12 Packable Sun Hats That Are Stylish and Loved by Dermatologists
Whether it's finally warming up where you live or you're heading out to a beach vacation, you need protection if you're spending time in the sun. A good sun hat is "absolutely critical" according to Dr. Melanie D. Palm, a board-certified dermatologist based in San Diego. "Even on cloudy days, we still are exposed to 80 percent of the UV of a sunny day."
Ideally, your hat will have a UPF factor of 50+ and at least a 4-inch brim to guarantee you're getting enough coverage from damaging UV rays. We also looked for hats specifically designated as packable or travel-friendly to make sure they're easy to toss into a suitcase or beach bag and then pop on at your destination with no structural damage.
"Sun-protective clothing is one of the easiest and most important tools we can use to protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun and allow us to enjoy the outdoors safely," says Pasadena-based, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ivy Lee. A crucial factor, though? Making sure you like it enough to actually wear it. "I've seen many expensive UPF 50+ hats that sit lonely on a closet shelf," says Lee.
Luckily, with these options, that shouldn't be a problem. Our favorite is the Coolibar Women's Aubrey Wide Brim Beach Hat for its classic but crushable design and thoughtful touches like an internal drawstring to adjust sizing and a cotton lining to minimize any potential sweat or skin irritation.
These are the best packable sun hats to shop:
- Best Overall: Coolibar Women's Aubrey Wide Brim Beach Hat at Amazon
- Best Visor: San Diego Hat Company Signature Women's Ultrabraid Large Brim Visor at San Diego Hat Company
- Best for Hiking: Solbari Wanderer Sun Hat at Solbari
- Best for Larger Heads: Sungrubbies Ribbon Braid Big Floppy Hat at Sungrubbies
- Best Style: Madewell Packable Braided Straw Hat at Nordstrom
- Best Style, Men's: Coolibar Men's Galileo Packable Travel Hat at Amazon
- Best Active: San Diego Hat Company Women's Active Sun Brim Hat at Amazon
- Best Active, Men's: Solbari Traveller Broad Brim Sun Hat
- Best Bucket Hat: Solbari Getaway Reversible Sun Hat at Solbari
- Best for Basking: Coolibar Women's Shelby Shapeable Poolside Hat at Amazon
- Best Color Options: Columbia Women's Global Adventure Packable Hat II at REI
- Best Squashable: Wallaroo Scrunchie at Amazon
T+L's Top Picks
Best Overall: Coolibar Women's Aubrey Wide Brim Beach Hat
Best Visor: San Diego Hat Company Signature Women's Ultrabraid Large Brim Visor
Best for Hiking: Solbari Wanderer Sun Hat
Best for Larger Heads: Sungrubbies Ribbon Braid Big Floppy Hat
Best Style: Madewell Packable Braided Straw Hat
Best Style, Men's: Coolibar Men's Galileo Packable Travel Hat
Best Active: San Diego Hat Company Women's Active Sun Brim Hat
Best Active, Men's: Solbari Traveller Broad Brim Sun Hat
Best Bucket Hat: Solbari Getaway Reversible Sun Hat
Best for Basking: Coolibar Women's Shelby Shapeable Poolside Hat
Best Color Options: Columbia Women's Global Adventure Packable Hat II
Best Squashable: Wallaroo Scrunchie
Tips for Buying Packable Sun Hats
Look for UPF
The first qualification to look for in a good sun hat is its UPF, or UV protection factor, grading. As the name implies, this system indicates the item's level of protection against ultraviolet energy, taking into account color, weave density, and fabric. Lee cites a UPF factor of 50 as the general dermatologist recommendation, which means it will protect your skin from 98 percent of UV radiation.
Think about brim size and material
The next thing you want to look for is the structure of the hat itself. Ideally you want a brim of at least 4 inches and not too many openings in the structure for sun to sneak through. "Because a broad-brim hat also provides you with your own shade structure, the hat may protect your eyes from UV rays," says Lee. "A broad-brim hat is an easy, effective, and fashionable way to keep our skin safe and healthy."
Materials themselves can vary, as long as they have sufficient UPF. "Tighter weaves, darker colors, and believe it or not, washed fabrics (which shrink the weave) are more advantageous," says Palm. If a hat doesn't have a UPF rating, you can try holding it up to the light and seeing how much light gets through.
Why Trust Travel + Leisure
Rena Behar has more than eight years of professionally assessing and reviewing products, as well as travels to more than 30 different countries, under her belt. She interviewed multiple board-certified professional dermatologists, including Dr. Melanie D. Palm, Medical Director at Art of Skin MD and assistant volunteer clinical professor at UCSD, and Dr. Ivy Lee, a board-certified dermatologist in practice in Los Angeles and member of the American Academy of Dermatology's Expert Media Team.
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