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World’s Best Winter Hat

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Three months ago I set out to find the world’s best winter hat for skiers, snowshoers, climbers and general outdoor enthusiasts. I collected and reviewed a dozen new and classic designs, testing the hats on outings from Chicago to northern Ontario and in temps as low as 25 below zero.

And the winner is. . . Cloudveil. I kept coming back to this company’s Four Shadows Beanie ($35; http://www.cloudveil.com) for everything from ice climbing adventures to my daily commute to the office. Made with a stretchy Schoeller fabric, the hat is water resistant and breathable. It’s lightweight and can fit under a helmet, but I found it to be among the warmest and most comfortable in the group.

Four Shadows Beanie

Second place goes to Christine’s Spencer Earflap ($37; http://www.christines.net), a classic, hand-knitted ski hat with an under-the-chin tie. It’s made of merino wool and lined with fleece. For below-zero days, this was my favorite.

Spencer Earflap

Outdoor Research’s Fahrenheit Peruvian Hat ($18; http://www.orgear.com) took third place. The hat’s Lycra-trimmed flaps cover your ears and temples snugly. And the hat compacts to easily stuff in a jacket pocket.

Fahrenheit Peruvian Hat

Honorable mentions go to Granite Gear’s North Shore ($29; http://www.granitegear.com), a bomber-style hat lined with 300-weight fleece for extra warmth; and PrAna’s Windblock ($23; http://www.prana.com), a fashionable beanie that’s also warm and highly breathable.

And in the special balaclava category, I liked the WAMUclava from WAMUware ($26; http://www.wamuware.com). It has a lightweight hood that fits under a helmet or another hat, and the neck gaiter area has an angled zipper for quick and easy ventilation.

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