wig. –  Don Branson Jan 30 '13 at 20:17
    
@RussellSteen You don't think it's improvised? It's an improvised face shield. –  MaskedPlant Jan 31 '13 at 0:12
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Tags are to assist search. I don't think someone searching for improvised equipment is looking for this, no ;P –  Russell Steen Jan 31 '13 at 20:11
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4 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Having not seen my chin for 15 years, here are a few thoughts on the practical aspects (assuming one is personally equally comfortable with a beard as without):

Pros:

  • Sun protection - for a limited, but sensitive area of skin
  • Bug protection - a long-sleeve shirt/fleece with a collar turned up and long hair / beard make for a mosquito-free and DEET-free evening.
  • Warmer (in cold climates) - Beard-cicles (aside from looking grizzly rugged) do provide protection from wind and snow spray when engaged in high wind-sheer activities like skiing, snowmobiling or dog-sledding.
  • Low maintenance - have you tried shaving on the trail? (Note: I have never once had lice, ticks, gnomes, fungus, or anything else... well any more than I have in my head hair. It's called personal hygiene...)
  • Provides something to stroke when you are thinking hard about something
  • Chicks dig guys with beards -- at least a certain class of outdoorsy gal
  • Provides a handle to remove your head weight from your neck if your job requires staring up at the tree-tops all day long.

Cons:

  • Big beards can hide the subtle curl at the corner of your lips that signifies when you are being a smart-ass causing people to mistakenly think you are just an ass.
  • More weight to carry around?...
  • Warmer (in hot climates)
  • Can hide ticks, etc (as Russell points out in his answer)

In my opinion: Winter = Beard Time! Summer = Either/or depending on situation.

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Hehe, our answers are so contradictory that it's hilarious. –  Russell Steen Jun 8 '12 at 0:28
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@RussellSteen Were you traumatized by a beard once? –  LBell Jun 8 '12 at 3:26
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I just have a goatee, but it's true about the outdoors types :-) –  Rory Alsop Jun 8 '12 at 8:22
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If you're just staring into space, people think you're crazy. If you're staring into space stroking your beard, people know you're thinking. –  Tester101 Jun 8 '12 at 19:32
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Also having a healthy beard often seems to earn you instant respect and credibility when meeting new people of the outdoors variety. ;) –  manoftheson Jan 14 '13 at 19:26
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My beard experience

  1. Itches
  2. Hides ticks well, allowing them to go undiscovered
  3. Good nest for lice, fleas, etc.
  4. Mosquitoes can't get through (but since you're not ape-man this doesn't really help, they'll just bite you elsewhere).
  5. Catches food and grossness.

Regarding summer/winter -- it's not significant either way. Hair will burn but not terribly well and is easy to put out so it's not a huge fire hazard.

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4  
Not a fan eh? ;) –  LBell Jun 8 '12 at 0:12
    
I have seen guys who are really close to ape-man though! –  bashophil Dec 15 '13 at 12:51
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After a month my beard got long enough that it started catching liquid in it the same way a rag might, so as much as I thought I'd escape the mundane task of grooming, I still have to trim my upper lip, usually on a weekly basis.

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This is actually one of the things my friend listed as a benefit. In the summer it holds the sweat and acts like a evaporative cooler for your face. –  MaskedPlant Jun 19 '12 at 13:02
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Maybe it depends on the thickness of the beard. Mine definitely traps heat. –  Don Branson Jan 8 '13 at 21:25
    
@DonBranson Or climate. Do you live in a humid area? –  MaskedPlant Apr 8 '13 at 20:10
    
@MaskedPlant - Near St. Louis, MO, USA. Yes, it typically gets quite humid - 90%+ for long periods during the summer. –  Don Branson Apr 8 '13 at 20:30
    
@DonBranson I imagine you don't have/use evaporitive coolers there. Here in AZ most homes have them and they are more than sufficient except for monsoon season July and August. –  MaskedPlant Apr 8 '13 at 21:16
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Recently a friend and I have began experimenting with the use of our beards as moisture traps while skiing and hiking in snow storms. The general idea is that the skin temperature is warm enough to melt the deepest layer of ice/snow/frost, and one should be able to sip that melted moisture through their beard, given adequate vacuum conditions created by the external snow/ice layer on the beard.

It didn't work, but we were still very excited to pioneer the snow-Fremen culture.

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