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Outdoor Research Sun Bucket Review

A lightweight, durable, and comfortable hat for backpacking; but with its short brim, it falls short in the sun protection category
Outdoor Research Sun Bucket
Photo: Outdoor Research
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Price:  $35 List | $34.95 at Backcountry
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  ⋅  May 17, 2021
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 17
  • Protection - 30% 5
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Breathability - 15% 6
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Style - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket is one of the lightest and most packable hats that we tested, as is among the coziest and 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 Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $34.95 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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74
Star Rating
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Pros Small, comfortable, lightweight, packs down very small, decent protection, good in windLightweight, durable, great sun protectionExcellent protection, removable cape, good in the wind, good valueGreat protection all around, especially on the back; brim is angled for longer protection, good ventilation, comfortableComfortable, very breathable, good color, great value
Cons Size of brim, breathabilityNot super stylishLooks a little funny, can get hot on the back of your neckNot stylish, brim is not crushable, shows stains easilyNot very stylish, brim could be wider
Bottom Line A lightweight, durable, and comfortable hat for backpacking; but with its short brim, it falls short in the sun protection categoryThis hat wins our Editors' Choice for Technical Use for being the highest performing and most versatile of the bunchThis super protective hat is lightweight, versatile, and an excellent value, winning our Best Buy AwardThis hat has great coverage and is a good choice for any sunny activity, although it is not the most stylishOne of our top choices for a full brim hat that is extremely comfortable and breathable and a great value
Rating Categories Outdoor Research Su... Ultra Adventure Sun Runner Cap Adventure Hat Horizon Breeze Brimmer
Protection (30%)
5.0
9.0
10.0
10.0
6.0
Comfort (25%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
Breathability (15%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
Durability (15%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Style (15%)
7.0
5.0
6.0
4.0
6.0
Specs Outdoor Research Su... Ultra Adventure Sun Runner Cap Adventure Hat Horizon Breeze Brimmer
Weight (ounces) 1.9 oz 2.6 oz 2.8 oz 2.6 oz 2.9 oz
UPF rating 50+ 50+ 50+ 50+ 40+
Size of Brim (inches) 2.38" 3.25", with 6" neck cape 2.75 brim, 7.25" neck cape 3.75", 7.25" neck cape 2.9"
Material 86% nylon, 14% polyester 88% nylon, 12% polyester dobby 100% Supplex nylon 100% nylon with 100% polyester mesh insets Nylon Ripstop, 97% recycled polyester mesh lined
Cinch Cord Yes - removable Yes Yes Yes Yes
Packable/compressible Yes Yes Yes No - do not fold or compress the brim. Packs Flat Yes
Size tested S (6 3/4 - 7 1/4 L L M 21" - 23" L/XL

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket ranks overall in the middle of the pack and had lower than average performance, but is very comfortable and durable. This lightweight, comfortable hat offers a reasonable level of sun protection. And, it 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 OR Sun Bucket is versatile and cute.
The OR Sun Bucket is versatile and cute.
Photo: Jessica Haist

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

Comfort


This contender is among the most comfortable hats in our test group. 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 keeps you comfortable, and we have not noticed any sweat stains.

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

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 have large mesh panels on either side. The holes on the Sun Bucket 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.

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

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 some others which need to be stored flat to avoid 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.

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

Style


This hat isn't the most fashionable, but its small brim is more subtle in its style than some of the hats we tested. It looks good on some people and slightly dorky on others, but no more so than most of the other similar hats. 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.

The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket is a great choice for alpine...
The Outdoor Research Sun Bucket is a great choice for alpine backpacking trips.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Value


The Sun Bucket is one of the most inexpensive models we tested, and provides a great value. If you're looking for something with a little more sun coverage, check out our other reviews.

Conclusion


This is an ideal little hat that will give you ample sun protection in a comfortable, lightweight package. It is a very durable and crushable hat to throw in your pack. A great choice for backpacking and day hiking, the brim is not so wide that it will hit your pack when backpacking, like some other wide-brimmed choices. Shove it in your pack and you have a lightweight solution for sun protection.

Jessica Haist