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Castelli said it wanted to make a lighter thermal hat, and that's what it's done with the Difesa Thermal cap, at the price of some windproofing.
The early arrival of winter (we had a good covering of snow in October in County Durham) means I've had a chance to wear the Castelli Difesa in a range of conditions that you might expect in the down-season, and while it's not as warm as an all-out waterproof/windproof cap, it provides a good degree of protection. Even in persistent Lake District rain it kept my head warm, though it was sopping wet by the end of the day.
The cap bit is made from something called Thermoflex Core2. This is thin and lightly fleecy on the inside, which makes it warmer than it looks. The half-wool, half-acrylic knitted ear-cover is comfortable and warm on still days but lets a noticeable draught through on cold, windy days. If you suffer from cold ears you might want an all-windproof design, such as Castelli's Difesa 2.
When worn without a helmet, the cap sits securely, thanks to its elasticated fit, but I did feel a bit of pressure against my forehead from the inner edge of the peak. My head is 58cm and I wouldn't have wanted the hat any tighter.
Under a helmet the thin fabric meant it didn't take up too much space and there was still enough room to push the earwarmer up a bit if needed. If I tried folding it up, though, I couldn't get my helmet on.
The peak was useful and flipped up and down in positive fashion, staying where it was put.
The Difesa Thermal comes with a choice of lining colours – red or blue – but you'd have to wear it inside out for anyone to notice this.
Castelli's autumn/spring hat is plenty warm enough even without windproofing, but one size may not fit all...
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Castelli Difesa Thermal Cap
Size tested: One
Tell us what the product is for
From Castelli's website:
Our original Difesa cap is a Windstopper® piece that's best for extreme conditions.
With the Difesa Thermal we take away the windproofing, but by doing so dramatically improve the moisture management, so it's best for cool to cold conditions, especially with high-intensity riding.
We place a rib-knit wool wrap around the ears to keep you warm but keep it all relatively thin to fit under a helmet.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Thermoflex Core2 fabric on body of cap for warmth and optimal wicking to move moisture away from your skin
Wool-blend ear cover
Classic fit with vintage appeal
The four-panel cap is double-stitched inside. The ear cover and peak attach with two lines of simple stitching.
Most of the time this autumn this cap has been very welcome. It's warm enough for quite cold days, but the lack of windproofing in the ear cover is noticable in a cold breeze. Though not waterproof, it does keep the elements at bay.
This is well-made and not just your average cloth cap. I don't see any reason why it shouldn't last a few winters.
Fine for me; my head is not unusually large at 58cm but it was quite tight so if you're much over that you might have trouble.
One size only.
A beanie-style might save a bit of weight over a peaked cap, but then it's a different kind of hat.
Generally good, though as mentioned slightly tight. The knitted earcover isn't as wind resistant as I might have liked.
Dearer than many a cap, but more sophisticated too. It's £10 more than similar offerings from Lusso and Prendas (see below), but does a slightly different job.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Went through the wash without trouble.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Good on cool-to-cold days. If there was any sunshine it got a bit hot on the climbs, but hey! you can take it off. Remarkably resistant to foul weather.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Warm under a helmet, the peak was useful and stayed where it was put. Smart Italian flag on the peak.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The inside edge of the peak pressed into my forehead a little – an issue with the overall sizing, perhaps.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
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
If it fits, it's well worth considering. It's quite versatile, has a good peak, fits well under a helmet and is secure without; a little too secure, perhaps, if you have a large head. I've been reaching for it lots this autumn.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking