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When you're spending a lot of time outdoors, covering your head can offer a number of benefits. Hats and other head coverings can help you avoid sunburns, reduce glare, keep your head dry in the rain, and stay warm when it's cold (or cool when it's hot). However, just about every outdoorsman we meet has a different preference on this form of apparel, so we'll briefly discuss some of the more common outdoor headwear choices below.
Baseball Cap – The classic ball cap has a contoured brim to shade the front of the face, and can be found in virtually any color, pattern, or material you want.
Beanie or Watch Cap – This stretchy form-fitting cap comes in a variety of materials and thicknesses, and can easily be rolled up and packed away. However, it lacks a brim.
Shemagh or Keffiyeh – A large, square fabric scarf that can be wrapped to protect the head, face, and/or neck. Often worn in hot desert climates. If you have one of these, check out our previous post on how to tie a shemagh.
Balaclava – Sometimes called a ski mask, this cloth headwear can be worn over the entire face or rolled up like a beanie. Traditionally these are wool, but lighter synthetic versions are also available.
Buff – A thin and stretchy tube of fabric that can be worn as a neck gaiter, mask, cap, or in various other configurations. Check the video below for some examples of how a Buff can be worn.
Boonie Hat – These have been popular with military forces since the Vietnam War, and usually feature a small, wavy brim plus a band that can be stuffed with foliage for camouflage. We'll also include bucket hats and fisherman's hats in this category, due to their similar design (although they lack the foliage band feature).
Traditional Wide-Brim Hat – We'll separate wide-brim hats into two sub-categories since they're so common. Traditional versions include cowboy hats, Aussie outback hats, and safari hats. These are usually made of natural materials like fur felt, straw, or canvas, and often have a creased crown. Hats such as those from Stetson and Akubra fall into this category.
Modern Wide-Brim Hat – These may loosely resemble traditional wide-brim styles, but use modern synthetic materials, water-resistant coatings, and breathable mesh for improved performance. Brands such as Tilley and Outdoor Research offer some popular options in this category.
Other Options – Although these are some of the more common outdoor hat styles, we're only scratching the surface of the vast array of choices. Maybe you wear a sombrero, bowler hat, one of those novelty beanies with a beard attached, or a rad '90s-style visor with fake bleached-blond Guy Fieri hair poking out the top. We won't judge you… well, maybe a little for that last one.
Check out the poll below and let us know your favorite type of outdoor headwear. We recognize that your preference may change seasonally, such as from a shemagh in the summer to a wool beanie in the winter. If that's the case, just pick the one you'd prefer to have with you in a survival situation.