Review: Novara (REI) Thermal Tech Skull Cap
Just last week, the temperature at the start of my morning commute was 26 degrees. Sure, there are some hardy folk up Minnesota way who’d scoff at my personal “don’t be stupid- take the damn car” threshold of 25 degrees, but here in the desert 26 degrees- in November- is a big deal. Thankfully, within about 10 minutes of leaving the house, my body was creating enough heat that nothing but my cheeks and pinkies were uncomfortable. Though not exactly toasty, my nearly bald head and big ears were surprisingly comfortable under only my helmet and a $16.50 Thermoroubaix® skull cap from REI.
Sorting through our gear cupboard this summer, Ms. Marc threw me a black Novara skull cap saying “try this on- it’s too big for me- I can’t stand it.” I pulled the snug hat on and was happy to find that it covered my ears completely (somewhere my previous cold-weather cap came up short). Though it was a similar thickness to the cap it was soon to replace, the Thermal Tech’s Thermoroubaix® fabric was much fleecier on the inside. I threw it in my basket and figured that I’d try it out later in the year.
In reality, 26 degrees really is the Thermal Tech’s lower limit. As I’m not the type to dawdle on my morning commute (especially when it’s cold out), I do put out enough heat that balancing insulation and wind resistance with breathability can be a challenge. I’m also the type who’d rather be a bit chilly than clammy with sweat. With that in said, I find that the Thermal Tech’s comfort range runs from 45 degrees on down to 25. Its bottom edge forms a decent seal below the ears and around the base of the skull, jogging up to cross just above my eyebrows. On my medium-sized head, the one size that Novara offer is just about perfect. On Ms. Marc’s head, it really is just too big.
For riders with medium-sized heads, I can’t think of any reason not to give the Thermal Tech Skull Cap a go. It doesn’t have the fancy windproof panels that some extreme weather caps do, but the densely woven stretchy fabric does a very good job of keeping the wind out while allowing the head to breathe under hard efforts. It is thin and fits easily under even my snuggest helmet. Besides, between the sub-$17 price and REI’s extremely accommodating satisfaction policy, there’s virtually nothing to lose.