In Praise of Visors

I love visors. I consider them the best possible headwear during the heat and sun of summer. They provide excellent ventilation for the top of your head. They don't give you "hat head," that sometimes painful affliction caused by baseball caps that leaves your hair stuck for the day in an unflattering position. And they pack smaller than baseball caps in your backpack.

But perhaps the best feature of a visor is its ability to provide a secure location to keep your sunglasses on top of your head. I keep sunglasses on hand throughout much of the year, but am not the type to keep them safely stored away (and less accessible) in a hard case in my backpack or bag. I like to keep them on my head, where they're quickly and readily accessible.

If you're wearing a baseball cap, there's no good way to keep sunglasses secure on your head. No matter how you place them (0ver the top, above the brim, etc), they slide off too easily. With a visor, however, you can slide the two ear pieces underneath the sides of the visor while you wear it, locking them into place even if you're moving you're head around a lot.

Unfortunately visors seem to have fallen out of fashion of late, which makes it difficult to find styles that meet my criteria for a quality model. Here's what I look for and recommend:

1) Secure, easy-to-adjust, and long-lasting adjustment system. Forget those old-school plastic snappies where you line up the bumps with the holes. They inevitably break over time. I prefer either a Velcro closure, or a sliding buckle or strap system, which hold up better over time. If you're looking at a version that adjusts using a slider or buckle, make sure that it doesn't loosen with use. It's a pain to constantly adjust. Also avoid visors that lack an adjustment system and instead rely on a lycra, stretchy-type material to keep them on your head--they won't stay put, especially over time as the stretch wears out.

2) A darker color. Dark blues, grays, browns, and black are better for masking the inevitable dirt and sweat stains that build up on a visor.

3) A narrow section across the forehead. Many visors have broad fronts above the brim, which can extend above your hairline and push your bangs upward, giving you a good case of "visor head." Visors with less material across the forehead help avoid this, and also make it easier to potentially use a visor underneath a helmet for biking, climbing, or other activity.

4) A durable, moldable brim. I'm constantly curling or straightening the brim of my visor depending on whether it's raining or sunny, and which direction the rays or rain are coming from. A good visor brim will withstand repeated flexing without cracking or otherwise permanently deforming.

Expect to pay $15-$20 for a good model. Most gear manufacturers include at least one option in their product line, including Mountain Hardwear, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, Columbia, and GoLite.

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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