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Reviews > Clothing > Hats, Caps and Visors > Tilley TH4 Hemp Hat > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

Owner Review by Richard Lyon
November 28, 2011

Personal Details and Backpacking Background

Richard Lyon
Male, 65 years old
Height: 6'4" [1.91 m], Weight 205 lb [91 kg]
Home: Dallas, Texas USA
Email: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Hat size: 7 5/8 US

I've been backpacking regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500-3000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, but still sleep in a floored tent and often include my favorite camp conveniences. Summer camping is often planned around fly-fishing opportunities.


Tilley’s TH4 is a medium-brimmed, medium-crowned, bush-style hat made of a breathable hemp fabric.  

Manufacturer: Tilley Endurables,
Measurements, listed: Brim size: Front and back: 3.5 in [89 mm], Sides: 2.5 in [64 mm], verified accurate

Weight, listed: 5.9 oz [167 g], size not specified
Weight, measured: 7.0 oz [198 g], size 7 5/8
Size: 7 5/8 US, available in one-eighth increments from 6 7/8 to 8+. Tilley’s website has a sizing chart that describes how to ascertain hat size.
Color: Natural.  Now available only in mocha.
MSRP: $84 US
Material: 100% natural hemp.  The hat has eight metal grommets: two on each side of the crown for ventilation and two on each side for the reinforcing band that hold the chin strap.
Related product: Tilley’s TR5 is a similar hemp hat with a slightly narrower brim.
Warranty: Tilley takes seriously the “Endurables” part of its name: “Guaranteed for life not to wear out.” For two years after purchase Tilley will also replace any of its hats that is lost or stolen at a fifty per cent discount.

secret pocketThe TH4 has a simple yet sturdy construction.  The brim has a heavyweight hem all around, and stitching every one-eighth of an inch (3 mm) from there to the base of the crown.  The sides of the crown are two pieces, with a visible inside stitch in the middle.  The lower inch (25 mm) is a strip reinforced on the inside and outside, sewn to a single 2.5-inch (62 mm) strip of fabric, sewn at its other end to a one-piece top.  All stitching is on the inside/underside.  The two pairs of grommets are in the middle (looking front to back), the strap holes on the reinforced strip and the ventilation holes just below the top.

The strap is in fact a double strap, as shown in the photo, and it’s adjustable by loosening one of the loops, which automatically tightens the other one.  The strap is made of shoelace-like fabric, one-quarter inch (6 mm) in width.

The underside of the top piece has Tilley’s label (pictured) and a Tilley signature feature – a secret pocket accessed by means of a hook-and-loop closure at the bottom of the label.  The pocket is about five inches (13 cm) square, large enough for a passport or money clip.


As an outdoorsman who is also a fair-skinned former redhead, for three decades I’ve been under doctor’s orders to take all possible precautions against overexposure to the sun.  That includes high-SPF sunscreen, long-sleeved shirts, and headgear.  The last of these has increased in importance as my thinning hair has decreased scalp coverage.  Wearing a hat when outdoors has become second nature.

Except for summer 2010, when I was testing another hat, in the five or so years since I purchased the Tilley TH4 it’s been my first hat choice more than any other topper I own.  It’s suitable for year-round use here in the Southwest, not only for backcountry activities but also for casual wear outdoors – attendance at sporting events or outdoor concerts (here in the western edge of our time zone it can stay light until 10 pm in high summer), daily walks with my dog, yard work, you name it.  Though I limit its use to spring through early autumn in the Rockies, it gets a workout there too, especially on hiking or fishing days.  I haven’t kept count but I’m sure the TH4 has been on my head for more than 300 days.  

High temperatures on days I have worn it extend from 40-110 F (4-44 C), and the hat has experienced most weather, from bright sun to a couple of thunderstorms and everything in between, even a pea-sized hail storm on one afternoon.


Hat at Lake WorthBlocking the sun.  That’s the main reason I wear a hat, and the TH4 does this very well.  The brim is large enough to keep much of my face and most of my neck in shadow in the brightest sunlight.  I haven’t dispensed with sunscreen, of course (Tilley advises 30 SPF or higher even when wearing one of its hats) and so cannot attest to the hat’s ability to block ultraviolet rays (which Tilley claims is equal to SPF 50+), but the hat keeps my face cool and my eyes from squinting.  Once in a while on or near water I’ve experienced a bit of glare reflected off first the water and then the underside of the brim, but this has never severely impaired my vision.

