In Search of the Perfect Sailing Hat
Posted by at 04:35PM - Comments: (18)
March 19, 2013
Ever since October 2011, when the dermatologist announced that I had skin cancer at the age of 46, I’ve been looking for good hats and other accessories to keep my face, in particular, out of the sun. I’m a sailor, and I’m not ready to change my life completely, but I do need to make a diligent effort to prevent this dangerous, but generally preventable and treatable form of skin cancer—squamous cell carcinoma—from becoming more serious. I’ve been cancer-free for the last 18 months, but I’ve now got a nice battle scar running down my right cheek, and I would prefer not to have any more.
As we’ve seen in our past tests of sunscreen, the best defense against UV rays (apart from moving to a cave in Canada) is a physical barrier—preferably UV-protective clothing. And as our most recent hat test showed, there are all kinds of options for covering ears, noses, and necks. Still, I’m having a hard time finding one I like. That’s where you come in.
Hats are such a personal item—think Tom Landry, Bear Bryant, Abe Lincoln, Charlie Chaplin—that I think any straight product test will be of limited help. Sure, we can measure how much shade each hat casts, how well it stays on a head in a breeze, and how well it holds up to weathering. But what good are all these features, if it makes you look like a dork (whatever your private vision of a dork may be)?
Lately, I’ve become attached to wide-brimmed straw gardening/beach hats that I pick up in local hardware stores. The hats cost about $8 and will last a year, if my kids don’t sit on them. They have nice wide brims that provides a lot of shade, and with a tropical headband, they seem appropriate for the task. The trouble with this my current one is that it tends to invert in a breeze, and I really have to cinch it down to keep it on in winds over 15 knots.
I have a few other hats. I’ve got a new Columbia baseball hat made with some sort of new "Omni Freeze" fabric that acts like an air-conditioner and has a French foreign legionnaire-style neck flap; another long-billed hat with a wide brim around the back to cover my neck (an Aussie style popularized by Florida fishing guides); and a canvas Tilly-type hat with a neck flap that I picked up at the Miami boat show. I’ve also got a couple of pull-over “buffs” that cover my neck and cheeks (and nose, if I like) when I’m on the water for a long time. These days, I can’t help but feel like Butch Cassidy on the way to a holdup when I’m out on the water. I expect my eldest son to start ribbing me about this any day: “You keep thinking, Butch, that’s what you’re good at.”
Each of these hats has its pros and cons, and I'm not really attached to any of them. Clearly, my priority is function. It needs to provide plenty of shade in breezy conditions, but I’d prefer it to look halfway agreeable. I like the Tilly hats, but the price is steep, and because my father wore one for so many years, I keep feeling like I age 20 years every time I put it on. (Like I said, hats are a personal matter.)
So, I guess this is a long-winded way of asking for your help. Maybe I’m just too damn picky, but I’d like to know whether our readers have any particular hats they are fond of that PS has not yet tested, or that we may not know about. If you do, just post a comment below. Your help will be greatly appreciated.
Once I get a good list of finalists, we can put together some sort of rigorous comparison to share with the larger readership. We’d also be very interested in hearing what hats women are finding practical for sailing these days. Matter of fact, if you’ve got some other ideas on other apparel for covering up this summer—share those too, so we can pass them on.