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The Best African Safari Hat for Jungle, Bush (+13 Runners Up) Men & Women

Safari hats might just be the first thing you think about as you plan your African adventure. (Aside from all the animals, of course.) But which is the best safari hat? In this post, you’ll learn how to choose, our pick for the best safari hat, 6 types of safari hats, and answers to many common questions about safari headgear.

safari hat

Guide to the Best African Safari Hat 

Africa is home to many places where you can view wild animals in their native habitats. Depending on where you go, you might see Cape buffalo, leopards, zebra, Nile crocodiles, crested cranes, and African bush elephants. You’ll also have the chance to see shoebills, rock pythons, and mountain gorillas.

While your guide will worry about your safety in terms of those animals, you need to worry about keeping your body safe from the sun and other elements.

The best safari hat will block out the sun and keeps those dangerous rays away from your skin and eyes. You’ll find safari hats suitable for humid/rainy jungle trips and dry/dusty savannas all across Africa.

This is a pretty comprehensive guide. If you don’t want to read the full article and just want the best safari hat, here it is:

Best Safari Hat for Men: Tilley LTM6 Airflo

More than anything else, there are two features you want in your safari hat: sun protection and breathability. The LTM6 has both – plus a drawstring, secret pocket and it weighs just 85 grams.

Check current price on Amazon

Comes in eight colors to match your other safari gear and the environment you’ll be exploring. Did I mention this comes guaranteed for life?

Best Safari Hat for Women: Coolibar Sun Catcher

This hat features UPF 50+ and is crushable and packable. Perfect for travel. The fabric has a cotton feel and is lightweight and breathable.

Check current price on Amazon

Brim gives significant sun shade – with 3.75″ on the side and more than 4″ front and back. Chin strap will keep the hat where it’s supposed to be – on your head.

tilley hat for men

7 Factors: How to Choose the Best Safari Hat

At first, it can seem kind of complicated to sort out all the options. But don’t worry, it isn’t actually that difficult.

Here is the criteria you should consider as you decide which safari hat to bring on your adventure.

  1. Sun protection: This is going to be the primary reason to wear a hat on safari. This is often measured in UPF. Most of the hats on the list have a rating of UPF 50+. But just because it doesn’t have a rating doesn’t mean it won’t protect you (like the oilskin and leather hats).
  2. Brim width: This is important because even the best sun protection fabric won’t help if it doesn’t cover your face and neck well. But if it’s too wide, it might be too floppy and make for a frustrating trip.
  3. Breathable: So while you’ll want to limit the sun, you don’t want to stop air from moving. It can get pretty hot on safari – regardless of if you are on a drive or trekking in the jungle.
  4. Waterproof: This is really only a factor on jungle treks. Remember that it isn’t common to have both waterproof and breathable, although they do exist.
  5. Neck / chin strap: A neck strap can be tightened to keep your hat from blowing off in an open jeep. And it also allows you to remove your hat and wear it around your neck. Otherwise, you could lose your hat or have to carry it whenever you don’t want to wear it.
  6. Comfort: Aside from the performance features that we’ve already covered, it’s worth considering how it will actually feel on your head. The interior headband is pretty important factor in comfort.
  7. Material: Each material has its pros and cons. Mesh hats are super-breathable but not that durable and definitely not waterproof. Leather and oilskin hats are the complete opposite – durable but not breathable. And polyester / nylon safari hats fall somewhere in the middle.

safari hats

UV Index in Uganda: Extreme

Because of its location on the equator, the UV index is ranked as extreme during 10am to 3pm each day.

  • Kampala: UV Index: 12 (August through May), 11 (June and July)
  • Uganda: UV Index: 12 (August through May), 11 (June and July)
The UV Index in Uganda ranges from 11 to 12, during the hottest part of the day (10am to 3pm). This is ranked as Extreme. Sun protection is required.

UV Index in Uganda

Premium Safari Hats

1. Tilley Endurables LTM6 Airflo Hat

  • Brand: Tilley
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Panama style
  • Size: Up to 8-1/8
  • Material: Nylon, polyester, mesh
  • Sun Protection: Yes, 50+ UPF
  • Breathable: Mesh crown, ventilation areas
  • Waterproof: No, water-resistant
  • Chin Straps: Yes
  • Other Features: Interior pocket, machine washable, resistant to mildew
  • Ideal for: Humid jungle

Made from a synthetic material that dries quickly, this Tilley hat has a Panama design with a wide brim to keep you cool and dry. A secret pocket tucked into the hat is just the right size for cash or your photo ID and can hold a hotel room key.

Designed to increase the airflow inside the hat, it also has breathable mesh areas and is machine washable.

2. Coolibar Crushable UPF 50+ Sun Hat

  • Brand: Coolibar
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Panama style
  • Size: Up to 24-inch head circumference
  • Material: Polyester, canvas, cotton
  • Sun Protection: Yes, 50+ UPF
  • Breathable: Mesh crown
  • Waterproof: No
  • Chin Straps: Yes
  • Other Features: Lightweight, crushable, elastic band
  • Ideal for: Driving safari

The crushable design of this safari hat makes it suitable for most trips. It has a reputation of bouncing back to its original shape after being crushed/tightly-packed.

It has an elastic band around the interior that keeps it from slipping off your head. You need to go up at least one size when buying this best safari hat because the sizing is small.

3. Columbia Bora Bora Unisex Safari hat

  • Brand: Columbia
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Booney performance
  • Size: Up to a 24.25-inch circumference
  • Material: Nylon, polyester
  • Sun Protection: Yes, 50 UPF
  • Breathable: Sweat wicking headband, mesh vent panel
  • Waterproof: No
  • Chin Straps: Yes
  • Other Features: Adjustable closure, custom fit, toggle
  • Ideal for: Driving safari, dry savanna

Columbia makes some of the world’s best outdoor equipment, including the Bora Bora. This hat has a headband inside that pulls sweat and other moisture away from your head and face.

The hat has both a toggle on the back and a drawcord.

Men’s Safari Hats

4. Henschel Aussie Breezer Mesh Hat

  • Brand: Henschel
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Panama style
  • Size: Small to XXX-Large
  • Material: Cotton mesh
  • Sun Protection: Yes, 50+ UPF
  • Breathable: Mesh sides
  • Waterproof: No
  • Chin Straps: Yes
  • Other Features: Lightweight, crush resistant
  • Ideal for: Dry savanna, driving safari

Henschel, one of the top names in the world of Australian hats, makes this safari hat for those who want to stay cool. It uses 100% cotton mesh and has an open weave on the sides to increase airflow.

The chin straps work with the tight fit to keep the hat from slipping and sliding.

Some things to keep in mind when considering this hat include its large/oversize fit and that it doesn’t always bounce back perfectly after being crushed.

5. Stetson Mesh Safari Hat

  • Brand: Stetson
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Panama style
  • Size: Up to a 6-7/8 hat size (XX-Large)
  • Material: Nylon
  • Sun Protection: Not rated
  • Breathable: Mesh sides
  • Waterproof: No
  • Chin Straps: Yes
  • Other Features: Approved for wear around insects, comfortable fit
  • Ideal for: Dry savanna, driving safari

Stetson makes this safari hat in addition to all its great cowboy hats. This model offers some solid protection against insects such as mosquitoes and keeps biting insects away from your face and neck.

Those who love the way Stetsons fit will love the fit of this one. This hat is well ventilated and will keep you cool. But it does not offer a sun protection rating.

6. Dorfman Pacific Safari Hat

  • Brand: Dorfman Pacific
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Panama style
  • Size: Up to XXL
  • Material: Cotton, nylon mesh
  • Sun Protection: UPF 40+
  • Breathable: Mesh sides
  • Waterproof: No
  • Chin Straps: Yes
  • Other Features: Wide brim, mesh sidewall
  • Ideal for: Driving safari, dry savanna

The khaki color of this Dorfman Pacific hat helps you blend into the surrounding environment as you watch the game around you. Dorfman Pacific offers detailed sizing guidelines to help you choose the right size for your head.

Thanks to the wide brim and the adjustable chin strap, you can customize the fit and get some sun protection.

7. Coolibar Wide Brim Sun Hat

  • Brand: Coolibar
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Performance
  • Size: Up to L/XL
  • Material: Polyester
  • Sun Protection: Yes, 50+ UPF
  • Breathable: Grommets on the side, moisture wicking headband
  • Waterproof: No
  • Chin Straps: Yes
  • Other Features: Crush resistant, toggle cord
  • Ideal for: Dry safaris

Another top choice from Coolibar is the company’s wide brim safari hat, which has a toggle form that lets you adjust the fit and placement of the hat. The crown is resistant to crushing when you wear or pack the hat, and it has screen grommets with metal surrounds that let air flow through the hat and around your head.

This hat is not water-resistant or waterproof though and can take quite a bit of time to dry if it becomes wet.

Mens safari hats

Safari Hats for Women

8. Coolibar Packable Womens Sun Hat

  • Brand: Coolibar
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Fashion and performance
  • Size: One size fits all
  • Material: Polyester knit
  • Sun Protection: Yes, 50+ UPF
  • Breathable: Interior sweatband, open weave
  • Waterproof: No
  • Chin Straps: No
  • Other Features: Oversize brim, packable, crush resistant
  • Ideal for: Recreation and leisure

Whether you want to keep the sun out of your eyes while lounging on the beach or stay comfortable on a safari, Coolibar makes this packable hat for you. You can press it down to fit in your suitcase and shake it out later because it’s resistant to crushing.

It also comes in various colors that you can match with your favorite outfits.

Something to keep in mind when looking at this hat is that it may be best for lounging during your safari downtime. Because it does not have a chinstrap, the brim is so wide/floppy and it’s so lightweight the wind can blow it off your head.

9. Tilley TH9 Women’s Hemp Hat

  • Brand: Tilley
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Fedora
  • Size: Up to XL
  • Material: Hemp
  • Sun Protection: Yes, 50+ UPF
  • Breathable: Naturally breathable material
  • Water-resistant: Yes
  • Chin Straps: No
  • Other Features: Resistant to mold and mildew, resistant to saltwater
  • Ideal for: Humid jungle, boating

Perfect for wearing on the water, the TH9 works just as well on a safari excursion. Made from a type of hemp that is naturally breathable, this hat has a sloped design with a brim that covers your face to repel wind and water.

It is resistant to both mildew and mold. This is less likely to blow off your head than the hat in option 9 but still does not have a chin strap so you may to steady it with your hand in a strong wind.

10. Coolibar Sun Catcher UPF 50+

  • Brand: Coolibar
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Fashion and performance
  • Size: One size fits all
  • Material: Polyester
  • Sun Protection: Yes, 50+ UPF
  • Breathable: Cool material
  • Water-resistant: Yes
  • Chin Straps: Yes
  • Other Features: Packable, crush resistant, toggle cord
  • Ideal for: Most purposes

With a high sun protection factor and a breathable design, the Sun Catcher from Coolibar can keep up with most of your outdoor activities.

It has a lightweight design that lets you wear it all day and a toggle cord that keeps the wind from tugging the hat off your head.

11. Coolibar Marina Women’s Safari Hat

  • Brand: Coolibar
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Slouch and performance
  • Size: One size fits all
  • Material: Polyester
  • Sun Protection: Yes, 50+ UPF
  • Breathable: Open weave
  • Waterproof: No
  • Chin Straps: No
  • Other Features: Asymmetrical brim, decorative design
  • Ideal for: Most outdoor activities

If you want to look fashionable and stay safe from the sun, the Marina from Coolibar might be the best hat for you. The asymmetrical brim adds a touch of style to the hat and keeps your face away from the sun.

It uses a woven polyester material with an open weave that helps the fabric breathe and comes in multiple colors. The Marina can lose its shape with regular wear and can fit too tightly on some heads. Just double-check the sizing chart before ordering.

womens safari hats

Other Safari Hats

12. Outback Trading Oilskin Unisex Safari Hat

  • Brand: Outback Trading
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Oilskin
  • Size: Small to XL
  • Material: Cotton oilskin
  • Sun Protection: Yes, 50 UPF
  • Breathable: Grommet ventilation holes
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Chin Straps: Yes
  • Other Features: Wire brim, leather band, quick dry sweatband
  • Ideal for: Driving safari, dry savanna, jungle treks

Made from 100% oilskin, the Kodiak from Outback Trading can make you feel like a real explorer. The wire brim lets you shape that hat to fit your face and get the protection that you need.

It has two air holes on the sides with grommets to protect the fabric and a sweatband that dries quickly on the inside.

13. Dorfman Pacific Outback Safari Hat

  • Brand: Dorfman Pacific
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Oilskin
  • Size: Up to 3XL
  • Material: Cotton, polyester
  • Sun Protection: Yes, 50+ UPF
  • Breathable: Ventilation holes, breathable cotton
  • Waterproof: No, but oilskil takes waterproofing well.
  • Chin Straps: Yes
  • Other Features: Interior sweatband, smooth liner
  • Ideal for: Most trips

Made to look like a traditional western hat, this Dorfman Pacific hat would look right at home on the ranch or in the outback. It uses both cotton and polyester to protect you from the sun and has an adjustable cord that you can lock in place.

You can even pick between two different colors: brown or black. Though the hat has a unisex design, it can be too large for some heads and is neither water resistant or waterproof. But with some dressing, you can quickly waterproof any oilskin fabric.

14. Henschel Outback Leather Hat

  • Brand: Henschel
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Type of safari hat: Oilskin
  • Size: Up to XL
  • Material: Leather
  • Sun Protection: Yes, but UPF not listed
  • Breathable: Two air holes
  • Waterproof: No
  • Chin Straps: No
  • Other Features: Crush resistant, low crown
  • Ideal for: Dry savanna, driving safaris

Made from 100% leather, this Outback hat from Henschel has a low crown for a more comfortable fit. A matching piece of leather wraps around the hat to form a band, and it has a slight brim to keep the sun out of your eyes.

This hat is also resistant to crushing and is safe to pack in your bag. You must dry clean this hat though, and it is not safe to wear in the rain.

what is a pith helmet

6 Types of Safari Hats

Before you buy the best safari hat for your trip to Uganda or another part of Africa, you should look at the different types of hats to see which one is right for your upcoming safari.

1. Pith Helmet

The pith helmet is one of the most popular types of safari hats. It has a traditional look that incorporates a button on the top covered in the same fabric or material that covers the rest of the helmet.

The brim wraps all around the helmet and has a chin strap that lays across the top. You can slide this strap off the helmet and place it under your chin.

Pith helmets usually feature a base made from pith or some type of cork with a cotton twill material that dries quickly on top. Many of these helmets also have some ventilation holes.

2. Felt Safari Hat

If you want to look like Indiana Jones strolling through the Amazon, a felt safari hat might be the one you want on your head. This takes the idea of a traditional safari hat and gives it a modern touch.

Instead of using a cotton or twill material, it uses brush felt. Most of these hats have a fedora style with a pinched area on the top (that pulls the hat in towards the center) and a band wrapped around the side, usually made from leather.

3. Slouch Hat

Similar to the felt safari hat is the slouch hat. You might see this called an Outback hat because it has a close connection to the Australian Outback.

This hat typically used felted fur to create the shape of the hat with a clip that lets you lift one side of the hat up and away from your face. A band wraps around the middle of the hat and usually uses a contrasting color from the hat itself. If you want to keep the sun off your neck, you can release the clip and let the brim cover more of your skin.

Most of these hats use felted fur, but some companies now make similar hats from other materials.

4. Panama Hat

Panama hats can date back to the middle of the 17th century. Many of the hats made back then look similar to the ones that you can buy today.

The hats mimic the design of the fedora with a large “V” pinch in the center of the top and spots on the sides that pinch in too. One key characteristic of this hat is the band that wraps around the middle.

You’ll often find hats in a light color with a band in a darker shade. Though original Panama hats used straw, most of those available today use fabric or canvas.

Of course, an actual panama hat is made with palm fibers and is made in Ecuador. But the style has come to describe hats made by many other materials.

5. Leather and Oilskin Hats

Oilskin hats look almost exactly like slouch hats but use a different type of material. This material is a popular choice for both hats and coats. Similar to the weatherproof materials used by fishermen and sailors in the 18th century, oilskin is traditionally waterproof.

Manufacturers create the material with products applied to the surface in multiple coats. Modern hats made from either oilskin or leather are not always water-resist or waterproof though.

Before wearing one of these hats on your African vacation, you need to apply a material that will prevent water damage. Hats of this type usually have a crown that sits a few inches off the top of your head and a chin strap with adjustable cords and a toggle lock.

6. Performance Safari Hat

A performance safari hat has features to keep you comfortable and healthy on your trip. They include sun protection, waterproofing, moisture wicking, breathability, etc.

They include hats made by Coolibar, Tilley Endurables, and Columbia. The focus is more on performance than appearance.

best safari hats

12 Common Questions About Safari Hats

Many people shopping for gear before their African safaris have questions about what they should buy and why they need those items. You can easily find safari hats that match the shirts and clothing you wear and all the gear that you need.

It’s equally important that you check out the answers to some of the safari hat questions that other buyers had.

1. Do you need a hat on safari?

Yes. A safari hat is a must on any safari.

There are various things that you need while on a safari, including fresh water and sunscreen. Though you may think that you don’t need a hat, you need some type of protection for your head.

The best hats have a wide brim that blocks the sun beating down on both your head and your neck. This reduces the risk that you might get sunburned and lets you stay cool in the hot sun. There are plenty of great hats that you can choose from for your trip, including the ones on the list above.

2. What is a safari hat called?

A traditional safari hat is known as a pith helmet.

The term safari hat has come to refer to several different types of hats. If you have any questions about what type of hat is best for you, make sure that you read through the above section.

While a pith helmet offers a traditional look for your safari, other hats do a better job of keeping your face and neck safe. And this will likely be your most uncomfortable option.

Slouch and felt hats are a few examples of safari hats. These are hats that people wear to stay safe while on safari.

3. What is a pith helmet?

A pith helmet is the traditional safari hat and has a classic design. It is what many people associate with the term safari hat.

Worn by Spanish and French soldiers in past generations, it became popular in the late 1800s. Some Americans and other fighters even wore similar helmets during World War I. It has a top button covered in fabric and vents on the sides along with a chin strap that wraps across the top of the brim.

Most pith helmets come in neutral shades such as khaki or tan, though you’ll find some in lighter shades of green. The color of the helmet usually matches the environment that you will visit.

what is a safari hat

4. What does a pith helmet represent?

The pith helmet can represent a few different things or people. Most associate it with cultures in tropical destinations. These helmets give some protection from the sun and heat when working outside.

Some also associate the pith helmet with some of the early explorers who ventured into uncharted locations. The helmet can feature badges or emblems associated with specific countries and military groups too. In addition to the French and Spanish soldiers who once wore the helmets, armed forces in Britain and the United States did too.

5. Where did the pith helmet come from?

Pith helmets date back to at least the 1840s. The soldiers fighting in tropical destinations adapted their helmets to get more protection from the sun and heat.

