testing hiking hats above a lake in blue sun hoody


Best Hiking Hats 2023 | Sun Hats & Beanies

There are perfect hiking hats for any occasion. But all you really need is one warm hat, and one sun hat. Combined, those two offer the widest possible array of protection from the elements in 99% of backcountry scenarios. This buyer’s guide is dedicated to those two categories. We do not cover, and recommend against, rain hats. That base is covered by your rain jacket’s hood.

We ground this buyer’s guide in decades of experience gear reviewing, working in the outdoor industry, and wearing hiking hats. The recommendations reflect our team’s ultralight backpacking style preferences. However, unlike with tents and backpacks, there is minimal performance differentiation between the best hats, and good or even just average hats. Therefore, our recommendations are based more personal experience than deep market research and testing. We of course haven’t worn all of the hiking hats out there – nobody has – but we’re happy to suggest the ones that we have had the most success with.

Jump ahead to read about our preferred layering system of hats and hoods. And while you’re here, don’t miss our adjacent buyer’s guides to hiking shirts and hiking gloves. You make Adventure Alan & Co possible. When purchasing through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Here’s why you can trust us.


Quick Picks For Sun Hiking Hats

Quick Picks For Warm Hiking Hats

Accessories For Hiking Hats

Best Hiking Cap

Outdoor Research Swift Cap

Outdoor Research Swift Cap

2.5 oz | $30

A simple UPF 50 sun cap gets the job done best. The Outdoor Research Swift Cap is comprised of a lightweight, breathable mesh, with a 3-panel nylon layer on the crown to block the harshest UV. It also has a moisture wicking sweat band and adjustable at the back. We’ve worn this one all around the world.

Best 360 Brim Sun Hat

REI Sahara Path Hat

REI Co-op Sahara Path Hat

2.5 oz | $50

Based on the popular Tilley sun hats, REI’s Sahara Path Hat offers even more ventilation and at half the price . This safari hat looks great and is rated to UPF 50. The brim is stiff enough to hold its shape and floats in water. The hat is quick drying and wicks sweat off of your brow. A great buy for $50.

Best Sun Cap With Cape

Outdoor Research Sun Runner

2.8 oz | $40

The Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap is the most classic option for any hiker who prefers cape caps to 360 brims. This is because it performs better in wind and low angle sunlight, while also offering better neck coverage without bumping into the top of your pack. Downside to all of that coverage is that it’s slightly warmer/less breezy.

Favorite 360-Brim-Cape Hybrid Sun Hat

Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat

2.6 oz | $46

If you’ve ever worn a full 360 degree brim sun hat on a backpacking trip, you have probably experienced the omni-present, ever-irritating nudge of the back of your brim hitting the top of your pack. The Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat does not have this problem. It is a 360 brim in a sense, but the back half is a soft UPF50 fabric that drapes over the back of your neck. This hybrid model offers a best of both worlds. Complete sun coverage with a full brim and good breathability. And all without the rear-brim-vs-top-of-pack issue. This sun hat is well-loved, and backpacker approved. We recommend it highly, and prefer the “Ultra” version to the base model as it is slightly lighter, foldable, and a bit sportier and more movement friendly.

 

Best Neck Gaiter

Buff Original Multifunctional Headwear

1.4 oz | $20

Oft copied but never bested, the Buff Original Multifunctional Headwear (AKA Neck Gaiter) is still the top dog in its niche. It has even achieved name-brand-as-category status. We like to bring a Buff for managing extreme sun, and especially for glacier travel when UV reflects back up at your neck. Plus, Buffs are useful in all sorts of modes. Headband, hat, face-cover, durag and much much more.

 

Best Beanie

REI Co-op Trailmade Beanie

1.5 oz | $15

A lightweight beanie is all you need to keep your head warm for most 3-season backpacking, and the REI Co-op Trailmade Beanie does the job nicely. It’s reversible, knit, and made with 60% recycled nylon and 40% acrylic. Rep the Co-op with pride.

Best Cuffed Beanie

REI Co-op Lightweight Logo Beanie

2 oz | $20

The basic-but-functional REI Co-op Lightweight Logo Beanie keeps your head warm and looking good at a great price. We like the wool/acrylic blend and found it comfy and cozy while hiking and while at camp. The doubled back beanie cuff provides extra warmth around the ears, or can be pulled down for a deeper fit.

Best Wool Beanie

PAKA cozy alpaca beanie

PAKA Cozy Alpaca Beanie

When choosing wool apparel like hats, we recommend alpaca because it is slightly warmer, softer, more breathable, more odor resistant, and more sustainable than merino. This is thanks in large part to the hollow core medulated fibers. And the fact that alpacas do less harm on grazing land than sheep. The PAKA brand Cozy Alpaca Beanie is a treat to wear, looks great, and keeps your noggin extra toasty with a 65% baby alpaca 35% recycled nylon blend.

Best Fleece Balaclava

REI Wind pro hinged balaclava for winter backpacking

REI Co-op Wind Pro Hinged Balaclava

2.5 oz | $40

We prefer balaclavas to traditional beanies, since they cover more of your noggin and seal in more warmth without gaps. This hinged balaclava is extra versatile, since it can be pulled up and down as needed to insulate the face against wind and snow. Plus, who doesn’t love classic Polartec Wind Pro – such a great fleece.

Accessories For Hiking Hats

Favorite Sunglasses

Tifosi Swank Sunglasses

Tifosi Swank Sunglasses

1.0 oz | $30

Backpacking is hard on shades. They tend to get scratched, lost, crushed, or otherwise damaged. That’s why we recommend a basic, functional, and more economical option like the Tifosi Swank Sunglasses. They look great and you can replace them without breaking the bank. But you may never have to as they polycarbonate lenses are shatterproof, 20x more impact resistant than glass, and provide 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays. The frames are similarly durable.

Favorite Insect Head Net

Sea To Summit Mosquito Head Net

Sea To Summit Mosquito Head Net

1.0 oz | $15 MSRP

Weighing only one oz and totally bug-proof, you barely notice the Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net. Yet in early summer, it might be the hardest working piece of ultralight backpacking gear you carry. It’s comfy see through, and outperforms bug repellent sprays and lotions. We like the version treated with InsectShield permethrin to further ward off mosquitos. This is a must-bring in June and July in the mountains.

Favorite Insect Repellent Treatment

Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent

Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent

$17 

Bug season? Treat your clothes with Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent before you head into the backcountry! Bugs hate the presence of permethrin and are their immune systems are harmed by it. This easy-to-apply protection is safe to use, lasts for many washes, and makes you an unappetizing target for mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and other nasties. Treat all outerlayer garments.

Our preferred combination of hiking hats and hoods

For the typical hiking or backpacking trip, we utilize the following combination of hiking hats and hoods to protect from the elements. Having access to all of those hoods, in combination with a beanie and sun hat, provides limitless customizable weather protection for nearly all situations.

Hiking Hats Conclusion

We hope you’ve found the hiking hats that you’re looking for in this buyer’s guide. We’ve used these models all over the world to great success. They’ve been comfortable, warm, protective, and served us well. Happy hiking and happy trails!

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