What Is The Warmest Winter Hat For Hiking For 2021? Our Expert Research Reveals It

Surprise, surprise, the cold season is here.

If you’re like me, you love hiking during the winter. We avid hikers don’t care which season it is – we just want to be on the trail all the time. There’s no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. Agree?


And because of that, you’re on the hunt for the best winter hiking hats available today. You’re in good hands.

In this guide, we’re going to cover the top 8 hats that will keep your head warm all winter long. All are suitable for men and women alike.

Why trust us?

Being a cold-natured hiker myself, I always need warm gear. That’s why, as you will see, I tested some hats myself. Plus, before we recommend any product on our site, we search far and wide to find every expert opinion on the topic.

In this case, we spent 22 hours doing intensive research. We analyzed 52 bestselling hats and shortlisted 8 as being the best. We went through 2040 reviews and consulted with over 30 established hiking authorities.

As you’ll find out below, we used 7 important criteria to measure the effectiveness of each hat:

  • Fabrics
  • Warmth
  • Weatherproof features
  • Moisture-wicking abilities
  • Breathability
  • Price
  • CRO (Customer Rating Overview)

We also share some valuable tips and advice regarding the top features to look after, when buying a winter hiking hat. So, if you want to find out which are the best winter hats this year based on professional opinion, then continue reading.

Our Top 3 Recommendations 

Best overall value
Entirely made of high-quality merino wool, and with a fantastic fit, this beanie is proven to keep you warm in the coldest of winter days.
  • Moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating, and odor repellent thanks to the natural antibacterial qualities of the fiber
  • Provides warm, next-to-skin feeling thanks to the high-quality merino wool
  • Lightweight and double knitted design for enhanced insulation and slim fit allowing you to add another layer
  • Roll cuff ear band allows you to cover your ears and part of your neck in extremely cold weather
Popular choice
With the recognizable quality courtesy of REI comes a bestselling winter hat that hikers and trail runners just love.
  • Fold-down earflaps and extendable fleece-lined back for extra warmth
  • Unisex, one size fits all
  • Water-resistant and wind-resistant
  • Stretchy, breathable, and moisture-wicking
Best Budget Choice
We tested Marmot’s Shadows hat on several hikes that involved snow, rain, and intimidating cold. It wowed is with its insulation, fit, and price.
  • Clean, stylish design and good color choice
  • Lightweight and elastic construction provides slim fit that covers your ears and back of neck
  • Breathable and moisture-wicking
  • Keeps your head warm and toasty even when you sweat thanks to the micro-fleece head band

The Best Winter Hiking Hats: A Comparison Table

guh-table__imageSmartwool Merino 250
  • Type: Beanie
  • Head circumference: 21.5" - 23.5"
  • Fabrics: 100% Merino wool
Check Latest Price →
guh-table__imageRei Co-op Swiftland
  • Type: Ball cap with ear flaps and visor
  • Head circumference: 21.5" - 23.5"
  • Fabrics: 88% nylon / 12% spandex
Check Latest Price →
guh-table__imageMarmot Shadows Hat
  • Type: Beanie
  • Head circumference: 22" - 24"
  • Fabrics: 70% acrylic / 30% wool
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guh-table__imageArc'teryx RHO LWT
  • Type: Beanie
  • Head circumference: 21" - 23"
  • Fabrics: Merino wool / spandex
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guh-table__imageOutdoor Research Transcendent
  • Type: Beanie
  • Head circumference: 21.5" - 24"
  • Fabrics: 20D polyester & 650-fill-power goose down insulation
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guh-table__imageTrailHeads hat with drop-down fleece
  • Type: Ball cap with visor and ear flaps
  • Head circumference: 23" - 24"
  • Fabrics: 94% polyester & 6% spandex
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guh-table__imageRandy Sun
  • Type: Beanie
  • Head circumference: 21.5" - 23.5"
  • Fabrics: Acrylic & polyurethane & polyester
Check Latest Price →
guh-table__imageCamoland full set hat
  • Type: Beanie with visor, scarf, and ear flaps
  • Head circumference: 22" - 23.5"
  • Fabrics: 30% wool & 70% acrylic
Check Latest Price →

#1 Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Beanie

outdoor research beanie

Coming from an award-winning brand, you can be sure this cozy beanie will keep your noggin toasty. Thanks to its premium fabrics and ultralight design, the close-fitting hat offers weightless warmth. Furthermore, it’s durable and repels water and wind extremely well. If you’re looking for a light and well-insulated hat for cold temperatures, that’s the one. Check it out!

