After living in both the Utah and Arizona deserts, I’ve learned the importance of having proper sun protective gear. Of the most vital pieces of sun gear I own is a sun hat. When hiking, biking, running, or just hanging out, enjoying the sun rays, your face, head, neck, and ears are all very susceptible to sun damage.
I’m sure that we’ve all experienced at least one sunburn before in our lives, and we know that they come up in sneaky places like our ears or even our scalp. I’ll be the first to tell you that, yes, it is possible to burn your scalp even with a full head of hair. A decent sun hat has become invaluable in all of my outdoor experiences, but I’ve still had some good and bad experiences along the way.
Since a sun hat will be exposed to the sun, if it is made with the wrong materials, it can cause more harm than good. So that’s why I’m sharing with you seven of my favorite sun hat options.
As someone that takes hat wearing very seriously, especially now that it is 100 degrees every day in AZ, no one hat is perfect. Still, each hat on the list has certain standout features that make them versatile, functional, and sometimes even a bit stylish.
The 7 best hiking hats for sun protection:
1. Filson Summer Packer
Material: 8 oz dry finish shelter cloth
The Filson Summer Packer is an ideal choice for summer backpacking treks. It is foldable so you can stuff it into your pack without worrying about it losing shape. With the ability to be packed down easily, you do lose some brim stiffness. The brim also isn’t super wide. Still, it is enough to cover most of your face, ears, and neck.
To combat the lack of adjustability, the hat comes in five different sizes. So, in most cases, adjustability won’t be an issue if you buy the correct size. This is an excellent option for casual backpacking trips or a day hike. Since there isn’t a chin strap, it isn’t ideal for more advanced trips where you could encounter high winds.
On hot summer days, you’ll be happy you have the Summer Packer due to the ample ventilation on the sides. Both color options are light as well, so you don’t have to worry about it being too hot in direct sunlight.
- Well Ventilated
- Very Packable
- Not adjustable
- Brim could be wider
More info: filson.com
2. Outdoor Research Sombriolet
Material: 86% nylon / 14% polyester double weave ripstop / 100% Supplex nylon, plain weave under brim / mesh crown lining
Outdoor Research has a ton of great sun hat options. The Sombriolet made my list because of the durability, coverage, and stability. It uses 50+ UPF shied fabric and has a very innovative under brim design, preventing glares off of the water or snow. This is an ideal hat option for hikers, kayakers, sailors, or anyone else that enjoys the water.
The hat fits well and comes in three different sizes. There could be a bit more ventilation, but the mesh vents do a pretty good job overall. It is not super packable as the brim is stiff, and if you do choose to fold it or stuff it in a pack, it will quickly lose shape. The only big downside is that it hits the back of a backpacking pack when you’re hiking. So, it isn’t ideal for a backpacking trek.
- Secure in windy conditions
- Very breathable
- Anti-glare materials under the brim
- The back brim hits a backpacking pack– a bit too wide
- Durable for the most part but brim loses some shape over time
More info: outdoorresearch.com
3. Tilley LTM6 Airflo
Material: 100% Supplex nylon / 100% polyester mesh
The Tilley LTM6 Airflo is a great hat for most casual outdoor activities or anyone that wants a travel sunhat that doesn’t look dorky. It has some unique features, including buoyancy, a hidden pocket, and a water-resistant coating.
This hat is a bit heavier than most of the other options on the list, but it is still quite breathable. The only major con of the Tilley is that the sizes can be tricky to figure out. Most of them run small compared to other hat options, so you may have to go up from your usual size. They have about nine different size options, though, so you should be able to find one that works for you.
- Casual and stylish
- Great ventilation
- Water-repellent and fast drying
- Lifetime Guarantee
- Sizes run a bit small
- High price
More info: tilley.com
4. Columbia Bora Bora Booney Hat II
Material: Omni-Shade 100% textured nylon / Omni-wick sweatband / Mesh vents
The Columbia Bora Bora Booney Hat II is an extremely affordable and lightweight sun hat option. It is essentially a fishing hat, but it is adaptable to a wide array of outdoor activities. One thing that I like is that it has a sweatband built into the hat to wick sweat away from your face, and the fabric is quick-drying. Plus, there are a ton of color options.
