When most people think about hats, they think about how warm they keep you in winter and how they keep the sun out throughout summer. But does wearing a hat keep you cooler in addition to protecting your head from direct sunlight?
Wearing a hat can keep you cooler because it protects your head from the sun’s infrared rays. Exposure to infrared rays cause your skin to heat up. A hat prevents this. The hat’s material needs to be porous, though. If the hat is too insulating, it will trap body heat and make you warmer instead.
In this article, I’ll explain in detail how hats can make you cooler. I’ll also talk about the types of hats you should wear to maximize the cooling potential.
Why Does Wearing a Hat Keep You Cooler?
To understand the science behind why a hat can make you feel chilly, we first need to explain the term “exposure.”
Exposure in the medical sense is the condition of being subjected to something which may have a harmful effect. In this case, it’s the extreme infrared radiation from the sun.
Direct exposure to sunlight can cause your body temperature to rise very quickly.
As the top of your head makes up approximately 10% of your skin’s total surface area, it makes sense that you feel hotter when your head is exposed to a lot of heat from the sun’s rays.
A hat keeps you cooler because it provides relief from the sun’s rays and protects you from direct exposure to heat by creating a portable source of shade.
If you want to feel cool, you can’t just wear any type of hat, though. Some hats are designed to insulate and trap the heat your head produces inside the hat. Keep reading to learn what sort of hat you should wear in summer.
Types of Hats That Can Keep You Cool
If your aim is to stay cool, then you need to wear a hat that allows your body heat to escape.
Here are two stylish and excellent hat styles that’ll keep you cool throughout summer:
Baseball caps are made of lightweight, breathable materials like polyester. Also, they have many different variations in the design that change or improve the functionality.
Some caps have several holes sewn into the top of the hat, while others feature a style in which the entire back of the cap is made of a mesh material.
Either feature increases ventilation compared to the traditional design, allowing heat to escape from your head while minimizing exposure to the sun’s rays.
Straw hats are another type of hat designed to protect you from sunlight.
Made of woven synthetic or plant fibers, these hats have been used to beat the heat throughout history.
A lightweight mesh is created by weaving fibers together. The mesh allows heat to disperse from your head but stops the sun’s rays from touching your scalp directly.
Many straw hats also sport a wider than average brim. It increases the shade provided and protects your face from the sun.
How To Keep Cool Without Hats
As far as keeping cool is concerned, hats are a decent tool.
While they actually block convection and evaporative cooling, this is a small price to pay compared to the amount of protection they provide from exposure to the sun’s infrared rays.
However, they aren’t always readily available, so you might need an alternate source of cooling.
Here are a few great alternatives:
Find Some Shade
As simple as this sounds, hanging out in the shade during a hot day is one of the best ways to stay cool.
While hats are basically portable shade creators, they’re limited to shading your head. Finding a larger source of shade like that from a tree or building will keep you significantly cooler than wearing a baseball cap.
Here’s why: while the temperature in the shade is the same as the temperature without shade, being in the shade can make the air feel 10–15°F (5.5–8.3°C) cooler.
This is once again due to protection from exposure to solar radiation.
Solar radiation is so powerful that when meteorologists take the temperature for the day, it’s done in a shaded grassy area. This is to prevent the thermometer from heating up due to exposure.
Without this practice, “You would be measuring the temperature of the thermometer itself instead of the air temperature,” said Jim Lushine, a retired weather service meteorologist.
A Portable Fan
A breeze cools you down thanks to evaporative cooling — sweat on your skin evaporates more quickly when the wind hits it. When sweat evaporates, it leaves the surface of your skin, taking some of the heat radiating off your body with it. So, why don’t you create your own little breeze using a portable fan?
Portable fans are a popular and useful item for combatting heat, especially in places with low humidity levels where evaporative cooling has a greater effect.
If you find yourself hatless, and the nearest shade canopy is nowhere within sight, you’ll wish you’d have bought yourself a portable cooling system.
For most people, this means using a handheld fan. Fans create an artificial breeze regardless of the wind, allowing you to keep cool by helping evaporate the sweat your body produces.
Some portable fans also have a misting system — essentially a water spritzer fused with a battery-operated fan.
If you’re looking for a great portable misting fan, I recommend the O2COOL Deluxe Misting Personal Fan (Amazon.com). It’s affordable, has a long-lasting charge, and creates a refreshing breeze no matter where you are.
A Trip to the Beach/Lake
Another tried and true method of cooling down when it’s hot out is a trip to the beach or your local watering hole. These trips combine several ways of keeping cool, most of which I mentioned above.
The main method would be the actual water. Water changes temperature slower than the surrounding air. The more water there is, the slower the temperature change.
This means that large bodies of water are generally cooler than the temperature you see on the news or your phone.
Beaches are the best by far. Since the water is constantly being pushed by sea breezes, currents, and passing boats, cool deep water quickly rises and mixes with the warmer water near the surface.
The deeper you can dive, the cooler you’ll feel. Out of the water, brisk sea breezes are great at providing more evaporative cooling.
But beaches are few and far between. If you don’t live near the coast, look for a lake instead. They can be just as cool as beaches.
For one, they’re more likely to be surrounded by trees, thus creating more shade. Moreover, lakes are often surrounded by grass and other vegetation that doesn’t retain heat, like concrete or sand. Thus, they’re cooler to be around.
Wearing a hat can make you feel like it’s cooler than it actually is, but it depends on where you are and what type of hat you’re wearing.
If you find yourself outside in the sun, then, by all means, pull out that straw hat or mesh baseball cap to protect yourself from the solar radiation.
But if you want to truly beat the heat, try to find some real shade, take a trip to the beach, or pull out your trusty misting fan!