  • Hands-down the lightest beanie on the market. Coming with a stuff sack  
  • Provides fantastic insulation keeping your noggin warm
  • Water-resistant and wind-resistant
  • Compressible and elastic enough to cover your ears and back of neck
  • Doesn’t breathe too well, but it’s OK if you don’t sweat a ton  
  • A bit tight around the temple

Always caring about innovation and striving to offer products of the highest quality possible, Outdoor Research put a lot of thought into this beanie. Just imagine yourself chilling in your hammock with it.

This is a unisex hat. It comes in two sizes – S/M and L/XL. The head circumference is designed to fit all sizes – 21.5” – 24”. There’s room for a ponytail or a bun too, which makes it great for ladies. One of the most important pros about this hat is its weight.

Outdoor Research claims that this is the lightest beanie on the market. Is that true? I’d say it is. With a weight of only 1 oz or 29 grams, this is will undoubtedly be the lightest item on your winter hiking gear checklist. Or on your lightweight gear list, for that matter.

This hat is extremely well-insulated and retains heat exactly where you need it the most – on your head. You feel warm and cozy even when the temperatures are subarctic. That’s because of the advanced fabrics used.

The beanie contains 650-fill-power goose down insulation. Confused already? Let me explain. Fill power is a rating system for goose and duck down.

It’s presented with numbers, and it measures the loft of a down product. In Laymen’s terms, the higher the number, the warmer the product will be for its weight. In our case, 650 is higher than the average. You will immediately feel the warmth after putting the beanie on.

This hat also has excellent weatherproofing specifications. It’s made out of 20D rugged polyester, which repels water and wind quite good.  And that’s confirmed by many buyers who wear it.

The beanie will cover your ears and will go down on your neck. Isn’t that what you need on cold hikes? What’s nice is that the hat is elastic on the back and stretchy enough.

It forms your head quite well, allowing you to pull it up or down depending on how you want to wear it. It doesn’t just give you a stylish look, but it also provides flexibility.

A cool addition to the hat is the included stuff sack. It’s neatly sewn-in on the inside. It allows you to keep your beanie compressed in it for better organization and carry. You can put it in your backpack or clip it on the outside. You can also use it as a stash pocket. Very convenient!

#2 Arc'teryx Rho LTW Beanie

Arc'teryx rho ltw wool beanie

Stylish and perfectly suitable for cold-weather pursuits, the RHO LTW beanie succeeds in combining warmth and breathability. Having a slim fit, you’ll be able to slip the beanie underneath a hood. The hat is very well constructed and stretchy enough to sit good on larger heads. The materials are supreme, but we can’t expect any different from a reputable brand like Arc’teryx. See it!

  • High level of breathability
  • Moisture-wicking and quick-drying
  • Premium materials (merino wool and spandex) for enhanced comfort and warmth
  • Offers fantastic (slim) fit and you can easily add extra layer on top for extra protection from the elements
  • Not so wind-resistant
  • Might be too thin to wear in extremely cold weather. Consider adding an additional layer such as a hoodie, if that’s the case.

Say hi to a unisex, one size fits all hat that gives you good looks. But let’s not judge a book by its cover.

Often regarded as one of the warmest beanie fleece on the market, the RHO LWT beanie is a blend of merino wool and spandex. I’d say this is an ideal mixture of fabrics for a winter hat.

The combination of natural (merino wool) and synthetic (spandex) fibers makes the RHO LWT heat-retaining, while at the same time it’s breathable and moisture-wicking.

The cool thing about the merino wool is that it keeps you warm even when you’re wet. And the spandex adds durability and stretchiness. 

That’s convenient when you go on strenuous hikes, and you sweat. Verified buyers reported that the beanie controls your temperature very well. In addition, the moisture dries quickly, which enhances your comfort along the way.

The hat is very soft to the skin. It doesn’t feel itchy, and it doesn’t peel easily. It’s elastic, and people with big heads find it quite comfy. It also stays steadily on your head, without any shifting.

The double layered ear band is made out of polyester fleece. You will quickly feel the extra insulation and warmth that it offers. Besides, it dries quickly so you dry quickly when you are wet.

Last, but not least, the beanie is not bulky, weighting only 1.12 oz. or 32 grams.

#3 TrailHeads Ball Cap With Drop-Down Fleece

trailheads trailblazer ball cap

Click image for more details.

