Gear Review: Walking Hats – which is the right one for you?

Gear Review: Walking Hats - which is the right one for you?
Here we have one of our Tassie tour group’s wearing a variety of hats on a “coolish”, cloudy day in Tasmania.
hat   /hat/ 
“a black straw hat”


Whilst the Inspiration Outdoors East Coast team are currently shopping for Balaclavas after a very chilly week, it’s never a bad time to talk about sun protection in Australia.

When you’re out exploring and adventuring, always wear a hat with good sun protection – even in winter. Of course, the Australian summer has stronger UV ratings and not to mention the sunburn potential but, it is very possible to also be subjected to skin damage on cloudy overcast days. Hiking should not be a fashion parade but, having said that though, keep reading and see how your hat rates or if you’re in the market for a new hat, find the best and dorkiest hat for you!

Standard Wide Brim with airflow

Outdoors Geek rating: Medium to High  4/5
Sun protection rating: 4/5

This is the go-to hat for the Inspiration Outdoors team. These hats are light, durable, dry quickly, good brim coverage, drawstring for those exposed sections around Cape Otway (and many places in Australia can be tres windy), and have the important ventilation panel. Most brands have something in this style and are pretty reasonably priced. When you are out walking, being mindful of  sun damage and heat is very important, no one wants heat exhaustion/heat stroke.

Ultra Adventure or Legionnaire Style

Outdoors Geek Rating: High  5/5
Sun Protection Rating: 5/5

This hat certainly has all aspects covered for walkers. Large brim, six inch neck cape, ventilation panels, drawstring, adjustable head tightness, mean you will stay cool, sun protected and your hat won’t fly off the cliffs on the Great Ocean Walk or Cape to Cape trail. Good quality hats are 50+ SPF rated, plus water and stain resistant! Certainly an all-rounder and practical, hence the “Ultra” in the name.

Tilley Classic

Outdoors Geek rating: Medium to High  3.5-4/5
Sun protection rating: 4/5

Don’t like promoting individual brands, but the Tilley is as classic and respected as you can get. Tilley guarantees for life that their hats will not wear out, shrink, or fall apart! Also it blocks “98% of suns rays” and possesses a soft band around the head that wicks moisture. The stiff brim makes in handy in the windy.

Trilby Hipster

Outdoors Geek rating: Low to very Low  1/5
Style-master rating: High
Sun Protection Rating: 1/5

The hat is stylish, with its 20s shaping and darling ribbon/band usually present. Good airflow in the cane mesh models but lets face it practicality for walking is not high on the agenda of purchasers/wearers of Trilbys.

Crushable Cowboy

Outdoors Geek rating: low  1/5
Check Shirt accompaniment rating: 5/5
Sun Protection Rating 3.5/5

Now here is some “cred” with practicality. The hat is sturdy, packable (crushable), big enough brim and looks pretty awesome. You can pack it in your luggage or hiking pack without worrying about damaging it. Small drawback in the lack of chin strap although some brands making this style do have them. They can be lighter than they look and most of these “all-season” hats have a twill headband to stop itching. This hat will allow you to go hiking with some class.

Flap down Cap

Geek factor: High  4.5/5
Comfort and practicality: not as good sun protection as the “Ultra”  4.5/5
Sun Protection Rating: 4.5/5

Has obvious strengths in being lightweight, quick dry, has excellent neck protection, and is versatile. This hat is designed to wick away moisture, so you will be pretty fresh faced, cool, calm and collected as you walk. Major advantage though is easy packing into bags, light, and really can go in any conditions. The cap brim lacks marginally in protection to the legionnaire but is one of the highest rated hats for outdoor activities you can find.

Trucker/Baseball Cap

Geek Rating: 1/5
Melbourne style rating circa 2015: 5/5
Sun Protection: 2/5

These caps are versatile in that you can wear them outdoors or in hip urban areas. But unless you have your collar up, you will lack the sun protection on the neck. If the sun is at an angle, the brim just can’t offer you full protection. It is better than nothing and can be combined with a collar up approach and other forms of sun protection.


Geek rating: 2/5
Sun protection 1/5

Obviously come in different shapes and styles, and football teams (Go Dockers!) Beanies are important in places where you can get rapid weather changes – to shelter from those ocean winds along our coasts, and of course when the sun goes down and you are gazing at the amazing light-pollution free sky. If the sun comes out, swap the beanie out! Great and very useful at morning tea, at long rest stops, at lunch or whenever you are taking a moment to eat our delicious cakes to prevent cooling down too rapidly.

Stay Protected and Happy Hiking!

Your Hat & Fashion Guru,


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