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Summer Sun: Tilley Hats to the Rescue

Woman with Tilley Hat

I admit it, I’m not much of a sun person. My half-German heritage gives me fair skin and that means painful sunburns. So when I booked a trip to the Riviera Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula, I knew I’d need a good sun hat and I turned to Tilley Endurables, my favorite hat maker.

I had two big requirements for a summer hat. I wanted a hat with a nice brim hat for good sun protection and it had to easily pack into my suitcase. (I’ve traveled with too many so-called packable straw Panama-style hats that are inconvenient to carry and, if you pack them in the suitcase, they they get squashed and look weird forever.) Two summer Tilleys met my criteria: the T5CN Tilley Plaid Hat ($76) and the T7MO Organic Cotton with 3D Mesh ($78).

Woman wearing Tilley hat in Mexico

This lightweight, plaid Tilley became my favorite go-to hat in Mexico.

I was worried when I first saw the Tilley Plaid Hat on the website that the plaid fabric would look like something out of the 70s and not work with any of my outfits. I was pleasantly surprised when the hat arrived and featured a soft khaki color with a very subtle plaid pattern that blended easily with nearly anything I was wearing. Several of my traveling companions commented on the hats attractiveness.

Even better was the fact that this hat is incredibly lightweight. Weighing less than three ounces, it provided sun protection without weight. In fact, I often forgot I was wearing it. Made with a nylon/cotton blend, it was cool as a cucumber even in 85+F. degree heat and high humidity. With its medium brim and light weight, it was small enough to clip to my camera bag or slip into my side bag when I didn’t need it and it became my go-to hat for most of my trip.

Woman with Mesh hat from Tilley

Super sunny Tulum archeological site was a great test for Tilley’s 3D Mesh Hat.

However, the ancient city of Tulum 30 minutes outside of Playa del Carmen, has virtually no shade and, when we traveled to this archeological site, I knew I needed the big gun in sun protection, my Organic Cotton Tilley with 3D Mesh. This is a serious sun hat with a broad brim that’s longer and sloping in the back to protect the neck from sun. Its sueded organic cotton is soft and, while not as light as the Tilley Plaid, its still relatively lightweight while offering a whopping 50 SPF of sun protection. The dark underbrim helps cut the suns glare and the big 3D mesh panel in the back helps vent hot air and allows cooler air to flow in.

Like all other Tilley hats Ive tested, both the Plaid Hat and the Cotton Mesh Hat are machine washable and pack well, easily returning to their original shape. You wont lose them because they tie on in the wind and they’re rain resistant and they even float. Both come with a secret Velcro pocket, are insured against loss, and are guaranteed for life not to wear out (now how often do you get that these days?).

Tilley hat in the rain

Rain poured off the awning of Ah Cacao where I sought refuge with a cup of coffee.

The culmination of my Real Test for these summer Tilley hats didn’t involve sun at all. On my last day in Playa del Carmen, I wore my Tilley Plaid and strolled down 5th Avenue for a little shopping. Much to my suprise, big fat raindrops started to fall.

Like other travelers, I ducked inside the awning of a shop to wait out the shower. When the rain turned to a torrent, I made a break for the nearest coffee shop and the Nanosphere weather-repellent finish on my Plaid Hat made the water course off my hat and kept my head perfectly dry. Suddenly, my sun hat had become a lightweight rain hat!

After lingering over a cup of java for 45 minutes watching rain gush off the patio roof and no end in sight, I hopped a cab for my hotel. By now, of course, my Plaid Tilley (and everything else I was wearing) was completely soaked. With no time to allow anything to dry, I stuffed the hat into a plastic sack and packed it into my suitcase.

Wearing a Tilley hat in the rain

By the time I hailed a cab, water was flowing over the gutters and onto the sidewalks. My Tilley Plaid was wet, but not my head!

When I finally arrived home eight hours later around midnight, I popped open my suitcase and pulled my Plaid Tilley out of its plastic bag. It was nearly dry and, despite being squashed for hours soaking wet in my suitcase, my Tilley shook out into its original shape with almost no wrinkles. Now this is a tough hat that’s great for both sun and rain and one that’ll travel with me often.

— Reviewed by BH



Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at realfoodtraveler.com.


5 thoughts on “Summer Sun: Tilley Hats to the Rescue

  1. Paul

    Hi BH, I bought the Tilley plaid hat after reading your story and review. I have not been disappointed! I work for a state fishery crew, and have worn it on a boat for days, in the sun and through thunderstorms and pretty heavy rain. It is interesting that I could not detect any rain coming in through the vent holes. Who woulda thunk? My head was completely dry. I’d look at my co-worker with his baseball cap and rain hood, the rain blowing on his face and running down his neck, and was glad I’d taken the Tilley with me. The Nano Sphere fabric worked better than I thought it would. I don’t know how an all day rain would be, but an hour or two in moderate rain was no problem. I have worked in winds up to 30 mph. The strap held it on just fine while allowing me to work in comfort with the brim staying in place. I’ve washed the sweat out of it twice and it looks like brand new.
    It’s cool enough in the sun, protects in the rain, is super lightweight, very comfortable, and the other guys admired it. I work with some hardcore jokesters, so that is truly saying something. They wanted one just like it. My brother in law is ordering one, also. The plaid pattern is subtle. From a short distance, it looks one color. But I like the plaid and the non-glare fabric which gives it an old country appearance. This sounds like a Tilley ad, but it isn’t. It’s a good review for a very nice hat.
    The only regret I have is that all of a sudden, my unique hat is going to become one of several in the group.
    Thanks for your review. It was the best on the web.

    1. Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT EditorBobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor Post author

      HI Paul,
      Yes, indeed, I feel just as enthusiastic about Tilley hats and I especially love my ultra-lightweight Tilley plaid. It definitely saved me during that surprise deluge in Mexico. Thanks for your comments and for supporting this great hat maker. Cheers! Bobbie, RFT Editor

  2. Serge

    Hi BH,

    thank you very much for the review. The best one i should say; not about how to pull strings to secure the hat but exactly the info i was looking for about using and enjoying (or not enjoying) the hat.
    I just bought one today and while trying different Tilley hats, somehow i always was coming back to T5CN Tilley Plaid Hat. It was very light and looked and felt nice.
    In a week i will give it a realt test in Mexico.
    Thanks again.

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