No matter how high-quality and cozy the rest of our cold-weather hiking getup, neglecting to take care of the “command center” can result in a chilly and uncomfortable day on the trails. Hoods are helpful, sure, but when the mercury plummets and the wind’s howling, a little extra protection can go a long way.
Enter: the hiking beanie!
Unsure what kind of beanie will be best for your adventures? Read on to discover the best beanie hats for all kinds of outdoor activities this year.
Table of Contents
- Top Choices by Category
- Editor’s Choice
- The Best Hiking Beanie: Our Top 7 Picks
- What Makes for the Best Cold-Weather Beanies?
- Best Beanies for Hiking: The Verdict
Top Choices by Category
Budget: Minus33 Merino Ridge Cuff Beanie, The North Face Bones Beanie
Merino: Minus33 Merino Ridge Cuff Beanie, Smartwool Merino 250 Cuffed Beanie, Arc’teryx Rho LTW Beanie
Synthetic: Under Armour Men’s ColdGear Infrared, The North Face Shinsky Beanie, Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon Beanie, The North Face Bones Beanie
Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge Cuff
The Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge Cuff tops our review on account of combining all of the best characteristics you could ask for in a hat for outdoor adventures.
This beanie’s 100% merino wool construction makes it ideal for active pursuits. It’s odor-resistant, wicks away moisture well, is quick-drying, and also warm enough for shoulder-season or winter hiking.
The thing we love most about the Minus 33 is how good it feels against your skin – in terms of comfort, it’s second to none. We also love the adaptability provided by merino wool. When we’re hiking hard, its breathability ensures we don’t overheat. When we stop for a break, however, it provides enough insulation that we can leave the hood on our jacket down.
Bottom Line: If you are looking for the best hat with the most versatile application and comfort in spades, this is the option for you.
At a Glance: Quick Recommendations
Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge Cuff
“Affordable, warm, breathable, and as comfortable as beanies are made!”
Best for Added Warmth:
Under Armour Men’s ColdGear Infrared
“A stylish, cozy, all-fleece beanie that’s ideal for winter hiking.”
Best for Women:
The North Face Shinsky
“A simple, soft acrylic beanie with a deep fit and stylish appearance.”
Smartwool Merino 250 Cuffed
“Chunky merino goodness in a performance-oriented fit.”
Best for Men:
The North Face Bones
“A long-term favorite of hikers and skiers everywhere.”
Best for Moisture-Wicking:
Arc’teryx Rho LTW
“Ultralight and geared toward high-output pursuits.”
Best for Wind-Resistance:
Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon
“Ideal for three-season or winter hiking.”
The Best Hiking Beanie: Our Top 7 Picks
Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge CuffBest Overall
Fabric: 100% 18.5-Micron Merino Wool (230 g/m2) ⸱ Gender: Unisex
The Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge Cuff is a wooly wonder of a hat that’s ideal for all kinds of 3-season and 4-season adventures.
The Minus33 is made from 100% 18.5-micron merino wool with a weight of 230 g/m2. In layman’s terms, this means it’s slightly thicker than your average lightweight merino baselayer.
This all-merino construction makes the Minus33 odor-resistant, quick-drying, moisture-wicking, thermoregulatory (keeps you warm when temps are cool and vice versa), and extremely comfortable.
Weighing in at just 2.4 ounces, the Minus33 also offers an outstanding warmth-to-weight ratio, making it ideal for throwing in your pack just in case and maybe the best backpacking beanie out there.
It’s also worth noting that this beanie is machine washable and has a UPF rating of 50+.
- Extremely comfortable
- Covers the ears
- Multiple colors available
- 100% merino
- Double layered for added warmth
- Single sizing
Bottom-Line: The Minus’s super-cozy all-merino construction makes it a great pick for three-season outings and winter wanders in even the most frigid conditions.
Under Armour Men’s ColdGear InfraredBest for Added Warmth
Fabric: 100% Fleece ⸱ Gender: Male
Under Armour’s ColdGear beanie is a toasty-warm, low-cost option that’s ideal for male adventurers.
The ColdGear’s unique selling point is the ColdGear Infrared technology that Under Armour integrates into the design. This material uses a thermo-conductive inner coating that is soft and comfortable and, most importantly, absorbs your body heat, allowing you to retain it for longer.
The ColdGear is made slightly larger and is mostly suitable for men. It uses a traditional shape with a cuff at the bottom that acts as an ear band for the lower portion of your dome.
While not as breathable as some merino options, this one’s 100% polyester, brush fleece materials make it superbly soft to the touch, as cozy as they come, and a great choice for buyers on a budget who don’t want to compromise on warmth.
- ColdGear technology retains your body heat
- Cuff is an ear band
- Comfortable brushed fleece
- Single sizing means it’s more suitable for men only
Bottom-Line: If you need a low-cost option that will keep you warm in any weather, the Under Armour ColdGear deserves a place very near the top of your shortlist!
The North Face ShinskyBest for Women
Fabric: 100% Acrylic Knit ⸱ Gender: Female
The Shinsky Beanie is a kinda cool-looking cuffed beanie that doesn’t offer the same performance as some of the other options in our review but scores highly as regards comfort and style.
