Any time you recreate outside—on the trail, in a canoe, or just in your own backyard—you should protect your skin from the sun, and that includes the skin on your head and neck. After interviewing three dermatologists, an ultra-runner, and four ultra-hikers, and field-testing for a total of 200 hours, we’re convinced the sun hat that works best is the one you’ll actually wear. A unanimous favorite among our testers, the Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat provides the best balance of coverage and breathability, and is unobtrusive enough that you can forget you have it on.
Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat
This hat with UPF 50+ fabric is so airy and lightweight, you could easily forget you’re wearing it, which means you’re more likely to leave it on your head.
The Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat provides breathability, venting, and packability yet is comfortable enough that you won’t mind wearing it. This design combines the best features of the previous model and improves on them, offering lighter fabrics (that are still UPF 50+) and a slimmer silhouette. We had to remove other hats to see when navigating snow-covered mountain passes, but the clamshell brim on the Ultra Adventure stops just before the ear, balancing coverage with visibility. The brim also stays rigid in the wind—protecting the face from the sun even during gusts. When the breeze picks up, you won’t lose it, thanks to adjustable sizing and a good chin strap. Designed with holes to hold sunglasses plus reflective tape for low-light situations, it also packs down easily for travel and retains its shape afterward.
Columbia Bora Bora II Booney
This fishermen’s hat that combines UPF 50 fabric, a 3-inch brim, and a sweatband was among the most breathable we tested.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $30.
Our testers unanimously applauded the Columbia Bora Bora II Booney for its breathability, which makes sense as it has the most generous mesh venting of anything we tested. It kept our heads cooler than other hats, both in the field and in a controlled test. For a sun hat that falls higher on the style spectrum than most others we looked at, it offers a good amount of coverage, including UPF 50 fabric. An adjustable neck strap and crown kept it on our heads when the wind picked up. In airplanes and at night when you don’t need it, the Columbia crams down to a minimal size in your pack.
Tilley LTM6 AirFlo Hat
Great for golfers, horseback riders, and walkers, this is a good option if you’re working up a sweat, but not hoofing it up a mountain all day.
The Tilley LTM6 AirFlo is constructed with UPF 50+ fabric designed to keep your face and neck protected, and is especially good-looking. This durable, Canadian-designed hat also has a higher quality of craftsmanship (evidenced by the hand-sewn lock-stitching) than other hats we tested plus a firm brim that doesn’t lose its shape in wind or when compacted. The only drawback is that all this style comes at a price.