Tilley Hats Review

A long term investment - or Finders, Keepers!

Some products in the outdoor industry are more hi-tech than others. The Tilley T3 hat that I stumbled across back in 2005 is one of the more time-honoured designs. I found said Tilley hat, lost by its previous owner, floating gently on the shore of a remote lake. At the time, I knew nothing of my new, old, slightly mouldy hat’s provenance. I was, however, immediately attracted by the quirky label, just readable through the film of green algae and slime. The idea of “Canadian persnicketiness” and a lifetime guarantee suggested that this was no ordinary hat.

A pre-loved Tilley hat, rescued from a lake A pre-loved Tilley hat, rescued from a lake

After a machine wash with Persil non-bio (I knew nothing of Nikwax techwash at the time), the hat looked remarkably unaffected by what must have been weeks in the lake. Its quality of design and manufacturing was clear. It also seemed to fit me perfectly, thus generating a curious feeling of destiny.

I wore my newly adopted hat for various activities and travels over the next few years. I started to notice many other similar hats (probably paid for rather than fished for) on other distinguished heads in the outdoor arena.

I found that the Tilley was excellent for UV protection, but also marvellously refreshing when soaked in rivers and worn as a cooling aid on hot summer walks. The T3’s cotton duck material absorbed water and stiffened when wet, making the hat a very effective (although not waterproof) product to wear in bad weather. It also floated, which made it perfect when I had a job as a water sports instructor. The neoprene pad in the top of the hat was a feature that saved my head from numerous boating-related bumps and bruises too.

Although I became very attached to my Tilley hat, the fact that I had found it meant that I perhaps didn’t care for it quite as fastidiously as most true Tilley enthusiasts might. The hat became quite battered and ringed with salt stains. I thought it became rather better looking with age and experience, just like myself. Naturally, I was devastated when my hat eventually developed a tear just above the front of the sweat band. This was probably caused by degradation of the cotton due to the tiny, abrasive salt crystals left behind as sweat evaporated from my brow.

The state of my beloved hat went from “well-used” to “amusingly battered” and then to “sadly unwearable”. After nearly a decade of use by myself, not to mention its former life with the original owner, I had come to the point where a replacement hat was sadly necessary. Fortunately, I had since begun my job at Outside Ltd, where I found out just how much of a premium product these hats are. I was able to purchase the same hat in the same size. To date, my new Tilley T3 has been just as well used, yet slightly better cared for: I tend to hand wash every now and again with Nikwax tech wash and leave it to dry naturally.

The new hat now has a pleasant patina of use that is, once again, getting better with age. If only the same could still be said for myself…

Find out more about Tilley hats here: https://www.outside.co.uk/brands/t-z/tilley.html

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