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Best Hats For Bird Watching Under $20 (Value for money!)

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Let’s face it, there have been days when you were out bird watching and you found it really spot birds out in the bright daylight of summer afternoons. You just wished that you had something to shield you from the sun and you thought: “I should get a hat!”. But you may also have thought: “what hats do birders actually wear?”. Well, I too have faced this similar situation and I didn’t find much information online summarizing a collection of good hats for birders at affordable prices. So I compiled a list. Here’s what I found:

Affordable hats that birders commonly spot are Boonie hats, bucket hats, and baseball caps. These hats are chosen by birders for special reasons such as to shield their neck from the sun, offset glare from surfaces and shield direct sunlight.

Hats: A Bird Watching Essential

Many tend to skip this essential in a birders’ gear kit, especially when they are out bird watching as complete beginners. These are also those that come back from the field with a nasty sunburn on the back of their necks.

Bird watching hats are essential. Before we dive into the different hats you can consider purchasing, let’s understand which hats are suited for you and their benefits:

Protection From The Sun: The greatest advantage of owning a hat for bird watching is for its protection of direct sun rays from the sun. When out bird watching for multiple hours on end, it is important to protect the delicate skin on our faces and neck from sun exposure to prevent excessive skin damage. Some hats have inbuilt UV protection to provide extra protection for those of you with sensitive skin.

Hats with a wide and floppy brim like bucket hats and boonie hats are great for bird watching because they can be packed into your field bag. They also provide protection for the back of your neck from the harmful UV rays from the sun.

Reducing glare: On especially hot and sunny summer afternoons, the glare from the sun can severely reduce visibility when out bird watching in the field. This could potentially make bird identification for you more difficult. Ideally you would want to opt for a hat that can minimize as much glare as possible, so that you don’t have to squint to see birds through your binoculars.

Camouflage: When out bird watching, you want to see the bird, not the other way around! That’s why you would need a neutral-colored that that will help you blend into the natural surroundings through camouflage. Hats with neutral tones can help to break the outline of the top of your head, so that you so visually obvious to the birds you are observing. Generally, earthy tones like grey, brown, green, and black are acceptable colors for blending perfectly with the environment. (And also the community of other birders around you!)

Warmth: While hats can provide shade during sunny hats, it can also be used to keep warm in cold climates. Some may think that it to be clever to get a hat with ear flaps, BUT that will only muffle the sound of faint calls and songs of birds in the distance. You might even miss your chance to spot that rare bird you’ve always wanted to tick off your life list.

Ventilation: Hats with added ventilation features such as mesh that allow continuous airflow, are a must on hot and sunny days. These hats will definitely serve you well in keeping you both cool and protected from the sun’s harsh rays on summer expeditions.

Which Hat Should You Purchase For Birding?

Now that you’ve seen the different hats suitable for birding. It’s time to take a pick. Let me help you decide! Here’s a quick summary table of the products:

Sunday Afternoons Cruiser HatPremium Boonie HatConnectyle Outdoor Large Brim Hat with Neck CoverCombat Army Style Wide Brim HatBird Nerd Dad Cap
ColorCream, Quarry, Sand, TanTan, Olive, Gray, Navy, Black, Light GrayArmy Green, Black, Dark Grey, Khaki, Light Grey, Navy Blue, Rose RedBlack, Brown, Camouflage, Green, KhakiTan
SizeMedium & LargeSingle size: 24-inch head circumferenceLarge brim of 12cm/4.7″. Total size: 22.0″-23.6″/56-60cmSingle size: 59cm / 23in head circumferenceSingle size: Has an adjustable strap
Material100% Nylon Mesh, 100% PolyesterLightweight high-quality water/stain-resistant nylon100% Polyester60% cotton, 40% polyester100% Cotton
Who Should Buy It?For birders who want more style, with high functionalityFor birders who want a great price with great versatility.For birders who spend long hours in the sun.For birders who love military-styled hats.For any birders who want to show off as bird nerds.

Hats For Bird Watching

1) Sunday Afternoons Cruiser Hat By Sunday Afternoons

First up, we have the Sunday Afternoons Cruiser Hat. This hat has a modern look and feel, perfect for both the young and young at heart.

Price: $28.80 on medium and $20.99 on large. This pricing is based on the cream/sand colorway at the time of writing of this blog post. Other colors of the same item are priced at different ranges for different sizes.

Color Options: It comes in neutral colors such as cream, quarry, sand, and tan – perfect for bird watching.

Sizing: The Sunday Afternoons Cruiser Hat comes in both medium and large sizes to fit your head size.

Material: 100% Nylon Mesh, 100% Polyester. This is lightweight and great for the afternoons. It has a UPF 50+ rating, which allows for UV protection from the sun’s rays.

Mesh Crown Ventilation: The hat boasts an added mesh on the crown of the hat for extra ventilation on hot days.

Brim Length: 3 inches on the front, 4 inches at the back. This hat is wide enough and has got your back to protect you from the sun’s rays on your neck.

Who Should Buy It?: This hat is perfect for those who need some protection from the sun on hot and summery days bird watching in the field. It is suitable for birders who are serious in investing in a hat with a sense of style but still preserve great functionality.


