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.
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.
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
|T3 Cotton Duck Tilley||100% cotton duck||An absolute classic with moisture-wicking headband. It's buoyant, water-resistant and comes with a lifetime guarantee!||Buy Now!|
|Solid Wing Women's Floppy Wide Brim Summer Hat||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.||Buy Now!|
|Coolibar UPF 50+ Women's Marina Sun Hat||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.||Buy Now!|
|Lanzom Women Wide Brim Straw Hat UPF50+||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.||Buy Now!|
|Ordenado Waterproof Sun Hat||100% polyester fiber cotton||Side vents keep you cool - more of an utilitarian hat to keep the sun away and your head protected.||Buy Now!|
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.)
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.
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 travel 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
- A 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.