Hiking Hats – What Options to Look For

Hiking HatsLet me tell you about what I learned about hiking hats.  In 2007, I went on an 18 mile day hike.  I had put on my sunscreen, but all I had on was a baseball cap.  I thought I was covered, I was wrong.  When I finished the hike, even with the sunscreen, the back of my neck was red with a sunburn.  Now, I know better.  This is what I have learned:

The Best Hiking Hats:

  • Have a sweatband or other material that can wick away moisture (wicking is the process of pulling the sweat away from your body.  This helps to keep you cooler)
  • Have a Wide Brim.  Your hiking hat should have a wide brim.  This will shield your neck, face and ears from the burning sunlight.  If you choose the “baseball” style cap, make sure that it has an added flap that covers your ears and neck.  (This is what I should have had on the hike mentioned above).
  • Have good ventilation.  Mesh panels on the hat will provide airflow around your head.  This, like the wicking will keep your head cooler.
  • Have Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) protection.  This is a special rating on sunblock clothing.  A hat with an UPF number will give you a guaranteed protection level from the sun.
  • Will have adjustable head bands.  Make sure that your hiking hat is adjustable, so that it will fit snugly on your head.  A snug fit will help keep the hat on during windy conditions.
  • Can be packed, crushed or folded.  A good hat will be able to be packed or crushed and still retain its shape.  This is great if you are planning on traveling or just to pack it away at night while on the trail.
  • Will be lightweight.  During a day of hiking, every ounce counts and having a heavy hat on your head can be uncomfortable.
  • Are weather, rain or moisture resistant or waterproof.  Hiking hats should be treated with water repellant chemicals or be waterproof.  You want to be able to keep the rain out of your face while hiking.
  • Have a Chin Strap.  It is a horrible sight, watching your hat blow down the trail or into a stream or lake.  A good chin strap will have an adjustable clip to keep your hat on your head on those high wind days.

Additional Options: (Double Prizes)

  • Flotation Devices: Some backpacking hats have integrated flotation.  Great if your hat falls into a stream or lake.
  • Pockets: Small storage pockets can be helpful.  They could store your fish hooks or other small items.
  • Mosquito Netting: When hiking in deep jungle, Alaska or other bug rich environments, you should consider having some protection from the insects.  You can also get mosquito netting that fits over your existing hat.
  • Machine Washable: Some outdoor hats can be put into the washer.

You may have to give up one feature to have another, but this list encompasses a lot of things to consider when looking at hiking hats.  Although, this article does not cover winter hats, some of the items listed above could be considered when purchasing a hat for cooler weather.

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