Outdoor Research Ghost Rain Review
Cons: Not packable, rain flap affects size when tucked, brim hits backpack
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Our Analysis and Test Results
New to our review in 2019, the Outdoor Research Ghost is a combined rain-and-sun hat with a wide brim and a decent amount of style. After extensive wear and testing, we found the Ghost to be a solid performer for a specific kind of use. It's comfortable, as long as you order a large enough size to accommodate the tucked-up rain flap. It's protective, as long as you're not wearing a backpack that hits the brim and knocks the hat out of place. It's durable, as long as you're not repeatedly crushing it into a bag or pack. It's stylish, if you're into the Indiana Jones look. For some outdoor enthusiasts, the Ghost will be the perfect hat to last for years to come. Are you one of them? Read on to find out.
While it wasn't a standout in any category, the Ghost performed fairly well across the board.
The Ghost's brim is relatively wide at 3 5/8" in the front and back and 2 1/2" on the sides, so it offers great protection, especially for the face and neck. This hat also stays firmly in place thanks to its adjustable interior sweatband and its secure chin strap. We found that even strong winds couldn't budge this cap. The only downside in this area is that the wide back brim interferes with a loaded backpack. Even if you have the hat cinched down so a backpack won't knock it out of place, the interaction with the relatively stiff brim is annoying, which decreases the likelihood that you'll wear the hat. For another full-brim option that still offers good sun protection but interacts less with a backpack, check out the Filson Summer Packer.
The Ghost is a 2-in-1 rain and sun hat, and this is a mixed blessing in terms of comfort. On the one hand, this hat kept us comfortable in all conditions, from heavy downpours to blazing sun to those many semi-cloudy days in between. But to convert from rain hat to sun hat, you peel back the Gore-Tex rain cap and tuck it into a flap in the back of the hat's crown, and we found that wearing the Ghost with the rain cap tucked was not as comfortable as wearing it without. Tucking the rain flap creates a bulge in the back of the hat that significantly changes the interior size, so that a properly fitting rain hat becomes an uncomfortably tight sun hat. The Ghost comes in four sizes and has an adjustable interior sweatband, so if you go with this hat, we'd strongly recommend ordering a size up and using the adjustable band to tighten it to fit in rain mode.
In sun mode, the front of the Ghost is covered by a fabric-lined mesh panel that wraps all the way back to the ears. This provides excellent breathability. However, as noted above, if you order this hat true-to-size, it will be tight in sun mode due to the tucked rain flap, which will make it hard for air to flow through the cap. Ordering a size up should eliminate this problem. In rain mode, the cap's crown is covered in Gore-Tex, so breathability is nil. If you're hoping for a cap that's both breathable and mildly rain-repellent — say, for a tropical hike in the shoulder seasons? — check out the Outdoor Research Sombriolet.
Outdoor Research is known for quality construction with durable materials, and the Ghost is a good example of this. This hat is put together well and feels solid and tough. After extensive wear and abuse throughout our test period, the Ghost still looked sharp, and we couldn't find any signs of stitching coming loose or material thinning or fading.
The reason the Ghost doesn't score top marks in this category is that it's not crushable, so if you're going to be shoving this hat into a crowded backpack for weeks at a time, it's likely going to suffer. When we crammed the Ghost into a small Ziplock (a difficult feat) and left it for 30 minutes, it came out looking totally mashed, and it took several wears and a dunk in water to get the brim to return to its usual shape. We also found that this hat took forever to dry — more than three hours after being fully soaked and left in the sun to dry, its interior was still wet. Users who will be repeatedly getting this hat wet may find that the materials never have time to dry fully, which could affect long-term durability. We found that our co-Editors' Choice awardees, the Filson Summer Packer and the Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure, were as well-constructed as the Ghost while also being crushable and quick to dry.
This hat gives off an "Indiana Jones gets serious about day hikes" kind of vibe. It has a distinct technical style that might make it a little weird for wearing on errands around town, and it would definitely be too casual for most outdoor weddings. But it's not unattractive, and many of the folks we surveyed picked it out as one of the more stylish in our test group. Men were more into the style of this hat than women, though we still think ladies can rock it.
The Ghost is definitely a combo rain-and-sun hat, so users who are planning on hiking or recreating in all weather should consider this option, while those who are looking for a true sun-only hat will find more breathable, comfortable options elsewhere in this review. Because the Ghost is not crushable and because of its wide back brim, we don't recommend this for backpackers, but for all other outdoor pursuits, from day hikes to rafting trips, this could be a solid choice.
This is not a cheap hat — at $79, it's among the most expensive in our review. That said, it's good for a wide range of activities in all weather, fairly stylish, and made to last. So if you read the review above and you think you'll get a lot of mileage out of the Ghost, then we think it could be worth this price. But if you're looking for a dedicated sun hat, there are definitely better value options.
In the Ghost, Outdoor Research has created a rain hat that also performs adequately in the sun. It offers solid sun protection, an adjustable fit, and decent style. While this isn't the best sun hat in our review, it's a great option for folks who will be recreating in all weather and don't want to mess around with a bunch of different hats. If that's you, we think you'll get a lot of use out of the Ghost for years to come.
— Joanna Trieger