This past summer, I was limbing a felled tree. As I leaned forward to cut a low limb, I smacked my forehead against the stub of a higher limb that was hidden by the brim of my cap. I saw stars for a moment, and could feel blood seeping from my forehead. To add insult to injury, my wife, Kari, said, “That was stupid. You should have been wearing a hard hat.”

Neither the bump on my head nor Kari’s comment scored very highly on my happy meter.

The Bottom Line, Up Front

The Ergodyne Skullerz 8945f(x) bump cap insert is an inexpensive and comfortable solution for converting a typical baseball cap into piece of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Although the insert will not provide the same level of protection as an industrial safety helmet, I have found that an insert that I actually wear provides a higher level of protection than an industrial safety helmet that is hanging on a nail in my pole barn.

JWR Adds: This goes along with my philosophy that a piece of PPE or EDC gear that you wear or carry daily is vastly superior to one that is so large, heavy, or cumbersome that it gets left at home.  This same principle applies to self-defense handguns. It is generally better to carry a compact 9mm or even a .380 ACP that is on your hip every day of the week than a big .44 Magnum cannon that is only toted on special occasions.

Available at the time of this writing for $12.95 from , the 8945 is well worth the price.

The Bump Cap Journey

I have a nice hard hat, but I hardly ever wear it. It just seems too heavy and clumsy and bulky and clunky. So most of the time when I am working around the property, the hard hat remains on a nail in the pole barn, and I wear an old Helly Hansen baseball cap instead.

That knock on the head back in August hurt a lot, but perhaps it knocked some sense into me as well. It brought to mind something that my youngest daughter, Rivka, had mentioned. Rivka is a technical writer for a company that makes robotic machines for factory assembly lines. She had previously commented that she sometimes needs to wear a bump cap while out on the factory floor. I thought that if a bump cap could protect a technical writer in a high-tech factory, maybe one could protect me as well. I decided to give a bump cap a try.

I suspected that all bump caps would probably be made by slave labor in China. A quick online search revealed that this was not the case. I found at least one bump cap that is made right here in the USA.

The Ironclad Rainer BCX Bump Cap

Although it was listed for $34.99 at the time of this writing at , the Rainer BCX bump cap was out of stock. I found one elsewhere online for $43.22, and promptly ordered it. It arrived about a week later.

The BCX is basically a baseball cap with a plastic lining. I found it to be much lighter and more comfortable than a hard hat. Size can be adjusted with a plastic snapback. I would prefer a buckled cloth strap for size adjustment instead. I would also prefer a somewhat lower crown.

As I wore the BCX under conditions that required hearing protection, I found that the crown is so high that it is difficult to fit earmuffs over it. But the biggest problem with the hat is its lack of adequate ventilation. Wearing the hat is basically like wearing a plastic shower cap over your scalp. In hot humid conditions, I found that water vapor from my scalp condensed on the crown and then mingled with my sweat to run down into my eyes and onto my collar. This ultimately became so uncomfortable that I took the cap off, and replaced it with the old Helly Hansen cloth baseball cap. About an hour later, I bumped my head on the doorframe of our camper. I decided that a bump cap that is too uncomfortable to wear is no better than a hard hat that is too uncomfortable to wear.

The Ergodyne Skullerz 8945f(x)

A few days later, Kari and I had a picnic with Rivka at a lakeside park. Rivka brought a couple of her bump caps to show me. One was a cap with an Ergodyne Skullerz 8945f(x) bump cap insert installed. She pointed out the words “Made in USA” molded into the insert. I tried on the cap and found it to be quite comfortable. I noted the pattern of vent holes molded into the plastic, as well as the ridges that make it structurally stronger. I was so impressed that I decided to give it a try. I ordered one online. A few days later, the insert was delivered.

First Impressions

The insert came with instructions printed in English, Spanish, French, and German. These instructions consisted mostly of helpful illustrations.

The insert is installed by folding the sweatband of the receptor cap down, placing the insert inside the cap, and then folding the sweatband back in place over the insert. The insert includes an optional trim-to-fit feature that allows material to be cut away from the insert along pre-marked lines along the sides of the insert. This allows the insert to be fitted to caps with lower crowns.

I decided to install the insert in my favorite old Helly Hansen work cap. It did not quite fit until after I cut the trim-to-fit tabs away. Then it fit well, and I found the result to be very comfortable.


I was already in the habit of wearing my Helly Hansen cap every time I went out the door to work around the property. I continued that habit after the 8945 liner was installed in the cap.

The cap was so comfortable with the liner, that I forgot I had it on. I just carried on with my daily tasks without even thinking about it.

Then came the first time that I bumped my head while I was wearing the cap with the insert. I instinctively said, “ouch” because I expected it to hurt. Then I suddenly realized that bumping my head had not hurt at all because of the protection offered by the insert. I had a good laugh at myself.

I bumped my head many more times over the course of the next couple of months. This caused me to realize two things. One insight is that I bump my head a lot. The second insight is that the bump cap insert really helps. None of the bumps hurt at all while I was wearing the insert.