Some also credit the helmets worn by German forces during the Franco-Prussian War for the way pith helmets look today. These early helmets had both a front brim and matching brim on the back. Cloth or fabric covered the top of the helmet and the brim too.

The helmets used today are similar in design but often have a more rounded shape.

6. Why did people soak their pith helmet in water?

Pith hats were soaked overnight to keep the wearer cool with evaporation.

Originally, pith helmets were made with natural cork. By soaking the helmet in water the night before, soldiers and explorers spent the day with a wet helmet on their head.

The evaporation of water would keep them cool all day. The cork maintains its shape even when wet – and would hold a significant amount of water. It could even be rehydrated during the day.

Because of this natural cooling property, they became popular in many hot climates, including Singapore, India, Africa, and Vietnam.

7. Pith helmets in popular culture

Comedian, Lord Buckley made the pith helmet his trademark.

Over the years, German diplomats, Italian soldiers, Canadian infantry, British soldiers, Ethiopian Imperial Guard, Australian police, and Spanish soldiers have all had pith helmets as part of their uniform – either field or ceremonial.

European tourists and leaders both wore pith helmets when visiting the tropics, including Winston Churchill in Cairo in 1942.

The Royal Canadian Regiment (infantry regiment with four battalions) uses the pith helmet as their official ceremonial dress uniform.

The Royal Marines in the United Kingdom wear the Wolseley pattern pith helmet. They feature a brass ornament on top and are made of natural cork, covered in white fabric.

Popular use of the pith helmet went into decline in the 1950s. They still remain common for many tourists going on safari.

African hat

8. What is a safari hat?

A safari hat is essentially just a hat designed for use while on a safari. The most important characteristic of this hat is sun protection.

The African sun can seem brighter than the sun back home and beat down directly on your head. Safari trips can last for hours at a time and even let you spend overnight in the wilderness.

When you wake up the next morning, you don’t want to struggle with a sunburn or heat exhaustion. These hats can help you stay cool in those high temperatures and prevent sunstroke too.

9. How to wear a safari hat

Though you might think that wearing a safari hat is as easy as popping one on your head, there are a few tricks that might help.

  1. The hat should cover the entire top of your head and have a brim that provides some shade for your mouth and lower face. You want to wear it when the sun is out (excitement can make us forget to grab it on the way out of the hotel or to put it on once we’re out there enjoying the safari) and make sure that it fits properly.
  2. If the hat has a chin strap, make sure that you don’t pull this too tightly. You can usually tie the strap around the center of your neck and still have full mobility.
  3. If the strap has a toggle, you can twist or lock the toggle to make sure that it doesn’t come loose.

10. Where can I buy a safari hat?

You can buy a safari hat from a few different sources.

We recommend the following manufacturers of safari hats. They include: Tilley Hats, Coolibar, Columbia, and Dorfman Pacific.

11. How to measure your hat size

Before you shop online, you need to measure your head. All you need is a flexible measuring tape such as those that seamstresses use. Or you can use a piece of string and then measure it with a ruler or tape measure.

You’ll want to place the measuring tape over your ear and run it across your head, making sure that it wraps over your forehead. The measurement that you get lets you check the sizes offered by manufacturers to buy a hat that fits.

Though some companies offer hats with a one size fits all design, you still want to check the measurement to make sure it will fit.

12. How to wear a safari hat around neck

Despite what you might think, you don’t need to wear a safari hat every day that you’re in Africa.

These hats can help on cloudy days when the sun’s rays can stream through those clouds, but you don’t need one when it rains. An easy way to keep that hat close by is when you wear it around your neck.

To do so, you need a hat with a chin strap. You can lift the hat off your head and let it slide down the back of your neck. When it gets to a place that feels comfortable, use the chin strap to tie it off. No matter where you go or how active you are, the hat will remain around your neck.

best safari hat

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Your turn

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post about safari hats. Which hat do you have your eye on? When are you leaving for your safari? If you have a tip or question, let me know below!

Happy safari!