Best Hiking Hats (Buying Guide)
There’s the iconic scene in Anchorman when Ron Burgundy, the once disgraced news reporter played hilariously by Will Ferrell, is in a stupor after losing his job, roaming around San Diego. In a heap of despair and with an unkempt beard, he turns to the heavens and goes, “it’s so dang hot!” It’s a classic line from a hysterical film, and we all know what it’s like to feel trapped beneath those hyper warm sunshine rays associated with hot weather when trying to push up a mountain slope, so let’s recommend one of the best ways to combat that: a handy hiking hat.
Whenever you are on the hiking trails, wilderness, or embarking in general outdoor adventures, the most important thing is your safety. Sure it’s easy to understand the worry of bears eating your food, or using a GPS device to make sure you don’t get lost on the trails. But something people always underestimate, no matter it’s radical strength, is the sun and its potentially damaging rays as it can both warm and damage your skin.
Of course, wearing sunscreen is not sufficient when it comes to UV protection. Neither is it to just pack a pair of sunglasses. To stay safe and cool while walking around, it’s mandatory to invest in good hiking gear, including a great hat. However, before we review the best products on the market, let’s take some time to address the factors to consider when looking for the best sun hats.
Of course, a good hat needs to protect you. Depending on the climate you are used to venturing into, you may want to invest in a hat focusing on sun protection, rain protection, or both. When looking for protection from the fiery sun above, be sure to find a hat with the best rating against ultraviolet rays, both UVA and UVB strength beams of light. Naturally, the higher the percentage of perfection and the premier products available can protect 98% of these harmful rays. When considering a hiking hat, look for something with a minimum of 30UPF, but ideally something showing more than 50UPF protection.
The range regarding a hat’s capabilities is based on the materials used in the item’s development, including color, fabric material, weight and even which stitching and weave were used in the construction. Darker colors, heavier fabrics, and a tighter weave prevent ultraviolet right penetration, while lighter colors and fabrics are normally cooler and more comfortable. When considering rain protection, remember that nylon and polyester are more resistant materials compared to standard cotton. Also, some options are lined with Gore-Tex, meaning they should be both waterproof and breathable, but perhaps at a higher price tag to compensate the added investment.
The hat’s shape
Obviously the wider the hat’s brim, the more sun protection it will offer. So something with a full brim around the body will offer better protection than a baseball cap, which just offers a straightforward brim. A 3-4 inch 360 brim should be plentiful when considering sun protection. However, there can also be some detriments to having a wide brim. For example, it can be picked up by the gusts of those windy days, or uncomfortably press against your bag if you’re doing a bigger trip like backpacking excursions or something where you carry a lot of weight.
The final thing to look for is the potential additional goodies and accessories some hats provide. For example, some will offer a flap that looks like a cape for your neck. This way you can more efficiently reduce the risk of skin damage. You may also come across detachable flaps that can extend down for additional neck and ear protection, which can help but at the risk of the hat’s aesthetic. There are also potential amenities like a mosquito net or hidden pocket, so if you’re hiking through a buggy region this may be your best choice. So be considerate what you’d like your hat to offer and what size you are comfortable with.
Fit and comfort
Speaking of what you’re comfortable with, let’s review the sizing and material considerations of a hat and how that corresponds to the fit. Most hats available are one size fits all, though it’s still a good idea to measure your hat size before looking around, as that way you’ll know your head specifics. To measure your hat size, just wrap a flexible measuring tape or a piece of string around your head. Starting at the forehead, move across your temples and the back the skull at an even level.
When talking about fit, please be sure to avoid a hat that’s too tight on your head, as you’ll get headaches and the discomfort will offset whatever benefits you reap while protecting your skin. And if that’s the case, you probably won’t even wear it, defeating the purpose of investing in such an important aspect of your skin’s protection. And conversely, don’t buy a hat too big. This can fly off when it gets windy, get in your eyes and distract you from gorgeous nature all over on the trails. Now that we’ve addressed sizing, material, and hat type, it’s time to move on to the individual product reviews. Onwards!
