I’ve been challenged in the hair department for quite a while and spend a lot of time in sunny places, so I rarely go on a trip without packing a Tilley sun hat. I’ve tried a lot of brands over the years and they always come out on top.
Tilley Endurables hats are made in Canada and guaranteed for life. If you buy one and it craps out on you ten years later, you can return it and the company will either repair or (more often) replace it. That’s a sign of a company that really believes in its workmanship and it shows in the quality of what you get. These are not cheap hats like you would buy on a street corner that are rejects from a factory in China. They’re well-designed and made to hold up to rigorous travels in tough conditions. If you lose your hat within the first two years they’ll even replace it for half price.
When I was editor of Practical Travel Gear I tried out a few different models from them and could hold and try on their others while at a trade show I attended each year. My two female writers reviewed women’s versions and also raved.
My favorite is probably this Mash-up one. It’s like the famous Airflow one you’ve probably seen Canucks wearing around the world for as long as you’ve been traveling. It’s got a mesh strip around the top that lets the heat escape. I like the look of this one better though because of the textured fabric, actually made from the cuttings left over from other hats. So it’s eco-conscious too! Each one is different; mine is actually a light gray compared to the photo above, as seen at the top of this post.
I have another Airflo one that I’ve been packing since 2006. It looks a little worse for wear, so it’s the one I pack when I need to stuff things really tight in my suitcase.
Otherwise the one I usually pack is the Two-Tone TRH4 one pictured below. because it lays down flat and still looks okay when I take it out on the other end. This hat has probably been on 30 trips with me and shows up in half the photos taken of me by a friend or family member on the road.
Unfortunately I can’t find a current version on their site that’s black underneath like that except a snap-up one, so the closest is probably the Orbit It, like all of these, comes with some useful features for travelers:
1) A little secret pocket inside the top of the hat where you can store money or a credit card. (Apparently this has made them the official hats of the American Association of Nude Recreation.)
2) Mesh at the top or air holes on the side to let heat escape. Very handy in hot and sunny places.
3) A “meant to last” chin strap that’s adjustable and detachable. Yeah, go ahead and laugh you haters, but I’ve seen at least a dozen people lose their hat on a windy boat or on the side of a cliff.
4) Rated UPF 50+ for sun protection.
5) With the cloth ones, they’re pre-shrunk and you can toss them in the washing machine. (Air dry though.)
6) They come in real hat sizes, not “one size fits most” or an ambiguous size like “large.”
If you don’t like the travel hat look, they also make fedoras, raffia hats, wool ones for winter, and others.
What you spend on one of these might make you gulp—they’re typically $70-$120—but you are investing in quality that will even out over years of wear.
Tilley Endurables hats are easier to find in Canada, where there are full retail stores with clothing too, but you can always order direct from the company online. The independent online store in the USA I’ve found with the best selection is called BeltOutlet.com, though you can also find some of the best-selling Tilley hats at REI. Last, you’ll often see them on the rack of independent retail shops selling outdoor gear.