In this post, you'll learn how to choose the best sun protection hats for your trip to Africa. We also cover the UV Index for Uganda, answer common questions about sun protection, and include 7 tips for staying safe. Uganda is located on the equator and experiences strong ultraviolet rays.
How to Choose the Best Sun Protection Hat
One of the wonderful attractions of Uganda is its wealth of outdoor activities that range from birdwatching to mountain gorilla trekking. However, travelers should know that Uganda is located along the equator, which means stronger ultraviolet rays from the sun.
When traveling to Uganda, you will need to protect yourself against the sun, and one of the best ways to do this is by wearing a sun protection hat.
Sun hats come in a wide variety with different features, so this guide offers you some of the best sun protection hats on the market plus tips about sun safety.
Top Picks for Sun Protection Hats
Best for Full Coverage
Lightweight, breathable and foldable, this is no sissy hat that loses its shape and style.
Best for Budget: Sun Boonie Hat
You get great quality material, UPF 50 protection, and handy features – all for a price that won’t break the bank. Plus, you can even carry it in your pocket.
Best for Style: HindaWi Women’s Sun Hat
Designed with reversible sides, a chinstrap and decorative button/bow, you can wear this sun hat on an excursion and then out for a lunch date while receiving UPF 50+ sun protection the whole time.
More reading: Is Uganda Safe? Guide to Water, Crime, Disease, Sun
What's the UV Index in Uganda?
Most of the year, Uganda has a very high (rated: Extreme) UV index. Light skinned people can burn within 15 minutes of exposure. Sun protection is required in these conditions.
The equatorial sun is harsh on the skin – you can almost feel your skin burning. Read more about the climate in Uganda.
UV Index in Uganda
- Kampala: UV Index: 12 (August through May), 11 (June and July)
- Uganda: UV Index: 12 (August through May), 11 (June and July)
UV Index Scale
- 0-2: Low (Green) Wear sunglasses. Safely enjoy being outside. Low danger for the average person.
- 3-5: Moderate (Yellow) Stay in shade near midday. Wear protective clothing, wide-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses. Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours – even on cloudy days and after swimming or sweating.
- 6-7: High (Orange) Reduce time in sun between 10AM and 4PM. Same protective measures (clothes, hat, sunglasses, sunblock) as above.
- 8-10: Very High (Red) Minimize time in sun between 10AM and 4PM. Same protective measures (clothes, hat, sunglasses, sunblock) as above. Watch out for bright surfaces, like sand, water and snow, which reflect UV and increase exposure.
- 11+: Extreme (Fuschia) Extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Skin and eyes can burn in minutes. Try to avoid sun exposure between 10AM and 4PM.
Looking for the best safari hat? Check out our guide to African Safari Hats for Bush and Jungle Adventures.
10 Features to Look for in a Sun Protection Hat
- UV Protection Factor: UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is a rating that lets you know to what percentage a hat (or other clothing article) blocks UV rays. Best sun protection hats with a UPF 50 plus offer the highest UV protection, which is usually around 98 percent.
- Wide Brim: A sun protection hat with a wide brim that goes all around your head is important to protect your face, eyes, ears and neck from the sun’s UV rays. Brims ranging between 4 and 4.5 inches are recommended for adequate protection.
- Neck Flaps: If your hair is short or you wear it up, your neck and ears could be vulnerable to UV rays, so a hat with a neck flap can protect these areas. Some sun hats feature neck flaps that you can remove or attach according to your preferences.
- Moisture Wicking: A good sun protection hat features a moisture wicking sweatband on the inside of the crown. This helps keep moisture away from your skin and prevents sweat from dripping into your eyes.
- Foldable and Packable: When traveling, you want a hat that you can easily fold and pack into your luggage, backpack or handbag and that will spring back into shape once you remove it.
- Mesh Panels: Mesh panels are great for keeping your head cool and ventilated. However, if you are bald or have little hair on your scalp, it is suggested that you not wear a hat with mesh because it allows in some UV rays.
- Chin strap: An adjustable chin strap or cord will not only provide you with a more secure fit, but it will also keep your hat from blowing off during windy days. Some sun hats have chin straps that you can remove if you wish. For children, you should look for a sun hat that features chin straps that break away easily to prevent choking.
