The Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap is the most versatile and protective hat in this review, and is a great value. For these reasons, it takes home our Best Buy award. It comes with a removable liner that can add total protection when needed, or can be removed so that you can wear it like a baseball cap when you don't want to look like you just came from an expedition into the heart of the Sahara desert. This hat is so lightweight and comes in a variety of colors. We think it is an excellent choice for backpacking. If you want a hat that will be extremely versatile and give you total protection and don't mind looking dorky when you want to be protected from the sun, then this hat is for you.
Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Total protection, removable cape, good in the wind, good value
Cons: Looks a little funny, can get hot on the back of your neck
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This versatile, lightweight cap allows for complete protection or can be worn as a baseball cap. We felt incredibly dorky in this number, but it kept our neck and face free from sunburn in the sunny Sierra Nevada while traveling over reflective granite and snow. We did note that it tended to get hot on the back of our neck when exerting ourselves.
The Sun Runner scores at the top of the charts for protection but loses points in the breathability and style categories. The full cape that wraps around your neck can become hot and sweaty. Style is a subjective thing, but we can't deny that this cap has a certain lack of it.
We scored the Sun Runner a 10 out of 10 in this category. It measures a 2.75" brim and a 7.25" neck cape. The neck cape is the same length as the super protective Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat, but wraps around the front of your neck and can be closed in front to protect from glare off of surfaces like water or snow.
If worn without the cape, this cap is significantly less protective, and its brim is quite short for a baseball cap; it would not score the same for just the cap. If you're looking for a shorter brim, the Outdoor Research Sun Bucket has a 2.4" brim that wraps around and covers the back of your neck. We quickly discovered that sun hats with long neck capes are the most protective. Our favorite was the light and breathable Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure, which was slightly more comfortable than the Sun Runner.
We have read various reports about the mesh panels on the side meant for breathability. One person wrote that his head was burned through the mesh while another bald man reported no burns at all. We can't say for sure, but this is something you may want to take into consideration as many of the hats in this review have mesh panels that slightly expose the head.
In addition to being a very protective hat, the Sun Runner is very comfortable and lightweight. It also doesn't have a big brim to get in the way when you're recreating and allows for better peripheral vision when trying to look up.
Unlike some of the other hats we tested, the Sun Runner has a Velcro strap in the back, allowing you to get a custom fit, which means you don't have to worry much about the sizing. The other hats we tested, like the OR Sun Bucket and the OR Sombriolet, have a cinch cord on the back that compares to the Velcro strap on the Sun Runner, but we found the Velcro on the Sun Runner to be more efficient and cover a wider variety of sizes. The Ultra Adventure also has a convenient strap sizing system we liked and we love the material Outdoor Research uses for their sun hats. It's super lightweight, soft, and comfortable.
We docked the Sun Runner some points in this category because when wearing it with the cape on, it can feel quite hot with the material against your neck, and airflow is limited when it is cinched tight at the front.
We also noticed that the cape could ride up the sides and cover some of the mesh paneling. The Ultra Adventure has large mesh panels that are not obstructed by its cape.
It is still somewhat breathable with the cape on, but since the cape is in direct contact with your skin, it heats you up more, making it hotter inside of the hat than a classic wide-brimmed hat, like The North Face Horizon Brimmer. We did notice that if you don't need the full protection provided by cinching all the way at the neck, you can alternatively flip the neck cord over your head so that the cape can flap in the wind. This allows more airflow and gives you more breathability. We like the Tilley LTM6 Airflo's mesh panel around the top of its crown for ventilation if you're looking for a more stylish hat.
The Sun Runner is very durable and compressible.
We stuffed it into our backpack many times and did not notice much wear and tear over our six-day backpack trip. All of the Outdoor Research hats we tested were very durable, especially the Sun Bucket but we docked this hat's durability points because its brim can easily become damaged if folded or packed wrong. Other than that, this is a very durable hat that will last you a long time. We were disappointed with the Adventure Hat for the same reason, as permanent creases appear in the brim when folded. However, the LTM6 Airflo can be crushed and folded and will bounce back.
There's no avoiding it - sun hats are not particularly stylish. And there seems to be a correlation between the more sun protection a hat has, the dorkier it appears.
This is very true in the Sun Runner's case. It and the very protective Adventure Hat are the least stylish in this review. If you choose to wear the Sun Runner without the cape, that is a different story. It looks like any other baseball cap, but with grommets on either side of the brim where the cape attaches. The choice is yours; if you don't care about looks and just practicality, then this hat is for you. If you don't want to be the center of a joke, then only wear this with your most trusted friends.
We like the variety of colors it is available in and were pleased with the purple color. The Outdoor Research Women's Oasis Sun Sombrero also comes in a variety of lovely colors to choose from if you're more interested in a full brim style hat. The most stylish hats we tested were the Tilley and the Arc'teryx Sinsola.
This hat is a great choice for most sunny activities, like backpacking and paddling. You can be out in any element from snow to water, and it's got you covered. This is also the only hat in this review that will fit under a helmet, with or without the cape, which makes it a versatile choice for activities like rock climbing. We would not necessarily recommend this hat for casual around town activities, as it slightly overkill. Instead, we'd recommend something like The North Face Horizon Brimmer for that purpose.
The Sun Runner retails for $36 and can often be found on sale. Because of its price and versatility, we've awarded it our Best Buy Award and think it is a great value for a super protective hat. It is on the low end of the price spectrum, like the Outdoor Research Sun Bucket and the Columbia Bora Bora Booney II, and we think it brings greater value to the table.
Going on safari in Africa? On a glacier? Don't care what people think about how you look? This hat is for you. It will absolutely protect your skin from the sun, and you will absolutely look dorky while wearing the cape. The Sun Runner is super versatile and can be worn as a baseball cap when less protection is needed but really shines when the sun is beating down. It is a great value and wins our Best Buy Award.
— Jessica Haist