This is an incredibly warm hat with a curved bill that protects you from the sun and the elements. But wait! It also has an innovative drop-down fleece. It means you can pull it down when needed and guess what – you have a nice cover on your neck and ears that shields you from the wind and the cold. Many hikers praise this ball cap for its outstanding fit and phenomenal feel. Check it out!

  • Drop-down fleece protects your ears and neck when needed
  • Thermal and reflective
  • Slightly water-resistant
  • Provides very comfortable and stable fit thanks to the stretchy inner band
  • Because of the bill, the cap can’t be folded and put in a pocket
  • Only one color available - black

TrailHeads is a small family-owned company established in 2002 in Kent, Connecticut. That’s a town located very near to the Appalachian Trail. Thanks to the quality outdoor and running gear they produced, their reputation has quickly grown since then.

The TrailHeads Trailblazer Adventure hat is a men’s one size fits all ball cap. But TrailHeads have a hat for the ladies too. You can check it out at Amazon. Women hikers report that the hat is super comfy for ponytails or braids.

Made out of water-resistant plush polyester and elastic spandex, you’ll love this cap because of its versatility. When the weather suddenly gets rough, you can pull down the folding flap and cover your neck and ears.

In that way you will feel warm and cozy. And that’s the best feeling you could get on cold blistery days. When needed, you can also fold the ear flaps inside the cap.

The 3” curved bill is very handy too. It protects your eyes and face from the sun but also from snow or rain. That’s very practical when you happen to be out in bad weather.

The material is skin-friendly and you won’t experience any itching or discomfort whatsoever. The inner band is elastic, which enhances comfort and makes the hat suitable for heads of different sizes. The circumference is 23” - 24” or 58.4cm – 61 cm.

And if you care about your safety, you won’t be disappointed. TrailHeads included a reflective strip on the brim. It enhances visibility in low-light situations.

That hat is very stable while at the same time doesn’t feel tight. It has a stylish look. Unfortunately, it comes only in one color – black. The size is 3.5 oz. or 99 grams.

What we hikers appreciate a lot is a good warranty on any gear we buy. Luckily, TrailHeads have a cast-iron guarantee for their products. You can return and replace the hat and get your money back any time. Isn’t that great?

#4 Randy Sun Waterproof Beanie

randy sun waterproof beanie

Click image for more details.

Beautifully knitted and completely waterproof and windproof, Randy Sun is also reasonably priced. The high-class fabrics efficiently block the cold and the elements keeping you warm and safe even on freezing days. Plus, the hat breathes very well, evaporating the sweat before you notice it. Randy Sun is an amazing beanie that combines style with effectiveness.

  • Waterproof, sunproof, and windproof
  • Warm and at the same time highly breathable (one buyer reports that he’s doing morning runs in -25C with no issues)
  • Anti-static interior fleece doesn’t mess up your hair
  • Beautiful hand-knitted design and multiple color options
  • Somewhat bulky
  • Could be a little tight on large heads

Suitable for both men and women Randy Sun is ideal to wear on cold winter hikes. It comes in two sizes – medium and large. It’s stretchy and with an elastic band to provide a great fit for every noggin.

Thanks to the three-layer construction, Randy Sun is proven to be waterproof and windproof. Hikers who own the hat report that it does an amazing job in blocking external moisture. Tested in pouring rain, the beanie successfully repels water molecules from penetrating on the inside.

And that’s not a surprise given the waterproof acrylic on the outer shell. It will keep you dry on rainy days. The hat also resist wind, which makes huge difference when you reach that mountain top or tall hill and want to enjoy the view unobstructed.

The middle layer of the hat is made out of solid polyurethane. This contributes to the waterproofness but also makes that beanie breathable, durable, and lightweight.

If you hike on technical terrains with high elevation gain, you inevitably sweat. In such cases, the breathability of a hat is something that you shouldn’t overlook. And Randy Sun offers just that.

It keeps your head comfortably warm while at the same time allows it to breathe so that the moisture evaporates quickly.

But the advantages don’t stop here:

  • The fleece interior is anti-static. It means that it doesn’t mess up your hair when you wear it. If you care for your looks when outdoors, you’ll definitely love this beanie.
  • The lining of the beanie is made of polyester that protects you from the harmful UV sunrays.

You will also notice that the coloration and design of the hat are modish. That combined with the soft and warm feel it provides while protecting you from the elements makes it a fantastic choice for hiking.