The brim is flexible but fixed – I cannot adjust it much on its own.  If there is particularly bright sunlight from one direction, say to the right just above the horizon, I must tilt the entire hat to that side to lower the brim.   

Blocking the rain.  Tilley says the hemp fabric “repels rain,” and indeed it does to a great extent. The tight weave of the hemp makes the TH4 impervious to light rain, even to a brief thundershower.  After about an hour of continuous exposure to rain, however, the hat starts to absorb some of the water and become damp and heavy.  For this reason I’ll wear a waterproof hat when I expect sustained rain, or maybe even when the forecast is uncertain.  The TH4’s brim is floppy enough so that I can scrunch the TH4 under the hood of most of my rain shells should I encounter a surprise downpour.

Breathability.  Though the hemp is not especially lightweight the TH4 breathes exceptionally well.  One drawback of always wearing a hat is that it generates perspiration where the fabric meets my head, a phenomenon made worse when wearing some waterproof hats I own.  The inside headband of the TH4 and the natural hemp wick away much of the sweat, especially if there’s a breeze.  The ventilation holes help circulate fresh air around the top of my head, and the light-colored fabric reflects rather than absorbs light.  The TH4’s overall ventilation continues to work even in the brutal direct sunlight here in the Southwest.  I have damp hair when I remove the TH4 when hitting a shady spot on a 100+ F (38+ C) day, but much less than when I’m wearing tighter-fitting (i.e. baseball cap) or waterproof hat.

Fit.  My favorite feature of this hat is individual sizing, that it’s available (as are most Tilley hats) in my exact hat size rather than a few broader size ranges (S, M, L, etc) each of which requires some adjustment to fit my head.  This meant that I could buy a hat that fit me as I like, with a small bit of “give” around my forehead.  That aids ventilation and comfort (I don’t like tight-fitting hats), but I don’t have to risk losing my lid in a gust of wind because I can cinch up the chinstrap in windy conditions.   

I bought this hat in a local retail store, ordering the TH4 in my size after trying on several different sizes of other Tilley hats available there.  I recommend that any interested buyer follow this procedure.

Other features.  I’ve only used the secret pocket once or twice, and then mostly from curiosity.  It’s suitable for an emergency wallet, with a bill or two, driver’s license, and credit card, but anything heavier I find to be uncomfortably bulky.  A full wallet goes elsewhere.  

The double chin strap takes some practice, but now I can easily manipulate it to tighten it up in a stiff wind, or loosen it to permit me to push the hat back when I get a respite from the sun.  The flat strap is much more comfortable against my chin than the circular and denser straps on most of my other hats.

Durability and care.  Durability is another stick-out trait of the TH4.  Despite regular use for five years this hat still looks great, sharp enough even for relatively formal frontcountry wear (garden party or outdoor lunch, say).  This despite genuine mistreatment from its owner, as this hat has been stuffed into my pack every which way more times than I can count.  This may be the flip side of the floppy brim; there’s no wire or pressed material to deform.  It has always emerged slightly wrinkled but functionally sound.

I have followed Tilley’s advice of frequent washing, to avoid the build-up of sweat stains.  Usually I’ll wash the hat by hand, but occasionally it’s gone into my front-loading washer, gentle cycle.  In either case I use non-detergent soap, placing a bit directly on a dirty spot or the headband.  The hat is always air-dried. When dry I re-shape it by hand or, if I detect some misshaping, with a knee in the crown and a tug on the opposite side.  There are a few persistent stains on the sweatband and chin strap but none on the outside.  

Summary.  Last summer’s successful test of a sun hat from another manufacturer cut the TH4’s backcountry time when it’s really hot (above 90 F/32 C) or when I’m going to be on or near water.  But the TH4 still gets its innings in, in all seasons and most weathers, in the woods and on the street.  


Regular sizing –helps get just the right fit.

Blocks the sun

Breathes well

Comfortable chin strap

Really tough


No longer available in natural (so I’d better not lose the one I own).


Read more gear reviews by Richard Lyon

Reviews > Clothing > Hats, Caps and Visors > Tilley TH4 Hemp Hat > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

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