Best Hiking Hats – Overview
1. Columbia Unixes Bora Bora II Booney Hat
- Don't worry about the glass bottom hut; the Bora Bora Booney II by Columbia is just the thing you need to enjoy the summer sun in peace.
When listing all the potential characteristics of an ideal hiking hat, it’s evident that Columbia combined all those necessary features into this headwear. With a 50 UPF sun protection ranking, as well as an Omni-wick sweatband to keep the perspiration at by, plus mesh panels to keep you cool, this boonie is a great choice. It is simple, lightweight and easy to pack due to its nylon fabric construction. And when the wind is blowing on those particularly blustery days, use the adjustable chin strap to keep your hat on your head, not in the nearby bushes.
And for the fashionista, know that the Columbia Bora Bora booney comes in a variety of colors as well. So you can stay cool while looking cool, on the trails or even once back at base camp or back in the big city.
- Lightweight at 2.88 ounces
- Omni-wick sweatband to keep you cool
- Not waterproof
- Breathable mesh up to could allow sunburn in if the user has thin hair
2. Outdoor Research Swift Sun Hat
- Our Classic Training Ball Cap Our Most Popular Training Hat, The Swift Cap Has Sun Protect
This unisex swift cap from the always reliable Outdoor Research brand offers less brim hat protection that some of the competitors, but that’s not always a bad thing. It will still protect you from UVB rays and UV rays to boot. Some even compare this ball cap to something like a tent. And not because it’s difficult to stow and has a funky odor, but for all the added technologies we appreciate in our camping residences. For example, with a 3-panel mesh, the cap has breathable fabric and will be wicking away moisture so you stay fresh and comfortable. And the multi-layer band above your forehead has water-resistant properties as well, keeping you dry from the water and wind. And it’s not like there’s no brim on this hat at all. The 2.75-inch bill is certainly enough to protect your face.
Depending on the size of your noggin, you’ll still be covered with your lid well clamped on. An adjustable buckle back closure means anyone can have a safe and reliable fit. And if it falls in the mud, or just needs a good wash after a weekend away, throw it in the washing machine with your socks and shirts! It’s machine-safe and quick-drying, due to its 100% nylon construction.
This lid is always available in a wide strew of colors, 12 in total, so it’s not something you have to store away in the garage until it’s time for a hike. Feel free to wear it any day of the week in virtually any environment.
- Lots of color options
- 100% nylon stitching keeps it light and with super breathability
- Limited sun protection, only forward-facing bill
- Won’t keep you warm when the weather cools down
3. Tilley Endurables LTM6 Airflo Hat
This Tilley hat is a great choice because it offers most of the recommended amenities with one nice bonus. For starters, of course, it offers great protection against ultraviolet rays and provides great airflow. It’s got a broad rim that wraps around 360 degrees to keep you cool. Plus, the underside of the brimmed hat has been darkened, to prevent glare when stepping past rocks, canyons and streams. A nice added touch.
Like other comparable products, there is mesh wraparound on the crown to keep you cool, and a soft odor-resistant band lining the inner rim to prevent perspiration and stink. Under the chin, use the drawstring to keep your hat tightly tucked against the head and out of the wind, and the nylon makes it lightweight and easily washable. Plus the hat comes with a lifetime guarantee, so you know the craft and quality are top-notch.
But the final additional item this hat offers is a secret, sealable velcro pocket. The perfect size for a couple of bills, a house or car key or your identification card, it really makes for an easier time when out and about.
- Secret velcro-sealed pouch for storage
- Lifetime guarantee
- Fit can be a bit tight
4. Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat
We love this hat for its funky shape. When you look at this character, it’s clear that it was made with one purpose in mind: to keep you cool from the heat no matter how silly you may look. Trailblazers are often ridiculed for being brave enough to think outside the box, and perhaps the Steve Jobs of the hiking hat community is stowed away within the Sunday Afternoon’s headquarters.
This outdoor hat has all the essentials: a 50 UPF sun protection ranking, and a light, comfortable nylon-polyester blend that keeps you cool. Plus it has moisture-wicking technologies inside thanks to its mesh ventilation and interior headband. It is easily crushable for simple storage and has a compartment to hold your sunglasses. On the other side of the brim is a shaded, glare-repellent ripstop material that’s easy on the eyes. Plus it has a chin drawstring with reflective elements, so your hat will stay on and you’ll stay in sight whether it’s night or day.
