Hats—and head gear in general—have been around for thousands of years, predating the elaborate styles of ancient pharaohs in early Egypt who wore them as a status symbol of their authority. Over the centuries, hats have been worn for religious, spiritual, authoritarian, protection, glamour, and myriad other purposes. As our past bowhunting history has shown, they can also become an iconic trademark for certain individuals.
On a caribou hunt above the Arctic Circle, this Cabela’s synthetic, Gortex® lined beanie kept T.J. warm for a week living out on the tundra.
For warm weather, I prefer a baseball-style hat. Keeping the sun out of my eyes is a necessity, but many baseball hats have too long of a brim; it gets in the way of the bowstring at full draw. However, many manufacturers make small brimmed caps for bowhunters. I have one from 3Rivers Archery that I especially like. It is light, breathable, camo to help blend into the woods, and has a wire sewn into the outer edge of the brim that allows you to shape it to fit and even to bend it down if you are still hitting your string. I also like do-rags, but they do not shade your eyes in the sun as a brimmed hat does.
For many years my go-to hat was a type of Borsalino, much like the one Fred Bear wore. Some were crushable, which was handy when flying to Europe or Africa. I have since bought a Stetson felt hat that I still use much of the time. It has a short 2 3/8” brim, which not only allows me to shoot without hitting the brim with my bowstring, but also provides shade for my eyes and neck, as well as warmth on cold days. It is water repellent and prevents water from dripping down my face and neck if I am caught in a downpour, which happens more times than I care to mention. I keep it handy in my truck and it has served me well for over two decades. In addition, I always have a lightweight hooded poncho, which not only prevents me from getting soaked in an unexpected rain squall, but it also keeps my head dry, even with a hat on.
Cold weather is another area of concern when it comes to head gear. The old myth of losing 40-45% of our body heat—or more—through our heads was the result of a study performed by the U.S. military in the late 1950s and published in a survival manual. We now know that figure can be anywhere between 8-10%, or more depending on how much of our face, neck, and head is exposed to harsh elements. Proper head gear is not only comfortable in extreme weather but prevents or reduces excessive heat loss that could lead to more dire situations, such as disorientation, or worse.
This wool Fedora hat was perfect for the spring weather on Prince of Wales Island while stalking bear in both rain and sunshine.
For many years I used wool and fleece bomber hats, most notably those made by King of the Mountain and Sleeping Indian Designs, in extreme cold temperatures. I still have them and use them quite often on late season hunts when temperatures can get down to zero, or below. Another excellent cold weather hat I have is a wool Stormy Kromer cap. It is warm, has pull down wool ear covers, and a short brim that allows excellent eye protection from the sun, and it does not interfere with my bowstring at full draw.
One of the handiest head coverings is the watch cap, or beanie as it is often called. I have several made from synthetic material, 100% wool, or a blend of these and other materials, and always keep one in my hunting pack as an emergency head covering in cold weather. KUIU has several outstanding beanies that contain unique and proprietary materials such Nuyarn, Primeflex polyester, Toray fleece, and other materials including Merino wool beanies, which I use on my head when sleeping out in winter to keep me warm at night. I especially like the Kenai beanie, one of their warmest, which is also water resistant. KUIU also has a new Kenai Bomber hat that adds a brim—a great feature—as well as chin straps for extreme cold conditions.
One item that I use under extreme weather conditions is a balaclava. I have several, from issued military wool to fleece, and one of KUIU’s that is lined and water resistant. Not only do these keep your head warm, they also cover much of your face for more concealment, as well as your neck…another place where heat can escape your body. KUIU also has a 100% Merino wool neck gaiter that doubles as a face mask and neck warmer.
As Don mentioned, hooded jackets and parkas will add a layer of protection and warmth in addition to whatever head gear you have on. However, by themselves—like hoodie sweatshirts—they must be drawn down to prevent wind and cold from circulating around your head.
There are many options for bowhunters when it comes to hats and head gear. Protecting your head, face, and neck, whether in extreme heat and sun or Arctic cold conditions, is a wise practice not only for comfort, but for your safety as well.
It’s hard to beat a wool bomber hat like the ones from King of the
Mountain, left, and Sleeping Indian Designs, right, in cold weather.