Unlike the two products listed above, this beanie hat doesn’t sit as tightly to the top of the head. Instead, it uses a slightly floppy design with a deep-fitting base which means it is more adaptable. When temps are really low, you can pull the cuff right down over your ears and the back of your dome. When they pick up, you can roll it up to let a little air in.
This hat is made with an acrylic knit that’s long-lasting and a sure bet to keep your head warm all winter. It is primarily designed for women, so the sizing is slightly smaller than unisex or male products. However, it also has a knitted pattern that’s more attractive than many unisex options and is sold in three different colors.
- Durable acrylic knit
- Deep-fitting base provides more adjustability
- Attractive knit pattern
- Smaller sizing makes it better suited to women only
- Material not as high-wicking or breathable as merino
Bottom-Line: With a deep-fitted and highly versatile design that’s also warm and aesthetically pleasing, the North Face Shinsky’s a winner for buyers who want adequate insulation without sacrificing appearance or style.
Smartwool Merino 250 CuffedRunner Up
Fabric: 100% Merino ⸱ Gender: Unisex
Smartwool Merino 250 Cuffed Beanie is a lightweight, stylish, cozy, durable, and snug option that’s perfectly suited for all-day use on just about any kind of adventure.
This beanie hat is made to cover the ears and uses a cuffed design that provides more adjustability in varying temperatures.
This cuffed beanie is made from low-micron merino, which means it’s itch-free, incredibly soft and comfortable, and boasts all the oft-quoted attributes of merino products – it’s odor-resistant, breathable, thermoregulatory, high-wicking, and quick-drying.
This beanie is very similar to the winner of our review, the Minus33 Ridge Cuff Beanie, but retails at a slightly higher price. The only significant difference between the two is that the Smartwool option is slightly thicker and, thus, a better bet for cooler conditions.
- 100% merino wool
- 2-year warranty
- Double knitting reduces bulk
- Warm enough for winter
- Only one size option
Bottom-Line: An extra-warm, superbly comfortable 100% merino wool beanie that’s ideal for all winter outdoor activities.
The North Face BonesBest for Men
Fabric: 100% Polyester ⸱ Gender: Male
The NF Bones Beanie is another great option for lovers of the supple softness and outstanding cold-weather performance of fleece.
The hat is made from 100% recycled fleece and, though it weighs in at a mere 2.8 ounces, offers more than enough warmth for any adventurer who’s not headed to either of the poles or above the 6000-meter mark!
The shape is a classic, cuffless design that covers all of your ears but stops short of sagging into your eyes on the forehead. This shallow design also allows it to snugly shape to your head and retain heat better than its slouchier peers. On the inside, a soft, fleecy earband provides added insulation against cool winds.
- Made from 100% recycled material
- Classic, cuffless design
- Snug, shallow shape
- Will run a bit large for women
Bottom-Line: A super-cozy option that’s lightweight, breathable, and doubles down on insulation around your ears.
Arc’teryx Rho LTWBest for Moisture-Wicking
Fabric: Merino wool and spandex ⸱ Gender: Unisex
The Rho LTW from Arc’teryx is a high-performing beanie designed for more aerobic activities.
Made with a merino wool and spandex combination, the LTW is moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, and more durable than products that use merino alone. The spandex content also means it’s more stretchy, particularly along the bottom, and helps provide a snugger, bad-weather-blocking fit.
This material also helps this outdoor hat remain lightweight, coming in at only 1.1 ounces. A thermal-efficient base with textiles derived from natural fibers also makes it soft and great at maintaining warmth. And while cuffless, the LTW still doubles down on insulation thanks to a cozy headband in the lower portion.
- Double covering headband
- Moisture-wicking and odor-resistant
- Comes only with a single sizing
Bottom-Line: Its moisture-wicking material, light weight, and odor resistance make this wool option one of the best on the block.
Mountain Hardwear Dome PerignonBest for Wind-Resistance
Fabric: Polyester ⸱ Gender: Unisex
True to its name, the Dome Perignon is Dom Perignon of hats for cold and windy days in the mountains.
With an added wind-blocking layer and an extended side that provides full-ear coverage, this one’s ideal for hikers who envision spending a lot of time in blowy conditions or who are particularly concerned about the welfare of their ears.
Engineered to work with a helmet, the DP uses a sleek, low-profile design, fits securely on your head, and maximizes heat retention by hugging your dome all the way around the hem.
Mountain Hardwear sells the DP in six color variations and four sizes ranging from small to extra large. These variations make this the only hat on our list that allows you to ensure you get a dialed-in, precise fit.
- Meant to slide on under a helmet easily
- Variations in sizing
- Very wind-resistant
- Not as breathable as merino
Bottom-Line: With added wind resistance, a snug fit, and a lower cut around the ears, the DP is ideal for windy days in the outdoors.
What Makes for the Best Cold-Weather Beanies?
Before making your purchase, it’s well worth taking a few minutes to look into the specs and features that make one beanie better than the other.
