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REI Co-op Paddler's Hat Review

This is a fine option for various light applications, but there are better options on the market
REI Co-op Paddler's Hat
Photo: REI Co-op
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Price:  $35 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Great sun protection, well ventilated, adjustable
Cons:  Very deep crown, brim hits backpack, not stylish
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Joanna Trieger ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 13, 2019
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 17
  • Protection - 30% 7
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Breathability - 15% 7
  • Durability - 15% 7
  • Style - 15% 4

Our Verdict

If you're looking for a comfortable, lightweight, breathable, packable hat with a wide brim to protect you from the sun, you could do worse than the REI Co-op Paddler's Hat. The problem is, you could also do better. While this hat did fairly well in most of our performance metrics, (except style), it was either matched or bested across the board by several other hats. So, while the Paddler's Hat is a fine choice that you'll likely be happy with, there are better options available that are more stylish or have better options.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $35 List
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74
Star Rating
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Pros Great sun protection, well ventilated, adjustableLightweight, 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 Very deep crown, brim hits backpack, not stylishNot 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 This is a fine option for various light applications, but there are better options on the marketThis 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 REI Co-op Paddler's... Ultra Adventure Sun Runner Cap Adventure Hat Horizon Breeze Brimmer
Protection (30%)
7.0
9.0
10.0
10.0
6.0
Comfort (25%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
Breathability (15%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
Durability (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Style (15%)
4.0
5.0
6.0
4.0
6.0
Specs REI Co-op Paddler's... Ultra Adventure Sun Runner Cap Adventure Hat Horizon Breeze Brimmer
Weight (ounces) 3.3 oz 2.6 oz 2.8 oz 2.6 oz 2.9 oz
UPF rating 50 50+ 50+ 50+ 40+
Size of Brim (inches) 3" front, 4" back 3.25", with 6" neck cape 2.75 brim, 7.25" neck cape 3.75", 7.25" neck cape 2.9"
Material Nylon 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 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Packable/compressible Yes Yes Yes No - do not fold or compress the brim. Packs Flat Yes
Size tested L/XL L L M 21" - 23" L/XL

Our Analysis and Test Results

The REI Co-op Paddler's Hat is a protective and comfortable hat that performed well in a variety of tests and real-world use scenarios. While our testers were annoyed by its surprisingly deep crown, they were pleased by its adjustability and breathability. So should you settle for the Paddler's Hat, or spring for another model? Read on to find out.

Performance Comparison


The REI Co-op Paddler's hat is a fine option for a summer day hike.
The REI Co-op Paddler's hat is a fine option for a summer day hike.
Photo: Joanna Trieger

Protection


The Paddler's Hat has one of the widest brims of the hats we tested, measuring 4 inches in the back and 3 inches in front and on the sides. It has a cinch cord so you can comfortably adjust it to fit your head, which means it stays firmly in place and provides reliable protection. We knocked it down slightly in this category because the wide back brim constantly interferes with a pack if you're wearing one, which makes it more likely that you'll take it off.

The cinch cord in the Paddler's crown makes it fit snugly, so it...
The cinch cord in the Paddler's crown makes it fit snugly, so it stays in place and reliably keeps the sun off your face and neck.
Photo: Joanna Trieger

Comfort


Overall, the REI Co-op Paddler's is a comfortable hat, though we had a couple of gripes. On the upside, the crown material is soft and conforms to your head, and there are no areas that dig in or chafe. The adjustable cinch cord in the crown allows the hat to fit snugly without pinching. On the downside, this hat has a very deep crown, so that it came down well over the tops of our ears and almost touched the tops of our eyebrows. This was a lot of coverage. And it made the Paddler's a little uncomfortable. It also meant that the hat brim rode low in our field of vision, which was annoying. This hat also only comes in two sizes, so getting an ideal fit might be challenging, though the cinch cord in the crown definitely helps with this.

The Paddler's is an extremely deep hat, coming over our tester's...
The Paddler's is an extremely deep hat, coming over our tester's ears and hitting her eyebrows. This made it slightly less comfortable than comparable models.
Photo: Joanna Trieger

Breathability


REI took considerable effort to make this hat breathable, and the Paddler's did well here. This hat features both a double layer of light mesh and three eyelet vents on either side, which really allows the air to flow through even when the cinch cord in the crown is tight. The rest of the crown is covered in light, pliable material, so we never felt stifled in this hat.

The large mesh panels (dome-shaped at bottom of crown) and eyelet...
The large mesh panels (dome-shaped at bottom of crown) and eyelet vents make the REI Co-op Paddler's very breathable.
Photo: Joanna Trieger

Durability


The Paddler's Hat will certainly hold up to sustained light use, but this is not the most durable hat we tested. The quality of the stitching and materials doesn't feel quite comparable to its competitor hats. And it feels much flimsier than some of the other hats we tested.

This hat does hold up fairly well to being packed and crushed, though it's not perfect. After being crammed into a Ziplock bag for 30 minutes, the Paddler's brim was significantly creased, but these creases almost disappeared after a few wears. If you're going to be repeatedly stuffing your sun hat into a backpack or vest pocket, we'd recommend a model that can better hold up to crushing.

After being subjected to our Ziplock crush test, the Paddler's...
After being subjected to our Ziplock crush test, the Paddler's sustained significant brim creases. These almost went away after a few wears, but they never quite disappeared.
Photo: Joanna Trieger

Style


The Paddler's is a great functional hat, but it's not super stylish. This is definitely a cap that says "I made a wise and economical choice about sun protection" before it says "I give a darn about looking cool." It's not sleek, it has a deep, baggy crown and a big ol' floppy brim, and it comes in one color: drab. If you want a hat you can proudly wear on the patio of your local brewpub after your hike, peruse the other reviews in this category to figure out which hat best matches your style.

Good lookin' views, dorky lookin' hat. This is not the most stylish...
Good lookin' views, dorky lookin' hat. This is not the most stylish model we tested, but it gets the job done on a casual hike.
Photo: Joanna Trieger

Value


This hat has the potential to provide you with many years of comfortable, versatile sun protection at a relatively low price. If you've got money left on your REI dividend, get the Paddler's! Otherwise, maybe consider something else.

Conclusion


The REI Co-op Paddler's is a jack of all trades and a master of none. It's protective, but it's not the most protective. It's comfortable, but there are more comfortable options. It's breathable and durable, but other hats are more so. And in terms of style, it lags behind most of the competition. If you wind up with this hat, you likely won't be disappointed, but there are better options out there.

Heading out for a day hike with your pup? You could do worse than...
Heading out for a day hike with your pup? You could do worse than the REI Co-op Paddler's.
Photo: Joanna Trieger

Joanna Trieger