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The Best Travel Hat for Fashionable Female Travelers

Women on the Road
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Hats are back in fashion - so why shouldn't it be the same for women’s travel hats?

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. Or someone else.

Who knows. 

But even in the US and Europe, hats are definitely a cool travel wear item for discerning solo travelers everywhere.

Hats are also fun! More than protect you, they can dress up an outfit and make a statement about who you are or what you stand for. I love them (even though I don't particularly have a great head for hats...)

Below you'll find my absolute top travel hat recommendation for you: the Tilley Endurables T3 Traditional Canvas Hat. (If this isn't for you, keep reading for more recommendations and plenty of great information on wearing a hat to travel.)

here is My top travel hat recommendation: the Tilley T3 by Tilley Endurables

I’ve had my Tilley T3 cotton duck for nearly 30 years and it has never let me down. This is my No. 1 recommendation for ladies' travel hats.

My Tilley has traveled across Africa and Asia with me. I've stuffed it into my backpack, worn it on water and in the desert, I've stepped on it, lost it in the mud (and found it again). It has flown out a bus window (but the cord held it back) and fell into the Indian Ocean - I reached out and plucked it out.

We have been together for decades and here's what it looks like.

travel hats womens - Tilley hatHere I am, reunited with my Tilley hat after one of many separations!

But first, let's have a comparative look at some of the best travel hats for those of us who want to keep away the sun and protect ourselves.

Best Travel Hats Comparison Buying Guide

Item

Photo

Material

Comments

100% cotton duck

An absolute classic with moisture-wicking headband. It's buoyant, water-resistant and comes with a lifetime guarantee!

65%  polyester, 35% cotton 

It’s light and easy to pack, and the brim and neck flap will help prevent sunburn. I have a similar one and that neck flap is ideal for those of us who burn easily. One size fits all.

100%  polyester

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.

100%  high-quality woven natural paper straw

One of the cute travel hats, this comes in plenty of shades and fits most sizes. Tightly woven for  quality and durability, breathable and cool. 

100%  polyester fiber cotton

Side vents keep you cool - more of an utilitarian hat to keep the sun away and your head protected.

Photo

Material

100% cotton duck

Comments

An absolute classic with moisture-wicking headband. It's buoyant, water-resistant and comes with a lifetime guarantee!

Photo

Material

65%  polyester, 35% cotton 

Comments

It’s light and easy to pack, and the brim and neck flap will help prevent sunburn. I have a similar one and that neck flap is ideal for those of us who burn easily. One size fits all.

Photo

Material

100%  polyester

Comments

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.

Photo

Material

100%  high-quality woven natural paper straw

Comments

One of the cute travel hats, this comes in plenty of shades and fits most sizes. Tightly woven for  quality and durability, breathable and cool. 

Photo

Material

100%  polyester fiber cotton

Comments

Side vents keep you cool - more of an utilitarian hat to keep the sun away and your head protected.

the many different women's travel hat styles

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.)

best travel hat womens - protecting my face and neckHere I am NOT wearing my beloved Tilley hat - but I needed something to protect my neck from the Panama sun

Forget my funny (but hugely useful) hat - you can wear something stylish, streamlined and superb. You can wear a hat others will turn around and look at or something so comfortable you’ll even forget it’s there. Here are some wonderful hats that combine style with sense.

The floppy hat

Sometimes, we’re just in for a bit of glam when we travel, and wearing big floppy hats is one way to easily add a sense of style. You don’t have to go overboard - you’re not headed for a royalty party, but a lovely hat will definitely dress you up. Here are several that I would definitely consider wearing on my travels (depending on the city, of course) - simply click on each image to read more or buy on Amazon.

Fashionable hats for women

But what if you DO want to go all the way and dress up? Perhaps you are headed for Ascot or tea with the Queen? In that case you’ll need something truly spectacular. I can’t say I’d ever be able to pull off this look but many of my friends not only could, but they would.

Best outdoor hats for women

Yes, all hats are worn out of doors but some require more resistance because they'll be subjected to elements like wind, rain and sun. Each activity has its specificity and its own requirements.

Here are some of the better hiking, beach and sun hats for women.

best Travel hat reviews

Below are reviews of some of the best travel hats for women who are active and stylish, including my own favorite Tilley hat but several others that have good reviews.

My Tilley hat review

This is the hat (in a different color - they didn't have navy back then!) I used to cross Africa as a foreign correspondent, to travel to Asia and South America. It has a safari hat look or a bit of a military style, but it somehow stays on my head and looks pretty good, considering I don’t have a “hat face”.

