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Types of Winter Hats

How to keep your noggin toasty with one of these types of winter hats.

There are huge amounts of cold weather accessories for your head to choose from, but choosing the right winter hat can make or break your outdoor excursion.  If your ears freeze, will they fall off? I doubt it, but frostbite can do permanent damage. My guess is you like your ears, here’s how to keep them warm.

Choose the right winter hat for the occasion.  

If you are you mushing in the Iditarod, or braving a New Year’s eve in Chicago would you wear the same hat?  Probably not.

Mushers, like it or not, rely on real fur to keep them alive in temperatures that can range from 45 above to 45 below zero.  Beaver fur, or maybe wolverine, act as vapor traps around the fringe of the parka’s hood. That keeps the frigid air from destroying your skin with frostbite

New Years Eve revelers are more inclined to wear a top hat than a beaver.  But, with the recent spat of extra frigid temps with the latest winter demon, the Polar Vortex, you’re going to need something more substantial.  Plus, you want to look good, it’s a party after all.

The Choices (aside from a wolverine lined parka hood)

  • Beanies are a small, close-fitting hat that’s worn on the back of the head and can be pulled down over the ears.  
  • Pom Poms are basically beanies that have a ball on top.  
  • Fedoras are low, soft felt hats with a curled brim.  
  • Knit Hats would probably be homemade with cotton yarn.  
  • Ear Warmers cover your ears, but not the whole head, which might be advantageous if you don’t want to mess up your hair, but then heat escapes out of the top of your head.  
  • Trapper Hats will be plush inside, cover the entire head and have big ear flaps.
The types of fabrics

You can choose from natural fibers or synthetic fibers.  Synthetics like Acrylic or Polyester Fleece are made with petroleum based plastic fibers.  These types of winter hats can be effective at keeping you warm and wicking away moisture when you overheat, but there are pitfalls with using materials like these (insert internal link to Brian’s blog post here).

Cotton is a wonderful, natural fiber that can be effective, but it doesn’t work as well when it gets wet.  Cotton traps water and keeps it next to your skin. If you sweat a lot or hang out in a rainy environment, cotton can become a liability as being cold and wet is much worse than being just cold or wet.

Then there is wool.  Cashmere, Alpaca, Mohair, Angora, Camel, Qiviut and Merino.  Some people even make hats and sweaters out of their dogs’ hair, but that’s another story for another blog.  

  • Qiviut is made from the undercoat of the Muskox, a large, arctic animal that lives in the far northern reaches of our globe.  It is exceptionally warm and soft, but also exceptionally expensive.
  • Cashmere is made from the Cashmere goat  It’s very soft, luxurious in fact, but you’ll need to dry clean or hand wash it to make it last as it is quite delicate.
  • Angora is a mix of sheep’s wool and rabbit hair.  How hairy is a rabbit anyway? Angora is very soft and luxurious as well.  But it’s also delicate. You’ll need to dry clean it, or hand wash and dry it flat, avoid the sun, bleach and wringing it out.
  • Mohair is another type of goat hair made from the Angora Goat (not to be confused with the Angora rabbit which makes Angora wool).  It offers great breathability, it wicks moisture well, stays warm in the winter and cool during the summer. Don’t machine wash it, and for goodness sakes don’t tumble dry!  This is another luxury wool with a luxury price tag.
  • Camel yarn is another choice, but it’s pretty coarse, and best for making rugs.
  • Merino wool comes from the Merino sheep.  It’s known as the softest, finest sheep’s wool, and the best Merino comes from New Zealand.  It’s more affordable than some of the others and offers excellent breathability, anti-odor properties, it wicks water away from your body and is naturally stain resistant.
Learn more about merino wool here

    I imagine by now you’ll guess that I prefer Merino wool.  Not only is it soft, durable and machine washable, but it keeps you warm when it’s wet, it doesn’t stain or discolor and it doesn’t stink.  

    My go-to winter hat?  The Merino Beanie.

    I tried a True Fleece Merino Ultra Beanie  this winter for the first time, and for the rest of the season, my other winter hats sat in a box.  My ears never got cold, even when I was in temperatures as low as -35F. I live in Southeast Alaska which is part of the Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest temperate rain forest, and can attest that this beanie kept me warm even when it got wet.  

    Sometimes at sea level, temps will climb into the upper 30’s or 40’s during the winter, and when that happens the snow can turn to rain or sleet.  Neither of those is going to keep my Alaskan Husky Charley girl from wanting to go hiking, and you don’t want to disappoint your Alaskan Husky! So I’d get wet at the base of the mountain in the rain, and it’d be frozen and snowy at the top.  This beanie performed beautifully in those conditions.

    The Beanie I wore, and will continue to wear as long as I don’t lose it, is double layered, with a navy blue exterior and a lighter blue interior, which means it’s reversible.  It’s got a tag pocket, which is another neat little touch, and it’s also reasonably priced for how useless it made all my other winter hats. PS- I’m having a winter hat yard sale with all my non-Merino wool hats, stop on by.

    As for fashion, the beanie never seems to go out of style.  Pom Poms just aren’t my thing as they tend to get in the way, and a Trapper Hat?  I’m not into the trapping lifestyle, so, that’s a no, though, I do appreciate the way Elmer Fudd wore his.  

    Whatever your choice, be sure to know where the material comes from.  Is your winter hat from a renewable source, is it good to the environment?  Or does it come from a chemical reaction involving fossil fuels that will it release micro-plastics into our waterways with every wash?  Also keep in mind that natural fibers like high quality Merino wool don’t trap the stink from your sweaty head. Polyester and acrylic are going to stink pretty quickly and ferociously.

    Keep that head warm my friends, and best of luck on your next cold weather adventure!

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