Reviewed by Cairngorm Treks

Used extensively by Cairngorm Treks from late summer to early winter 2018, throughout the Cairngorms and surrounding areas.

It's hard to think of a piece of headwear that could divide opinions quite as much as the OR Seattle Sombrero. From first impressions, the actual shape and functionality of the hat is very different from what the name might suggest. Sombrero would propose this to be suited to warmer climates with a very wide brim to keep you cool and protected on very hot sunny days. Although the Sombrero does have a UPF 50 rating, this is quite the opposite of its intended use. Living in the UK a quick Google search helped identify that the location of Seattle is regarded widely throughout the US as the city with the most annual rainfall, this is then a product aimed more towards precipitation than sunshine. This explanation also lends itself more towards the chosen use of fabrics throughout. The crown is made of a very protective 3 Layer 70D Taslan Goretex, with all seams sealed,and a foam stiffened brim to make sure any rainfall is kept away from the head and neck. Internally is has a soft micro fleece liner, a clinch band to provide an adjustable fit, and a chin strap to keep a solid hold even in increased wind speeds.

So, the technical aspects of the Seattle Sombrero are sounding rather impressive. Outdoor Research state this to be theirbest-selling piece of headwear and with a quick search into opinions from other users, globally this is a very popular and trusted garment. So why then in the UK, which we can all agree is often regarded as a very wet, cold environment, did wearing this 'pinnacle of precipitation performance' cause many a fellow outdoorsman to cast a discerning eye or comment.

The colour choice we had been provided may have a large part to play and was also where our guides were truly divided. Looking good at all times is obviously the number one rule to choosing outdoor clothing followed closely by functionality (of course we’re joking). Outdoor activities have become a place to eccentricate our normal fashions, with many a luminous pair of legs brightly observed amongst a pastel sea of vegetation and rock. Bright colours are usually associated with an aim of increased visibility and safety. Certainly, the striking Apple and Abyss (green and blue) stood us out from our surrounding environment. For many people this would be a plus, for ourselves we may have chosen a slightly less exuberant colour but OR have obviously had a long time working with this particular product and many colour options are available. So, there are going to be divides amongst the shape and style of the Seattle Sombrero but where the arguments end is with the performance.

OR claim the SS to withstand the heartiest downpours in the world! A big claim but also one that appears to hold value. After hearing this claim, we couldn't wait to test it on a rainy day so instead did the shower test many use when first purchasing a waterproof jacket or trousers. Shower on full blast our guides were impressed with not only how quickly the water was wicked away but also how not a drop of moisture was left soaked into the material. Being a Goretex item it will need reproofing with increased wear, but our initial impressions was this is product which we could place some trust in.

Long days of wet weather are something which are frequent within a Scottish trekking season. Although the welcomed warm weather during the early season kept us mostly free from using our waterproof gear, mid to late season was certainly back to its usual self with many a long day spent in wet conditions. This did lend itself well to giving the Seattle Sombrero a proper run out.

Folded and stored into the rucksack, it will pop back quickly back into shape when needed. We had read in reviews that it can easily become misshapen, although we found with just a bit of work with the fingers and a few minutes worn it was back to normal. Maybe the issue comes from storing it for a long time folded so make sure once you are back home to find a suitable place to store the Seattle Sombrero in its normal form.

In terms of keeping you dry we can't think of another piece of headwear which has performed as well as the Seattle Sombrero. The wide brim kept any rainfall away from the face and neck, but also away from an item you could be working with in hand. Compass and map were free from increasing water droplets and a quick check of a mobile phone or camera was made easy with no concern about items becoming soaked.

A big bonus and one we believe really marks out this style of headwear is the ability of full movement of head and vision. The hood of a usual waterproof shell jacket can often be restricting to not only movement of the head but also in regard to sound. This can result in an uncomfortable day’s walk, often one in which a conversation with a partner or group becomes a game of lip reading. The Seattle Sombrero solves both these problems. Even in high winds the chin strap holds the SS secure to the head and wasn't an issue we thought may appear.

Unfortunately, we did discover a few minor points. The first being this is a very warm product, the micro fleece liner, although very comfortable, we felt just wasn't needed and limits its amount of usage throughout the seasons. The breathability of the SS was also a concern, although this has been noted by many users and was something we envisioned would become an issue, we were disappointed to find the inside liner to become quite damp especially when used over a prolonged period. This is then a product better worn on those colder days.

Our Verdict

Although the stylings may be debated, the functionality as a proper waterproof piece of headwear certainly cannot. It's ability to wick away heavy downpours are unrivalled which is the reason this has become such a popular item for OR with an equally trusted reputation. If you feel uncomfortable when trekking with a hood up, then the Seattle Sombrero offers unrestricted vision and movement of the head whilst also providing the protection needed. The down side is breathability, which unfortunately is very poor resulting in a very warm piece of headwear which limits its use throughout the seasons. We may not have warmed towards the colour choice that was sent to us but the Seattle Sombrero is available with many options to suit all. Overall to wear the SS over a period of time becomes a pleasure and it won't become uncommon to find yourself wearing this on the morning dog walk, or a day out with the family. One of our guides even used it to keep his camera dry whilst recording a mountain time-lapse, so you could say it's multi-functional!

Cairngorm Treks is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...

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