Does the man make the hat, or does the hat make the man? In either case, one of the ten essentials that we are often advised to take with us on an outdoor adventure is a hat.
A good hat can provide many benefits, including
- Protection from sun and bugs and wind (e.g. sun hats or bug nets or balaclava)
- Protection from trauma (e.g. pith helmets, hard hats)
- Insulation (e.g. wool stocking caps)
- Style (e.g. El Guapo’s sombrero or Baden-Powell’s campaign hat or Indy Jones’ fedora)
I do different hats in different seasons and for different activities
For mowing in intense sunlight or canoeing a mosquito-infested river. I’ll wet the hat and evaporation and drippage will keep me cool – or you can spray the flap with some DEET and it’ll keep mosquitoes off your neck.
A lot of my Scouting buddies like to only wear their campaign hats for formal occasions and ceremonies. When not on their heads, they keep their hats in hat boxes with the brim clamped into a press to keep it properly flat.
On the other hand, I don’t want a hat that I’m not going to use and enjoy. I’d rather have a functional hat than a pretty one so my hat is used frequently and looks it. The brim waves up and down, the surface is scuffed in places, and the dimples up top have a decidedly right-handed twist – in other words, it is perfect!
The biggest downsides to a campaign hat are that they are hot and not very packable.
Have you ever heard the adage,
“Feet cold? Put on a hat!”
A skull cap is a perfect accessory for moderate-to-severe cold. It adds a nice layer of insulation to your head, which can add a huge amount to your overall comfort. It is also very inexpensive, compact, and packable and you can wear it under a hood.
A skull cap is also a must-have for cold-weather sleeping.
A baseball cap is great because it adds a touch of warmth, sun protection, and shade and it is packable and you can still wear it under a hood.
I love this old photo of President Roosevelt during his River of Doubt expedition in the Amazon basin. The insects were so intense that he had to wear a bug net and gauntlets in order to write in his journal!
Those old guys were so tough that virtually nothing short of death could deter them – but they knew wearing a pith helmet and bug net would make life a lot better.