Scott Janz October 4, 2016 1

How to pick backpacking hats, caps, and beanies

It’s that time of year again. We start dusting off our Fall and Winter gear and start thinking of cold weather hiking/backpacking. So many people overlook the importance of a good quality warm hat. Keeping your head warm in the cold weather is important, but it also depends on a number of other factors, including how thick your hair is and how much energy you use in the cold. In other words, your beanie hat is only a part of the equation in staying warm.

The ratio of the surface area of a child’s head relative to the child’s body surface area is much greater than that of an adult. Our young hikers, lose an even amount of heat through their heads (less hair). Hoods and hats are more important to children because of this.

Of course buying a good beanie is still a very important decision. Only us beanie fashionista’s understand this.

There are generally 3 types:

Traditional hand-knit beanies – This type goes into my personal fav list. There is nothing like a homemade beanie to wear proudly on the trail. The crazier the better.

Synthetics (Fleece, or Polyester) – These are great. Make sure you keep them dry however. Beanies made of fleece are generally great windblockers, and provide better insulation in breezy conditions. Polyester beanies are great for wicking moisture,  which helps perspiration evaporate during a hard hike up that mountain.

Merino Wool is usually the softer material and combines both the knit feel and the fleece feel. The nice thing about Merino Wool, is it can get moist and still keep it’s R-Value keeping your head warm. They are also a  bit cheaper of the other two options.

Of course, there are often times I wear a ball cap. On a rainy day (especially a down pour), I find wearing a ball cap keeps my rain jacket hood from falling on my face. Ball Caps are a good choice to wear when the rain really starts falling. The trade off is letting my Ball Cap get soaking wet, but keeping my beanies nice and dry. I often keep a beanie on when I sleep in cold temps.  So when picking a Ball Cap, I totally go Synthetic. This let’s my Ball Cap dry very fast. Even if it’s doesn’t dry right away, it still feels better putting it back on then a soaking wet beanie.

There are other options also.


Ear Muffs


All of these have their purpose. It comes down to what makes YOU feel comfortable and what you can live with when temps drop.

Picking the right beanie is important, but also knowing how to layer your clothing system is essential. Feeling comfortable on a cold rainy, snowy day, will make you a happy hiker.