I wrote about four critical head- and neck-specific items in the January-February issue of AMC Outdoors—liner balaclava, hat, face mask, and goggles—but there’s one more layer of protection worth highlighting: a good, properly-fitting jacket hood. Here’s what to look for.
First, it should be completely wind-proof to offer total protection even in extreme conditions. Any jacket with a waterproof-breathable membrane (Gore-tex and its equivalents) will block the wind at any speed.
Second, you should be able to cinch the hood securely around your head and face to prevent wind from blasting in through the opening and ballooning the hood like a sail. Drawcords around the face opening are obviously necessary (and included on virtually every jacket), but also crucial is a drawcord that wraps circumferentially around your head above ear level. The ideal hood system is adjustable one-handed while wearing gloves or mittens.
Third—and this is crucial—you should be able to move your head side-to-side and up-and-down while maintaining a full field of view. The hood should move with you, not block your vision as you turn to the side.
Fourth, if you’ll be wearing a climbing helmet, make sure that the hood is large enough to accommodate it.
Lastly, a quick trick to consider. Some above-treeline travelers put on goggles over their hoods. This definitely helps keep the hood firmly in place—a plus if the hood fits less securely otherwise—but makes it more challenging to take on and off as conditions warrant.
For more on head and face protection, check out my recent video, Losing Steam: Four Essentials for Protecting Your Head and Face.
Stay warm and stay safe out there!