Keeping Warm and Dry in the Cold and Wet

by Louis Bignami

Part Four: Head Coverings

Boaters wear every hat imaginable and some beyond imagination, such as the motorcycle helmet I saw on a teen-ager in a zooming Whaler off Neah Bay one winter.

Up to half of your body heat loss is from the head, neck and throat. So head "underwear" includes silk and poly balaclavas which wick moisture off the skin, and for those who don't itch, wool. Insulation comes in wool watch caps, caps with fold-down ear muffs -- too many flaps seem designed to get nicely wet until you flop them down -- and dense insulation such as Thinsulate(tm). Weather-proofing in Gore-Tex, coated nylon, rubber etc. performs well if you don't mind losing hearing acuity.

For all-round use it's tough to beat a wool watch cap if you don't mind wet hair when it rains. If you do, Columbia now makes watch caps with a waterproof Gore-Tex(tm) bladder inside so your head stays dry. Add a poly balaclava liner below zero, or if you power at high speeds. Cowboy-type sombreros suit hot weather because they cast thick shade on your head, neck and throat. Note: that's why desert Arabs don't wear billed caps. Models with chin straps or which snap up on the side a la' Australian bush hats also stay on in the wind and keep rain off eyeglasses better than any billed hat except Orvis fishermen's long bill models. Traditionalists can use the fisherman's long back billed hats a la' Captains Courageous.

I hear, but haven't tried that railroad hats from King of the Mountain Sports work exceptionally well on high speed boat runs. The coolest hat option looks downright weird. If you bareboat in the tropics, look for a mini umbrella held over your head with four stalks off a hat band. Other cooling options include expensive solar-powered safari hats or foam hats you can soak in cold water. My budget choice for the tropics is a Columbia fore and aft bill hat like the Orvis with a mesh top. Since hot air rises, vents in the hat top help cool heads.