Friday, April 29, 2011

My Ideal Bushwalking Hat

Which features does the ideal bushwalking hat need for Australia? Do you need more than one hat? What are the types of hats available?
My ideal hat would have the following features
  • lightweight
  • breathable and cool
  • easily folded to fit the lid of my pack without damage
  • easily cleaned
  • provides protection all round from the sun
  • large brim at the front to ward off branches and keep rain off my face
  • can be worn under a rain jacket hood
  • not damaged by rain
  • chin cord to stop it blowing away
  • allows me to tilt my head back without hitting my pack lid
  • warm and covers the ears
Does such a hat exist?

Well I've yet to find ONE single hat that will do all of these things. I think that for Australia we need at least TWO hats, one for cold, wet winters and one for hot, sunny summers.

What are the options?

The most popular are:

Baseball Hats: these can be bought with a long rigid peak which is waterproof and fit under a rain jacket hood. Their limitations are lack of warmth and usually little sun protection to the sides and rear. Neck protection can often be added with a velcroed flap. They can be bought made of oilskin which makes them waterproof for winter but usually too hot for summer. Breathability can be increased by using mesh side panels. Most give away versions lack durability, especially the peak which is often cardboard, but have the advantage they can be cheaply replaced.
Cricket, Army "giggle" or "bucket" Hats: these are made of cotton, cool, provide shade all round, can be easily stowed and washed and allow you to tilt you head back to some extent when wearing a pack with a high top lid. They can be bought in waterproof camouflaged fabric from Army disposal stores. They are not warm and don't have a rigid peak to the front to protect your face.

Beanies: these are warm, usually cover the ears, lightweight and can be worn under a rain jacket hood or even to bed. While wool has served this purpose well in the past, many bushwalkers are using synthetic fleece which is lighter and often warmer. A bean with a draw cord keeps it from slipping down over your eyes.
Adapta-a-Cap Flippa (Goso): a combination of a baseball cap and an arabian head cover, made of soft fabric that can hang down to cover the ears and neck or be tucked up using elastic loop to form a baseball style cap. Great all round sun protection with a firm peak, but certainly not waterproof. I have one of these for very hot weather, but it can be a little hot when worn as shown.
Solar Eclipse: my favourite for summer is the microfibre hat at the bottom right, which combines the best features of several styles of hat. It is soft and cool, with a very wide rigid brim at the front which protects the eyes, face, and ears; a ventilated cricket style hat on top,  and a hang-down neck cover at the back which allows you to tilt your head back when wearing a high pack. With a draw cord at the back it can be adjusted to fir all sizes and has in addition a neck cord to stop it blowing away. Not waterproof but could be worn under a hood.

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