KAKADU SOAKA HAT
BY KATHLEEN WATERS
July 1, 2012
kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
Canon City, Colorado, USA
5' 4" (1.60 m)
125 lb (56.70 kg)
Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado.
Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley.
My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.
|Manufacturer: Kakadu Traders Australia|
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.kakaduaustralia.com
MSRP: US $34.99
Listed Weight: Less than 5 oz (150 g)
Measured Weight: 3.5 oz (99 g)
Colors Available: Black, Brown, Cherry, Grey, Khaki, Lilac, Mushroom, Olive, Pale Blue, Pink, Red, Rust & Sand
Color Reviews: Red
Sizes Available: Small to XXL (21.5 to 24.6 in/55 to 63 cm)
Size Reviewed: Medium (22.3 in/57 cm)
Fabric Type: Soaka micro-suede (100% polyester)
Developed in Australia.
Made in China
|Photo Courtesy of Kakadu|
The Kakadu Soaka hat is an Australian cowboy-style hat with a flat top and brim. The brim is just shy of 3 inches (7.6 cm) wide and the crown is 3.5 inches (9 cm) high. The front of the crown comes to a well-defined point. The Soaka is made from 100% polyester in a soft brushed micro-suede which is smooth to the touch.
There is a three-strand thin braided hatband which loops through itself and ends in a 3 inch (7.6 cm) "tail" at the back of the hat.
A soft woven (feels like cotton to me) chin strap is looped around the front of the hat's crown, is fed through two eyelets on the alternate sides of the crown and then is tied together at the ends. There are clear aglets to prevent unraveling. The two sides of the chin strap are threaded through a small wooden bead that slides up and down the two straps. Sliding the bead upwards tightens the straps so as to secure the Soaka against the wind.
There are 3 eyelets in a triangular shape on each side of the crown for ventilation.
While there isn't a full, all-around the hat sweatband, there is an extra layer of micro-suede in the interior front of the crown where the hat rests against the forehead.
FIELD USE AND PERFORMANCE
|Yellowstone National Park||I have to confess. When I first spotted the red Kakadu Soaka hat on display I just had to try it on. I certainly wasn't thinking about backpacking at all - just how attractive it looked. Hats are my guilty pleasure and with this bright red beauty, that guilty pleasure certainly isn't a secret one!|
After I stopped ooo-ing and aaah-ing, I found out that "Soaka" wasn't some odd Aussie style name but that "Soaka" had a built-in feature making it a perfect backpacking hat. I can "soak" this hat in water and then wear it to cool off when I'm on the trail baking under the sun. Neat! This I had to try, so I took the Soaka home.
Before I actually tried the cooling action of the Soaka I had worn it on numerous occasions "dry". In addition to lots of casual wear, the hat accompanied me on several backpacking trips, including day hikes in Yellowstone National Park, an overnight in Grand Teton National Park and two days in Dinosaur National Monument in October 2011. It also kept me warm while snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park In December and Utah's Solitude State Park in January. During my October backpacking trip, the weather was damp, drizzling much of the time and I was very pleased with how the Soaka kept me from getting chilled. Even in a light drizzle, the hat didn't wet out.
Hmmm. If a drizzle didn't wet the hat how would the Soaka work in the heat? I decided to experiment by soaking the hat at home where a possible failure would not pose any problem. When I put the top of the Soaka under the kitchen faucet water initially rolled right off but within a half minute or so, the color started to darken and I could tell the fabric was getting, well, soaked. I continued to let water run over the Soaka until the color was uniform. Now I had a dripping hat in my hands! At this point I remembered I was told to just "flick" the hat to remove the excess liquid. I did that and a spray of water was released from the hat. The Soaka was now ready for use so I jammed it on my head and was pleased to immediately feel cooler. Neat!
The very next opportunity to wear the Soaka on a backpacking trek came up in early March when Colorado started to have some warm spells - which certainly haven't abated yet. My husband and I packed up for an overnight just north of where we live in the Cooper Mountain range near Canon City and wearing my Soaka hat, we headed for the hills. Shortly into our uphill climb as is usually the case, I started to get hot. Unlike most people, I can't just abandon wearing a hat when I heat up. I have eye challenges that require me to keep my eyes shaded. A brimmed hat is mandatory almost always. So as the sweat started to bead up on my forehead, I took off the hat and poured half of a 1 L bottle of water into the upturned hat, making sure to run the stream of water down the sides of the crown. Voila! Cool relief!
Using a bottle of water isn't the most ideal way to soak the hat, a stream or lake works much better when in the backcountry, but sometimes (most of the time) there isn't that option, so I've gotten quite adept at pouring the water into the hat in the most efficient manner so as not to waste my water. And if it is hot when I start my trekking, I'll soak the hat before I even set out.
In the high desert, evaporation causes the Soaka to dry out in a matter of 90 minutes to 2 hours or so depending on the temperature. When the temperatures top 90 F (32 C) - like today - the hat is dry within an hour.
The Soaka fits nice and snug around my 22 inch (56 cm) forehead, so if I keep my head down a bit I can keep it on my head in all but the windiest conditions. When the cruel winds blow though, the chin straps have been a real boon. Most of the times, I flip the cord up and over the brim where it rests nicely out of my way, but when it really starts a 'blowing, I quickly pull them down and cinch up the adjuster. Then I can go about my hiking holding onto my trekking poles and not my hat. The Soaka's chin straps remind me of my childhood cowboy hats.
All this wetting and drying hasn't affected the look, shape or fit of the Soaka hat. The brim is still straight and properly stiff and the crown hasn't gotten lumpy, stretched or shrunken. It hasn't developed any musty odor either. And while I have had my 11-year-old, 55 lb (25 kg) granddaughter accidently sit on it, I haven't ever crushed it up and stuffed it in the corner of a backpack. Oh, and thankfully, the Soaka color hasn't faded or worse yet, run!
When I am not wearing it on the trail, I let it rest on my back with the chin straps around my neck, but mostly I've got it on and I plan to continue to do so for a long time.
1.) Keeps me warmer in winter, cooler in the heat.
2.) Chin strap can withstand windy conditions.
1.) When worn wet, I get a serious case of "hat head"!
I love hats! I particularly love the look of cowboy-style brimmed hats. The Kakadu Soaka hat sports that western look I adore - with an Australian flavor - and it has function above and beyond that of all my other headwear. Not only does the Soaka keep my noggin warm when it's cold outside, but it cools me down when Old Sol is a' blazing hot! One quick dunk in a stream or lake and the Soaka is ready to go no matter what the mercury reads (and so am I)! This versatility makes the Soaka a valuable backpacking hat for me.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
The Soaka is not my only Kakadu hat; I have another style as well. But it certainly is my favorite! I just might have to get me another one. I'm kinda hankerin' for a lilac hat. Or maybe pink. But I like the pale blue as well. Maybe...
Kathleen (Kathy) Waters
Read more reviews of Kakadu Traders Australia gear
Read more gear reviews by Kathleen Waters