#5 Smartwool Merino 250 Cuffed Beanie

smartwool merino cuffed beanie

Click image to see more details.

It’s almost unbelievable how warm and cozy this beanie, is given how thin and lightweight it is. Wanna know why? It’s because of the premium merino wool. It offers that breathable warmth you need on cold, extensive hikes. With a minimalistic design, the beanie is well-insulated, and features a roll cuff to protect your ears from the cold. See for yourself!

  • Moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating, and odor repellent
  • Provides warm, next-to-skin feeling thanks to the high-quality merino wool fabric
  • Lightweight and double knitted design for enhanced insulation
  • Roll cuff ear band allows you to cover your ears when needed
  • Could be too thin for cold-natured individuals. Luckily, it allows you to add a second layer thanks to the bulk-free fit.
  • Could be a little tight for large heads

Smartwool is a reputable company that revolutionized winter gear by introducing the merino wool ski socks in 1994.

The founders were surprised to discover that merino was a highly performing fabric for active sportswear during winter. You can find it in a variety of winter outdoor cloth wear, including hiking leggings, for example.

The 250 cuffed beanie is made out of 100 percent of this natural fiber. It’s a one size, unisex hat. Weighting only 1.06 oz or 30 grams, you will love just how warm and soft this buddy is.

The fit is not loose and not tight. If needed, you can roll down the cuff on the ear band. In that way, the hat will cover your ears and part of your neck. The soft material hugs your head, insulating it to the point that you don’t feel any cold.

The double knitting also provides bulk-free fit. The hat is not as bulky as #4 on our list - the Randy Sun beanie. That allows you to put a hoodie on easily in case the temperatures are extremely low.

Want to know more cool stuff?

The merino wool is moisture-wicking and offers next-to-skin comfort. It doesn’t only keep away the sweat, but you won’t feel any itching or irritation. Some beanies made out of synthetic wool are not so comfy in that regard because the textile irritates your skin. Not the merino.

The nature of the fabric is such that it also dries quickly. It is also odor repellent. You’d agree that having a smelly head or hat is not pleasant.

The cuffed 250 beanie is also water-resistant. It’s not as waterproof as other hats on this list, but it successfully holds up to drizzle. And even then, you feel warm.

#6 Camoland Scarf Set Beanie With Visor And Ear Flaps

camoland benaie with scarf

Click to see more details.

Packed with cool features, Camoland is the cheapest beanie on our list. But don’t get fooled! Cheap doesn’t equal poor quality. Not at all. The combination of wool and acrylic will make you feel toasty warm. And when the cold wind starts to howl you can use the suppressible ear flaps and the cozy scarf to shield your neck or face. Don’t miss checking this great finding out!

  • Features a warm scarf that can be used as a face mask to protect you on blistery days
  • Suppressible ear flaps for enhanced protection against cold
  • Provides breathable warmth thanks to the acrylic and wool fabrics
  • Super affordable
  • Somewhat bulky
  • Not water-resistant because it contains synthetic wool

If you are looking for a budget-friendly beanie and you don’t want to sacrifice price for quality, the Camoland is the top choice for you. 

Experienced hikers call this scarf set beanie a “surprisingly great find” and a “wonderful warm hat”.  It provides a really snug fit thanks to the blend of soft wool and breathable acrylic.

The best thing about it?

Camoland features some really nice add-ons that make it stand out from other hats on our list:

  • It comes with a fleecy scarf you can use to cover your face or neck on very cold days.
  • It has soft foldable ear flaps that retain heat. When it’s not so cold, you can fold them up for a better ventilation.
  • The 2.3” visor shields your eyes against snow, rain or the glaring sun rays.

The fleece lining on the inside is skin-friendly. You won’t experience itching as reported by many hikers who use the beanie. One small downside is that it’s a bit bulky. For example, it’s not ultralight as #1 on our list – the Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Beanie.

It will take space in your hiking pack unless you have an extra-large backpack. However, this is not really a deal breaker if you want a warm beanie scarf set.

Camoland is suitable for both men and women and it is a one size fits all hat. The total weight of the set including the scarf is 6.7 oz. or 189 grams. You can pair it with a warm pair of winter leggings and you will be good to go the Antarctic! 