- Color: Sun hats come in all colors, but if you are concerned about UV rays, darker colors offer you better protection. If you are more worried about feeling overheated, then lighter colors are ideal.
- Washable: When looking for the right sun hat, take note whether it is washable or not. If your hat soaks up a lot of sweat and sunscreen chemicals, you may end up with stains that are difficult to clean.
- Purpose: Some hats are designed with particular purposes in mind such as floppy beach hats. Some hats may be geared more toward fishing. Other hats are good for travelers going on safaris. Think about what purpose you need your sun hat to provide.
Best Unisex Sun Protection Hats
Now that you have a good idea of what to look for in the best sun protection hats, you can check out the following best unisex hats. Sometimes, you may want to share a hat with your friend or partner and prefer something that is useful for both women and men.
1. Lethmik Fishing Sun Boonie Hat (Waterproof)
This Lethmik Fishing Sun Boonie Hat gives you the most bang for your bucks. Designed for men and women both with activities in mind such as hiking, fishing, camping, tourism, beach and pool, this hat is made with high-quality material, sun protection, and practical features all for an affordable price.
A wide enough brim and UPF 50 protect your neck and face from damaging sun rays while an adjustable chin drawstring keeps your hat in place during gusty winds. Another great thing about this hat is that you can fold it, pack it, and even carry it in your pocket.
2. Feeker Outdoor Sun Boonie Hat for Men and Women
The inside of the crown has a mesh lining to keep your head ventilated and dry from sweat.
An adjustable chin cord holds the hat securely in place while a wide brim protects your face, neck and ears from UV rays. This UPF 50+ sun hat is lightweight and foldable, making it easy for you to carry in your backpack or tote.
Best Men’s Sun Protection Hats
Did you know that men are more likely to get skin cancer than women?
Take a look at the following best men’s sun hats. While we've listed these as mens, most (if not all) will work well for women as well. They just don't have the style/cut that some women prefer.
1. Columbia Sportswear Bora Bora Booney
An Omni-Wick sweatband keeps perspiration out of your eyes while an adjustable chin strap keeps the hat securely on your head. A floppy brim and quick-drying material mean you can fold this hat easily into your backpack or jump into the river with it if you desire.
A drawcord and toggle on the back make it easy for you to adjust the hat to your size and comfort. Sporting a seal of recommendation by the Skin Cancer Foundation, this Bora Bora Booney protects your skin by blocking out 98% of UVB and UVA rays with UPF 50 sun protection.
2. Summer Outdoor Hat with Removable Flaps and Mask
Featuring a wide brim and back flap, this sun hat with UPF 50 also comes with an attachable mask and two mesh side panels for complete sun coverage.
Made with material that is breathable, windproof, quick-drying and lightweight, this sun hat is comfortable to wear without you worrying about it being damaged from weather or crushing.
3. Home Prefer Men’s Sun Hat
Ideal for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, fishing, boating, camping and wildlife trekking, this Home Prefer men’s sun hat is lightweight, comfortable and offers sun protection for your face and neck with its wide brim and back flap.
Mesh vents allow for ventilation while an adjustable (or removable) chinstrap offers security and versatility. Premium polyester and UPF 50 make this hat durable, quick-drying and safe against 98% of UVA/UVB sun rays.
4. O'Neill Men's Sonoma Prints Straw Hat
Made from durable sea straw fabric, this hat holds up well under all weather, and the 4-inch brim protects you from the sun’s UV rays. You can choose from various sizes to ensure the best fit for you.
5. Sombriolet by Outdoor Research
This is my favorite sun hat. It fits well and keeps the sun off. Pictured below is my first trip with this hat – on our last trip to the Galapagos Islands. Because it's so light, I almost forgot I was wearing it.
Best Women’s Sun Protection Hats
1. Maitose Women’s Sun Hat
In addition to UPF 50+ material, the hat’s wide, floppy brim offers shade and sun protection for your ears, face and neck. Lightweight, foldable, crushable, and available in a variety of colors means you can pack and wear this hat anywhere.
