Out on the trail, the sun can be quite ferocious. Especially in hot and sunny climates or at high altitudes, it’s easy to get a sunburn if you leave your face unprotected.
Although sunburn might not seem like a major issue, a bad one can be painful and uncomfortable enough to ruin a hiking trip, especially if you get burned on your face or ears. Hiking hats, therefore, are the most important piece of kit for protecting yourself against the sun.
There are many great hiking hats on the market but it can be difficult to choose just one from all of the options that are available to you.
To help you decide which hat is right for your needs, check out this hiking hat buyer’s guide and review that takes you through the ins and outs of hiking hats.
Our top pick: Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat
Pros: Light, cape-style hat, UPF 50, wicking
Cons: Not very stylish
If you want the sun protection of a full-brimmed hat without the extra weight and restricted peripheral vision, then a “cape” hat like the Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure might be for you.
This lightweight hiking hat has a slim, well-ventilated construction and is made from breathable UPF 50 materials that wick away sweat while protecting you from the sun.
Pros: Breathable, adjustable, affordable
Cons: Less sun protection than wide brim
The Kathmandu Active Cap is an affordable, adjustable cap that keeps your head cool and dry and the sun off your face while you’re out on adventures.
It features mesh panels for ventilation, a sweatband on the inside to keep moisture away from your forehead, and an adjustable back strap to ensure a comfortable fit.
Pros: Versatile, UPF 50, good ventilation
Cons: Less stylish
The Sun Guide Cap is a versatile, all-in-one hat that bridges the divide between a cape hat and a baseball cap. At its base, it is a standard, well-ventilated baseball cap with a detachable microfiber cape.
The detachability of the cape gives the Sun Guide a number of different configurations, making it a great option for people who expect to encounter many different climates on their hikes.
Pros: Classic and stylish design, waterproof and breathable
Cons: Less sun protection than wide brim, expensive
The North Face Futurelight Hat is lightweight, waterproof, and breathable, making it the perfect hat for any adventure.
It has a classic fit that looks good around town and out on the trail. The adjustable back closure allows you to customize the fit to your head size so you can get just the right amount of coverage where it counts.
Pros: Full sun protection, mozzie and fly barrier, two size options
Cons: Neck flap not detachable
This is a great option for those looking for a lightweight, breathable hat that offers protection from the sun and insects.
The buzzGUARD has an adjustable drawcord, roll-away neck flap and interior sweatband, which makes it very comfortable. It is also treated with Permethrin so provides an odourless barrier against mozzies and flies.
Pros: Eco-friendly and organic materials, well ventilated, UPF 50
Cons: Expensive, fairly narrow brim for a sun hat
Made from organic, eco-friendly materials, the Tilley T5 hiking hat is designed to keep the sun off your face with a UPF 50 rating while simultaneously allowing for maximum breathability.
You can wave a sweaty head goodbye with the T5’s ventilated crown, which helps move warm air out and cold air in for a better hiking experience.
Pros: Australian-made, real fur felt, UPF 50
Cons: Heavy, expensive, poor ventilation
A veritable national icon, the Australian-made fur felt Akubra Territory Wide Brim hat is specifically designed to keep you protected from the sun while looking good.
With UPF 50 sun protection and a 102mm wide brim, the Akubra Territory is a great option for people who want a lot of sun and rain protection while hiking.
HOW TO CHOOSE A HIKING HAT
Although they may seem like simple pieces of gear, there’s actually quite a bit that goes into making a quality hiking hat. Here are some things to look for before you buy one:
A traditional hiking hat will have a full brim, which provides ample sun protection around the entire head. Generally speaking, the wider the brim, the more protection you’ll have, but the heavier and more “in the way” the hat will be.
Other options, like baseball hats, provide sun coverage for the front of the face, but none for the ears and neck, although they allow for good peripheral visibility.
A good middle ground, when it comes to hats, is a “cape style” hat that has a brim in the front and a “cape” that drapes over the back of the neck for sun protection.
While a hat does provide sun protection just by covering your head, some hats also have a built-in UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating, which allows the fabric to be quite thin while still blocking harmful rays.
At the end of the day, if you can only choose one hat, you want something that’s versatile, durable, and great at protecting you from the elements.
If we had to choose, we’d pick the Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure because it is well ventilated and designed to keep you protected from whatever mother nature throws at you.