#7 REI Co-op Swiftland Hat

rei co op swiftland ball cap hat

Offering superior comfort and advanced insulation, the REI Co-op Swiftland hat has been a top-rated bestseller for quite some time. This unisex hat efficiently repels rain, snow, and wind. It’s super well insulated and breathable thanks to the premium soft-shell fabric with brushed fleece back that keeps you warm. As a bonus, it has foldable ear flaps and a crushable visor.

  • Full weatherproof insulation against all elements for maximum protection, including crushable visor for easier packing
  • Incredible warmth thanks to the nylon/spandex insulation and the fleece lining
  • Foldable fleece ear flaps and stretchy fabric to cover the back of your neck on chilly days
  • Extremely lightweight and bulk-free fit that you can easily adjust thanks to the webbing strap with buckle closure
  • Might be a bit tight for bigger heads and require some break-in time
  • No color options except black

Fellow hikers call this hat “a crucial part of their winter equipment” on cold morning Colorado hikes. The first thing you’ll notice is how lightweight it is.

The bulk-free fit allows you not only to make the most out of your ultralight hiking trip. The 4-inch visor that protects your face and eyes (glasses) from the elements is crushable. That makes the hat easy to pack in a backpack or even in a jacket pocket. No other hat on our list has this feature.

You risk damaging most hats with visor if you decide to fold them because you can break the brim. Well, not with this one, and that’s a small but nice benefit.

But the Rei Co-op hat excels mostly at two major aspects:

  • Weatherproof insulation
  • Warmth and breathability

The advanced nylon and spandex fabric of the hat is not only lightweight, but has a double-layer insulation against water.

The cap easily holds up to rain, keeping your noggin toasty and dry. Even when you’re damp, you feel warm. One of the reasons for that is the moisture wicking sweatband that dries quickly.

rei co op insulated waterproof hat

The reflective trim, the ponytail loop, and the adjustable webbing strap are some of the coolest features of this hat.

In case the weather is super cold, you have the option to make use of the ear flaps. They have a warm fleece lining and you can fold them in less chilly days.

For further insulation, you can pull down the elastic fabric on the lower side of the hat to cover your neck. The low-profile fit is snug and comfy. Your head is entirely hugged without feeling tight.

Fellow hikers report that they feel comfortable hiking with the hat in temperatures down to 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

The hat is unisex and comes in one size. Conveniently, it has a ponytail port for those of you with long hair. The ball cap is stretchy and accommodates large heads. The circumference is 21.5” – 23.5” or 55 - 60 cm.

Last but not least, the reflective trim keeps you visible when the light is weak.

#8 Marmot Shadows Hat

Marmot shadows hat

We tested this hat, and honestly it amazed us. The Shadows beanie from Marmot offers clean design and awesome functionality. It’s lightweight, very durable, and keeps your head warm even when you’re sweaty. Plus, it’s elastic enough to cover your ears and part of your neck on those cold days when you need just that. Be sure to check out this popular beanie!

  • Clean, stylish design and good color choice
  • Lightweight and elastic construction provides slim fit that covers your ears and back of neck
  • Breathable and moisture-wicking
  • Keeps your head warm and toasty even when you sweat thanks to the micro-fleece head band
  • Could be too large for folks with small or medium-sized heads and looks dorky. The workaround is to pull it down from behind to cover your neck and years.
  • No color options except black

I went on a cold morning hike in November, wearing the Shadows hat. I am familiar with Marmot products and I already had great expectations.

I urge saying that in most aspects this hat delivered pretty well. It’s advertised as a men’s model but my wife Galina likes it too and it looks quite good on her. It's yet another reason that it made it to this list of the best winter hats.

I really like my Marmot Shadows beanie even though it’s a bit large for me.

My first impression was that it wasn’t bulky at all and I liked that. I like to pack my hats in my Osprey day pack or in a jacket, and I hate when they take too much space or just feel big.

The Marmot weighs only 2 oz. or 56 grams. It’s not as lightweight as the Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Beanie, but still it doesn’t fill heavy on your head or when packed.

The hat is made out of 70 percent acrylic and 30 percent wool. Being hydrophobic, the acrylic repels water and is also moisture-wicking. There was a slight drizzle for about half an hour when I started to hike and the beanie held up very well. I didn’t feel any moisture penetrating from the outside.

The tight stitching makes the beanie somewhat wind resistant too. My noggin was very well insulated and warm throughout the entire trip. The head band lining contains micro-fleece that’s very soft and cozy.

