Walking Hats - What to Wear on Top When Walking

Walking Hats - What to Wear on Your Head When Walking

Walkers and Runners at Starting Line
Walkers and Runners at Starting Line. Wendy Bumgardner ©

What do you wear on your head when you go walking? It probably depends on the weather and how much you want to avoid hat hair.

There are pros and cons for each kind of headwear, from baseball caps to buffs to balaclavas. You always have the option of going bare on top.

  • The Sun Visor: Not my favorite, but one of the best ways to avoid hat hair.
  • The Billed Cap: A better choice to protect your head.
  • Sun Hat Styles: To prevent red neck.
  • Scarves and Buffs: Minimalist, packable headcoverings.
  • Winter Hat Styles: Keeping warm.
  • Rainy Weather Head Coverings: Stay dry.

Walking Hats - the Sun Visor

Sun Visor
Sun Visor. Wendy Bumgardner © 2011

While I have many walking friends who wear visors, I don't do visors.

Hat hair potential: Low. You can adjust the visor so it goes below the hairline and doesn't crush your hairdo.

Sun Visor Pros

  • Obviously, it shades your eyes and helps keep sun off your face. Duh.
  • You can push your hair off your forehead and away from the nape of your neck with the headband of the visor, which helps keep your hair out of the sweat.
  • Many have absorbent sweatbands, so it does double duty.
  • It lets the top of your head breathe, so you may have less head sweat.

Sun Visor Cons

  • A visor is like driving a convertible. It doesn't keep the sun, rain, wind or cold out of your hair.
  • I don't wear a visor because the top of my head is prone to sunburn.

Walking Hats - the Billed Cap

Hytail Hat
Hytail Hat. AD Activewear

My usual choice for a walking workout is a baseball cap or running cap, or any cap with a bill.

Hat hair potential: High. Things are likely to get steamy under your hat.

Cap Pros

  • Keeps the sun off your face and shades your eyes. There is a reason that baseball players wear them.
  • Keeps sun, wind and rain off the top of your head, which a visor doesn't do.
  • Sweat control: Some have a sweatband built in.
  • You can find a cap for all seasons - sweat-wicking breathable summer caps, waterproof rainy weather caps, insulated winter caps, and even caps with built-in LED lights and reflective strips for night walking.
  • You can show your colors with your hat with your favorite logo or slogan. Buy Direct: hats with walking slogans.
  • They usually have a ponytail hole at the back, although some don't. The Hytail Hat in the photo has an extra-long ponytail hole so you can wear it with a high ponytail.

Cap Cons

  • Hat hair to the max. Caps crush your hairstyle and leave your head a sweaty mess. If you wear a cap, be prepared to repair your coif.
  • Red neck: Caps don't shade your neck or ears, so be sure to apply sunscreen liberally.
  • Cold ears: If the cap doesn't have ear flaps, your ears are going to feel the cold.

Walking Hats - Sun Hats

Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat
Wendy Rocks the Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat at the Seattle Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk Finish. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Do you want to protect your face, neck and head from the sun and heat? A sun hat can prevent becoming a red neck.

  • Hat hair potential: Extreme. Be prepared for major hair repair after wearing a sun hat.
  • Headphone-friendly: Generally not. The all-around brim won't work for over-the-head headphones, although you may be able to wear wrap-around designs. You'll have to use ear buds instead.

Look for hats with a chin strap to keep from losing it in the wind. Sunday Afternoons makes a variety of adventure sun hats for walking and hiking. I wore one for the Seattle Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk as pictured. 

Boonie Hats: Men may prefer to rock a boonie hat, a soft hat that provides just enough shade for the face and neck.

Straw hats, cowboy hats and more can be used to keep the sun off your head and neck.

Walking Hats - Scarves and Buffs

Buff Head Scarf
Buff Head Scarf. Wendy Bumgardner © 2011

A bandana, scarf or buff is easy to pack along and put to use to keep the sun off your head. In cold weather, it can also help keep your ears warm. When you don't want it on your head, you can wear it around your neck instead.

  • Hat hair potential: Moderately high. It depends how you wear it.

The reality show Survivor helped popularize the Buff, a seamless microfiber tube. You can wear a buff at least 12 different ways on your head. If you are very skinny, you can also wear it as a tube top or skirt. I carry a buff with me for emergency use if I can't find my baseball hat, or if I need an emergency sweat band or ear warmer.

Portability and versatility are the biggest pros for scarves or buffs.

A drawback is that they don't have a bill to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face, although the Visor Buff comes with a bill.

Winter Walking Hats

Sub4 Drylyte Hat
Sub4 Drylyte Hat. Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

The ideal winter walking hat has a bill to shade your eyes and keep the rain and snow out of them while insulating your head and ears to keep them warm.

Hat hair potential: High. Even in the cold, your head can steam and sweat, and most winter walking hats will crush your hairdo.

My favorite winter walking hat is the Sub4USA DRYLYTE Extreme Cold Hat (pictured). It has a bill and it has a built-in ear band to keep your ears warm. Unfortunately, that company has gone into retirement and it is no longer available.

Your basic beanie hat works fine for winter walking if you don't mind sun and wind in your face. It does the job of keeping your head and ears warm.

As it gets below the freezing point, you may want to add a neck gaiter or balaclava.

More: Hats and such to keep your ears warm

Dressing for Cold Weather Walking

Walking Hats - Rain Hats and Hoods

Walkers Await the Start of the Seattle Marathon
Walkers Await the Start of the Seattle Marathon, Suitably Attired in Waterproof Jackets with Hoods. Rachel Spanks ©

I walk in a rainy climate and it's rare that my head gets wet. I use the Pacific Northwest standard rainy weather headgear - a waterproof hood on my waterproof jacket. The best hoods have a short bill built in to guide the rain away from your eyes, and they cinch up to keep rain from blasting in under your hood.

Hat hair potential: Moderate to high. It's raining, so your hairdo is likely to suffer from the humidity as well as rubbing against your hat or hood.

But a hood isn't the end of the story, although I can't imagine anything better. You can buy waterproof versions of boonie hats, sun hats, beanies, and winter fleece hats. But it usually isn't the rain coming down on top of your head that is the problem, it's keeping the rain from getting in under the hat and dripping down your neck and under your jacket and shirt. If you don't want to wear a waterproof jacket with hood, you'll have to face that.

Wearing a hoodie in the rain that isn't waterproof is almost worse than wearing nothing. The rain will soak in and now you have wet fabric against your skin, further chilling you.

More: How to Walk in the Rain