Wednesday 13 May 2015

Gear Review: Ron Hill Trail Split Cap

I love hats.  Perhaps it's the lack of hair on large sections of my scalp that lead me into wearing a hat while running.  In the winter, I need the insulation.  In the summer (if I'm lucky), I need protection from the sun.  In between, I'm constantly removing/replacing my hat or buff.

I was having a chat with Lou in Run Stuff about some of her new lines, and she suggested I take the new Ron Hill Trail Split Cap out for a test.  It claims to be breathable, but also has a wind-resistent fabric, so I was pretty dubious.  But, it has a great split peak, which means it easily folds up to stuff in a pocket, waistband, or just a hand.  So, I added it to my kit list and started to take it out on the trails.

Where better to test a hat than a Scottish coastal trail?

The Hat

In general shape and wear, it's a peaked cap.  Nothing overly fancy, no whiz bang new shapes (thankfully!).  It looks good, doesn't hold water when it rains, and fits comfortably worn normally or with the peak facing backwards.

The key benefit offered by the hat is the split peak.  For Ron Hill, the peak means it folds to fit in the pocket of their shirts/shorts - a good marketing point for them.  To me, the first positive point of the split peak is that I don't have to shape the thing myself to get a good fit.  The split gives flex in the right place to make sure I have a bowed visor rather than a flat one.

I have really enjoyed being able to fold the cap up when I'm not wearing it - not just on the run, where I usually secure it under a bungee or in a small pocket on my pack, but also when I'm just out and about.  I wear the cap when I'm out for a walk or wandering around the shops in town, because I can fold it and put it in a jacket or jeans pocket when I go indoors.

It folds nearly flat, and pretty small.

The central split is well-stitched and seems robust.

The main fabric is Ron Hill's "Activelite", a polyester weave designed to be both windproof and breathable.  I'm always wary when I see a claim to let air out, but not in, especially since I'm pretty sure the wind is blowing air at my head harder than the air is likely to go in the other direction.  However, since I got the hat, every run seems to be windy, so I've had some good chances to test out that claim.

An absorbent weave at the forehead and under the visor moves the sweat away from the skin.
When the winds have kicked off, and I've put the hat on, it does block out the wind and keep me from losing too much heat.  So far, the weather hasn't been too warm, so I haven't had many runs where I've decided to remove the hat because I'm overheating.  Essentially, if it's breezy, the cap does what it's supposed to do.  I've hit the odd rain shower when out, and have kept a dry head, which is an added bonus of the fabric in cooler weather - it doesn't hold onto water.

The verdict

I really like this cap.  As an every day hat, it's really very good.  Being able to stuff it in a pocket with ease is a huge design plus.  Every peaked cap should have a split visor.  It's ingenious.  As a running hat, I'd say it's best for changeable conditions where the temperature isn't so cold you need to cover your ears (that's going to vary individually, but for me that's around 8-14C for long training runs).  It's also ideal for races with mandatory kit lists, because of the small packing size.  Over the warmer months, I expect I'll be wearing it more for casual trips out than on the run.

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