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HomeNL-2017-11 Hat Float

Gear Tip: The Hat Float
November 2017
by John Rich

I've managed to lose several hats along the way in my paddling pursuits.  Some of them were favorites, including an HCC 100-miler award hat, with the club logo patch on it.

Sometimes a strong wind gust comes along, catches that wide brim, and blows it right off the top of your head without warning.  At other times it has happened when bending over to pass underneath overhanging tree branches, I didn't bend over far enough, and a limb snatched it off the top of my head.  These things can happen so fast that by the time you take a hand off your paddle and reach up to grab it, it's already gone.

Once your hat is in the water, you have only about 10 seconds to retrieve it before it sinks below the surface and disappears.  The fabric gets waterlogged quickly, adding weight and aiding in the sinking.  If it lands in the water upright, there may be some air trapped inside the crown, but most hats have air vents in the sides of the crown, and that air will quickly be vented as the water fills the inside.

So, you have to retrieve the hat quickly or it can be lost forever.  In flat water, this is not too difficult.  It will usually land nearby and stay close.  If you can't quite reach it by hand, turn your paddle around backwards, holding onto the blade, and use the handle like a hook to snag your hat and reel it back to the boat where you can pick it up.  But in moving water, you and your boat can be quickly separated from your hat, unable to get back to it in time, watching helplessly as it disappears.

So, what can you do about this problem?

Buy a hat with a chin strap, and use it, especially in windy weather.  It also pays to keep a spare hat in your basic paddling kit in your dry bag which accompanies you on every trip.  You don't want to have to spend a day, or a week, with the sun shining in your eyes, preventing you from reading the rapids up ahead.

Another thing you can do is to buy and attach a "hat float", like the one in my photos below.  This piece of foam acts like a buoy - the hat may sink, but the float remains on the surface, marking the spot where you can retrieve your hat.  It has two holes in it, one on each end, so that you can thread your chin strap through it, or attach by some other means.This is just like the little foam floats you can purchase for your car keys, cell phone, eyeglasses and other items.  It's just a little bigger - hat sized.  There is also a product called a hat clip, or hat leash.  It is a length of cord or webbing with a clip on each end.  You attach one clip to your hat brim, and the clip on the other end to your shirt or PFD.  Then, when the hat blows off, it stays attached to your body.

With a hat float or hat leash, you won't lose that favorite wide brim HCC 100-miler award hat!

Going...   Going...   Not gone!
(Click to enlarge)

The author, John Rich