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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
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.
You’ve got the puffy jacket, the down 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.