The 12 Best Hiking Hats of 2021 - Greenbelly Meals

The 12 Best Hiking Hats of 2021


Published: July 19th, 2021

hiker on a ridge wearing a hiking hat

In this post, we’ll review the best hiking hats available today. But first, let’s dive into what hiking hats are used for, the three kinds of hats you can choose from, and some important requirements when selecting headwear for hiking, namely fit, weight, breathability, and packability.

Below the reviews, you’ll find tips to keep your hat in great shape, even after you wash it.

Table of Contents

Here's what's coming. Click on any item to jump straight to a section:


3 Types of Hiking Hats


types of hiking hatsFrom left to right: wide-brimmed, caped, and cap.


1. WIDE-BRIMMED:
MOST ALL-ROUND SHADE

A sun hat is specifically designed to provide maximum shade for your head. These hats usually have a wide brim that goes around the entire head. Sun hats are great for when you will be hiking in sunny areas without a lot of shade. Some tend to obscure your vision, though. And, in windy conditions, the wide brim gets caught in the wind.

hiker wearing a wide-brimmed sun hatWide-brimmed hat (Arc'teryx Sinsola)


2. FLAP/CAPED: MOST PROTECTIVE

A hat with a cape looks like a ballcap with an extra piece of fabric attached to the back that drapes down over the neck. These caps often provide the most sun protection because the cape keeps the sun from hitting the neck and ears even when the sun is lower in the sky.

woman hiker wearing a caped OR hiking hatCaped hiking hat (Outdoor Research Sun Runner)


3. CAP: MOST VERSATILE

A cap or ballcap provides the least sun protection on its own but is probably the most versatile. These caps will stay on your head in all but the windiest conditions. And when you’re in town after a hike, your hat won’t announce to the world that you just finished hiking.

A mesh-backed cap is a favorite for many hikers because the mesh provides good ventilation. And, you can combine a cap with a Buff or bandana for a DIY neck cape when moving through exposed areas. Or, combine a cap with a sun hoodie for maximum versatility and sun protection.

Hiker wearing a hoody and a hatCap worn with hoodie


A NOTE ABOUT HIKING VS RUNNING HATS:

A good running hat will also make a great hiking hat. A running hat is designed to stay on your head while you move quickly. So, it will also stay on your head comfortably when hiking.

The opposite of this isn’t true, though. You probably wouldn’t enjoy going running in hiking clothes. So, if you want to wear a hat for hiking and trail running, don’t get a hat designed for hiking, especially a full-brimmed hat.


Hiking Hat Requirements


Here are four boxes every hiking hat should check:

✅ LIGHTWEIGHT: A hiking hat should be lightweight. Try to keep it below 3 ounces since you’ll be carrying it in your pack if you aren’t wearing it. Also, lighter materials dry quicker. Lightweight hats also tend to be more comfortable for wearing all day.

 PACKABLE: A good hiking hat is packable and won’t look smashed when you unpack it. So, get a hat that will maintain its shape after being packed away.

 FIT: Make sure your hat fits well and is adjustable. You want your hiking hat to stay in place in windy conditions. So, get a hat that can be tightened or otherwise secured in place when the wind picks up. If a hat is adjustable, you can adjust the fit throughout the day to maintain comfort, too.

 BREATHABLE: Look for a hat that has lots of mesh or is made of breathable fabric. You’ll be sweating out there in the hot sun. So, make sure that sweat can evaporate. A good hat will be vented well enough that air can flow through it.

best hiking hats


Best Hiking Hats


Brand and Model Style Weight Price
Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Caped 2.6 oz $42
Outdoor Research Sun Runner Caped 2.8 oz $38
REI Co-op Sahara Outback Caped N/K $39.95
Outdoor Research Sombriolet Wide-brimmed 3.1 oz $42
Shelta Firebird V2 Performance Wide-brimmed 4 oz $74.50
Tilley LTM6 Airflo Hat Wide-brimmed 3.2 oz $90
Columbia Bora Bora Booney II Wide-brimmed 2.6 oz $30
Arc'teryx Sinsola Wide-brimmed 1.4 oz $55
KUHL Renegade Cap Cap N/K $29
Sunday Afternoons Aerial Cap Cap 1.9 oz $30
North Face Door to Trail Cap N/K $30
Territory Run Long Haul Cap Cap N/K $34

Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure 

sunday afternoons ultra adventure

Price: $42

Weight: 2.6 oz

UPF: 50+

This hat is perhaps the most unique and protective hat on this list. It uses a wide brim in the front that turns into a cape in the back to provide great sun coverage. And, this hat is shaped like a ball cap on top, so it will fit your head well. It has a cinch strap to tighten or loosen in the back to dial in the fit. And, this hat is made of lightweight and breathable materials, with strips of mesh running from the front to back.

