We were on a mission to find the best possible safari hat. My first search for a good safari hat turned up very little and left me struggling to find a great hat for safari. We wanted a stylish hat that looked great in photos while in Africa, and not just solely because of its functional purpose.
For my generation, the idea of protecting ourselves from the sun is almost a joke. However, on safari, we have come to learn you’re faced with long days out in the strong equatorial sun and to avoid skin damage a packable sun hat is a necessity.
Despite loads of stylish safari gear, a good safari hat serves a purpose. Anyone who’s spent time in the African sun can attest to the power of the rays and a hat for safari is the first line of defense from sun damage. I became obsessed with the idea of the perfect safari cap and found my self-asking to try total strangers hats to find the perfect fit.
With all of this testing and searching, I made some headway (pun intended). After all that effort, my six-month mission to find the best safari hat money can buy was a total success.
The Best Safari Hats
Tilley LTM6 Airflo Hat ($90)
Tilley has long been famed for its sun protection hats. They’ve seen the world over and have seen more than a few adventures. It holds its shape and the material has a stylish look to it. What sets Tilley apart is that they guarantee their hats for life against wear and tear.
A wide brim keeps the sun off your hat. What I love in addition to the guarantee are the features such as its ability to float in the water and a hidden pocket to store and I.D. or money. It has everything you could want in a great safari hat. Although, the higher price point may deter some – just keep in mind it has a lifetime guarantee.
Columbia Sportswear Bora Bora Booney II ($29)
I talk a lot about a stylish hat, but this Columbia safari cap, in my opinion, is the least attractive. However, this hat is the most practical hat and definitely a cheap safari hat out of our selection. That being said for a synthetic floppy hat that you can stuff and crush anytime it still looks pretty good.
The Bora Bora is made out of nylon, is well vented, packs well, and features UPF technology. Comfort is the strongest characteristic of this hat as it keeps your head cool while sitting snuggly on your head. Unlike leather that can be itchy you’ll forget you’re even wearing this hat while out in the bush. I love the built-in sweatband to keep moisture out of your eyes.
Panama Jack Sun Hat ($39)
This hat may not be the classic safari hat, but it still looks great and serves its purpose. A leather hat may look good on safari, but once you get to the coastline of Africa it may be time to put it away.
The Panama Jack Hat has the ability to look great on the beach and in the bush. It’s probably one of the best all-around hats on this list, and it’s rugged cotton construction means you can stick it in your bag without fear of damaging it.
Marmot PreCip Safari Hat ($48)
The Marmot PreCip is the best packable sun hat on this list, it’s also inexpensive and durable. You can take it anywhere with you and stuff it in your suitcase without ever having to worry that you will ruin the shape. This safari hat will keep the sun off your face while also keeping you dry in the inevitable African rainstorm. The Marmot Precip has a wide brim and water repellent NanoPro membrane.
It also floats in the water which will come in handy if you decided to take a dip in one of the Zanzibar beaches or while white water rafting on the Nile River. The chin strap is both detachable and adjustable, so you can store it away if it’s bothering you. It comes in five colors so you can find the right style for you.
Filson Tin Packer Hat ($70)
You spend a lot of time outside on a safari. We often fall into the category of people who do not take sun protection seriously enough. Yes, we wear sunblock on the beach, but outside of that, it’s not something we regularly think about. The time you spend outside adds up.
On our first safari, I ended up paying for it with a nice sunburn on my neck and face because I didn’t even think about it. Mind you that was in the winter… Do yourself a favor and invest in sun protection. If it’s not a hat, at the very least wear sunblock. Even the game rangers we meet wear hats and sunblock. The full safari dress does serve a purpose.
This is a great go-to all-around safari hat for women. Filson makes a great product and that is no exception with the tin packer hat. It’s water repellent and wear-resistant so it will last for many years.
Stormy Kromer SK Cruiser Hat ($69)
I absolutely love the look of this Stormy Kromer hat. Stormy Kromer is an old school company that has been making quality hats for over a decade. They take pride in their product and manufacture it right in the US.
