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Reviews > Clothing > Accessories > Mental Gear Head Case > Test Report by Thomas Vickers

Mental HeadCase Multi-Purpose Microfibre Accessory

Initial Report - December 2, 2007
Field Test Report - February 18, 2008
Long Term Report - April 22, 2008

Thomas Vickers

40 years old
Male
5 ft 11 in tall (1.8 m)
175 lb (79 kg)
redroach@pobox.com
Southeast Texas, Houston Area


Tester Background:
I grew up in the piney woods of southeast Texas. Camping was a quick trip into the mosquito-infested woods behind the house. My style has evolved and over the last 4 or 5 years, I have begun to take a lighter weight approach to hiking gear (I still use sleeping bags and tents, just lighter versions). While I have flirted with lightweight hiking, I feel that I am more of a mid-weight hiker now. My philosophy is one of comfort, while carrying the lightest load possible.


Initial Report
December 2, 2007

Mental Headcase and packaging

 

Manufacturer Information:

Manufacturer: Mental Gear

Website: http://www.mentalgear.com

Sizes available: One size fits all

Year Manufactured: 2007

MSRP: $ 14.95 US

Information From Tester:
(all measurements approximate)


Color/pattern: Black

Weight : 1.10 oz (31 g)

Measurements: 16 x 9 in (41 x 23 cm)

Tester's head size: 23 in (58 cm)

Initial tester expectations:
After visiting the Mental website I had a lot of questions in my head. How do I care for the HeadCase? How large is it? How much does it weigh? There is a short description of the item there, but beyond that I had to use my imagination to come up with most of my mental impressions of it before it arrived.

HeadCase lying flat

Description from the manufacturer:
The HeadCase multi-functional accessory works for all kinds of activities.  It provides maximum comfort and protection against wind, snow, sun, etc.   The HeadCase is manufactured from 100% pollyester micro-fibre, which is wind-resistant, breathable, and wicks moisture.  The HeadCase is constructed without seams and will not loose its shape.  The micro-fibre dries in minutes, retains its elasticity and does not fray. The suggested uses are "Bandana, head band, face mask, balaclava, scrunchee, helmet cover, beanie, neck warmer, and skull cap."

Tester's Description:
The Mental HeadCase Multi-Purpose Microfibre Accessory is a tube of polyester fabric. It is black (inside and out) and has the "Mental" logo on four locations. The material is stretchy and very soft. I was a bit surprised that I could see light through the HeadCase fabric even when it is doubled over.  I had expected the fabric to be a bit 'heavier', but what is a good test without a few surprises? 

The HeadCase is an interesting piece of gear from the start. It is designed to be a multi-use head/neck covering. Not a hat, not a bandana and not a balaclava, but something in between.   I can best describe it as a head/neck multi-tool.

Impressions:
The fabric was much lighter and softer than I had expected after seeing it on the website.  Being able to actually see light and shapes through the fabric has me a bit worried about its ability to keep me warm during the colder months, but I have a lot of testing in store for the HeadCase before I can make a judgement on that issue. The ends of the microfibre tube are not hemmed in any way so I will also be interested in how they hold up to wear and tear.

The website was rather sparse on information about the HeadCase, except for the description above. It did show several ways to wear the HeadCase, but provided no instructions on how to fold or apply the HeadCase.  The hang tag that came with the HeadCase did solve some of these mysteries for me.  The hang tag shows nine ways to wear the HeadCase and it provides detailed instructions on how to create a beanie and skull cap out of this item.


Test Strategy:
Here are some questions that I plan on using as a guide for my testing of the Mental HeadCase Multi-Purpose Microfibre Accessory:

Fit:
1. How well does this item fit? This seems like an easy question, but a seamless tube of microfiber fabric which stretches might be too tight or too lose upon my pointy head.  

2. Are there ways to wear the HeadCase that don't work for me due its size/fit? 

3. How fashionable will I look on the trail? 

4. Can I wear a climbing helmet over the HeadCase? 

Use:
1. How much does it weigh? 

2. The website shows 8 different ways to wear it. Can I use all of them? Are there other ways beyond the "8" that I can use this item? 

3. How well does it protect my head from the sun when worn as a cap/head covering? 

4. Can I wet the HeadCase and then wear it as a cap in order to keep my head cool and covered during warmer weather? How long does it stay wet?  

5. Is it thick enough to keep my head/neck warm on cool days/evenings/nights? Will it keep my head warm on cold nights in my hammock? 

6. Does it provide any type of protection from biting insects? Or can they bite through the fabric? 

7. Will it work as a trail towel? Wash cloth? 

Durability:
1. Does the HeadCase stretch out? How well does it hold its shape/elastic qualities over time? 

2. Does it develop nasty odors? Can the odors wash out or air out without too much lingering stink? 

3. How resistant to snags and pilling is it? The website claims that it does not fray, is this true? 

4. Do stains wash out easily? 

5. What are the washing care instructions? Are they easy to follow in the field? 

6. Can I treat the HeadCase with insect repellant?


Final thoughts:
I am very interested to see how well this item holds up to trail use. The company website was a bit sparse (in my opinion) on its uses and care instructions.  This isn't a minus to me because it means I really don't have any preconceived notions about what I can or can't do with this item.  It simply leaves everything up to me and I am more than willing to experiment with the idea of a head/neck multi-tool.

Field Test Report - February 18, 2008

Test locations:
Sam Houston National Forest
W.G. Jones State Forest
Gulf of Mexico

Activities:
Day hiking
Fishing

Test conditions:
Temperature: 40 F to 75 F (4 C to 44 C)
Wind: 0 to 25 mph (0 to 40 kph)
Precipitation: none

Putting on the Headcase:
I spent a lot of time trying to find good ways to wear the HeadCase and I will get into the 'why' a little later on. The main two ways that I wore this item during the field test phase are the "Beanie" and the "Tube."

The Beanie

To create the beanie, I pull the HeadCase over my head, twist it above my head and then fold the upper half down over my head and the lower half of the Headcase. 

The Tube

The Tube is even easier to create. I simply slip one end of the HeadCase over my head and flip the excess fabric back over my head. Neither one of these ways is too complicated and I really haven't experimented beyond them with one exception.

Keeping the sun off:
One thing I like about the HeadCase is that it will keep the sun off of my sensitive head spots.  While fishing out in the Gulf of Mexico I wore the HeadCase in the Tube configuration and pulled it down over the tops of my ears and my forehead. At the end of the day neither spot on my noggin was bright red and sunburned. This is great news for me. I have worn the HeadCase on many other sunny days, but I figure that if a bright day on the water isn't the worst possible sun scenario, I don't know what else is.

Overall, I like the HeadCase as a fast, on the go head gear that I don't have to wear all the time or hang around my neck (like a hat with a chin strap) when I wasn't using it. The HeadCase spent a lot of time in my pants pocket where I had it ready to go at a moment's notice.  The small packing size is a huge plus in my book and it also meant that it got used to blow my nose on a great many times too. Nothing is better than an easily stowed and accessed piece of headgear that I can also wipe my nose or hands on when I need too.

Since I have been testing this during the winter months I am also very happy to report that the HeadCase has kept my head very warm every time I have worn it in cold weather. This is most apparent when I double the fabric over in the "beanie" mode, but even in the "tube" I noticed that my head was much toastier than with the HeadCase on as compared to with it off.

My complaint:
I have one and only one issue so far with the HeadCase and it is its length. One thing that has frustrated me over and over again is that the HeadCase does not seem long enough to work as well as I want it too.  The first time I noticed this was when I started trying to achieve the "beanie" with the Headcase. As a beanie it was fairly tight on my head (good), but I could not pull it down far enough on my head. Basically, the microfibre tube is not long enough to allow me to make a beanie out of it and pull it down to cover my ears, forehead, and the back of my head. In the summer time I can see this as a plus, but in the winter I want to be covered in and kept warm. 

The most frustrating part of the HeadCase being too short happened when I was out day hiking in high winds. It was a bright, cold (45 F/7 C) day with winds gusting up to 25 mph (40 kph) and I wanted my head and neck to be warm.  I don't normally wear balaclavas, but when I realized that I had the HeadCase with me and it could function as one, I was really excited. My excitement quickly turned to frustration when I discovered that I could not keep my neck and forehead covered at the same time in the balaclava mode.   Even when I turned my shirt collar up, I wasn't able to get full back of the neck coverage and forehead coverage at the same time.  I finally gave up and wore it around my head and neck by putting on my head and letting it hang down over my nose, ears, and neck. My upper head was fully exposed like this, but it was the only compromise I could come to.

When I got home and remeasured the length (16 in/41 cm) I realized that all I probably needed was about 3-5 inches (8-13 cm) added to the HeadCase and I would probably be singing its cold weather praises right now.

Wrapping it up (and I don't mean my head):
I can't wait to keep testing the Mental Headcase, especially as the weather warms up. I know that it will keep the sun off of my head when I need it too and I can't wait to see how well it performs in warm situations.  So far I have been a little less than enthused about its performance in cooler weather. I know the fabric will keep the wind off and keep my head warm, I just wish that there was a little more fabric (length) to the HeadCase so that I could keep all my head covered without having to make the decision of which part gets covered and kept warm and which part gets exposed and allowed to get cold.

Long Term Report
April 22, 2008

Test locations:
Sam Houston National Forest
W.G. Jones State Forest

Activities:
Day hiking
Over night hiking/camping
Climbing/belaying/rappelling

Test conditions:
Temperature: 40 F to 85 F (4 C to 47 C)
Wind: 0 to 15 mph (0 to 25 kph)
Precipitation: none
Days of use: 16 +


Underwear:
As the cold weather here in Texas was waning, I managed to sneak in about six more days use of the HeadCase before I had to find ways to use it in warmer weather.  My earlier complaint of it not being long enough drove me to find alternative ways to use this item in cold weather, some of which I might never have tried  without the 'too short' problem to solve.

When I originally tried to wear the HeadCase as a balaclava I discovered that it was too short to cover both my neck and my forehead.  This got me to thinking and I came up with the idea to wear it under a hood (on my jacket) or under a hat when I wanted to use it as a balaclava.  This allowed me to completely cover my neck, while using the hood or hat to cover my forehead.  I was very happy to find that this 'layering' helped keep my neck and head much warmer than I had been able to with just the HeadCase on.  It wasn't uncomfortable and it really allowed me to enjoy the outdoors in cold weather more than I usually do.  

Sleeping:
On one overnight trip I took I got a bit chilly in my hammock at night and on most occasions this just means that I pull my jacket's hood up over my head to keep warm.  The only problem this time out was that the temperatures didn't really call for me to be carrying the hooded jacket, so all I had was the HeadCase. I originally planned to just use it as a headband and cover my ears, but I decided to go with my normal tube (see above) method of wearing it. I pulled one end down over my ears and flipped the rest of the HeadCase back over my head and it kept my head warm during the night. What I really liked about this is that I can now carry a lighter jacket as part of my sleep system on warmer winter nights and not have to carry a heavier jacket just for the hood.  The HeadCase kept my noggin toasty in this manner down to about 45 F (7 C) and I consider it a decent replacement for a heavier jacket and hood.

Warmer weather:
As the weather warmed up ( 70 F +/20 C +) , I wore the HeadCase almost everytime I went out in the sun.  I wore it at least ten days on varying activities during this type of weather.  I always wore it in the tube configuration (see above) and used it to either keep the sun off of my forehead and ears or to keep cool. In order to keep my head cool, I would soak the HeadCase in water and put in on my head.  Under direct sunlight it dried out in about 15 minutes and had to be rewetted, but I expected this with its Microfibre construction.  

The other way I used the HeadCase during this time period was under a climbing helmet. Once again I wore it in the tube configuration, wetted it, and wore it under my climbing helmet as I climbed, rappelled, or belayed other climbers.  I was hoping that it would help keep my head cool during a long day of working like this out in the direct sun and temperatures 75 F (24 C) and above.  I was very grateful to discover that under the helmet and out of direct sunlight, the HeadCase stayed wet and cool for at least 30 minutes at a stretch.  

Answering Questions:

Fit:
1. How well does this item fit? This seems like an easy question, but a seamless tube of microfiber fabric which stretches might be too tight or too lose upon my pointy head.
The HeadCase fit just fine when it came to its ability to stretch. The diameter of the fabric tube was perfect for my head. My only issue is with the length of the tube. I felt that it was too short to allow me any real variance in how I wore it. 

2. Are there ways to wear the HeadCase that don't work for me due its size/fit? 
Yes. The length of the fabric tube made it almost impossible for me to effectively wear it in any configuration other than what I referred to as "the tube." This was dissappointing because I really wanted to put it to use as a beanie, but I didn't feel comfortable wearing it this way due to the length of the fabric tube.

3. How fashionable will I look on the trail? 
I looked good. Really good in fact. I even wore the HeadCase to the store and other off trail public locations.

4. Can I wear a climbing helmet over the HeadCase? 
Yes I can. In fact, when wetted it was a joy to wear under a climbing helmet on a hot day.


Use:
1. How much does it weigh? 
A mighty
1.10 oz (31 g).

2. The website shows 8 different ways to wear it. Can I use all of them? Are there other ways beyond the "8" that I can use this item? 
The answer here again is no. The HeadCase was just too short for me to utilize all 8.

3. How well does it protect my head from the sun when worn as a cap/head covering? 
Excellent actually. Despite being on the open water all day, I did not get any sunburn through the HeadCase which was protecting my ears and forehead.

4. Can I wet the HeadCase and then wear it as a cap in order to keep my head cool and covered during warmer weather? How long does it stay wet?  
Yes I can wet it and wear. In direct sun it only stays wet for about 15 minutes, but under a climbing helmet or hat it can stay wet for up to 30 minutes.

5. Is it thick enough to keep my head/neck warm on cool days/evenings/nights? Will it keep my head warm on cold nights in my hammock? 
Yes. I wore it down to about 45 F (7 C) this way and I was happy to find that it worked just fine to keep my forehead, ears, and the rest of my head warm. It wouldn't reach my neck, but that was fine.

6. Does it provide any type of protection from biting insects? Or can they bite through the fabric? 
I didn't have to deal with bugs during this test.

7. Will it work as a trail towel? Wash cloth? 
I have to say no to both. The Microfibre material was extremely difficult to get wet and this meant that it wouldn't take much water off my body and it was hard to use as a wash cloth when I had to waste so much water to get it soaked.

Durability:
1. Does the HeadCase stretch out? How well does it hold its shape/elastic qualities over time? 
I found that the HeadCase does not stretch. It held its shape during the full course of the testing period without any problems.

2. Does it develop nasty odors? Can the odors wash out or air out without too much lingering stink?
I have never washed it with detergent, but it has been soaked with water. It has never taken on a weird or noxious smell during the last four months.  

3. How resistant to snags and pilling is it? The website claims that it does not fray, is this true? 
Despite my best efforts it has not snagged, pilled or frayed. It held itself together pretty well.

4. Do stains wash out easily? 
Most stains I put on it were from blowing my nose and they seemed to disappear after being soaked in water and squeezed dry a few times.

5. What are the washing care instructions? Are they easy to follow in the field? 
I could not find any washing instructions on the hang tag or on the website.

6. Can I treat the HeadCase with insect repellant? 
I never had to, but I wish I had found the need to do so. I never had to pull the insect repellant out during this entire test period

Final thoughts:
I really enjoyed testing the Mental HeadCase Multi-Purpose Microfibre Accessory. It is an item that can be used in several different ways (cup holder, hanky, head covering) and doesn't eat up a lot of room or wieght in my pack.  It was easy to use and easy to carry which really  made me happy, but I did find that it was just not enough fabric to be a really excellent piece of my gear.  

If the fabric tube had just been about 3 inches (8 cm) longer, I think I would have been able to use it in several different ways as headgear instead of the one way that I felt was best suited to its size and my head.  I also felt that it made a great base layer for
my
head in a lot of situations which makes it even more practical in my mind, but I would really have loved to been able to use it on its own more and then have the base layer approach as an extra bonus.


Things I like:
Great base layer
Kept my head cool under a climbing helmet (when wetted)
Light w
ieght

Things I didn't like so much:
Too short
Could only wear it one way comfortably
Was best as a base layer



Read more reviews of Mental Gear gear
Read more gear reviews by Thomas Vickers

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