Whether it’s heat, sweat, rain, or cold, bringing some type of covering for your head is never a bad idea. Sure, you can forgo a hat and rely solely on the hood of a jacket, but since you’ll be wearing it and weight won’t really be an issue, there’s no reason not to supplement with head wear.
The following are the stats and my humble opinions of head wear I’ve used, or researched and wish to use, on the trail:
Weight: 11 g / 0.38 oz
Material: 15D Ultra-Vis 80 hole/sqcm hexagonal mesh
- Lightweight and compact
- Black mesh for improved visibility
- Constructed from soft multifilament fiber.
- Superlight elasticised neck draw cord
60% lighter than the Sea to Summit original mosquito head net below, and infinitely more compact, the Nano version also uses a much finer mesh with about twice the amount of holes per square inch. More holes = smaller openings. Smaller openings = smaller insects not able to get in. Some of the smallest culprits (no-see-ums, gnats, etc.) are able to penetrate head nets that use a larger gauge mesh.
The mesh is constructed from soft fabric, not scratchy polyester, and has been treated with Permethrin, an insect repellent that stuns on contact and kills with prolonged exposure, but is non-toxic to humans. The repellent qualities with eventually wear off, but you can retreat on your own; permethrin treatment is available at Walmart.
***Unfortunately, I assume due to some regulation, the Sea to Summit Nano Head Net is not available in the United States. You can, however, find it for sale on European or Australian sites with crazy high shipping (more than the cost of the head net)*** I got mine here.
Weight: 37 g / 1.3 oz
Material: Fine, 500 hole per square inch hexagonal mesh
- Black mesh netting offers better visibility than white or green mesh
- Made of a soft multifilament polyester
- Packaged in its own stuff sack
- Elasticized draw cord closure
- Wide enough to wear with a hat or without
- Insect Shield® treated for extra protection
- EPA-registered, odorless Insect Shield® Repellent Apparel helps keep biting and potentially disease-carrying insects at bay
- Insect Shield® Repellent Apparel is effective through 70 washes
Weighing less than 1.5 ounces, employing a hexagonal mesh small enough to see clearly through and keep all but the tiniest insects out, the Sea to Summit was my go to head net until I discovered the Nano model above.
This original model packs down to about the size of racquetball, where the Nano is roughly half that size.
I find that the original model is slightly longer, providing more neck coverage. It also feels like, due to the larger holes, it breaths slightly better.
Weight: 18 g / 0.6 oz
Material: Nanoseeum 0.7 oz sq/yd Mesh
Dimensions: 20 in | 51 cm long tube with contoured shoulder area and a 16 in | 41 cm squared top
- Four loops for attaching small bungee cord under arms for a streamlined fit
- Fits over most brimmed hats
Using tiny nanoseeum mesh allows for great airflow while keeping even the teeniest insects away from your mug. The mesh is almost invisible; you need to remind yourself that you have it on while you are eating, or else you’ll get a spoonful of gruel stuck on its way to your mouth!
The MLD Bug Head Net is also the most structured of any I’ve seen. It has more of a box shape, similar to a bee keeper’s helmet. There are four small loops on the four bottom “corners” of the net that allow you to attach lightweight elastic cords and secure the apparatus under your arms to maintain shape and coverage.
Weight: 41.87 g / 1.47 oz
Material: 100% Eventure Polyester Fabric
- Eventure knit shell with Eventure terry sweatband keeps perspiration out of your eyes
- Eventure elastic back provides quick drying & custom fit without any adjustments
- Flat front panel perfect for custom logo application
- Black undervisor to reduce glare
- Machine wash, air dry, does not shrink
Super soft and absorbent. Very Light weight. I use this visor on hot weather hikes, where I know I will have decent tree cover for most of the day. Remember, if you have short or sparse hair, you are in danger of getting sun burn on your scalp with visors; not fun. If you have longer hair, you will find it hard not to look goofy. I find I use this visor more for runs and training than I do for actual hikes.
Weight: 57.85 g / 2.04 oz
Material: Eventure Grid fabric / Eventure fabric terry sweatband
I used this hat on my 2017 Florida Trail thru hike and over one year later it is still my daily wear hat, getting easily over 40 hours a week on my head (on the FT it logged around 16 hours on head per day). Other than patches of the reflective trim wearing down/off, and fitting just a tad less snug, this hat is holding up just fine.
Headsweats’ “Eventure” fabric creates maximum air flow and moisture transfer. This hat is excellent at absorbing and wicking sweat (all headsweats stuff is), but some users complain that sweat still gets in your eyes. It will! Why? because you sweat below the headband too, Silly! During high exertion, you may have to wipe the sweat out of your eyebrows before it drips into your eyes, but trust me, it would be a lot worse without the hat and its terry headband, or with some other hat and headband.
I love the bright, super visible, almost-hurt-your-eyes color on the outside and the glare absorbing black under the bill. I also love the reflective trim, though if you plan on any stealth maneuvers, you better remove your hat; the trim pops in any light.
Weight: 15.55 g / 0.54 oz
Material: 87% Merino Wool 13% Nylon
Dimensions: 10″ W x 7″ H (Laid Flat)
- Flatlock seam constuction designed to eliminate chafing
- Smartwool’s lightest weight Merino jersey fabric uses a nylon core to increase durability while keeping Merino Wool next to skin
Like a lot of Smartwool’s 150 Merino line, this is a Super Ultra Light niche item on its own; it provides some warmth, but not a ton of wind resistance. In mild conditions it can supplement you if temps drop slightly, but such a thin and lightweight material just can’t stand up to substantial conditions on its own.
150 merino wool is very thin, like thick pantyhose thin. Garments using this fabric are much better suited as part of a layering system, which is how I use this beanie: under a fleece toboggan, and that toboggan under a down hat, and that hat under the hood of a windbreaker or rain shell, depending on the conditions.
Regulates temps close to your head on its own or as part of a system, wicks moisture, and naturally resists odors.
Weight: 27g / 0.95 oz.
Material: Double layer quick drying synthetic micro-fleece
When a hat is this warm and cozy, while also being this light, what other hat do you need (unless you are layering, of course)? This stretchy, one size fits most beanie comes on every hike with me, even if it’s just as my sleeping cap.
Weight: 27g / 0.95 oz.
Material: 10d taffeta weave nylon coated with DWR
Insulation: 950 fill power down
Finally, a puffy for your head! This is the top, most thermally efficient piece to my head layering system. This hat, as a third layer, under a wind and/or waterproof hood, is down right toasty.
The DWR treatment will only get you so far, so make sure you have a waterproof solution to protect the hat, or you will get no warmth at all from a wet down hat. If you expect wet conditions, Black Rock Gear also makes a silicone coated version of this hat, though the sewn-through construction means it isn’t completely waterproof either. For even more piece of mind in very wet climates, Black Rock also makes a synthetic version, at a weight and pack-ability penalty.
For alpine adventures with super low or sub zero temps and/or possible high winds, you want full coverage! The neck-length design encapsulates you from the shoulders up, trapping heat and helping the hood to stay in place within your layering system, while easily adjusting with your movements.
I swap out the down hat for the down hood in extreme conditions.
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