What is the Best Cold Weather Running Hat?
A co-worker recently asked me if I had a recommendation on the best cold weather running hat for a Christmas gift. Sorry to disappoint. There isn’t really a best cold weather running hat. Like most things, it comes down to personal preference. Just find something that makes you look good, reasonably priced, and will prevent your ears from freezing during outdoor activity.
The end, Merry Christmas.
Wait… hold on a second… we runners like to over-complicate seemingly simple things. There is something validating about knowing you have the best [insert gear item here], with the most wickability, breathability, loftability, thermalabiilty and runability bang for your buck.
Oh, the BEST cold weather running hat? Well friend, do I have some recommendations for you!
To start this quest by gathering up my various winter running hat things, and entertained myself for an hour making this pic.
Not pictured: REI winter cap, Balaclava, and a bunch that didn’t have any tags on them.
So what did I learn from my collection of hats, masks and scarves?
First, Figure out What You’re Doing
- If it’s not super cold. I begin wearing a winter running hat when temps dip below about 40. Anything warmer and I overheat. Then again, I see people wearing stocking hats in the summer. Go figure.
- If you’re not going to be out long. Running for 20 minutes vs two hours also makes a big difference. You may not need something with much moisture management if you’re doing short winter runs. That cap grandma knit you will probably work.
- If it is super cold. Just a hat will not do. Super cold to me is anything 20 and below with wind. Then it’s time for a balaclava, hat, ski goggles, BUFF, etc. Knowing your own body and tolerance for cold is a big first step with anything regarding cold weather running gear.
Contrary to popular belief, most body heat does not go out your head. You lose it through whatever body part(s) are exposed the most. So, wearing a hat, scarf, Buff or balaclava on the top of your cranium will be a huge help in keeping yourself warm outside in the cold.
I don’t have one specific “best” option, but, since my co-worker is looking to me as an “expert” I need to share a few ideas and empower you to make the best decision based on your unique situation.
The Best Affordable Hat
The Nike Pro Combat Skull Cap is a bargain value. It comes in black or white, offers great moisture management, flat seams, and a tight fit. At under $17, it’s a steal. It won’t keep you super warm when it gets much below freezing, but should do the job above that.
A similar option is the ASICS Thermopolis LT 2-N-1 Beanie. It is warmer and has a few more bells and whistles. Great moisture management and provides more coverage for your ears. I have a big head, and the “one size fits all” is snug. It comes in a bunch of fun colors and styles, and is reversible.
The Best Versatile Hat
While technically not a winter running hat, the Polar Reversible BUFF® is one of the warmest and most versatile things you can get for staying warm in the winter. It is basically a long tube you wear as a mask, hood, cap, etc. There are a bunch of variations, and while this one isn’t quite a versatile as the ones without the fleece, it is way warmer.
Mine does a great job managing moisture and odor and is basically wind proof. The microfiber has soft fleece on the inside to minimize heat loss. It also comes in about a bazillion colors and styles, which is important to some people I am told.
The Best at Keeping Warm
Ok, ok, so you just want something warm? Fine, here are three super warm hats to narrow down your search.
ASICS Thermal Extra Protection Beanie will give you great coverage with thermal protection for those extra, super cold days. Lightweight and double layer insulating protection to keep your noggin warm.
Craft Active Skull Cap with Wind Stopper has been a personal favorite of mine for several years. Somehow they manage to make these super warm hats with very little weight. Holding them you’ll swear your brain is going to freeze, but it won’t even come close. If anything, they are a little too warm in certain conditions.
The Shola 230 Esker Hat from Kora is something new I’ve only recently discovered. The hats are pricey because they are made from yak wool technical fabric, which is exceptionally warm, yet breathable and moisture-wicking too. You’ll stay cozy but cool when you step up the pace. The one is super high quality, and feels really soft.
The TrailHeads Women’s Ponytail Hat I am told is warm. It is a unique option that provides and outlet for your hair, while still providing solid all around coverage and warmth.
The Best Coverage (Ninja Mode)
When it gets REALLY cold (like sub zero), I tend to bundle up like Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe. By covering my entire neck, head and face, it allows me to run in some God-awful cold weather. If you are determined to run outside all winter, no matter what, here’s what you’ll need.
A balaclava provides the base layer for this costume. These are awesome because they tuck into your jacket, totally wrap over your head and face, and just leave a slit for your eyes if pulled all the way up. You can also use a Combo Scarf Face Mask if you don’t like to trap your ears.
A hat or headband. Depending on the level of your balaclava, you may or may not need to wear and additional hat. Because mine is lighter weight, I usually wear my Craft Skull cap.
Ski Goggles complete the transformation, and will give you those ninja like qualities to sneak through the winter wonderland virtually unscathed. I have an inexpensive pair of Scott goggles I also use when skiing.
A lot of people love running headbands. I do not. In the summer, sure, they keep my big mop of sweaty hair out of my face. In the winter, I just don’t like them at all. Heather Kampf likes this one, and she’s fast, so there you go.
Your Best Cold Weather Running Hat?
As I stated at the beginning, winter running hat selection is largely a personal preference. It all comes down to what you think looks good on your head while capturing precious heat. What do you use and why do you like it?