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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Outdoor Research Mithril Beanie > Jennifer Joy > Test Report by Jennifer Joy

OUTDOOR RESEARCH (OR) MITHRIL BEANIE
TEST SERIES BY JENNIFER JOY
LONG-TERM REPORT
April 22, 2007

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Jennifer Joy
EMAIL: bikerjen AT gmail DOT com
AGE: 38
LOCATION: Austin, Texas, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 5" (1.65 m)
WEIGHT: 135 lb (61.20 kg)

I have been camping and hiking since I was a small child. I have been trying to lighten my pack which currently runs around 26 lb (12 kg) for a 3-4 day trip. My backpacking trips tend to be over a weekend or day hikes. Multi-week hiking is a long-term goal. I could be considered an intermediate backpacker but an experienced camper.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Outdoor Research (OR)
Mithril Beanie
Mithril Beanie (photo from manufacturer)

Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: Outdoor Research
MSRP: USD 28.00
Listed Weight: 1.5 oz (42.5 g) size Large
Measured Weight: 1.4 oz (39.7 g) size Medium
Style #: 84380
Warranty: Lifetime

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The hat arrived with two hang tags attached by a plastic tie. One tag displays company contact information and the product information (style, color, size). It also describes OR's Infinite Guarantee which states that their products are guaranteed forever. The other tag simply says "ventia, waterproof/breathable by construction."

The back of the hat has a small sewn-in tag that reads OR Outdoor Research. Another tag says the hat is Made in China and 100% Nylon and a second tag lists care instructions in international and USA symbols:
* Machine wash cold (not exceeding 86 F / 30 C)
* Do not bleach
* Tumble dry low
* Low iron
* Do not dry clean

On the back of the care tag it says to wash separately.

The OR website describes the hat as being made of waterproof Ventia soft shell fabric with a warm fleece interior. The Ventia fabric is somewhat slick and stretches very slightly. It composes the main body of the hat. Around the back of the hat, stretching from ear to ear is a wide flaring band of 100-weight Motion Fleece which creates a stretch panel. This panel gives the hat the ability to stretch and fit to the head. The hat is fully seam taped and has a welded construction. The interior fleece of the hat is black.

The OR logo is on the right side of the hat where it covers the ear. It is very stealthy in appearance and blends in so it is hardly noticeable. The stitching and construction appear to be of a very high quality and the hat looks sharp.

The Mithril Beanie comes in 3 sizes (M, L, XL) and two color combinations: two-toned coffee and black and all black. I have a head circumference of 22 in (56 cm) which is shy of the 22.5 in (57 cm) bottom end of the Medium size. So far, the hat fits fine.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The Mithril Beanie is a simple hat and so it is not unexpected that it came without instructions.

TRYING IT OUT

After removing the hang tags, I pulled the hat onto my head. It has a little stretch to it which aids in fitting the hat to the head. It fits snugly, but not tight. I cannot feel the seams. The seams are flat-taped in the main body of the hat and there is a normal seam which runs around the edge of the hat. This seam is flat-taped on the outside. The normal seam tends to leave a small dent across my forehead, but it is not painful. Most tight-fitting hats have that effect on me.

The first thing I noticed about this hat is that it leaves about half an inch (over a centimeter) of my ear exposed, no matter how tightly the hat is pulled down. At first it gave me concern, but I've not noticed it as a problem yet. I wore the hat for over three hours in 40 F / 4 C temperatures. I have very sensitive ears and will see if problems occur later during testing. The hat repelled light rain and wind and it kept me warm. I also wore the hat through the night as I slept and it stayed on my head. It rose up a little, but it never fell off. I was impressed how well it stayed on.

The hat can stretch to fit over a ponytail, but no accommodation is made for an easy fit. It creates a rather snug lump where the hair retainer is and I'm not sure I like that too much. I can push the retainer down further and it is more comfortable.

The hat fits so snugly I have not decided whether it is more comfortable to have my glasses outside or inside the hat. Inside the hat, my earpieces are held closely and they won't slip out too easily. Outside of the hat the earpieces are no longer pressing so hard into my head, but then they don't have too much to grip on the outside of the hat.

