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Tim Leffel

Professional Travel Expert

Travel Hats

If you’re traveling where the sun is strong, you need to travel with a hat. In the tropics and in desert regions especially, it only takes ten or fifteen minutes to get sunburned and a half hour to get dangerously fried. Perhaps the best travel hat is one you pick up where you are: the Panama Hat in Ecuador or Panama, the woven reed hat in Thailand, or a handmade wool cap in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, you need a back-up that you can stuff in your suitcase and have at the ready anywhere, something suitable for outdoor adventures. The following are the best travel hats to protect you from the elements without creating a nuisance when it’s time to pack.

Best Travel Hats by Tim Leffel

The Best You Can Get

  • Outdoor Research Transit Sun Hat

    Tim says: There are plenty of floppy, wide-brimmed travel hats available, but this Transit Sun Hat stays cooler than most with ventilation mesh that goes almost all the way around. Made of sturdy canvas, it provides more sun protection than thin nylon versions (50+ UPF), but it only weighs 4.3 ounces. It’s washable, but it will float if you fall out of a canoe or wear it into the ocean by mistake.

    As with most hats of this style, there’s a strap designed to keep it on when the wind blows or you’re on a boat, but be advised you’ll be pegged as a tourist immediately in other situations! It comes in three sizes and two neutral colors.

    • Rugged and long-lasting
    • Ventilation mesh
    • Floats in water
  • Ex-Officio Insect Shield Hat with Cape

    Tim says: This lightweight nylon baseball-style hat comes with a bonus: a foldaway flap in the back that keeps both the sun and the biting insects off your neck. Treated with Insect Shield that keeps the flying critters at bay, this safari-ready cap is field-tested and approved by the African Wildlife Foundation.

    It has a 30+ UPF rating and a glare-shielding underside of the brim. It dries in a jiffy though, so with built-in bug repellent that will last 70 washings, there’s no problem giving it a laundering at the end of a sweaty day of adventure.

    • Extra back flap of fabric to protect the neck
    • Built-in insect repellent lasts 70 washings
    • Lightweight, quick-dry fabric
  • Mountain Hardwear Vented Sun Hat

    Tim says: Like the OR Transit Hat, this model from Mountain Hardware has venting - lots of it - but going for a design with large mesh vents on each side instead of all the way around. It’s a great choice for hot climates where sun protection is essential but the temperature can get near the melting point.

    The crushable brim comes with snaps to fasten it up when not needed and there’s an extra cinch strap to tighten it around your head in case you don’t want to use the dorky chin strap in the wind. The Coolmax headband keeps the sweat off your brow and a darker underside to the brim keeps the glare out of your eyes.

    • Large mesh vents on each side
    • Lightweight and crushable
    • Side snaps and head cinch strap for adjustments
  • Marmot PreCip Safari Hat

    Tim says: The sun doesn’t always do our bidding and stay out when we want it to. When hiking through the mountains or on a boat in the tropics, there can be a blazing sun one minute, thunderstorms the next. The Marmot PreCip Safari Hat has you covered both ways. It has the usual floppy brim style with a chinstrap and the wicking brim keeps the sweat off your brow, but it is also completely waterproof.

    The hat comes in six colors, a webbing belt makes it adjustable, and there’s a lifetime warranty attached.

    • Waterproof fabric withstands rainstorms
    • Lightweight and easy to pack
    • Comes in six colors
  • Radar Pocket Cap

    Tim says: Caps with a front brim are great for traveling, but they’re hard to pack in a suitcase or stuff into a purse or daypack. This Radar Pocket Cap from Outdoor Research meets the challenge with a folding brim that snaps right back into place when unfolded. Apart from a seam down the middle, it looks just like a normal cap when on your head.

    Lightweight nylon fabric provides plenty of sun protection and a built-in sweatband keeps it looking good on the outside. The fun Radar Pocket Cap comes in four sizes and four colors.

    • Folding brim for easy packing
    • Easily fits into a back pocket
    • Lightweight and washable

You will be happy with any of these

  • Ex-Officio Buzz Off Nycott Sun Bucket

    Tim says: This lightweight nylon hat has built-in bug protection that is odorless to us but a big turn-off for mosquitoes and gnats. Although it won’t offer as much sun protection as the floppy wide-brimmed hats, it also doesn’t scream, “I am a tourist!” It easily pops back into shape after being stuffed into a backpack for a week.

    The Nycott Sun Bucket comes in red orange, blue, or white and a built-in cinch strap makes it adjust to your head size.

    • Built-in bug repellant
    • Can be washed 25 times before losing effectiveness
    • Cinch strap keeps it tight in the wind or when active
  • Patagonia Bimini Cap

    Tim says: If you’re going to spend a lot of time on the water in a boat or kayak, the Patagonia Bimini Cap is a good choice. The long front brim shades the front of your face and a removable flap in the back keeps your neck out of the rays. It’s made from quick-drying coated nylon and the brim has a dark underside to cut glare. If it happens to blow off, the brim floats.

    The Bimini Cap comes in three colors and three sizes.

    • Removable flap protects the neck from sun
    • Lightweight coated nylon fabric
    • Glare-resistant brim floats in the water
  • North Face Breeze Brimmer Hat

    Tim says: The North Face Breeze Brimmer Hat sports the usual floppy traveler hat design, with a wide brim and chin strap. This one stays cooler than most though, with venting mesh all the way around to keep the breeze moving through. It is made from lightweight nylon and is water resistant. It doesn’t float if you drop it in the water, but it does have a dark underside to cut down on glare, as well as a sweatband where it meets your forehead.

    The Breeze Brimmer hat comes in two colors. A cinch strap on the back makes it one-size-fits-all.

    • Water-resistant for sudden showers
    • Lightweight nylon
    • Sweatband on the inside and low-glare underside to brim
  • North Face Reverse This Hat

    Tim says: If you’d like to wear two hats on your vacation while only packing one, this reversible brimmed hat from North Face lets you switch off anytime. Wear it one way and it’s a plain print cap in light blue or white. Flip it inside out and it’s a pattern instead. It’s lightweight and easy to cram into a suitcase, but is also water resistant.

    There’s a girl’s version also that comes in light blue, light green, or pink. All versions are one-size-fits-all.

    • Solid light blue or white reverses to pattern
    • Coated nylon is water-resistant
    • Lightweight and easy to pack
  • Sunday Afternoon Adventure Hat

    Tim says: The Sunday Afternoon Adventure Hat combines a wide brim with a neck flap for those freckled folk who need the ultimate sun protection. The synthetic blend fabric provides UPF 50 sun blocking and with all the flaps and brims, it gives you a full 360 degrees of solar blockage. The mesh side panels provide ventilation there’s a moisture-wicking sweatband. Note that the neck flap is an extension of the brim though and cannot be removed.

    An adjustable band on the back is built in for custom sizing. A chin strap keeps the hat on in the wind, but if it blows off the brim floats. The Sunday Afternoon Adventure Hat comes in two sizes and two neutral color combinations, with a lifetime warranty.

    • Full sun protection for head, face, and neck
    • Higher SPF factor and neck flap
    • Good ventilation

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