We might think of them as decorative, but hats are practical, even essential in bad conditions. In hot and cold weather, hats can keep you at a comfortable temperature, prevent sunburn and protect you from the wind.
We’ll discuss which hats are the best to wear, in which circumstances. Plus, share your hats of choice in the comments.
- 1 Cold Weather Hats
- 2 Beanie/Tuque/Stocking Hats
- 3 Chullo/Trapper/Ushanka Hats
- 4 Balaclava
- 5 Hot Weather Hats
- 6 Broad Brim
- 7 “Fishing” Style Hats
- 8 Final Thoughts
Cold Weather Hats
Those in milder states may not realize that it can get so cold you need to layer hats. For the coldest weather, it’s best to have a thin, moisture-wicking hat for your base, and a thicker hat on top. Be warned, popular slouch style beanies don’t always layer well.
You also have to consider material. As far as natural goes, you want wool over cotton as it’s warmer and holds up better when wet. Merino wool is the best, it’s thinner and softer. Often, wool is mixed with synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic or nylon. They add elasticity and softness but take away from heat proofing.
With that covered, let’s talk about the types of cold weather hats.
3M makes these thin hats out of a patented synthetic material. They are great hats to wear beneath something thicker. Both the real hats and knock-offs are available on Amazon. In my experience, the knock-offs wash poorly.
Scentlok has some other interesting hat offerings, but this one is unique because it offers some waterproofing. Plus, if you need a camouflaged hat for when bugging out or hunting, Scentlok has multiple camo patterns to choose from. As their name suggests, these hats also offer scent control. They are usually available on Amazon, but I can’t find the women’s there right now, so here’s a link to one from Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Merino wool is a finer, softer wool than others. It wicks moisture and naturally resists bacteria. Any merino wool hat will do, just ensure that the hat is 100 percent Merino. Minus33’s hats are. That being said, you’ll still want to layer a 100 percent Merino wool hat. They’re usually thin because the wool is expensive.
Black Diamond Merino Beanie
A more conservative blend of 50 percent merino and 50 acrylics, this hat gives more than a purely wool hat would, which makes sense for the skiers Black Diamond caters to. If you intend on running around, this hat might be right for you, especially as a base layer.
Now we’re getting into beanies that are thick enough to be your top layer. This hat is nice and thick, and all wool. WigWam offers a lot of other nice hats, including some that are merino wool.
This hat is only 30 percent wool (70 percent acrylic) but it’s quite thick and has a soft fleece lining. It’s a good inexpensive option for a top layer hat.
Ice Breaker’s Affinity Thermo Beanie
This hat is more of an investment than plenty of top layer beanies, but it’s truly warm, almost all Merino wool, and much thinner than you’d expect for such a warm hat. You don’t need a hat beneath this one unless you’re in really cold weather. Icebreaker has many other thicker but cheaper wool hats if you’re looking for something to layer.
Beanies are great hats but unless you wear them with a scarf or Balaclava (both of which we’ll get to) they usually won’t cover your ears well enough in windy weather—especially if you have a big head. Enter the Trapper hat, that has fur, ear flaps, and strings to tie the flaps in place. They’re also called chullo hats in Peru or ushanka hats in Russia (ushanka is Russian for ear flaps).
This warm, waterproof hat is inexpensive but still has some features that make it more practical than your average trapper hat. It relies on a buckle instead of strings to secure the flaps.
The fabric is water-resistant, and the faux fur inside is thick. It comes with a face mask that buttons onto the sides. Unfortunately, it’s made of nylon and polyester, but at least that makes it completely machine washable.
If you’re looking for something that’s a little prettier and more for everyday wear, this hat is a great option. It’s wool, but with a soft polyester interior. The flaps are long but can’t be tied up like most trapper hat’s flaps can be. You’ll want to pair this with a scarf and an inner layer beanie.
This hat is absolutely perfect, with sheep leather and sheep’s wool in a variety of colors (if that matters to you). The leather makes it windproof and the sheep’s wool is a great insulator.
It’s a true ushanka hat where you can tie up the flaps to the side if it’s not cold enough to use them. Go up a size or two from what you might expect from other hat companies, or use Zalevio’s fit chart.
