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What Are the Different Types of Fishing Hats?

Man fishing wearing a hat

Fishing hats come in all types of styles and uses. Fishing without a hat is like going mountain biking without a helmet. It’s just not done. There’s a good reason for that. Imagine sitting on a fishing boat all day with the sun beating down on you, sizzling your sunscreen-coated head all day long. After you get back to camp that night, you’re going to feel the worst sunburn. Water has a way of increasing the effects of the sun.

A quality fishing hat will do far more than just keep the sun out of your eyes. If that was its only purpose, you could buy a pair of sunglasses and call it good. A fishing hat will also provide protection for your ears, neck, and face. I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t consider the importance of proper sun protection when they’ve come aboard my boat heading out for a day of fishing with me, so I always bring along extra hats and sunscreen. I’d hate for my reviews to say, “great fishing, but the sunburn at the end of the day was awful.”

Skin cancer is a big concern that needs more awareness, and a quality fishing hat can help you avoid unnecessary exposure to its primary cause. Too much exposure to the sun and too many sunburns lead directly to skin cancer, so plan ahead and get a good hat. With that said, I’ve covered several types here to give you an idea of what might work best for you.

  • The What and Why – What makes a good fishing hat
  • Baseball Caps – Standard issue baseballs cap
  • Boonie – Several varieties are available, simple designs
  • Jones-Style – Not as prevalent as it was in the past, but a great hat
  • Straw Hat – Iconic straw hat
  • Bora Bora Booney – Popular bucket style hat
  • Up-Downer – The go-to fly fishing cap

The What and Why of Fishing Hats

As with any outdoor adventure, fishing means spending time in the sun. It also means spending time in the wind, rain, snow, sleet, possible wildfire ash, volcanic activity, tsunamis, earthquakes, and other natural disasters that could never drag you away from the lake. What I’m saying is, you need a hat that can handle the elements.

It might sound like I wear a lot of hats, and it’s true. I do. I also fish nearly every day, so I need a lot of hats. I am one of the lucky few who make a living fishing and writing about fishing. I say lucky. Those in my family who have to deal with my hat collection might tell you differently. I digress.

The old standby has been to throw on a baseball cap and call it good. I have several that I swear bring me luck on specific waters. One works on a small creek in Utah. Every time I fish it, I wear that ball cap. I’ve never been skunked. I’ve never fished it without that cap on. Coincidence? I’ll leave that up to you.

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There are so many different structures of hat styles out there that it’s nearly impossible to go over all of them. One key takeaway from this is to remember that a fishing hat isn’t worth a thing if you hate wearing it. Comfort is important. It needs to be comfortable and protect you from sun and wind damage.

Your face, ears, and neck need to be as protected as possible from the sun when you’re out on the water. If you skip this vital step, you’re going to be at your annual checkup one year, and the doctor’s going to give you the fun news that you’ve got skin cancer. You get introduced to that scary-looking ice-cream scooper instrument they use to remove it (I speak from experience here.) Don’t take sun protection lightly. Those scoops hurt.

I wear either a Boonie style hat with a reinforced front brim, so it doesn’t flop around in the breeze in the summer on the lake, or a longer billed baseball cap style with a neck gaiter or my old-school Simms Lefty Kreh up downer hat, but that’s not made any longer. Now I use this up-downer style. When shore fishing with my boy, I wear a straw hat. I love my straw hats, though I prefer not to wear them out on the boat. The harsher winds tend to tear them up pretty fast. In the cooler weather, I switch up to a knitted cap. It doesn’t provide coverage for my face, so I am sure to apply sunscreen. I also wear my neck gaiter and will typically pull it up over my nose.

Let’s get into the different styles of hats available and see what might work best for you.

1. Baseball Caps

Under Armour Men's Fish Hook 2.0 Cap , Pitch Gray (12)/Steel , X-Large/XX-Large

Source: Amazon

Baseball caps have been the go-to fishing hat since they were invented. I’ve worn out several in the pursuit of underwater prey over the years. They work great for what they do, and pairing them with sunglasses works great as long as you include a neck gaiter to keep the sun off your neck and face.

Baseball caps have all the advantages of being easy to use, lightweight, cool, and breathable. They typically stay on pretty well in the wind but might fly off if they aren’t adjusted properly or don’t fit quite right. The cons are they don’t provide enough sun protection on their own and can lead to excessive sunburns on unprotected skin. Your ears, neck, and face will get scorched after a day on the water without added protection. Baseball caps run anywhere from $10 up to $45.

A hat like the Ellewin’s fishing cap with the add-on neck and face guards provides all the protection you need, and the protection can be removed once the sun goes down. A bonus is that it keeps the bugs off you at night, so you might want to leave it on.

