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Backpacking Gear for Beginners: Hat

This post is part of the Backpacking Gear for Beginners course.

Why do you need a hat? 

Hats aren’t required but they are nice to have in the sun or the rain. I’ve always got one kind of hat or another in my pack. A toque for when it’s cold, a Seattle Sombrero for when it’s raining a lot, or a baseball cap for the other times to keep the sun off. 

One of the 10 Essentials is Sun Protection. 

Clearly you don’t have to have a hat to go hiking but they are useful. 

Hat or hood

When it’s raining a lot, you’ll have your jacket hood up. If it’s raining for days, wearing a hood the whole time can get uncomfortable. It’s fine for the odd shower, but for long periods of time, it’s hard to hear anything and to see anything out the sides. A waterproof hat keeps your ears out, your peripheral vision open and your head warm but they are another item to put in your pack.

Cotton or not?

Most toques are made of cotton. Cotton will hold moisture and suck heat from your body, something we want to stay away from. Merino and fleece toques will wick water and keep you warmer. 


Is the hat for sun protection, rain protection, warmth, or all three? Keeping your head warm at night will be important for staying warm on cooler nights. To stay warmer in your sleeping bag, wear a toque to sleep. 

Cooling down

On hot days, dipping a hat in a cold lake or stream is a glorious break from the heat. Baseball hats are great for this. They don’t dry quickly since they’re cotton so think ahead before you soak it.

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