How to Choose the Best Fishing Hat for Protection and Comfort

Fishing is a summertime sport, which means a relentless sun beating down . . . or unexpected drenching downpours. So you have to have a fishing hat – and not just any old ball cap either. Here's how to choose the best fishing hat for your angling protection and needs.


There are, of course, those die-hards in Minnesota and Wisconsin who go out on the lake in sub-zero weather, drill a hole in the ice, and sit in their ice-fishing shacks to catch a handful of pike or walleye or perch. For most of us, though, fishing is a summertime sport. And that means a relentless sun beating down while we fish . . . or, often enough, unexpected drenching downpours.

So you have to have a fishing hat – and not just any old ball cap either. "There is," according to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), "well established evidence that exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun can lead to skin cancer. Broad-brimmed hats, bucket hats with wide brims and legionnaire style hats are effective methods of sum protection to the head, ears, face and neck."

Fishing hats, then, come in a variety of styles and shapes offering varying degrees of protection from the elements, comfort, and convenience. So let's see how to choose the best fishing hat for your angling protection and needs.

The Fishing-Hat Protection You Need

You know that prolonged exposure to UVR, which includes frequent sunburn, can lead to skin cancers. "Exposure to UV radiation is the main factor that causes skin cells to become cancer cells. Almost all skin cancers (approximately 99% of non-melanoma cancers and 95% of melanoma) are caused by too much UV radiation from the sum or other sources" (Cancer Council NSW).

The problem, though, is that you can get a lot more UVR a lot quicker than you realize. So you have to choose a fishing hat with that in mind.

On a typical summer day, for example, "a fair-skinned person outside and unprotected would receive enough solar UVR in about 15 minutes to cause sunburn. If they wear a hat with a PF of 2 or 3, they would need to be outside for two to three times as long to get sunburned" (ARPANSA),

But before you grab your favorite ball cap and head out to the lake, consider this . . .

How much sun protection you get for various areas of your face (including forehead, nose, and cheeks), ears, and neck depends in large

part on the kind of hat and its design. "[B]road-brimmed hats (e.g., hats for adults with a brim of 7.5 cm or more) perform better at shading the facial areas than baseball caps. Caps provide reasonable protection to the scalp, forehead and nose but almost none to the neck and ears" (ARPANSA), When you take into account all the protection factors, wide-brimmed hats like safari hats, bucket hats, and legionnaire's hats top the list for best UVR protection afforded.

You also have to consider fabric or material the hat is made of. Most hat materials provide fairly decent protection, but some not so much. Straw hats, for example, have tiny interstices, or very small gaps, between the fibers. While this allows air circulation and a cooler hat for hot summer fishing, it also allows some sunlight and UVR to slip through. So if you are sitting on the creek bank or in a boat in the middle of the lake for hours, you may need an inner layer in that straw hat. An even better choice would likely be a cloth hat.

Popular Fishing Hat Styles

Ball Caps

Although maybe not the best for UVR protection, there's no way Americans are going to give up their beloved ball caps. The fact remains, though, that they aren't the best choice for a fishing hat. Here's why . . .

  • They blow off easily in high winds.

  • Because they are typically made of cotton, they absorb sweat and rain and then stay wet a long time.

  • They don't keep rain off very well.

Still, ball caps remain the number-choice among anglers and will do the job if that's all you have. An even better choice is the modified baseball cap (also called an up-downer cap) with an extended bill, a roll-down neck covering at the back, and a chin strap. These are very effective when you need maximum protection for long periods.

Wide-brimmed Caped Hat

Probably what first comes to mind when people talk about fishing hats, wide-brimmed caped hats may be the ideal choice for a fishing hat. They have a wide brim (obviously), a neck cape, a chin strap, and good ventilation to keep you cool. They also come equipped with flotation in case you drop your hat in the water while pulling that lunker into the boat – which happens often enough, as you well know. If you don't have one of these, a safari hat with a bandana trailing down your neck makes a good makeshift substitute.

Boonie Hat

These were formerly hunting hats (much like a safari hat), but many companies now produce them with fishermen in mind. The advantages of boonie hats are . . .

  • Wide brim

  • Light color for coolness

  • Chin strap or stampede string

  • Waterproof, breathable, lightweight materials

Features to Look For in a Fishing Hat

Wide, Stiff Brim

Certainly, you will want to choose a fishing hat with a wide brim (or bill in the case of a ball cap) to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face and ears. The brim should also be fairly stiff if it is to do much good and especially if it rains. In addition, if you do decide to go with a ball cap, be sure it has a large bill and that the underside is a dark color to reduce glare off the water.

Neck Cape

"Neck capes are the number one way to protect the sides of the head, ears and neck from the harsh sun. Most quality hats will have a cape that is able to be rolled and tucked away neatly until you need it the most. Accessories such as a buff [a face and neck covering for extreme conditions] can be purchased to accompany a cap or visor that will help shield the sun, rain and wind" (Bass Pro Shops).

Chin Strap

Some form of chin strap or stampede string is pretty much a necessity in a good fishing hat, especially one that is adjustable. When you're going flat out in the boat or when the wind whips up when the clouds roll in, you need something to keep your hat on your head – especially when the fish are biting and you don't want to pack it in. In adjustable fishing-hat chin straps, leather is the most popular choice, often with a rawhide cinch.

Waterproof Qualities

And you want a fishing hat that is at least somewhat waterproof because . . . well, you know why. Typically, this means a hat constructed from a synthetic breathable material so that your head will stay both dry and cool.


A good hat for summertime fishing must have good ventilation or air exchange so that you don't overheat and ruin the fun of fishing. Usually this means a hat with mesh vents somewhere on the sides or grommeted holes near the crown. Just make sure the ventilation isn't such that it will let in rain.

Fade Resistance

Finally, after you've put in the time to find just the right fishing hat and spent money to own it, you want to make sure it will stay looking good. Dew and rain and sunlight and wind are all hard on hats, especially the color. So make sure the hat you choose affords at least some degree of fade resistance. You want your hat to keep its color so that it can reduce glare and look good on you in the photos of your big catch.

Where to Get Your Fishing Hat

Most fishermen spend most of their time and money on rods and reels and lures. But the right fishing hat is a piece of fishing equipment that is just as important. So now that you know how to choose the best fishing what, where do you find it?

Certainly, you can go to the big outfits like Bass Pro and Cabela's. They have a huge selection and lots of choices – along with a pretty hefty price tag. If, however, you'd like to get comparable hat quality at wholesale prices – even on single items – you might consider Wholesale For Everyone.

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