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How to Pack a Hat In a Carry-on

Hat’s are my go-to accessory on vacation and I love to bring several. They not only protect me from the sun, but they also add attitude to my outfits and hide a multitude of bad hair days. Since I travel using just carry-on luggage, I need to pack my hats because I’d look pretty goofy wearing more than one at a time. Here’s how to pack a hat in a carry-on suitcase.

 

Let’s start with the obvious, they now make fabulous packable hats that are very durable. They’re usually constructed from paper, polyester, cotton, nylon, or raffia which makes them super flexible. They can take a bending or beating without cracking the way true straw hats do. I don’t recommend packing a hat in a backpack or duffle-type bag because their lack of structure offers no support.

GREAT PACKABLE HATS

I use a hard-sided 22″ carry-on that most airlines let me carry onto the plane.

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Place any heavy items on the wheeled end and opposite half of your suitcase from the hat, then cushion with soft clothes.

here’s how to pack a hat in a carry-onHATS STACKED IN CARRY-ON BAG

Begin by layering the bottom of the flat side of your suitcase (not the side the handle telegraphs into) with a thin layer of soft clothes like t-shirts and undergarments, then place the hat upside down in the center. If packing multiple hats, sandwich them into each other first, then pack as one unit. This gives extra stability to the crown and helps prevent crushing.

Some people like to pack their hats with the brim side down. I find it easier to control when I pack them with the crown down. Lift the brim at one side and begin layering clothes under it, snugging them up to the crown and all the way to the edge of the suitcase.

PACKING SOFT CLOTHES UNDER BRIM

Nothing hard is packed next to the hats. Stiff items like eyeglass cases go along the outside or on the other half of the bag.  I continue in this way until my clothes are level with the brim on all sides. When the brims are fully supported with clothes, I stuff the crown with my softest clothes like socks, tees, bathing suits, underwear, etc. You need to pack the crown fully to prevent it from collapsing.

Finally, I top the brim and cover the entire hat with more soft clothes, all the way to the edge of the suitcase. If a packable hat brim hangs over the edge of your suitcase you can often refold it back into the bag by sandwiching a t-shirt into the area you need to fold. I don’t suggest this if your brim has cardboard stiffening or it’s a real straw!

My hats come out of the suitcase crease and wrinkle-free. Increasingly, my hats are switching over to packable types because they’re also infused with a UPF, sun protection factor. Great hats in stylish shapes are available at all price points.

If your hat does get slightly crushed, you can steam it over a tea kettle at home or take them into the bathroom after a hot shower and try smoothing them back into shape.

With care, lots of different types of hats can be packed this way, including crisp straw. Structured hats are harder to pack because they’re less durable but this technique will work for them so long as the brim is not wider than the suitcase…in which case I recommend you travel wearing your beautiful hat.

Some tips on hat fit-

If your hat isn’t a perfect fit, I swear by these hat-size reducer strips from Amazon. Simply attach one or more to the inside of the crown until you get the perfect fit. I would rather buy a hat that’s slightly too large and adjust it because tight hats give me a headache and there’s very little you can do to stretch them.

Thanks for reading and remember to wear what makes you feel confident.

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25 Comments

  1. Hi Jennifer! The timing on this post is perfect! I have been invited down to Florida with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. I’m so excited! I bought a new hat and I was worried about how to pack it . Thanks for sharing with us and for all your hard work.

  2. Ok I need clarification…what do you mean by “infused with UPF sun protection factor” ?
    I do not know of anything that is infused into hats. All hats provide some sun protection because they cover the head, face, neck, etc. and so can be given a rating but that does not sound like what you mean here

    1. UPF factor is the ultra protection factor of fabric. It measures how long it takes for the sun to penetrate the fabric. Some fabrics are woven with yarns treated with a form of titanium dioxide which increases its UPF and is permanently locked into the yarn.

  3. I have a package hat that is amazing. I can roll it up or put it in a carry on. It pops back in shape with in a few minutes. It is made of paper and can be wiped off with a damp towel as long as you do not soak it. (although I have worn it in the water and all was good). I do have a nylon “9 west” that I bought a few years ago. Also durable and packable.
    I can always wear it if I do not need to pack it especially for the bad hair time.
    Like the hat inserts. Great idea. ☺️

  4. Oh my goodness, who knew there were hat-size reducing strips! Obviously, not me. I am trying to do better about shielding my face, ears, and neck from the sun, but the hats are always too big. I think this will be a life-saver. I always learn something new from you, Jennifer – thank you!

  5. Thank you, thank you for the hat reducing strips! I never knew such things existed. My head is small and I have a terrible time getting hats to fit if they do not have an adjustable band inside – and many don’t. I can now wear a lot more styles and pack them properly too!

  6. I’ll have to check out those reducer strips. So many cute hats come only “one size fits all,” and my hat has blown off in the slightest breeze. We do need to protect our scalps and ears.

  7. Thank you so much for this information. I have struggled with packing “packable” hats and haven’t always had good results. I can’t wait to try your tip!

  8. Thanks for these great tips for packing! I always pack hats, but didn’t have the technique down so well.

  9. Great tip! Thank you. I once saw a woman at a Florida airport in a wheelchair wearing — and I am not making this up or exaggerating — four wide-brimmed hats on her head at the same time. Thank you for saving me from being That Woman! LOL

  10. I can attest to the fact that this works. When we go on cruises I always take a hat along with my husband’s. He especially has to wear one with a wide brim. He has to protect his face and neck as he has had numerous skin cancer’s removed. I put my hat inside his and pack them just as you said. If the flight is short we sometimes just wear them and put on our lap on the plane.

    1. I’ve finally browbeaten convinced my husband into wearing wide-brimmed hats too. He has 42 stitches on his upper lip from skin cancer

      1. says:sorry reply to Suzanne by mistake.
        This is the hat my husband uses-for golf and yard work, vacation. From LLBean Mens Aussie Breezer Hat, it has the mesh sides with solid top and wide brim, takes the strap off first thing 🤔. Also has UPF of 50+. He has a place on his lip burned off just last week along with various other spots. Hope your husband’s lip is better and getting well.
        He has two hats we keep one for vacation and one for golf and yard work. I’ve even wash the golf one, the sweat band gets dirty , spray with spot remover first, set out with brim flat to air dry.

      2. I’ll check into it for him. Thanks, Janice! He gets more burned off every visit to the derm.

    1. This is the hat my husband uses-for golf and yard work, vacation. From LLBean Mens Aussie Breezer Hat, it has the mesh sides with solid top and wide brim, takes the strap off first thing 🤔. Also has UPF of 50+. He has a place on his lip burned off last week along with various other spots. Hope your husband’s lip is better and getting well.
      He has two hats we keep one for vacation and one for golf and yard work. I’ve even wash the golf one, the sweat band gets dirty. Set out with brim flat to air dry.

  11. I love hats & your packable options look great. I saw somewhere a clip designed for attaching a hat to handbag or tote which is also on my wish list.

    1. I saw a lady using one last summer and thought it look great. I worry about folks cramming things into my hat in the overhead compartment

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