The 6 best hiking hats
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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1. The fan favorite
Brim size: 3 inches - 4.24 inches (depending on size)
What makes it great: In addition to its over 1,700 reviews and 4.6-star rating, the Outdoor Research Sombriolet has been called "the best hiking hat ever" and "the lightest most comfortable hat [reviewers] have ever owned." It offers all of the most important features, like a wide brim with piping for wind-resistance, breathable vent panels, a one-hand-operational drawstring, a sweat-wicking headband, water-repellent fabric, and UPF 50+ protection. It's also offered in seven great colors, and not just your standard khaki shades, either.
One reviewer says: "Best hiking hat ever. [...] The Sombriolet has saved my head, face and neck from the sun for many trail miles, including the length of the John Muir Trail. It keeps its shape even when soaked (it is not water resistant, but I wasn't looking for that) and dust and sweat clean off with just fresh water. Seems like it will last for many many years. Great hat!"
- Available sizes: Medium - X-Large
- Available colors: 7, including army green, khaki, and pewter
2. The one with the neck flap
Brim size: 2.5 inches
What makes it great: If you prefer a classic cap design, but want ample neck protection as well, the Outdoor Research sun runner cap gives you the best of both worlds. The cap itself is UPF 50+, has a headband to absorb sweat, offers dark fabric under the brim to reduce glare, dries quickly when wet, and features dual mesh panels on the sides for breathability. That said, unlike most other caps, it also has a removable cape with drawstrings, so you can keep your neck and ears shaded from the sun with UPF 30+ protection.
One reviewer says: "live in Northern California. Summers are hot, 100F and not a cloud in sight for 5 months. [...] Sunscreen alone just doesn't cut it when you are active, this hat is what you need. Remove the cape when you don't want it and you've got a great, lightweight hot-weather cap."
- Available sizes: Small - X-Large
- Available colors: 7, including white, khaki, and slate blue
3. The budget one
Brim size: 4.9 inches
What makes it great: The EINSKEY sun hat has earned best-seller status on Amazon and boasts over 9,000 ratings with an overall rating of 4.6 stars. Its 100% polyester fabric is both flexible and waterproof, while the adjustable drawstring closure keeps it secure. With dual mesh panels and a built-in sweat band, it's designed to keep you cool and comfortable. If you're looking for an all-around reliable hat at a more affordable price, this is the way to go.
One reviewer says: "I freakin love this hat. Great sun protection. Lightweight and the vents in the crown keep my head cooler. I've tried a lot of hats and this is the best. Crumple it up and it's just fine. Get it wet it dries quickly."
- Available sizes: One size
- Available colors: 6, including dark gray, khaki, and navy
4. The extra breathable one
Brim size: 3.5 inches in the front/back, 2.5 inches on the sides
What makes it great: If you tend to overheat or if you're a little bit rough on your hiking gear, the Tilley Airflo hat is the way to go. For one, the entire crown (rather than just a strip) is constructed of mesh to offer optimal cooling ventilation. For another, it's made in Canada using high-quality, durable fabrics and it's guaranteed for life, which makes the $73 price tag well worth it. It also offers UPF 50+ protection, a built-in sweatband, a water-repellent finish, and a buoyant design that floats in water.
One reviewer says: "I've had mine since 2006 and traveled the world with it. It's just about my favorite piece of clothing and I get comments on it from people in every country I visit. You can't beat the quality, durability, and just the legendary cool factor of having an authentic Tilley!"
- Available sizes: 7 - 7 7/8
- Available colors: Khaki and kohl
5. The quick-dry cap
Brim size: 2 3/4 inches
What makes it great: It won't cover your neck, but if you prefer the look of a classic sports cap, this one from Outdoor Research has a number of hiking-friendly features. It's made with polyester and offers UPF 50+ protection, so it's quick-drying and protective. On top of that, it has mesh panels and a moisture-wicking headband liner for a cool, comfortable fit.
One reviewer says: "The only hiking cap that I wear! Comfortable and great ventilation. This is my 4th OR Swift cap (a girl's gotta have a few different colors!) and I'm sure I'll buy more!"
- Available sizes: One size
- Available colors: 21, including emerald, black, and cobalt
6. The one for serious bug protection
Brim size: 3.2 inches
What makes it great: At first glance, the Palmyth hat looks like your average hiking hat — but the crown has a hidden compartment that holds a fine-mesh net for added protection when the bugs come out. This net then slips over your face and secures around your neck with a drawstring closure. The hat also has a removable neck flap that clips on within seconds, and even though it doesn't have any built-in mesh panels (due to the netting compartment), reviewers still say it's lightweight and breathable.
One reviewer says: "GAME CHANGER. This hat is great. I live in Southern California and love to hike, but the mosquitoes and gnats have gotten so bad I’ve been thinking of stopping for good. I gave this hat a try before giving up completely, and it’s awesome! [...] highly recommend, and you can’t beat the price."
- Available sizes: One size
- Available colors: 6, including gray, mint green, and khaki