TESTING STRATEGY

I am vacation challenged, so my trips are going to be weekend endeavors. Four weekend backpacking and camping trips are planned through March at various Texas state parks. I will also wear the hat daily as temperatures allow. I expect it will see approximately 8 uses in sleeping bags and more nights at home (we keep the house pretty cool). A trip to Seattle in January should also expose the hat to more wet weather. Trails will range from broad paths to bushwhacking through dense brush, which should test the materials and my sanity. If it is thin enough I will try the hat under my cycling helmet which would be an excellent test of breathability. Otherwise, I will be limited to how hard I can hike. I believe that a hat should be wearable all day without irritation, so I will be sure to test the hat in that capacity.

Big trip plans are uncertain at this point for next year, but I am hoping for a multi-day backpacking trip in Big Bend, Texas in February.

The following items are some of the questions that I will answer throughout the test period.

Fit/comfort:
-Were the website sizing directions good for choosing the fit?
-Does the hat feel good after hours of use (do I avoid squished, painful ears)?
-Will the hat keep my ears warm?
-Can the hat be used for sleeping in a sleeping bag or does it fall off?
-Does the hat go well under other objects such as hoods and helmets?
-Will my ponytail work with this hat or will I have to go without?
-Does rain water just run off the hat or does it go down my neck or into my eyes?

Materials:
-How well does the material hold up to repeated use?
-Will the hat get a funky smell over time and will washing cure it?
-Will other dirt and stains come out of the material?
-Does the hat tend to snag on branches or do they just bounce off?
-Will the fleece pile?
-How much rain/dampness can I be in and still stay dry?
-What do multiple machine washes do to the product over time (depending on care instructions)?
-How quickly does the material dry?
-Is the hat compressible for easy packing (can it fit in a pocket)?
-Is the material breathable in such a way that heavy exertion does not leave it soaked with sweat?

SUMMARY

Initial likes:

* Small packing and light weight
* Waterproof exterior

Initial concerns:

* The exposure of the bottom of the earlobes
* Difficulty with both ponytail and glasses

A FINAL NOTE

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be appended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report . Please check back then for further information.

Thank you to BackpackGearTest and Outdoor Research for the opportunity to test the Mithril Beanie.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Over the last two months, I have worn the Mithril Beanie approximately twenty times. The hat was worn in temperatures that ranged from 20 F / -7 C to 65 F / 18 C. In Seattle, I experienced light snow, sleet and temperatures that did not rise above 32 F / 0 C for three days. I wore the hat under my bike helmet for a 38 F / 3 C bike ride. The hat saw general about town use, hiking, sledding and biking. Texas locations were in Austin and Terlingua. Austin use was about town, overnights and on my bike. In Terlingua I hiked Big Bend for three days in high desert country. Elevations were primarily around sea level but went to 3000 ft / 914 m.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

One of my initial concerns with the hat was the fact it doesn't really cover the ears. Running around in the cold with no hat I found that it is the tops of the ears that get cold first, so perhaps the designers were on to something. I never did get cold ears wearing the hat, but I did find that the hat had a tendency to slip upwards. I would have preferred a long ear covering so I might not need to pull the hat down so often.

The hat is really not ponytail compatible. If I moved the hair band down below the bottom of the hat, it was ok, but then it wasn't much of a ponytail. The hat fits very closely, almost vacuum-like in nature. It required being pulled down when I put it on to prevent an airspace at the top of the hat. The hat looks a little dorky with the airspace, somewhat of the junior conehead look. I have very fine hair so there isn't much hair volume to take up space so my experience may be different from others. Also, with a close fitting hat like this one my long hair tends to stick out strangely when it can finally be free, which isn't the hat's fault, but it does tend to look a little odd, not that I mind too much in the backcountry. It does not give me mussed up hair, but it does make my hair flatter than normal.

The hat is extremely comfortable. I slept in it approximately 5 nights and the hat never came off while I was sleeping. I also wore it up to 8 hours a day while outside and found that neither overnight nor during a long day did it become irritating and cause "hat head". Hat head is when I cannot stand to have a hat on any longer and when I take it off I still feel like I have a hat on.

