Spending a lot of time in the sun? Combine style and protection with a sun hat. Made in a variety of colors and styles, sun hats have a high degree of versatility. These elegant, functional accessories are designed to shield your scalp and face from direct sunlight. Some styles even have large brims and adjustability features to also cover your neck and shoulders. Finding a sun hat with the right amount of sun protection is easy, too. Some sun hats have a UPF rating that measures the hat's effectiveness at blocking radiation from the sun.
Take a read through our shopping guide to find the best hat for your next trip to a sunny location. Our top pick from the San Diego Hat Company has an exquisite brim and high degree of sun protection.
Considerations when choosing sun hats
The design element that varies the most among sun hats is brim size. More than anything, the right sun hat for you is based on your activity level, which in turn helps determine the most practical style for your routine.
Large brims: Sun hats with large brims are considered rather fashionable due to their exaggerated features. They offer a wide radius of protection that often includes the neck, shoulders, and sometimes the chest area. These sun hats are well suited for poolside relaxation or beach trips.
Small brims: Sun hats with smaller brims offer moderate coverage. Brims are kept short in these styles to prevent them from getting in your way or blowing off your head. These are ideal for active individuals and athletes.
Varied brim size: There are some styles with different brims on each side. Coverage is focused where it's most needed for certain activities. These sun hats are generally shorter in the front and extended in the back to cover the neck and are ideal for sports, outdoor events, or yard work.
What's a UPF rating?
Ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) ratings are usually given for premium sun hats. This number indicates how well the hat blocks out the sun's rays. When comparing UPF ratings, look for higher numbers, as they offer a greater degree of protection.
Sizing: When it comes to sizing, sun hats can be one-size-fits-all, or they can come in a range of sizes. In sized styles, expect to see extra-small through extra-large sizes for adults. Youth sizes are a bit more limited and are usually categorized by age group.
Finding the right fit: Some sun hats can be adjusted so they stay put in windy conditions or during high levels of activity. You'll find a range of features that will keep your hat in place, including inner elastic headbands, drawstring cords, and adjustable straps.
Cotton: Sun hats made from cotton are often soft and easy to care for, as many of them are machine-washable. They're also often quite flexible, making them easy to pack as well.
Straw: Straw sun hats have a somewhat loose weave that boosts breathability. They're highly fashionable, so unless you're purchasing one with advanced sun protection features, it's more of an accessory than anything else.
Synthetic and blends: Many practical sun hats incorporate synthetic materials and blends. They're ideal for moderate levels of activity, like fishing, golfing, or hiking. Some utilize blends that make them buoyant, so they won't be lost in water, whereas others are made of fabric that wicks away moisture.
Sun hat prices
Sun hats will run you between $5 and $100. At the lower end of the spectrum, you can expect fair-quality hats with modest materials. If you're truly investing in a sun hat, a bigger price tag means quality materials, adjustability features, and improved sun protection.
Q. Will a sun hat make my scalp sweat?
A. While sweating isn't completely preventable, sun hats are constructed with breathable materials to keep you cool and dry.
Q. My sun hat takes up a lot of room. What is the best way to pack it for a plane trip?
A. You can wear it on the plane and then store it in an overhead compartment during flight. Another option is to put the hat in your luggage, and to simply pack items around it to maintain its shape.
Sun hats we recommend
Best of the best: San Diego Hat Company Ultrabraid XL-Brim Sun Hat
Our take: Extraordinary size and elegance. A unique combination of features make this hat a winner when it comes to sun protection.
What we like: Made of a durable material blend and comes in an assortment of fun colors. Boasts superior protection with large brim and UPF 50+.
What we dislike: Breezy weather could blow the hat off your head. Given the design, hairstyle choices are somewhat limited.
Best bang for your buck: Outdoor Research Sombriolet Sun Hat
Our take: Ideal for minimalists who are looking for a functional hat.
What we like: Fits almost everyone with broad size range and unisex design. Plenty of adjustability features, as well as UPF 50+.
What we dislike: Somewhat lacking in style and limited protection with such a short front brim.
Choice 3: Scala Big-Brim Sun Hat
Our take: Breathable cotton hat that offers plenty of protection without an exaggerated brim.
What we like: Adjustability is discreet. Comes in a large color selection and is UPF 50+.
What we dislike: Care and cleaning is challenging, and some feel the sizing is off or inaccurate.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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