Friday, April 11, 2014

The Hat Quest

We all have quests periodically, I usually have 3 or 4 going at any given time. This is an account of my quest for the perfect hiking/everyday/end of the world hat.
Between a dislike for showers and a dislike for haircuts I wear hats a LOT. I'm also getting to were I like insulated hoods more then insulated hats so I more or less wear a ballcap in all weather which I find handy to keep the hoods pointed the way my head is and keeps them out of my eyes (a down puffy hood inside a gortex hood has a habit of only pointing forward).
I try to avoid the over-velcroed "tactical douche" look but unfortunately tactical hats fit my needs more then most outdoorsy hats. My current solution is to pull off the front velcro and sew on a subtly humerous patch to offset the camouflage (BPRD, OCP, and Weyland-Yutani are my current top picks).

I decided I wanted:

-more then 50% nylon
-high breathability (mesh preferred but not required)
-appear to be a mostly normal baseball cap
-good adjustment system (NO plastic snap adjuster, non-velcro preferred)
-earth tones preferred, subtle camo allowed
-no velcro (or has to be easily removed)
-no top button (I'm tall and it hurts a LOT to hit my head on stuff with it there)
-low denier cordura is my first choice, followed by "supplex" style nylon, followed by softshell

My first real attempt at this was the Outdoor Research Swift cap.

Doesn't fit the "normal baseball hat" requirement, but nearly everything else was there. available in several earth tones, nice thin nylon fabric, big mesh panels, subtle logo and no velcro. Adjusts with thin webbing and the same cam-lock buckle you'd find on the OR gaiter. Great price to boot.
Unfortunately this hat just barely falls into the dreaded "diaper hat" fit category. If my hair is very short and I put it on just right it will stay, but otherwise it doesn't come down far enough to lock onto my head. Comes off very easily when adding or removing layers or even messing with a hood. Sad.

My second attempt was the Kuiu Icon Cap.

Perfectly ticks the "normal baseball cap" box, no mesh but the thin fabric breaths exceptionally regardless. Reasonably subtle logo I don't mind wearing. Velcro adjustment, but I only have to mess with it about twice a year as my hair grows. The top button counts against it but otherwise my hopes were set quite high.
I will say the fabric and color is nearly perfect, and I still do wear this hat periodically, but it is also a borderline diaper hat that doesn't quite hug my head like it should. It has more or less replaced the OR cap though.

So what choices do I have now? Here is what I have found so far:

215 Gear Ultimate Blended Operator Hat:

Softshell with mesh, slightly off the norm with the side mesh but that doesn't bother me. Velcro would have to be removed and Multicam isn't my first choice but allowable. Velcro adjustment.

Black Palm Syndicate Softshell Cap:

This is probably my first choice at this point, made with Multicam Alpha fabric (91% nylon 9% spandex). No mesh but I like high nylon content softshells and I'm sure breathability is fine (and a pretty good DWR on top of it). There is a sterile version floating around but I'm not sure were, there is no top velcro so I would only have to remove the front. I've never owned a flex-fit hat before but I know the L/XL fits down around my head and really locks on, no diaper risk here.
My ONLY complaint (beyond lack of mesh) is that they oriented the multicam up/down rather then front/back. Nit-picky I know, but an odd choice on their part. Made in USA is always a plus.

Kuhl Renegade Hat

Like the Swift cap this has a "dorky hiking hat" vibe to it. I'm not a huge fan of the seam lines (aesthetically, functionally it looks like a good design) but it does have the same fiber content as the BPS softshell cap in a solid color. I've tried on the similar "uberkuhl" cap (disqualified for low nylon content) and I think it is just on the acceptable side of diaper hat status, but I have been tricked before. I like Kuhls pants enough it wouldn't bug me to wear their tiny logo.

Mil-spec Monkey CG-hat Mesh RAW

hard to find mesh flex-fit. Huge swatches of velcro count against it, and my assumption is that the fiber content doesn't pass muster (polycotton is my guess) but I need to email MSM to verify.

GORUCK Mesh Tac Hat

I don't really like GoRuck as a company but they are one of the few making a cordura ball cap. I'm pretty sure there was a limited run of different colors, the regularly stocked black is a deal-breaker. I'd prefer 500 denier but uncoated 1000 denier probably breaths just fine.

I will update if I find more options but I feel I've scoured the web pretty thoroughly.

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