To conclude on the peculiar shape, the brim of the hat is like a reverse clamshell and finishes in the back with a distinct 6-inch neck cape for added sun protection against skin cancer.
- Eco-friendly materials
- Reflective panels for night access
- Great sun protection
- The unique shape could inhibit potential buyers
- A bit bulkier than some other hats on the list
5. Ushake Mosquito Head Net Hat
- Fabric Composition: Nylon fabric 100%+Polyester net mesh. Non-impregnated fabric serves as a natural mosquito repellent and allows good air circulation.Bucket Hat with Hidden Net Mesh Protection from...
Nothing is worse than having to swat away mosquitos when trekking up a mountain. Worse is when you are so sweaty that they literally stick to your skin, stuck to the moisture compounding on the face. For an economical price tag and clever design, the UShake mosquito head net hat is a great choice if you’re headed to any buggy territory from Alaska to Tanzania.
With a snap-closure compartment between the hat’s brim and top crown is a tucked away full-head polyester mesh mosquito net. When unraveled it’s about 13.4 inches long and has a tightening toggle to prevent insects from flying in. Naturally, the net is cool and well-ventilated despite the tight weave it uses to protect you.
When you don’t need the net, roll it up. The bucket still keeps you sun protected with 360-degree coverage and UPF 50 sun protection. Plus it comes with a 12-month guarantee so you’ll never have to worry about being with a faulty product.
While thick on features, the hat doesn’t come with so many aesthetic options. Three colors are available, and the sizing range is from head circumferences of 22.8 to 23.3 inches. So check your head size, check your maps, and if you’re headed to some buggy terrain, be sure to pack one of these guys as well as the bug spray.
- Unraveling net to protect from swarming bugs
- 50+ UPF sun protection
- Limited color range and head size options
- Not the prettiest looking hat
6. Henschel Hats Aussie Breezer Hiking Hat
While most of the other hats mentioned are made of synthetic materials, the Aussie Breezer is good old fashioned cotton mesh. A tried-and-true material for keeping cool in the summertime, this blend is packable so you can tote it to any location. As with others, you have a wide 3-inch brim that covers the whole head, plus that adjustable drawcord to personalize the fit to your head’s shape. A soft sweat-wicking sweatband sits on the interior to keep you cool. Plus a 50+ UPF rating, means you aren’t losing anything by moving over to a different fabric.
This is an ideal hat for any outdoor activity. It can be crushed down and packaged and comes in at a lightweight with nice color options. And despite the Australian name, these hats are 100% made in the USA with the verifiable tag as well, so you can be proud as to where your dollars are going.
We appreciate you guys reading our reviews on the best hiking hats. It’s hard to determine a winner from the selected lot we’ve chosen, and a lot of it has to do with what kind of hat you’re looking for. But before we address that, know that we recommend getting something with full sun-protection and 360-degree coverage. Something that’s lightweight and won’t hold you down where you’re trying to get up the trail.
For the classic style, we love the Bora Bora Booney II hat from Columbia. It has everything you could ask for, simple style and efficient, thoughtful technology throughout each inch of the product. Of course, the other competitors within the same sphere that we’ve mentioned also provide a really quality option. What brought this one out on top was the variety of color options, because we’d hate to buy such a great hat to only wear whenever out on the trails.
However, there are also some solid options if you want your form to outweigh the function or vice versa. So it really depends on your needs. If you were headed to Malawi or another African nation with heavy mosquito populations with potentially deadly consequences, of course, we would recommend the mosquito net hat from UShake. If you’re more a gardener than a hiker and are crouched over often enough to worry about serious neck exposure to the sun, check out the hat from Sunday Afternoons.
All in all, we really appreciate you taking the time to read about the best hiking hats available. There are now so many great choices on the market that it’s tough to make a bad purchasing decision. But thanks to this list, you’re now a better informed and aware shopper and hiker.
Bonus tip: Check out this helpful video on 10 common sun protection mistakes people typically make!