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Not as if hat hair is the worst thing on earth, but why not try to avoid it if you can? Since the mid-90s, a number of companies have come out with what are generically called "bandless ear muffs." They are two-sided, bean-shaped pieces of fleece or other material that have some kind of wire or stiff yet bendable material sewn into the perimeter. The backside has a hole in it, so you can slide the whole piece onto your ear, then sort of "pop" it flat onto your head so your ear is snugged between the two sides of material and the muff stays put.

Voila, ear muffs without those goofy bands that go over the top or back of your head. No hat hair but warm ears. And you can wear them slyly if you want, too.

Bandless ear muffs, this case, EarMitts, are a matter of preference and taste – and perhaps ear size and shape too. We know people who can't stand them, and others who think they're the cat's meow. If you can wear them, you will likely love them. If you can't…well…end of story.

One of our testers loves the way they fit easily into a pocket and can slip on ears in a flash without creating either hat hair or hair full of static electricity as you pull a hat on and off. The EarMitts have a good-sized ear opening without being so large as to slip off. And the bean-shape itself is larger than some others – without being so large as to be obnoxious. Plus the material that bends to snap them snug on your ear tends to hold securely, even while trail running in the woods. Another one of our testers finds they hurt. EarMitts also all have Thinsulate insulation for additional warmth without bulk.

The beauty of these is you can wear them with other equipment or apparel, such as helmets, stocking caps or sunglasses. You can even wear them with a baseball style hat if you want the brim, but it's too cold to wear sans ear coverings. Mix and match, then remove the ear coverings if it warms up. When wearing with sunglasses, you need to get any ear muff slipped on securely so one just doesn't slide off at some point, mandating a quick halt in the action to retrieve and reposition it. (Not too possible if you're on a ski lift, for example.)

One downside is having to watch yourself when you stash them so you don't lose one, either on the street, in a different coat pocket or duffle bag, or drawer.

SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $10-12, depending on the material.

For more information:www.earmitts.com or 1-800-439-0883



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