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Gear Guy

Testing the Best Hats for Winter Running

A worthy beanie keeps your dome warm, vents sweat, and doesn't look dorky

The under armour storm run was neck-and-neck with our winner the Salomon RS in moisture wicking, but did not retain heat as well as some of the other hats. (Sarah Jackson)
Photo: Sarah Jackson hats

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A worthy beanie keeps your dome warm, vents sweat, and doesn't look dorky

The right winter running hat needs to straddle a fine line: It needs to keep your ears toasty enough that they don’t angrily throb in the cold. It also needs to vent well enough to prevent your head from overheating, causing you to sweat. If you regularly run outside in winter, it’s absolutely worth shelling out money for a technical beanie that hits that sweet spot. I tested six top picks to help you make the right choice.

The Test

For the past three weeks, I wore these hats during my lunchtime and weekend runs, almost all of which took place in temperatures in the low forties (with a few dropping into the thirties). To gauge how well they wicked moisture, I also donned each beanie during a kettlebell workout in my garage and a weight-training session in the gym so I could get them good and sweaty. Finally, I wore each hat for four hours while working in the office to get a feel for general comfort.

The Results

hats
(Sarah Jackson)

Winner: Salomon RS Warm Beanie ($30)

While it didn’t have the steeze of the North Face or Icebreaker hats, the RS Warm has a bit of extra length and slightly more relaxed fit, which give it a considerably less—how to put this—phallic look on top of my head. The stretchy polyester-elastane liner has a hand in that as well. The RS was in the top three for moisture wicking and, at 37 grams, had hands down the best warmth-to-weight ratio. The lofted squares in the wool-polyester exterior held onto heat, while the channels between them released excess sweat.

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hats
(Sarah Jackson)

#2. Buff Tech Fleece Hat ($32)

Undoubtedly the most comfortable hat in this test, the Tech Fleece elicited notes like “LUXURIOUS!!” and even an “ooh la la!!!!” Embarrassing number of exclamation points aside, the brushed polyamide interior was so supple on my ears and forehead that I forgot I was wearing it while testing this hat in my office. Same on a three-mile run. The fit was snug but not too tight. (If I could pull off a ponytail, I would have appreciated the hole in the back.) But the Tech Fleece was a bit thin for runs on colder days, when I could have used more warmth retention.

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hats
(Sarah Jackson)

#3. Icebreaker Unisex Pocket Hat ($17)

The Pocket certainly had the best overall temperature range of the hats in this test. The supersoft two-layer merino wool was thick enough to keep my ears cozy on my runs but didn’t have me sweating buckets during sets of box jumps in my (overly) heated local gym. The muted exterior with subtle white lines on a black background earned the Pocket second place in terms of looks. It would’ve been a serious contender for first overall if it hadn’t been the tightest fit of the bunch.

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hats
(Sarah Jackson)

#4. The North Face Nite Flare Beanie ($40)

While it wasn’t as comfortable or as warm as the other hats in the test, the Nite Flare, with its straightforward design, was the most stylish of the bunch. Its two-tone exterior and tight but not squeezing fit made it the only hat I felt comfortable wearing around town for the day. The Nite Flare got the job done during my runs, and the synthetic fabric wicked moisture well enough that I didn’t have sweat dripping into my eyes in the gym.

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hats
(Sarah Jackson)

#5. Mammut Aenergy Beanie ($66)

I reveled in the abundant warmth and exceptional wicking prowess of the Aenergy after an outdoor sprint workout in the thirties left me pretty sweaty. This beanie is about twice as thick around the ears, though that didn’t do it any favors when the temperature climbed. I started to overheat simply doing lunges in my garage. But when it’s frigid out, grab this lid.

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hats
(Sarah Jackson)

#6. Under Armour Storm Run Beanie ($30)

The Storm Run ran neck and neck with the Salomon RS when it came to moisture wicking, making it a favorite for my gym workout. But it had the opposite problem of the Mammut—it just didn’t offer enough insulation on runs. This beanie did make up some ground for its weather repellency, with a treatment on the exterior that shed water when I tested it under my sink and shower.

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Filed To: Hats / Accessories / Running / Running-Gear Reviews / Clothing and Apparel / Weather