How to Pack a Hat In a Carry-on

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Hat’s are my go-to accessory on vacation and I love to bring several. They not only protect me from the sun, but they also add attitude to my outfits and hide a multitude of bad hair days. Since I travel using just carry-on luggage, I need to pack my hats because I’d look pretty goofy wearing more than one at a time. Here’s how to pack a hat in a carry-on suitcase.

Let’s start with the obvious, they now make fabulous packable hats that are very durable. They’re usually constructed from paper, polyester, cotton, nylon, or raffia which makes them super flexible. They can take a bending or beating without cracking the way true straw hats do. I don’t recommend packing a hat in a backpack or duffle-type bag because their lack of structure offers no support.


I use a hard-sided 22″ carry-on that most airlines let me carry onto the plane.

Place any heavy items on the wheeled end and opposite half of your suitcase from the hat, then cushion with soft clothes.

here’s how to pack a hat in a carry-onHATS STACKED IN CARRY-ON BAG

Begin by layering the bottom of the flat side of your suitcase (not the side the handle telegraphs into) with a thin layer of soft clothes like t-shirts and undergarments, then place the hat upside down in the center. If packing multiple hats, sandwich them into each other first, then pack as one unit. This gives extra stability to the crown and helps prevent crushing.

Some people like to pack their hats with the brim side down. I find it easier to control when I pack them with the crown down. Lift the brim at one side and begin layering clothes under it, snugging them up to the crown and all the way to the edge of the suitcase.

Nothing hard is packed next to the hats. Stiff items like eyeglass cases go along the outside or on the other half of the bag.  I continue in this way until my clothes are level with the brim on all sides. When the brims are fully supported with clothes, I stuff the crown with my softest clothes like socks, tees, bathing suits, underwear, etc. You need to pack the crown fully to prevent it from collapsing.

Finally, I top the brim and cover the entire hat with more soft clothes, all the way to the edge of the suitcase. If a packable hat brim hangs over the edge of your suitcase you can often refold it back into the bag by sandwiching a t-shirt into the area you need to fold. I don’t suggest this if your brim has cardboard stiffening or it’s a real straw!

My hats come out of the suitcase crease and wrinkle-free. Increasingly, my hats are switching over to packable types because they’re also infused with a UPF, sun protection factor. Great hats in stylish shapes are available at all price points.

If your hat does get slightly crushed, you can steam it over a tea kettle at home or take them into the bathroom after a hot shower and try smoothing them back into shape.

With care, lots of different types of hats can be packed this way, including crisp straw. Structured hats are harder to pack because they’re less durable but this technique will work for them so long as the brim is not wider than the suitcase…in which case I recommend you travel wearing your beautiful hat.

Some tips on hat fit-

If your hat isn’t a perfect fit, I swear by these hat-size reducer strips from Amazon. Simply attach one or more to the inside of the crown until you get the perfect fit. I would rather buy a hat that’s slightly too large and adjust it because tight hats give me a headache and there’s very little you can do to stretch them.

Thanks for reading and remember to wear what makes you feel confident.

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