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Reviews > Clothing > Hats > White Rock Gear Outback Classic Hat > Test Report by Tom Callahan

WHITE ROCK CLASSIC OUTBACK HAT
TEST SERIES BY TOM CALLAHAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
October 10, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Tom Callahan
EMAIL: tcallahanbgt AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 49
LOCATION: Seattle, Washington, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.10 kg)

For the past 20 years I have lived off and on in Washington State, backpacking in the Cascade Mountains. I get out regularly on day hikes and multi-day trips and usually try to include a good off trail scramble. During the winter I get out snowshoeing at every opportunity. I also enjoy glacier climbing, summiting prominent peaks like Mt. Rainier (14K ft/4K m) and Mt. Baker (10K ft/3K m). My pack weight will range from 15 - 50 lbs (7 - 23 kg) depending on the season and the length and type of trip.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: White Rock
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://whiterockoutdoor.co.uk/
MSRP: N/A
Size: M, Available: S - 2X
Measured weight: 4.6 oz (130 g)
Colors available: Khaki, Stone, Navy, Grey, Olive, Dark Grey

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The hat arrived in a padded envelope. It was packaged for retail sale with a fold over cardboard tag containing product information and a loop for hanging on a display rack. The hat also came with a Spring/Summer 2007 White Rock Outdoor Gear Catalog.

The shape and construction of the hat looks just like the one pictured on the web site. My hat is the khaki color and is slightly darker than pictured on the web site. It is all cotton and soft to the touch. All stitching looked straight and tight, there were no loose threads anywhere. I was impressed by the sturdy nature of the hat material. The brim was much thicker than I was expecting. I anticipate this will help the hat keep its shape. The headband is made of a soft, black cotton material. The front 5 in (13 cm) of the headband contains the Hydro Cool Crystals.

The brim is 2 3/4 in (7 cm) wide. The circumference of my size medium hat is 22 1/2 in (57 cm). The crown is 3 1/4 in (8 cm) high and roughly 6 1/2 in (16 1/2 cm) across at the headband tapering inward slightly to 5 1/2 in (4 cm) across at the top. The crown of the hat has two metal grommet vents on each side. These are covered with a fine mesh screen to provide air flow and keep out bugs. The sides of the brim may be attached up to the crown by means of metal snaps. There is a small metal grommet at the back of the brim for attaching a sunglass lanyard.

The hat has an elastic chin cord with a pinch toggle. This chin cord and toggle tucks neatly away in the passport/security pocket inside the top of the crown. This pocket closes securely with a hook and loop fastener.

Security Pocket
Security Pocket


This hat features several different treatments. The headband has been treated with an anti-bacterial agent to reduce odor. This hat is Teflon coated to make it water and stain resistant. This hat does not have the Bug Off, mentho glycol treatment since this feature is not available in the US. With the treatments the hat does have, it still has a soft feel and there is no odor to the hat.

TRYING IT OUT

The hat fits me very well. I am a size 7 1/8 in US hat sizes and the medium is just right. It is snug enough to remain in place when I bend over and look down, or if I move my head rapidly from side to side. The headband's soft cotton material is comfortable against my skin. The Hydro Cool Crystals felt rough against my forehead when they were dry, hard and bunched up. They were less noticeable when I spread them out. When I hydrated the crystals, they swelled, filled the front section of the headband and provided a soft cushion.

With normal wearing the top of the crown lightly touches the top of my head. I could not feel the chin strap tucked into the passport/security pocket, though. I was pleased about this because I've found it very annoying to have something pressing on the top of my head with other hats I have worn.

Brim Snapped Up
Brim Snapped Up
Brim Down
Brim Down



The brim is quite wide which I hope will provide good sun protection. The sides of the brim snap easily on to the crown, which will be nice when I don't need full sun protection. The stiffness of the brim allowed me to adjust it easily, stylizing the hat by tipping down the brim in the front for an "Indiana Jones" look, or ensuring it was flat for maximum sun protection.

SUMMARY

This is a good looking hat, constructed well and made with quality materials. The hat material is sturdy and still comfortable. The Outback hat looks to be very functional with the Hydro Cool Crystals to provide cooling, the wide brim to block the sun, snaps to hold the brim up on the sides as needed, and a chin strap that tucks neatly out of the way when not in use. I'll be looking forward to taking this out on the trail as the sun is now starting to make its appearance here in the Pacific Northwest.

Things I like about the hat:
- Wide brim that snaps up on the sides
- Hydro Cool Crystals
- Sturdy construction

Thinks I will be looking at closely:
- Do the vents provide enough airflow to keep me from overheating?
- How well does the Teflon coating resist stain?
- To what extent does the hat provide protection from the rain?

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information. I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and White Rock for giving me the opportunity to test the Outback Classic Hat.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

While wearing this hat I encountered a wide range of conditions on my trips into the Cascade Mountains. Early on in the testing period, due to this year's lingering snow pack, I wore this hat on one all day cross country ski trip, a day hike on snow and an overnight snow camping trip. Temperatures ranged from 45 - 75 F (7 - 24 C) on these trips. The cross country ski trip was under sunny skies. During the day hike on snow it was very overcast with some light rain that day. On the overnight camping trip it was overcast on the first day and then it turned sunny the next day. Elevations for these trips ranged from 2,500 - 5,600 ft (760 - 1,700 m).

Early on in the testing
Wearing the hat, early on in the testing period.



Later in the testing period I wore the hat on two more day trips and two more overnight backpacking trips. Day time temperatures during this part of the testing ranged from 55 - 80 F (13 - 27 C). During the backpacking trips overnight temperatures dipped down to 45 F (7 C). It was mostly sunny for these trips, although I did encounter light rain on one day trip and one backpack trip. Elevations during this part of the testing ranged from 2,500 - 6,000 ft (760 - 1,800) .


PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The hat has worked well in providing good protection from the sun due to its broad, all around brim. I have liked having the ability to snap the sides of the brim up, on to the crown when I don't need full sun protection. This wide brim also helped keep bugs away from my face. The head band provided a soft feel against my head.

The hat has shown to be water resistant. During those times when out in the rain wearing this hat the water beaded up and did not soak into the hat material. The rain I encountered during testing was only light rain and so the hat alone provided adequate protection. While wearing the hat and my hooded rain shell jacket I did not use the hood. The hood on my rain shell has a lip and elastic cord designed to fit the brim of a ball cap and I tried the hood over the Outback hat and it worked OK. The lip of the hood would fit over the top of the crown of the hat. However, the brim on the back of the hat would push against the hood, preventing a comfortable fit. This hood fit slightly better with the brim sides snapped to the crown, but the brim still pushed against the hood in the back. Had I been out in heavy rain and/or windy conditions such that I needed a hood, the Outback hat would have been less than ideal due to the hat's brim.

I found the Hydro Cool Crystals did provide nice cooling when I dipped them into the cold water of creeks. It felt really good to have the cold, soft beads against my forehead. Going into the testing I was thinking that the beads should go beyond just covering the forehead and contact the temples for optimum cooling, but this did not seem to be a problem. The cooling would feel best soon after dipping the hat in a creek. But within 20 minutes the Hyrdo Cool Crystals would warm to the temperature of my skin and no longer provide any cooling. I would take the hat off for a time (~ 10 min), trying to get some evaporative cooling going. This only provided a marginal cooling effect. During long term testing I will give the hat more than the dip I usually do with hats and keep it in the water for several minutes to see how that improves the Hydro Cool Crystals performance.

During my overnight trips temperatures would get quite cool through the night, as low as 45 F (7 C). The Hydro Cool Crystals would correspondingly cool to this temperature. This created a problem when I wanted to wear the hat first thing in the morning around camp. The hat would give me a chill such that I could not wear it until the day warmed up or I had begun hiking.

When the hat was fully soaked I found that it began to feel heavy during the course of a long day. I weighed the hat once when it was fully saturated and found the weight to be just about double of the hat when it is dry. I found the vents of the hat do not provide adequate venting when working hard in warm temperatures, such that my head would really sweat. This combined with Hydro Cool Crystals that have warmed up and are no longer cooling, coupled with the heavy feel of the hat made it feel a bit uncomfortable during the heat of the day when I was really exerting myself.

SUMMARY

The hat provided good all around sun protection due to the wide brim. The wide brim also helped to keep bugs away from my face. The Teflon coating sheds water, causing rain to bead up and not soak into the hat. The coating is not 100% stain resistant as I got some kind of small stain on the hat that would not come out.

The Hydro Cool Crystals do provide cooling, especially right after being refreshed with cold water. But they do warm up quickly when it is hot out. These Hydro Cool Crystals also can get very cool overnight if temperature drops, such that the hat is too cool to wear early in the day. The weight of the hat, especially when the headband is fully saturated, and minimal ventilation causes the hat to feel warm and heavy when backpacking on hard trails in warm weather.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information.

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and White Rock for giving me the opportunity to test the Outback Classic Hat.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I used the hat on 5 day trips and 2 overnight backpacking trips during this phase of testing. When out in the field, I averaged 5 hrs/day wearing the hat. All trips were in the Cascade Mountains with elevations ranging from 1,500 to 5,000 ft (450 to 1,500 m). Temperatures ranged from 35 to 70 F (2 to 21 C). I encountered mostly sunny weather but was out in some rainy conditions during this portion of testing.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The hat continued to perform as it did during Field Testing. The full brim of the hat provided good shade from the sun. I appreciated the flexibility to snap the sides of the brim on to the sides of the crown when I didn't need full sun protection.

As before, on really warm days, especially when on steep trails I would dip the hat in to creeks to refresh the Hydro Cool Crystals. During this phase of testing I would leave the hat in the creek for 3 minutes as recommended by the manufacturer, not the quick dip I was doing during Field Testing. Leaving the hat in the creek for a longer period didn't provide much extended cooling. The Crystals would warm to the temperature of my skin within about 20 minutes. On most of the trails traveled, it would not be uncommon to go hours without encountering a creek to re-wet the hat. So I really only got temporary cooling from the Hydro Cool Crystals relative the the amount of time I wore the hat.

During this part of testing I found the swelling of the Hydro Cool Crystals made the hat tight on my head, to the point where it became uncomfortable. To alleviate the pressure I would flip out the Hydro Cool Crystals portion of the headband. This kept the headband from feeling too tight while still keeping the Crystals in contact with my skin.

Head band flipped outward on my forehead
Notice head band flipped outward on my forehead



As during the Field Testing, on my backpacking trips the Hydro Cool Crystals would become chilled overnight since temperatures would dip below 40 F (4 C). This chilling of the Crystals kept me from being able wear the hat in the morning until temperatures rose enough to warm the hat, generally at least 60 F (16 C).

When I was out in rainy weather, water would bead up on the hat material. This kept my head nice and dry. The wide brim afforded nice additional rain protection since it kept the rain off the back of my neck and out of my face.

SUMMARY

The Classic Outback is made with quality materials, fine workmanship and held up well during testing. The hat provides good protection from the sun and the rain, in large part due to the generously sized brim. The cooling feature of the hat works best when the Hydro Cool Crystals can be refreshed at regular intervals. Unfortunately this is not usually possible for the trails I regularly hike. Also the hat does not work well on overnight trips when the temperature dips because the Crystals become chilled and the hat is too cool to wear in the morning.

So while not an ideal backpacking hat for me, the hat would be good for certain other activities. I can see this hat being excellent while canoeing, when the Hydro Cool Crystals can be refreshed at anytime. This hat will also work well when doing yard work around the house. This is how I plan to use the hat in the future. For such use I will only be wearing it for a few hours at a time, not the 5 hours I averaged while out on the trail. Also, while working around the yard I will have access to cool water to refresh the Crystals, taking full advantage of this cooling feature.

This concludes my Long Term Report. Thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and White Rock for the opportunity to test the Outback Hat.

Wearing the hat in the Cascades
Wearing the hat in the Cascades


This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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