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Traveling is no excuse not to have your favorite wide-brim hat available. In fact, when traveling to tropical or otherwise hot destinations, a hat is a must-have item to protect you from the sun. Rather than wearing your hat round-trip on a plane or taking the time to find a hat box, consider packing it in your luggage with your other items. While you might hesitate at the thought of putting your favorite topper in a cramped carry-on checked bag - it is doable.
Determine What Your Hat is Made Of
Even if your hat didn't come with a label that said "packable," it's still possible to transport it with good results. Wide-brim hats made of nylon, polyester, cotton or bendable straw, wool or felt tend to pack the best.
While a wide brim floppy hat, sun hat, straw hat, or felt hat can be good choices for packing, any hat tha's rigid will not pack well. If you do decide to throw caution to the wind and pack a rigid hat, be aware that you run the risk of cracking it or otherwise damaging it beyond repair.
Pack Your Heaviest Items First
You'll want to create a flat and stable surface for your hat in your suitcase, so place heavy items such as jeans and thick shirts on the bottom of the suitcase or bag. Not only will this create a suitable surface to place your hat, but it also lessens the possibility that your hat will get crushed by heavy clothing items. Also, close the suitcase slowly to ensure the hat is not crushed in case it is more solid in nature such as a firm straw hat.
Making a list of all of the items you plan to pack or placing everything out ahead of time will help you avoid forgetting an item and having to unpack, rearrange and repack items.
Packing the Hat
Stuffing the crown of your hat is the key to keep it from getting crushed. Fold or roll up items such as socks, underwear or T-shirts and arrange them inside the crown to create a filler that will help the crown keep its shape. You might have to spend a little time getting the perfect ratio of filler to crown, but it's worth it.
Once the crown is filled, it's time to place your hat in your bag. Think of your hat as the centerpiece of your bag, and place it in the middle. How you place it depends on the shape of the brim and how it should be placed to help retain its shape. Some hats should be placed brim down, while others work better with the crown down. Refer to the manufacturer's hat care instructions that came with your hat to find out which is the better option.
Additional Hat Care Tips
Creating the perfect, flat surface, filling your hat's crown with the right items, rearranging what doesn't seem to be working or adding forgotten items to your bag all take time. Bottom line: Be aware that you won't be able to pack hurriedly or in a haphazard fashion, so plan for a bit of extra packing time.
Once you arrive at your destination, your hat may need a little bit of coaxing to return to its former shape. A handheld or travel steamer is the perfect tool to steam out any wrinkles or soften the hat a bit to allow you to reshape it with your fingers.
If you don't have a travel steamer available, hang your hat in the bathroom when you take a hot shower. The steam from the shower will work like the travel steamer and allow you to reshape the hat.
It's Okay to Pack Your Wide Brim Hat
Rather than saddling yourself with a wide brim hat during air, train or car travel, pack it. As long as the hat is bendable and not rigid - for example a floppy wide-brim hat - and you take the time to follow the hat care guidelines presented, your hat should arrive at its destination in good condition with minimal tweaks needed.