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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Outdoor Research BugAway Bucket > Test Report by Larry Kirschner

Outdoor Research M's BugAway Bucket Hat

TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER

OR BugAway Bucket
(Image Courtesy of Outdoor Research)



INITIAL REPORT - June 20, 2009
FIELD REPORT - August 25, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - October 26, 2009



TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Larry Kirschner
EMAIL: asklarry98 at hotmail dot com
AGE: 45
LOCATION: Columbus, Ohio USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 205 lb (92 kg)

I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do 8-10 weekend hikes per year, and have spent time over the past few years backpacking the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and canoeing the Atikaki Wilderness of Canada. I like to travel "in comfort", but I've shrunk to medium weight, and continue to work toward going lighter and longer. With all of my investment into these ventures, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…


INITIAL REPORT
June 20, 2009

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Country of Manufacture: China
Manufacturer's Website: www.outdoorresearch.com
Model: Men's BugAway Bucket
MSRP: USD $35

Size tested: Size tested: Men's XL (7 5/8 in hat size, or 24 in/61 cm head circumference)
     Sizes available: M/L/XL
Color tested: Khaki
     Other colors available: None (Women's version comes in 'spring' and 'sky')

Listed Weight: 1.6 oz (45 g)
Measured weight: 1.9 oz (53.5 g)

ITEM DESCRIPTION

The Outdoor Research (OR) Men's BugAway Bucket is a 100% Supplex nylon hat designed for sun and bug protection. The hat is treated with permethrin, a bug repellent that is supposed to chase away mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and no-see-ums. This chemical is billed as a man-made version of a natural insect repellent found in chrysanthemums, and the hat is made with 0.52% permethrin incorporated into the fabric. The license for this process is apparently owned by "Buzz Off Insect Shield, LLC", which licenses this technology as "Insect Shield" repellant apparel. It is billed as safe and odorless, with EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approval. The fabric is also rated at UPF 30+, providing protection from the sun. The fact that the hat is insect repellent and provides sun protection is embroidered on the back of the hat, in case I forget.

back of hat

The hat itself is constructed as a bucket hat, meaning it is a fairly tall hat (3 1/8 inch/79 mm at the seam) with a narrow brim. In the case of the BugAway hat, the brim is 2.25 inches (57 mm) in width. Its fabric is soft and floppy. The hat has no internal wiring or supports, making it very suitable for crumpling up in the corner of my pack when I'm not wearing it. It does have 2 eyelets sewn into each side to provide ventilation. These can be seen in the photo below, which shows the front of the hat (with the OR logo) on the right. As can also be seen in this photo, the underbrim of the hat is significantly darker than the outside, which is supposed to reduce glare.

bugaway side

The headband is 1.25 in (32 mm) wide and is constructed of "TransAction" fabric, which appears to be a breathable absorbent fabric. It is designed to provide "comfort and moisture management". Just on the outside of the headband are two small loops which are provided to attach a chin cord, although no such cord is provided with the hat.

inside of bugaway hat

Finally, the hat has two overlapping fabric pieces under the top of the hat that form a small pocket. Although it is too small to store much, it would be fine for a few bills, a credit card or two, or a fishing license. In the photo below, I have inserted a 3x5 in (87x127 mm) index card halfway into the pocket to demonstrate its size and location.

bugaway pocket in the top


INSTRUCTIONS

Washing instructions are included on a hangtag which accompanies the hat. It simply states that normal home laundering is recommended. However, instructions on the inside of the hat indicate that the hat should be washed separately from other clothing. The hat should NOT be dry-cleaned, as this will dissolve the bug-repellant treatment. The permethrin treatment is indicated to last through 70 launderings, which seems at this point like it should be an awfully long time. The hat tag also indicates that the hat should be disposed of in the trash.

bugaway tags


WARRANTY

According to the hat's hang tag, "Outdoor Research products are guaranteed forever". There is further elucidation of the guarantee on the OR website. The site states plainly that "if, at anytime, our product fails to meet your needs, we are happy to exchange or return it." This seems pretty ironclad.


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The bucket hat design seems a little goofy to me, which is why I guess I like it. The hat feels lightweight and soft, and it sits comfortably on my head. The headband is comfortable when I wear the hat indoors, but I haven't had the opportunity yet to take it on the trail. I'm excited to see how this hat holds up, and particularly how it will do in keeping the bugs away!


THE STORY SO FAR

    Impressive
  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Ironclad guarantee
    Concerns
  • Will the narrow brim provide enough sun protection?
  • Will the bug protection work???


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FIELD REPORT
August 25, 2009

FIELD CONDITIONS

I took the BugAway bucket on a 10 day backcountry canoe trip to the Quetico Provincial Park and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the border between Canada and the US. We had sun for about 3 days, and rain intermittently the rest of the time. The temperature on the trip was between 60 and 65 F (15.5 to 18 C) most of the time during the day, which included about 4 full days of rain, and another 3 days when it rained on and off during the day.

I also took the hat on a weekend trip to Ohiopyle State park for whitewater rafting. Although I didn't wear the hat while rafting (I wore a helmet for safety), I wore it most of the rest of the weekend. The weather on that trip was sunny with high temperatures of 85 F/30 C.


FIELD EXPERIENCE

On the backcountry trip, I wore the BugAway Bucket almost all the time during the day, rain or shine. When the sun was out, I wore it to keep the sun off my head and out of my eyes. Although I was a little skeptical that the brim would be wide enough to protect my neck and ears, this did not turn out be a problem. I did not wear any sunblock on the trip, and had no troubles with any sunburn. I like to wear the hat pulled pretty far down, but I found it comfortable and roomy, even though I have a rather large head (the better for storing rocks). The fabric breathes fairly well, and I did not feel my head overheating. The photo shows me wading in a pool with my family about halfway up the Louisa Falls in the Quetico.

BugAway in the sun

Because we had significant wind on the lakes, I took advantage of the cord loops and connected them with a shoelace, which I used as a wind cord. When any wind was about, I kept the wind cord looped under my chin, which turned out to be a good precaution, as the hat was blown off my head on a number of occasions. Thanks to the wind cord, I never needed to chase my hat down the lake.

When the rain was light and I wasn't cold, I tended to wear the hat on the outside of my rain hood. In this configuration, the hat brim only extended a little beyond the rain hood, but this arrangement kept the rain out of my eyes. The photo shows me pulling my canoe upstream over a swift (a modest currrent with a few rocks), while wearing the BugAway over the hood of my White Sierra Trabagon rain jacket.

Bugaway in the rain

When the rain was harder or I was getting cold, I tended to wear the hat under my hood, where it helped to trap the heat from my head. I kept the rain hood pulled tightly around my head, which resulted in the hat being tucked fully under the hood of the rain jacket. I can't say how much warmth the hat added, but I did not have any problems with hypothermia despite the cold, rainy, windy weather.

Although the hat spent much of the time getting soaked during the day, it did not hold water, and tended to dry out at night if it was windy and didn't rain. I actually kept the hat in my tent most nights so it wouldn't get wet and it would be substantially drier most mornings.

My other trip with the BugAway was much more mundane - a weekend in southwest Pennsylvania. The sun was much hotter on this trip, but the BugAway again did a fine job of keeping my head, ears, and neck free of sunburn.

Since this hat was developed to keep mosquitoes and other bugs away, a discussion of the hat's ability in this area is needed. Although the cold weather kept the mosquitoes down, there were still plenty of them for everyone on the trip to Canada. In general, the bugs did not seem averse to flying around me and landing on me, including around my head. This was especially noticeable when I was portaging, as I was exerting myself and generating a lot of heat during this activity. I didn't want to chance a trial of not wearing the hat, but I believe that there were fewer bugs when I was wearing the hat, especially in camp. With this preamble, I would like to point out that I returned from the trip with approximately ZERO bug bites. To be fair, I have very fast hands for swatting and don't tend to react much to bug bites. Still, the fact that I returned home free of bites makes me think that the BugAway played some role in keeping the bugs from biting.

I think it's also worth mentioning that the headband of the hat is absorbent, and I felt it did a nice job of keeping the sweat from rolling down into my eyes, particularly on the Pennsylvania trip.


WEAR AND TEAR

The hat is crushable, but it always bounced back. When I got back from Canada, I threw the BugAway Bucket in the washer with all my other dirty, stinky clothes and washed it on the extra-soak cycle in cold water with my usual laundry detergent. From there, I hung it up to air-dry. Once it was done, it looked none the worse for wear. I have washed it again since, and it is still fine. Only 68 more washings to go before the bug repellency goes away!


FIELD IMPRESSIONS

So far, I would have to say that the BugAway bucket has been a pleasant surprise. Any hat that can get me back from 10 days in the Quetico/Boundary Waters without a single bug bite must be doing something right. Although I still think it looks goofy, it does all the things I need from a hat in a compact and lightweight, no-worry way.

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LONG-TERM REPORT
October 26, 2009


FIELD EXPERIENCE

During the course of the long-term report, I wore the BugAway mostly around town. This included wearing it as a rain hat on many occasions, as well as during an evening out at the beginning of October. In total, I have worn the BugAway about 15 days on the trail, and about another 10 rainy and/or buggy days at home.

Overall, I have been quite satisfied with the action of the BugAway as a rain hat. It has kept my head dry even in fairly significant downpours, and it dries pretty quickly. Despite a lot of abuse both on and off the trail, the BugAway has retained its bucket shape without significant shrinkage.

Regarding the bug repellency of the hat, although most of our mosquitoes are gone for the season, it was reasonably buggy on my night out in October. It was rainy that evening with temperatures in the 50's F (10-15 C). We had set up a rainfly, which provided some protection from the rain. When I was under the fly, I took the hat off, and I quickly noticed an increase in bugs flying around my head. To see if this was due to the hat, I replaced it on my head--no more bugs!


SUMMARY

Overall, I found the BugAway to be surprisingly effective at keeping the biting critters off my skin. This was true in both the backcountry of Southern Canada and Northern Minnesota, as well as my usual haunts in central Ohio. Although I generally prefer a slightly larger brim for the bright sunlight, I had no problems with sunburn or overheating with this bucket-style hat. Although I will go back to my broad brimmed hat when bugs are not expected, I will continue to use this one when mosquitoes are in the forecast.

Things I liked about the Outdoor Research BugAway Bucket Hat:
  • Effective at preventing mosquito bites
  • Crushable and washable
  • Lightweight fabric with good venting
Things I disliked about the BugAway Bucket:
  • I would have liked an attached wind cord

This concludes my report on the Outdoor Research BugAway Bucket Hat. My thanks once again to Outdoor Research for providing this equipment for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.


-larry kirschner

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