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Best Hats For Kayaking – Sun Protection For Your Head

Mark Armstrong
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When you’re looking for the best kayak hat it can be a good idea to think about comfort and practicality. After all, you’ll be wearing it on the water and you don’t want to have to keep adjusting it while you paddle.

We’ve put this short guide together to help you choose your next paddling hat, with some tips on the features you might want to look for, as well as our favorite picks.

Top Picks:

7 Best Kayak Hats

1: Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat (best overall)

Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure HatPin
  • Head Circumference: 22 to 24 inches
  • Brim Width: 3 inches
  • Fabric: Cotton/Polyester

This Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat is a unisex hat that is designed to offer a high level of sun protection (with UPF 50+ fabric) and be comfortable to wear. It has a wide, foldable brim and a 6 inch neck cape for added protection.

It also benefits from being water and stain resistant, and has a moisture wicking sweatband. It has ventilation at the top and even has a place to keep your sunglasses secure on top of the brim.


  • Water resistant – keeps you dry in rain
  • UPF 50+ – maximum sun protection level
  • Folding brim – easy to stow

This can be ideal for paddling and hiking in the hot sun or rain.

2: Tilley Paddler’s Hat (best runner-up)

Tilley Paddler’s HatPin
  • Head Circumference: 22 to 23 ⅞ inches
  • Brim Width: 2.75 inches (2.375 inches at sides)
  • Fabric: Polyester/Polyurethane

This Tilley Paddler’s Hat is designed to help minimize glare with the green fabric under the brim. It is a unisex hat that comes in a range of sizes and features a cinch cord to adjust the fit and secure it during windy conditions.

A nice feature of this paddling hat is that it floats, as it has built-in foam. Another great feature is the reflective yarn that helps to increase visibility, plus the fabric has a UPF 50+ rating for added sun protection.

It also has a moisture wicking sweatband and the sides can snap up.


  • Moisture wicking – keeps you dry and comfortable
  • UPF 50+ – maximum sun protection
  • Reduces glare – less strain on your eyes

This is for paddling in bright sunlight and windy conditions.

3: Sunday Afternoons Shade Goddess Hat (best for women)

Sunday Afternoons Shade Goddess HatPin
  • Head Circumference: 23 inches
  • Brim Width: 4 inches
  • Fabric: Nylon/Polyester

This Sunday Afternoons Shade Goddess Hat is designed for women and tends to have more of a traditional sun hat look than some other paddling hats, with a wider 4 inch brim. But despite its stylish appeal, it also has the added benefit of a 7 inch neck cape and lightweight UPF 50+ fabric to protect you from the sun.

The crown is vented to keep you cool and there’s even a gap at the back to make it more comfortable if you have a ponytail.

It also has a moisture wicking sweatband, slots for your sunglasses and it folds away easily.


  • Wide brim – shields more of your face
  • Stylish design – more appealing to wear
  • Accommodates a ponytail – more comfortable if you wear your hair in a ponytail

This is for women looking for a more stylish hat without sacrificing function and practicality.

4: Columbia Bora Bora Booney II Hat (best budget)

  • Head Circumference: 21 to 23.5 inches
  • Brim Width: 3 inches
  • Fabric: Nylon/Polyester

The Bora Bora Booney II is an affordable unisex hat that comes in one size. It features an adjustable drawcord with a toggle at the back so that you can secure the hat on your head. There’s also a chin strap to help you keep it in place.

The nylon fabric has a sun protection rating of UPF 50+ and the polyester mesh lining helps to keep the hat breathable and moisture wicking in warm weather. The crown is also vented which can help to keep you cool.


  • One size – adjustable band to fit different sized heads
  • UPF 50+ – provides sun protection
  • Vented crown – to improve air flow

This is for paddlers on a budget looking for more of a one-size-fits all hat.

5: Sunday Afternoons Sun Guide Cap

Sunday Afternoons Sun Guide CapPin
  • Head Circumference: 21.5 to 23.5 inches/22.5 to 24.5 inches
  • Brim Width: 3.25 inches
  • Fabric: Polyester

The Sunday Afternoons Sun Guide Cap can be ideal if you don’t want a boonie style hat.

This lightweight hat has a 3 ¼ inch long brim that can be folded for easy packing and benefits from having a 9 ½ inch neck cape that can be easily detached. Both the cape and the crown of the hat are vented to keep you cool in hot weather.

The polyester fabric is quick drying and has a UPF 50+ rating for sun protection.


  • Cap style – for comfort
  • Removable neck cape – detaches when not required
  • Breathable – ventilation keeps you cool

This is for paddlers looking for a lightweight hat with a convenient baseball cap style and fit.

6: The North Face Class V Brimmer Hat

The North Face Class V Brimmer HatPin
  • Head Circumference: 21 to 22.5 inches/22.5 to 23.5 inches
  • Brim Width: 2 inches
  • Fabric: Nylon

The North Face Class V Brimmer Hat is a quick drying unisex hat that features a chin strap with a cord lock to help keep it secure on your head in various conditions.