The Old Cap

One of the nicest things about the insert is that it allows me to continue to wear my favorite old baseball cap.

Once upon a time, the old cap was new. More than 20 years ago now, my family and I were missionaries serving overseas. We were getting ready for a furlough in the United States, so most of our belongings were packed up. In one of our last days in our host country, we decided to visit a local amusement park.

Those of you with hair may not understand this, but the follically challenged will quickly grasp what I am about to say. I knew that an unprotected day in the sun would result in a serving of fried scalp, with perhaps even a side of fried brain. My other hats and caps were all packed, so I visited a local shopping center to pick something up. There I found a beautiful, cardboard-colored, Helly Hansen cap. It was the most comfortable cap I had ever put on, seemingly custom molded for my head. It was a bit expensive by my standards, but cheaper than an ER visit for sunstroke. Based on that consideration, I decided that the price was reasonable, and bought the cap. I have never experienced buyer’s remorse for that purchase. The cap has served me well through the intervening decades.

For the first 10 years or so after I bought the cap, it was my “good” cap. I wore it to church picnics, baseball games, boat rides and other public outdoor events where I was expected to look at least somewhat presentable in a casual way. When I coached the high school girls’ soccer team that my daughters’ played on, I wore the cap to practice. When I went camping, picnicking, fishing, or hiking in the woods, I wore the cap. The cap was with me while I made many good memories.

After about 10 years of constant use, the cap began to develop some stains and started to fray in places. Kari began to say, “You are not going to wear that old thing, are you?” My kids gave me newer caps as birthday and Christmas gifts. The Helly Hansen cap made the transition from being my “good cap” to being my “old cap.”

I wore the old cap for outdoor work around the property. It was still the most comfortable cap that I had ever put on. It kept the sun off my head when it was warm. It kept the rain off my head when it was wet. The visor protected my glasses in all kinds of weather. And it kept the deer flies from biting my bald spot. I looked forward to working outside, because it gave me an excuse to wear the old favorite.

Then an event occurred which transformed the “old cap” into the “OLD cap”. We live in a log home. Every year we stain one of the walls of the home. This keeps each wall of the home well maintained on a regular basis.

During the year in question, we were staining the south wall of the home. We have a deck along the south wall. I laid down a tarp to keep drops of stain from our work on the wall from speckling the deck. As I raised the ladder, Kari said, “Shouldn’t you keep the feet of the ladder off the tarp, so that they won’t slip?” I replied, “No. The weight should be sufficient to keep the ladder from slipping.”

About 30 minutes later, as I was about 15 feet up the ladder staining the wall, the feet of the ladder began to slip. As the bottom of the ladder slid away from the house, the top of the ladder bounced over each log in the wall on the way down, giving a very bumpy, rapidly accelerating, and exciting ride.

When the ladder reached the bottom, it landed on top of the stain can, which had landed in an upright position. The stain can was crushed by the ladder, and expelled it contents explosively over my shirt. Significant portions of stain splattered from my shirt onto my glasses, my pants, and the cap.

Fortunately, the friction provided by the logs and the cushioning provided by the stain can protected me from serious injury. I think I broke the long toe on one of my feet, but I was otherwise uninjured. My toe gradually healed over the course of the next few months, and ceased to cause any discomfort for many years. More recently, changes in the weather have begun to produce an ache in that toe.

The brown of the stain and the sun-bleached cardboard base-color of the cap combined to create what some have since mistaken for a custom camo job. With the course of time and as the result of many washings, the stain marks have gradually begun to fade as well.

I continue to wear the cap on a regular basis for all of my warm weather outside work. Whenever it gets dirty enough, Kari just throws it in the washing machine with my work clothes. It is now developing some significant “ventilation” holes in the crown.

They Don’t Make Them Like This Anymore

The closest equivalent cap made today costs $22 at On the day that I visited the website, the very first reviewer had posted a picture of a hat just like mine (in cardboard color even), and commented about how the new version of the cap was greatly inferior to the old version.

I searched on eBay to see if there were any used original versions of the cap in good condition. I found a sweat-stained, used example in navy blue for $9.99 plus $6.45 shipping. I was greatly tempted to buy it. But the truth of the matter is that even if I were to completely wear out one cap each year, I probably already own more than enough caps to adequately supply me for the rest of my life. And it would not surprise me if the “old cap” survived as my work cap for the rest of my life, and the other caps provided me with an ample supply of “good caps.”

So I will continue to enjoy this fine old cap unless the day comes when the stress of going through the laundry causes a catastrophic failure in some portion of the fabric, and the cap is transformed into a rag. And then the old cap will hold an honored place in my memory as the best cap that I have ever owned.


I am glad that the Ergodyne Skullerz 8945f(x) bump cap insert makes my old Helly Hansen baseball cap into a comfortable and effective piece of protective gear. If you have a favorite old work cap, I recommend that you consider upgrading it with an 8945f(x) insert.


I did not receive any financial or other inducement to mention any vendor, product, or service in this article.