There are some aspects of the great outdoors that aren't always so great — namely excessive sun, heat, and bugs. The best hiking hats protect against one or more of those things, but not all hats are designed to stand up to the elements. When searching for a hiking hat in particular, be sure to find an option that's UV-protective, waterproof, breathable, and packable.
There are two main components to a hat's sun protection: the amount of physical coverage it provides and the material itself. In terms of hats, coverage means a brim that's wide enough to shade your face and maybe even your neck too — but if the material lets UV rays through, it's only partially protective. Nylon and polyester are two popular materials when it comes to hiking hats, and many options made from them are marketed as UPF 50+, which means they can help block at least 98% of the sun's rays. These fabrics are also often quick-drying or treated to be waterproof, so they can be washed without damage and handle unexpected rain.
That said, nylon and polyester are not the most breathable materials, so you may want to opt for a hat with mesh panels too. This built-in netting allows air to flow through the crown of the hat, which keeps you cool while you're hiking. Some hats also have absorbent bands that wick sweat away from your forehead — an added plus.
Last but not least, your hiking hat should be travel-friendly. You want to be able to roll it up in your backpack or stuff it into your pocket without crushing it. All of the hats listed below fold up to a fraction of their original size — and they're protective, waterproof, and breathable, too.
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