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Women's Travel Hats: Back in Style?
Why you should pack one and how to choose it

Women on the Road
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Hats are back in fashion - so why shouldn't it be the same for all women's hats, including the ones we wear to travel?

That's right: back in fashion. Perhaps it was Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, who dusted off the fuddy-duddy headgear and made it cool again. Who knows. But even in the US and Europe, hats are definitely becoming what you want to be seen wearing.

If you're anxious to get hat-buying, here are my three recommendations. If you want to take your time to choose, then please, keep reading!

The Tilley Endurables T3 Traditional Canvas Hat - this is a classic and I've had mine for more than 20 years. As far as I know this is the only hat in the world that is guaranteed - against loss!

Mine is still going strong... Buy from Amazon

This Solid Wing Women's Floppy Wide Brim Summer Hat looks great and comes with good reviews. I haven't tried this model but - the neck flap is a necessity for me in hot climates.

Buy from Amazon

A bit more fashionable, the Coolibar UPF 50+ Women's Marina Sun Hat is light, easy to wear and comes in lots of colors! Keeps the sun off your head but can also be used as a fashion accessory.

Buy from Amazon

Now let's get back to travel hats and why you should seriously consider taking one along

Some decades ago, no self-respecting woman would be seen leaving the house for an outing without a hat. She certainly wouldn't travel without one - or even several.

Then the hat went into hiding, relegated to reigning queens.

Now hats are back!

They absolutely can be fun and women with a head for them can go wild.

(Clearly, that's not me. Evidence below.)

Travel hatsHere I am NOT wearing my beloved Tilley hat - but I needed something to protect my neck from the Panama sun

So how do you actually choose the right hat for your travels?

Of course style is important. You don't want to look too ridiculous or you'll never wear it (unless, like me, you don't care!)

A color that highlights your face and a shape that complements it are good starting points (I obviously do not heed my own advice).

Before rushing to buy your chapeau, ask yourself whether it is...

  • Water repellant: a soggy hat in the rain is no fun
  • Quick drying for when it does rain or you have to wash it
  • Washable of course, because it's bound to get sweaty and dirty
  • So it should be unshrinkable or it might be too small after you wash it
  • Sprayable: if you're heading into a malaria zone, you should be able to spray it with a strong repellent (careful, a cheaply made hat could disintegrate if you use a powerful repellent so check first)
  • Wrinkle-free, or as wrinkle-free as possible because it'll get squished in your luggage and you don't want it to look too crumpled
  • It should fit your head well - too tight and you'll get a headache (too loose and it will blow away)
  • It should breathe and allow the air to circulate around your head to keep you cool and dry
  • UV resistant: increasingly manufacturers are adding this feature, making your hat even more sun repellent
  • Broad enough for the brim to properly protect your neck and face from the sun - and that's the main difference between a proper hat and a puny baseball cap
  • A darker color under the brim is a good feature and considerably cuts back on glare
  • hook or cord to hold your hat on your head when it's windy or to your bag when you're not using it is essential (if you're handy you can of course just make one yourself)

The queen of women's travel hats (and men's, for that matter) in my opinion is the Tilley range - guaranteed for life even if you lose it. You've probably seen them on many heads during your travels.

In addition to the ones I mentioned above, other brands with good ratings are Columbia and Outdoor Research. But when it comes to hats, there are plenty of great brands. Indulge yourself.

Here's something different! If you happen to be a hat fanatic, you'll have fun browsing through what can only be called works of art - hats by Brent Black, who specializes in Panama hats (which, by the way, are originally from Ecuador). What sets him apart is his support of the local community - he pays his suppliers well - and the high quality of his products. This kind of quality at the top of the range can cost - get ready for it - US$ 25,000! Of course he does have affordable ones as well but I liked looking through his offers because hatters are a disappearing breed.

Why do you need a travel hat, anyway?

If you're going someplace sunny, you'd be almost foolish not to take a hat.

Not only will it shield your head, but a good hat shades your face and neck. As a redhead whose skin turns puce all too often, I find a hat essential on my travel packing list.

A hat helps prevent sunburn and keeps harmful rays from your face (remember all those cancer warnings and wrinkle alerts?) It also helps prevent heatstroke by keeping you cooler.

If you're heading somewhere with mosquitoes, you can wrap a net around it or spray it with insecticide. Even on its own, a hat will keep creepy crawlies from dropping on your hair.

Finally, if you take photographs and plan to spend hours waiting outside for the perfect shot, a hat should be part of your basic equipment.

And remember - a hat is quite a personal item.

You can embroider it, sew badges on it, put pins in it and otherwise make it yours.

Useful, yes, but also FUN!

travel hats