Altura's Skull Cap does a great job of keeping your head protected from the worst of the elements. It's not quite perfect – breathability isn't good enough to stop a bit of perspiration build-up, and rival products can be a little cheaper – but it's still a very decent bit of kit that does the job well.
I have a confession to make. Although genetics have not been kind to me on the follicle front, I've never actually used a skull cap before. Should I need a little extra barrier to the cold I've generally preferred to go the old-school route of retro cycling cap under a helmet. So has Altura's Skull Cap opened up a new world of cold weather/warm bonce opportunities? Yes, actually, it has.
However, before we get to performance matters, the first thing I'd like to mention is sizing. I have quite a large head, but I can stretch the Altura over my mighty pate with little problem. Altura has used an 'innovative cross-over design at the back' to allow for ponytails – a look that is well behind me these days – but it has the side effect of happily accommodating collosal craniums.
It's comfy, too, with a fleece-lined inner, no particularly annoying seams, and enough coverage to tuck your ears in. There's also a reflective trim all the way round for a spot of added visibility. And build quality is superb – although it's more of an accessory than a substantial garment, construction is hard to fault.
On the road, under a helmet, the Altura Skull Cap does a very good job of keeping chilly breezes at bay. The front section is made of windproof fabric and has a DWR coating for added rain repellency. As a barrier to brain-freeze, it's suitably effective.
I would say, though, that having a bit of hair would help if the weather starts dropping to freezing or even below. I've been wearing it down to middling single digit temperatures and I think I might need something more if it was to get much colder.
Although the Altura website says the Skull Cap has some measure of breathability, my personal experience is that this is pretty low. You might stay warm and chill-free, but I very much doubt your head will stay dry. Even after relatively short rides, the Skull Cap has become soggy.
It's hard to argue too much with the Skull Cap's performance – it's protective against the elements and comfy, and that might well be good enough. However, there are cheaper options out there: Lusso's Skull Cap is less than £10 and the excellent Galibier Dolomiti Skull Cap is only £11.64. So the Altura looks a little pricey.
Overall, though, this is high-quality bit of kit that does the job well. In terms of keeping out the elements – cold, wind and rain – it's very good. And while I have moaned a little about sweatiness, at least it shows the old noggin is nice and warm. If you're looking for something to keep out the chill, really only dedicated bargain hunters need to look elsewhere.
Very capable skull cap that keeps your head warm and comfy, if a bit sweaty at times
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura Skull Cap
Size tested: One size
Tell us what the product is for
This is a skull cap designed to keep heads warm underneath a helmet. Altura says: "A winter essential that provides an added layer of warmth under a helmet during chilly winter rides. The Altura Windproof Skullcap has a windproof front panel and DWR coating for extra protection from the elements whilst the reflective details provide added visibility in low light. The innovative cross-over design at the back allows for ponytails and provides a better fit."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Windproof front panel
Thermal brushed back fabric
Cross-over design allows for a ponytail
There's not much to it but it's well made of good materials, with an interesting cross-over design and reflective trim.
Very good at blocking out chills and keeping a warm head.
It's a fairly thick garment with solid construction, so I don't foresee any problem with longevity.
There are a couple of ruffles so it doesn't quite fit flat to the head, but it's pretty close.
One size fits all – even my big head.
As expected really.
Very impressed. Brushed inner is a soft contact surface and there's a nice secure fit that isn't tight.
There are cheaper and just as capable alternatives around. Lusso's Skull Cap is only £9.99 and the excellent Galibier Dolomiti Skull Cap is £11.64. So the Altura looks a little pricey.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problems at all. Stick it in the washing machine at 30 and don't use biological products. Comes out as good as new.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
In colder weather, the Altura Skull Cap works very well at protecting your head from the worst of the elements. In terms of pure performance, the only negative is breathability – I end rides with a sweaty head time and again. But that's not such a big price to pay for headchill-free cycling.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The cross-over design will be useful for many people with ponytails, but it even helps baldies like me get the skull cap on correctly.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing much really. Probably the tendency to cause a slightly sweaty head.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
There's really very little to nitpick when it comes to the levels of comfort that the Altura Skull Cap provides. It's well made, the one-size-fits-all sizing is good, and the soft brushed inner sits next to your head very pleasantly. As a barrier to the weather, it's excellent with superb windproofing. Only a bit of heat and sweat build-up, and the knowledge that rival products are cheaper, stops the Altura from being a top-rated product.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure