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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > White Rock Gear Outback Classic Hat > Test Report by Andre Corterier

White Rock Outback Classic Hat

Test Report by André Corterier
Initial Report May 2008
Field Report August 2008
Long Term Report October 2008

White Rock Outback Classic Hat

Personal Biographical Information:
Name: André Corterier
Gender: M
Age: 36
Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight: 80 kg (175 lb)
Email: andreDOTcorterierATfreenetDOTde
Home: Bonn, Germany

Backpacking Background:
I have started out with backpacking slowly – single-day 24 km (15 mi) jaunts by myself or even shorter hikes in the company of my little daughter. I am getting started on longer hikes, as a lightweight packer and hammock-camper. I’ve begun upgrading my old gear and am now carrying a dry FSO weight (everything carried From the Skin Out except food, fuel and water) of less than 9 kg (20 lb) for three-season camping.

Year of manufacture: 2007 ?
Manufacturer: Specialist Optical Ltd.
URL: http://whiterockoutdoor.co.uk/
MSRP: not listed
tested colour: Olive

listed weight: n/a
measured weight: 132 g (4.66 oz) - size L


Introduction:
The White Rock Outback Classic Hat is a wide-brimmed sun hat. It features ventilation holes (with a small grille made from very tiny wire to keep out bugs) near the top, metal snaps on the sides to put up the brim and a chin cord. Less immediately visible are the "Hydro Cool" crystals inside the headband, "Bug Off" insect-repellent treatment and passport/security pocket. It is supposedly Teflon coated for water and stain resistance and tested to provide the strongest possible sun protection.

The website of the manufacturer makes several claims in describing the features of this hat, and I'll go through them:

Hydro Cool Crystals:

"These hats will actively cool you. There are special ‘water loving’ Hydro Cool crystals stitched into the front of the inner headband of the hat. If you need to cool down simply soak the front section of the headband in water for about 3 minutes - the crystals will absorb and retain the water. Put the hat on and feel the immediate cooling effect. Depending on the temperature the Hydro Cool crystals will keep cooling you for days and are fully re-useable – simply re- hydrate the crystals as above. The Hydro Cool crystals are non-toxic, non-flammable and non-hazardous."
I'll be very interested to see the effect of these. Of course, I am given to wonder why they are stitched only into the front of the headband, though I admit that it's probably where they'll do the most good. I'm used to relying on evaporative cooling by wetting the hat I'm wearing, particularly if on the water or at a water resupply point. However, I've been partial to the type of techy material that provides good rain protection as well, and have found that these hats don't soak up much water, thereby reducing the possible cooling effect. The coming months should provide ample opportunity to test just how much cooling this feature is able to provide and I'll be sure to report on it.

Upon delivery, there just appears to be something inside the headband which feels like a lump of sugar. Soaking it for a few minutes turns this into a gel-like substance which I was able to spread around the larger part of the inside of the front headband (by feel). Wearing the hat thereafter does cool, though this feels cool simply in the way wetting the headband does. I went and mowed the lawn with it and have to admit that the headband felt wet (and therefore, slightly cool) for the entire hour and a half I spent out in the sun.

Teflon Coating:

"These hats will keep you dry. The fabric is Teflon coated and is therefore water and stain resistant."
Well, when I soaked the inside of the headband under the tap, I ended up with the inside of the hat full of water and can report that the water did not penetrate the fabric of the hat. It looked more waterproof than -resistant, for which I'm happy. We'll see about stain resistant...

White Rock Outback Classic Hat (front view)

Bug Off Feature:

"These hats will help repel insects. They are treated with Bug Off which uses mentho glycol, one of the most effective natural insect repellents in the world today."
Well, I have to take their word for it (for now). I'll be sure to wear this hat along the little creek in the valley nearby this summer, which is always rife with mosquitoes and will report on the perceived efficacy of this feature (or lack thereof).

X-Lite Micro Fibre:

"30% less weight and a great soft feel."
I'm a little surprised at this statement. My old rain/sun hat (which I lost on a weeklong hike last year) felt softer and was lighter. However, it was also quite sloppy while the White Rock Outback Hat has a nice, stiff brim which I appreciate already. The hat feels quite solid. It also has a tag inside which says "100% Cotton". The feel of the hat corresponds to heavy cotton canvas, so that's what I assume it's made of.

SPF 30+/UPF 50+:

"These hats will help protect you from the harmful effects of the suns [sic] radiation. All materials used have been tested according to British Standard 7914:1998 by the National Radiological Protection Board and by the A.A.T.C.C. in the United States and were awarded the highest possible sun protection rating."
Well, that's nice to know. The fabric sure seems thick enough not to allow sunlight through, so I'm pretty sure I won't get sunburned where I'm actually shaded by the hat. I'm almost certain hats fulfilled this function long before the advent of high-tech fabrics and modern testing standards simply by virtue of providing shade. Which is kind of the point of a sun hat. But, hey - I do believe the material protects from the sun and am happy to see that the brim is wide enough to keep my face and most of my neck in the shade as well. Whether the extent of coverage is enough for my skin is what I'll be testing.

Anti-Bacterial Headband:

"The hat will stay ‘sweet’. The inner headband is anti-bacterially treated which means it will reduce odour."
Okay. I'm not sure how to test for this specifically - I wore a hat all day in weather reported to have been 45 C (113 F) in the shade, with the only shade I had been in for much of the day having been produced by said hat, without it smelling bad. But I'll be sure to give this hat's headband an experimental sniff after periods of hard use and, specifically, towards the end of the Long Term testing period four months from now.

Chin Strap:

"Even in the strongest wind the hats will stay on when using the elasticated Chin Cord."
The chin cord is present, it's a bit of bungee cord with a toggle on it. The strap is pretty long, it hangs down to my sternum when I wear the hat. The strap comes down over my ears, unless I've put on the hat at a bit of a rakish angle, in which case it comes down in front of my ear on one side and behind the ear on the other. It appears as though it's easy to set the toggle for a tightness that's still comfortable yet appears as though it would be conducive to keeping the hat on my head even in a breeze. Of course I'll have to check just how well that works once I encounter a real breeze.

Passport/Security Pocket:

"The hat contains a ‘hidden’ pocket in its crown, big enough to hold a passport or money."
Well, yes. It does. I've checked to find that even my entire wallet fits in there, though it then rests uncomfortably on the crown of my skull. The pocket is a second layer of the heavy canvas material the hat is made of, apparently also Teflon- coated (when I soaked the Hydro Crystals, this pocket filled up with water and it took me a while to get it all out). The flap closes with a hook-and-loop fastener.

I guess I'll try carrying something in there for a while for testing purposes, but am pretty sure it won't be my passport or money. I find a hat *way* too easy to lose. In fact, I may be tempted to cut out that layer in order to reduce the weight on my head once the hat is mine, but for now I'll see what kind of use I can make out of this pocket. It does contain the chin strap rather nicely when I don't need to fasten it.


Field Report

06 August 2008

Field Experience:
I've worn this hat a *lot*. It's been a warm spring and a warmer summer so far, so I was happy to have it. I've worn it for about 25 days since the Initial Report. Eight days were proper backpacking, some of them dayhikes, usually with a child carrier on my back. The remainder have been walks around town or just mowing the lawn. Temps went from around 20 C (70 F) to well over 30 C (call it 90 F), in sun and rain, low and (mostly) high humidity, no, little and lots of wind. The lower end of the temperature envelope was encountered on a dayhike with my kids in the local hills early in the test period, the high end when mowing the lawn. I've come closest to 30 C (86 F) on an extended dayhike around the eastern coast of Fehmarn, the Baltic's "sunny isle". An extended backpacking trip with my children came in somewhere in between. Altitude has generally been low (below 500 m / 1650 ft), a lot of it actually at sea level.

Temperature:
The "Hydro-Cool Crystals" are a bit of a letdown. How do you prolong evaporative cooling? Yes, wetting the headband makes it feel cooler and it continues to cool for a while thereafter. However, the "Hydro Cool Crystals" certainly don't prolong this effect to days or even weeks. In fact, mowing the lawn is about the maximum extent. In fact, now that it's gotten hot, the headband - crystals and all - is soaked in sweat when I'm done, but does not appear to have a cooling effect anymore.

Now, I'm not terribly miffed at this. I don't currently have a similar hat with a simple cotton headband to compare. But I seem to recall from past experience that a simple cotton headband stopped cooling sooner. So the "Hydro Cool Crystals" may be doing something to prolong the evaporative cooling effect. It's just a lot less pronounced than I would have liked.

Another down side (though admittedly a marginal one) is that the crystals take several minutes to absorb a full load of water. I'm used to just dunking my hat, shaking it once and putting it back on my head. These days I put water into it and begin carefully sloshing it around in the hat, trying to get maximum exposure of the headband without spilling too much of it. Which just feels like wasted time to me. That may just be me. Anyway, for me personally the inclusion of the "Hydro Cool Crystals" hasn't resulted in an increased convenience factor. I'm given to wonder whether a thicker cotton headband or one made of the stuff they make backpacking towels of would have served the same result at less weight and complexity. On the other hand, it also certainly hasn't impacted me negatively and I guess it does extend the cooling for a bit. So I'm so-so on this feature.

White Rock Outback Classic Hat in the rain Rain Protection:
While the hat appears predominantly geared towards sun protection, its Teflon coating supposedly makes it just as useful as rain protection. This is dual use of the sort I like, and I've had occasion to test it out. It worked as advertised. The Teflon coating literally keeps the water "off" the hat - rain drops just sat on it until they rolled off.

This protection does not appear to be absolute, however. I do note that the hat's brim becomes less stiff when it rains. This causes its outer edge to droop a little under the water on it. This is good - that way, water rolls off it rather than collecting inside its brim. Plus, it gets more of an Indiana Jones look (at least I like to think so). But it's been similar to silnylon (which stretches when wet while remaining waterproof) in that it hasn't let any water through to a degree that it contacted my head. I like that. While nothing protects me from stormy weather like a well-fitting hood, to my mind a hat is far superior in 90 % of the rainy times. It makes me feel less enclosed (and I hike, after all, to get out there) and keeps the water off my glasses far better (and raindrops on my glasses really annoy me). So I've been very happy with it as a rain hat!

Bug Protection:
The hat's "Bug Off" feature hasn't seen any extensive testing. But I have in fact noticed that in several instances I was waving insects away from my naked lower arms, but not from my face. How cool is that? Now I don't know how strong this feature really is. The insects around here are pretty wimpy compared to what I hear about, say, Southern US no-see-ums and Northern US blackflies, for which I'm glad. The only people I know who have headnets deal with bees on a semi-professional basis. I don't know any hikers who feel the need for them around here, nor have I ever done so.

But I *have* been quite annoyed by flying bugs before. This has *not* been the case when wearing the hat. That I had been waving them away from my arms, but not from my head only occurred to me afterwards, so I didn't have the presence of mind to take off my hat and test whether they'd bother me then. Nevertheless, I can say that I've found the hat to offer some protection in this regard, and I'm quite happy about this!

Hiking the East Coast of Fehmarn, the Baltic's 'Sunny Isle' Sun Protection:
Supposedly where this hat should, ahem, shine. And indeed it's done very well. Due to a hairline that's not so much receding than receded, I'm a bit vulnerable to sunburn on my head. I've had very few instances of low severity of that so far this summer, and only when I wasn't wearing the Hat (swimming or running). I've mowed the lawn several times in the blistering sun (wearing the Hat) and my head was no worse off. The supreme test so far came on a long dayhike on Fehmarn, in July, without a cloud in the sky, when I spent all day out in the sun. I walked in the shade of plants where possible, but it mostly wasn't. By the end of the day my head was a little red, but this was clearly from the heat as my forehead showed no remains of red the next morning. I was happy.

