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Outdoor Research Sun Bucket Review

The Sun Bucket is a lightweight, durable and comfortable hat for backpacking; but with its short brim, it falls short in the sun protection category.
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Price:  $35 List | $23.73 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Small, comfortable, lightweight, packs down very small, decent protection, good in wind
Cons:  Size of brim, breathability
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Jessica Haist ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 24, 2017
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 17
  • Protection - 30% 6
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Breathability - 15% 6
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Style - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket is the lightest and most packable hat we tested, along with one of the most comfortable. It offers surprisingly good protection for its weight and is quite durable. We brought it on some rugged backpacking adventures, and it was an excellent choice because it provides decent sun protection and we could jam it in your pack when we didn't need it. If you are looking for a hat that can fold up practically into your pocket and can be busted out when the sun gets going, this hat is for you.


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Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Small, comfortable, lightweight, packs down very small, decent protection, good in windLightweight, durable, good sun protectionGood protection, comfortable, good in wind, breathableTotal protection, removable cape, good in the wind, good valueGreat protection all around, especially on the back; brim is angled for longer protection, good ventilation, comfortable
Cons Size of brim, breathabilityNot super stylishLess durable than Tilley, not great for backpackingLooks a little funny, can get hot on the back of your neckNot stylish, brim is not crushable, shows stains easily
Bottom Line The Sun Bucket is a lightweight, durable and comfortable hat for backpacking; but with its short brim, it falls short in the sun protection category.The Ultra Adventure wins our Editors' Choice for Technical Use for being the highest performing, most versatile hat of the bunch.Good protection from the sun and excellent wind performance makes this a great choice for days spent out on the water.This super protective hat is versatile and an excellent value, winning our Best Buy Award. It lacks in the style department.This hat has great coverage and is a good choice for any sunny activity, although it is quite dorky looking.
Rating Categories Outdoor Research Sun Bucket Ultra Adventure Outdoor Research Sombriolet Sun Runner Cap Adventure Hat
Protection (30%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
10
Comfort (25%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Breathability (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Durability (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
6
Style (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
4
Specs Outdoor Research... Ultra Adventure Outdoor Research... Sun Runner Cap Adventure Hat
Weight (ounces) 1.94 oz 2.6 oz 3.1 oz 2.8 oz 2.64 oz
Size of Brim (inches) 2.38" 3.25", with 6" neck cape 4" front/back, 3.25" sides 2.75 brim, 7.25" neck cape 3.75", with 7.25" neck cape
Material 86% nylon, 14% polyester 88% nylon, 12% polyester dobby 86% nylon, 14% polyester double weave ripstop 100% Supplex nylon 100% nylon with 100% polyester mesh insets
UPF rating 50+ 50+ 50+ 50+ 50+
Cinch Cord Yes - removable Yes Yes Yes Yes
Packable/compressible Yes Yes Yes Yes No - do not fold or compress the brim. Packs Flat
Size tested S (6 3/4 - 7 1/4 L L L M 21" - 23"

Our Analysis and Test Results

This lightweight, comfortable hat offers a reasonable level of sun protection and is a good, non-committing choice for adventures where you may need a hat, but want to be able to stow it away as well.

Performance Comparison


The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket scored in the middle of the pack and had lower than average performance, but is very comfortable and durable.

The OR Sun Bucket is versatile and cute.
The OR Sun Bucket is versatile and cute.

Protection


The brim is 2.5 inches all the way around, giving you just enough protection to keep your face covered and a little on the back of your neck. This is the least amount of protection of all the hats we tested. The North Face Horizon Brimmer and Sunday Afternoons Adventure both have significantly more protection. However, we love the material Outdoor Research used for the brim. It is completely crushable for any amount of time and has a slight angle to it so that it slopes down from the top. This is great because it gives you protection throughout the day as the sun is moving, unlike the flat-brimmed hats that are only good at a certain angle. This hat also stays on your head well, protecting you from gusts of wind. It has a cinch at the back that will tighten down the hat around your head for particularly windy days.