After a strenuous ascent, I started to sweat. Even then my head didn’t feel musty or moist. The breathability level is awesome. In the end of the hike, I didn’t notice any bad smell either. Thanks to the bulk-free fit, I can add an extra layer on top of it if needed. 

The beanie is stretchy, and it can easily cover my ears and back of neck. I can protect my entire forehead too if I want to. All in all, it looks very nice and has Marmot’s branded logo in front.

Now, a few words about the fit. This is a one size hat. I have a medium-sized head and the hat is somewhat large for me. In order not to look stupid with it, I need to pull it down to cover my ears and neck.

That’s the only way the hat can hug my noggin completely. Otherwise it stays a little dorky because it is sort of too tall on the upper part.

With that being said, I’m very satisfied with my Marmot and I totally understand why it’s a bestselling model.

5 Key-Features To Look After When Choosing Your Winter Hat For Hiking

In this section, you will find out what the most important factors you need to consider are in order to get yourself the best winter hat. No matter if it’s for you or you’re rather looking for a hiking gift, please continue reading.

Don’t overlook those and you will be sure to invest your money well. Let’s start by the most important element. As you’ll see, it dictates all other significant characteristics.

#1 Fabrics

Do you know why the materials on a winter hat are so darn important?

Because they define its overall performance. The fabrics on a hiking hat for cold weather are crucial for the following aspects:

  • Warmth and insulation
  • Breathability
  • Protection against the elements such as rain, snow, wind, and UV sun rays
  • Durability
  • Ability to wick moisture and dry quickly

Which are the most commonly used fabrics in cold-weather hats? Let’s first see which ones to avoid.

Attention! 3 Fabrics To Avoid

Let’s start with a well-known fiber.


While it’s rare to see quality winter sportswear containing cotton, it happens. This fabric is unsuitable for headwear simply because it absorbs moisture.

But it doesn’t evaporate it. When you hike, chances are you’ll sweat. The last thing you want is to find yourself with a soaking wet head for a long time. Besides being not pleasant, you risk catching cold in brisk weather.

Standard Polyester

You don’t necessarily need to avoid hats made out of polyester. In fact, some beanies and ball caps on our list that people love partially contain that textile. It’s aggressively used in sportswear because it’s more breathable than cotton and dries quicker.

However, it might not be the best choice for extensive hikes, especially if it’s the main material on your hat. That’s because it stinks and it doesn’t breathe as well as other fabrics. So, in the end, your expensive hat might chafe you.

If you’re on a strenuous hiking trip, it might not be the best option to have a hat entirely made of polyester. That said, that fabric is not a bad choice for easy day hikes that don’t require much physical effort; when you’re out on a first date, for example, and you don’t have to pick difficult trails.

Traditional Wool

While it may be unarguably warm, traditional wool is heavy, it itches, and could take days to dry. You’ll find many winter hats made of knitted wool. It’s better to avoid those as they are the preferred choice in an urban lifestyle.

Now that we identified the fabrics you need to stay away from when choosing a winter backpacking hat, let’s see which are the best ones.

3 High-Performing Fabrics On Cold Weather Hats

The first one is probably the best one.

Merino Wool

Merino is a revolutionary solution for winter sports clothing. It doesn’t have the disadvantages that many other fabrics hide.

Merino wool is a natural fiber that makes high performing winter sportswear.

This is a natural fiber that’s insanely warm, breathable, and lightweight. We hikers love it because it’s also moisture-wicking and dries fast. Besides, it drives away bad smells. One of the most incredible qualities of the merino wool is that it thermoregulates our temperature.

It keeps us warm in chilly weather and cool in the heat. It’s also very soft to the skin and doesn’t feel itchy. Hats containing merino wool on our list are #2 Arc'teryx Bird Head Toque Beanie, #5 Smartwool Merino 250 Cuffed Beanie, and #8 Marmot Shadows Hat.

As you might notice, gear made with Merino is a bit more expensive compared to others. Believe me it’s totally worth it, though. For instance, most high-quality winter hiking tights, contain merino wool tool as they are used as a base layer or mid-layer.


Acrylic is a synthetic fabric. It’s similar to merino wool but is cheaper. Because of its incredible warmth, it’s often used in sweaters. Why it’s a great material for hiking hats? Because it’s hydrophobic. It repels water, absorbs moisture, and then evaporates it quickly. It has good weather-resistant qualities.

