Review: Dorfman Pacific Shanghai (2009)*

Dorfman Pacific Shanghai Hat

If Dorfman Pacific's Shanghai straw sun hat looks familiar to you, it's because you probably see people wearing it on a daily basis. The Shanghai is the hat of choice for gardeners and construction workers—at least here in Southern California.

I found mine in a bin at our local hardware store for about twelve bucks. The Shanghai's extra-broad 16 x 14 1/2" brim offers excellent sun protection for your face, neck, and shoulders, while still being compact enough to not feel like you've got an umbrella stuck to your head. And it's very light—3.2 ounces (measured) in a men's small.

Shanghai straw hat

The Shanghai

The Shanghai is made from a soft and lightweight straw, with an interior cotton band to keep the hat comfortable against your skin. The hat's straw weave is open enough to allow for decent ventilation, making this a promising choice for hot weather and desert hiking.

I don't believe you can get this combination of sun coverage, breathability, and low weight in a cotton or polyester hat. I notice straw hats in the beach/lifeguard style are often constructed of a much heavier straw (which I don't care for). I'll stress again: this is a light straw and a very light hat overall. While the Shanghai is obviously a terrific beach choice, backcountry travelers should give a little thought to what conditions they'll be encountering.

The big disadvantage of a straw hat is that you can't stuff it into your backpack when you don't need it. You can strap it to the outside of your pack, for example, but this leaves it exposed to rain and rock. Straw simply isn't going to match the durability of a fabric-based hat. Wind will be another problem here, even though the Shanghai does have a neck cord.

To be on the safe side, I think we can pretty much rule out the Shanghai for high-alpine pursuits. Better to reserve it for hiking the local mountains in summer when the sun gets scorching hot and the breezes are gentle. If you just want a simple, inexpensive straw hat for warm-weather duty, the Shanghai is ideal (*discontinued).

Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow