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Best down hat/hood?
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Nicholas Ward
Best down hat/hood? on 10/19/2013 21:37:59 MDT Print View

Hello all. I'm hoping that someone can help with this gear question. I'm wondering what the best down hat and/or hood is? I've seen the down hoods at zpacks and lukes ultralight. I've been looking at the black rock gear down hat. I'm gearing up for an early start on the AT. I'm also a high school football coach and its starting to get chilly - I'd like to warm my ears up ASAP. Thanks - Nick

Lance Stalnaker
down hat on 10/19/2013 22:13:44 MDT Print View

I think it depends on what you are looking for in the hat/hood. I prefer the hat because it is more versatile. I just got a black rock down hat and it is exactly what I was looking for, for my set up. I sleep in a hammock and use a quilt so having the versatility of the hat over my balaclava is nice. I use it as part of my layering system, a down hood would be too much warmth for me.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 10/20/2013 01:03:53 MDT Print View

For me it's a .8oz fleece beanie and use the hood on my 7 ounce down jacket.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

Re: Best down hat/hood? on 10/20/2013 03:04:47 MDT Print View

Nick: Best down hat/hood?

Well one is far from the other here Nick.

Most hikers (myself included) seem to think that one of the best rated down hats on the market is the Black Rock Gear Hadron-S - it offers an amazing weight-to-performance ratio. Price is a bit high, however if a hat is what you are after, this price tag can very much be worth it. If you are after a four-season hat, the Black Rock Gear Nobul offers a weebit better performance.

When it comes to a hood, however, it is a whole different thing. The following are the ones I have used while hiking and around camp, in order of most favorite to least favorite.

You have probably the pinnacle of all hoods, the Finbar Hood.

Next you have the Nunatak Down Balaclava.

Next you have the Katabatic Crestone.

At the bottom of my list are the JRB Down Hood and the Goosefeet Gear hood (exclusively sold by ZPacks). I place these two at the same level... by the numbers the JRB is better, but the full open face kinda sucks. The GfG hood has a rather poor loft and baffles that are way too big, but it makes up for poorer performance because of its weight, which some people tend to like more than loft/warmth performance.

For the AT I would tend to say that the Finbar, Nunatak and Katabatic are going to cook you out of them unless your body tends to get really cold at night. Remember that your head places a key and vital part in your thermoregulation. The Katabatic Windom (little brother of the Crestone) or a custom ordered Nunatak Down Balaclava with less down might be a good option. If you could get ZPacks to have GfG custom make one of their hoods (or go directly too ben at GfG) and have an extra ounce of down shoved into the hood, that could be a good option.

My personal favorite "hat" is the Black Rock Gear Hadron-S (for when I want a down hood) and the "The North Face Windstopper High Point Hat" (for when I do not want a down hood - and more and more I am reaching for this... to protect my earlobes).

My personal favorite "hood" in all of these is the Nunatak Down Balaclava. It is a smidgen more weight than others, however the front snap closure system is by far the best option for helping to control your body from overheating - you can just unbutton a snap or two and vent, it does not require taking it off, unlike every other hood mentioned. Do not discount how important this can be on those cold nights.

+John Abela

Ultralite Hiker
(Ultralite) - F
Agree on 10/20/2013 08:14:18 MDT Print View

I agree with John. The Hadron-S is an incredible hat, and would be my choice as well. It is a quality sewn hat, with an incredible headband.

His analysis regarding the hoods is spot on, in my opinion, as well. I have a Katabatic Gear Windom, and it is a VERY warm hat. I have camped down near 0, and the Windom is still a little warm, even though I was using a hoodless quilt. I would be well done by morning if I was using the Crestone.

I mostly sleep in the Hadron-S if a hat is required.

Edited by Ultralite on 10/20/2013 08:17:37 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Best down hat/hood? on 10/20/2013 20:45:21 MDT Print View

When I'm active I like a merino wool watch cap or a fleece wind-stopper material cap, depending on the conditions.

When really cold and mostly not moving I like my zPack's Balaclava.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Re: Best down hat/hood? on 10/21/2013 00:05:39 MDT Print View

If I was to have any opinion on these, it would be which one allows you to go to sleep without hearing your pulse from the material.

Nylon fabric filled with down acts like bass and beats like a drum when it's to close to your ear.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Headgear on 10/21/2013 09:22:58 MDT Print View

For sleeping I wear a BPL merino hoody and, if it's cold enough, a hat. Usually that hat is an old cashmere watch cap (reviewed on but below 0 F I may use a Nunatak Down Balaclava or the hood on a down sweater. I find down headgear too warm for hiking, skiing, or other activity but it's nice to pull a down hood over my head at breaks, photo ops, etc.

Benjamin Meadors

Locale: Central Arkansas
Outdoor Research on 10/22/2013 07:28:19 MDT Print View

There is also the Outdoor Research Transcendent Beanie for a little lighter warmth / protection. It is also cheaper than many of the others at $45-$35 depending on sales. I believe this is a product that is a few years old and is probably going to be in the closeouts section not terribly long from now.

Thaddaeus Wharton
(Thadjw) - MLife
Zpacks hood is good and light on 10/22/2013 08:12:26 MDT Print View

Mostly for use w a quilt though. Can use in camp. Down is less rugged than regular micro fleece and will wear btw.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

Re: Zpacks hood is good and light on 10/23/2013 01:05:39 MDT Print View

Hey all,

I got an email from Evan at Black Rock Gear (sponsor of mine) before dinner tonight with a message saying he has added a balaclava to the BRG catalog of products.

From the looks of the numbers he has on the website is looks like he is trying to target that 'middle' market that nobody seems to be in. Better than the JRB/GfG hoods yet not on the brain-melting level of the Nunatak/Katabatic.

Anyway, just thought I would throw this out into the list of potential hoods.

+John Abela

Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
Re: Re: Zpacks hood is good and light on 10/23/2013 01:26:33 MDT Print View

Thanks for the heads up John - it looks great - would be nice with a BPL SOTMR on down headgear.

Edited by prse on 10/23/2013 01:27:04 MDT.

Nicholas Ward
Thank you all on 10/26/2013 20:11:50 MDT Print View

Thanks all for the advice. I will look into all of the products that've been mentioned that I wasn't already familiar with. I was worried about a hood being too hot and it seems like those thoughts have been validified. Right now I'm leaning towards the Black Rock hat but I will look into the non-down options as well. Once again, thanks for the words of wisdom here, as always with BPL, I was pleasantly surprised.

Nicholas Ward
shemagh anyone? on 10/26/2013 20:43:02 MDT Print View

Something else that has been brought to my attention is the shemagh scarf. I see the versatility of this piece as a pro but I worry about its ability to keep me warm (I thought this piece of gear was designed as a method of breathable sun protection?) Anyway - any thoughts on a shemagh would be nice. I've considered fashioning one of my own with piece of merino instead of the standard cotton for added warmth.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Primaloft Hat on 10/26/2013 20:45:38 MDT Print View

Its worth checking out the Intergal designs Primalid, I have one and its really nice.