2) Premium Boonie Hat By Sun Cube

This hat is perfect for those who want a more affordable option to the Sunday Afternoons Cruiser Hat, with more breathability. This hat boasts a more attractive price point. Let’s look at what makes it special:

Price: $13.99 without shipping costs

Color Options: Available in 6 colors – Tan, Olive, Gray, Navy, Black, Light Gray

Sizing: It only offers a single size – a 24-inch head circumference with 3.7 inch brims and adjustable cords for snug fit

Material: It is made out of lightweight high-quality water/stain-resistant nylon for quick drying out in the field. (Very useful out in the field when it rains! It is 50+ UPF for complete UV ray protection of your face, ears and neck, perfect for long hours in the sun during birding.

Mesh Ventilation: The hat offers good ventilation with mesh on the side of the crown, again perfect for extremely hot days.

Great For Travel And Storage: The hat is easily foldable and can be kept into backpacks without taking up much space if needed.

Who Should Buy It?: This hat is more for those looking for a more budget-friendly version of the Sunday Afternoons Cruiser Hat. This hat still offers great versatility, but while offering an extremely affordable price.


3) Connectyle Outdoor Large Brim Hat with Neck Cover by Connectyle

This hat was included in my list due to its unique neck cover that extends from the back brim of the hat to below the neckline of the back. This hat provides great value for birders who spend long hours in the sun and need a little more protection from the sun. Let’s assess its features:

Price: $13.99 without shipping costs. A decent price for those looking for a hat with more coverage.

Color Options: Army green, black, dark grey, khaki, light grey, navy blue and rose red. (please don’t purchase rose red, you will only attract unwanted attention from both other birders and the birds themselves)

Sizing: It has an extremely large brim of 12cm/4.7″. Its total size is: 22.0″-23.6″/56-60 CM. This includes the large neck cover that extends over the back.

Material: It is made of polyester, so it is breathable and allows for quick drying. The hat is also UPF 50+, which provides additional protection from harmful UV rays.

Mesh Ventilation: It has mesh vents on both sides of the hat to keep you cool and dry while you are out birding.

Who Should Buy It?: Bird watchers who will be staying for long hours out in the sun who need extra coverage to prevent excessive sunburns, especially on their necks due to its unique neck cover.


4) Combat Army Style Wide Brim Hat By Ultrakey Store

This hat is perfect for military lovers who want to pull off a military vibe. This hat was designed not just for birding, but for hunting, camping, hiking and travel. One special feature is its affordability and camouflage pattern design.

Price: $9.99 without shipping. In my opinion, an absolute steal for such a versatile hat.

Color Options: Black, brown, camouflage, green, and khaki. The only hat in this list that offers the camouflage pattern.

Sizing: It has a hat circumference of 59cm / 23in.

Material: 60% cotton, 40% polyester, comfortable to the touch.

Ventilation: It has 2 eyelets on each side of the hat for breathability.

Easily Foldable: The hat is easily foldable to fit into backpacks if you choose not to wear the hat all the time. It can also easily fit into your vest or pocket.

Who Should Buy It?: Anyone who loves military-styled hats and would want to show that off to fellow birders. Also really affordable for those looking for a great deal.


5) Bird Nerd Dad Cap by XiCoLtd

With all the choices above for those serious about long hours in the field, here’s a funny baseball cap you can consider purchasing for making a statement! Here’s to being proud of being a birder – a bird nerd!

Price: $4.99. A really affordable price as compared to the previous options!

Color Options: Tan

Material: Cotton

Who Should Buy It?: All birders and bird watchers! For anyone who is a true bird nerd.


Final Thoughts

Now that you know what hats are most suitable for birding and seen the different types of hat available out there, go pick up a hat for yourself, and save your eyes from glare and your neck from a bad sunburn today! Or even if you already own one, why not pick up a bird nerd hat while you’re at it? Whichever hat you decide to choose, they are all statement pieces that are essential for birding. Choose wisely!

My Recommended Birding Resources:

Hey there, Justin here!

Here’s a list of all my favorite resources, products, and brands I trust and love.

My Celestron Nature DX 8×42 Binoculars: It’s a great budget pair for beginner birders. Highly valued for its price! Read my review.

Safe Paint for Bird Baths Guide: Learn about non-toxic paint for painting bird baths.

Safe Sealers for Bird Baths Guide: Learn which sealers are safe for bird baths.

Safe Paint for Bird Feeders Guide: Learn what special care needs to be taken to paint bird feeders with the right paint.

Safe Paint for Birdhouses Guide: Learn about non-toxic paint for painting birdhouses. (Not the same as bird baths!)

Bird Identification Apps Guide: 2 of my favorite birding apps are Merlin Bird ID, and eBird Mobile! Merlin is great for tracking and identifying birds, and eBird Mobile is great for tracking the birds sighted when birding.

Check out my resources page for the full list of resources I recommend!

Justin Chia

Justin is the founder and author of Birding Outdoors. He is a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) alumnus with a Bachelor of Biological Sciences and a former data analyst.

Now, Justin runs the Birding Outdoors blog full-time, hoping to share his deep love for birds, birding, and nature with others.

To unwind, Justin enjoys gaming and reading.

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