Best Outdoor Hats — OR Gear, EMS, Dr. Shade

Sun, rain or snow, I’m rarely outdoors without a hat of some sort on my head. I recently put a batch of hats to the test on adventures as far afield as the Utah desert and the rainy Pacific Coast near Tofino, British Colombia. Here are my quick reviews and recommendations.

Of the baseball-style caps I tested, which came from EMS, Illuminite, Prana and REI, the Primo Lid from Illuminite ($20, was my favorite for running and other aerobic activities. The cap has large mesh side panels to let your head breathe and a big bill to keep the sun out. As a bonus, the hat has a reflective coating that makes it glow at night when graced by car headlights to keep you safe and visible.

Sahara Cap

The Thunderhead Cap by EMS ($18, was the best for rainy days. An elastic cinch keeps it tight on your noggin when the wind blows. It is waterproof and somewhat breathable, but too clammy for activities in weather above 70 degrees.

For my sojourn into the deserts of southern Utah, the Safari Sun Hat from Dr. Shade ($38, offered great sun protection. The classic desert-wanderer style hat has a wide, 360-degree brim and a flap of fabric that drapes over the neck.

Under hot sun, I was even more fond of Outdoor Research’s Sahara Cap ($37,, as it is lighter weight and more breathable than the Dr. Shade model. It has a neck flap to keep the sun off, which can be removed when not necessary.

In temperate weather where sun and rain are both possible, Sea to Summit’s Java ($50, is a good choice. The hat is made of a Gore-Tex material and its seams are tape-sealed to keep all the drips out. The wide brim will shadow your head and neck under intense overhead sun. It has an external buckle to cinch the hat tight, and despite its large size, the soft brim allows you to fold the hat up and stuff it in a pocket when not in use.

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.