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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

Initial Report - April 23, 2010

Field Report - June 29, 2010

Long Term Report - August 24, 2010


Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 56
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 225 lbs (102 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

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.

Initial Report

Product Facts

Product Information
Manufacturer
Tilley Endurables The Hat
Manufacturer website
http://www.tilley.com
Year manufactured
2010
Model
TWC5 Tilley Outback Hat - Men's
Color tested
British Tan (no other colors currently available)
Size tested
7 7/8
MSRP
$74 US
Weight (specs)
4.7 oz (133 g
Weight (measured)
5.4 oz (153 g), the discrepancy between the manufacturer's weight and my measurement is likely due to the large size I am testing
Material
100% cotton (waxed)

The TWC5 Tilley Outback Hat is designed for challenging outdoor use.  Its features include:
  • Sun protection, provided by a moderate brim and UPF 50+ rating
  • Comfort from a loose fit, a large number of sizes, preshrunk to maintain fit, and a soft sweat band inside the brim
  • Loss protection: front and rear wind cords, it floats if it falls in the water, and in the event of a loss there is a spot to record the owner's name and phone number under the lid
  • Storage: wind cords stow inside the hat, there is a hook-and-loop closure pocket for a key or ID, and a hook-and-loop closure for sunglass temples inside the hat if the glasses are stowed through the hat grommets
  • Washable for cleanliness and long-duration use
  • Rain repellent
  • Brim is highly adjustable for varying weather conditions or styling purposes

Initial Inspection

The 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 Experiences

I 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.

inside the hatThe 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:

sunglasses stowed

First Impressions

I am looking forward to experimenting with the hat on my hikes.  My initial thoughts include the following.

Kudos:

  • Good comfort with the loose fit and the soft internal sweat band
  • Brim is very adjustable for different conditions
  • Front/aft wind cord should keep the hat on in wind when secured
  • Nice storage pocket in lid
  • It floats, but I'm unlikely to need that here in the Sonoran desert
  • Nice idea to provide sunglass storage

Concerns:

  • I do have a concern that the loose fit might cause the hat to fly off in a sudden unexpected gust of wind, but time will tell
  • My sunglasses do not seem reliably secured, but experience will be the judge of how well they hold on

Field Report

Field Use

Date
Saturday May 1, 2010
Saturday May 8, 2010 to Saturday May 15, 2010 Sunday May 30, 2010 Monday May 31, 2010 Saturday June 12, 2010 Tuesday June 22, 2010
Location
Catalina State Park and Coronado National Forest just North of Tucson, Arizona
Streets and paths of various cities in Switzerland: Lucerne, Zug, Lugano & Berne Globe, Arizona Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona Tortolita Mountains near Tucson, Arizona Picacho Peak State Park
Trail
Sutherland: exceptionally rocky, as some segments are horse and/or ATV use
Cobblestone streets and paths Round Mountain Trail, just north of the city Linda Vista Wild Burro Around south side of Picacho Peak
Distance
8.2 miles (13.2 km)
~6 miles (9.7 km) total for the week 3.3 miles (5.3 km) 3 miles (4.8 km) 5.5 miles (8.9 km) 4.3 miles (6.9 km)
Terrain
High desert
Cobblestone streets and paths, some flat (around lakes), some more steep (Lugano) High desert mountain Mountain foothills Desert wash, very sandy Mountain foothills
Weather
70F (21 C) mostly sunny and breezy
50-60 F (10-16C) mostly cloudy & rain with a few patches of sun
70F (21 C), sunny 80 F (27 C), sunny 85 F (29 C), sunny 95 F (35 C)
sunny
Altitude range
2700 ft to 4100 ft (820 m to 1250 m)
900-1400 ft
(275-425 m)
3600-4200 ft
(1100-1280 m)
2500-3150 ft
(760-960 m)
2700-3300 ft
(823-1006 m)
1850-2325 ft
(564-709 m)

Usage Notes

Sutherland TrailSutherland 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.

Swiss TilleySwitzerland 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.

Summary

This is a fabulous hat.  In addition to the conclusions from my Initial Report:

Kudos:

  • It actually stays on in the wind most of the time.  Considering the 30-40 mile/hour winds (48-64 km/hour) I was hiking in at times, that's pretty darn good.
  • The back strap does a good job of helping keep the hat on my head in most conditions, yet I hardly know its there.
  • I noticed no degradation or wear of the product during my use.
  • Packing/traveling with this hat is fabulous.  It is great the way it can be stowed anywhere.
  • I am used to the fit of this hat now, and I really like the loose feel.

Concerns:

  • Brim size may not be appropriate for hiking in conditions where the neck must be protected from the sun.
  • I am interested to see how it performs in very high heat.

Long Term Report

Field Use

Date
Saturday July 10 through Sunday July 11, 2010
Friday August 13 through Sunday August 15, 2010
Location
Aravaipa Canyon wilderness north of Tucson Arizona Pinaleno Mountains near Safford, Arizona
Trail
This was a canyoneering hike with a mostly unmarked trail Ash Creek: very steep canyon descent
Distance
10.6 miles (17.1 km) over 2 days 8.2 miles (13.2 km) over 2 days
Terrain
Canyon bottom with ankle to knee-height water, gravel, sand and rocks Sky Island canyon: rocky trail, steep descent & ascent, some wet conditions
Weather
85-100 F (29-38 C) with high humidity and a few raindrops 50-75 F (10-24 C), rain during the evening, sunny during the day
Altitude range
2600-3000 ft
(800-900 m)
9500-6900 ft
(2900-2100 m)

Usage Notes

Aravaipa CanyonAravaipa 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 morning Aravaipa light
Tilley Outback in the morning Aravaipa Canyon light

Outback on the Ash Creek trailAsh 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.


Sweat-stained hatWhen I returned from the hike the Outback hat was starting to get pretty well sweat-stained.  As the photo at left indicates the sweat seemed to bleed through the stitching, and in fact at the top of the vertical stitches in the photo some built-up salt crystals are evident.

This hike was near the end of the test period, so I thought I'd give the hat a wash to see how well it cleaned up.  As is visible in the photo below, it came out of the wash as well as could be expected.  I washed it in warm water, with a cold rinse, followed by a normal setting in the dryer.  I was quite pleased at how well the hat looked after 4 months!


Clean Outback
Tilley Outback all cleaned up!

Summary

The Tilley Outback hat has performed well under most all conditions.  It has stayed on my head most of the time, traveled well, and gave me good protection most of the time.  I wish it had a slightly larger brim for more sun protection, but I guess then it would not look like a "Outback" hat!  My bottom line is this will now become my hat of choice for Fall, Winter and Spring.  During the summer I will revert to a lighter-weight hat with a wider brim.

In addition to the notes from the Field Test:

Kudos:

  • Has held up well in the sun without fading.
  • No staining problems with salt-heavy sweat soaking the hat.
  • Washes up exceptionally well - looked like new!
  • Overall, this hat seems really "bomber", like it would last for years.

Concerns:

  • Not a great summer desert hat -- the brim could be a little larger for the conditions I hike in, and the hat is not particularly cool to wear in hot weather with its heavier fabric.
  • I never did store my sunglasses in the holes and hook-and-loop retainer strap.  Seemed like too much hassle to stow them there.  I normally just perched them on the hat (see below).
Sunglasses perched on hat

Many thanks to Tilley Endurables and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.



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