It looks sleek and stylish, not just on safari, but on any summer day on the trail or fishing in the lake making it the perfect hiking hat. Manufactured in the United States this hat gives full 360-degree coverage of the neck and face, and is finished with a quality wax coating.
Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero ($60)
The Seattle Sombrero is a hat designed to do it all. It will repel rain and then protect you from sun protection. It’s durable, lightweight, and can even float should you drop it in the water. You can take it anywhere with you and stuff it in your suitcase without ever having to worry that you will ruin the shape. This safari hat will keep the sun off your face while also keeping you dry in the inevitable African rainstorm. The Sombrero has a wide brim and waterproof GoreTex. It’s the most technology-packed safari hat on this list.
It also floats in the water which will come in handy if you decided to take a dip in one of the Zanzibar beaches or while white water rafting on the Nile River. A cinch strap in the headband allows for a tight fit that will keep the hat on your head in windy conditions.
Conner Hats Men’s Bounty Hunter ($46)
This is one of my favorite hats on the list, but it’s also one of the most expensive. The hat is rugged and stylish and a great sun hat for men. It still is highly practical being made out of sturdy organic cotton. You wouldn’t even guess the headwear is made out of cotton upon first look as it looks very high dollar.
A wide brim with built-in wire that can be adjusted assures that it accomplishes the task of sun protection. The distressed cotton wins me over for looks and could fool some for leather. This is a great winner for those who don’t like to wear animals products.
Dorfman-Pacific Outback Hat ($39)
This hat is a contender for the best safari hat on the list, at least according to user reviews across the internet. It’s a great looking hat that is sturdy and offers plenty of protection. The wide brim will be sure to protect you from long days in the bush and despite being black, the thick cotton material remains cool. The brim is shapeable and broad so you can bend it exactly how you would like.
I could try and sell you on this hat or I can let the reviews on Amazon do the talking.
Rogue Safari Hat ($50)
If you’re doing you’re shopping in Southern Africa you will come across this hat. It’s the hat I picked up in Zimbabwe and personally wear and it’s one of my favorite safari fashion items. The Rogue hats are manufactured in Southern Africa and can be difficult to find off the continent, so if you see one pick it up and cherish it as your souvenir.
However, it’s all made with great quality leather and built to last. These hats are simply amazing and mine will likely last a lifetime. The main issue with this safari hat is that it’s not packable, and to avoid ruining it you will need to wear it on every plane, bus, and car ride until you get to your destination. The only downside is finding them, granted there is one listed on Amazon[/easyazon_link, but I would wait until you get to the continent if you can.
Henschel Hats Aussie Breezer ($38)
This is one of those stylish hats that isn’t just great for safari, but everyday wear and protection from the sun. It’s made out of cotton and mesh, so it provides breathability and won’t have your whole head sweating out the day.
It also has an adjustable chin strap which will come in useful if your safari guide is hauling it to see a pack of wild dogs or some other amazing safari animal.
Dorfman Pacific All-Season Crushable Hat ($54)
Oh my, I love this safari hat for women. It’s made out of wool felt, and is an all-around great looking olive green stylish safari hat. The style is similar to a fedora with a very Western vibe. It looks great and the price point isn’t bad either.
The best part about it is that for such a good looking had the material still allows you to crush the hat to fit inside your luggage. Because no one likes to have to wear their hat home on a 15-hour flight. Once you take it out of your luggage it snaps right back into shape!
Outback Trading Co. Kodiak Oilskin Hat ($50)
This is the perfect hat for those going into the Outback, or the African bush. Like most of the hats on this list, it’s made out of cotton. The cotton has been treated with oil making meaning it is water-resistant.
So when you get caught in a thunderstorm you don’t need to worry about the safety of your hat or getting uncomfortable. It’s a stylish hat and probably one of my favorites on the list.
What Makes A Great Safari Hat?
Everything that comprises a great sun hat is found in a safari cap, essentially they’re the same thing. The one exception with a safari hat is that you can get away with more rugged materials that look stylish and not like a Crocodile Dundee impersonator.
