Regulating temperature is one of the easiest ways to stay comfortable when out in the countryside. I see people in the hills all the time who seem to think the US-style baseball cap is the answer to head gear, while others refuse to take a hat with them at all – perhaps they worry about messing their hair up!
The truth about hats and hills is you should always have one with you when you’re near one. Putting a hat on your head is the simplest way to maintain a good core temperature. Likewise taking it off if you’re getting too warm is sensible too. I invariably have a hat handy all the time when I’m walking – it’s either on my head, or in a pocket ready to put on my head.
I’m no big fan of baseball caps either. Perhaps in the summer they are useful for shading you from the sun, but when it’s cold you need something warm.
I’ve got a lot of hats:- an old fleece balaclava; a thin silk balaclava; a Thinsulate bobble hat that I bought from a petrol station for £2; two woolly jobs from North Ronaldsay; two lovely Shetland hand-knitted pieces that were created by Emily Poleson AKA http://shetlandhandknitter.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/and-some-more-hats-i-have-designed-and-handknitted/; an LED hat for use at night that was sent to me by http://ledbeaniehats.co.uk/ – you get the picture. Lots of hats.
I used to have a Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap, which for a few years I thought was great. For a mountain guide and instructor hoods on jackets can be a bit limiting – you can’t see around you very well, or hear what your clients are saying when you’ve got a hood up – so having a waterproof hat on your head instead made a lot of sense, unless the weather was really, really vile, in which case it just had to be hood up. This particular hat found me. I was with a group up at the Feith Buidhe on the Cairngorm plateau one winter. Plenty of snow, and quite windy too. I was doing some instruction, probable ice axe arrests or something, when a bright red thing hurled across the frozen wastes and hit me in the chest. It was the Mountain Cap – obviously blown off some poor person’s head, but looking very new and like it had never been worn. Apart from my own group, there was nobody else about, so the Mountain Cap became mine.
Three years later, I was back up on the Cairngorm plateau, and still sporting my slightly sad and faded trusty Mountain Cap. We had been doing some winter navigation practice around Garbh Uisge Beag and were just starting to head north to make our way down the Goat Track and off the mountain. It was one of those breezy days you get up there, when an occasional gust can take you completely by surprise and flatten the whole group to the ground. On one of those pummellings, I stood up as the wind eased to find that my Mountain Cap had blown off my head and vanished across the whiteness. I quickly delved into my rucksack for a spare hat (every mountain leader always has spare hats for such an eventuality!), and we set off again, heading for Coire Domhain. As we walked, I realised that that hat must have blown off within a kilometre of where it had found me three years before. A sort of homecoming I suppose. Bizarre though!
Anyway, these days my hat of choice is always one of Emily Polesons, though I suspect if I wasn’t such a skinflint I’d buy myself another Mountain Cap too. Though obviously I’m just waiting to see if that old one finds me again the next time I’m in the Cairngorms.
I was asked by LED Beannie Hats to write a review of the one they sent me. All I can really say is there’s not a lot to say really! The hat’s comfortable, although by preference I would always go for something more natural feeling. The LEDs certainly are nowhere near bright enough for me to use this hat on the hill – they are fine for illuminating just ahead of you, but not for serious night navigation. Personally, I don’t take this hat out with me, simply because I have an array of warmer, woollier ones to take instead, and as for the LEDs, well my headtorch is always in the bag too, and is an old and trusted friend. So, do I wear the LED Beannie? Well yes, actually, I do. It’s great for dog walking, for bird ringing, for getting under the car to fix something (yes, I know!), and a dozen other situations when I don’t need an ultra-bright light on my head. And to be honest, that’s exactly what LED Beannie tell us this hat is designed for. It’s not intended to be a mountain hat nor a replacement for the old headtorch. Would I pay £25 for one? Honestly, no. If I had £25 burning a hole in my wallet and a pressing urge to spend it on another hat, it would be a Mountain Cap. Sorry LED Beannie!