Why take a Hat on a Hike?

Why should I take a Hat on a Hike?

We all love to be outdoors and take in the eye catching panoramic views, the fresh air, the exercise and getting away from the stress an strain of our busy lives. These are the reasons most of us love to go hiking in the beautiful outdoors.

One essential piece of hiking kit that is often overlooked when we are throwing together some kit for a hike, is the humble hiking hat. However, if you love hiking, and you are getting prepared for a day of hitting the trails, you should not forget to take along a hat of some description.

There are 2 main reasons to wear a hat on a hike. They are to protect you from the effects of the sun, and to prevent excessive heat loss through the head when it is cold.

We’ll have a look at there two reasons to take a hat on a hike separately as the two reasons we wear them are so polarized. Let’s find out a bit more about hiking hats and why they prove to be so useful on the trail:

Why should I wear a Hat when it is Hot?

You could argue that wearing a hat on a hike when the sun is beaming down and it is really warm could be a bad thing and make you overheat. This could be a factor if you but a non-breathable hiking hat. But the effects of direct sunlight on your head, for several hours, and possibly without protection are far more severe that the risk of overheating.

You should be wearing a hat on the majority of hikes in my opinion, especially when you are hiking in the sun, something you should always be wary of is how the sun is going to affect you during your hike. After all a severely sunburned head and the effects of sunstroke are nothing to laugh about. Especially if you are miles from your finish line.

Modern sunscreens are a vast improvement from the creams we used when I was a kid, but applying and re-applying a greasy solution like sunscreen to your head and neck regularly can be time consuming and a bit of a pain. That’s one of the reasons why it’s always wise to take a hat on a hike.

When we talk about hiking in hats, they are not always going to be baseball caps (although that’s what I usually wear) or 6-panel hats. If you don’t already have a hiking hat, I recommend looking out for a full-fledged, specially designed hiking hat.

When you wear a hat on a hike it not only provides you with a high degree of shade to your forehead and eyes but it also keep your ears, nose, and neck out of the direct, and sometimes powerful sunlight.

To be classified as a hiking hat, it must provide all-around sun protection to the wearer. It should combine both fashion and function to earn the position of being a hiking hat that you will actually take along on hikes with you and wear. No one wants to wear a hat all day that they don’t like the style of, or that they look stupid in.

As well as being chosen for their style, many outdoor hiking hats can have other features too. One of these is that they can be crushable, which means you can fit them in to either your pack or your pocket, then simply shake them out, back into the correct shape to use whenever you want want to put them on.

Why should I wear a Hat when it is Cold?

Cold exposure is associated with several deadly conditions, so it is something to be avoided at all cost. It is a well known fact that a high percentage of the body’s heat is lost through the head. And as the head is where we keep our body’s operating system (the brain), we do not want the head becoming unduly cold, certainly not cold enough so that the operating system cools down and fails on us.

I can speak from experience from being on Arctic Exercises with the Marines in Bardufoss in Northern Norway that taking your hat off in extreme cold, even for a very short time, is a very bad idea.

The possibility of a debilitating illness such as Hypothermia becomes very real. Simply wearing a hat in order to prevent rapid heat loss from the head almost instantly makes the whole body feel warmer.

You don’t have to be in the extreme temperatures described above to come down with Hypothermia. Several hours of sustained minor heat loss through your head in moderately cold weather, could lead to your body’s core temperature dropping below it’s critical base level and inducing Hypothermia.

However, this scary scenario can be easily avoided by simply wearing a suitable hat while you hike.

What makes a Good Hiking Hat?

What to look for when choosing a Hiking Hat:

  • It must adjust or fit well on your head
  • Its design should allow proper ventilation and breathability.
  • Its chin strap, if it has one, must be adjustable
  • It should have a broad brim or peak (depending on your chosen style) for proper rain and sun protection
  • It should be made from a sun-protective material

For windy, rainy, and cool weather, look for a synthetic hat, a wool cap or a beanie. They should all be able to that help your head stay warm. Regular, non-hiking hats are usually not water-resistant, or breathable, which limits their suitability for hiking..

However, breathable and waterproof versions of proper hiking hats are available, if you look in specialist hiking outlets rather than your local store. You should be able to find them either online or in a retail premises so that you can wear them on particularly rainy days. You could, as some people do, also consider wearing a bandana under your hiking hat to give you some insulation, some extra comfort and absorb any excess sweat.

If you buy large-brimmed hat, it might have an elastic or cord or a drawstring with which you can adjust the hat on your head and ensure it fits well.

Another factor you should consider is the UVPF rating of the hat’s material. This rating is the factor that represents the amount of UV rays allowed to pass through the fabric and onto your head. The more tightly weaved its fabric is, the higher protection rating it will have. Other factors that contribute to the rating include the stretch level, the hat’s colours, and the material that the hat is manufactured from.

The material of the hat that you choose to take on your hike depends on which of the purposes above you are planning to avoid, the heat or the cold, also the desired level of ventilation you need, and whether you want your hat to be water-resistant or not.

You can find hiking hats in a variety of materials, including cotton, nylon, wool, acrylic, polyester, rayon, or polypropylene. You can buy hats made from a single pure material named above, or a blend of any of those available.

It is definitely sensible to take a hat on a hike, as it protects you from the sun’s rays and keeps the sun away from your face and eyes, as well as protecting you from cold weather exposure.

So, if you are planning on going for a hike in the sun or the cold, a hat is an essential item you should not forget about. The good news is that hiking hats, unlike so much of the other hiking equipment, have remained relatively cheap to buy and they last for several years. So, why not avoid all the unpleasant scenarios above and buy yourself a hiking hat, and more importantly, wear it?