Coal's Stanley beanie is the security blanket of winter hats.
Coal's Stanley beanie is the security blanket of winter hats.
Gear Guy

An Ode to the Perfect Winter Beanie

Rain or shine, snow or sleet, the Coal Stanley has you covered

Coal's Stanley beanie is the security blanket of winter hats.

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Having precisely the right hat for every winter adventure is a luxury I really appreciate. I love having a super-lightweight option for running before work, a heavily insulated Polartec Power Fleece lid for predawn ski tours, and something with both a brim and ear protection for cold sunny days. But if I had to dump out the 16-liter bin full of the 20-plus hats I own and throw all but one into the trash, I know I could get by all winter with just Coal’s Stanley Hat ($20).

I found this two-toned beanie in a box floating around Outside’s gear closet during my first job there in the summer of 2012. Since then, it’s accompanied me twice to the top of Mount Shasta and on nearly a hundred ski tours. But that’s just the hardcore stuff. I’ve also worn it to a laid-back wedding, and it has seen the insides of more bars than I care to admit.

The Stanley’s strength is technical prowess in an unassuming package. It keeps my head and ears warm—fitting seamlessly with both goggles and sunglasses—without getting in the way, thanks to the shallow fit and single cuff. Made from 100 percent acrylic, it dries fast and shrugs off light snow. It comes in a medium-thick, loose herringbone knit that has proven plenty warm to wear on its own while skinning up amid dumping frozen snow, but it didn’t make my head sweat last week on a 50-degree fall day walk with my wife and daughter. The Stanley is basically my security blanket, living in my pack in case the weather takes a turn for the worse or a buddy forgot his hat before a day of skiing.

Now, the Stanley doesn’t wick as well as performance-specific beanies, like my Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Scull Cap ($25). But I can deal with that, because I don’t feel like I’m wearing a condom on my head (something I have been told on at least three different occasions while wearing performance beanies). I’m fine with a super-snug fit on trail runs, but I don’t care for it anywhere else. And that’s why the Stanley wins for me: Its simplicity lends it exceptional crossover potential. While I always change my pants and shirt after a ski tour, the beanie stays on. The bold colorway is perfect with my “outdoor business casual” uniform—jeans and a flannel. It’ll hold onto musty smells, but that’s the beauty of a 20-buck beanie—I don’t hesitate to throw it in the wash when it gets really nasty.

Every year around this time, as winter rolls in and I take stock of all the cool new dome-swaddling hats, I can’t help but turn to the simple, inexpensive but reliable Stanley.

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