Check out the infographic below that showcases how acrylic is made.

how is acrylic fiber made

Image via naturalclothing.com

It’s also lightweight and skin-friendly. Moreover, it’s easy to wash and is very stretchable. The high-class hats for winter sports contain a combination of merino wool and acrylic. You’ll find that many hats on our list contain a blend of these two materials.


Many reliable brands use this synthetic fiber on their hats. It adds strength to the final product. Besides, polyurethane is highly water-resistant.

For instance, #4 Randy Sun Waterproof Beanie has polyurethane on its middle shell. That makes it quite waterproof and durable. And as we’ll see below, that’s not something you don’t want to overlook if you’re a serious hiker.

#2 Protection Against The Elements

We all know weather could be unpredictable, especially in winter. Here’s why choosing a weatherproof hat makes a lot of sense. The best winter hats out there are weatherproof. 

If the temperatures are freezing, you can quickly solve that by adding another layer below for warmth. Or you can make use of the ear flaps (if available) and pull down your hat to cover the back of your neck.

hikers hiking in winter

What’s essential, though, is that you make sure your beanie or cap is water and wind-resistant. Don’t worry, we got you covered. Most of the hats on our list are. Some reinforced models are #4 Randy Sun Waterproof Beanie, #1 Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Beanie, and #7 REI Co-op Swiftland Ball Cap.

Since you’re hiking in winter, it’s acceptable to not pay attention whether your hat has UV protection or not. Of course, it’s a nice bonus, but far from being essential.

What’s more important is how you will protect your glasses if you have vision issues and you’re not hiking with contact lenses. In that case, it’s strongly advised to consider picking a beanie with a visor.

Such hats on our list are #3 TrailHeads Ball Cap With Drop-Down Fleece, #6 Camoland Scarf Set Beanie With Visor And Ear Flaps, and #7 REI Co-op Insulated Waterproof Hat.

#3 Durability

You might be thinking – it’s just a hat.  It’s not some fancy hiking gadget. And it’s not such a considerable financial investment like your backpacking rucksack, for example. It’s not nearly as crucial. Therefore, it’s natural to put “durability” at the bottom of your list of features to consider when buying a winter beanie.

That’s OK.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the last thing you would think about when choosing a hat. Just make sure you don’t forget it. Because it’s probably more important than you think.

You’ll be surprised how many hats end up damaged after just several washing cycles. Hats from cheap brands generally wear out quickly and are prone to shrinkage and pilling.

That’s why it’s recommended to avoid shabby, unknown brands. If after all you choose one, make sure to do a proper research and read reviews.

#4 Warmth

Yes, that’s a no-brainer. As already mentioned, the quality of the fabrics determines the level of warmth of your hat.

Caps and beanies made of merino wool and acrylic are generally the warmest. Polyester and nylon hats with fleece lining are warm but weatherproof. However, they don’t breathe too well.

hiker setting a camp fire

Are you a cold-natured individual? What temperatures and weather conditions are you going to be exposed to on your hike? Will it be an easy trail or a challenging one where you expect to sweat a lot?

The answers to these questions will help you narrow down your choice. Here’s an example of a possible train of thought: If you are sensitive to cold temperatures, then maybe you’d want to go with a merino wool and acrylic hat.

That’d be a good choice also if you make your hikes difficult and you sweat a lot. Those fabrics are highly breathable and moisture wicking. Such a hat will come in handy if you have additional kilos or if your fitness level is not that good.

On the contrary, if you mostly do easy day hikes and you insist on good weather insulation, go with a polyester hat. Those on our list are super warm because they have a fleece lining. They are not as breathable as merino hats, though. But that wouldn’t be a deal breaker if you don’t sweat a ton.

Furthermore, if you’re adventurous and hike in freezing weather, consider a hat with foldable ear flaps and a face mask or scarf.

You get the idea. Let’s move on.

#5 The Fit (Know Your Head Circumference)

For ease of use, most hats are unisex and one size fits all. Besides, they are elastic so that they fit most head sizes. However, on some occasions you will find that beanies (or caps) come in different proportions – small, medium, large or extra-large.

That’s why it’s possible that your hat won’t fit you if you don’t pay attention to the size and the mentioned head circumference.

Usually, the manufacturer notes that in the specifications. For example, the head circumference of the Outdoor Research Down Transcendent Beanie is 21.5 – 22.8 inches for the S/M size and 23 – 24 inches for the L/XL size.

But how do you measure your head circumference? Grab a measuring tape. Wrap around your head, 1/8” above the ears and across your eyebrows. Note where both ends of the tape meet and there you have it – your very own head size!