It's a little odd to wear sunglasses with the hat. I couldn't comfortably fit them under the hat so they were grasping the sides of the hat. This worked fairly well although on some of my glasses they tended to pivot at the connection point behind my ears and bounce on my nose.

Materials

The hat seems to fit the same as when I initially received it with no obvious stretching. I have not observed any wear or scuffing on the hat and it has been run through the wash and air dried 4 times and machine dried once. It comes out of the machine fairly dry and one time I was in a hurry and put it on slightly damp and found it insulated fairly well. The slick black outer material does show light dirt but it brushes away fairly easily. I like the black color even if it does show some dirt. Washing removes any odor from sweat or campfires.

The materials do seem to be windproof. The bike ride was the best test I performed and found that even at 20mph / 32 kmh speeds with gusting winds it was windproof. However, it did seem that the air was curling under the hat and my ears were a little cold. While hiking I appreciated the windproof nature of the fabric. One nice thing about the hat is it does not blow off. While it may ride up a little, when it's on my head it is staying on my head.

The weather warmed up considerably on the bike ride so I was sweating a lot and found that the material breathed well and my head was not noticeably damp. There was a little moisture but not enough to cause a chill. Also while hiking it seemed to ventilate well.

The hat appears to be extremely waterproof, but it isn't what I would chose to wear in a rain storm since it has no sheltering brim. I wore it in the rain as a test, but since it cannot keep the neck dry it would not be my choice. It is better in a rain storm under a hood. The waterproof nature is much nicer in snow where I can shake the hat and it comes clean of snow.

The hat isn't the most compact, but it will fit in a jacket pocket. The material does not compress but since it is not very bulky it can be rolled into a convenient size which is about the same size as a small floppy waffle ice cream cone.

SUMMARY

Likes:

* Waterproof and durable
* Windproof

Concerns:

* More ear covering is desirable
* Riding up while being worn and having to be pulled down tight for it to fit properly

TESTING STRATEGY

I will continue to wear and test the Mirthil Beanie over the next two months although temperatures are beginning to rapidly rise in my hometown.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

In the last two months since the Field Report I have worn the hat four more times on a trip to Seattle, Washington where temperatures were in the high 40s F / 4 C to low 50s F / 10 C. The elevation was primarily near sea level. The hat was worn on day hikes in the woods and in a park. There was occasional drizzle, but not any serious precipitation. I wore the hat approximately three times in Austin, Texas where temperatures were around 32F / 0 C and we had a wonderful ice storm.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The hat has held up well. I've washed it about three more times in the machine and have wadded it up in packs and in coat pockets and it still looks remarkably like new. I really like that the fabric is so durable.

It is a great hat to wear in light rain or snow and it is exceptionally useful when I want to wear something with the hat, such as a helmet, a headlamp or even a parka hood because it fits so closely to the head. The hat seemed to wick sweat away adequately even with strenuous exercise.

It really is not a friendly hat to long hair since I cannot wear a ponytail (other than having the band pushed way down below the bottom of the hat) and because it fits so tightly long hair sticks out sort of strangely. It also tends to migrate up, but not enough that my ears got cold.

SUMMARY

My summary from the field report remains unchanged. I will add that I find the strength of this hat is as a piece of technical gear. Its tight fit and smooth surface allows it to work well with other pieces of equipment and do its job without getting in the way. I would like the hat more if it was a bit longer over the ears and if it stayed put just a little bit better.

CONTINUED USE

I will continue to wear this hat, especially in cold or snowy conditions. It is not my favorite hat and I do not find it to be a stylish about town hat. However, I will bring it on colder camping trips because it seems at home out in the woods and especially for sleeping, since it stayed on my head so well overnight. I really liked the windproof fabric and the waterproof feature is nice, especially in snow. Without a brim it is not the best rain hat, but it would be great in a pinch especially because it packs up smaller than any other rain hat I own.

Thank you to both Outdoor Research and Backpackgeartest for the opportunity to test the Mithril Beanie.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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