Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What should you look for in kid's hiking hat?

On one peakbagging hike, I took my two-year-old son in a child carrier on my bag up and then down a 8,000-foot peak. When we reached the bottom, he tapped my shoulder and said, “Daddy, left my hat up there.” His arm extended beyond my face as he pointed at the peak. My two-year-old always seemed to be losing his hat on hikes, but we always found them. I wasn’t about to hike back up to the mountain top, though, and the incident made me wonder why I even bothered to carry a hat for him.

Though we didn’t go back up to search for his hat, I certainly did buy him a new one.

After all, there are plenty of good reasons to have a hat on hike – which I why I always carry a hat and force myself as well as my son to wear one. First, a hat will help keep the sun out of eyes and off your face, which is very useful when sunglasses break or sunscreen sweats off. A hat also will keep heat it during colder moments. Finally, it can prevent rain from hitting your face, which is good for keeping up morale when you’re otherwise getting soaked.

When selecting a hat to wear, look for these qualities:
g Wide brim – This will provide more of a shadow across the face and neck, helping to prevent sunburn. In case of rain, it’ll also help keep water from dripping onto the face.
g Repels rain – A hat that gets soaked isn’t any better than no hat at all. The hat should allow the child’s head to remain dry.
g Lightweight – The neck and legs, especially of children, shouldn’t have to bear a lot of extra weight during a hike. Heavier hats also can keep too much heat from escaping their head, creating unnecessary sweat.
g Soft but durable chin strap – You don’t want chin straps digging into or chaffing your child’s soft skin. At the same time, don’t settle for material so lightweight that it’ll easily break.

The biggest problem you’ll face with hats on the trail is kids losing them. They take them off at stops and leave them behind or take them off during the walk and drop them. An easy solution is to ensure the hat has a long and adjustable chin strap on it, so that when kids take off their hats, all they have to do is let it rest on their neck or shoulder blades by pushing it behind them.

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.