How to pack a hat

A common question from hat (and travel) enthusiasts: How do you pack a brimmed hat, so you don’t have to carry it or wear it on the airplane? Whether you’re heading out for an urban getaway or prepping for a sunny trip to the shore, sometimes bringing a structured hat on vacation is needed and beneficial. If you’re headed to the Kentucky Derby with an extra-fancy chapeau, you might want to opt for a tried-and-true hatbox . . . aside from that, most casual-use hats can be packed (and survive!) if the proper care is taken.

Importance of the Right Material

Packing compatibility depends partly on the hat’s construction material. Generally speaking, the softer the hat, the more trouble-free it will be to pack without causing wrinkles. For the best outcome, choose a more “packable” option made from one of the following: cotton, paper, soft straw, polyester, nylon, soft felt or wool. Pay extra attention to embellishments and stiffeners, so as not to cause damage.

Popular Packable Panama hats tend to be travel-friendly, as they’re woven using a weaving technique of twisting the toquilla straw and spacing them out. These make for a hat that’s more flexible and crush-resistant.

Many other materials also travel excellently. Especially durable are hats made from raffia: This sturdy straw comes from the Raffia palm, native to Central and South America, Africa, and Madagascar. Hats made out of this sturdy weave tend to handle being packed particularly well. The reason? Raffia fibers hold strong structural memory, and, typically, even if the hat in question has suffered from being crushed and jostled, it can be reshaped by working around the edges with your fingers or applying a little steam from a tea kettle, iron, or industrial-type clothes steamer.

Five Simple Steps for Hat-packing Success

  1. Flip the hat upside down and place on a table, bed, or another flat surface.  empty hat upside down
  2. Fill the crown of the hat with smaller, soft items such as undergarments, rolled tees, and socks. Don’t overfill the hat or you risk stretching it. 
  3. Flip the hat over so that it sits flat at the bottom of your empty suitcase making certain to keep the stuffing material intact. 
  4. Pack your remaining items around the hat, taking care to support the hat’s shape and structure. Continue packing around the hat, further securing it firmly into position. Fill any gaps with rolled clothing. 
  5. Cover the top of the hat with a layer of clothes. Make sure that any hard objects won’t end up pushing against the hat when you close the suitcase. 

When you unpack, you can assess minor damage, if any. Depending on your destination, humidity may work like steam to soften any wrinkles your hat may suffer. Another trick? Hang the hat in the bathroom while taking a hot shower, and then use your hands and fingers to reshape it. Following our simple set of tips should mean avoiding unpleasant surprises and poor results, allowing you to enjoy your vacation with the style and protection a good hat can bring.

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