This hat is extremely comfortable. So comfortable that it is easy to forget you’re wearing it, in fact. And, it has a sunglass lock so you can store your sunglasses on your forehead without losing them. Perhaps the only downside to this hat is its look. You will probably want to stash this hat in your pack before heading into town. Fortunately, this hat is very packable, it even has a crease in the bill to easily fold in half.

View at REI


Outdoor Research Sun Runner 

outdoor research sun runner

Price: $38

Weight: 2.8 oz

UPF: 50+

This hat looks like a caped hat, and it is. But the cape is removable, so this hat easily converts into a regular ballcap when extra sun protection isn’t needed. This feature makes this hat much more versatile than other caped hats since you can continue wearing it when you get to town or other places where you don’t want to be wearing a sun cape.

With the cape attached, this hat provides great protection from the sun. The cape wraps to the brim and cinches together under your chin. And, this cinch works as a chin strap to keep the hat from blowing away. It also works to keep your cheeks and the sides of your neck protected from the sun.

This hat is made of ultralight, breathable materials and has mesh sections on the side of the hat to increase ventilation. However, these mesh sections are partially covered with the cape when it is attached.

View at REI


REI Co-op Sahara Outback 

rei coop sahara outback

Price: $39.95

UPF: 50

This is a full-brimmed hat with a deployable neck cape. If you need protection on your neck this hat’s cape will block the sun. But, when the cape isn’t needed you can tuck it up in the crown. At four inches, the brim is longer in the back, and the rest of the brim is three inches wide. This gives you more sun protection where it is most often needed and less brim to block your field of vision.

This hat has two vented mesh panels on the sides to provide breathability. And, it has a cinch cord that goes under the chin to keep the hat from blowing away. It also has a foam insert in the brim to make sure the hat floats in case you drop it in the water.

View at REI


Outdoor Research Sombriolet 

outdoor research sombriolet

Price: $42

Weight: 3.1 oz

UPF: 50+

This is a full-brimmed hat that is great for hiking and water activities. It has a foam reinforced brim that is longer in the front and back, where you need protection the most. The foam reinforcing in the brim along with piping around the perimeter makes the brim stiff enough to stand up to gusts of wind or rain. This also helps the brim not block your field of vision. And, the underside of the brim is a dark color to help with glares coming off of water or snow.

This hat has a mesh-lined crown with four vents for breathability. It is quite comfortable if you size it right. However, it tends to run a bit small, so size up if you’re unsure. It has an elastic cinch cord to tighten the hat around your head to dial in the fit, too. It also has a removable cinch cord that tightens under the chin to keep the hat from blowing off in the wind.

View at REI


Shelta Firebird V2 Performance 

shelta firebird

Price: $69.50

Weight: 4 oz

UPF: 50+

This uses a 5-panel design for the crown along with a full brim to make a hat that fits the head well and provides ample sun coverage. The brim is three inches long in the front and a quarter inch shorter the rest of the way around. And, the brim has a molded piece of plastic built into the front to prevent it from flopping in your face in the wind.

This hat is constructed with hot weather in mind. It has a wicking mesh liner and sweatband, along with large vented areas on both sides of the crown. It also has a cinch cord to tighten or loosen the hat as needed. And, this hat has another removable cinch cord that goes under your chin to keep it from blowing away. If you’ve removed the chin cord, you can stash it in the hat’s stash pocket, too.

View at Amazon


Tilley LTM6 Airflo Hat 

tilley ltm6

Price: $90

Weight: 3.2 oz

UPF: 50+

This hat is very stylish. It will keep the sun off your face while looking good in the process. It has a 3 ½ inch brim in the front and back, tapering to 2 ½ inches wide on the sides. And, the LTM6 Airflow uses closed cell foam throughout the crown to keep its shape. This hat is extremely durable and is well constructed. So, it will stand up to years of abuse.

