July 10, 2021

How to find the best sun hat for Thailand

Wondering about the best sun hat for Thailand? Older and wiser, here’s what I recommend. (Quick tip? The bigger the brim, the better).

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The best sun hats for Thailand

On my first visit to Koh Samui, I wore visors for sun hats (feeble defence: they were cool in 2003 ... and it wasn't Von Dutch so it could have been worse). Despite the total lack of scalp cover, I soon realised that a visor's baseball hat-style brim wasn’t sufficient protection (and did my poor little ears no good whatsoever).

In later years, I tried to buy sun hats on Koh Samui before finally accepting that what’s available locally is pretty ugly and in large part made of plastic (or materials with very poor breathability). Hat sizes are limited and styles are mostly fedora variations. Like the bad-choice visors, they have a pretty small brim. While high-end resorts might have a few options in their gift shops, your sun hat options are often plastic and priced in the land of "we know you need it".

Older and wiser, here’s what I recommend for your sun hat for Thailand (or anywhere that's hot, humid, close to the equator, etc.):

1. My tried-and-true sun hat

My hat: Outdoor Research Sunbriolet Sun Hat

I've had this hat in constant use for a few years now – it's perfect.

  • It's washable. My hat is white. After two years of constant use? It's still white. Go have an adventure, get dirty/sweaty/sunscreeny. Once home, just throw it in the washing machine and air dry. Repeat.
  • It has both an under-chin drawstring and can be tightened at the back of the head. I've used it in really strong winds – it's not going anywhere.
  • Big brim: With a 3" brim at the front and a 4" back brim, it will keep both your face and neck in shade.
  • It's UPF 50+ .. and it floats.

I concede that these features come with a distinct "activewear" look. I love it because it's batter-proof and supplies constant shade. But it might not be for you. Want a hat that's a little bit more fashion-forward? More Connie Britton in White Lotus? Read on...

1. Bring your own – with a big brim

Try this: Ultrabraid X Large Brim Hat

First, bring it with you. You’ll need it from the very first day. As for packability, you can easily find sun-hats on Amazon that are totally rollable-foldable – there are even Panama hats that offer this batter-proof feature.  If you burn easily, pick the biggest brim you can find. It means you can be a lot lazier with sunscreen on your face, which is nice when you just want to get outside.

2. Consider a UPF sun-hat

Try this: UPF 50+  Wide Brim Panama Hat

If you get excited when fabric combines with technology, you won’t find any UPF-protective hat options in Thailand (maybe in Bangkok, after a real search). If you picture a typical straw hat (or a sieve), all those little holes will let in the sun you're trying to avoid. A UPF hat marries cooling/wicking comfort with much better sun protection across your whole head and neck.

3. Can it fly?

Try this: Columbia Bora Bora Booney Hat

Next, consider your plans and preferences. If you’ll be spending time on boats or ferries, you’ll want something with a drawstring that won’t fly off your head. My vote here – tried and tested – goes to Outdoor Research.

4. Can it float?

Finally, can it float? This little beauty from Outdoor Research can.

5. Extra credit

Try this: UPF 50+ Performance Sun Bandana

Found a hat that's a little short on neck protection (looking at you, Gen Z in bucket hats), or want to earn some UV-avoiding extra credit? Try a UPF sun bandana. They're genius when it's hot: you can soak the fabric in water to cool off, without losing any of its sun protection.

Plan B (The Totally Terrifying option)

Don't try this: 'Beijing Opera Facekini'

Perhaps you're convinced of the need for facial UV protection, but you also love to terrify small children and rob beachfront banks. In which case, enter a 'Facekini' ... which is actually a real thing.

Perfect prep (from head to toe)

Now you've got your head covered, what about your toes? Sunscreen? Find everything I recommend – and roughly a million more ways to protect yourself from the sun:

P.S. You can find every tip for Thailand packing in the archive, or subscribe by email and get all the details straight to your inbox. Enjoy!