Which Hat is Best for Cruising?

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!).

Outdoor Research Goretex Rain Sombrero is Perfect for Tromping Through Panama Rain Forests

Outdoor Research Goretex Rain Sombrero is Perfect for Tromping Through Panama Rain Forests

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.

The Ultimate Hat at Glovers Reef Atoll, Belize

The Ultimate Hat at Glovers Reef Atoll, Belize

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.  🙁

David's Bandana on top of the lighthouse in the Cayos Cochinos, Honduras - at least it covers his scalp!

David's Bandana on top of the lighthouse in the Cayos Cochinos, Honduras - at least it covers his scalp!

What’s your favorite hat?  Leave a comment and share!  Cheers – Jan


  1. Timely post, with Spring arriving and sailing in our plans…. and I can’t count all the hats I’ve seen floating in pacific waters on blustery days, so I appreciate the “stays put” hat profiles. 🙂

  2. Bob Clark says:

    I have to say go with the Tilley Hat, it will be the last one you ever have to buy! There guarantee is absolutely iron clad! I’ve been wearing one every day for 20 years, I think I’m on my 6th Tilley Hat and as long as you don’t bleach it they will replace it no questions asked. Just send them the old one and they send back a new one. Mine is the cotton T3, the medium brim w/ the snaps. I find it keeps off the sun w/o being to floppy and is great in the rain, the cotton swells up and if anything gets stiffer, it does feel damp on your forehead but otherwise the rain just pours off of it. I started wearing the Tilley when working at Edwards AFB in the Mojave Desert, back when the space shuttle still landed there, and kept on when I moved to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshal Islands so I know it works in tropical heat & rain. Hat six recently went to Brazil, Sao Palo & Rio, and its predecessors have been to Mt. Cook in New Zealand, The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Guam, Hawaii, Disneyland, and 5 years worth of day sailing around California’s Channel Islands. Tilley’s are the best, buy it once and they will replace it as long as you want to keep wearing it and wearing it out.

  3. Christine Fiechter says:

    My all time favorite hats are from Sunday Afternoons. The women’s sport hat has a 4″ brim and a 5″ neck veil. It comes in large which is important to me since I have a big noggin. While sailing, I wear this one. When hiking and spending time at anchor, I wear their women’s adventure hat which has even more protection. The hats have floatable brims, roll up and are lightweight so they do not give me a headache. I also like their eclipse baseball hat which has a folding brim so you can put it in your pocket. Enjoy!

  4. great post

  5. Allan Cobb via Facebook says:

    They are expensive but I do love my Tilley.

  6. That’s why we both have Ultimate Hats … but David’s making rumblings about replacing his with a “real” Tilley. He’s tried them on at two boat shows this year. You’re right, it’s a great hat.

Speak Your Mind