The material used in the hat is thicker than some, but still very lightweight. The hat’s crown has a mesh ring at the top to create good airflow through it and keep your head cool. All this makes the hat very comfortable, too. And, it comes in 10 different sizes. With that many sizing options, you’ll be sure you’ll get a good fit. This hat is expensive, but it could be a good, long-lasting choice if you like the style.

View at REI


Columbia Bora Bora Booney II 

columbia borabora hat

Price: $30

Weight: 2.6 oz

UPF: 50

This full-brimmed hat is a standard bucket hat. Its brim is wide, three inches all the way around. It has mesh ventilation that wraps around the entire back half of the crown. And, this hat breathes very well. It dries quickly when it gets wet, too.

If you have a larger head, this hat will be very comfortable. However, it only comes in one size. So, if you have a smaller head this might not be a great option. And as is the case with most bucket hats, the brim on this hat gets pretty floppy. This can get in the way of your vision.

View at REI


Arc'teryx Sinsola 

arcteryx sinsola hat

Price: $50

Weight: 1.4 oz

UPF: 50+

This women’s specific hat is very lightweight, comfortable, and stylish. Its lightweight materials make it very packable, too. So, when you don’t need sun protection this hat will easily stash in a pocket somewhere. The brim is wide enough to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your ears. And, when you need to see a little better, the brim folds up. This also helps when the brim would be otherwise flopping around in the wind.

This hat is very comfortable. Since it is so light, it is easy to forget you are wearing it. And, the hat has an elastic back, which makes the hat sit comfortably on your head without squeezing too much.

View at Amazon


KUHL Renegade Cap 

kuhl renegade hat

Price: $29

UPF: 50+

This ball cap is constructed with lightweight stretch fabric, which makes it very comfortable for wearing all day. It is constructed with lots of panels, 7 total, to dial in the shape. It comes in one size, as is the case with most ball caps, and has an adjustment strap that can be tightened or loosened with one hand. This allows you to easily make this hat fit comfortably on your head.

This hat also comes with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating on it. And, when it does get wet, it dries very quickly. This hat would work just as well under a rain jacket hood on a rainy day as it would on a hot, sunny day.

View at KUHL


Sunday Afternoons Aerial Cap 

sunday afternons aerial cap

Price: $30

Weight: 1.9 oz

UPF: 50+

This ball cap is made of ultralight materials, breaths very well, and can withstand loads of abuse. This hat uses the same crown as the Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure. And, it fits just as well. Since it doesn’t have a full brim and neck cape, this hat is especially good for technical uses like trail running.

This hat is so comfortable you often forget you are wearing it. The fit adjuster works well and can be adjusted with one hand, too. This further adds to the comfort of the hat, since you can easily adjust it to your needs throughout the day.

View at REI


North Face Door to Trail 

north face door trail hat

Price: $30

UPF: Not Listed

This hat finds the sweet spot between the flimsiness of lightweight breathable fabric and durability. The front panel and brim are constructed with a polyester material that’s just stretchy enough to conform to any shaped head. And, the rest of the hat is made of mesh to keep your head cool. The adjuster is a simple hook and loop closure. This isn’t easy to adjust on the fly, but it never slips.

This hat excels as a quick-drying, breathable option for long days spent moving down trails. The sweatband feels soft on the forehead. And, it dries quickly enough to not get soaked even as it gets hotter. And, it also looks good enough to keep wearing after your hike is over.

View at REI


Territory Run Long Haul Cap 

territory run long haul hat

Price: $35

UPF: Not Listed

Territory Run Co. has created a unique running cap by leaning into the classic 5-panel design, tweaking it slightly, and adding great design elements. Because at the end of the day, we all want the hat we wear out on the trail to look good. But, you’ll also feel good in this high-performing running cap.

This hat is loaded with all the features you would want in a trail running cap. Most notably, this cap uses an elastic adjusting band to adjust the fit. This makes the hat very comfortable, even when you need to tighten the cap down so it doesn’t blow away. And when it gets too windy, stuff this hat in your pocket. It has a crushable bill and is made of lightweight, packable materials, so you won’t have a problem stowing it away.

