The best hiking hats 2023: keep your head toasty in the cold

Collage of the best hiking hats
(Image credit: Future)

What makes up the best hiking hat really depends on the season you're hiking in. Does your head need protected from the chilly Baltic wind or are you looking for something to shield yourself from the sun?

In winter, the best hiking hats keep your head warm, allowing you to discover the backcountry in comfort during its wildest months. These insulating beanies are just one of the pieces in your winter arsenal, a lineup that allows you to venture out into freezing conditions and be totally shielded from the cold.

When summer rolls around, the beanie still has a place in your hiking backpack, especially if you're venturing high into the mountains. However, the best hiking hats for summer tend to be sun hats and caps, providing shade against the strong UV-rays raining down on the trails.

In our roundup, we've split the best hiking hats into the finest options for winter and the best choices for summer, as well as including what we think is the best example of the versatile neck gaiter – the Buff Tubular.

The best hiking hats for winter

Penfield Harris Beanie hiking hat

(Image credit: Penfield)
Delightfully warm, ribbed beanie hat you can wear for every day of winter and into early spring

Specifications

Gender: Unisex
Sizes: One size
Materials: Acrylic
Colors: Navy / Cream / Brown / Red / Rust / Orange / Dark Olive

Reasons to buy

+
Fits larger heads
+
Looks great

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn’t fit under a helmet

The ideal wear-everywhere cold-weather hat, Penfield’s Harris beanie is perfect both for hiking and for casual day-to-day use. This generously sized, slightly slouchy beanie has enough stretch to fit pretty much any head snugly, and the wide brim can easily be adjusted. The thick acrylic knit is warm and durable, and as the wool is synthetic rather than natural it feels very comfortable against the skin, and isn’t itchy. The Harris beanie protects the ears well and instantly traps in heat, so it can handle even the most bitter winter weather. This thicker knit is too bulky to fit under a helmet, and too warm for fast-paced winter sports – so save it for gentler hiking.

Read our full Penfield Harris Beanie review

Paramo Beanie hiking hat

(Image credit: Paramo)
A lightweight thermal hat that’s a great addition to a backpack all year round

Specifications

Gender: Unisex
Sizes: S–M /L–XL
Materials: Polyester
Colors: Midnight/Carmine/Dolphin/Cobalt/Wine/Elderberry/Flame/Black/Moss

Reasons to buy

+
Great warmth-for-weight
+
Comfortable
+
Low profile and very versatile
+
Ethically made and recyclable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as cool as claimed

Weighing in at just 50g, and made with Páramo’s very clever Parameta G (opens in new tab) fabric, this dual-layer beanie is a brilliant buddy on outdoor adventures no matter where you’re going, or when. The design of the material means it can keep you cosy when it’s cold, or allow cool air to flow to your scalp when it’s warmer. It works thus: When worn beneath an outer shell, the fleecy grid pattern traps air between the squares and warms it, but if you wear it as a stand-alone hat, fresh air can permeate the fabric. 

Personally we think the latter part of this system works better in the brand’s brilliant base layers than it does in this hat, which features a lovely fleecy inner, perfect for keeping your head hot, but not so good at letting the cooler air in – which is fine by us, because the main job of a beanie, so far as we’re concerned, is to keep your loaf warm. It does mean than it’s a little too warm for nigh-energy activities such as trail running. The fabric is comfortable and stretchy, and it wicks moisture away well. This beanie provides a lot of warmth, despite its low profile, and fits well under a helmet for cycling or climbing. It also scrunches down really small and weights very little, so it is perfect for popping into a pocket or pack when you’re heading out hiking, biking, climbing, kayaking or camping, whether it’s full-on winter conditions or springtime, when temperatures can still drop quickly.

