Reviews You Can Rely On

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 sun hat review
Credit: REI Co-op
Price:  $35 List
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Joanna Trieger ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 13, 2019
  • Protection - 30% 7.0
  • Comfort - 25% 7.0
  • Breathability - 15% 7.0
  • Durability - 15% 7.0
  • Style - 15% 4.0
RELATED: Best Sun Hat

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.
Great sun protection
Well ventilated
Very deep crown
Brim hits backpack
Not stylish
As of 2022, REI no longer makes this version of the Paddler's hat.

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

rei co-op paddler's hat sun hat review - 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.
Credit: Joanna Trieger


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.

rei co-op paddler's hat sun hat review - 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.
Credit: Joanna Trieger


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.

rei co-op paddler's hat sun hat review - 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.
Credit: Joanna Trieger


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.

rei co-op paddler's hat sun hat review - 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.
Credit: Joanna Trieger


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.

rei co-op paddler's hat sun hat review - 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.
Credit: Joanna Trieger


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.

rei co-op paddler's hat sun hat review - 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.
Credit: Joanna Trieger


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.


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.

rei co-op paddler's hat sun hat review - 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.
Credit: Joanna Trieger

Joanna Trieger
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