Boonie Hats

KastKing Sol Armis UPF 50 Boonie Hat - Sun Protection Hat, Fishing Hat, Beach & Hiking Hat, Paddling, Rowing, Kayaking Hat,Silver Mist

Source: Amazon

Boonies are great for fishing. They provide a decent amount of protection from the sun with their wrap around the brim, though it can get floppy in the wind. If you decide a Boonie is the right style for you, make sure it has a chin strap so it doesn’t blow away with the first gust of wind you encounter. I’ve lost one on a kayak before. I had to race after it for longer than I found acceptable to retrieve it before it sunk into the depths of Lake Powell. It had a chin strap. I chose not to wear it that morning. Lesson learned.

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I have several boonies that I’ve collected from various places over the years. Some have come from vendors, others I’ve purchased. One thing is definitely true for all of them. They are built to last. The most important things to look for when purchasing a Boonie are breathability, UPF protection, and a moisture wicking headband. If you find a hat with those features, along with a chin strap, you’re in business. A bonus would be a stiff front brim. That’s not a necessity, just a bonus feature.

The cons to a Boonie are the floppy brim and the ease of it blowing away. Once these things get wet, they hang on your head like a soggy noodle. A stiff front brim helps with that. The typical Boonie costs between $15 – $40.

Jones-Style

Drake Waterfowl Gore-TEX® Jones Hat Realtree Timber Large/XLarge

Source: Amazon

The Jones-style cap is a multipurpose cap that is great for cooler weather fishing and duck-hunting. My dad wore one fishing when I was a kid, and I have one for early spring fishing. I wore his old one when at the family cabin, and I can see why he loved it so much. While the style is more traditional than most hats on this list, it holds up to the modern needs of angling. That basically means I can wear my earbuds while I fish, and it offers some neck protection.

While it still requires a neck gaiter for full sun coverage, it at least provides good warmth and is very breathable. The cotton is generally waxed with this style, so rain beads up and runs off. Your head doesn’t end up getting soaked by the end of the day. If you like the old-school look, you can’t go wrong with a Jones cap. They run anywhere from $20 – $120.

Another hat in this style is the Stormy Kromer. I think most people will recognize this hat from their grandpa. Mine wore one whenever it got cool enough for there to be a frost on the ground. It didn’t matter if he was going fishing or not. Frost on the ground meant out comes the Stormy Kromer. The typical cost is around $50.

Straw Hat

Quiksilver Mens Pierside Straw Sun Hat, Natural/Red, Large-X-Large US

Source: Amazon

I love straw hats. I love the look, the way they let the breeze through, how my head never gets hot, and that they look pretty cool.  The downside is that once they get wet, you might as well order a new one. They aren’t built to last, that’s for sure.

Even though they tend to be a seasonal hat for me, I still end up buying a new one every year or two. If you fish often, I recommend the same to you. They are inexpensive, easy to throw on once you get to the water, and you don’t have to worry about damage. It’s inevitable. Once damaged, you can replace it and toss the old one. I keep wearing my hat until it just doesn’t make sense anymore. If the brim isn’t connected on one side or the top has eroded away, I’ll swap it out. If it’s still in its recognizable shape, it’s still wearable. You can get into a hat like this from $15 – $45.

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Bora Bora Booney

Columbia Adult Bora Bora II Booney Omni Shade Sun Hat (Sage(XU4700365)/Grey, One Size)

Source: Amazon

The Bora Bora Booney is a brand specific hat made by Columbia. With all the varieties of Boonie hats out there, Columbia made the bold move of renaming its hat the Booney. It lasts forever, stands up well to moderate wear and tear, and makes an excellent hat to leave on the boat. I have six of them I leave aboard my charter boat for those that forget theirs. They provide adequate protection, offer good cooling features, and aren’t that pricy.

Another bonus to these hats is the ease of washing them. I leave them on the deck of the boat at the end of the day and wash them out with the rest of the boat. They say hand wash only. I use my hand to hold the spray nozzle of the hose as I spray out the boat. I haven’t shrunk any of them, and after three years, the color still looks great. I do squirt some soap on them every time they get used to ensure they’re fully cleansed.

Overall, I don’t have any cons to say about these hats. They’re great, inexpensive, and durable. If you’re on a kayak or are bank fishing, add a neck gaiter to ensure complete coverage.

Up Downer Style Cap

icolor Sun Cap Fishing Hats Summer Outdoor Sun Protection Travel Beach Baseball Hat w/Removable UPF 50+ Quick Dry Neck & Face Flap Cover for Men Women Girl

Source: Amazon

The old-school Up Downer is close to being extinct. There was a fantastic hat made by Simms for years called the Lefty Kreh Up/Downer. I had two of these hats, wore them out, and loved them. These days the closest you can get is with something like the icolor cap (pictured above). It offers the same features but lacks that Lefty Kreh feel. He was one of a kind, for sure.

In the world of flyfishing, few made their mark like Lefty. Nobody could walk up to a river and look more out of place before effortlessly casting what looked like a perfect 100-yard rolling cast right to a waiting 15lb rainbow that nobody else in the group even spotted, let alone could have gotten their fly halfway to, and he did it like it was no big deal. Every single time.

The up-downer style is perfect for warmer climates. It keeps the sun off while still giving you a breathable cover around your neck and face. That’s because Lefty knew what he was doing.