Beanies can be made from several kinds of fabrics. For our money, the best are synthetic materials like polyester fleece or natural fibers like merino wool.
The reason that these materials are the most popular is that they combine all the most desirable characteristics for outdoor pursuits. These include quick-drying capacity, breathability, moisture-wicking capabilities, and, of course, the ability to keep your head warm.
These days, thanks to brands like Smartwool and Icebreaker, merino wool is the most popular fabric in high-performing hiking hats. It’s lightweight, comfortable, highly breathable, and dries very quickly. It’s also naturally odor-resistant and continues to insulate your dome even if it gets wet while you’re hiking.
The only downside to merino is the price, with some models of hat costing twice as much as their synthetic counterparts.
The positive aspect of synthetics over wool is that they are generally more affordable. This is especially true of models made with 100% merino wool. They also tend to dry faster and are more durable.
Whatever material you ultimately choose, you should find one with an antimicrobial treatment. We often don’t think of our heads as being particularly germy, but after wearing something over and over again, it can be surprising how dirty (and stinky!) it becomes.
Most of us wear a winter hat like a beanie to protect ourselves when hiking in cold weather. A lot of heat is lost through your head. Although it isn’t the 45% that researchers assumed in the 1950s, it is still around 10% in cold temperatures. As such, protecting your skull in cold temps should be a priority.
But how do we know if a hat’s warm or not?
The best way to gauge warmth when buying online is to study the specs for the hat’s weight and thickness. Most merino and fleece hats boast a density or weight of 100-400 g/m2 (grams per square meter of material). In short, the higher the number, the heavier, thicker, and warmer the hat will be.
But it isn’t just cold temps we need to be wary of. In any season, strong winds can chill our domes and leave our ears feeling like lumps of ice without the right protection. As such, hats with an added wind-resistant layer, like the double-layer Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon, can make all the difference. Failing that, models that use integrated earbands are the way to go.
Comfort & Fit
All hiking hats perform better when they fit well. With a good, snug fit, they’re less likely to let in cold air and, of course, more likely to stay on your head in high winds.
Many hats are one-size-fits-all or unisex. If you’re concerned about finding a good fit, opt for a hat that is made specifically for your gender—female products are typically slightly smaller than those for men.
For a more precise fit, we recommend choosing a hat with multiple size options. If doing so, hunt down the manufacturer’s sizing guide. Then, measure your head with a tape measure and use your measurement and the chart to decide if you need a small, medium, or large.
Any product meant to accompany you on an outdoor adventure should be durable. One of the best ways to determine this is to look at previous customer reviews to get a handle on how it performs in the longer term.
Another way is to pay close attention to the specs.
Some of the factors and features conducive to long-term durability include double-stitched seams, DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatments, thicker fabrics, and stretchy material like spandex that will help the hat keep its shape.
And some materials are, of course, more durable than others. For example, even a good merino wool hiking hat is likely to get a little “holey” over time, something to which a fleece hat will not be quite so prone. If you’re particularly fond of merino wool, look for a merino-nylon or merino-polyester combo as synthetics typically add durability.
Cuffed and Cuffless Beanies
A cuffed beanie has dramatic foldovers or a “cuff” that you can fold back up and over the lower half of the hat, thereby providing added insulation for your ears. The roll cuff also helps them sit tighter and makes them less prone to sagging over your eyes.
“Cuffless” models are the opposite. As the name suggests (!), they have no cuff but come down across your forehead and stop there. They’re one of the most popular styles out there owing to their light weight and straightforward and low-profile design, which makes them especially well-suited to more active pursuits.
Slouch beanies (aka “hipster beanies”) are one of the only beanies that don’t have any form of cuffing at the brim but are only folded over. They form a slight slouch on the head and are styled backward.
The slouchy style is often used more for fashion than functionality, however, and can sag a little at the back of your dome and on your forehead.
Woven beanies go by many names, including fisherman’s, docker hats, and skull caps. They are similar to cuffed beanies but are much more shallow, so they sit over the middle of your ears and do not normally cover up any of your forehead.
If you are looking for some protection from the elements built into your winter hat, then a brimmed beanie is the way to go. These hats can be made in any other style but include a cap-like brim on the front and sometimes ear flaps on the side. These stop the sun from getting in your eyes and can even be sturdy enough to shield your face from rainwater.
Best Beanies for Hiking: The Verdict
Just in case you’re still undecided, let’s have a quick recap.
Our favorite beanie out there is the Minus33 Ridge Cuff Merino. This hat boasts all the benefits of merino and outperforms the best of the rest in the comfort stakes. Its fair pricing also makes it all the more attractive.
If you need a little more warmth, we recommend the Smartwool 250 or the Under Armour ColdGear Infrared. Both of these are a little thicker and are good for winter hiking in most locations.
Finally, if you’re looking for a lighter hat to pack just in case or for three-season hiking, take a look at the Arc’teryx Rho LTW Beanie. The Rho weighs just 1.1 oz, so will take up very little room in your pack, but provides enough insulation to keep your dom and ears warm on long afternoon descents or faster-paced hikes in the cold season.
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