Read our full Páramo Beanie review

Rab Logo Beanie hiking hat

(Image credit: Rab)
A lightweight, no-nonsense basic beanie from a brand with serious mountain heritage

Specifications

Gender: Unisex
Sizes: One size
Materials: 100% acrylic with inner fleece headband
Colors: Oxblood / Atlantic/Firecracker/Beluga/Deep Ink/Crimson/Polar blue/Army

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight (55g)
+
Quick-drying 
+
Hardwearing
+
Cosy fleece inner headband

Reasons to avoid

-
Not waterproof
-
Poor eco creds

The eponymous logo on this hat carries a certain amount of cachet among outdoorsy types, so you’ll immediately fit in when you stroll into a climbers’ café or walkers’ pub. It comes in loads of colors, so there’ll be a hue to match your waterproof jacket or puffer of choice. As a warm hat for winter and springtime hiking, climbing or even a good old-fashioned snowball fight, it does the job.

It’s made of a lightweight single-knit fabric that provides moderate warmth without causing your head to overheat. Unlike cheaper imitations, it also has a fleecy internal headband to keep ears toasty, minimise irritation and generally add to the performance. The fit is nice and close, and it will go under a climbing or biking helmet too. Unlike some other more technical beanies, this one isn’t waterproof, though it is quick-drying, being made from acrylic. The downside of that is relatively poor eco credentials compared to natural wool or recycled synthetic fibres.

Read our full Rab Logo Beanie review

The best hiking hats for summer

Tilley TH5 Hemp hiking hat

(Image credit: Tilley)

4. Tilley TH5 Hemp Hat

A brilliant broad brim handmade hat for hiking, camping and all sorts of al fresco activities

Specifications

Gender: Unisex
Sizes: Small – 2 X Large
Materials: Hemp
Colors: Natural hemp / Green olive / Mocca
Compatibility: 3-season hiking, trekking and camping, but particularly good in summer

Reasons to buy

+
Repels water
Sustainable
+
Hard wearing and durable
+
Floats

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

Arguably the ultimate piece of outdoor headwear, these Canadian-made hard-as-nails hats float (in case you/it falls in water), tie on (so it can be worn in gusty and windy conditions), repel rain, wick moisture and shield your head and face from bright sunlight and UV rays. They are also ventilated with grommets, which means you don’t get too sweaty beneath that broad brim, and even have a secret pocket. Made from natural materials, making them sustainable, these hats are sized specifically for the wearer. 

Tilley hemp hats don’t shrink, but they do fade over time, creating a well-used personalised look you can be proud of. Tilley are confident enough in their products to sell them with a lifetime guarantee – our hemp hat has been cradling our crashtest dummy’s cranium for several years now and while it doesn’t look as good as new (we’d be disappointed if it did, after all those adventures) it’s not damaged in any way and still performs perfectly.

Tommy Breeze Curved Brim Trucker hiking hat

(Image credit: Tommy Breeze)

5. Tommy Breeze Curved Brim Trucker

Cool, functional headwear for the trails, beach and beyond

Specifications

Gender: Unisex
Sizes: One size
Materials: Synthetic and mesh
Colors & designs: Many
Compatibility: 3-season functionality for hiking and camping – especially good on bright summer days

Reasons to buy

+
Available with many different patches
+
Easy to adjust

Reasons to avoid

-
One silhouette only

Breathable, light, and plenty shady, Tommy Bahama’s mesh-back, curved brim trucker hats all sport a hand-sewn patch on the front with designs inspired by coastal water and golden sand, steep peaks, Joshua Trees, deserts, and birds taking flight. Many of the patches are ink and/or watercolor sketches, translated to thread. The fully embroidered patches are hand sewn onto each Tommy Breeze classic trucker caps. The caps have a mid-profile, six panel crown with a curved brim. A snapback closure is easy to adjust, and it also makes this lid quick to secure to a backpack. This is a hat we reach for whether we are donning a lifejacket for a paddle around the lake, or lacing up our boots for a multiday trekking adventure.

