Don't forget to grab one of your best hiking hats, with all the gusto and swagger of Indiana Jones, as you escape to the outdoors. We may not be escaping from a trap door with spiky teeth, a massive boulder or a pit of snakes but we're escaping nonetheless. We’re all heading outdoors with a renewed sense of relief, seeking fresh air, adventure and some escapism from, well, pretty much everything. In our haste, however, it’s very important that we don’t forget to take a few essentials – including some season-appropriate headwear.
To get ahead, you need to get a hat, as the old adage goes. Your summer hiking backpack should certainly not be without one. And it’s true that the best hiking hats will protect you from a raft of things, ranging from the occasionally angry elements and bouts of inclement weather to sunburn, solar glare, insects and bad hair days out on the trail (heaven forbid).
There is a good hiking hat out there for every occasion and forecast. Wide-brim hats are excellent on exposed trails in the summer, caps can be perfect when you’re walking west into the relentless sun, while beanies are brilliant on chilly mornings, frosty alpine peaks and for putting on once you've set up your tent and the temperature starts to drop.
It’s said that most of your body heat escapes through the top of your head, and while that isn’t strictly true, around 10% of heat is lost that way, which is still a significant amount. A decent lid definitely does help keep you cozy outdoors – especially around the ears which, like all extremities, are the first parts of the body to feel the bite.
The best hiking hats should warm your ears for years, and more neutral-looking ones are perfect for everyday wear as well as for outdoor adventures. They will also offer you protection from the wind, rain and the sun – particularly if head hair is something you talk about in the past tense. If you’re a fastpacker, or looking for a more sporty piece of headwear, check out our guide to the best running hats.
Our buying guide explains what styles and materials to look for in the best hiking hats and camping crowns, no matter what the conditions are like. Some headwear is aimed specifically at men or women, but after testing out many hats, we think most styles will work as unisex designs.
The best hiking hats for summer adventures
Tilley TH5 Hemp Hat
A brilliant broad brim handmade hat for hiking, camping and all sorts of al fresco activities
RRP: $90 (US)/ £75 (UK) | 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
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.
Decathlon Forclaz Anti-UV Mountain Trekking Hat: Trek 500
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
RRP: $15 (US)/£10 (UK) | 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
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.
Lightweight water and windproof peaked cap for hiking, biking and running in all kinds of conditions
RRP: $45 (US)/ £40 (UK) | Gender: Unisex | Sizes: one size (adjustable) | Materials: Gore-tex | Colors: Black / Neon yellow | Compatibility: 3-season hiking and various other outdoor activities
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.
Multifunctional tubular scarf that can be worn in multiple ways to protect hikers’ heads, necks and faces
RRP: $24 (US)/ £15.50 (UK) | 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
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 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 – a synthetic material spun from recycled plastic bottles.
The best hiking hats for outdoor adventures in late winter and early spring
This light, breathable beanie with technical smarts beneath the hood is ideal for active outdoor pursuits in cold weather
RRP: $15 (US)/ £22 (UK) | Gender: Unisex | Sizes: One size | Materials: Acrylic | Colors: Black and ancient fossil / Mountain red and big gem
This lightweight beanie is ideal for use for winter sport and other faster-paced adventures in icy conditions. It sits snugly on the head, rather like a skullcap, and fits neatly under a helmet. It also works well when worn with a headlamp, with no extraneous elements to get in the way. Columbia are rightly proud of the Omni-Heat thermal reflective material they use to line the inside of their winter clothing – these small silver dots trap and reflect body heat effectively, and here they keep your head significantly warmer, but don’t add bulk, so the hat is still breathable if you sweat. The inside earband of the Heat beanie is lined in a soft fleece material, which is very comfortable. This is a highly recommended pick for keeping your head warm when doing energetic outdoor activities. Our one complaint is that the Columbia brand name and logo are pretty prominent. If you don’t like looking like a walking brand endorsement you might want to go for a more subtly designed hat.
A stylish wear-anywhere winter hat made with high-performing merino wool
RRP: $41 (US)/ £30 (UK) | Gender: Unisex | Sizes: One size | Materials: Merino wool | Colors: Olive green / Yellow / Black / Blue / Navy / Purple / Red / Grey / Dark green
Like sea shanties, fisherman beanies are having a bit of a hipster moment – and if you want to get in on the style action, Cornwall-based Finisterre’s merino version is a great choice. Made from non-mulesed Merino wool (mulesing is a surgical procedure performed on sheep that is considered cruel, so looking out for non-mulesed merino is definitely recommended) it is knitted in a stretchy rib design, which is very comfortable to wear all day. Merino is a brilliant beanie material, as it’s warm, non-itchy, breathable and is resistant to odor. It also retains heat, even when wet. The Finisterre fisherman beanie has a flattering shape and fits pleasingly snugly to the head, instantly retaining heat. But for some this particular design may prove too snug – it only comes in one, rather small size, so it’s best suited to those with smaller heads. Nine smart colorways are available, from cheery yellow and red to more work-friendly grey and black.
A lightweight, no-nonsense basic beanie from a British brand with a serious mountain heritage
RRP: $20 (US)/ £15 (UK) | Gender: Unisex | Sizes: One size | Materials: 100% acrylic with inner fleece headband | Colors: Oxblood / Atlantic/Firecracker/Beluga/Deep Ink/Crimson/Polar blue/Army
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.
Delightfully warm, ribbed beanie hat you can wear for every day of winter and into early spring
RRP: $30 (US)/ £25 (UK) | Gender: Unisex | Sizes: One size | Materials: Acrylic | Colors: Navy / Cream / Brown / Red / Rust / Orange / Dark Olive
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.
A lightweight, thermal, hard-working head protector that’s a great addition to a backpack all year round
RRP: £22 (UK) | Gender: Unisex | Sizes: S–M /L–XL | Materials: Polyester | Colors: Midnight/Carmine/Dolphin/Cobalt/Wine/Elderberry/Flame/Black/Moss
Weighing in at just 50g, and made with Páramo’s very clever Parameta G 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.
What to look for when buying the best hiking hats
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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