For the Field Mag crew, our default method of keeping heads warm once the cold weather arrives is long hair and a beanie until spring brings some relief. When it comes to a winter hat, wool is preferred, cotton is acceptable, and acrylic is less than ideal, though it’ll do the job in a pinch. But despite the variety of materials and color options in the beanie bin, there’s plenty of room for more variety, and outdoor gear makers offer a range of unique, high-quality caps, hats, and hoods to do the job just as well.
The question is, then, what makes a hat good for winter? Well, we look for fleece or wool (or a wool blend) to provide insulation and extra warmth—natural fibers like merino wool are optimal for antibacterial, moisture-wicking, and heat-regulating properties. Soft, stretchy wovens don’t typically offer much in weather protection, so we also look for a pairing with nylon or other versatile, weather-resistant materials that are sometimes treated with DWR. Earflaps are super valuable for the bitter cold, and the ability to flip them out of the way extends the hat’s seasonal wear. Brims are great for blocking sun, wind, and precipitation, but they're not always necessary. Reversible is nice, but not a must.
So, without further ado, here are our picks for the best winter hats (that aren't just several types of beanies).
Best Winter Hats, Caps, and Other Shapes of Winter Headwear
Patagonia Range Earflap Cap
Starting with a five-panel baseball cap, Patagonia goes for an understated Carhartt/workwear look by combining a denim outer with a warm and soft plaid fleece-lined underside. A short visor/brim keeps sunny glares at play, plus a pair of drawstrings drop down the cap’s warming earflaps.
Outdoor Research Coldfront Down Beanie
Why not throw a new type of beanie hat in the mix? Horizontal baffles of 650-fill goose down make this one of the warmest winter beanies we’ve ever come across, and one of the most packable, too.
The North Face Recycled Ridge Fleece Trapper
The North Face throws its hat into the ring with this recycled, multicolor fleece update to the classic trapper hat, traditionally made from whatever furry creature American frontiersmen could get their hands on.
Topo Designs Puffer Cap
You’ve got the puffy jacket, the puffy pants, and even the puffy shoes. So, complete that baffled look with this insulated nylon cap from our homies at Topo Designs. This hat's earflaps look as good flipped -up as they do flipped down, giving it an extra edge for shoulder season.
Montbell Down Balaclava
Ultralight sleep systems often skip a typical mummy-style hood to save weight, so many UL acolytes don a down balaclava once it gets cold. Given the unique look of Montbell’s headwear, you might get some weird looks if you decide to wear it casually, but at least your head will be very, very toasty.
And Wander Primaloft Aviator Hat
GORP wear heavyweights designed an interesting hybrid winter hat for its devoted fans by combining a a classic trapper cap with an old fashioned pilot’s hat, along with a little of their own style. A short brim won’t keep much sunshine out of your eyes, but the faux fur and Primaloft insulation will certainly trap warmth.
Montane Insulated Mountain Cap
UK outdoor apparel brand specializes in expedition-level outerwear and winter accessories, like this truly excellent cap made from a DWR-coated recycled Pertex outer and filled with high-performance, recycled Primaloft insulation. Unlike bulkier winter hats, this one specifically highlights an ability to compact into stuff sacks and jacket pockets when its not needed.
Skida High Pile Hat
Our Managing Editor put us onto this Burlington, Vermont-based headwear brand that offers a ton of different styles of hats, caps, and winter accessories like a pair of high pile sherpa fleece mittens ($54) to match this perfect high pile hat. Thanks for rec, Tanner!
Stormy Kromer Original Cap
With over 100 years of production behind it, the Stormy Kromer cap is a true American classic. It comes in many materials, but the plaid wool blend with flannel liner is an OG that's hard to beat. When it gets truly frigid, loosen the lace front and flip down the headband for extra coverage.
Filson Double Mackinaw Wool Cap
Live out your Elmer Fudd dreams with this super classic men’s winter hat style (unisex, of course), made from Filson’s legendary Mackinaw wool and real sheepskin shearling that outperform the average pair of earmuffs. Wool hunting ensemble sold separately, but very much available from Filson as well.
Kavu Barr Creek
Lovers of Kavu’s iconic patterned webbing-trimmed caps will be pleased to see the Seattle outfitter’s winter variation. Low-bulk polar fleece traps in heat with easy fold-up earflaps providing quick venting, or even just improved hearing.
Autumn Mountain Goat Beanie
The Canadian beanie experts (touque?) sourced a spectacular camo print polar fleece for this retro-shaped cuffed beanie we’d happily rock on resort groomers or backcountry uphills. Do have a look at their extensive catalog of knit beanies, wool beanies, pom beanies, and just about every kind of beanie you can think of.
Jackman Waffle Knit Cap
Japanese label Jackman specializes in premium-quality basics like sweatpants and here, a waffle knit cuff beanie made completely in their homeland of Japan. The little nooks and crannies might hold a little extra warmth, but they mostly just look cool to us.
Rototo Cozy Chunky Beanie
The chunkier the beanie, the cozier it is. Simple facts! This made in Japan knit hat comes in a number of pleasing solid colors to choose from, so you might as well snag a couple to pair with your favorite winter coats.
One More Thing: Buy Vintage!
There’s a whole lot of excellent vintage fleece and wool hats out there if you take the time to dig around eBay, Etsy, or your friendly vintage dealer’s window display for cable knit beanies, hunting-style bucket hats, and festive pom pom-topped caps. We’re especially fond of the ’80s and ‘90s, for instance, which came in some pretty incredible patterns and color combos (pictured above). And aside from having a piece that’s a little less common than readily available goods, you’re recycling fashion already in circulation, and that's small sustainability perk. Win-win.