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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Loki Liner Hat > Test Report by Hollis Easter

LOKI ALL-N-1 Liner Hat
Test Series by Hollis Easter
Initial Report - 4 March 2009
Field Report - 9 June 2009
Long-Term Report - 10 August 2009

LOKI Liner Hat review by Hollis Easter

The LOKI ALL-N-1 Liner Hat is a fleece hat that converts into a neck gaiter and balaclava.

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Reviewer Information:

The author
The author

Name: Hollis Easter
Age: 28
Gender: Male
Height: 6'0" (1.8 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Email address: backpackgeartest[a@t)holliseaster(dah.t]com
City, State, Country: Potsdam, New York, USA
Backpacking Background: I started hiking as a child in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. As a teenager, I hiked my way to an Eagle Scout award. I love winter climbing, and long days through rough terrain abound. The peaks have become my year-round friends. I also love climbing rock and ice.

I am a midweight backpacker: I don't carry unnecessary gear, but neither do I cut the edges from my maps. I hike in all seasons, at altitudes from sea level to 5,300 ft (1,600 m), and in temperatures from -30 F (-34 C) to 100 F (38 C).

Product Information:

Manufacturer: LOKI
Year of manufacture: 2009
URL: www.lokigear.com
Listed dimensions: none
Actual dimensions: 10.5 in (26.5 cm) wide x 8.5 in (22.0 cm) tall
Listed weight: 2.5 oz (71 g)
Actual weight: 2.3 oz (66 g)
Size: One size fits all
Color: Black
MSRP: $20.00 US

Product features (from manufacturer materials):

  • Liner hat is helmet friendly.
  • Converts into a hat, vented hat, mask, open mask, gaiter, or raised gaiter.
  • "Super low profile fabric" makes it ideal for wearing with a helmet.
  • Very stowable.
  • Adds the right amount of warmth without being a space hog.
  • Uses a single cord lock.

Initial Report - 4 Mar 2009:

Before starting this test, I had already used several items made by LOKI. All were effective, and all of them featured a twist: some means of altering the gear to suit different conditions. I have a pair of mitts that convert, cleverly, to fingerless mittens—useful for ice climbing and for wilderness medicine, too.

So I was excited to be chosen for the Liner Hat test. Cleverness is a good thing. LOKI's hang tag on the liner hat explained their choice of name, for those who haven't recently reviewed their Norse mythology: "LOKI - Named for the Scandinavian god of mischief who could change his shape to suit his needs." Seems like a fitting design goal, too.

Pictures of Liner Hat as hat, gaiter, and mask

Description:

The Liner hat looks, at first blush, like a tube of black fabric with a white LOKI emblem embroidered onto the front. A tag says the hat is a synthetic blend of 98% polyester and 2% elastic; it also recommends warm washing, tumble drying on low, and the avoidance of bleach, fabric softeners, irons, and dry cleaning. The fabric feels like a microfleece or sweatsuit fabric, and it has a very soft hand. For those who care about such things, the fabric is a knit, and all seams are serged.

Although the hat's design is pretty intuitive, it proves complex to illuminate with words. To start with, imagine a neck gaiter: a cylinder of fabric that slips over the head and rests loosely around the neck.

Now, if that neck gaiter had a thin balaclava sewn inside it, it would have added versatility. I could pull the whole thing over my head, bringing my head through the hole in the balaclava's face, and it would function as a warm neck gaiter. Or I could pull the balaclava up over my head, and have everything except for my face covered. The liner hat has these features.

I could then pull the gaiter up over my face, and be completely protected except for my eyes. Neat! It's especially cool that the Liner Hat gives me the choice of covering my face or not, independently of whether I want my head and neck protected.

All that remains to complete the Liner Hat's cleverness is to stitch a grosgrain ribbon drawcord into the top of the neck gaiter. When open, this drawcord hangs out of the way, and the hat does its Protean duty as gaiter, balaclava, or full headmask. But when I stuff the balaclava back into the gaiter and pull the drawcord, the garment becomes a hat that fits closely onto my head.

LOKI's instructions are as follows:

1) Hat: Cinch top with hood inside; Flatten hood fabric inside; Wear with logo in front.

2) Mask: Fully open top; Pull down from bottom of hat; Adjust hood to fit; Wear above or below chin.

3) Gaiter: Pull mask over nose; Pull hood back; Tuck in loose hood fabric.

Pictures of Liner Hat under a helmet

Discussion:

I'm a furnace when I'm hiking, so commercial hats are often difficult for me: they're too warm! Consequently, I mostly use hats I made myself out of thin summer-weight fleece. However, I've used a commercial facemask several times this year during hikes that took me into really cold (-20 F / -29 C) conditions. It worked, but was still too warm for me.

So I jumped at the chance to try the Liner Hat, thinking that its thinness might be desirable for me. I'm pleased to see that the fabric really is thin. I will be interested to see how well it breathes: usually things that aren't windproof or waterproof breathe well for me.

So far, the hat seems pretty comfortable in most modes. The full facemask option is a little bit tight on my nose, and I'll be interested to see whether washing or wear will improve things.

The hat fits comfortably under my Petzl Elios climbing helmet, although I need to arrange the plastic cordlock to keep it from being compressed by the helmet. Once I do that, it's fine.

I'm looking forward to taking the Liner Hat out into the Adirondacks of New York and seeing what it can do. I suspect that the brutally-cold temperatures are gone for this year, but we'll see!

Field Report - 9 June 2009

During this period, I used the LOKI Liner Hat for 5 days and carried it for 2 more. I found it to be a versatile piece of clothing that was both comfortable and warm.

Staying warm on Mt. Skylight
Staying warm on Mt. Skylight

March 1, 2009: Algonquin, Boundary, and Iroquois Mtns

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
15 F (-9 C) to 0 F (-18 C) up to 10 mph (16 kph) 5,114 ft (1,559 m); 4,813 ft (1,467 m); 4,837 ft (1,474 m)

We climbed Algonquin, Boundary, and Iroquois from Adirondack Loj on a day that boasted unexpectedly beautiful sunshine and low winds. Our total mileage was about 11 miles (18 km), and my altimeter's accumulated elevation was about 5,300 ft (1,615 m).

March 9, 2009: Marcy, Skylight, and Gray Mtns

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
15 F (-9 C) to 0 F (-18 C) up to 60 mph (100 kph) 5,344 ft (1,629 m); 4,926 ft (1,501 m); 4,840 ft (1,475 m)

We did a long day trip up into the high peaks, ascending the highest, fourth highest, and seventh highest peaks in New York. We started from Adirondack Loj and climbed via the Van Hoevenberg trail to Marcy, where we found whiteout conditions: wind, loaded with ice pellets, blowing hard enough to suspend my trekking poles horizontally when dangled from their straps. This was a far cry from the calm winds that were forecast! I got to practice my map-and-compass navigation to get us down off the summit of Marcy into the col called Four Corners. From there we ascended Skylight, discovering many spruce traps. On Skylight's summit, the wind was just as hard, but blowing from the southwest (it was blowing from the northeast on Marcy, a mile away).

Our total mileage was 19.5 miles (31.4 km) in 13 hours, with an altimeter-measured climb of 8,845 ft (2,695 m).

March 14, 2009: Santanoni, Couchsachraga, and Panther Mtns

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
-5 F (-21 C) to 35 F (2 C) up to 10 mph (16 kph) 4,607 ft (1,404 m); 3,820 ft (1,164 m); 4,442 ft (1,353 m)

We had an absolutely glorious day out in the Santanoni Range, widely-renowned as some of the hardest peaks in the Adirondacks. We left the trail well below Bradley Pond, following a route that's alternately known as the Tahawus Club Trail, the New-Old Trail, or the Santanoni Express. It was a trail cut in the 1920s that climbs the southeastern shoulder of Santanoni Peak.

The herd path was significantly overgrown, and it was serious bushwhacking much of the time. We spent quite a bit of time on routefinding. Lovely, though, with beautiful views opening out to the east. The rest of the high peaks really put on their finery for us: I was amazed by some of the views.

Our total distance was approximately 16 miles (26 km) in 11.5 hours. My altimeter measured our total climb as 6,835 ft (2,083 m).

March 20-21, 2009: Donaldson, Emmons, Donaldson, Seward Mtns

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
15 F (-9 C) to 40 F (4 C) up to 10 mph (16 kph) 4,607 ft (1,404 m); 3,820 ft (1,164 m); 4,442 ft (1,353 m)

Several friends and I decided to take the last weekend of "official winter" to finish up one friend's quest to become a Winter 46er: someone who's climbed all the highest peaks in the Adirondacks between December 21st and March 21st. She's now done, and I'm exactly halfway. It was an ambitious plan, so we decided to camp near the trailhead in order to let us get an earlier start.

None of the peaks in the Seward Range have trails, and the walking definitely runs the gamut from "herd path" to "wading through Christmas trees". An access gate was closed, which necessitated an extra 6.6 miles (10.6 km) of walking. We followed a road to the summer trailhead, then followed the Blueberry Foot Trail to an old logging road leading south toward Calkins Brook. From there, we ascended off-trail on a truly lovely herd path up Calkins Brook. The herd path leads almost to the summit of Donaldson Mtn, the central peak of the ridge. We climbed Donaldson, descended (a heartbreakingly long way in endless stunted spruces) to a col and then climbed Emmons, then retraced our steps to Donaldson. Then another heavy bushwhack over to Seward, replete with another long descent. Beautiful weather for my friend's winter finish! Then back into the col, back almost all the way up Donaldson, and down.

We camped out the night before hiking; the alarms went off at 3:45 to enable us to be hiking by 5:30. Our total distance for the hiking day was about 24 miles (38.6 km) in just over 13 hours. The altimeter measured 5,905 ft (1,800 m) of climb, not including the climb of Emmons (I left my pack on Donaldson).

May 22-23, 2009: Cranberry Lake 50 (Curtis Pond)

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
35 F (2 C) to 60 F (15 C) up to 15 mph (24 kph) around 1,500 ft (460 m)

We intended to do a 50 mile (80 km) thruhike of the newly-created Cranberry Lake 50-miler, a series of foot trails that circumscribe Cranberry Lake, third largest of the lakes in the Adirondack Park. However, a teammate suffered an ankle injury on the first day, so we camped after about 8 miles (13 km) at Curtis Pond to see whether an afternoon and evening of rest would help. He awoke feeling no better the next day, so I hiked out with him to make sure he stayed safe. The blackflies were awful: I got more than 100 bites on my hands alone.

Well protected on Mt. Marcy
Well protected on Mt. Marcy

Commentary:

As a beginning, let me say that I've been very happy with the LOKI Liner Hat. It's taken the place of three different garments, which allows me to carry a lighter and less bulky load. I was skeptical of the hat's warmth at first, but I've become a believer.

The hat has always been "warm enough" for my needs. I never felt cold while wearing it; indeed, I often take it off after a few minutes of wear, feeling that I've grown too warm. It packs a surprising amount of insulation into its thin woven material. During the winter, I often kept it in my pocket, where I could pop it onto my head for a few minutes to warm up. This wouldn't have been possible with a thicker hat, and I much appreciated the flexibility it offered.

The hat arrived late enough in the year that I didn't have many opportunities to test it in really cold weather. However, the trip up Marcy, Skylight, and Gray offered an unexpected chance to see how protective the Liner Hat could be. Our forecast was for calm, grey skies; we encountered a blizzard, with wind-blown ice pellets that blinded and hurt us. The constant jet of ice made it almost impossible to move, because the impact against bare skin was excruciating.

The Liner Hat saved the day. I deployed the hat in its full facemask configuration, put it on, and felt instant relief. I had to take my gloves off to reconfigure the hat, which made me glad that the operation took only a few seconds. With my skin protected, I could walk into the wind, eyes closed down to slits, and make progress. I could see my compass and read my map.

For those who've never been out in such conditions, it might seem laughable to talk about a hat as if it were a life-saving piece of gear. After my day on Marcy, I will never think that again. It was vital to be able to cover all my exposed skin, and the Liner Hat gave me a comfortable, easy, and lightweight way of doing just that. LOKI, you have my thanks.

I've noticed that the hat seems to offer some protection against wind penetration. I can't explain this, since I can easily blow through the hat while sitting at my computer. However, when I was hiking, I noticed that I didn't feel chilled even when heavy winds blew on the hat. Whatever the reason, I'm glad of it.

The drawcord is long, and it tends to blow around when I'm wearing the Liner Hat configured as a hat. It's long enough to hit me in the eyes, which is uncomfortable. My solution is to tuck the end of the drawcord into the opening of the hat, and then cinch it down. This works fine, and I've had no troubles since discovering the trick. The technique also helps to cut down on the drawcord's occasional penchant for catching on trees while I'm bushwhacking. I didn't seem to notice the cordlock very often while wearing the hat, which is good!

Now that summer has come to northern New York, the Liner Hat's role has shifted somewhat. It's now a piece of gear I carry "in case": in case the weather gets worse, in case it's colder overnight than expected, in case I have to treat someone for hypothermia. In this role, too, I get a lot of mileage from the fact that that Liner Hat is light and non-bulky. It's easy to feel good about bringing it along just in case.

The hat dries very quickly if I sweat in it, which is a definite plus. It also seems to breathe well, which I noticed because it acquired quite a frosty coating when I hiked at temperatures below freezing! I mostly wear it either as a regular hat or as a full facemask; I didn't use the other configurations much.

I just love the LOKI Liner Hat. It replaces several different pieces of gear that I used to carry, and does a great job. I've found no evidence of wear so far: it still looks new. I'm really glad to be testing this hat!

Long-Term Report - 10 August 2009:

During this period, the weather has been pretty warm, so I haven't wanted a hat very often. I've carried it on every trip I've taken this summer, but have only used it twice.

June 13, 2009: Camel's Hump Mtn (Vermont)

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
70 F (21 C) up to 15 mph (24 kph) 4,083 ft (1,244 m)

A friend and I climbed Camel's Hump, the third-highest peak in Vermont, via the Burrows Route. It's a nice trail, gaining 2000 ft (600 m) in 2.4 miles (3.9 km). Total distance was about 5 miles (8 km) because we did some scrambling around. It was a lovely day for it, with slightly hazy views back to our beloved Adirondacks. We shared water, bug spray, and companionship with a nice group of folks from Tennessee. I wore the hat for a while on the summit, and it helped to warm me up after the wind chilled me.

July 6-7, 2009: Lampson Falls

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
45 F (7 C) to 60 F (15 C) up to 15 mph (24 kph) around 800 ft (240 m

I made the excursion to Lampson Falls for an overnight test of some gear. Total distance was about 2 miles (3 km), with minimal elevation gain. I kept the hat inside my hammock, and put it on occasionally when I got cold. When this happened, I warmed right back up and took it off.

Nice and warm on Camels Hump
Nice and warm on Camels Hump

Commentary:

I still love the LOKI Liner Hat. It remains comfortable, light, and easily packed, and I think nothing of carrying it into the woods. It has a permanent place in my pack. I only wish I could have had colder temperatures during this test period, so I could have given it more of a workout!

It's a great hat!

Likes:Dislikes:
  • Versatility is a good thing
  • I don't need to carry a separate neck gaiter and facemask anymore
  • Seemingly somewhat windproof
  • Facemask protects my face from ice pellets
  • Non-bulky
  • Fabric feels nice
  • Mask is a bit tight on my nose
  • Cordlock can be uncomfortable beneath a helmet
  • Drawcord blows around and can hit me in the eyes

I thank BackpackGearTest.org and LOKI for allowing me to test the LOKI Liner Hat.



Read more reviews of Loki gear
Read more gear reviews by Hollis Easter

Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Loki Liner Hat > Test Report by Hollis Easter



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