The simplest of items for outdoor clothing in many ways.
A classic beanie keeps you warm, a balaclava provides some deeper cold coverage along with versatility, and a wide-brimmed hat gives sun or precip protection.
But finding the right hat for your activity includes many nuances and subtleties.
A warm hat perfect for stationary activities is much too warm for vigorous hiking or ski tours. And often too bulky to stash in a pocket.
And the very thin hat high on the spandex content works well for cold weather running and wicking sweat away but provide little to no warmth when stopped for a break, looking at a map, or when gliding downhill.
My favorite hat of all time is a $4 MEC fleece hat I purchased in Jasper over a decade ago. This simple fleece hat provided this sweet spot of warmth, packability, weight, and functionality. I like fleece for a winter hat as it breathes well, does not hold onto sweat, and dries quickly. The MEC hat fit “just right,” so it had no excess double fabric to trap heat about my head and add too much warmth during high activity, but not so thin as to provide no warmth at all. And, crucially, it does not have a wide knit fabric brim that ends up being too thick around the ears and forehead, and, again, trapping too much heat.
The MEC hat also comes with a subtle logo; I also enjoy the lack of a prominent logo so I can wear it, well, just about everywhere.
This hat ended up as my “go-to” hat for stuffing in my camp fleece, throwing on in town, stashing in my day pack for quick hikes, or donning on ski tours. And at a smidge over one-ounce, the perfect weight.
Alas, much like a well-known Rolling Stones song, this hat is showing its age and looks a bit frayed.
And I’ve been searching for a suitable replacement. I wanted a lightweight hat the provided warmth, light, packability, no prominent logo, and fits well with no wide fabric area for trapping of heat.
You think it would be a simple thing. But finding a simple hat to fill this simple niche did not prove to be so simple. Too big of a logo, too heavy, too hot, etc.
And then, I found my new “go-to” hat: The Sportsman – Polar Fleece Beanie – SP30 A throwaway hat in many ways. Something you find at corporate giveaways with the company logo, or the “rack o’ hats” at a gas station or convenience store, or in a winter bin at a dollar store or similar. But I found this hat and knew it was “the one.” It fills the same niche as my celebrated MEC hat, and I am happy.
The SP30 hat costs only six dollars, available in fetching Voyageur red (pairs well with a cartoon Quebecois accent!), weighs just under 1.25 oz per my scale, and it works. And comes in different colors.
What more to say? I sleuthed the hat online and bought two more hats to stash one in my fleece jacket and place in other packs.
But, here’s the thing: Why is such a simple, light, a versatile hat challenging to find?
Oh, you can find similar types of hat marketed at backpackers. I’m not the only one seeking a similar hat. But as a friend stated, I don’t always want to advertise in the backcountry by the mere fact I purchased a company’s hat with its ginormous logo. And, again, a lot of fabric around the ears and forehead to trap heat; less useful for me on the move.
If you are looking for a simple, versatile, and practical hat for cool stationary conditions and active cold conditions, consider the SP30. Or a similar hat that works for you in a gas station, corporate schwag giveaway, or a dollar store winter bin. And you can sew on a logo patch if so inclined. The best outdoor gear is often not labeled as outdoor gear. 🙂
Disclosure: I purchased this expensive $6 SP30 hat with my funds.