As should be obvious from the photos, the hat's protection does not extend to the shoulders. It does extend to the neck - most of the time. Particularly when mowing the lawn I tend to look down a lot, so if I have the sun behind me (and the plot is oriented so that I invariably do, for much of the time), I have to be careful to push the hat way back so that it rests less on top than on the back of my head. I deduce from this that I should take similar care when following trails with uncertain footing (which I haven't done much in the Field test period, at least not out in the open while heading away from the sun).

Wind Resistance:
I've had the hat out in some pretty fierce winds, and have to say it's held up beautifully. The only thing I didn't like about this is that it's tarnished the memory of my earlier hat, lost on a weeklong hike along the Rhine Trail. That hat's brim would flap around in the wind and sometimes the wind would pull it off my head entirely (even though I'd cinched down the strap). I used to think such problems inevitable with hats and wind. But I've had no such problems with this hat. I guess some of the weight of this hat is easily explained by the strong brim. Anyway, the brim has never been flapped down into my face or flapped up against the top of the hat even by strong gusts. Positioning it firmly on my head was usually enough to ride out windspeeds that would snatch less firmly emplaced baseball caps from the heads of my daughters, without the need to resort to the hat's chin strap. The one danger this posed is that I was not able to tell when the wind became too strong for this - the hat would then just suddenly go. It being effectively waterproof means it floats better than some, too - I was happy to recover it. I've been making more use of the chin strap in windy situations since then, and found it quite effective at keeping the hat where it's supposed to be. It's been rather comfortable as well - I guess the elastic really serves a purpose there.

Hat Competition

Comfort:
Comfort has been a varied thing with the hat. My head has undoubtedly been much more comfortable out in the sun with this hat on than without it. I've sometimes taken it off when the (middling) weight on my head became a little uncomfortable or it felt a little stuffy underneath it despite the ventilation holes - usually in high humidity at low wind speed. But I've always returned the hat to my head rather promptly. Exceptions were passages in the shade of trees, when I would sometimes hang the hat from my pack's shoulder strap by its chin strap. The sliding toggle on the chin strap made this easy and convenient.

I have not had issues with the back of the hat's brim riding up backpacks I was wearing (I haven't been wearing that kind of monster pack in some time). It has, however, bumped against the brim of the hat my younger daughter was wearing when she was in the child carrier. This has been slightly annoying a few times, but no real hassle. It usually didn't bother me long, anyway - looking at the photo I guess that's because the White Rock hat won the competition for brim space.

Durability:
I usually mention durability in a report, but there's really nothing to report here other than that the hat has held up very well.



Long Term Report

Field Experience:
I've carried the hat anywhere I hiked in the past two months, and worn it for much of that time (call it a dozen days or so). Elevations have been between 40 m (130 ft) and 400 m (1300 ft), temperatures between 2 and 20 C (35 and 70 F), wind speeds between none and way strong. Towards the end of the period, I've seen quite a bit of rain.

Summary:
I've thought long and hard about this, but there really doesn't seem much to add. I've mostly been wearing it as a rain hat lately, and it's continued to work well in this function. I expect to continue to be wearing it against the rain until summer comes around, when I'll be wearing it as sun protection. I'm still not sold on the Hydro Crystals, but every other aspect of the hat is quite functional, so I'm happy to have it. It fits well and protects from both sun and rain, without any annoying antics in the wind. I like it.

I'd like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and White Rock Gear for the opportunity to participate in this test.



Read more reviews of White Rock Gear gear
Read more gear reviews by Andre Corterier

Reviews > Clothing > Hats > White Rock Gear Outback Classic Hat > Test Report by Andre Corterier



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