It has a shorter brim than some hats, which may suit you better if you want a smaller profile hat. A handy feature of this one is that the brim has added flotation, which is useful for any watersports.

Another nice feature is the soft FlashDry technology sweatband that helps to wick moisture away from your head.


  • Low profile brim – less bulky
  • FlashDry sweatband – keeps you cool and dry
  • Cord lock chin strap – to keep it secure on your head

This can be great for a variety of watersports.

7: REI Vented Explorer Hat

  • Head Circumference: 22 to 24 inches
  • Brim Width: 3 inches
  • Fabric: Cotton/Polyester

The REI Vented Explorer Hat is made from organic cotton, with a polyester lining on the sweatband, which is designed to keep you cool and keep moisture away. It’s also rated UPF 50+ to keep you protected from the sun.

This durable hat features mesh panels in the crown for breathability and the 3 inch brim can be snapped up on both sides.

Another great feature of this hat is the stash pocket inside the crown. It also has an adjustable chin strap.


  • Organic cotton – breathable and keeps you cool on hot days
  • Vented panels – for added breathability
  • Stash pocket – to keep little items close

This is ideal for paddling and hiking in hot weather.

Why You Need A Kayak Hat

One of the main reasons to wear a kayak hat is that it can help to protect you from the sun. The sun gives off harmful UV rays, which can burn your skin and cause skin cancer. When you’re kayaking, there’s the added danger from the sun’s reflection off the water, increasing your risk of sunburn and skin cancer, even on a cloudy day.

A hat can give you an extra layer of protection from these harmful rays and can work alongside and in addition to your sunscreen application. This means you should still wear your sunscreen even if you wear a hat.

Kayak Hats: Features Explained

Adjustable Strap

An adjustable chin or neck strap can be a useful feature on a kayaking hat because it can give you more security and help to keep it from blowing off your head while you’re busy paddling.

A leash or something that can secure your hat to your PFD or clothing can also be useful if the hat you choose does not have a strap.


The fabric can be important, depending on your activity. While cotton can be great for hot sun because of its breathability, it may not be as great at repelling water, meaning it can become heavy and may not float if you drop it.

Nylon and polyester are often found on paddling hats because of their durability, water resistance and breathability. These fabrics can be quick to dry and ideal for sun and rain.


Having a hat that floats can be great if you’re kayaking. If you happen to lose it overboard, you should be able to quickly retrieve it if it’s floating nearby. Some hats may have increased flotation built into their construction, such as foam inserts, to add buoyancy.

Water Resistant

This can be a good feature to have as it can help to keep you dry in the rain as well as shelter you from the UV rays.

It can also be useful if you accidentally drop it over the side of your boat.

UPF Rating

The Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is what is used to rate how much UV light the fabric can block. This is different from SPF (Sun Protection Factor) ratings found on sunscreen which are there to indicate the length of time the product will protect your skin.

The higher the rating, the more UVA and UVB rays the fabric can block, meaning the greater sun protection it can offer. An item of clothing with a UPF 50 rating will block up to 98 percent of sunlight. Fabric with a rating of UPF 30 or higher is considered very good and is the minimum rating that would be recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Brim Width

The width of the brim can be important as this can determine how much shade the hat can provide. Many hats will usually have a brim of about three to four inches but this can vary between styles and manufacturers.

The wider the brim, generally the more shade it can offer, as it can shield more of your face and neck. But a wider brim may not always be practical for kayaking, especially in windy conditions, as the wind can often catch the brim of your hat and you could lose it.

Some hats will have flaps or capes which can provide additional shade.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Kayak Hats Protect From The Sun And Rain?

It’s not a hard and fast rule but most of them are designed to protect from the sun and rain. It can be a good idea to check the UPF rating to see how much sun protection the hat offers and check that it’s water resistant.

Can I Fold Away A Kayak Hat?

Many kayak hats are designed so that you can easily fold them for convenience. The brims are often designed so that they can bounce back into shape.

Are All Kayak Hats “Boonies”?

While many kayaking hats are boonies, there are some that have more of a baseball cap design, often with a neck flap for added sun protection.

Final Words

The best kayak hat, in our opinion, is the Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat because it has a high UPF rating and can be great in sunshine and rain. It can also be adjusted for a secure fit and can fold easily.

The Tilley Paddler’s Hat is a good runner up as it has the added benefit of having foam inserts to help it float and can be worn in all weathers.

Remember to think about the conditions where you plan to paddle, for example, if it’ll be windy, rainy or very hot. Planning ahead can help you choose the most suitable and secure hat to keep you protected at all times while you’re on the water.

We also have a dedicated article to fishing hats.

Best Hats For Kayaking - PinterestPin

2 thoughts on “Best Hats For Kayaking – Sun Protection For Your Head”

  1. One thing to keep in mind is the stiffness of the brim. For example the brim of Bora Bora is so loose that going against the wind makes the brim turn against your forehead and negating any help from that side.


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