The OR Sun Bucket's small brim offers decent protection and can be crushed in your pack and bounce right back.
The OR Sun Bucket's small brim offers decent protection and can be crushed in your pack and bounce right back.

Comfort


This contender and the Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat were the most comfortable. The light, stretchy and breathable materials of these hats are a huge contributor to this rating. It almost feels like you are not even wearing a hat, but it's still there, sitting snug on your head. The small flexible brim on this competitor prevents it from flying off in the wind, and with the cinch cord around your neck, it will never fall off. The cinch cord on the neck also can be detached, which can be nice if you don't want it to get caught on anything. The band around your head absorbs sweat and keep you comfortable, and we have not noticed any sweat stains. The Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat has a clever piece of webbing across the forehead to disguise any sweat stains that come through.

The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket has a drawcord to tighten around your head when things get windy.
The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket has a drawcord to tighten around your head when things get windy.

Breathability


The material used for this hat is fairly breathable, but what makes a hat breathable is its mesh ventilation. This hat is only equipped with two small holes on either side for ventilation, whereas the most breathable hats, like both of the Sunday Afternoons hats, have large mesh panels on either side. These holes only slightly help with breathability. However, this hat is still great for high output activities; you'll just be a little hotter than if you were wearing a hat with mesh ventilation. The hat's material itself is quite thin and breathes relatively well. If you know you have a boiling head or just like to have a cool head, we suggest a more breathable hat like the OR Sombriolet Sun Hat or the Ultra Adventure.

The OR Sun Bucket does not have the greatest coverage but makes up for it in comfort and weight savings.
The OR Sun Bucket does not have the greatest coverage but makes up for it in comfort and weight savings.

Durability


The durability of this hat was exceptional. In fact, this was the most crushable hat we tested; its lightweight, durable brim can be crushed for any amount of time without any damage as opposed to the Adventure Hat, which needs to be stored flat or it gets large permanent creases. We always had this hat with us because it's so light; the fact that we could just stuff it into our bag or pocket is great, too. If you're looking for a hat that has a bit more coverage and is slightly more stylish, check out the Tilley Airflo. Its rigid brim bounces right back to shape.

The OR Sun Bucket has the smallest pack size in this review and is can be crushed  no problem
The OR Sun Bucket has the smallest pack size in this review and is can be crushed, no problem

Style


This hat isn't the most fashionable, but its small brim is more subtle in its style than the Sunday Afternoon hats. It looks good on some people and slightly dorky on others, but no more so than most of the other hats we tested. Fortunately for those into style, the North Face Horizon Brimmer is much more fashionable. We like that you can flip up the brim in the front so that you can see better, but it also changes the style. There are dorkier hats out there and this one is right in the middle. If you are looking for a more stylish hat, but one that isn't as lightweight, check out the Tilley LTM6 Airflo.

Best Applications


A great choice for backpacking and day hiking, the brim is not so wide that it will hit your pack when backpacking like other wide-brimmed choices, like the Outdoor Research Sombriolet. Shove it in your pack, and you have a lightweight solution for sun protection.

The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket is a great choice for alpine backpacking trips.
The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket is a great choice for alpine backpacking trips.

Value


Retailing for $35, the Sun Bucket is one of the cheapest hats in this review, and is a great value. If you're looking for something with a little more sun coverage, check out the Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap; for one dollar more, it is a better bang for your buck.

Conclusion


This is an ideal little hat that will give you ample sun protection in a comfortable, lightweight package. Its brim is not super wide so you'll still need to apply sunscreen to your neck, but it is very durable and crushable to throw in your pack, and the brim is not so wide that it will hit your pack when backpacking.

The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket and Sun Runner Caps on a windy day in the alpine. Jessica Haist has the cape's cinch cord filpped over the back to keep the flaps out of her face.
The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket and Sun Runner Caps on a windy day in the alpine. Jessica Haist has the cape's cinch cord filpped over the back to keep the flaps out of her face.


Jessica Haist