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Nearly 2 centuries old and still relevant today!

Africa safari hats - pith helmet

Mention Africa safari hats and you are on the mind boggling game of which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Yes, way before marketers labeled it a safari hat the hat, then known as a Pith Helmet existed as early back as the 1830-40s, though not in the fashionable designs and colors we have today. First use was by the military and then by Western civilians, mainly on explorations to the tropics in the early 19th century.

And what a piece of head gear the helmet was! Materials used were pith or cork and holes were sometimes drilled through for ventilation. To keep the helmet on the head, a strap of either leather or brass was used.

Legend has it that people of European origin had to wear the helmet at all times when outdoors in the tropics (even when under the shade), so as to avoid instant sunstroke.

Local people (natives) were assumed to have a natural immunity gained over many years of living directly "under" the sun.

African safari hats, safari head gear

Fast forward to the 21st century, why is an outdoor hat a must have on your African safari and what are the qualities of a good safari hat?

1) Ok, we now know better that the instant sunstroke theory was somehow exaggerated BUT there is a big element of truth in it, because long exposure to sun can have negative and long term health consequences to any type of skin. Therefore your Africa safari hat, should have a wide brim of 2.5" to 3", which is good enough to cover the forehead, the ears and the back of the neck.

2) Call it a practical carry over from the pith / cork helmets but a good safari hat should have good ventilation and be "breathable". Fortunately this is now easily archived by technology in fabric that eliminates the need of having holes for ventilation.

3) It should have an inner layer or a band that absorbs sweat. This avoids having drippy sweat on your face. An African safari hat that is also water proof is a double bonus though it is often difficult to get one that comes satisfactorily multi-purpose on sweat absorbency and rainproof. So should you be out on a walking safari and it starts raining, pull out your 3rd layer
which should be your rainproof safari jacket.

African safari clothes

4) Safari or outdoor hats come in soft form - which is collapsible and therefore easy to put in a bag and there is also the stiff form, which can be cumbersome because when not in use as one must hang it on the back or strap it on the back pack.

5) Another advantage of a soft Africa safari hat is, it can be easily hand washed should the conditions (read dust and sweat) demand.

Click here to read more about Africa safari hats, shirts, trousers or walking boots.

For a consultation for your safari and answers to queries on Africa safari hats and clothing, contact Ontdek Kenya - we have nearly 20 years experience in non-package nature safaris, specialty bird watching, walking safaris and responsible wildlife viewing. We know just the right safari clothes to make your Kenya travel comfortable.