Gear Review: The Boonie Hat

A review of that staple of sun, light rain and snow protection AND sartorial splendor: The Boonie Hat .


The Dorky Sun Hat.

For most outdoors people who hike in high altitude and/or sunny areas (The Rockies, the desert and so on) some sort of hat is worn.

The hat can be a simple ball cap or visor and slathering on sun screen for the neck and face or worn French Foreign Legion style with a bandana.

Others buy a wide brimmed hat from OR or similar.  Still others buy hats that really do indeed look like French Foreign Legion hats.

And for those who really want the creme de la creme,  there is the admittedly well made Tilley Hat. 

Being follicle challenged AND hiking out West, I absolutely need some sort of sun protection for not only my face but also my head.  I also hate wearing sun screen for more than a day hike.

Over the years, I’ve used and tried different hats.

Actually tried a Tilley but found it to be stiff and not easily packable.

A ball cap? Except for the occasional day hike, find it does not provide enough sun coverage. And I never did like rocking the French Foreign Legion look ( My seemingly  perma-stubble, thick eye brows and  round Eye-talian face makes me look more like I belong selling  a fake Rolex rather than the dashing and debonair Gary Cooper in classic movies. But I digress….)

My go-to hat?

A boonie hat.

Crushable, packable, durable.  Resists rain and snow. Wide for all around sun protection. Costs $10-$15 at the local surplus store. AND it comes in camo, khaki, black and the ever popular OD green. 🙂

Boonie hat while hiking. Fried chicken optional!

And as one Twitter follower said….

awesome, iconic, and reminiscent of bill murray in caddyshack. thinking how much fried chicken I could have if I hadn’t gone tilley


It is so much part of my ‘hiker uniform’ that it is in many of my photos and is even featured in a caricature by Geolyn Carvin of Boots McFarland fame for a podcast I am part of.


I look a little skeevy in this photo…don’t I ??? 😉

Besides hiking/backpacking, it is something that fits under a climbing helmet quite nicely….

And is worn for skiing, esp in the spring….


So all in all, a versatile piece of clothing that looks dorky but works! 🙂

The only modifcation I’d do to the boonie is remove the leather chin strap piece and replace it with a cord lock for fifty cents or less and avail from any hardware store.

Bottom Line

Inexpensive, durable and versatile.  I’ve been using this type of hat since 1999.  It works.


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Take a Hike
11 years ago

Great review! I’ve been wearing a boonie hat for years. The color is fading a bit from all the UV and sweat but it still protects the same. I often wear mine with a bandanna around my forehead to provide extra sweat absorption. One very useful technique I use for keeping cool on a hot day. I call it the Backcountry Swamp Cooler. Wet the boonie hat and bandanna (optional) to ALMOST dripping wet before wearing it on your head. The evaporation of the water will draw energy (heat) away from your head and keep you cool. I find that… Read more »

9 years ago

I know it’s (nearly) two years later but note that the Tilley now comes in a nylon version that won’t be so stiff. I have one of each, they each have their place 🙂

9 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

Point taken, undoubtedly the costs of fashion are high 😉