The Endurable Tilley Hat: A Full Review

I don’t think it’s possible to run a website devoted to the long-lasting products without doing a Tilley hat review.

Tilley Endurables is a well-trusted brand in the travel-wear industry.

I was introduced to Tilley hats several years ago by a well-traveled colleague of mine.  He swore by his Tilley and proceeded to evangelized me for a good while on the many fine merits of owning a Tilley hat. 

Well, he finally converted me to the Tilley cult. I recently bought mine for an upcoming trip to Africa.

Consider this: if a product(like Tilley hats) has a cult following, there’s a high likelihood(but not always) that part of that popularity is directly related to the exceptional durability of the product itself.

By the way, if you are into long-lasting products browse around this site or consider subscribing for more on super-tough products.

A Good Hat Needs to Be More Than Just Durable

Producing an “endurable product” in the apparel industry is extremely difficult.  That’s primarily because the product must:  be extremely well built and carry a timeless style.  Tilley has done very well with both and built its reputation on it.

I mean, who wants a crappy hat that lasts forever? That is a prison no-one wants to live in. Especially if its expensive, and your wife gave it to you and wants to see you wear it.  Yikes!

Thankfully, it appears Tilley has hit the sweet spot of producing durable, functional and great looking hats that transcend trends..

Tilley is the first Canadian company I’ve featured here on WellRigged.com.  Being a Canadian myself, I admittedly could be a bit biased in this Tilley hat review.

Fear not, Tilley doesn’t sponsor me, nor did they send me a sample hat(I did ask them, but they snubbed me- Thanks Tilley!)

The Company: Tilley Endurables

“Tilley Endurables”- I can’t think of a classier name for a “buy it for life” company.  

In 1980 Alex Tilley, an avid sailor, had a hat dilemma.  He could not find a simple, durable, unshrinkable hat that was buoyant, looked good, and stayed on in high winds all at the same time.

So, he took it upon himself one cold Canadian winter to design a prototype hat that met his picky demands.

We can thank Alex for his attention to detail and high standards because he yielded a legendary line of hats that made travelers go bonkers for them.  They are now famous, especially amongst globe-trotters and jet-setters.

Tilley now offers a full range of buy it for life hats and high-quality travel apparel designed to be light, durable and low maintenance.

Tilley’s PR success is largely owing to the many who own them and actively promote them. Tilley owners tend to draw enquirers

In fact, Tilley used to supply these “Brag Tags”(below)  to owners to stash in the secret pocket of their hat for the admirers that asked them about their hat.

Tilley was kind enough to sent me a copy. (Click here for the full version) They’re quite humorous:

Features of Tilley Hats.

All Tilley Hats are hand-made in Canada.  About 23 well-trained craftspeople are involved in the 46 steps of constructing a Tilley hat.

For the interests of this Tilley hat review, I’ll be focusing on the key features of Tilley’s most popular Airflow hats: The LTM5 and the LTM6.  They are both identical except for the size of the brim (The LTM5’s brim is a little smaller.)

Secret Pocket

Secret Pocket

Every Tilley hat model has a secret stash pocket in the crown.  This is great for a traveler looking to keep emergency cash handy.  On the LTM5/LTM6 the secret pockets are secured by a pocket within a pocket.

The second pocket covers the opening of the first which prevents your valuables from accidentally sliding out.

It Floats

True to Tilley’s sailor origins, most Tilley hats float.  Just within the secret pocket is a thin foam insert that ensures that your Tilley won’t be lost on your next fishing trip or day on the lake.

Ventilation

Airflo ventilation mesh

I chose my airflow LTM5 because I’m using it in the smothering tropical heat of West African rainy season. Both the LTM5 and LTM6 have a 360-degree band of matching mesh that allows for airflow into the top of the hat.  It makes a cooler head.

This is one of the main reasons why the LTM5 and LTM6 Airflow hats are Tilley’s most popular hats.  The combination of being very light(only 3oz/80g) and added cooling makes them a good choice, especially in hot weather.

Adjustable Wind Cord

Adjustable cord

Most of Tilley’s iconic models have an adjustable wind cord to keep your precious hat secure even in a gale.  This, of course, was one of Alex Tilley’s original requirements for a sailor’s hat.

The hat is secured by two cord loops passing through brass grommets for the front and back of the head. So, no matter what direction the wind is coming from, the hat stays on.

The wind cord is fully adjustable by using the sliding fisherman’s knots.  It took me a few minutes at first to figure out how the knots worked, but it’s quite simple. 

If you ever accidentally undo the knot, no worries. Tilley shows you how to fix it on their website or in the included instructions.

When not in use the cords can be stashed in the crown of the hat before you put it on.

Hydrofil Sweat Band

The LTM5/LTM6 models have a “Hydrofil” sweat band. Its about an inch wide

There is a limit to how much it can absorb, but it does a decent job of keeping the sweat out of your eyes.

UV Protective Fabric

Tilley claims that the fabric (even the airflow mesh) has a UV protection factor of 50. Apparently that’s the highest rating a fabric can have.

