The next time you lace up your Keen or Merrell hiking boots, fill up your hydration backpack, and grab a few energy bars, will you also put on a hiking hat? Or will you just grab your trusty old New York Yankees baseball cap? If you typically do the latter, you might want to rethink your choice. A hiking hat will provide much better sun and sweat protection and breathability than that baseball cap. Want to know more? Let’s look at the best hats for hiking so you can make a better choice the next time you want to hit the trails!
What Is a Hiking Hat?
A hiking hat is specifically for the outdoors, which is why it’s a better alternative to wearing a baseball cap. These hats usually offer sun protection, are lightweight, breathable, and waterproof. Typically, they have a chin strap and wide brim.
Why Do You Need a Hiking Hat?
When you go hiking, there are essential items to take with you, like water, sunscreen, and bug spray. Another item to add to your gear is a hiking hat. It’s that important. The main reason is these hats protect your face and neck from the sun, but there are other benefits to wearing one.
Some offer bug netting to better protect you from insects. Most are waterproof and well-ventilated for a more comfortable hiking experience.
Characteristics of an Excellent Hiking Hat
Choosing an excellent hiking hat isn’t rocket science. But there are a few considerations to keep in mind when making that decision. You don’t want to waste your money on something that isn’t effective or doesn’t meet your needs.
Lightweight & Breathable
First, make sure it has a lightweight and breathable material. This is the main distinction between baseball caps and hiking hats. Lots of hiking hats have a mesh lining to offer breathability.
The most common fabrics used in hiking hats are nylon and polyester. Hemp is a natural fiber that is also good for comfortability and is environmentally friendly. On the other hand, cotton isn’t the best material for a hiking hat because it isn’t very breathable.
Second, check the sun protection. Make sure the hiking hat has a wide brim to cover your face and neck. A bigger brim will provide more shade and interfere if you carry a backpack. So choose the brim size accordingly.
Also, note the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating. The higher it is, the better. Look for a hat that has at least 30UPF. A 50UPF rating is even better. The fabric, color, and weight will all affect the UPF rating.
You never know when a rainstorm will pop up. Even after you’ve checked the day’s weather, a spring shower is always possible.
Choose one that’s waterproof. This is also where nylon and polyester have an advantage over cotton. Not only do you want to keep the rain out of your eyes, but you also want to keep the sweat from dripping down in them.
A chin strap may seem insignificant, but when you’re rock scrambling, or the wind is blowing, you don’t want to have to worry about holding onto your hat.
The adjustable drawcords are the best options because you can secure them to fit your head. When you’re spending money on a quality hiking hat, you don’t want to lose it the first time you hit the trails.
Finally, you want a hiking hat that’s easy to pack. This is where they have an advantage over sun hats.
Usually, the wide brim of sun hats is stiff, whereas the wide brim of hiking hats is pliable. You can easily stuff them into a backpack without them taking up a lot of space.
Pro Tip: Pack away your hiking hat in one of these 10 Best Daypacks: Lightweight Hiking Packs for Your Essentials.
Hiking Hats vs. Ball Caps
As mentioned earlier, hiking hats are better alternatives to baseball caps because of the material. Cotton just isn’t as breathable and doesn’t offer protection from the rain as nylon and polyester.
Ball caps also don’t come with chin straps or wide brims. The brim is similar to a sun hat with a stiff design, so they aren’t packable like a hiking hat. Investing in a quality hiking hat is essential if you plan on doing a lot of hiking.
7 Best Hats For Hiking That Will Feel Good and Look Good
If you’re worried about finding a hiking hat that looks cool, worry no more. These seven best hats for hiking will protect you from the sun and rain and provide breathability and comfort, all while making you look good on the trails.
#1 Conner Hats Airflow Lightweight Recycled Outdoor Hat
About: Featuring a breathable mesh, this lightweight outdoor hat is easy to pack because of the material. The brim is 3.25 inches and has a chin cord with a secure toggle. Waterproof and made with an organic cotton sweatband, you don’t have to worry about sweat dripping down into your eyes.
Special Features: This Airflow Lightweight Recycled Outdoor Hat is made from recycled plastic bottles. It comes packaged in biodegradable materials, so when you purchase this hiking hat, you’re buying something useful for your hiking adventures and supporting a better Earth. It’s also not a one-size-fits-all hat and comes in six different sizes.
#2 Tilley LTM6 Airflo Hiking Hat
About: The durable water-repellent finish makes this hiking hat one of the best options on the list.
- Rated UPF 50+ sun protection.
- Durable water repellant finish.
- Moisture-wicking hydrofil
It provides mesh ventilation at the crown of your hat for comfort and breathability. The brim size is 3.5 inches from front to back, and from side to side, the brim size is 2.5 inches. It also comes in numerous sizes, so you can choose the exact fit that works for you.
Special Features: The fabric is 100% recycled nylon, so it’s lightweight and waterproof. Also buoyant, if you fall while crossing the Narrows, your hat will float so you can easily grab it. This Tilley LTM6 Airflo hiking hat also has a UPF rating of 50+, making it a top hiking hat for sun protection.
#3 Coolibar Crushable Ventilated Canvas Hat
About: Like the Conner hiking hat above, this Coolibar canvas hat comprises of a crushable fabric that makes it lightweight and easy to pack.
- UPF 50+ - blocks 98% of UVA/UVB rays
- FABRIC: Travel friendly, crushable and packable; Internal cooling...
- FEATURES: Approx. Circumference: 22 1/2 inch (S/M), 23 inch...
It also features mesh ventilation and a chin cord. This material is a natural cotton/polyester blend, and the brim is three inches wide.
Special Features: The internal elastic band provides a snug fit to go along with the chin cord for added protection on those windy days. Like the Tilley hiking hat, this option also has a UPF rating of 50+ for superior protection from the sun.
#4 Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat
About: The Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat has a 3.25-inch brim and provides excellent sun protection with a UPF 50+ rating. It also has mesh fabric for ventilation.
- Floatable Foam Core
- Moisture Wicking
- Worn by adventurers around the world - it's the most recognizable...
With both an adjustable sizing strap and chin cord, you won’t have to worry about your hat blowing away. This hat is also available in seven different colors.
Special Features: This Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat is the only hiking hat on the list that features a neck cape for even more sun protection. It also features a sunglasses lock to keep your sunglasses in place while you’re climbing rocks or jumping across ledges. In addition, it features a Reverse Split Brim that allows you to fold it in half for easy packing.
#5 Columbia Bora Bora II Hat
About: Like the Tilley hiking hat, this Columbia Bora Bora II hat features a mesh material around the crown of your head. Paired with the Omni-Wick sweatband, this hat is an excellent choice for breathability.
- This sun hat features built-in UPF 50, an ultra-sweat-wicking...
- Omni-Shade UPF 50 protects you from the sun’s harmful rays.
- Omni-Wick sweatband and mesh venting actively breathe and pull...
It also pulls moisture away from your skin to keep you cool and dry. The brim is 3 inches, and the top part of the hat is 100% textured nylon poplin.
Special Features: This hiking hat provides an adjustable drawstring, a toggle in the back, and a chin strap. It also has a UPF 50+ rating for excellent sun protection. Like the Sunday Afternoons hat, this hiking hat by Columbia is available in seven different colors.
#6 The North Face Horizon Breeze Brimmer Hat
About: Specifically designed for women, this North Face Horizon Breeze Brimmer Hat comes in four different colors. The adjustable drawstring keeps it secure on your head, and the UPF 50+ rating makes this another top choice for hiking hats.
- BLOCK THE SUN. The Women's Horizon Breeze Brimmer is an airy...
- SECURE FIT. When adventures get wild, tighten the adjustable...
- STAY COOL & DRY. Soak up the sun while keeping sweat and sun out...
Special Features: The elastic sweatband helps keep this hat comfortably fitted on your head and provides wicking and cooling for optimal comfort. One of the cutest hats for women on this list, the embroidered logo of The North Face is on the front left of the hat.
#7 Outdoor Research Sombriolet
About: Made of nylon and polyester, this Outdoor Research Sombriolet is another great hiking hat for women. It’s water resistant and lightweight.
- WATER RESISTANT SUN PROTECTION: A wide shade with a varied...
- COMFORTABLE AND BREATHABLE: The side vents and external...
- MULTIPLE USES: Whatever you are doing outside, this hat has you...
The TransAction headband provides wicking and cooling, and the mesh-lined crown provides excellent breathability. Like the other ones on this list, this option also has the UPF 50+ rating.
Special Features: Underneath, this hiking hat features a dark fabric that protects you from the sun. The varied brim width is unique to this Outdoor Research Sombriolet. In the front, the brim is 3.125 inches, while in the back, the brim is 4.125 inches for added sun protection for your neck.
Pro Tip: Before you head out for your hike, make sure you pack these 10 Hiking Essentials You Should Never Hit the Trail Without.
Is a Hiking Hat Worth Your Money?
Many of the hats on this list are over $50. There are a couple of budget-friendly options that still offer the sun protection, breathability, and packability you want. So you may ask if spending $50 or $60 on a hiking hat is worth it. Absolutely!
To best protect your face and neck from the sun and hike in comfort without sweat pouring down your face or a heavy load on your head, you want to spend the money on a quality hiking hat. These best hats for hiking check all of the boxes. You’ll be glad you spent your money on this addition to your hiking gear.
Which one of these hats fits your style the best? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
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