Our Winner: Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure
Function over fashion––that’s what the outdoors is really about. And the Sunday Afternoon Ultra Adventure embodies this principle better than any other hat we know.
While the styling may be a little too retro for a few fashion-conscious outdoorspersons, this hat offers the kinda performance that will quickly make the rest of you swiftly forget appearances. It’s light, UV-resistant, quick-drying, breathable, superbly comfortable, and throws in above-average versatility to boot.
The Ultra Adventure offers full coverage of your face, neck, and ears and boasts a few non-standard add-ons that also make it far more functional than many of its competitors in the hiking hat market.
The most endearing of these extras include a sunglass lock system that secures your shades, a cinch-style strap that keeps the hat on your head in high winds, an effective sweatband, and an adjustable brim that can quickly be tucked away to let a little light in when need be.
All in all, an outstandingly practical hat that ticks every box that needs ticking for warm-weather adventurers!
Few parts of the human anatomy are quite so important to our everyday functioning as our heads. They’re our command centers. The motherboard of our physiological operating system. The bit that tells all our other bits what to do and how to do them—all things that are mightily handy on a day-to-day basis, but absolutely vital when out on our adventures in the wild.
In summer months, keeping our domes healthy and in good working order means, above all else, protecting them from the harmful rays of the sun. Failure to do so might merely land us with a slightly crinkly cranium in our dotage, granted. But in particularly high temps, it could also result in heatstroke, sunstroke, headaches, sunburn, impaired vision, and, God forbid, far more serious conditions like skin cancer.
The best way to avoid all of the above is to get your hands on—and head into—the best hiking hat you can find. Not only will this essential gear item fend off the sun’s ultraviolet rays, it’ll also soak up sweat, keep the sun out of your eyes, the rainwater off your face, and, in many cases, make you look, well, like an altogether cooler version of your standard self.
Sound good? Great! To help you reap all these benefits and find the best hiking hat for your needs and backcountry MO, read on to discover 5 of the best hiking hats out there in 2020!
How to Find the Best Hat for Hiking
All backcountry gear items have a core functionality. In the case of the hiking hat, it’s sun protection. As such, the first question to ask yourself when choosing a hat goes along the lines of this: “How well does it prevent UV rays from reaching your skin?”
The best hiking hats should have a decent Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) Rating. This metric quantifies how much UV radiation is allowed to reach your skin through the hat’s fabric.
The standard rating for hiking hats is UPF 50. This means that the hat only lets 1/50 UV (or 2%) of solar radiation through.
Some hats, however, go as low as UPF 30 and others boast that all-important “+” (UPF 50+) that makes them dead-certs to give your dome the best sun protection it can get short of mummifying it pre-hike (!).
As you might have guessed, those at the lower end of the rating scale are ok for shoulder season hikes or cloudy summer days, but those at the upper end are the best bet when getting your wander on in particularly blistering conditions.
UPF ratings depend on the kind of fibers used, their strength, durability, and how tightly they are woven together. Most hats are made from nylon, polyester, or even cotton fabrics, all of which are both breathable and use tighter weaves than other fabrics.
If in doubt, you can perform a quick test to see how much coverage any hat offers by simply holding it up to a light source. If a lot of light shines through the fibers, then it probably doesn’t provide enough sun coverage.
Hiking hats come in many shapes and sizes. Whether it’s protection or ventilation, styles depend on the functionality prioritized in the hat’s design. Finding the best hat for your needs, therefore, is all about matching those needs to the hat’s features and intended purpose.
Let’s unpack that a little with a short summary of the three main types of hiking hat:
Outdoor “trucker” and baseball-style caps expose your neck and provide minimal protection at the front. Nevertheless, they’re a good option for trail running because they use rigid brims that don’t flap into your face and eyes while you’re on the move.
Full-brimmed sun hats typically provide optimal UV protection and usually also boast decent airflow courtesy of ventilation panels that prevent things getting too sweaty beneath the brim. On the downside, this style of hat is usually prone to sagging at the front—not ideal if you’re moving fast and need to keep an eye out for obstacles!
Legionnaire-style hats usually bring the best of both worlds, using a stiffer brim to avoid blocking your view and extra fabric at the rear to protect the back of your head and lower neck from the sun. The only downside to these hats is that, while they do help to keep rainwater out of your eyes, all that extra fabric tends to soak up airborne H2O and stick to your neck.
As with all outdoor essentials, the best materials for hiking hats are those of the high-wicking, breathable, and quick-drying variety.
“Wicking” refers to the fabric’s ability to transfer moisture from the skin to the fabric’s surface, where it can then evaporate. This results in less water pooling in the fabric, which in turn reduces the risk of chafing, odors, the proliferation of bacteria, and, simply, that icky feeling that comes from wearing any kind of garment that’s saturated with sweat.
Both nylon and polyester are high-wicking fabrics compared to other materials commonly used in hiking hats. They also dry fast and are more durable than other fabric types.
Cotton, on the other hand, is a highly breathable and comfortable material that allows plenty of air circulation inside, but a poor performer as regards wicking. Instead of transporting sweat through the fabric, cotton absorbs it and can even hold up to 25 times its own weight in water, which means it takes an age to dry and can leave you feeling like you’re wearing a puddle on your dome!
Fit and Brim
The ideal fit for any hat is not too loose and not too tight. Loose hats are prone to blowing off in the wind or flapping in your face, while tight ones can cause discomfort and even give you headaches. The best bet? Look for adjustability, whether in the form of velcro, snapbacks, or cord cinches.
The ideal brim size is around 2.75 inches wide and the most practical options are those that are a little more on the rigid side as opposed to the floppy side.
Hats with dark-colored undersides also help to reduce glare, while those with legionnaire-style extensions on the rear and sides will provide added sun protection on those days when the big yella fella in the sky’s at his most potent.
5 Awesome Hiking Hats Reviewed
Filson Summer Packer
Most Stylish Hat
The Filson Summer Packer is a stylish hat that packs plenty in the way of performance, too.
Weighing in at 3.9 ounces, this isn’t the lightest option in our review but that added ounce or two goes towards making it a brilliant sun-blocker, with its extra-tight, dense weave and slightly thicker fabric contributing to a solid UPF 50+ rating.
This hat also offers above-average wind and water resistance, can be scrunched up for packability, and is treated with a water-repellent coating that prevents it soaking up too much sweat.
Made with 100% cotton, the Summer Packer isn’t the highest-wicking sun hat by a longshot, but its use of strategically placed grommets do help to boost airflow and keep things sweat-free and cool.
- UPF 50+ rating
- Stylish (if looking like Indiana Jones is your thing!)
- Grommets can be uncomfortable for bald users
- Poor moisture management
Outdoor Research Sombriolet
Most Breathable Hat
If you have hyperhidrosis or just tend to sweat a lot during hikes, OR’s Sombriolet could well be the hat your head’s been calling out for.
The Sombriolet is made from 89% nylon and 11% polyester. It has patented Supplex® nylon under the 4-inch brim, a double-weave ripstop crown, and more nylon on the crown’s lining. While all that nylon content may make this hat feel a little too stiff for some users, it also means it’s just about as durable as they come, highly breathable, and not at all prone to flopping in your eyes.
OR’s Sombriolet also offers solid water resistance, a UPF 50+ rating, and the nylon mesh lining in the crown ensures that it remains comfortable even deep into the longest of days on the trail.
Other nice features that make this hat a winner for warm-weather hikes are mesh ventilation panels and side vents that help to keep your head cool, a detachable cinch cord, anti-glare grey coloring beneath the rim, and an extended rear rim that provides added protection for the base of your neck.
- Excellent breathability and ventilation
- Great sun protection
- Oversize brim may annoy some
- May feel too firm and rigid for some users
Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat
Best Hat for Full Coverage
For near-total protection against the sun, there are few options out there that come close to matching the Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat.
This hat boasts a UPF 50+ rating and offers perhaps the most extensive coverage of all the options in our review. The 3.75-inch brim is also angled to protect the face and the legionnaire-style back portion covers the nape of the neck. While the oversize brim might feel a little weird to some, it provides awesome coverage for your face and effectively reduces glare.
This hat is also well-ventilated thanks to a polyester mesh airflow system that actively keeps air circulating inside. And if you’re feeling too hot, you also have the option of tucking away the back brim. On rainy days, moreover, the fabric’s water-resistant coating should help to keep the worst of the rainwater from soaking in.
Like the winner of our review, this one’s unlikely to win any prizes for style, but all in all it’s a hugely practical hat that’s built to serve you well for many a year to come.
- Excellent sun protection
- Angled brim
- Well ventilated
- Looks old fashioned
- Slightly overwhelming size
Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure
Most Versatile Hat
If you happen to be one of those kinda outdoors-goers who likes to do a little bit of everything, then the Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure might well be the hat for you.
While boasting the same sun protection and styling as the regular Adventure Hat, this version is a little more hard-wearing, a little more stylish, and a lot more comfortable to wear.
The Ultra is made with a blend of 88% nylon and 12% polyester. It’s durable and tough without ever feeling too stiff, and also can be folded or scrunched up easily into a corner of your backpack when not in use. The fabric is also highly breathable and quick-drying, and the inclusion of a high-wicking sweatband helps to keep sweat from your eyes.
- Excellent moisture management
- Highly breathable
- Not the most stylish-looking hat out there!
- Not machine washable
Tilley LTM6 Airflo
Most Durable Hat
For outdoor adventures that require something a little more resilient, the Tilley LTM6 Airflo is a great choice.
The body of the LTM6 Airflo is made from 100% nylon and its mesh lining from 100% polyester. Together, this combo gives the hat a burly construction while also ensuring it scores highly as regards comfort and breathability.
A couple of particularly endearing features make this hat a standout for those who like to get their wander on in wet weather or spend some of their outdoor time on the water—namely, a water-resistant coating that fends off the rain and a closed-cell foam panel that allows it to float if dropped overboard during your trips in the canoe, kayak, or boat.
The Airflo also has an SPF 50+ rating, a moisture-wicking Hydrofil sweatband, and, moreover, boasts the kinda stylish design that makes it look equally at home downtown as it does on the trail.
- Highly durable
- Comes in multiple sizes
- Water resistant
- Not the cheapest option out there
Last update on 2023-09-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API