Friday, 14 June 2013

Gear Review: Halo Sport Hat

I've been looking for a new hat ever since the Highland Fling, where my Inov-8 hat jumped ship in the woods, never to be seen again (at least not by me).  That hat had been with me for quite a few races, including my first trail marathon over 3 years ago, and although it wasn't my best running hat, and I have a few others, it was one I knew well.  So, as I set about finding a replacement, I considered all of the things I want out of a hat - decent bald-patch cover, light mesh, quick-dry, good visor, good sweatband.  Then, while Nic & I were wandering around the sponsors' stalls at Endure 24, I hit the nail on the head when we entered the Halo tent.  My dad tends to wear a Halo when cycling, as it fits nicely under a bike helmet, and I'd been moaning that it's hard to get a decent sweatband now that we've left the great sweatband era of the 1970s, so he presented us each with one when we went hiking in the Appalachians a few years ago.

Nic sporting her pink Halo sweatband on the Appalachian Trail.
We were discussing the merits of the sweatbands with Halo rep, Sarah, when Nic spotted the hats.  To be fair, her favourite hat is pretty beat up, and will never be "white" again, so she probably needed a replacement more than me.  Her interest gave me an excuse to have a good look, and I could tell immediately from the feel that I had found my replacement.  We bought one each - and here's why:

The Hat

The hat itself is very lightweight.  The synthetic fabric is a fine mesh throughout.  It's not loose enough  a weave to encourage insects to get stuck in it, but sufficiently open to allow descent airflow.  Adjustment is with a velcro strap, which is fairly standard.  On the visor, there isn't a lot of fabric, so when you pour water on your head, sweat loads, get rained on, or dip it in some runoff, you won't end up with a heavy hat.  This is a big improvement on my lost and beloved Inov-8 hat, which could get a bit weighty at the front.

The Sweatband

The sweatband is, after all, what makes this hat different from everything else.  Built into the hat, rather than a standard terry band that saturates after an hour or so, is a Halo headband.  The front of the headband has Halo's Sweatblock seal, which prevents fluids from dripping from the front of the headband.  Those living in hot countries will appreciate that this keeps sweat from dripping into their eyes.  Even when saturated, the headband only releases sweat from the sides of the seal.  I've occasionally (rarely) been sweaty enough to have any problems with a normal headband just from sweat saturation.

For me, the headband comes into its own when water is added to the hat - either because I pour a bit on my head or dip the hat in water to help cool down, or because my hot sunny British Summer's run includes an hour of rain.  I hate rain dripping down my face, so having a visor to keep it off my glasses  (when I'm not in contacts) and a sweatband that keeps it from dripping down the front makes an ideal sunshine & showers hat.

The front of the headband is independent from the visor, which makes for a  very comfortable fit.
Another great aspect of the internal headband is that it's not attached to the visor.  So, when you flex the visor to get a good fit, you don't end up with a bunched, gappy headband.  It also means you can push the visor back a bit if you want, but the headband stays in place.

Wear Test

After spending a bit of time looking at the hat in the tent, I decided to wear it during the 1st day of the race, which meant it got about 8 hours (~45mi) of wear before I got took it off to let the evening breeze blow through my hair.  Nic wore hers for around 9 hours, before replacing it with something warmer for the night run.  Her old hat is now firmly on the reserves shelf.

Two happy new hat-owners.

The headband, as expected, was comfortable throughout the run.  I'd worn the hat a bit in the morning to make sure I had the visor flexed like I wanted and the strap at a comfortable tension, and didn't need to do any adjusting on the run.

I went off a bit quicker than I probably should have, given the relatively warm weather, which meant that I was running hot after around 10 miles.  To cool back down, I had two options - slow right down, or get some cold water on my skin.  I did slow down a little, but I preferred the option of pouring cold water onto my head.  It worked very well - I cooled down quickly, the water stayed off my face, and the hat dried within a mile or so.

The only potential drawback I can see comes when in deep woods or woody single tracks.  Typically, in that situation I would turn the hat around so I have total visibility of branches at forehead level.  I've not tried this with the Halo hat yet, to see if there are any comfort problems with the Sweatblock strip on the back of my head.  I don't foresee any issues, but I won't know until I try it.

I've now had around 10 hours of hot & humid woodland hiking and running, with sweat dripping from pretty much every pore. I didn't suffer any discomfort with the hat on backwards.  An added bonus is that the adjustable strap is made from the sweatband fabric, so it kept the sweat at bay and dried quickly when I got into a breeze.


Simply put, it's a great hat for running.  I am confident it will keep sweat and rain out of my eyes.  It's cool, comfortable, and it looks good.

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