If you’re worried about skin damage, consider a broad-brimmed Tilley like the LTM6.   It will do a top job of protecting your skin.

Packable

This is one of the most impressive features of Airflo Tilleys.  They will never be destroyed by angry baggage handlers. You can flatten them, roll them, fold them. It’s all good, they pop right back into shape.

As I mentioned the LTM5 only weighs 3oz. That’s 80 grams!  Are we weighing letter mail or hats here?

Resilient

So, what do you do after you pull your hat from the bottom of the suitcase?  Take the crown and place it over your bent knee, grip the brim on either side and pull firmly to bring it back to shape. Adjust as necessary by hand and.. Done.

Machine Washable

“Handcrafted with Canadian Persnicketiness”

Yes, you can machine wash Tilley hats.  Tilley recommends frequent machine washing on the delicate cycle or by hand.  You should air dry them and then reshape them by hand(and with your knee.)

As with any fabric, your sweat eventually will stain your Tilley(especially lighter coloured ones) if you choose to be a pig.   So don’t be a pig and wash your hat.

Lifetime Warrantee

Tilley used to offer 50% off a replacement hat if you lost yours within 2 years.  I don’t see it anywhere on their site now so I think they killed that.  As with many such generous programs, people probably abused it to get a hat at half price.

Take heart though, Tilley does stand behind their workmanship with a solid lifetime warranty.  They’ll take care of any failure due to poor stitching or workmanship.  Anecdotally, defects are virtually unheard of.

My Impressions

I bought my LTM5 primarily because it’s a hot weather hat.  It is cooler and lighter to wear, but its not like your head won’t sweat. You’ll just sweat less.

I actually like the looks of the Tilley Hemp TH5 Hat better than the Airflo hats.  It’s got that classic Aussie Outback look to it. 

However, the TH4 is only available in brown, is quite a bit heavier and isn’t as cool in hot weather.  

I went with the darker Olive LTM5  because it will still look good even if my grubby fingers happen to leave a few marks on the brim.

Fit

I’ve got a rather (ahem)large noggin.  Thankfully, Tilley had the right size for me.  So if you are a fellow jughead, fear not.  You’ll find the right fit.

Tilley hats are meant to fit loosely.  You should be able to fit two fingers easily between your forehead and the hat when it’s on.  

That’s all well and good, but if you’re ordering your Tilley online you don’t have the luxury of doing the finger test.

Comfort

One of the things I notice when I put my LTM5 on is just how light it is.  Sizing it right has a lot to do with comfort to. It doesn’t fee restrictive or tight.  That’s a plus on hot days when I’m perspiring.

The Sweat band does a decent job, but I still found myself taking the hat off to wipe my brow and face.

The brim completely shades my ears and the back of my neck.   The LTM6 offers a larger brim than mine though.

The brim is also soft and pliable which comes in handy when looking upward on sunny days.  I found myself putting my hand on the brim and bending a corner block out the sun.

I found I’d often forget I was even wearing the hat; kind of like when you forget that you put the pencil behind your ear.

I haven’t had to use the wind cords much but when I have they’ve been comfortable.  The cords are wide enough that they don’t dig in or leave lines on your neck.

On cloudy days or when I’m in the shade I found I could stow my hat on my back by adjusting the length and keeping the wind cord around my neck.  Its a nice solution resting in the shade when you want to feel the breeze in your hair.

My Quibbles

Tilley’s Hats aren’t the cheapest option out there.  So I don’t blame folks for stalling on buying one.  It was the primary reason it took me 2 years to buy mine.  At least the quality of workmanship is top notch.

My biggest complaint was actually with the wind cord. It took me a while to find a solution for stowing it other than stuffing it into the crown in a half-hazard way.

The cord kept getting in the way by falling out a little from the crown as I was putting it on. It would often leave a loop hanging out from under the hat unbeknownst to me.

I finally found a solution: Take the rear adjustable cord(the one with the fishermans knot), pull it until you’ve shortened the front cord just  enough to fit along the inside forehead perimeter.  Then, stow the fisherman’s knot and the remaining slack of the rear cord inside the hidden pocket in the crown.  This took care of the issue.

What I Liked

The Looks

I like that most Tilley hats are understated.  That’s me.  They don’t cry out for attention or look desperately trendy or dorky.

A timeless look is actually pretty important when your buying durable apparel.  Why spend extra for something thats durable yet trendy?  It’s counter intuitive and a waste of money.

Since Tilley’s hats are so endurable, they purposefully steer clear of trendy, short lived fads and stick with classic looks.

Jackson Trilby Fedora: for Cayman Island Millionaires

My LTM5 has a more relaxed, rugged, outdoorsy look, but Tilley also offers more refined looking hats- you know, the retired Cayman Island millionaires kind?  For example: Tilley’s Jackson Trilby Fedora 

Tilleys have a timeless look to them.  They catch the eye especially when up close.

