The Boonie hat was first introduced as part of American military kit during the Vietnam War. The idea was to provide a sturdy, wide-brimmed hat that wouldn’t tear easily but could also provide breathable protection from harsh outdoor conditions.
The boonie hat was certainly successful in this regard, and today has become a staple among outdoor enthusiasts for the easy, comfortable protection from the elements that it offers. Of course, not everybody is going to want the same things out of the best boonie hat because not all outdoor activities are created equal.
In the next section we’ll go over some of the key features to consider when you’re deciding on a boonie hat that will work for you. Then, we’ll move on to our curated pick-six of top boonie hats to get you started on your search.
While it’s impossible to decide on a one-size-fits-all boonie hat, this miniature buying guide along with an array of excellent purchase options should be more than enough to help you decide what exactly you’re looking for and give you the confidence to know that you’re well on your way to making a high-quality, well-informed purchase.
Realistically, you’re not going to be wearing this sort of hat indoors. It’s meant for rugged outdoor use. If you’re going to be doing any sort of activity that exposes you to direct sunlight you’ll want a boonie hat made of UPF-rated fabric. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor.
It’s used in the same way SPF is, to indicate the amount of protection from the sun’s harmful radiation that a product offers. The difference is that UPF is generally used to refer to the protection factor offered by clothing. A traditional cotton t-shirt is about a UPF 2, while specially-rated UPF performance fabrics are usually UPF 50 or more.
UPF 50 blocks 98% of ultraviolet rays, offering serious protection for extended outdoor activities–and it doesn’t have to be reapplied like sunscreen.
If you plan on soaking up the sun, it is of course vital to ensure you have a good sunscreen that will protect against skin cancer, but the areas of skin covered by clothing still need protection too. This is where UPF fabrics come in. Manufacturers use this type of fabric to make high performance shirts, pants, and–you guessed it–hats.
Rain, wind, rocks, branches, fishing hooks…regardless of how you spend your time outside, there are a multitude of hazards that can ruin your shiny new hat before it’s even had a chance to shine. That’s why ripstop fabric can be helpful.
This neat fabric uses a four-way weave so that any tears that do happen, will stay in spot. The keeps the fabric from completely unravelling, giving you a chance to fix it once you get back home. If you still aren’t sure what I’m talking about, think of plastic tarps, or the floor of your tent. That’s ripstop material, too.
If you’re going to be doing anything that’s much more hazardous than paddle boarding, then ensuring you’re purchase is constructed out of ripstop material can go a long way towards helping you to protect your investment and get a good, long life out of your new boonie hat.
Have you ever had the displeasure of wearing heavy shoes with socks, and then having the socks get wet? It is decidedly unpleasant, with that sloshy-slimy feeling on your feet until you can remove the now offensive sock.
That’s sort of what your scalp will feel like if your hat gets drenched. If you’re going to be in an area where you expect rain, or spending a lot of time near the water it might be beneficial to get a hat with some waterproofing.
Most hats aren’t going to be completely waterproof; if they were, they wouldn’t be breathable enough to wear comfortably. What you want is something that is labelled “quick-drying” or has a high percentage of synthetic material listed as part of the fabric.
Organic fibers like cotton basically work like sponges and will readily absorb any moisture. Anything synthetical will withstand minor drizzle or splashing and won’t become saturated until there is a significant amount of water. This effect keeps you dry and cool, definitely a plus if you expect to get wet!
This last feature may seem a bit nit-picky, but it really does make a difference! Consider the type of activity you’ll be primarily using the hat for.
If you’re going on a backpacking trip, then a wide brim in the back is going to be annoying; it will end up butting up against the framework of your pack and either falling off your head or getting crushed to death. If you’re going to be on a fishing boat all day, a nice wide brim will protect both your face and neck as the sun moves throughout the sky.
Boonie hats can be either narrow or wide brimmed. Most tend to be a bit wider, though will frequently have hasps on the side to secure the sides in more of a cowboy hat shape. If you want a narrow brim all the way around (again, my backpackers out there) go for 3 inches or less.
That should be enough to give you coverage without getting in the way. If staying compact isn’t an issue, you can typically find boonie hats up to four inches wide at the brim, which will certainly shade you all day long.
Top Boonie Hat Reviews
Columbia Bora Bora Booney II
Dimensions: One size; adjustable, 3 inch brim
Specific Features: UPF-50, quick-dry nylon fabric, Omni-wick sweatband and mesh breathability panel
Best Use: Fishing, paddle boarding, hiking
This Columbia Bora Bora Booney II Hat doesn’t need to be wined and dined to show you a good time. It’s extremely light and collapses easily for packing (or shoving) into small pockets for travel or storage. The fabric is UPF 50 rated, with the exception of mesh breathability panel.
The mesh panel is located right above the forehead-level sweat-wicking band inside the hat. This is a great feature if you know that you will be sweating a lot, as it will help the hat stay breathable and cool you down.
However, if you’re bald it might just be a deal breaker; the non-UPF mesh panel would light sunlight into the hat directly on the crown of your delicate and unprotected scalp. The 3-inch brim makes this a great choice for buyers that want a lot of protection for sports like fishing, paddle boarding, and hiking.
Word of caution, though: 3 inches may be too long for comfort for some hikers, so you may want to relegate this option to your day trips when you’ll have a smaller pack.
Solifornia Canvas Sun Hat
Best Use: Backpacking, thru-hiking
This Solifornia Canvas Sun Hat didn’t have dimensions or weight available. It is, however, a bucket style hat more than a traditional boonie hat, which means you’ll get a more narrow brim.
This narrow brim makes it a great option for backpacking or thru-hiking, as it won’t brush up against backpacks with external frames.
The side of the hat features a velcro-closed pocket to stash items for convenient access. The prints are hand-drawn and look more artsy or animated than tactical; if you need your prints to feel more serious and utilitarian than this may not be for you.
According to user feedback, this hat also fits quite snugly–so much so that unless you typically buy youth hats or have a smaller hat size, it may not fit you comfortably. The hat is also made of just cotton, which means it can be washed and dried without special attention which is a nice bit of convenience.
LETHMIK Camouflage Hat
Dimensions: 15 X 14 X 3.9 inches. Brim is 3.75 inches, one size fits most (recommended size range: 7 ¼-7 ⅝)
Specific Features: Poly/Cotton blend, quick-dry material with UPF 50+ rating, easily foldable for packing; hasp brim
Best Use: Trekking, fishing
The LETHMIK Camouflage Hat brings to mind the original idea of what a boonie hat is supposed to be.
You’ve got a nice wide bring that offers protection from the sun, a drawstring chin strap to keep the hat situated in the face of prevailing winds, and it’s constructed from a sturdy poly/cotton ripstop fabric that’s got a UPF rating of 50+.
While not waterproof, the fabric has a high enough concentration of synthetic fibers that it should dry fairly quickly after being exposed to water, and can hold its shape after being shoved in your back pocket.
The wide brim may get in the way if you’re going to be toting a lot of gear, but if you’re trekking or simply our fishing for the day this hat is perfect for you. You’ll get protection from the sun, it’ll dry easily if it gets wet or rained on, and it easily stored in a pocket or pouch without worrying about it losing its shape.
The DMF print around the hat stands for Dance, Music, Fishing, according to the manufacturer. They say that these are some of the most choiceful experiences in life, and that their goal is to sell gear that compliments that joy.
KBETHOS Go-To Boonie
Dimensions: One size fits most (Suggested size range is medium to large, or 7 – 7 ⅜ ), 2.5 inch brim
Specific Features: 55% cotton, 45% polyester flexible fabric, metal pop-buttons on brim to secure sides if desired, fits small, but can stretch with use
Best Use: Backpacking, hunting
KBETHOS Go-To Boonie is a great basic go-to boonie. The brim is a little narrow, about 2.5 inches, and the fabric is a bit stiffer without actually being reinforced. That makes it look a bit like a bucket hat, because the brim tends to stick straight out from the head rather than flopping down and possibly getting your eyes.
The only real con to this option is that the fabric is not UPF rated, so while it’d be great size-wise for backpacking, maybe only take it on trips where you expect to be at least partially shielded from the sun by the terrain.
There are camo options as well as a bright orange, all good options for hunters who want the sun out of their eyes without an overbearingly large hat.
Some users do report that the fit is a little bit tight if you have a larger hat size, but as the fabric is made primarily of cotton, it will stretch with use. To speed up the process you can also wet that hat before you wear it for the first time, which will allow it to more easily conform to the required shape.
Samtree Unisex Boonie Hat
Dimensions: Circumference is approx. 23 inches, brim is approx. 2.4 inches, one size fits most (suggested size range is S,M,L up to 7 ½)
Specific Features: 65% polyester, 35% cotton ripstop material
Best Use: Hunting, fishing
The Samtree Boonie Hat is rugged enough to get you through just about anything, though possibly better suited to fishing or hunting than anything else.
This brim isn’t very wide, but the fit of the hat itself is rather slouchy and loose, which may be too cumbersome with a big pack, but will provide lots of shade and camouflage for hunters or fisherman.
The fabric is not UPF rated, but it does have a high polyester content which means it will dry fairly quickly after being exposed to water.
There are metal snaps on the side of the hat,enabling the wearer to pin them up and create more of a cowboy-style look (this also removes any obstruction from your ears allowing you to hear more clearly–a great option for all my hunters out there).
Simplicity Safari Sun Hat
Dimensions: 23 inch inner circumference, brim is approx 4 inches, one size fits most
Specific Features: UPF 50+ rated, water resistant, 100% polyester fabric, tighter fit
Best Use: Fishing, water sports, trekking
This Simplicity Safari Sun Hat is unique to our list due to the stiffness of the brim. It sticks straight out from the hat and is reinforced.
This means that it provides excellent rain protection because the brim won’t get weighed down nearly as easily, but it does also mean that the hat cannot be stored easily.
If you were to force it into a small compartment, the inner reinforcements would fail and you would have a very difficult time getting it back to its original shape afterwards.
That being said, this hat is excellent for water sport and trekking precisely because of the staunch water protection from that brim–the fabric is also UPF 50+ rated, so you can spend a day under the blazing worry less about burning or skin damage.
The fit on this hat is a little bit snug, and with it being made entirely out of polyester it won’t stretch very much. If that concerns you because you wear a larger hat size, you may have to pass on this one.
Also, no worries about breathability even with pure polyester construct: this hat features a 360 degree mesh inlay just above the brim that provide breathability without totally sacrificing sun protection.
The intent of this guide was to introduce you the possibility that a boonie hat may be the perfect next addition to your outdoor gear stash.
I wanted to take you through some basic considerations that might make or break your purchasing decision when choosing a boonie hat for yourself, and to give you a head start on the shopping list by going over a handful of great products and looking at how they differ.
I hope that after reading this, you feel more informed and confident that you can make a great purchase decision when choosing the best boonie hat for you.
All of these products are good choices, but I love learning about new gear! If there’s a brand or model of boonie hat that you absolutely love, but isn’t mentioned here, leave a comment and let me know!
After all, the best way for us all to get better at doing what we love, is to share our hard-won knowledge about the best tricks and tools of the trade. Who knows, your favorites might just make it into a future version of this guide.
So have you used a boonie headwear before? If so, would you care sharing your favorite hat with us? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!