Dermotologists agree that sunscreen alone isn’t enough protection from the sun for normal people. And cruisers certainly are anything but normal! Living on a boat can mean more sun exposure than most people get in years all condensed into a few months or less. We certainly don’t have to worry about our Vitamin D levels with all that sunshine! But we do need to worry about the big “C” word – skin cancer. When we redid our dodger and bimini, the #1 item on the redesign list was MORE SHADE and more protection from the elements (including bugs!).
But hats are for more than just sunshine — how about a goretex waterproof hat? We both have these from Outdoor Research, perfect for exploring the Bocas Del Toro, Panama area and other tropical areas, rainforests, the Darien jungle or even Machu Picchu in Peru — it rains everywhere and why let rain stop your fun?
Of course, all hats are not created equal when it comes to sun protection. So which is the best? According to my dermotologist, a good wide brimmed hat, preferably with a 3-5″ brim all the way around is as good as it gets, but even then you have to be careful. Ideally the hat should be very tight weave or made of canvas or some other dense material.
My current favorite hat, from Crushable Seagrass Hats is a woven hat with a 4″ wide brim which doesn’t exactly qualify for “dense weave”. But on a boat everything is a compromise and my hat is no different. It is cool during the hottest days which means I’ll actually wear it. It can get wet and it even rolls up for packing. But those aren’t the biggest reasons I like it… I particularly like this one because while it’s not as stylish as some hats I’ve seen … or even owned … it STAYS ON MY HEAD! There’s some type of special patented band in the inside brim. The hat company claims it will stay on my head in up to 40 mile an hour winds. No chin strap, no hat blowing off the back of my head just when I need to pay attention to something on deck. Although I haven’t tested it in 40 mph winds, I can attest that it does stay in place in between 25 – 30 mph winds! So far, so good, although it’s not been out to sea on a passage yet.
The good old standby baseball type cap provides no sun protection for your neck and ears – just your forehead, scalp (if you’re like David) and nose. The type with neck and ears flaps are better, but I don’t often want that material flapping around on a hot day, so we don’t own any of this style. Instead, we resort to sunscreen for the rest of our faces, necks and ears if we wear our baseball caps.
David’s favorite bucket hat offers some sun protection — scalp, ears and part of the face and neck — but we use sunscreen in conjunction with it if we’ll be out for any length of time. We call these “grumpy old men” hats after the movie.
Also, we both have the Ultimate Hat, the poor man’s alternative to the Tilley hat. Neither of these have a really wide brim though — I think it’s about 3 inches. Mine is the original canvas – with an SPF of 145! and David’s is the lighter weight tropical variety made of supplex, also with an SPF rating of 145. These hats have a unique feature in that they FLOAT! I can guarantee you though that they won’t float forever especially in wind and chop. David’s original blew off (he wasn’t wearing the chin strap) in a Y Flyer race and we couldn’t stop to get it in the heat of competition … needless to say when we returned a half hour later, it was nowhere to be found. 🙁
What’s your favorite hat? Leave a comment and share! Cheers – Jan