By Pat B
Recently, Missouri State Representative Mike Lair, who chairs my state’s House education funding committee, added an amendment to the proposed budget to spend $8 for “two rolls of high density aluminum to create headgear designed to deflect drone and/or black helicopter mind reading and control technology.”
This was an undisguised slam against opponents of the Common Core Curriculum which the state department of education is trying very hard to force into every state’s education system at the moment. The most disturbing aspect of the attack is that Representative Lair claims to be a Republican. Perhaps Mr. Lair could market these hats as “RINO (Republican in Name Only) Wear”? Regardless, it was at least clever for a change, and I always respect clever!
All politics aside, the comments did get me thinking about the importance of proper headgear in survival situations, and they are indeed an often overlooked but vitally important piece of clothing when you are forced to spend a lot of time outdoors. The needs of the moment in a survival setting may well force you to be out in the elements more than you are now, and may not afford you with the luxury of waiting until it stops raining, warms up, cools off, or the sun gets a bit lower. The right hat can contribute significantly to your comfort and well-being in less-than-optimum conditions. This can be compounded significantly if you are in a setting where accustomed comforts such as sunscreen, spare sun glasses, or a dry cozy place to warm up are not available.
So, what exactly are the threats that a good hat can help you combat? For starters, heat loss. It is critical to keep your head dry and well-insulated when the ambient temperature is anything less than normal body temperature, and the colder it gets the more important this becomes. The flip side of heat loss is that when it is hot out, you want to facilitate the radiation of heat to the environment. When ambient temperatures get hotter than body temperature, this means evaporative cooling.
A good hat can also shade the eyes from intense sunlight, and protect exposed facial skin from sunburn. Proper shading helps reduce the risk of sunstroke and sun poisoning while proper evaporative cooling reduces the risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and other hyperthermia-related maladies.
Clearly, durable and seasonally appropriate headgear is a must, and in my book it achieves the importance and status of EDC (Every Day Carry) gear.
In the winter months, I always carry a wool watch cap and a pair of leather work gloves with cotton liners in my jacket pocket. In fact, all the jackets or coats that I frequently wear have these items in the pockets, so that I don’t ever forget to grab them. Few things compare to the time-proven watch cap when it comes to keeping the head warm! They are also great for layering. If your primary headgear is adjustable for size or has an elastic band (like most baseball style caps and even a lot of “crusher” hats), a simple adjustment allows you to wear the extra layer of wool over your head and cover up your ears even if your main hat doesn’t. For ultimate layering, I will put on the wool cap, cover that in a solid (not mesh back) ball cap, and top it off with the hood of a hoodie. Wool is the best choice for a watch cap, because it doesn’t lose any efficiency when wet.
In all seasons, you will never find me without either a solid back ball cap or some variety of “cowboy” hat, unless I am wearing a boonie. The ball cap serves well in informal settings, and a light wool “crusher” takes me into more professional settings. Either one of these hats does well to protect against morning chill, and keeps the sun off my face and out of my eyes throughout the day. The full brim of a cowboy hat or boonie protects the neck from sunburn as well as the face. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like automobile sun visors, and with a brimmed hat on I never need to use them. No hat can fully replace sun glasses, but they can soften the blow of going without.
When it comes to cooling the head off, a soaked hat is almost as good as a personal AC unit. When I was in college at the University of Nevada Reno, I worked as a milker at the school’s dairy. It can get mighty hot in a milking barn in the summer, so I took to dunking my ball cap in a water trough every time I found myself near one. I can’t begin to tell you how much that helped. In a survival setting, you don’t need to use valuable drinking water for this purpose; any untreated puddle water will work fine, and your sweat should eventually accomplish the soaking if no water is available. This is why I gave up mesh backed caps; I find that the evaporative cooling afforded by a drenched all-cloth cap far exceeds the slim benefit of increased ventilation.
For rain protection, if your hat isn’t already water resistant, water repellent sprays are available to overcome this shortcoming. On damp and rainy days, I really like my boonie. Boonies shed water nicely, and they can be rolled up and stashed in a pack or pocket when you don’t want to wear them. They also have a wide brim to protect the eyes, face and neck. A decent cowboy hat or even a fedora are also great rainy day headgear. Anything that keeps the rain out of your hair is going to aid in heat retention.
To sum it all up, good headgear is very important for temperature regulation, in either direction. It is also very important protection against the elements, including sun and rain. In survival situations, these considerations become critical, although they are worth consideration even on an everyday basis. My top picks for survival headgear are the wool watch cap for winter, the boonie for general outdoor purposes, solid back ball caps, and crushable light wool cowboy hats for general wear. A good “lid” should be part of everyone’s EDC gear, or at the very least be in your kit and readily available when needed.
Which hat do your prefer? Tell us in the comments section below.