2. HindaWi Women’s Sun Hat
This HindaWi is a favorite among best sun protection hats. Not only does it sport a wide brim and UPF 50+ material that block out harmful sun rays, but the HindaWi is one of those hats you can wear anywhere and look stylish whether it be the lake, sightseeing or out for lunch. Even more, this hat features two reversible sides, so you can wear it with different outfits.
A removable chinstrap will keep this hat on your head when the wind picks up, and an attachable decorative button/bow adds a touch of whimsy. Made with comfortable and breathable cotton, you can easily pack and fold this hat without it losing its shape.
3. Simplicity Women’s Sun Hat/Visor
The crown part zips off, so you can use it as a visor also if you wish.
The hat’s cotton UPF 50+ material and brim offer comfort and sun protection for your face. This hat is compact and foldable, so you can easily pack it while traveling.
4. SIGGI Women’s Summer Hat
Made of cotton material that has passed a UPF 50+ test against 97.5% UV rays, this SIGGI hat also features an elegant brim and back flap that protect the face, neck and ears.
This hat also comes with a detachable chinstrap for you to use when the wind picks up.
Best Kids’ Sun Protection Hats
1. SwimZip Unisex Child Sun Protection Hat
Featuring UPF 50+ material and a wide, wrap-around brim that shades your baby’s face, neck and ears from all angles, this hat also comes with an adjustable head and chinstrap for a comfortable fit. The chinstrap is also designed to break away to prevent choking.
If your baby loses this hat in the water, you won’t need to worry because the quick-dry fabric makes it float and ready to wear in a jiffy. This SwimZip hat is available in a variety of colors, so you can coordinate it with your baby’s outfit.
2. Connectyle Kids Bucket Sun Hat
This safari-style hat is perfect for outdoor adventures and water fun. Designed for ages 3 to 8 years old, this sun hat features a Velcro chin strap which is easy to use, so the hat grows with your child.
The UPF 50+ fabric is lightweight and breathable and protects your child’s face, ears and neck from the sun.
An adjustable head toggle provides a comfortable fit. You can choose from multiple colors for just the right one for your boy or girl.
Other Sun Protection Products
1. JoeYoung Sun Mask, Balaclava, Bandana, Headband
Featuring 3D patterns from multiple choices that include lion, tactical skin, fish, and solid black, this sun mask is made of polyester microfiber, which makes it super soft and sweat absorbent.
You can wear this in all sorts of imaginable styles from a beanie to balaclava, headband, face mask, scarf and more. Not only does this multi-use head wear offer you protection from UV sun rays (UPF 40+) but from wind and dust as well.
2. Umenice UV Protection Travel Umbrella
This Umenice travel umbrella is perfectly designed for travelers visiting equatorial destinations like Uganda because its double-coated silver canopy resists 98% of UVA and UVB sun rays.
It also features a strong frame that holds up well against wind. This umbrella is also lightweight and compact, making it easy to stash in your backpack or handbag.
3. Sun Bum Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion
Made with vegan ingredients and enriched with Vitamin E, this sunscreen lotion will protect both adults and children against harmful UVA/UVB rays while also moisturizing your skin at the same time.
Sun Bum sunscreen lotion is also hypoallergenic and free of chemicals that can be harmful to you or the environment.
FAQs About Sun Protective Hats
Is it true that UV rays can hurt me even a cloudy day?
On a predominantly overcast day, clouds can protect you against UV rays, but on a partly cloudy day, you should be careful. Many scientific studies have confirmed that UV rays can sometimes be even more potent on partly cloudy days.
While they are not certain yet, scientists believe this is due to UV rays bouncing off clouds or redirecting through thin, fine clouds.
Why do UV rays cause sunburn?
UV rays are types of radiation that damage skin cells in the epidermal layer (outer layer), which causes your skin to respond by swelling and turning red. This is your skin’s way of trying to defend itself.
What does UV light do to your skin?
Too much exposure to UV rays can not only cause your skin to sunburn, but over time, it also ages your skin, causing wrinkles and dark spots. Additionally, intense and long-term sun exposure can damage the DNA in your skin cells, putting you at risk for developing skin cancer.
How do you know if you have sun poisoning?
