For some people, the tactical hat they choose is a bit of an afterthought. They shouldn't be, however - tactical hats come with a wide range of useful, innovative and combat-ready features that can make a huge difference in the field.
To help you find the right tactical hat, we'll go over different styles, function-oriented features, and of course, how to find the right size.
What makes a tactical cap?
There are many things that separate tactical caps from backyard baseball caps. For one thing, their materials are much tougher than standard caps, ready to withstand heavy use by the military and law enforcement officers who wear them.
Many tactical hats come with loop fields to accommodate ID patches (again, for military professionals and police). Colors are also tactical; popular colorways include navy, hidden black, and a host of camouflage styles, some of which are even uniform-cleared.
Tactical Hat Styles
Tactical hats come in different shapes and sizes. Certain styles are better suited to different activities – a hat with a mesh back can provide excellent breathability and ventilation, while another wool style can provide insulation against the cold.
The style you choose largely depends on the activities you plan to participate in while wearing your hat.
Typically featuring a six-panel construction, a brim, and a few top vents, caps are a tried-and-true style of hat. However, not all caps are created equal – there are different styles of tactical caps to consider.
- Baseball Caps Featuring a curved brim, eyelets and a button top, the baseball cap is a classic design. In their tactical configuration, these hats often feature looped patch fields and are an excellent choice when trying to go unnoticed in public places.
- Trucker Caps Tactical trucker style caps are essentially the same as baseball caps with one important (and noticeable) difference: the back panels of the hat are mesh. These caps are essential for missions in hot climates. .
- Fitted Caps The fitted tactical caps also feature the standard eyelets, front visor and six panel construction. As their name suggests, they do not feature a rear adjustment strap; rather, they come in different sizes, like pants and shirts do, for a sleek, professional look.
- Increasingly popular snapback caps in recent years (and especially with a younger audience), tactical snapback caps come with the plastic adjustment strap that gives them their name. They also usually feature a flat bill at the instead of a curved spout and are more suitable for casual environments.
Boonie Tactical Hats
The boonie hat is another proven design that fits well with tactical users. Featuring a wide brim that wraps around the hat, top vents and an adjustable drawstring, boonie hats are perfect for hot and humid climates. They provide good protection from the sun and many styles are waterproof, moisture wicking and quick drying. The US Army even designed boonie hats for the extended cold weather clothing system - a testament to their versatility and durability.
Military patrol caps
Patrol caps are an Army-specific style that have adorned the heads of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines for decades. Like tactical caps, they feature a protruding brim, but the actual part of the cap is cylindrical and flatter on top instead of being domed.
Patrol caps include loop fields for name stripes, camouflage colorways (including Scorpion OCP in some cases), and a few styles even come with a crucial map pocket to meet the wearer's navigational needs.
They're obviously popular (and most of the time, mandatory) among military professionals, but the style is also used by other tactical professionals.
With a low-profile, brimless appearance, tactical beanies are an excellent choice for both covert and cold operations. Beanies are typically worn in the fall and winter and are made from insulating materials like fleece, wool, and acrylic.
They're designed for environmentally critical water and wind resistance, and some styles are even officially incorporated into the Army, Air Force, and Space Force's OCP uniform.
Characteristics of the tactical hat
The features of a tactical hat are what really sets it apart from the type of hat that may feature the logo of your favorite sports team.
Weather-resistant properties, abrasion-resistant materials, and military-inspired technology are all incorporated into tactical hats to give their wearers the upper hand.
Materials of tactical caps
After a few years of use (or maybe even months, depending on the hat), most caps eventually tear and stain, making them look visibly worn.
The tough materials that make up the tactical hats, on the other hand, ensure that they last much longer and withstand even more abuse.
Many tactical caps are made from a blend of polyester and cotton, even with ripstop material to provide tear protection. Some styles incorporate elastane and spandex that bend and flex under duress without sacrificing the integrity of the hat.
Still other hats include Cordura nylon, a durable material found in tactical pants, tactical boots, and military boots. Manufacturers choose premium materials that won't break or degrade, ensuring the tactical hats remain ready for use, mission after mission.
Loop patch fields
For military and law enforcement, being able to identify your allies (and allow them to identify you) is vital in the field. This is why many tactical hats incorporate loop fields to accommodate name tapes and rank insignia . Users also like to include morale patches on their tactical hats, either to meet uniform requirements or to add character to their cap.
IR patch loop fields
In addition to loop fields that accommodate rank insignia and name bands, some tactical hats include a smaller (usually 1" x 1") square loop field on top of the hat. This small panel is designed for an infrared (IR) patch. These fixes make it easier for friendly drones and helicopters to spot you from above, greatly reducing the chance of friendly fire in the field.
Water and wind resistance
You never know where your mission will take you. That's why it's important that your tactical cap (and all your other clothing and gear) adapt to the environment, being water and wind resistant when the weather turns bad. Many styles of tactical hats are designed with durable water-repellent (DWR) coatings to keep their wearer's head dry and protected from wind and rain.
Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF)
The main reason tactical professionals and everyday citizens wear hats in the first place is for protection from the sun. In addition to the brim shade, many tactical hats are made with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) technology to help protect wearers from harmful UVA and UVB rays. After all, the last thing you want or need on the pitch is a nasty sunburn.
Common to boonie hats and patrol caps, map pockets provide convenient storage for small items. For important tips on land navigation, be sure to read the fundamentals of map reading .
The same innovative strap system common to tactical backpacks and plate carriers is also present on some tactical hats (mainly boonie hats).
The MOLLE on a boonie hat is sometimes used to store small items like spare shotgun shells, or to attach a protective mosquito net.
Tactical hat cup
A good fit is important with any type of headgear. Follow these tips to make sure your hat fits your head perfectly.
Fitted Tactical Hats
To find your fitted cup size, start by consulting the brand's size chart. Some brands list their sizes based on your head circumference measurement; others only list hat sizes, which is actually the measurement of the diameter of your head (and directly related to the circumference of your head). Either way, you'll need to measure the circumference of your head to find your size.
To measure the circumference of your head, wrap a measuring tape around your head, just above the eyebrows where the hat will rest. If you don't have a flexible measuring tape, you can use a string, mark its length, then measure the string to find your head circumference. After taking the measurement, the rest is easy: the circumference of your head indicates the size you will need.
Adjustable tactical hats
If you don't want to go through the work of finding your measurements, you can play things a little simpler and get a one-size-fits-all adjustable tactical hat. There are different styles of adjustment straps and while the differences are subtle, they can make a difference depending on what you use your hat for.
hook and loop
Hook and loop are used in a wide variety of tactical gear, and caps are no exception. While your adjustability is ultra-precise with hook and loop, be careful - everyone knows how noisy hook and loop can be when unfastening.
We touched on snapbacks earlier, and one of their most useful qualities is their adjustability. While they can't adjust with the same precision as a hook-and-loop strap, most users find the difference to be about negligible.
A buckled strap is another durable option for fine tuning. The tactical hat strap is woven through a single buckle for easy size adjustments.
There is a lot to consider when choosing a tactical hat. That's the nature of tactical gear, though - it always comes with different features to suit a variety of tasks. You'll know when you've got the right hat because it never seems to leave your head.