Hoods. Aren’t they wonderful? They provide much needed warmth and coziness when there’s a biting wind blowing up high and they can even make you extra snug in your sleeping bag when you’re camping on a cold night. But can you have too many hoods?
I don’t know about you, but lately, I’ve been finding myself out on the trail with an awful lot of hoods. For example, if I wear my North Face Bolt Polartec hooded jacket, which is technically a light fleece mid layer, with my Rab Infinity Microlight down jacket over the top, and the rain comes on, I whip on my Montane Phase Lite waterproof jacket and suddenly, I find myself with three hoods to contend with.
If I’m not actually using any of these hoods and, say, just wearing the waterproof jacket to keep the wind off, it’s not necessarily a problem. But what happens if it actually starts to rain? Do I put all three heads up, one on top of the other, and hike, as though I am being swaddled? Or, do I tuck one or two hoods in, creating some annoying bulk inside my outer layer, and hike like Quasimodo?
It’s all becoming a bit of a conundrum, and as is often the case with these questions, I’m afraid there’s no singular answer, but if you're in the market for a new down jacket or mid layer, you might be wondering if you need a hood, or not, so let’s work through some possible angles of this debate.
Do all of your jackets need to have a hood?
Let’s start with this – do all of your jackets really need to have a hood? Hoods do have some distinct advantages and I don’t know about you, but I definitely think of a jacket that has a hood as having more value than a jacket without a hood. Obviously your waterproof jacket needs a hood to keep the rain off, there’s no question about that. When there’s a cold wind, a down hood on your puffy jacket will definitely provide you with much more warmth than even your coziest beanie hat. And what about a mid layer? In theory, these shouldn’t need a hood at all but, of course, the thing about mid layers is that when the weather warms up, they become your outer layers and then a hood could come in handy. So what do you do?
Does your mid layer need a hood?
Let’s start with your mid layer, since when you’re getting dressed, that goes on first. Basically, I don’t think it’s essential that this layer has a hood. If it’s always going to be a mid layer, then the hood might always just be a nuisance. And, arguably, if it’s warm enough to wear it without anything on top, then you shouldn’t really need the hood at all and a beanie hat should suffice. So, there’s an argument for not needing a hood on your mid layer, though as I mentioned before, if it spends half the year as your outer layer, that's a different question.
Does your down jacket need a hood?
Moving onto your down jacket. To hood or not to hood, that is the question. If you are going to be wearing your down jacket for winter hiking and camping, cold days on belay or for hanging around the campfire on chilly nights, there’s really a lot of benefit to having a hood.
However, if your down jacket is actually more of a mid layer than an outer, and you’re going to be wearing a shell jacket on top of it, as in for skiing, then you actually would probably be just as happy with a sweater-style down jacket like my North Face Thermoball Eco that doesn’t have a hood. You can simply use the hood of your shell jacket, and of course, if you did end up with a mid layer that has a hood you could wear that underneath for extra warmth.
Furthermore, if you just want a down jacket for casual wear around town, then it also probably doesn’t require a hood although there’s no great disadvantage to having one.
Are there any disadvantages to having a hood?
Speaking of disadvantages, are there any disadvantages to having hoods, so long as you don’t have too many? Well, one thing you do need to take into account is that every hood adds bulk and layer to every jacket. This matters if those jackets are going to end up stuffed inside your backpack. So, if you are going backpacking and carrying all your gear, then you probably want to ration your hoods.
Ultimately, my strategy is to try not to have more than two hoods at any one time. That means if I am wearing three layers, I obviously need a hood on my waterproof jacket then only one of my other two layers needs a hood. One hood is enough for most adventures, and three hoods is simply too many.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.