The other day at my nephew’s ball game a guy behind me said, “So that’s a real Tilley hat?”  Out of curiosity he leaned forward to read tiny leather “Tilley” tag.

As I said, they have a peculiar way of sparking conversations with others who also have an eye for quality. Don’t be surprised if it happens to you next time a the airport lounge.

Versatility

I have to admit, I love the hidden pocket thing!  It might be my boyish delight of pretending to be a spy..I don’t know.  It’s just cool!

Still, the hidden pocket is practical for stowing the wind cord and keeping some emergency cash in case you lose your wallet.

I’m not a sailor, but I am a fisherman so having a buoyant hat is a plus.  I doubt I’ll ever need to test that feature though.

The wind cord is pretty ingenious with the ability to adjust and secure it front and back for winds from any direction.  

The cord will also work as a spare bootlace, or in first aid/survival situations- a tourniquet or sling.

Well-Built & Great Warranty

Each concentric ring of stitching on the brim of my Tilley is absolutely parallel, symmetrical and perfectly spaced. It’s really quite impeccably done.

The small brass grommets are well set. Even the little leather “Tilley” tag is securely sewn and embossed.

This all leads me to think, “The quality control department at Tilley must be running the show.”

Tilley went out on a limb and wagered their entire brand on durability.  “Tilley Endurables” seems to be living up to its name.

Evidently, Tilley is confident enough in their product to offer a stoutly backed full lifetime guarantee. 

Its nice to know that if any stitching, seams or other aspects related to workmanship fails they’ll replace the hat for you.

Verdict

While Tilley’s are on the expensive side and the wind cord takes a learning curve, I see myself wearing my LTM5 into my old age.  It’s definitely a lifer.

I plan to take it frequently to Africa with me and I’m confident the build quality will stand up to the demanding and dirty conditions I’ll be working in.

From what I’ve heard and experienced, buyers remorse is a very rare thing among Tilley hat owners.  I think you’ll find your Tilley to be a familiar old friend in your travels.

In some respects wearing Tilley’s has become a badge among well-traveled individuals.  Similar to bikers, don’t be surprised if you get a nod from another Tilley owner as you pass each other on the airport concourse.   

By the way, if you’re interested in the most durable apparel for your next adventure check out my article on the Top 5 Clothing Warranties or The Most Durable Pants.

Which Are the Most Popular Tilley Hats?

I’d be remiss to think that everyone has the same taste in hats as me.  So, it wouldn’t be a proper to complete this Tilley hat review without at least introducing you to Tilley’s best selling hats (according to Tilley’s website).  I’ve taken the liberty of personifying each best-seller:

The Globe Trotter:  The AirFlo range are Tilley’s most popular line. The LTM5 and the broader brimmed LTM6 are the most popular of them all.  These hats keep you cooler in the hottest climates. Thanks to the generous built-in mesh vents.  They’re also among Tilley’s more affordable hats.

These hats are super light(3oz) and packable which is great for jet-setting. They pop right back into shape when you get them out of the suitcase.

The LTM5/LTM6 are as well suited to a Caribbean cruise as the Amazon or the Kenyan savanna.

The Sun Queen:  The Melanie Hemp Sun Hat is a popular pool-side friend and travel companion.  It comes with a matching band that you can remove and replace with a different color for ladies who want a splash of colour.

It has a downward sloping brim to a give the most sun protection without using a wider brim. The hemp is treated with water repellent.   The color will change and develop more character with time.

The Back Country Vagabond: The Dakota hat is a fave with folks who like the well worn vintage look. I think its one of Tilley’s best looking hats.   It’s a super relaxed and comfy short brim that looks like you’ve been a thousand miles and know a thing or two.

Thanks to its wax treatment the Dakota sheds water like a duck.  Bring on the rain. Of course, you’ll need to give it some love once in a while with a fresh wax treatment that Tilley sells for less than $10.

The Snow Boss:  The Tec-Wool Hat is Tilley’s most popular winter hat.  Based in Toronto, Tilley knows a thing or two about making a good winter hat.

Besides just looking good and being water repellant, this wool hat actually uses a Swiss technology called “C-change.”

Essentially it’s a special internal membrane that stabilizes temperature by opening when hot and closing when cold.  Don’t ask me how that works, but it does.

The Tec-Wool hat also features tuck-away ear warmers for those bitter cold mornings and an internal size adjuster to help keep the hat secure during blustery winter storms.

The Restless Wanderer:  The Wanderer has youthful flair to it.  The sides of the brim can be pinned up.  Large grommet holes allow ventilation to the crown and the broad brim is a nice shelter from the sun.

Its made from 100% duck cotton and enzyme washed to give it a nice weathered look.  So, don’t worry no one will be able to tell you’re a noobie to hiking.

As with most Tilley hats, it floats, has wind cords and a secret pocket for valuables.

What’s Your Tilley Hat Size?

Before you order your Tilley hat, make sure it will fit perfectly. Below are a couple of Tilley’s resources (also on their website).

Watch it the video then consult their size chart below.

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