View at Territory Run


Considerations


WIDTH: 2 ½ INCHES OR MORE

Get a hat with a minimum visor or brim width of 2 ½ inches. If the visor is much shorter, you won’t get the necessary sun protection. Also, full brim hats tend to have floppy brims. So, make sure you select a hat that uses something to give that brim some rigidity.


SIZING: LOOK FOR EASILY ADJUSTABLE HATS

No matter what sizes are available in a hat, some adjustability is good for technical use. If you can’t tighten or loosen a hat as conditions change, then you probably won’t be wearing it much.

It is especially important to size full brim hats correctly. A good fit on a full-brimmed hat could be the difference between a comfortable hat and one that you don’t want to wear. And, with full-brimmed hats, a cord to keep it from blowing away is important.

Ball caps are more easily adjustable, so one-size-fits-all is usually okay here. This is especially the case if the adjuster on the hat works well, so try that immediately when you checking out hats. If you have a particularly large or small head, then you might have trouble with one-size hats in general.

hiker adjusting the fit of his capPonytail coming through the back of a ball cap (Sunday Afternoons Aerial)


FABRIC: CHOOSEN TIGHTLY-WOVEN SYNTHETIC FABRICS

Synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester are best here. Synthetics will dry quickly, which is something you want a hat to do since you’ll be sweating in it.

For maximum durability and sun protection, get a hat that uses opaque and tightly woven fabrics. The tighter weave, the better the hat will stand up to abuse. And, a tighter weave will allow fewer UV rays to pass through the hat onto your skin.

Avoid cotton and straw hats, too. Cotton will stay wet for hours if it gets wet. And, straw hats aren’t woven tightly enough to provide substantial sun protection. Plus, a straw hat can’t stand up to the rigors of longer hiking trips.


SUN PROTECTION: 50 UPF IS STANDARD

Many sun hats have a UPF rating of 50+, which means they block more than 98% of harmful UV rays from the sun.

Some hats don’t come with a UPF rating, this is often because they might not shield you from UV rays, as is the case with the mesh areas of some hats. If you wear a hat with a lot of mesh, know that those areas won’t block UV rays. So, you’ll want something else to cover those areas, like a hood or bandana.

folded hiking hatFolded hat (North Face Door to Trail)


WATER-RESISTANCE: BREATHABILITY OVER WATER-RESISTANCE

Hiking hats aren’t usually waterproof unless they specifically state they are. Waterproof hats will generally not breathe as well as hats not treated with DWR, too. So, unless you’re going out in rainy conditions, it’s best to not bring a waterproof hat. If a hat is treated with DWR, it will be waterproof to an extent, but the waterproof finish will wear off over time.


COLOR:
LIGHTER COLORS REFLECT SUNLIGHT, DARKER COLORS ABSORB IT

The best hat for wearing in the sun will be a light color with a darker, non-reflective color under the brim. Lighter colors will reflect sunlight and keep your head cooler. This is unlike dark-colored hats, which will do the opposite. But, darker colors under the brim do help with glare. So, it is good to get a hat with a dark color under the brim, especially if you’re going to be walking over snow or out on the water.

pink wide brimmed hiking hatSunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure with a sunglass lock


MESH VS NO-MESH: MAXIMUM BREATHABILITY, MINIMAL SUN PROTECTION

As I mentioned above, mesh will not protect your skin from UV rays. Mesh does breathe very well, though. So, if you want maximum airflow in a hat, mesh is a good choice. But, if you’re going for maximum UV ray blocking, you’ll need something to cover that mesh with.


BRIM:
STIFF OR FLIMSY

The best brim finds that happy medium of not too stiff and not too flimsy. A stiff brim will not flop in the wind. This will greatly improve the visibility of a hat. And, a stiff brim won’t sag in the rain. This will keep your face drier and make it easier to see in the rain. However, an extremely stiff brim can dig into your head and be very uncomfortable.

hat cape tucked inside a hatREI Sahara Outback, neck cover stored in the brim.


LINING: HELPS KEEPING YOUR HEAD COOL

A lining can create an area between your head and the outside of the hat where air can circulate. This will in theory keep your head cooler. And, multiple layers of fabric can insulate your head. This will mostly keep the heat from getting to your head. It could also trap some heat generated from your head inside, though. However, the airflow through the lining should mostly have a positive cooling effect.


INSECT PROTECTION: YOU'LL NEED ADDITIONAL PROTECTION

Some hats come treated to repel insects, which is a nice feature if you’re hiking in places with lots of mosquitoes or other pesky flies. But, you’ll want more than just insect protection treatment on your hat. Don’t expect a hat with insect protection to keep mosquitos from biting your arms and legs.


SUNGLASS LOCK: A NEAT LITTLE FEATURE

Where can you keep your sunglasses with a full-brimmed hat since you can’t put them on top of the bill and behind your ears? In a sunglass lock, of course. This feature is only available in certain hats. But, it is a very useful feature if you’re the type who takes their sunglasses off periodically throughout the day.

adjustment straps for a wide-brimmed hatAdjustment straps (Columbia Bora Bora Booney Hat)


What Are Hiking Hats Good For?


Although most hiking hats are known as sun hats, hats can help you also protect your head from rain and from the cold.


A. SUN:
AGAINST SUNBURNS AND HEAT

A hat can keep your face and neck shaded when hiking in direct sunlight. Keeping your head in the shade will keep you cooler and prevent sunburn. This in turn can help prevent dehydration and heatstroke. If you’re standing in direct sunlight you can likely feel a temperature difference on your head if you remove your hat and put it back on.

Look for a hiking hat that has good ventilation and shades the parts of your head you want it to. The more mesh in a hat, the better air circulation the hat will have. And, if a hat has a very wide brim it will create a large shade area.

You can also use an umbrella for hiking in the sun, but you’ll have to hold it or strap it to your backpack. A hat will keep your hands free and is easier to move quickly with. But, it won’t provide quite as much shade as an umbrella would.

Related: Desert Clothing for Hiking: What to Wear and Why

mesh hiking hatTerritory Run Long Haul mesh cap.


B. RAIN: TO KEEP YOUR VISION CLEAR

Look for a rain hat with a stiffer brim that is made of waterproof material for hiking in the rain. The brim of your hat can prevent the rain from getting in your eyes. This will make it less difficult to see, especially if you wear glasses. Keeping the rain out of your eyes might preserve your sanity a little longer, too.

In cold rain, a hat can keep you warmer, too. You lose a lot of body heat through your head, so you won’t get cold as quickly if you keep your head dry. If you’re wearing a baseball cap you can wear it underneath your rain jacket’s hood.


C. COLDFOR EXTRA INSULATION IN THE WINTER AND AT NIGHT

Speaking of keeping your head warm, beanies, balaclavas, and other winter hats will do just that. So if you’re hiking in cold weather, something designed to insulate your head is necessary. And, if you use a backpacking quilt or a hoodless sleeping bag a beanie or balaclava is great to keep your head warm while you sleep.

hiker laying in the sun underneath straw hat


How to Wash Your Hiking Hat
(Without Ruining It)


A hiking hat is easy to ruin if washed improperly. Here's how to freshen up your hat on the trail without deforming it:

  1. Collect water. Fill a one-gallon ziplock bag with water from a creek or other water source. You can use another container, too, but use something that will hold water and is big enough to fit your hat.

  2. Soak the hat. Now, go at least 200 feet from that water source with your water container and put your hat in.

  3. Shake. Vigorously shake the container to agitate the hat.

  4. Scrub. Scrub the fabric with your hands if it is especially dirty, being careful not to crease the brim.

  5. Wring out. Now wring out your hat and dump the greywater. Don’t wring the brim, this will deform it.

  6. Dry. Lay your hat flare in the sun to dry or just wear it wet.


📸 Some photos in this post were taken by Jonathan Davis (@meowhikes).



sam schild writer photo

By Sam Schild (aka “Sia,” pronounced sigh): Sam is a writer, thru-hiker, and bikepacker. You can find him in Denver when he’s not out exploring in the mountains somewhere..
About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

Affiliate disclosure: We aim to provide honest information to our readers. We do not do sponsored or paid posts. In exchange for referring sales, we may receive a small commission through affiliate links. This post may contain affiliate links. This comes at no extra cost to you.



the best backpacking meal - greenbelly