Dakine Pindo Straw hiking hat

(Image credit: Dakine )

6. Dakine Pindo Straw Hat

Stylish, Hawaiian-style full-coverage, broad-rimmed hat for protecting necks and faces while on the trail, at the beach or in the garden

Specifications

Gender: Unisex
Sizes: S/M (7 1/8), 57cm /22.25in circumference; L/XL (7 3/8), 59cm /23in circumference
Materials: Straw outer, polyester underbrim
Colors: Straw / Aloha camo
Compatibility: Perfect for full-sun summer days on exposed trails and open places, including out on the water when canoeing

Reasons to buy

+
Broad coverage
+
Great protection for walking and paddling 
+
Lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-
Can catch the wind 
-
Not backpacking pack-compatible

Being outside in the sunshine is one of the joys of summer. But sunburned neck, ears, and shoulders aren’t any fun. This big-circumference sun had provides the most protection possible with its sheer surface area, unless you’re willing to don a full sombrero. Worn traditionally by Hawaiian lifeguards, it’s as good for beach walks as for backyard barbecues, day hikes in hot sun, and pulling weeds from the garden, Dakine added aloha to the classic straw lifeguard hat with a fun polyester print on the underside. The hat comes in two sizes, and it’s built to stay put once it’s on your head. The integrated, elastic headband isn’t binding. And a cinch chin strap prevents it blowing away. It wasn’t compatible with a full backpacking pack, but we have been wearing it for most other activities all summer long.

Decathlon Trek 500 Forclaz hat

(Image credit: Decathlon)

7. Decathlon Trek 500 Forclaz Hat

A low-cost, frill-free hat that ticks all the boxes for buyers on a budget looking for protection from the summer sun for their face and neck

Specifications

Gender: Men’s and women’s versions available
Sizes: 60–62cm /23–24in and 56–58cm/22–23in
Materials: Polyamide (85%) & Elasthane (15%)
Colors: Men’s: Carbon Grey / Dark Ivy Green; Women’s: Purple / Steel Grey
Compatibility: Perfect for hikes and treks in moderately high temps

Reasons to buy

+
Good neck and face protection
+
High UV protection
+
Cheap

Reasons to avoid

-
Ventilation not great
-
All synthetic materials

If functionality is more of a concern than frills, the Forclaz Anti-UV Trekking Hat merits its place somewhere near the top of your shortlist.

The fairly classy looking sunhat has a basic design and lacks a few of the bells and whistles found on pricier models, and which we’d ideally like for hiking in the scorching heat, but covers its bottom line very well given the modest RRP. It’s made with quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and tear-resistant polyamide fabric, can be scrunched down into a tiny bundle without losing shape, has a UPF 50+ rating, and its 15% spandex content ensures a snug but comfortable fit on your dome. While more extensive mesh ventilation panels, Legionnaire-style neck coverage, and a Velcro/popper or two to pin back the brim when need be would’ve been appreciated, the price tag will make all of these shortcomings entirely forgivable for the less demanding or fussy buyer.

Gore-Tex Cap hiking hat

(Image credit: Gore-Tex)

8. Gore-Tex Cap

Lightweight water and windproof peaked cap for hiking, biking and running in all kinds of conditions

Specifications

Gender: Unisex
Sizes: one size (adjustable)
Materials: Gore-tex
Colors: Black / Neon yellow
Compatibility: 3-season hiking and various other outdoor activities

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Adjustable
+
Waterproof
+
Windproof

Reasons to avoid

-
No neck protection
-
Quite pricey

Weighing in at just 150g, this is a classic cap, except made with high-performing Gore-tex, which means it is solidly wind and waterproof, but also light and breathable. It is easily adjustable at the back, so although only available in one size, wearers can fit it to their heads securely enough for it to be worn on gusty days. The peak provides protection from the glare of the sun, and will help avoid sunburn on the nose and cheeks. If you’re hiking away from the sun, flip it round (we’re pretty sure you don’t need detailed instructions). 