Since we humans learn more easily through visual demonstration, watch the video below that demonstrates, what I’ve just written.

If you’re between sizes, go with the larger one if you want to have a looser fit. Conversely, choose the smaller size if you want a tighter fit.

Staying Toasty And Cozy No Matter What (3 Easy Tips)

Sometimes winter could be furious. I bet there were times when you were hiking and you felt like being in the movie “Ice Age”. It happened to me several times.

According to science, keeping our heads warm keeps our bodies warm. Here’s how to fight off the cold and keep your noggin warm, no matter the external factors.

  • Use layers – just like winter outfit layering, layers on your head can immensely help in keeping you toasty. Insulate yourself with a warm hat and then use an outer shell such as a hoodie.
  • Use warm add-ons – if your hat doesn’t have ear flaps, consider getting yourself a fleece ear band. A scarf or the so-called neck gaiters are a wonderful choice to add extra insulation on your neck or face. If the weather is hardcore – you better go hardcore too. Use a balaclava to cover your nose and lips.
  • Avoid hiking with wet head or hair – sweat moisture on your head will keep you cold, especially if your beanie is not very breathable and moisture-wicking. If possible, on intensive hikes slow down your pace when you’re getting too hot. Take off your hat, allow your head to air. In that way, you will also preserve your energy. A good approach is to bring a small kerchief or towel to dry your hair.

Now let's see how to take care of your hat.

Cleaning And Maintenance Of Your Winter Hiking Hat

A good practice is to read the care label and pay attention to the washing symbols. In general, if you want to be extra-careful, you can hand-wash your beanie or cap. It’s not a big garment, after all.

However, we all know that this is not an effortless task. Plus, it takes time. Luckily, most fabrics can be machine-washed under certain conditions.

Let’s take the merino wool, for example. It’s a very delicate fabric. Since it contains woven fibers, chemicals could get caught in them, making the wool look unnatural and worn out. A best practice is to hand-wash it using a detergent solution and cool water. Use soft cloth to take care of stains.

As much as you want to, avoid wringing out the hat. This could shrink the material. Don’t use bleach and fabric softeners at any cost. Let it air dry. If the label says that you can machine-wash your hat, use a gentle cycle and cool temperature (30 degrees). Most washing machines have wool setting. Use it.

Note that since merino wool is naturally antibacterial, it doesn’t require as regular washing as other materials. It successfully drives away odors.

Other materials, such as acrylic and polyester, could easily be washed mechanically. Acrylic is prone to pilling and shrinkage in high temperatures. Just use a gentle cycle, cold temperature, and just like with the merino, don’t use chemical softeners. Avoid ironing.


Are all winter hats waterproof?

What’s best – a beanie or a ball cap?

How do I make sure that the hat will fit me?

Are the hats on the list unisex?

How can I wash my hat?


That was our list presenting you with the best winter hats. Now you have a comprehensive guide that will help you choose the best hat for cold weather adventures. No matter if you’re a guy or gal, we hope that the information provided will help you make a more informative choice.

We made sure to include bestselling beanies that are proven to perform well when the temperatures are low. They will not only protect you from the elements, but will also give you the good looks. And let’s face it, we all like that! So take your snow shovel and have some fun. And don't forget to share your hike on Instagram.

What is your go-to-choice for a winter hat? Leave a comment below, and help others!

best winter hiking hats

Asen Stoyanchev

Founder of this website, Asen is a passionate hiker and writer who is also a gear nerd. He’s been featured on many established hiking websites where he gives hiking advice & tips. When he is not trekking with his family or friends, he is writing articles and product reviews. Asen spends most of his time in Bulgaria but he constantly travels the world in seek of more unforgettable experiences. Read more about Asen here.

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  • November 16, 2020
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
John - November 24, 2020

I like to spend time outdoors even in the cold weather. My current hat is just a woven wool hat that does cover my head. It does not repel water or keep my head dry when I sweat.
My choice after reading your article is the Smartwool Merino 250 Cuffed Beanie. Even though it is slightly over the budget that I would normally spend on a headcover, I think it is the best choice for me at this time.
Do they make a matching set of gloves for this hat?

    Asen - November 24, 2020

    Hi John,

    The Smartwool Merino 250 cuffed beanie is a fantastic choice. It’s super warm, lightweight, and breathable. Unfortunately, I’m not sure whether Smartwool offer matching gloves or mittens.


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