It’s not that I have anything against baseball caps. I often wear them hiking, biking, kayaking, running, skiing, climbing – you get the idea. But for a long-distance thru-hike, I really need to cover more territory. I am a pony-tailed hiker most of the time, and there’s a lot of exposed skin. A wide-brimmed sun hat is de rigueur so I don’t need to go through the daily ritual of slathering sloppy sunscreen on my ears and the back of my neck.
Before I hiked the John Muir Trail in 2012, I wandered into Midwest Mountaineering here in Minneapolis and stumbled into a relationship with Kavu that changed my life. Kavu is an acronym for an aviation term describing the perfect day: “Klear Above Visibility Unlimited.” I mean how can you not want a bit of this sensibility on your body while hiking – especially on a thru-hike when some days might possibly be a bit less-than-perfect and you gotta push through anyway with a big smile on your face?
My first Kavu Fisherman’s Chilba was a black-and-white number. Shaped like a bucket, the drawcord chin strap attaches to the side of the hat, cinching it safely in place against any blustery wind, but never tight against your head. Yes, I know, a big thru-hike of 2000+ miles does tend to swell the head – but so does heat and altitude. The last thing you want is a headache from simply trying to keep your hat in place.
The fabric is quick-wicking polyester, easily washable and stored. One side is a “conversation-starting” print, the other black, which has put me in good stead against reflected sun off sand, rock, snow and water. While I feel well protected from sun – and rain – the brim is not wide enough to block rays hitting my nose or neck, and I need to apply sunscreen. This was especially of concern in New Zealand which lacks any pretense of an ozone layer.
One of the hat’s greatest assets might be its one liability – the shape is held through the use of a stainless steel ring allowing the hat to fold down and tuck into the pack – or in my case, tuck into my hip belt. This ring will eventually snap, poke through the fabric and cut you – I sported a long, thin laceration on my right cheek. Granted the ring stayed strong for about 4,000 miles of punishing hiking and those are pretty good stats for any gear.
I can’t just leave that “conversation-starter” comment on Kavu’s official site sitting out there. My Fisherman’s Chillba set me apart on the trail, becoming a signature bit of flair in the Blissful Hiker arsenal. Most people I met along the way would first look me in the eyes to say hello, then cast their gaze to my hat. It was only the few who commented how much they loved my hat – kindred spirits who ended up becoming hiker soul-mates.
In spite of minor issues with the Kavu Fishermans Chillba, I’ll still take it along on the next thru-hike to protect my noggin, rating the hat with four Anitas.
Specs at a glance
- Fabric: water resistant polyester
- Drawcord: nylon, plastic stopper
- Brim support: stainless steel
alison young purchased her Kavu Chilba Fisherman’s Hat at Midwest Mountaineering.