It’s low profile enough to be worn under hoods, helmets and warmer headwear if required. This lid is listed as a men’s cap, but there is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be viewed as a unisex hat (although, note that there is no gap at the back to pull long hair through when worn in a ponytail). Gore also offer a lightweight mesh cap, which is more breathable, does have a ponytail gap at the rear and is cheaper ($30/£30), but is not waterproof. 

The best buff

best hiking hat: Buff tubular

(Image credit: Buff)

9. Buff Tubular

Multifunctional tubular scarf that can be worn in multiple ways to protect hikers’ heads, necks and faces

Specifications

Gender: Unisex
Sizes: Adult / Child
Materials: Repreve (synthetic microfiber made from recycled plastic bottles)
Colors: numerous patterns and colors available
Compatibility: Year-round use for head, face and neck protection

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Supremely versatile
+
Made from recycled materials
+
Seamless and comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
No anti glare protection

Pioneers of a design that has often been imitated, this brand claim to be the makers of the original tubular scarves now known by many people as simply ‘buffs’. As a piece of mega multifunctional outdoor apparel, buffs are beloved by hikers, campers, runners, climbers, cyclists, skiers, paddlers and adventurers of all descriptions. 

The scarves, which come in myriad colors and designs, can be worn in 12 different ways (opens in new tab) about your head, neck and face, offering protection from the sun, sand and dust, catching sweat before it gets in your eyes, keeping your hair out of your face, and even reducing the spread of germs (although they are not as effective in this regard as a proper face mask). They’re easy to carry (on your wrist, around your neck, or in a pocket or bag), and weigh very little. They are seamless, comfortable, and these days they’re made with Repreve (opens in new tab) – a synthetic material spun from recycled plastic bottles.

Hiking hat comparison table

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Hiking hats comparison table
HatRRPStyleMaterials
Penfield Harris Beanie$30 (US) / £25 (UK)Beanie hatAcrylic
Páramo Beanie£22 (UK)Lightweight beanie hatPolyester
Rab Logo Beanie$20 (US) / £15 (UK)Lightweight beanie hatAcrylic with inner fleece headband
Tilley TH5 Hemp Hat$90 (US) / £75 (UK)Broad brimmed hatHemp
Tommy Breeze Curved Brim Trucker$30 (US) / £30 (UK)Trucker-style capSynthetic and mesh
Dakine Pindo Straw Hat$28 (US) / £30 (UK)Broad brimmed hatStraw outer, polyester underbrim
Decathlon Forclaz Anti-UV Mountain Trekking Hat: Trek 500$15 (US) / £10 (UK)Broad-brimmed hatPolyamide (85%) & Elastane (15%)
Gore-Tex Cap$45 (US) / £40 (UK)Lightweight capGore-tex
Buff tubular$24 (US) / £15.50 (UK)Tubular scarfRepreve (synthetic microfiber made from recycled plastic bottles)

How to choose the best hiking hat

There are so many different reasons why you should pack a hat when you're off on an adventure. With myriad headwear designs on the market, the hat you opt for will depend on where you're hiking and the season. One thing is for sure, a hat is an absolute hiking essential, and here's why:

Now that we're enjoying the height of summer in the northern hemisphere, it's important to remember the dangers posed by the sun's glare. This is where a sun hat or cap really comes into its own. However, if you're heading into environment where a deluge is commonplace even in summer, a sun hat won't cut it, as it won't fit nicely under your waterproof hood. Of course, you can take it off, but it's also a bit of an awkward shape for your daypack. A cap has the advantage here, especially one that boasts waterproof qualities such as the Gore-Tex Cap.

Come winter, if you’re after something warm, versatile and practical, which will work for hiking and cold-weather camping – as well as other outdoor adventures in later winter and early spring, there are some superb beanie hats out there.

Summer designs

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best hiking hats

A wide brimmed sun hat offers unbeatable protection from the sun's rays (Image credit: Getty)

Sun hat

A sun hat is the ultimate option for head and neck protection when it comes to the sun’s damaging UV rays. The larger the brim, the greater the protection. However, in windy conditions the brim can act like a sail and take off, rendering you hat-less. Many feature a neck strap, so that the odds of losing the hat altogether are minimised. Sun hats are also not the most packable option.