It only comes in one size and is mentioned as being unisex, but it would be best to try it on before you buy it. There is plenty of stretch in the hat material, but it still will fit differently on each person.
- Very affordable price
- Large mesh panels for ventilation
- Quick-drying fabric
- Built-in sweatband
- One size fits all
- Mesh is not UPF
More info: columbia.com
5. Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure
Material: 100% nylon / 100% polyester mesh
Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure hat is just one of their many fantastic hat options. Although this sunhat isn’t the most stylish, it is arguably one of the most functional hats listed here. As a desert dweller, I can attest that having neck coverage is vital for many outdoor activities.
The lightweight design and moisture-wicking capabilities make it a great companion for backpacking and trail running. The brim has a slight down curve that adds to the ultimate coverage of the hat design. Despite the broad brim, it is still foldable to make packing it down easy without having to worry about damaging the hat.
There are also a ton of great features like a sunglasses lock to keep glasses in place and anti-glare material under the brim. Overall, there aren’t a lot of negative things to say about this hat.
- All around sun protection (including your neck)
- Innovative features
- Water and stain-resistant
- Foldable brim for compact packing
- Sizes can run a bit large
- Not very fashionable
More info: sundayafternoons.com
6. ExOffcio BugsAway Sol Cool Adventure
Material: 100% nylon
The BugsAway Sol Cool Adventure hat is a unique sunhat. Its big claim is that it has an odorless insect shield meant to repel bugs. The BugsAway technology built into the hat works surprisingly well, but I am not sure how long it lasts as the hat is used and ages.
Since the brim is floppy, it makes it a good travel hat. You can use it for jungle treks or mountain hikes. The downside to a floppy brim is that if it is windy, the brim may flop into your face or lose some protective ability.
There is a mesh lining that gives the hat some ventilation, but with the snug fit, it doesn’t ventilate as well as other designs. They have limited size options, so trying the hat on before you buy it may be useful.
- Repels bugs with odorless insect shield
- Strap is removable
- Very lightweight
- Floppy brim can get annoying in the wind
- Not well ventilated
More info: exofficio.com
7. Arc’teryx Sinsola
Material: 100% polyester
This is one of my favorite hats for casual outings and travel. It is a great gardening and day hiking hat, and although it can pack down super small. The packability of the hat means that it doesn’t hold up well to the wind though. You may be able to use it backpacking, but I prefer a more robust hat brim for backcountry treks.
If you are taking it as a travel hat and plan to pack it down, you won’t have to worry about the brim losing shape. Although it is small enough to pack into a pocket, the brim bounces back right away. It is laminated to help it stay stiff despite being packable.
The Arc’teryx Sinsola is a very feminine design, and it is advertised as a female-specific hat. With that design in mind, the fit is smaller than unisex hats. It is very comfortable to wear for extended periods, but I will say that it doesn’t have the best ventilation system. There are a few vent holes on the hat, but no mesh to assist in getting airflow to your head.
- Packable and able to fit into a pocket easily
- Lightweight and durable materials
- Comfortable enough to wear all-day
- Female-specific, not a unisex design
- Not adjustable
More info: arcteryx.com
Should you wear a hat in hot weather?
I always wear a hat in hot weather. It protects me from the sun, and it can even help to keep you cool. The hats protect your scalp from radiant heat but can make it harder for your body to evaporate the sweat on your head. Although it may make your head feel hot, wearing a sun hat when it is hot isn’t widely known for raising your core body temperature.
Is a baseball cap good sun protection?
A baseball cap can provide an okay amount of sun protection. However, a sunhat does a much better job because of the brim that wraps around your head. It covers your ears and part of your neck. A baseball cap only covers your face.
Do mesh hats protect from the sun?
Mesh hats do not protect well from the sun. The holes in the mesh allow sunlight to go through and can cause your scalp to burn. Some sun hats have mesh sections on the hat but usually will have another protective layer of cloth as well.
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From market farming to wilderness survival guide to forestry technician and climbing instructor, Meg has an eclectic work history. But there’s one common factor across all her pursuits: the outdoors. With a formal education in writing, Meg can translate her outdoor experiences into accessible and relatable content for any reader. Now pursuing freelance writing full-time, Meg has found a new base in Pheonix, AZ where she splits her time between writing and new desert adventures.