This hat has so many features I can’t even list them all but here are some of the ones I appreciate the most:

  • It is water-repellent and won’t get immediately soaked in those tropical downpours
  • It stays on my head, either because of the great fit or if really windy conditions come up, there’s a cord to keep it snugIt wicks moisture because it has a sweatband
  • There’s a secret pocket! It’s not big but you can put a few cards in it (I wouldn't!)
  • It’ll keep you safe from the sun because it is made of SFP 50 material
  • It’ll float if it falls off the boat! Seriously!
  • And - I don’t think there’s another hat like this - it’s guaranteed for life! If you buy one of the ‘guaranteed’ hats and register it within the next three months, you’ll have a lifetime guarantee against normal wear and tear. So wear it as much as you want - you can never really wear it out.

Don’t like this safari style hat? No worries - there are plenty of other Tilley hat models, like these medium-brimmed hats or a wide brim travel hat.

So yes, my Tilley hat is still going strong... and no, I can't really find anything wrong with it.

Buy your own from Tilley Endurables  

Solid Wing Women's Floppy Summer Hat Review

This relatively inexpensive item is one of several summer sun hats designed to keep you fresh and out of the sun's way. Made of 65% polyester and 35% cotton, its wide brim and neck flap makes sure those nefarious rays don't do any damage.

I have a similar one and because I burn easily, and having both my face and neck covered means I can stay outdoors far longer than I normally would.

This is a comfortable hat and can protect your entire face from the sun. It is also lightweight but since there is no strap or chin tie, it could blow away in the wind so - best not to wear it when it's blustery outside.

One issue with this model is sizing: while most people report a perfect fit, others feel this hat may be sized too big or too small. There is an elastic band in the back, however, so this hat is somewhat adjustable.

Coolibar UPF 50+ Women's Marina Sun Hat Review

This fun UPF 50+ travel sun hat will keep out 98% of the sun's dangerous rays and is one of the best crushable hats for traveling. Its internal elastic headband is moisture wicking, which helps keep your head cool.

It is a thin and light hat, so while it provides comfort and coolness, it may let through a bit more light than its sturdier (and sweatier) counterparts. That said, the fact that it breathes is a big plus.

This is a hat you can easily pack in your travel bag and wear at the other end - its shape won't be destroyed by folding.

Beware that several people report sizing issues so order carefully.

For me, a great hat for any age!

Lanzom Women Wide Brim Straw Hat UPF50+ Review

This lovely fedora hat is adjustable from the inside and its circumference of 22.5 inches or 7 1/8 hat size fits most sizes. Like the others, it is breathable and comfortable to wear for any travel or outdoor occasion.

This is one of the best summer hats and comes in a variety of colors and models, all of them attractive. 

You can fold and crush this range of stylish sun hats and it will retain its shape.

There are many counterfeit models which are poorly made, that come unglued and that crush easily so make sure you're buying from Lanzom and not other "unauthorized" dealers.

Ordenado Waterproof Sun Hat Review

The Ordenado is one of the best sun hats: it is  cool and comfortable and the mesh segment allows the air to circulate.

It's a one size fits all waterproof sun hat (although the mesh makes that part of the hat less waterproof).

The Ordenado is adjustable through an internal drawstring and provides solid 50+ protection from the sun. This is another of the crushable travel hats - well, maybe not crushable but certainly foldable. 

The downside of this hat is a reported odor on some of the items . With its 100% money back guarantee, it's a solid buy for travelers.

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.
  • If you're heading to a conservative country or a particularly religious one, a hat will be useful in entering churches or covering your head whenever you need to.
  • A hat is a personal fashion statement and can dress up the most boring outfit.
  • 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.

How to choose the best hats for travel

Of course style is important. You don't want to look too ridiculous (a little ridiculous is fine) 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)

Packable travel hats: how to travel with your wide brim sun hat

If you're a hat wearer and a traveler, this has happened to you: you unpack, gingerly unfurl your so-called foldable sun hat, and there it is, creased, crumpled and filled with lumps.

Yet there are ways to pack any ladies' sun hat and keep it (and any other hat) from turning into a mess.

  • The best way is to pack your hat upside down on top of something soft, stuff clothes around the crown, and fill the crown with more soft clothes such as underwear. This keeps its shape and prevents any hat from denting, while providing useful packing space.
  • A similar strategy is to do the same thing but keep the hat right-side up. Once it's packed to the brim, turn it over and pack around the crown, with the crown facing upwards.
  • One surefire way to prevent any damage to your hat is simply to... wear it.
  • Place your hat into a tote bag with a few clothes around it and put it under the seat (not in the overhead compartment, where it'll surely get crushed).
  • Travel with a hat that crumples into a ball or rolls into a tube, like a cap or the Solid Wing model above.

As long as your hat is made of some sort of soft material, you should be able to pack it with minimal damage. Harder materials, like more brittle straws, or felt, won't survive as well.

And remember - a hat is quite a personal item and you can dress it up any way you want. Wear a flower or pin on it, or tie a scarf around it for that nostalgic throwback to our hippie days.

Embroider it, sew badges on it and just make it yours.

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