Wide Open Spaces

Best Winter Hats Picked By an Expert

My mother always told me that if you don't wear a hat in freezing cold temperatures, all of your body heat will escape from your head and you could freeze. Well, mom wasn't 100 percent correct, but according to medical research, you can lose up to 10 percent of your body heat through your head, so there's a real reason to wear a hat. My wife and I live in one of the coldest places in the United States, in central Alaska just outside of Denali National Park and Preserve. We wear winter beanies about eight months of the year, and have several for each occasion. From mid-September until early April, our temps can range from just above freezing to -40F. The coldest temps we have ever experienced is -55F. If we leave our cabin without a hat in such freezing temps, we are at risk for frostbite. Even trips to the outhouse warrant a hat. With that being said, here are our favorite beanies for different purposes.

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Warmest Winter Hat

Heat Holders Alesund Hat (women's - $23) and Hudson Fine Rib - (men's $23)

I'm not going to lie, these hats feel like you are wearing a furry animal on your head. The underside is a plush polyester lining, which is constructed of an insulating thermal yarn made with a proprietary brushing process that allows it to trap the heat in and keep the cold out. The outer shell is made of a polyester and acrylic blend. My wife wears hers nearly every day, and even after two brutal winters in Alaska, the threading is still holding strong. The durability and warmth of this headwear has served us well.

Best for Wearing Glasses

CTR Chaos Howler Markus Skully - $30 on Amazon

A beanie rarely has extra features, and that's why this one stands out. The tight, athletic fit keeps the cold out, but this hat has small slits on either side at your ears to hold the arms of your prescription glasses or sunnies. The glasses/shades stay in a comfortable position through all activities—downhill skiing, snowshoeing, or trail running. The slits are so small that no air flow gets through. This is my go-to hat for active adventures under sunny, but cold skies. The hat is wind resistant and has a fleece lining that keeps my noggin warm and comfy. It fits well under a hood or helmet. As a bonus, there are laser cut holes over the ears, which maintain hearing without heat loss.

Best Fit


Fjallraven Ovik Melange Beanie - $40

Though the price tag on this one is higher than the others, Fjallraven's reputation for making you warm in the coldest of temps stands true. This beanie is constructed of 100 percent acrylic, which is the key to its comfort and warmth while avoiding overheating. Though it is unisex, the fit is surprising. My wife and I own one Ovik beanie, and it often is tug of war on who gets to wear it (I usually lose). The one size fits all style looks good on both our different-sized heads. The double yarn knitting gives it a marbled and ribbed look, which is quite stylish and high-quality to last long. The hats come in five different colors.

Minimalist Winter Hat

Mountain Hardwear Polartec Microfleece Beanie - $18.00

Sometimes the simplest pieces with no frills are the best. I wore this hat on the Appalachian Trail, New Zealand's Te Araroa, and for 21 days straight on my Denali expedition, until it blew away at 18,000 feet. When I got off the mountain, I immediately ordered another. The 100 percent Polartec micro fleece beanie packs so small to stow in your backpack, yet will keep you warm as those cold temps creep up. I carry this on every backpacking trip or even day hikes, just in case. It wicks moisture away, dries quickly, keeps me warm, and the best part is it's affordable. The athletic fit means I can wear it under my climbing helmet. It comes in two sizes (regular and large).

Best Ball Cap With Insulation

Patagonia Range Earflap Cap - $33, Backcountry.com

My wife would say I have problem: I love baseball caps and my collection is bursting out of my closet. But, I argue that I hand-pick my ball caps depending on the occasion. Which is why I love this one with added insulation so I can keep wearing ball caps during those cold Alaska days. The earflaps can be flipped up and secured when not use, but when my ears need a little warmth, it becomes a performance piece. The brim is shorter than most, so although it blocks the sun, it will not get in your line of sight. It is made of 87 percent recycled materials (cotton, polyester, and fleece) that are all fair trade certified. The caps come in three sizes.