The primary reason for wearing a cap on safari is to provide protection from the sun while you’re out in the African bush in search of wildlife
It may seem silly to have a waterproof hat in the dry season, but you’re probably going to be sweating a lot. Not to mention there is no point in buying a flimsy cotton hat that will only last a short while. We’ve been caught in rain showers while on safari in both South Luangwa and the Masai Mara, without a safari hat and it sucked.
If you’re going to be wearing something on your head all day making sure that it is comfortable is a no brainer. Although, safari pith helmets are world famous for being the headwear of famous British explorers and look great in safari photos they’re terribly uncomfortable. Yes, we’ve tried them.
Leather, rubber, or synthetic all have their own advantages. What you pick for your safari hat depends on personal preference. My pick was for leather because it has the classic safari adventure feel and look – and with maintenance and care, they can last forever.
What you wear on your head says a lot about you. I had my idea of what the perfect safari cap would look like and I was set on finding the perfect fit.
Why You Need A Safari Hat?
Unlike safari clothes or safari boots we would say everyone needs a hat when on safari. Especially in East Africa! The majority of people coming on safari are from more Northern climates away from the equator and are unaware of the suns damage around Africa. The sun near the center of the earth is intense and can leave you sunburned in a matter of minutes.
You spend a lot of time outside on a safari. As I said we probably do not take sun protection seriously enough, but meet anyone who has spent their days in Africa and they all wear a hat, sunglasses, and long-sleeved breathable shirt. After spending a year traveling the continent we can’t suggest a safari hat more, and consider it an essential item to our Africa packing list.
On our first safari, I ended up paying for it with a nice sunburn turned into a scab on my face because I didn’t think about sun protection too seriously, and it cost me face dearly. Do yourself a favor and invest in sun cream and a hat.
There are only a few things we absolutely stand by in packing for a safari and a good hat is one of them. At the very least bring a baseball cap or cheap packable sun hat. Safari attire often goes beyond style and cool vacation photos – it serves an important purpose. Below are our recommendations for the best safari hat. They are separated by unisex sun protection hats, men’s safari hats, and women’s safari hats – but in reality, it’s a hat and can go on men and women equally!
Book A Safari in Africa
Traditionally if you wanted to book a safari you’d have to go to a travel agent and have them book your safari for you. They made suggestions for camps and lodges then presented you with a large bill. Most of the industry still operates in this fashion.
However, Timbuktu is a new platform that allows you to select the lodges you’d like and see the pricing per day that way you can select the best itinerary for yourself. They will then contact the lodges and help you through booking your safari. With experts on staff, they can also provide suggestions and arrange the little details much like a travel agent.
Our Favorite Lodges in Africa
We’ve spent over a year on safari and tried out dozens of lodges and have visited nearly every park in Africa. While it’s impossible to say we’ve visited every lodge we’ve seen a fair amount. Check out our list of favorite lodges in Africa. Have you visited any yourself?
What to Pack for an African Safari
Overland Tour in Africa
Traveling Africa on your own can be daunting to many travelers. However, there is no need to fear with overland tour companies who will show the ropes and a great time. You can check out some of them here to compare the different companies and possibly score a discount.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Africa so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere. The tap water in Tanzania is generally not safe to drink, but a water purifier, like the Grayl waterbottle, works well!
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm.
For more professional photographs we use our Fuji XT-3, and LOVE IT.
Lightweight pants that are made from synthetic material are tremendous to have in your pack. It’s what we wear most days when traveling around Africa as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos (malaria).
We recommend neutral colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors. What’s great is they’re useful beyond Africa as they are a travel staple and we pack a pair everywhere we travel.
I like two pairs, one pair is made by prAna and rolls into capris and the other are convertible pants. For men, prAna makes the Stretch Zion Pant, a tremendous pair of hiking pants for a reasonable price.
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Africa then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Africa.
I cannot stress a good pair of shoes enough because if you land anywhere outside of South Africa a quality pair of hiking shoes will be hard to come by. If you plan to walk around a lot get thick rubber soled shoes as acacia thorns are prone to stab through thin shoes. Cameron learned the hard way one day when he pulled a thorn out of his foot that went straight through his thin rubber sandals.
I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in Africa. I actually wear mine every day when I’m snowboarding in the mountains. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Africa. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
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