NOTE: Please keep in mind that these are guidelines and are no guarantee that your hat will arrive in perfect or undamaged condition.
Because our retail stores are in very touristy locations, a common question customers ask us is how to pack their hats so they don’t have to carry the item on the plane with them. Packing compatibility depends mainly on the material of the hat in question, but the form of the style, stiffeners, and embellishments play a part in the matter as well.
One thing to keep in mind is that just because a hat has a tag, or is said to be, “crushable & packable”, it does not mean that the hat will come out of your suitcase in perfect shape without a little coaxing. It is more a reassurance that your hat will not be permanently damaged when you pack it correctly. Often, many hats will need a little steam from a tea kettle or iron, or even better an industrial steamer like we have in each of our stores to get it back to it’s original condition.
Hat Materials That Pack Well
One of the best hat materials that pack well is raffia. Raffia is a very durable straw that comes from a Raffia palm, which can be found in Africa, Madagascar, Central & South America. Raffia hats tend to pack well because the fibers have very good memory once they’ve been formed into the hat style. Typically even if the hat in question has been crushed and pressed in a suitcase for a long trip, working around the edges with your fingers or applying a little steam with this process will make the hat look brand new.
Many other materials can pack well however. This is not a comprehensive list, but does comprise many of the materials we have found to retain shape easier.
- Soft Straw
- Soft Felt or Wool
Usually the softer the hat, the easier it is to pack and ensure you won’t damage it. Cotton hats like the Scala-Canvas Upbrim and bucket or booney hats Kooringal-Walkabout Booney are typically styles you can pack and not have to worry about. If done correctly, you should have very few wrinkles in your hat, but you can always steam these out as well!
Hats You Should Not Pack
While many hats pack well, you want to avoid others. For example, more structured hats can easily collapse and get crushed when traveling. Other hats without waterproof fabric may get soaked and ruined if you don't store them correctly. Also, avoid hats that can get wrinkled from the packing process, such as sunhats.
As a general rule, I refrain from packing or advising anyone to pack hats with more rigid form. Harder or more brittle straw hats WILL crack if not protected correctly and no amount of steaming or shaping will help them. This includes Panama Hats! The same goes for very hard formed felt hats. Some felts feel as though they have cardboard in the brim or crown and can be extremely difficult to get wrinkles out of. So as a general rule, if it is a rigid or hard-soft straw or felt, avoid packing without a proper hatbox or do so at your own discretion. Additionally, big brim track hats or other expensive fancy hats should either be shipped ahead of time or have a proper hatbox.
5 Methods of Packing Your Hat
Now that we've covered the basic guidelines and materials best used for packing your hat, we will cover the methods. For the best results, try to choose hats that tend to be easier to pack, such as baseball caps or soft cotton hats. This ensures that when you arrive at your final destination, your hat looks just like it did when you packed it.
I recently went on a trip to Oahu and Kaua'i and brought along my Kooringal-Havana Drover for sun protection. Because it's a larger brimmed hat I thought I'd document two common methods we advise for packing your favorite sun protection hat. Please note that different methods work better with different types of shapes and materials.
1. Folded in Half or Taco Style
The first way I packed my raffia hat was in half with the brim up as illustrated in (picture A). In this way it was folded in the classic taco shape. I found that In folding it this way it came out pretty well when I arrived at our first hotel in Oahu. There were two creases where it had been folded (pictures B & C) and I had to work the shape back into it with my fingers for a few minutes, but pretty soon my hat looked good as new.
(Something to think about: Hawaii has a very humid climate. In the same way that steam reforms hats, humidity will also help in this process. If I had gone to a more dry climate like arizona, it might have taken a little more work to get it back to shape. Hanging the hat in the bathroom while taking a hot shower and then immediately working on it is a trick I've used before.
2. Place It on Top
Packing a low-maintenance option such as a baseball hat requires less care than a Panama or floppy straw hat. Simply place your baseball hat top-side down on top of your suitcase. Make sure you don't put anything over the hat, or you could flatten the brim. Then, tuck the back side of the hat in to ensure it takes up as little space in your suitcase as possible.
You can also use certain hat accessories to make the travel experience easier, such as the Ball Cap Buddy. While this accessory is mainly designed to form inside your favorite ball cap to help keep its shape in the wash, you can also use it to pack your hat in your suitcase without ruining it.
3. Stuffing the Crown With Socks and Packing Around
When we packed up and went to Kauai, I tried to pack my hat in the other way we commonly recommend: by stuffing the crown with socks, underwear, or rolled up shirts (clean hopefully!) and placing it either brim down, or crown down, then packing around it (Picture D & E). When making the decision to pack your hat brim down or crown down, the original shape of the hat should be taken into careful consideration. My hat is what is called a "Safari Style" meaning it has a parabolic shape that in order to retain well should be placed crown down as shown in the initial picture.
Want to see how to steam a hat in this condition back to normal? Check out our "How to steam your hat" page & video!
4. Use a Smaller, Carry-On Bag or Purse
You most likely have more than one bag while traveling, whether it's a suitcase and a duffel or a backpack, purse or fanny pack. If your hat can fit in another bag instead of your suitcase, consider stowing it there. Smaller hats can easily fit in a purse without getting crushed as long as they sit on top of your other items. Even a fedora or small straw hat may be able to rest at the top of a roomy backpack during a flight, drive or train ride.
5. Wear Your Hat
Of course, one of the best ways to pack a hat without ruining it is to travel wearing your hat. This method works well because you can travel in style without worrying about damaging the hat's delicate structure or fabric. It also saves you legroom on a flight or train ride — just remember to grab it if you take it off before exiting.
Rolling Up a Bucket or Booney Hat
These styles of hat are often very easy to pack because of their soft material and naturally distressed look. Wrinkles usually arent a big problem and when you unpack them they often look exactly as they did before you packed it. This method can be applied to women's hats of the same shape and material.
|Here we have the Booney hat in it's unpacked, natural state.|
|We start by folding the hat in half and trying to make as neat a crease as possible and smooth out the wrinkles like you would when folding a shirt.|
|Once you have a neat crease, you begin from one side and start to roll horizontally from edge to edge.|
|When finished you have a compact rolled up bucket or booney hat that you can easily stick in a pocket or bag for later. You can even use the chinstrap, if available, to keep it rolled.|
Travel in Style With Hats Unlimited
Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, Hats Unlimited has the perfect style and size hat for you. We carry over 1,000 styles for both men and women and always keep our most popular hats in stock. Many of our hats also feature ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) fabrics to keep you safe in sunny locations. You can browse our collection of hats designed specifically for traveling — from foldable sun hats to roll-up visor hats.
Either shop online or stop by one of our seven retail locations located throughout Southern California and find the perfect hat for your next vacation or business trip. If you have any questions about our collections or how to fold up your hat, call us at 888-997-4287 or email our team at [email protected].