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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > Tilley Outback Hat TWC5 > Test Report by Kurt Papke
TWC5 Tilley Outback Hat
Test Series by Kurt Papke
My backpacking background has primarily been in the Minnesota area where I have lived most of my adult life. I recently moved to Tucson to take a new job, and am excitedly exploring the surrounding mountain ranges. When hiking in Arizona I always wear a hat to avoid sunburn and to stay cool.
The TWC5 Tilley Outback Hat is designed for challenging outdoor use. Its features include:
Initial InspectionThe hat comes with a 4-page instruction manual. In case that is misplaced, the care instructions are printed (embroidered really) on a label inside the lid:
"Wash frequently to ensure sweat will not permanently discolour fabric. Reshape, air dry, re-stretch over knee. Machine-dry low every few washes to restore water repellancy."Upon close examination the hat appears to be of very uniform color, no loose or mis-sewn threads, no defects of any kind. This is high-quality manufacturing. I removed three tags that were attached with one plastic cord, and the hat was ready to use.
Initial ExperiencesI put the hat on my head. "Dang, I must have measured my size incorrectly, it feels too big". I read the instructions: I am supposed to be able to (snugly) fit two fingers under the brim. I shove two fingers under the brim, and the hat is very snug. That is how it supposed to fit. It feels unnatural, too comfortable to be right. Isn't a hat supposed to constrict the blood flow to my brain?
It's a windy spring night in Tucson, I can hear it howling through my windows. I loosen up the wind cords, and fit them to my head size. I go out in the stiff wind, the hat does not fly off. I tuck the front cord into the hat as the instructions say I should be able to do in a moderate wind, put the hat back on, the hat does not levitate off. It is voodoo magic from what I can tell.
I gently shape the brim to give me that suave Aussie look. The brim responds to my commands. I am suddenly Crocodile Dundee incarnate. More magic.
I have poked at Tilley hats for years in stores, never purchasing one as I thought no hat could possibly be worth the price. For once in my life I may have been wrong.
The photo at left shows the hat looking down into the interior, with it oriented as if I was about to put the hat on. As the instructions indicate, I can tell which is the front and back of the hat by checking if the instructions are right-side up. Yet another nice design feature.
The last section of the text indicates the detailed washing instructions. Good place to have them, as I'll likely misplace the printed instructions in no time. The text of the instructions appears to be embroidered into the fabric, so it should be very permanent.
Shown on the left side of the picture are part of my Ryders Vigor sunglasses (see my review on the BGT website) stowed in the hat as the instructions indicate with the temple tips inserted through the grommets, and the tips held in place by the hook-and-loop closure. The grommets seem a little too close together for my glasses. I have a very large head as witnessed by my hat size, but sunglasses only come in one size, so I would have thought I'd have had the opposite problem where the grommets were too far apart.
Visible towards the bottom of the picture is the ID tag, where I've written my name. Just above that is the opening for the storage pocket, which came supplied with a small zip-top bag containing some "brag sheets".
The picture below shows a side view of the hat with my Ryders sunglasses in stowage, and looking somewhat precariously perched:
First ImpressionsI am looking forward to experimenting with the hat on my hikes. My initial thoughts include the following.
Usage NotesSutherland Trail: this was a fairly gradual but steady climb of 1400 ft (425 m) on an exceptionally rocky trail. It was fairly cool, so I had no issues with my head getting overly warm. It took me a little while to get accustomed to the loose fit, but once I did so I really liked the feel. The wind gusted up to around 25 miles/hour (40 km/hour) and at no time did the hat want to blow off my head. I was quite surprised how well it stayed on, though I was using the back strap which I really liked because it is so innocuous.
The photo at right depicts the hat on the trail with the red "flags" of blooming ocotillos behind me. It was a wet winter here in Arizona and the spring blooms were spectacular.
Switzerland trip: the Tilley hat accompanied me to Europe smashed in my luggage. For the first time I appreciated the "go anywhere" aspect; this hat can be shoved into any nook or cranny and pop out ready to wear. We didn't have much sun on this trip. It was pretty rainy most days, but got a little break in Berne and Lugano and I wore the hat in those cities. I didn't have anyone come up to me and ask me if I was Australian, a bit of a disappointment.
The picture at left shows a horrible picture of my face, but an attractive Tilley Outback hat on my head, Lake Lugano and Italy in the background.
Hot weather hiking: the Wild Burro Trail and Picacho Peak hikes were not all that hot for Tucson, but I did break a sweat. The sweat did soak up into the Tilley hat. I didn't feel overly warm, but we'll see how it does in the next few months as the temperatures maintain over 100 F (38 C). One thing I did notice is it is possible for me to get a sunburn on the back of my neck while wearing this hat. The brim is not oversized by any means, and hiking away from the sun in the morning or afternoon can result in too much sun exposure.
Wind/straps: I did wear the hat one morning on a tram tour in Sabino Canyon. I actually had to use the chin strap, and I was glad it was there as the wind was whipping through the canyon, and if it had fallen off I certainly would have lost it as the tram was not about to stop. After exiting the tram, I stowed the chinstrap and used just the strap for the back of my head, and the hat immediately flew off in the wind.
On a related note, during the Wild Burro Canyon hike the wind was blowing hard up the canyon. I used only the back strap, and it worked well walking up-canyon with the wind at my back, but when walking back out into the wind I had the hat blow off my head again.
SummaryThis is a fabulous hat. In addition to the conclusions from my Initial Report:
Usage NotesAravaipa Canyon: This was a canyoneering trip, though an easy one as there are no steep ascents or descents, just a lot of walking in the water and gravel.
It was hot during this two-day backpack trip, and quite humid as well due to the presence of the river and the impending thunderstorms. The sky was a mix of sunshine and overcast, but there was enough sun that I got a light sunburn on my arms, and just at the base of the neck where the Outback hat did not sufficiently protect me.
In looking at this picture and the one below I am coming to the conclusion that the brim of this hat is just a little bit too small for my use in summer Sonoran Desert conditions. It is not quite protective enough. It also seems a bit warm in hot, humid weather due to the heavy fabric and minimal ventilation.
Tilley Outback in the morning Aravaipa Canyon light
Ash Creek: This hike was a little cooler (temperature) than what I have been doing lately, as it was at quite an altitude. There was also some shade as a lot of the hiking was through pine forest, so the hat brim size was not much of an issue. The picture at right is representative of the terrain.
It rained a bit on Saturday night, and I had hung up the hat on a tree branch with the thought that it would dry out a bit overnight. The hat got rained on and was a bit damp in the morning, but no problems. It dried quickly and held its shape nicely while still wet.
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