Cap

A classic baseball cap is the go-to for hikers who enjoy going fast and light, preferring a more minimalist approach than that offered by a sun hat. A cap has the advantage that it can be worn under a hood or a helmet, while it also packs down small into a backpack. The brim can be swivelled depending on which direction the sun is coming from.

best hiking hats

A cap is lighter, more packable and versatile than a sun hat (Image credit: Getty)

Winter designs

Beanies

Perhaps the simplest style of hat available, beanie’s close-fitting design makes them warm. They also stay put on your head (won’t blow away), they’re often reasonably breathable, tend to be more affordable and have a low profile, so they fit beneath hoods and helmets.

Bobble hats

Ever wondered what the bobble on a bobble hat is for? The theory is that they once graced the heads of sailors, and offered a little more protection when they were working in dark, tight spaces (presumably as an early warning system for when the wearer was about to bump their head). Whether or not you go for a bobble in the 21st century is totally up to you, but it is essentially a beanie with ball on top.

Skull caps

Another beanie sub species, these thin, tight fitting fleece-style hats are great for keeping your ears warm and your hair out of your face for winter sports. They are light and breathable enough to stop you overheating, hence why they are often popular with skiers and winter runners.

Ushanka

These traditional Russian hats with a fur lining have evolved into modern ‘trapper’ hats, which usually have a faux fur lining and ear flaps that can be clipped together either under the chin or on top of the head. They’re ideal for really cold or windy conditions, giving you the most coverage and protecting your ears and face from snow and icy winds. In warmer conditions you’re likely to find them too hot and heavy.

best hiking hats

A beanie hat keeps your head and ears beautifully warm (Image credit: Getty)

Materials

The best hiking hats for summer can be made from all manner of materials, from natural fabrics to synthetic creations. Tilley's TH5 is a great example of natural materials being put to good use. It repels rain, wicks moisture and protects you from the sun.

Synthetic materials can also have their advantages, giving you glorious comfort. Even Gore-Tex have stepped into the hat market, offering a waterproof baseball cap that gives you the best of both worlds: protection from the sun and the rain.

best hiking hats

Tilley are so confident in the durability of their TH5 Hemp Hat that it comes with a lifetime guarentee (Image credit: Tilley)

The best hiking hats for winter conditions are available in a range of synthetic and natural materials, but some stand out for the warmth and comfort they offer. Top of the naturally derived pack is merino wool, which traps heat brilliantly and is also moisture-wicking and odour-resistant. Merino's qualities have also made it the go-to material for hiking base layers. It retains some heat-giving properties even when wet, and doesn’t itch in the way normal wool can, making it perfect for wearing next to the face.

We also rate hats made or lined with fleece. Polyester fleece is very soft and comfortable, is quick to dry, and is warm without adding weight and bulk, making it ideal for thinner hats and headbands designed for sport. Thicker winter hats designed for snow and icy conditions often have a soft lining of fleece or faux fur combined with a tougher outer layer – look for a waterproof or water-resistant canvas. Fur has always been a popular choice as headgear in the coldest climates due to its unsurpassed warmth and the fact that it doesn’t freeze or frost up at sub-zero temperatures – but these days, faux fur does the job just as well.

Color

The best winter hats can come in bold bright colors or more subtle hues. Hunters (or people who play out where hunters also hunt) often wear neon orange hats, and for good reason – bright orange or red hats can make you easier to spot in the mountains (or on quiet country lanes), or when you’re out walking, running or cycling in low light. If you want a hat to wear in the city or for the winter commute as well as in the great outdoors, you may want to pick a more neutral color.

Pat Kinsella

Writer, editor and enthusiast of anything involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing adventure stories. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon (opens in new tab) and Dorset (opens in new tab), and once wrote a whole book about Toilets (opens in new tab) for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades here (opens in new tab).