Types of head protection
Don't let fear of hat hair make you go naked on top. In cool weather, a hat helps prevent loss of heat through the top of your head. In all weather, it shades your head and face from the sun.
- Billed caps: Great for most weather, the bill helps shade your eyes. Available for under $10 anywhere. Personalize with your favorite team, shoe company, walking club patch, or wild colors and patterns. The main problem here is that they give no protection to the ears or the back and sides of the neck.
- Knit/fleece caps: In cold weather, a knit cap keeps both head and ears warm. It is also hard for the wind to blow it off your head.
- Boonie hat: The military has some good ideas for head coverings, and the boonie hat is versatile for many weather conditions. They are crushable, stuffable, and can be waterproofed. The Tilley hat (see below) is a nicer variation.
- Visor: Shades your eyes but lets the top of your head see the sun. Many styles have a built-in sweatband.
- Hood: The hood of a nylon jacket helps to keep your hat (and head) dry.
- Tilley Style hats: The ultimate in sun protection and elements protection for your head is a Tilly hat. They now have a rattan hat with a 50 spf unlike most straw hats that are poor at blocking the sun.
Hiking hat shopping tips
- Look for hiking hats with chin straps. Windy conditions can crop up at any moment, and having a chin strap will help you to keep your hat!
- Look for hats that have broad brims for extra coverage. That extra coverage will protect your ears and the back of your neck as well as your face.
- Err on the side of a larger hat. When you're out hiking, especially at elevation, your hands and head may swell! Don’t get a headache just because your hat is a size too small.
- Look for UPF hats. UPF hats have a UPF rating, which means they are designed to have a tighter fabric weave, so will provide even better protection from harmful sun exposure. Some hats are certified to an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 50+, the maximum rating given. Hats with a UPF of 50 allow 1/50th of the UV radiation falling on the surface to pass through it. Stated another way, they block 98% of the ultraviolet radiation.
- Ventilation. Look for ample ventilation and a cool, comfortable material when choosing a hiking hat.
- Sweat band. A good sweat band will wick moisture from your brow.
- Crushable? When using the hat for travel, look for one that was designed to be crushed and can be packed flat in your suitcase. Hopefully "crushable" also means "uncrushable".
HIKING SUN HATS VIDEO: