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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Tilley Endurables Audubon Hat > Test Report by Hollis Easter

Tilley Audubon Hat
Test Series by Hollis Easter

Initial Report - 15 September 2009
Field Report - 24 November 2009
Long-Term Report - 26 January 2010

The Tilley Audubon Hat is a lightweight hat made of synthetic fabrics and designed for comfort.

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Tilley Audubon Hat with tags

Reviewer Information:

The author
The author

Name: Hollis Easter
Age: 28
Gender: Male
Height: 6'0" (1.8 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Head circumference: 24 in (61 cm)
Email address: backpackgeartest[a@t)holliseaster(dah.t]com
City, State, Country: Potsdam, New York, USA
Backpacking Background: I started hiking as a child in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. As a teenager, I hiked my way to an Eagle Scout award. I love winter climbing, and long days through rough terrain abound. The peaks have become my year-round friends. I also love climbing rock and ice.

I am a midweight backpacker: I don't carry unnecessary gear, but neither do I cut the edges from my maps. I hike in all seasons, at altitudes from sea level to 5,300 ft (1,600 m), and in temperatures from -30 F (-34 C) to 100 F (38 C).

Product Information:

Manufacturer: Tilley Endurables
Year of manufacture: 2009
URL: www.tilley.com
Listed dimensions (brim): Front: 2 5/8 in (6.6 cm) Back: 2 3/4 in (6.9 cm) Sides: 2 1/8 in (5.3 cm)
Measured dimensions: identical to the manufacturer's specifications
Listed weight: about 3 oz (about 85 g)
Actual weight (size 7 3/4): 3.4 oz (98 g)
Color: Olive
MSRP: $74 US

Product features (from manufacturer materials):

  • Guaranteed for life
  • Insured against loss
  • Excellent sun protection
  • Repels rain
  • Ties on in the wind
  • Machine washable (won't shrink)
  • Secret pocket for holding small valuables
  • Sales support the mission of the Audubon Society
  • Made of Tilley Nylamtium (93% nylon, 7% Spandex)

Initial Report - 15 September 2009:

Trying on the Tilley Audubon
Trying on the Tilley Audubon

The Tilley Audubon Hat is a re-branded version of the Tilley LTM5 Airflo hat, a lightweight hat made of a synthetic fabric that's designed to keep the sun and rain off while remaining very comfortable. Tilley Endurables has chosen to support the Audubon Society by donating the profits from the Tilley Audubon Hat: a worthwhile endeavor, in my view.

I first ran across Tilley Hats more than ten years ago while playing bagpipes at the North American Pipe Band Championships in Maxville, Ontario, and I've been intrigued ever since. I have an unusually large head (please, forgo the clever comments!) and have often found it difficult to find a comfortable hat, so Tilley's claim to make hats for all heads resonated for me.

The Audubon sports a narrower brim than many Tilley hats, so I'll be interested to see how it performs--I like a wide brim on my hats. In design, the hat is fairly simple: a circular brim reinforced with a wire of some sort, a stitched fabric crown and top, a ventilated section in the top of the crown. As with so many things, though, the difference is in the details.

The quality of stitching on the Audubon Hat is very high. All the stitches are tight, and none of the fabric seems bunched or strained, which impresses me given my experience with sewing hats. There's some form of 3D mesh stitched around the crown of the hat, allegedly to provide for ventilation. While I'm up there looking at the crown, I'll note that this is my first hat to come with instructions! They're stitched right into the inside of the crown; among other things, they let me know that my hat was "handcrafted with Canadian persnicketiness", and that I should machine wash it on "delicate" or hand-wash it in cool water to preserve its beauty and function. There's a secret pocket with hook-and-loop closure underneath the instructions, too.

When it arrives from the factory, the secret pocket holds a plastic zipper bag with eight "Brag Tags" inside: these are little tear-off pieces of paper with information about how to get yourself a Tilley Hat of your very own. Tilley Endurables maintains that Tilley Hats are so stylish that their owners are often complimented on the hats, and that owners can frequently go through many Brag Tags. I hate to admit it, but I think they're right: I put on the hat as I was leaving work today, and two of my co-workers asked for information about getting their own hats. So now I'm down to six Brag Tags, which also makes my hat even lighter.

There's a sweatband inside the hat, allegedly made of Hydrofil wicking fabric. I don't know how well it wicks moisture yet, but it's certainly very soft and comfortable. The hat also features a pair of looped "wind cords", which offer the wearer a chance to tie the hat on in windy conditions. Tilley recommends starting with the rear cord, and then adding the chin cord if the weather is truly foul. The cords are simple to tension by sliding some knots along the rear cord. I think the cords are made out of olive green shoelaces. In any case, they're comfortable and soft.

I've recently gotten myself addicted to kayaking, so it comes as some relief to learn that my new Tilley will float thanks to layers of foam in the crown and brim. Thanks, Tilley!

The hat is made of Tilley Nylamtium, which they claim is a form of nylon that's resistant to both water and mildew. It also stretches a little bit, which is nice.

Let's talk about fit for a moment. I hate a tight hat. I followed the instructions on Tilley's (excellent) web site for sizing my hat, and discovered that I was between sizes. I contacted their customer support people and asked what they recommended; they directed me toward the larger size. So I have a 7 3/4 Tilley Hat. Tilley says that the hat should fit comfortably, with no pressure on the forehead and no friction on the forehead if I turn the hat. They say it should be held on by gravity.

Inside the Tilley Hat
Inside the Tilley Hat

Well, we're mostly there. The hat certainly stays on my head thanks to something other than gravity, since it won't fall off when I hang upside down. I can place two fingers under the sweatband while wearing it, though it isn't "easy". I don't know how I should have chosen a different size, given that I used their size chart and then got a larger size.

All that technical stuff aside, though, the hat is very comfortable. I get a bit of pressure on my forehead, but it's far less than with any hat I've ever worn. The hat doesn't fall off on its own, but that may have silver linings: when I'm in the mountains, I don't want my hat falling off just because I'm looking upward.

A few brief notes about customer service. Tilley's people are great. Their customer service department is responsive, friendly, and informed. I think they deserve a lot of credit for that, and I appreciate their efforts. Tilley also offers two rather unusual policies for Tilley owners: insurance and a stellar warranty. By "insurance", they mean that if I lose my Tilley hat within two years of buying it, they'll replace it for half-price, no questions asked. That's pretty good, but the real gem comes in the warranty. In these days of "guaranteed for 30 days unless you actually use it in the woods" warranties, Tilley's guarantee stands out. It's very simple: "Tilleys are replaced free if they ever wear out, shrink or fall apart." They'll even honor the warranty if it's claimed by someone other than the original owner, and they recommend that Tilley owners pass their hats on to other people. Impressive.

So far, I'm really liking the Tilley Audubon Hat. Minor gripes would include the narrow brim (since I prefer a larger one), and a bit of confusion about the sizing. However, it's comfortable, light, sharp-looking, and easy to adjust, and I am very happy wearing it around town. I'm looking forward to taking it out into the field!

Field Report - 24 November 2009:

During this period, I wore the Audubon Hat on five field days; I also wore it as my standard hat for yard work, brief hikes (two hours or less), and trips into town. I like it.

Field Conditions:

Hanging out in the Audubon
Hanging out in the Audubon

September 6, 2009: Kayaking Upper Saranac Lake

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
70 F (21 C) up to 15 mph (24 kph) not known

My Dad and I did a relatively short paddle around Upper Saranac Lake to do some Geocaching and have lunch. We did a bit of hiking on one of the islands while looking for a cache, then paddled around. When we reached the landing area, I practiced Eskimo rolling and did my first successful kayak rolls! Woohoo! Total distance paddled was probably about 4 miles (6 km).

September 12-14, 2009: Duck Hole and Mountain Pond

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
40 F (4 C) to 70 F (21 C) up to 15 mph (24 kph) around 1,500 ft (460 m)

A friend and I hiked along long-disused lumber roads from Coreys Road to Duck Hole, one of the wildest places in the Adirondack park. In many places, the trail sees so little foot traffic as to be almost indistinguishable from the surrounding forest, and it took some skill to remain on the right path. I was surprised to see how quickly the forest has filled in this once-busy corridor.

At Duck Hole, we spent a very enjoyable evening listening to the resident chorus of loons. It began to rain overnight, and we waited out the morning rain inside a lean-to while listening to the loons. We returned by the same route and camped near Mountain Pond before heading to the airport on the morning of the 14th. Total distance hiked was about 23 miles (37 km). The second night was clear and starry, and therefore quite cold.

October 31, 2009: Hurricane Mtn

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
45 F (7 C) gusts to 54.1 mph (87.1 kph) 3,694 ft (1,126 m)

Several friends and I made the 1,600 ft (488 m) climb to Hurricane Mtn in the eastern Adirondack Mountains to celebrate Halloween. We'd planned to wear costumes for the event (and had, actually, intended to climb a different peak) but the weather forecast made us select a less-exposed route. On the summit, I measured sustained winds that approached 50 mph (80 kph), which was neat: when I jumped into the air, I would land a couple of feet away from where I began. Total distance was about 6 miles (10 km).

Commentary:

Keep on truckin'
Keep on truckin'

To begin, let me say that the Tilley Audubon remains one of the most comfortable hats I've ever worn. Although it's tight enough that it stays on even when I'm hanging upside down, it doesn't compress my forehead or make me feel as though my head is in a vise. Since I wear a hat on just about every hiking trip, I'm grateful for one that feels as nice as this one does.

I'm particularly fond of the flocked headband, which feels really great against my forehead. There are no rough seams to bother my skin, either.

I find that the chin cords sometimes flop down when I'm putting the hat on, and this can make the hat seem too tight. There's an easy solution that's a bit hard to describe in print: I "flick" the hat up and back while putting it on, and this keeps the cords out of the way until the hat is securely situated on my head. Works for me!

The hat is so light that I sometimes forget I'm wearing it—a really nice feature! When I've taken the hat off and stowed it in my pack, I've found that the brim comes out looking a bit rumpled, but without any major structural problems. I suspect that Tilley uses some sort of flat plastic brim reinforcement, judging by what I can feel through the fabric, and it seems to handle folding with equanimity.

The hat still looks, feels, and smells new after two months of frequent wear. I haven't felt the need to wash it, which is great! I find that it's still a bit warmer than I'd like during the non-winter months, since I'm used to wearing straw hats with amazing ventilation. It's pretty good, though, and it protects against rain a great deal better than any hat I've worn. The brim is stiff enough that it sheds rain out away from my eyes, and I haven't noticed rain seeping through the fabric or running in along the brim. It's a real asset in wet conditions.

The relatively narrow brim has been a mixed blessing for me. It doesn't interfere with my pack, which is nice. However, I've noticed myself getting more of a sunburn than usual on days when I wear the hat. I always use sunscreen, but I suspect that I sweat it off pretty quickly. Combine that with my long face and I've got a recipe for sunburn. When the test is done, I think I'll go looking for a Tilley with a wider brim; for now, I love the Audubon!

Summary:

At this point, I still really like the Audubon. I had expected to be hiking in snow by late November, but it's been a really warm year, so I'll have to wait until the Long-Term Report to talk about winter weather. The hat is comfortable, light, sharp-looking, and durable. I like it!

Long-Term Report - 26 January 2010:

During this period, I wore the Tilley Audubon Hat on six hiking days, plus a great many yard work and around-town days. It has become my favorite hat, and it usually lives in my car (ready for use at a moment's notice).

Field Conditions:

Winter at last on Lyon Mountain
Winter at last on Lyon Mountain

November 29, 2009: Lyon Mountain and Catamount Mtn

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
35 F (2 C) up to 15 mph (24 kph) 3,820 ft (1,164 m) and 3,168 ft (966 m)

Two friends and I set out for an early-winter warmup on two northern peaks in the Adirondacks. We did a loop climb of the new and old trails on Lyon Mountain, for a total distance of approximately 9 miles (15 km). We then proceeded to Catamount, a smaller peak that blends hiking and scrambling. We made it through the rock chimney and over some exposed rock, but we were stymied by verglas on the upper summit. We decided that discretion was the better part of valor and, tails between our legs, retreated. We'll be back. Total distance on Catamount was approximately 4 miles (6 km).

December 6, 2009: Mount Arab and Mount Morris

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
10 F (-12 C) up to 21 mph (34 kph) 2,545 ft (776 m) and ~3,200 ft (~975 m)

We ran up Mount Arab to warm up for the day's exploration of the disused ski slopes on the flanks of Mount Morris, one of the higher peaks in the northwestern Adirondacks. Standing on the summit, I looked out at Santanoni Peak and remembered the life of my friend, Dan Wills, who had died in a plane crash on Santanoni a few weeks before. It felt right to honor his memory from a mountaintop. Total distance was about 8 miles (13 km).

December 19, 2009: Cascade and Porter Mountains

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
5 F (-15 C) to -19 F (-29 C) up to 22 mph (35 kph) 4,098 ft (1,249 m) and 4,059 ft (1,237 m)

We celebrated the last weekend before official winter climbing season with a trip up some of the easier High Peaks. The temperature on the summit was amply cold to furnish icicles in my new beard. We saw lots of people and had some gorgeous views! Total distance was around 7 miles (11 km).

December 21, 2009: Ice climbing at Azure Mountain

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
0 F (-18 C) up to 15 mph (24 kph) not relevant

A friend and I went to scope out the early-season ice on the south flanks of Azure Mountain, our favorite local ice-climbing venue. Conditions were thin but climbable; we had a great time. Total distance was about 2 miles (3 km).

December 31, 2009: Cross-country skiing at Clarkson University

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
32 F (0 C) none not relevant

My first day of cross-country skiing in 15 years was a blast, if a trifle awkward. We did some moonlit skiing. The Tilley Hat did a great job of keeping snow out of my jacket, which was good since I didn't want to be all bundled up. We skied about 2 miles (3 km).

January 1, 2010: Cross-country skiing at Clarkson University

Temperature:Wind:Elevation:
32 F (0 C) none not relevant

Every year, our local outdoors club has a New Year's Gathering to ski or snowshoe the trails at Clarkson University. Emboldened by the previous evening's skiing, we decided to venture off-trail into the hilly woods around the campus. Lots of fun, although some of the terrain was a bit too advanced for me.

The Tilley Audubon Hat did a fantastic job of keeping snow out of my shirt. Since we were bushwhacking (skishwhacking?), we dislodged a lot of snow onto ourselves, and the Tilley Hat protected me really well. The brim is sturdy enough to hold up to a pretty substantial snow load.

Commentary:

I finally got the chance to try the Audubon in snowy conditions! As expected, it does a lovely job of preventing snow from falling down the collar of my jacket. The stiff brim helps with this. The hat's Nylamtium synthetic fabric also seems to resist wetting through when my body heat melts snow on the hat.

I think my hat fits a bit more tightly than Tilley recommends, but this has proven to be an advantage. When bushwhacking, the hat stays on my head even when maleficent trees attempt to snatch it from my pate.

Although the chin strap fits perfectly well, I tend to forget about it. When the weather is really windy, I end up leaving the hat in my pack (as I did on Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak Ridge, a hike that I therefore left off the field conditions list).

Despite its somewhat rough lifestyle, the hat still looks almost brand new. There is no damage from being stuck by trees, and the fabric shows no signs of abrasion. There are some bend marks from where the brim curves over my ears, but no signs of damage. I give the Audubon excellent marks for durability. Even though I sweat a great deal while hiking, the hat has no odor and shows no salt stains.

Here's looking at you, kid
Here's looking at you, kid

Summary:

I really like the Tilley Audubon Hat. Although I prefer a wider brim, this hat has earned a permanent place on my hat rack. Its construction is of impressively high quality, and it has proven to be very durable. It fits comfortably, can survive being crumpled up in my pack, and even looks good!

In my book, any hat that feels good, looks good, works well, and lasts a long time deserves high marks. The Tilley Audubon delivers.

Likes:Dislikes:
  • Comfortable fit
  • Light weight
  • Attractive styling
  • Amazing warranty
  • Excellent web site
  • Sheds rain very well
  • Sheds snow very well
  • Survives being crushed and folded
  • Brim narrower than I'd like, which leads to sunburn
  • Fit is a bit hard to specify from online size chart
  • Warmer than I'd prefer

I thank BackpackGearTest.org and Tilley Endurables for allowing me to test the Audubon Hat.



Read more reviews of Tilley gear
Read more gear reviews by Hollis Easter

Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Tilley Endurables Audubon Hat > Test Report by Hollis Easter



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