Outdoor Research Radar Pocket Cap

Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 3 out of 5
Yeah, but: Yes, I own three of them.

The Long Version: I like hats, which is a little odd because until recently I haven't usually worn them. But this summer I decided that I would make a more concentrated effort to protect myself from the sun, so now I keep a hat on hand, so to speak. Or try to, anyway: even ballcaps are bulky and tough to keep track of, especially when I'm constantly switching between different bags.

I found the Radar Pocket Cap when I was browsing the friendly shelves of my local Mountain Co-op. I had left my ballcap at home yet again that day, so I was looking for something that would be able to protect me from the sun, be easy to carry and pack, and still not be too expensive. I have to say that Outdoor Research's "Radar Pocket Cap" is just about perfect.

Outdoor Research generally makes really good gear, and the Pocket Radar escapes the ugly "OR" logo that afflicts much of their line. (I see it and want to ask: "Or What?") Instead it has their full name stitched into the band, jauntily off-centre, with a small logo tag on the back as well. I can live with that. I'm not sure why they thought that also embroidering "UPF 30" onto the back was a good idea, but overall the Radar made it past the marketing department without being fatally wounded.

The really big deal with the Radar, and what earns it the Pocket Cap appellation, is that the brim folds in half. It has a single piece of dark grey fabric across the bottom, for a seamless look, and the fabric stitched to reinforce the hinge on the top can easily be mistaken for a styling accent. Once it's folded then it's easy to wrap the hat around itself and tuck it into a back pocket.

I'm a big fan of things that fold up without looking like they should, and pocketability is a huge factor for me. While I realize that the North American Etiquette Society has ruled that men are now allowed to wear hats indoors without automatically being considered complete assbags, I still prefer to remove mine as promptly as possible. This means that I may be putting my hat away a half-dozen times in a day, and the Radar has held up perfectly.

Sewn into the back of the cap is a little cord loop that makes it easy to hang up or clip to things. I already have biner clips on most of my bags specifically for the purpose, so this was a clear sign that the Radar is the cap for me. I have a thing against one-size-fits-all hats, but the design of the D-gap at the back does make them easy to clip to things. Finding a properly fitted hat that's still easy to put away is huge.

(The problem is that I'm a photographer. Even though the Radar has a very short brim I still need to wear it backwards from time to time. I worry that wearing hats with those adjustable bands across my forehead makes me look like a complete idiot – or even worse, like Ken Rockwell. Thank you, Outdoor Research, for understanding my pain.)

The cap itself is lightweight nylon, which is somewhat rain-repellant and not at all breathable; the black one especially is hot in the sun. There is also a Transit Radar that has mesh panels built into the side – I'm not sure who thinks these names are clever – but the use of mesh in clothing has too many bad associations for me to try that one out.

While the fabric isn't immune to wrinkles, it bounces back fairly well. Being nylon, the cap doesn't attract much dirt and dries quickly after it has been washed. Hand-washing it is easy, but I've also thrown it in my front-load machine with good results.

After spending a month with my black check Radar pocket cap the only sensible thing to do was buy another one. So naturally I ended up with two more: never believe a store when they say that a seasonal item is "backordered three to five weeks". Since I'm in a good position to compare, it's worth pointing out that they fit slightly differently despite all being nominally the same size. It never hurts to check in an actual store if their sizing guide seems ambiguous.

But despite already owning three of these caps, I'm still looking forward to seeing what colours Outdoor Research comes up with next year. I'm easily tempted when it comes to things that I like.

last updated 31 July 2012


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