Appalachian Gear Company All-Paca Fleece Beanie
The All-Paca Fleece Beanie is a basic but essential accessory. Alpaca wool performs superior over synthetic and cotton, and even slightly better than merino wool. Breathability is supreme and I've also been surprised by how well it keeps my head warm and dry while hiking in a cold drizzle.
- Alpaca fabric is soft against skin, highly breathable, and handles moisture extremely well
- Well suited for humid and damp conditions
- Made from natural and sustainable fibers
- Defies odor and dries quickly
- Made in the USA by a small cottage company, shipped in simple, plastic-free packaging
- Over 10 color options and plenty of inventory to choose from
- Slides off my head when rolling around in my sleep
- Not as warm as my down beanie
Since I've already written at length about the wonderful properties of alpaca fleece, this will be a shorter review detailing a few specifics of the All-Paca Fleece Beanie by Appalachian Gear Company. While thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I attended the annual ALDHA Gathering, where I ran into the AppGearCo team. I couldn't thank them enough for the opportunity to test their fleece crew while thru-hiking both the Long Trail and AT. Based on my extensive experience with it, I was excited to add an All-Paca Neck Pipe and Beanie to my kit.
I wore the beanie every night and sometimes all day for the rest of my AT thru-hike (October 10 to November 4, 1/4th of the trail...650 miles). Many of these late fall days were cold and wet, so I got to put it to the test in near-freezing conditions and all-day rain.
Fit & Comfort: This beanie is very comfortable. I can easily wear it all day without it causing a headache (I'm prone to getting migraines when my headwear is too tight). The material is pleasantly soft and stretchy, and doesn't make my head itch. Even though I have very thick hair, usually tied back in a ponytail, I find it easy to slide the beanie over my head. It covers my ears fully and doesn't feel loose. It's offered in two sizes: One-size-fits-most (my sample) and Large.
The only downside of this beanie is that it tends to slide off my head when I toss and turn at night. Given my thick/long hair situation, this doesn't surprise me and is something I've experienced with similar merino wool beanies. Since I use a Katabatic Gear quilt, it's pretty essential that I pair it with a hood or beanie to keep my head warm.
For my previous experiences with a quilt, I've used a Black Rock Gear down beanie. I absolutely love the comfort and warmth of that beanie, especially because it's the only one I've been able to convince to stay on my head all night. Something about the design, material, and shape of the rim liner keeps it in place. However, I've learned that a down beanie is terrible for hiking in, as it doesn't let my head breathe and is useless if it gets wet. In terms of overall functionality, the All-Paca Beanie is probably a better choice. Since they both weigh-in around 1 ounces, I'd be tempted to carry both in colder weather.
Warmth & Layering: The fabric is one layer, very breathable, and lightweight at only 1.16 ounces. As such, it's not really meant to offer extreme-weather protection. One could wear it for fair-weather skiing or similar winter sports, but I wouldn't rely on it for sub-zero conditions. Given its breathability and moisture management properties, it does make an excellent choice for high-intensity workouts and activities (running, hiking, etc) in winter and the shoulder seasons.
Water Resistance & Moisture: I spent some pretty prolonged periods hiking in the rain on the AT. Normally I'm able to keep my core dry under my trekking umbrella, but there were a few times when the trail was too overgrown to leave it deployed. The trail was also going up and down too frequently for me to tolerate my rain jacket, so I just hiked in my fleece layers.
I was rather impressed that I stayed as dry as I did when clad in the Alpaca. The fibers are so...hairy?...that they seem to catch and repel a light drizzle, while also allowing inner moisture to evaporate quickly. I see these same properties on the rare occasions when I launder my alpaca garments...they come out of the washer feeling nearly dry, so I often just put them on straight away, without bothering to run them through the drier.
Construction & Durability: The All-Paca beanie is a simple garment, with a cross of four seams and a hem...all with solid stitching. The product label is small and unobtrusive on the outside of the hem.
Alpaca products resist odor so well that they need not be washed very regularly. I usually go for several weeks of continuous use before washing any of my garments. Running them through a drier restores their loft nicely but isn't necessary. I expect this beanie to last a long time since it doesn't suffer from high abrasion or frequent washes.
Source: received it as a sample, freebie, or prize (Appalachian Gear Company)
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100% alpaca fiber fabric
custom-spun yarn imported from Peru / fabric knit in the company's own North Carolina, USA facility /garments constructed in sewing facilities in Southeast USA