Sun poisoning simply means a severe case of sunburn. Your skin can be sunburned within 15 minutes of being in direct sunlight even though you may not notice it for several hours. You know you have sun poisoning, or a severe sunburn, if you experience the following:
- Skin redness and blistering
- Pain and swelling
- Fever and chills
- Fatigue and weakness
If you get sun poisoning, you'll need to go the hospital. This is when a little travel insurance would come in handy.
Can you get sick from a sunburn?
Blisters and swelling from sunburn can make you feel very uncomfortable, but a severe sunburn can also make you feel like you have the flu with symptoms like fatigue, headache, chills, nausea and fever. If you experience these symptoms, it is a good idea to see a doctor.
What is best treatment for sunburn?
When you first begin to notice that you have a sunburn, you want to cool down your skin. You might try placing a cold, damp towel on the burn – but be careful not to rub the burn, friction could cause further damage.
After this, apply a moisturizing lotion that contains aloe vera. The lotion keeps the sunburn from drying out your skin and helps it to heal faster. The aloe vera helps relieve the pain. You can also apply hydrocortisone to the most severe spots to reduce pain and quicken healing. Make sure you drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated to aid in the healing process.
Sun Safety Tips: How Not to Get Cooked in the Equatorial Sun
No matter where you live or travel, it is important to protect yourself against sun rays, but you should take extra care when traveling to places that are located along the equator, such as Uganda, because UV rays are most potent near the equator. Check out the following tips on how to avoid being cooked by the equatorial sun:
1. Seek the Shade
Trees, umbrellas, parasols, shelters, and overhangs all offer shade and protection from direct UV rays. Midday hours are usually when the sun is at its peak, so try to stay out of the sunlight during these hours if you can.
When looking for a shady spot, pay attention to surfaces around you that can reflect the sun’s UV rays such as water, sand and concrete.
2. Cover up
Wearing long-sleeve shirts, pants or long skirts can protect your skin from UV rays. The darker the color of your clothing, the more protection you receive.
You can also find clothing and accessories on the market today that are made with specific fabric that is designed to block UV rays to a certain percentage. These clothing items are usually tested and labeled with a UV protection rate. If you are at the beach, wearing a t-shirt, beach wrap or tunic can also provide you with sun protection.
3. Wear a Hat
Sun protection hats come in all sizes, shapes and styles these days. To protect the skin on your face, ears and neck, choose a hat with a wide brim. Hats with a back flap add even more protection. You may also want to choose a hat that is made with material that has been tested against UV rays. These hats will feature a label or rating.
4. Wear Sunglasses
Sunglasses not only keep the sun from blocking your vision, but they keep the sun’s damaging UV rays away from your eyes, reducing your risk of cataracts.
Many sunglasses today are designed to block both UVA and UVB sun rays. Wrap-around sunglasses are recommended because they block UV rays from gleaming through the side.
5. Apply Sunscreen
Sunscreen products contain chemicals that absorb or reflect sunlight, interacting with your skin to protect it against the sun’s UV rays. Sunscreen products are tested and rated with an SPF number (sun protection number).
The higher the number, the more you are protected. Therefore, you should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is rated at least SPF 15 before you go outside in the sun, even on cloudy days.
It is a good idea to apply sunscreen to exposed skin and re-apply it after two hours or after swimming and sweating. If you wear a short-sleeve shirt or baseball cap, be sure to apply sunscreen to your arms, ears and neck.
6. Limit Your Exposure
If you can, try to avoid being in direct sunlight during the midday hours when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest. A good rule of thumb to follow is by checking out your shadow. If it is shorter than you, this means it is time to seek the shade.
7. Double Up on Sun Protection if Taking Medication
Some medications can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. These include blood pressure medications, antibiotics, antifungals, chemotherapies and anti-inflammatories.
If you are taking any such medications, be sure to take extra precautions against the sun by using as many sun protection aids as you can.
Uganda offers so many fun things to see and do outdoors, and you don’t want to let too much UV exposure put you at risk for severe sunburn or skin cancer.
We hope this guide shows you what to look for in a good sun protection hat and helps you choose the one that is right for you. Come to Uganda armed with sun protection so that you can take advantage of all the outdoor adventures waiting for you.
How will you keep yourself safe while exploring Uganda and the rest of Africa? Let me know in the comments.