For a long time, I wore a trapper hat in the worst winter weather. But not only did it get annoying to tie the ears, but I also found the wind was too much on my skin when I brought the dog to open fields for a game of fetch. The answer to my woes was a ski mask, or a balaclava. They’re made of a thin, usually synthetic material and cover your whole face, minus the eyes. Now my skin is always warm.
When I realized I was making people nervous when I wore an all black ski mask, I popped a colorful knit hat on top. You could just buy a colorful balaclava to start.
This is the balaclava I wear. I’m not a big fan of the name this seller has put on it, but I can say it is soft, warm and wicks sweat. Plus, I love that you can take off the cap and keep the neck part up, it’s perfect for when you get too warm shoveling the driveway.
It is made of a specialty fabric, which has held up well so far, but it is mostly polyester so I imagine it’s not as durable some others.
This balaclava is a merino wool mix that still stretches. It’s wind resistant, warm and dries quickly, which makes it easier to wear multiple times a day. CTR also claims this one has odor-control, likely from the merino wool content. Despite the wool, it’s still machine-washable.
This one is 100 percent Merino wool, a rarity in the balaclava world. Plus, wearers report that this one fits well, especially around the eyes. Unfortunately, you can’t pull the head off to wear it just like a scarf, or it would be my definite favorite.
Hot Weather Hats
Hot weather hats provide shade from the sun, sweat absorption, and ventilation. Unfortunately, those needs can be competing.
The mesh materials many hat companies use to provide ventilation allow for sunburn on your head. So take a look at how fine the mesh is before you invest.
In my experience, Tilley hats are in a category all their own. Tilley will replace your hat for life if it wears out or has a defect. Although, my husband and I haven’t worn out our hats so I can’t tell you how easy the return is. I can say that the hats last for years.
This gorgeous hat has SPF 50 fabric, a sweatband, water-repellent finish, and a mesh. It allows out air but won’t let your scalp get burnt. Don’t like the air vent? Yeah, my husband doesn’t either, try his hat, the T3 Wanderer. Though it’s more expensive, its sides clip up, which is fun.
Global Adventure Packable Hat From Columbia
Not everyone can get shipping from Tilley, and the hats do tend to be expensive. The next best option? This significantly cheaper sun heat that also has SPF 50 fabric and the cuteness factor. What does packable mean? You can stuff it into your luggage, or, in our case, a bug out bag.
This men’s hat is essentially the same deal as the last, with cheaper construction than Tilley but still has SPF 50 rating and ventilation. It can also be packed.
Mountain Hardware Plasmic Wide Brim Hat
There are a few reasons to choose this hat over the others. For a medium price point, it’s quality. It floats, has a vent without mesh, and the chin strap is removable if that bothers you. It does hit small though, so big headed people like myself are out of luck.
“Fishing” Style Hats
Fishing style hats are broad brim hats that take sun blocking more seriously. They have neck panels, and even face panels to protect your skin from prolonged exposure to the sun. They’re a smart idea if you have to walk home in the beating sun or plan to be in the wilderness catching some food if SHTF.
This seemingly regular baseball cap has a sun skirt that snaps in place. The skirt holds up well in the wind. The fabric is 100 percent nylon but it is at least SPF 30 rated. Plus, all of the color options (at least that Amazon has right now) are light—don’t underestimate how fast darker hats will get hot.
Adventure Hat from Sunday Afternoons
If high winds are a possibility you’re prepping for, this is the hat for you. It has a cinch at the back that tightens and keeps it on even in high winds. The neck flap lifts up and attaches to the back of the hat by velcro.
I’ve heard it folds up quite well and the creases from folding fade quickly. Unfortunately, the mesh on the sides looks a little wide and may let in too much sun for your tastes.
Sun Fishing Hat from DDY Outdoor
Are sun, wind, and bugs a potential problem? Or maybe sand?
Then this hat’s clever front flap is just what you need. Sure, you could use a light balaclava to protect your skin, but in the heat, they are quite uncomfortable. This has a mesh near the mouth to allow for easier breathing and, of course, it’s detachable. Like the adventure hat, the sun fishing hat tightens to hold in windy weather, but with a drawstring instead of a cinch.
Hats can be critical equipment in certain conditions, don’t neglect to add one to your bug out bag or vehicle equipment. Which hats do you use?
Author Bio: Ellysa Chenery can be found writing all over the web. She loves adapting traditional skills for new situations, whether in the wilderness, garden, or homestead. Her favorite smell is carrots fresh from the dirt.
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