A good, reliable hat, one that will keep off sun, wind, rain and snow, will not blow off, is tough, versatile, is made from (mainly) natural materials, easy to wash, is comfortable to wear, gives protection and ventilation, is crushable and packable, unisex and good looking, and is even guaranteed for life, seems like the bushcrafter’s ideal, or even dream, headwear.
But it exists! And it has existed for quite some time in the shape of the classic, instantly recognisable – even iconic, Tilley T3.
Made from 10 oz pre-shrunk cotton duck fabric that is treated to give extra water-repellency and mildew resistance and fitted with brass ventilation grommets, side snaps and “wind cord” eyelets, with a “secret” pocket in the crown that holds a non-absorbent foam liner to give the hat buoyancy ( and a measure of impact protection), a Hydrofil anti-sweat band that helps wick sweat away from your forehead, a fully adjustable twin “fore and aft” wind cord that keeps the hat on your head, even in a gale, the T3 is built to last and built for comfort!
Designed to fit low and loose (held by the wind cords, not by a tight fit), the T3 comes in a huge range of sizes from 6.7/8 to 8+ (55cm to 66.5cm, or 21.5/8” to 26.1/8”) and you are sure to get one just the right size, while the brim – 2.75” (7cm) deep at the front and back, 2.3/8” (6cm) at the sides, can snap up out of the way, or fold out to make the most of the hat’s UPF of 50+ rating.
How many hats are guaranteed for life with a no quibble agreement? The T3 is! How many manufacturers insure the hat against loss or damage? The T3 has a 2-year, all perils 50% deductible policy attached! How many hats come with a 4-page owner’s manual? The T3 does. And how many hats can pass (repeatedly!) through an elephant’s digestive system and still be wearable (after washing…)? You guessed it, the T3 has done it!
Now, I am not saying the T3 does not have its faults, only that I have yet to find them!
I have worn my Tilley T3s (I currently own 2 so I have one to wear while the other is in the wash) for many years in Britain, Europe, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and the jungles of Asia, and have found it performs well in all climates and weathers, as well as in activities from canoeing (the floating aspect helps here…) thorough trekking and shooting to camping and bushcraft.
Although the Tilley T3 is guaranteed for life, I have obviously lived too long, having worn out 2 T3s already (I do have very acid and profusely-produced sweat!) but Tilley have, without prevarication sent replacements. They even returned the worn out/rotted hats when requested so my trophy wall can boast a dead Tilley!
As Tilley hats mature with use, they develop a patina and you get sentimentally attached to them. My T3s both act as mobile souvenirs of trips around the globe with home made bands made from bits I have acquired on trips.
I would not be without my Tilley T3s, and even if the purchase price of around £47 seems steep, it is not much to pay for a hat that will last a lifetime and will become an old friend while proving as tough and versatile as you want! Oh, and Tilley do lots of other good stuff as well!
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