I recently picked up one of the Outdoor Research Helios Sun Hats to try out this summer. I wanted a hat that would be light and comfy, light in color to reflect back as much heat as possible, breathe at least somewhat, and of course kept my face and neck in the shade. The problem is , there are quite a few different hat options out there that match this criteria. However, my prior experience with some of the OR products and some good reviews of this hat is what led me to try out this one in particular!
Here are some of the features that the OR site lists about this hat:
- SolarShield™ construction
- Ripstop nylon/polyester blend; UPF 50+
- Foam-stiffened brim ﬂoats
- TransAction™ headband for comfort and moisture management
- External drawcord adjustment
- Removable chin cord with cordlock
- Brim: 2 3/4″ / 7cm
This hat is sold in 3 different sizes (M, L & XL). My head measures 22-1/4″ so I opted for the medium which fits up to a 22-1/2″ (and is the smallest size available). When I received the hat I found that it fit me decent, but it was a little large. (But in its defense, a lot of hats tend to be too big for my head…) Of course the diameter was just a little too large, but this can easily be adjusted with a cord lock adjuster on the back of the hat. However, the hat itself is also a little to deep for me. In order for the hat to sit down on the top of my head, the hat actually then sits over my ears. This is just a little annoying, but the adjuster on the back does improve the fit slightly.
I also found the headband to be a little itchy on my forehead. This may have something to do with the fact that I don’t typically wear hats though. I have had limited use with the hat so far, but for the one outing I wore it on, the headband seemed to do well at keeping any sweat from rolling down into my eyes. Although, it is not quite the dead of summer yet, so temperatures have not yet begun to swelter…
I like the fact that the adjustable chin cord can be removed, but I have found that there is really no reason to actually remove the cord, for me. There is no way to predict when the wind will or will not blow, so I cannot see any reason to remove the chin strap. Saying this, I have not used the cord lock to actually secure the hat on my head. Of course though, this may have something to do with the fact that I have the back adjuster tightened down to keep the hat from sliding down over my ears too…
Given my limited use so far, it is hard for me to comment on the breathability of this hat at this point as well. The one trip that I wore this hat on so far was a short day hike with my kids and on that trip the temperatures were in the high 70’s to low 80’s. I did break a sweat, and I do not remember my head overheating, so it did fine on that trip. But the temps that I am wanting to use this hat in will be about 20 degrees higher…
Of course the hat did do a fine job at keeping the sun out of my eyes, and from what I could tell, even from off of my face as long as I was not staring up into the sky. It is somewhat hard for me to actually see the back of my neck though, so it is hard for me to say if my neck was shaded. And since I was only out for 3-4 hours and under the cover of trees mostly, I most certainly did not receive a sunburn on my neck.
One other thing that I figured out about the hat that I must admit I did not think about to begin with was wearing the hat in the rain. This hat is not waterproof, and I realized that when I bought it. Truth is, I was not interested in a waterproof hat since I am intending on using this hat in the summer, when it is warm. When it is cold, I will wear my Black Rock Gear down boggin, and that is a whole different set-up. But what I did not think about was when I need to pull my rain jacket hood over my head. I have experimented with wearing the rain jacket hood over the hat, and while the brim of the hat will bend and mold to the inside of the jacket’s hood, it makes turning my head a little difficult. It is really not ideal. Also, I have to think about stowing the hat somewhere when the time comes.
So, even though this hat is a fine hat considering what it actually is, I do not think that it will fit my needs, and comforts. I think I would like to try something more similar to a ball cap style hat. I have looked at some that have the flap in the back that will cover my neck, but I am not so sure that I will like that flap on the back of my neck all day. However, with a ball cap style hat, this design will surely make wearing it under a rain jacket hood simpler, and would actually help to keep the rain jacket hood from falling in my face.
So, yet again, I have found that even though a product is quite effective, it may not be for me. Also, if I choose to go with a ball cap style hat, I will be trading in some things for others (shade for fit and ease of use with a rain jacket hood). Or to put it another way, I will be making sacrifices and choosing which needs are more important to me than others. Even though this is a simple hat, there are still decisions to make, and just like all other pieces of backpacking gear, there may not be one perfect hat that does it all for me…
But I shall see…
Thanks for reading!