Peaked caps - they're hardly the most exciting subject, but whether you want to keep the glare out of your eyes or the UV off your face, baseball cap style headwear is one of your better options. There are even those who like to wear a waterproof hat in the rain. Here we look at two caps from the Trekmates range, one Gore-Tex lined, one light and breathable.
Stanage GTX Cap - £35
Hillwalkers or winter climbers above a certain age (sadly I do seem to qualify) will probably remember the classic Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap - fleece-lined waterproof headgear that was either beautifully snug or a brain-boiler, depending on one's metabolism. With its larger brim, the Stanage GTX Cap resembles more a baseball cap, but while it lacks the Mountain Cap's insulation it shares basically the same principle; this is a hat to keep the weather off.
A waterproof cap may seem like a solution in search of a problem - if it's raining enough to need one, then you'll probably want a jacket with a hood - but quite a few are available, so there must be a market for them. And in fact despite my scepticism the Stanage GTX has proved welcome on days of light showers. However, as soon as it starts raining properly you are going to get water down the neck, so at that stage the jacket comes out and the cap is basically redundant. Its ideal niche is drizzle, which after all is not a rare occurrence.
But being light and reasonably breathable, I've worn it plenty in dry weather too. Since it keeps out the wind much more effectively than a non-lined cap, I think it's good for use in cool conditions (I'd say spring and autumn, but we all know that counts for much of summer too). Turn up the dial though, and by the time it's warm enough for me to strip down to a T-shirt the Stanage GTX will generally be beginning to feel a bit close and clammy on the head. There are limits to the breathability of Gore-Tex, especially given how much heat you're supposed to lose through your noggin.
I like the neat design of the Stanage GTX Cap, which has a bit of a military air about it and comes in two understated and very similar looking colours.
Two sizes are available, and I'd say the fit comes out on the roomy side. My head is pretty big, but I've space to spare in the L/XL size. Unlike many such caps, there's no rear size adjustment, but there is a bit of stretch at the back to accommodate different heads. Inside, the brushed headband is soft and comfy.
For easy packing, the double fold in the peak is probably this cap's stand-out feature, and you can stash it away small enough to fit in a pocket. Weighing just 60g, it's pretty portable. I think the three-part peak looks pretty cool, too.
At £35, this is not a budget option, but that's probably thanks to its Gore-Tex lining. With a less-premium DryProtect waterproof/breathable lining, the very similar Burbage Dry Cap is a cheaper alternative at £20; I can't however comment on its breathability.
Though I wear peaked caps a lot in sunny weather, I always prefer them to be light and airy rather than waterproof, so the Stanage GTX Cap simply isn't for me, and I'd actually like to see an unlined Stanage instead (not currently an option). A quick straw poll of colleagues drew the same conclusion. However this is a well-designed cap, so if you are a fan of waterproof headwear then it's certainly worth a look.
- For more info on the Stanage GTX Cap see trekmates.co.uk
Shine Cap - £17
For summer, or use during more aerobic activities, here's an option that's likely to have more general appeal, at a price it's harder to quibble. The Shine is a lighter cloth cap, with no waterproof lining to stew your head. Most hillwalkers and trail runners are already likely to own something similar - I have a several - but the Shine does offer a couple of features that my off-brand caps lack.
This one's light, at just 40g (size L/XL), and with its thin and air-permeable polyamide suplex fabric, and venting mesh side panels, it's really well suited to warmer conditions. It's when the sun gets strong that thoughts generally turn to a cap, so I'm likely to give the Shine a lot more use than the Stanage. I've found it as airy as any lightweight runner's style cap, and the only thing cooler is likely to be a visor.
The narrow brim is smaller than you'll often see on a baseball cap, but I've generally found it sufficient to keep the sun out of my eyes, and the advantage of being a bit shorter is that it doesn't obscure your vision as much when looking uphill. The underside of the peak is a darker fabric, to cut down on glare - something I hadn't thought about before, but which makes good sense. And instead of folding, as per the Stanage, this peak is rollable, so you can still stick the cap in a pocket.
Again, it comes in two sizes, and it's also cut on the generous side, so I have a bit of spare room in size L/XL (while I find S/M slightly tight across the forehead). On the inside, a wicking headband soaks up any sweat. Just as with the Stanage, Trekmates have put some elastic at the rear but have provided no size adjustment. The lack of this is really my only significant criticism of the Shine, since it both limits who'll be able to fit the cap and prevents you being able to tighten it up if you're out in high wind. Hold onto your hats, folks.
Three colours are available - a light pastel blue, a rather smart navy, and a foul tan that makes you look like you're on desert patrol in the Foreign Legion. Unfortunately this is the one I've been reviewing, and I really think Trekmates could jazz up their colours a bit.
Light, cool, packable and easy on the pocket - what's not to like? Well, the colour.
- For more info on the Shine Cap see trekmates.co.uk