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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat > Test Report by Richard Lyon

SUNDAY AFTERNOONS ADVENTURE HAT
Test Report by Richard Lyon

Initial Report June 6, 2010
Field Report August 12, 2010
Long Term Report October 12, 2010

PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 64 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Email address: montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA
Hat size: US 7 5/8

I've been backpacking for 45 years and regularly in the Rockies since 1986.  I do at least one week-long 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, but I do forced marches too.  Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, though I still often include my favorite camp conveniences and always bring a floored tent.  Summer camping often include fly fishing or packrafting.

INITIAL REPORT
June 6, 2010

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION and DETAILS

Top viewThe Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat is a lightweight nylon hat with mesh panels, a very wide brim, and an even longer veil to protect the back of the wearer’s neck from the sun.  Its manufacturer describes it as suitable for most outdoor activities and especially promotes its patented design as giving “the most comprehensive UV coverage available in any sun hat.” A treated fabric complements the design for yet more sun protection.

Manufacturer: Sunday Afternoons, www.sundayafternoons.com
Listed weight (size not specified): 3 oz (85 g)
Measured weight, size Large: 2.8 oz (79 g)
Size tested: Large. Also available in Small (one color only) and Medium.
Color tested: Chambray/zinc [Translation: pale blue nylon, light grey mesh] Sunday Afternoons’ website lists nine other color combinations.
Listed measurements: 4 in (10 cm) front brim, 7.5 in (19 cm) veil length. Both verified accurate.
Warranty (from a hangtag that accompanied the hat): Replacement for any failure to perform as advertised.
MSRP: $36 US

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When I removed the Adventure Hat from its plastic packaging it looked about as I had expected from the pictures on Sunday Afternoons’ website.  What was striking, though, was its remarkably light weight, an observation verified when I measured the hat on my kitchen scale.  The treated nylon is gossamer-thin, boding well for warm summer days in Texas.

featuresThis hat has several useful features, illustrated on the chart from the manufacturer's website. The curved but roughly trapezoidal side mesh panels, 8.5 inches (21.6 cm) long and 2.75 inches (7 cm) high at the highest point, have been placed to cover those parts of my head on which I still have hair.  The brim slopes down at about a 40-degree angle and is reinforced with foam for some structure and to ensure the hat floats.  The underside of the brim and veil are a medium grey (much darker than the mesh), a nice touch to reduce reflection.  A one-inch (2.5 cm) wide sweatband has been sewn into the front of the crown inside the hat; this runs between the front corners of the mesh ventilation panels. 

Underside of hatAs noted the Adventure Hat comes in three different sizes.  Variations within each size can be accomplished by tightening or loosening a “sizing tape” at the rear of the crown, and an elastic band between the rear corners of the ventilation panels allows for a comfortable fit within the hat’s size range.  The size Large I requested fit my head perfectly out of the box, which I might have expected as my hat size sits squarely in the middle of the range listed for the Large on the sizing chart on Sunday Afternoons’ website.  

The veil (called a drape in the patent) does indeed cover my ears and the back of my neck.  It’s sewn on and hence not detachable, but if I prefer not to use it I can stow it with mating hook-and-loop patches, as shown in the photo below.  The hat has a sewn-in chip strap that can be adjusted with a cordlock if needed in windy weather.

Light weight doesn’t mean Sunday Afternoons skimped on construction of the Adventure Hat.  A grey sewn-in band, 0.4 in (10 mm) wide on either side, encircles the brim and the veil.  A similar band has been sewn into the inside of the crown.  The crown is made of three fabric pieces, and all its four seams are taped on the underside.  Overall a Veil folded upwell-thought-out and well-constructed piece of headgear.

TRYING IT OUT

Yesterday the Adventure Hat received its baptism of fire, so to speak.  I wore to a baseball game that our local team thoughtfully rescheduled from the evening to mid-afternoon to accommodate national television.  This was the area’s first triple-digit F (38 C) day of summer, without a cloud in the sky, and my seats were in bright sunlight for about three hours.  The hat did its job well, keeping my face and neck in shadow all that time, without an undue build-up of perspiration where the crown met my hair and head.  I was as comfortable as the conditions allowed.  The long front brim didn’t impede vision at any time.  Walking back to the car after the game gave the chin strap its first test, as a gust of wind caught the brim and blew the hat off my head.  Because I was wearing the chin strap loosely cinched, the hat was instantly deposited on the back of my head; all I had to do was return it to my head and slightly tighten the cordlock.  I considered this to be a very auspicious debut.

FIELD REPORT
August 12, 2010

I have very much enjoyed hiking and fishing with my Adventure Hat.  It's ideal headgear for summer outdoor activities in the Rockies.

FIELD CONDITIONS

West Stillwater trail Mid-June – Four-day visit to some friends’ cabin on the Stillwater River, Montana.  Daytime temperatures about 70 F (21 C), in bright sunlight interrupted by an occasional late-afternoon thundershower.  I wore the hat on a day hike to the West Stillwater for some fishing (see photo at left), while fishing on the main Stillwater one morning, and while helping my friend stain his log cabin on my last day.  

Early July – My first long (seven days) backpack of the summer, a service trip along the East Side Trail of the South Fork of the Flathead River, Montana.  We hiked twenty-one miles (34 km) from the Meadow Creek trailhead to our campsite at Salmon Forks, and then worked on trail maintenance.  The hike in was mostly in mist and drizzle, but the weather cleared for great Montana summer conditions – highs about 85 F (29 C), nighttime lows about 40 F (4 C), under sunny skies with occasional high clouds.  On this trip I wore the hat on the hikes in and out, and to and from the work site each day; when working with picks and saws the Forest Service requires hard hats.  

Mid-July – A week in Big Timber, Montana, hiking, fishing, and as much relaxing as possible while baby-sitting two teenagers.  I wore the Adventure Hat on day hikes in Yellowstone National Park and the Absaroka Mountains and when fishing on the Boulder and Yellowstone Rivers and Big Timber Creek.  No rain during the day, mixed sun and clouds with temperatures between 60 and 90 F (16-32 C), and occasional gusty winds.  In short, more wonderful Montana summer weather.  

I’ve also worn the hat on several day hikes around Dallas, in sunny and hot (100 F/36 C) weather.  Fortunately all my July baseball games have been at night.

PERFORMANCE

Fit is great, thanks to the adjustment feature of the Adventure Hat.  It’s easy, so easy that I can now do it one-handed, to loosen the fit when I’m walking through a dense forest or the wind dies down, which allows a bit more circulation around the crown of the hat to help the perspiration evaporate and cool me down a bit.  It’s likewise a one-handed job to cinch the stampede strap (chin cord) when the wind threatens to separate hat from owner.  The Adventure Hat’s large bill and brim can act as a wind-catcher, making manual adjustment of either the headband or strap a somewhat frequent activity.  

I really like the mesh panels, which I’ve found correspond nicely to the (few) parts of my head that still have reasonably normal-length hair.  The panels allow ventilation to keep my head relatively cool and dry without risking sunburn or requiring application of sunblock.  Good ventilation held true even in hot weather when hiking uphill with a 45-lb (20 kg) pack.  Much of our South Fork hike route traversed a large burn area, where forest cover varied from slim to none.  To my mind, after blocking the sun breathability is the real test of a sun hat, and the Adventure Hat passed with flying colors.  The mesh doesn’t get all the credit, as the gossamer crown fabric has breathed extremely well.  

Natural Bridge As for blocking the sun, the wide bill and brim on the Adventure Hat do as good a job at this as any hat I've worn.  That can be seen in the photo at right, taken at noon near the Natural Bridge on the Boulder River.  All my face is in shadow, typical of all times it was protected by the Adventure Hat.  The extra inch or so (2-3 cm) over other hats hasn’t drooped or otherwise interfered with visibility.  With a minor adjustment I can turn the bill slightly off-center to block sunlight from a particular angle.

From experience with similar hats I feared the long veil on the Adventure Hat might impede ventilation and constantly brush against my neck.  Instead I’ve scarcely noticed it’s there, again thanks to the lightweight fabric and extra-wide brim.  And the back of my neck, an easy place to miss a spot when applying sunscreen, hasn’t suffered any sunburn.

The hike to our South Fork campsite included light rain and mist, giving me the chance to test the Adventure Hat’s water resistance.  When it wasn’t actually raining I wore the Hat alone, as it was warm enough so that I didn’t want to compromise ventilation by pulling the hood of my jacket over my head.  The Hat repelled the mist and the occasional raindrop without absorbing water; at no time did it become damp on the underside, much less saturated. When it began to rain in earnest I popped my jacket hood over the Adventure Hat, scrunching the sides down but leaving the bill outside the hood.  Again no noticable wetting.  Excellent work, I’d say, for headgear neither advertised as nor expected by me to be even water repellant.  This performance is for me a big plus, as I don’t need to substitute another hat when only occasional rain is expected.  If prolonged precipitation is in the forecast, though, I’ll probably pick a waterproof topper.

The Adventure Hat has stood up well to frequent use and plenty of sweat.  All stitching is intact, and it hasn’t lost its shape.  Sunday Afternoons’ directions recommend rolling, not folding, the hat, but I confess to folding, compressing, and stuffing it into my pack when it’s not needed.  I certainly did this on our service trip work days, cramming the hat into my daypack so I wouldn’t leave it behind before heading back to camp.  The hat hasn’t lost its shape or any of its stitching despite such uncalled-for mistreatment.

The outside fabric has picked up some smudges, a few drops of wood stain, and the odd discoloration from unknown sources, but most have washed away.  The underside has stayed remarkably clean, even after a week of manual labor by its owner.  After two washings the inside looks almost like new, the accumulated grime on the band that runs across my forehead having vanished in the laundry.  Care is easy.  Following Sunday Afternoons’ directions, I’ve hand-washed the hat in powdered detergent (Ivory Flakes) and then hung it to air-dry.  In the dry air of North Texas it has been wearable after two hours.

SUMMARY

After two months I have nothing bad to say about the Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat, and much to like.

LONG TERM REPORT
October 12, 2010

FIELD CONDITIONS

I’ve worn the Adventure Hat on each day of two additional backpacking trips in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Idaho: a one-week service trip on the Shoshone Lake trail in mid-August, and a five-day llama-supported trek into the Bechler Meadows in the last week of August.  Throughout the four-month test period the Hat has graced my head on more than thirty days of backpacking and day hikes, plus several more fishing days.

We met with a bit of rain a couple of mornings, but otherwise the weather on the Shoshone Lake trip was great, though slightly warmer than I wished given our hard work fixing up the trail.  Highs reached into the upper 80s F (30 C +), and a good bit of our work was in direct sunlight.  Unlike my July service trip, noted in my Field Report, the Park Service required hard hats only when trees were being felled, so the Adventure Hat got a real workout. I wore it most of the time when working and throughout our hikes to and from our base camp.

Autumn was in the air on the Bechler trip, with temperatures never above 75 F (25 C) until our last day, when we hiked back to the Bechler Ranger Station at about 80 F (27 C).  Weather was overcast, with rain squalls and the occasional hail attack on two mornings, but otherwise sunny and bright.  As well as hiking to our camp and back to the trailhead, two days were spent fishing the Bechler River in the meadows, another hiking up to the hot springs at Dunanda Falls along Boundary Creek.  The Bechler Meadows are flat and wide-open country, with very few trees, which meant that I needed sun protection most of the time.

I’ve worn the hat on several other fishing days in Montana and Wyoming, all of them sunny, at temperatures from 60-90 F (16-32 C).  A few times I’ve worn it when doing outdoor chores at home in Texas, at temperatures up to 105 F (41 C).  But as I explain below, I consider the Adventure Hat primarily backcountry gear.  

OBSERVATIONS

This is one terrific sun hat.  I still haven’t found a single reason to complain about its performance.  

As described in my Field Report, adjusting the fit and chin cord is easy and foolproof. 

As for its main purpose, sun protection, the extra-wide bill and brim do as good a job of keeping my face in shadow as any hat I’ve ever owned, and so far I’ve had no problem with either one interfering with my field of vision.  

Bechler Meadows One detail noted in my Initial Report I found to be quite helpful.  The grey (called “zinc” by Sunday Afternoons) underside of the brim really does help reduce reflection, and that is much appreciated anytime I’m near water, i.e., when I’m fishing.  The Bechler Meadows offer no protection at all from the sun; you will note in the photograph a clear line of sight all the way to the Teton Range in the distance.  Even when wearing polarized sunglasses glare off the stream can interfere with vision and be a downright nuisance.  The darker fabric of the Adventure Hat truly helps.

The breathable fabric and mesh panels kept my head ventilated on the hottest days, even when I was engaged in vigorous aerobic activity like grading a new section of trail.  Some perspiration did drip down from my brow across my nose; I don’t think any cloth hat (for that matter, any hat at all) can wick away all perspiration.  The wicking strip at the front of the crown of the Adventure Hat gets most of it, though, and I cannot recall a sweat-in-the-eyes problem when simply hiking, as opposed to swinging an axe or pulaski.

After the second Yellowstone trip I hand-washed the hat again, with Ivory Flakes in cold water, and scrubbed with a sponge the few obviously dirty spots - wicking strip, a bird dropping on the brim, and a few inches of the front edge.  After two hours of air-drying the soiling was gone and the hat looked like new (well, almost).  Durability has been great, with not one loose stitch, bit of torn mesh, or fabric rent, even though I continue to mistreat it when I’m in the backcountry (see my Field Report).  

The only consequence of my disrespect for this fine hat can be seen in the photo above.  By not always (rarely, I must confess) rolling up the hat before storing it in my pack or tent, as recommended by its maker, the hat has developed a bit of a peak, making it look something like a pale blue nun’s habit.  The thus-misshapen hat still doesn’t impede my field of vision, however; I don’t notice it when I’m wearing the hat.  I emphasize, one, that this deformity is the result not of the manufacturer’s design but rather the owner’s carelessness and steadfast refusal to heed Sunday Afternoons’ advice, and, two, that the consequences are purely cosmetic and not at all functional.  

The few times I’ve worn the Adventure Hat in the rain indicate a fair degree of water resistance, though no hat with mesh can be totally waterproof.  In heavier rain I simply pull the hood of my rain shell over the Adventure Hat.  This may mean a bill that’s damp for a spell, but the fabric dries very quickly after the rain stops.  The Hat also doesn’t provide much warmth at night, and when the sun goes down I swap it for a wool cap.  

The reason I don’t wear the Adventure Hat much in the front country similarly does not reflect on utility.  It’s simple vanity; I just don’t think the Hat has the style of a panama hat (as another of my backcountry hats does) or the panache of a bush hat.  No matter – all that means is that the better-looking hats may be relegated to front country use during the summer.  I’m sold on the Adventure Hat for spring and summer hiking and fishing.  I’ve honored this hat by awarding my highest decoration, studding the crown with spent fishing flies, a sure sign I’ll continue to wear it for as long as it lasts.  That, judging by the past four months, will be a good long time.

THE GOOD  

Great at keeping the sun out of my eyes and off my neck
Lightweight
Best breathability of any hiking hat I’ve owned
Durable even when abused by its owner

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

I still can’t think of a thing.

My Test Report ends here, with a big “thank you” to Sunday Afternoons and BackpackGearTest.org.





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