From sun-soaked deserts to mist-laden rainforests, the right headgear can make all the difference on your hiking adventures. Whether you’re a novice wanderer just beginning to explore the great outdoors, or a seasoned trekker taking on the world’s most challenging trails, the hat you choose to wear is much more than a simple style statement. It’s your first line of defense against the elements – be it the relentless sun, sudden rain, or biting cold winds
A good hat is one of the most underrated pieces of hiking gear you’ll ever own, a great hiking hat is a must-have piece of equipment. When you’re putting together your gear list for your next day-hike or backpacking trip, I can imagine you’re thinking more about the shirt you’re going to wear and the snacks you’re going to bring than what you’re wearing on your head. But bringing the right hat can make a huge difference in your day, even if you don’t realize it at first. It’s especially important to wear a hat if you’re hiking in sunny and hot weather.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll journey through the varied landscape of hiking hats, providing expert insights into the top options that blend functionality, comfort, and style. We’ll take a closer look at the must-have features, from breathability to water resistance, while also considering the importance of a good fit and the role of personal preference.
Join us as we tip our hats to these unsung heroes of the hiking gear world. Let’s embark on this expedition together and uncover the best hiking hats that can make your outdoor adventures even more enjoyable.
Best Hiking Hats
Here are our top picks for the best hiking hat:
- Tilley LTM6 Airflo
- REI Vented Trailsmith Hat
- Columbia Bora Bora Booney II
- Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat
- Sunday Afternoons Bug-Free Charter Hat
- Outdoor Research Seattle Rain Hat
- REI Co-Op On the Trail Cap
- Katherine Homes 7 Panel Hat
Editor’s Choice – Tilley LTM6 Airflo Broad Brim Hat
Our top pick for the best hiking hats comes from Tilley, a brand that’s widely known for making high quality hats built for adventure. This Airflo Broad Brim is Guaranteed For Life, which means Tilley will repair or replace it if there’s any issues with wear, tear, or manufacturing. The hat is UPF 50+ with a DWR finish, machine washable, floats in water, and has a brim that is 3.5 inches. There’s also a pocket in the crown for storage and a cord under the chin so you can secure it when the wind picks up. While this hat is the most expensive one on our list, the features and lifetime guarantee make it well worth it.
- Guaranteed for Life
- Available in 5 different colors and 9 size options
- UPF 50+ and DWR finished
- Brim width: 3.25 inches
- Floats in water, pocket in the crown, machine washable
REI Co-op Vented Trailsmith Hat – Top REI Choice
REI brand makes some good products, and this hat is no exception. It’s made from organically grown cotton and provides UPF 50+ sun protection. The 3-inch brim provides plenty of protection and you can even use the brass snaps to flip up the sides. There’s a stash pocket inside the crown, a chin draw cord for windy conditions, an inner sweatband to wick sweat, and mesh side vents to keep you cool. This hat has all the bells and whistles for an affordable price!
- Two colors and four sizes
- UPF 50+
- Brim width: 3 inches
- Inner mesh side vents and sweatband
- Chin strap and stash pocket inside crown
Columbia Bora Bora Booney II Hat – Most Affordable
Columbia makes some awesome adventure gear, and their Bora Bora Booney hat is very highly rated. While it does lack a hidden pocket and a variety of size options, it’s the most affordable hat on the best hiking hats list. It’s still rated UPF 50+ for sun protection, and it has a wide 3 inch brim. The polyester sweatband and mesh interior helps wick sweat off your head, and the draw cord is perfect for windy conditions. Instead of offering different size options, it’s adjustable using a toggle in the back of the hat.
- 6 color options but only one size
- Nylon UPF 50 shell with polyester sweatband
- Adjust size by draw cord and toggle in back
- Brim width: 3 inches
Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat – Best Caped
We picked this Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat for our pick for the best caped hiking hat because of the amount of sun protection is has. While it doesn’t offer many color or size options, it’s highly rated with lots to bring to the table. The brim is quite wide at 3 inches, which is paired with a 6 inch cape in the back for neck protection. It’s rated UPF 50+, and water-resistant. The large mesh side panels allow extra air flow, and the sizing strap in the back cinches for the perfect fit. Plus, it’s still one of the most affordable options on this list!
- Three colors, two size options
- Water-resistant and stain resistant nylon with UPF 50+
- Wide brim (3 inches) paired with 6 inch cape in back
- Use draw cord for size adjustment
Sunday Afternoons Bug-Free Charter Hat – Best For Bugs
If you live or hike near water or in humid environments, those mosquitoes may slowly drive you mad. We’ve added this hat to our list specifically for the fact that it hosts an EPA-registered No Fly Zone permethrin-treated fabric that repels bugs. Plus, it comes with all the basic features like a wide brim, crown pocket, UPF 50+ fabric, mesh ventilation, and even a Sunglass Lock to keep your glasses in place. While this hat isn’t our most expensive on the list, it is on the higher end – but it’s worth it to keep those critters at bay!
- Two color and two size options
- EPOA registered No Fly Zone permethrin-treated fabric repels bugs
- Floats in water, wicking sweatband, internal adjustability, sunglass lock, crown pocket, UPF 50+
- Brim width: 3.25 inches in front and 3.5 inches in back
Outdoor Research Seattle Rain Hat – Best For Rain
If you find yourself frequently outside in rainy conditions, this Seattle Rain Hat is one of the best hats on the market for the situation. On top of the basic features such as UPF 50+ material, chin cord, and wide brim, it also boasts a GORE-TEX shell with fully taped seams. This means you get a breathable hat that offers waterproof protection. The brim is foam-stiffened so it can better withstand the weight of rain drops while directing them away from your face.
- 6 colors and four sizes
- Goretex shell with taped seams provides breathable waterproof protection
- Brim width: 3-3.75 inches front to back
- UPF 50+
Katherine Homes Trucker Hat – Coolest Prints
We love this printed trucker hat! It comes in a variety of color/designs, all beautiful and unique in their own way! While ball caps do provide limited sun protection, they are still great minimalistic options for when you’re on trail or outdoors for shorter periods of time. Plus, this company is a member of 1% for the Planet, and each hat comes with a product tag about environmental concerns related to its specific design.
- 6 different designs in awesome prints
- 1% for the Planet
- Breathable hat with polyester mesh back
Considerations for the Best Hiking Hats
Here are a few things to take into consideration when shopping for the best hiking hat.
Fabric & UPF
To get the most out of your hiking hat, you should pick a hat that is made of synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester. It should be lighter in color, since that helps reflect the sun instead of absorb it. The tighter the fabric weave, the less sun it will let through. The best sun hats that are made for hiking should already have a UPF 50+ rating, meaning they will block 98% of the sun’s rays. You should avoid cotton and straw hats, which just get wet and aren’t tightly woven enough for real sun protection.
The brim of the hat should be at least 2.5 inches, so we’ve only included options that fit that requirement on our best hiking hats list. Any brims that are shorter won’t provide the needed sun protection, but anything too wide will just get floppy.
Pick a hat that has the right balance between rigid and flimsy. Stiffer brims (like straw hats) may dig into your forehead, but they also provide better protection against wind and rain. For really rainy conditions, consider pairing a stiff-brim option with a rain poncho for ultimate weather protection.
Any wide brim sun hats for hiking should be easily adjustable, especially since lots are either “one size fits most” or have a very limited amount of size options. Plus, you’ll want the ability to easily adjust the tension over the course of your adventure. Imagine wanting a loose fitting hat for most of the day, but when the afternoon winds pick up, you’ll want to tighten it a little more.
While it may be tempting to completely round out your hiking gear with water-resistant and waterproof materials, this feature isn’t necessary in a hiking hat. Unless you’re planning on hiking in rainy conditions, the water-proofing layer will just make your hat less breathable, which is not desirable, especially in hot conditions.
The Best Mesh
Mesh is great for increasing breathability, but it’s inherently less effective at blocking UV rays. You’ll want to find a good balance of mesh and UPF 50+ material so you aren’t defeating the purpose of wearing a hat and leaving your skin exposed.
Three Types of Hiking Hats
There are three types of hats for hiking: wide-brimmed, caped, and a ballcap. Each have their own pros and cons, but we personally use wide-brimmed hats for our heads (or ball caps for shorter adventures).
Wide-Brimmed (most common)
This is our sun hat of choice and is probably one of the first images to come to mind when you think about a traditional hiking hat. It’s designed to provide 360 degree shade, while still providing plenty of airflow.
Caped (for the serious hiker)
Caped hats look like a ballcap with an extra piece of material. The brim covers the front of your face, while the neck flap protects your ears and neck. This cap is often associated with more serious hikers, or hikers that frequently hike in hot and arid environments.
Ballcap (most versatile)
A ballcap (or cap) is your traditional baseball cap and can be purchased almost anywhere. While it provides the least amount of sun protection, it’s also the most versatile. It can be worn in day to day activities, but it can also be paired with a sun hoodie or Buff for extra protection when you need it. These types of hats also typically have the best designs, with more options for colors and prints.
Fun Design Features for the Best Hiking Hats
- Adjustable headband – as already stated above, hiking hats should have an adjustable headband so you can make sure the hat fits properly throughout the course of your hike.
- Chin Strap – chin straps may not be the most fashionable, but they really come in handy when the wind picks up. The chin strap on my hiking hat has saved my hat more times than I can count.
- Sunglasses holder – This is a nifty feature where there are slits on the sides of your forehead where you would slide the side of your sunglasses into for extra support and protection.
- Foldable/packable – most hiking hats should have a soft enough brim that they can be folded down and stored into your pack. If you wear a hard-brimmed hat, you’re committing to having it on your head the entire day.
- Hidden pocket – some hiking hat designs come with a hidden pocket in the crown which is perfect for a small key, credit card, or a little cash.
- Floating – lots of hiking and adventure hats float in water, perfect for when you’re on the lake, river, or ocean!