For the Field Mag crew, our default method of keeping your head warm come cold weather is hair long and beanie on 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 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).
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 deploy down, giving it an extra edge for shoulder season.
Price: $39 SHOP NOW
This breathable fleece hat from Brooklyn’s Adsum is fit for logging laps around Prospect Park on foot, or by XC ski after the occasional snow squall. But hey, you don't have to be a city dweller to rock this hat, or an athlete, though its stubby brim is the perfect dose of sport-inspired cool.
Price: $70 SHOP NOW
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.
Price: $69 SHOP NOW
It’s the two-word answer for wet days on the mountain: Gore-Tex. British expedition brand Montane made this waterproof cap with a protective bill and earflap cordage that’s removable when it's not needed (or when it's just plain bothersome). The Mountain Squall Cap isn't insulated, but it will keep your head dry.
Price: $60 SHOP NOW
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 ear band for extra coverage.
Price: $45 SHOP NOW
Equal parts hat and hood, Filson's Windfowl Hat will cover you through the worst of the worst. Made of the brand's proprietary durable Tin Cloth, the weatherproof hat transforms into a hood within seconds. Not pictured: a wool liner for extra warmth and comfort.
Price: $85 SHOP NOW
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. We’re especially fond of in 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.