Duluth Trading Co. Oil Cloth Packer Hat

A good hat keeps the sun out of your face, the rain off your head, and guarantees the wearer always be presented with a sort of respectability and cunning. With a hat on your head, the world seems a more acceptable place.

You see, a man should always wear a hat. I've noticed, of course, that you people up here never wear one. But you should, so that you can tip it whenever the occasion demands. - Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

In years past I was a boonie hat man. Mine would be with me where-ever I went. But I was quick to discover that it did no good in the rain. The cotton would simply suck up the water and chill my head. In the rain, I’d be better off hat-less. For a year thereafter I experimented with synthetic offerings from the likes of Outdoor Research and REI. They have hats for sun and hats for rain, but none that suited me well enough.

Then, a year and a half ago, I tried out Duluth Trading Co.’s Oil Cloth Packer Hat. It has rarely left my head since.

Oil Cloth Packer Hat

It is crushable, packable, breathable, water-resistant, and stylish.

The paracord chin strap is my own addition. It’s needed whenever there’s any wind, and provides a useful attachment point for hooking to my pack. When not in use, it’s stowed as shown in the pictures.

The original color is a deal darker than represented in my pictures, for it’s seen much sun and has been washed a few times throughout the years. Usually I wash it by hand with a bit of Bronner’s Magic Soap in the sink, then let it hang dry in the sun. At the end of last summer, the leather band surrounding the hat was entirely covered in salt crystallized from my sweat, so I tossed it into the washing machine with the rest of my load. It survived, faded but not damaged. Throughout all this wear and washing, the oil finish has thinned and is gone in some places, so the water resiliency is lessened.

I will probably have to replace it before the year is out. Though I have no complaints for Duluth, I think I’ll try a Filson packer hat next. They’re a local brand and have a reputation for quality. Tilley Endurables‘s reputation is unsurpassed by other hatters for quality and durability, but they’re a bit pricey and none of their models have the classic style of the packer hat.

One word of warning for any considering the style: random people tell me at least every other week that I look like Indiana Jones (or, if they’re more intoxicated, “hey, you look that guy with the whip!”) – this despite the fact that Indiana Jones’ hat is clearly a fedora, and my hat clearly is not. With the new film coming out, I imagine these occurrences will only increase.

Tramps like to lie down on their sides a lot. They like to be in the shade and the only way to lie in the shade is on your side. You're a lucky tramp if you have a hat, that's good shade, but if you don't have a hat you're gonna have a sunburn and not just your face and your arms but your eyeballs, your eyeballs will get beet-red because lots of times there just ain't anywhere to go to get out of the sun. A tramp ain't gonna have a cigarette or a drink when he wants one and he don't think about getting old, he just thinks about getting by, and if a drink of bourbon replaces a drink of water and he's in the desert, well then he needed that bourbon more than the water, but he'll take the water with him, case the bourbon dries up. So do yourself a favor and get a good hat. - Eddy Joe Cotton, Hobo

Oil Cloth Packer Hat