Boonie Hats vs Bucket Hats: What's the Difference?

Rugged military man in tactical boonie hat with dark dirt on face

While trends in hats come and go, there is one style of hat that has been a mainstay for decades: the boonie hat. The boonie hat is one of those classic designs that has stood the test of time. But these days, the classic boonie hat is often mistaken for its more recent cousin, the bucket hat. While we carry both the boonie hat and the bucket hat we want to share the pros and cons of both! So, what’s the difference between a boonie hat vs. a bucket hat?

What is a Boonie Hat?

A boonie hat, also known as a bush hat or giggle hat (in Australia), is a type of wide-brimmed sun hat that was originally designed for military forces in hot tropical climates. It has a stiffer brim than the bucket hat, and often features a fabric tape band of "branch loops" around the crown. The boonie hat is lightweight, breathable and offers good sun protection to keep your head cool and comfortable.

The term “boondocks” was first used by American service personnel during the Philippine-American War in 1899. At that time, Filipinos rebelled to fight for their independence rather than be under another colonial leader's rule. However, this military slang soon began to mean anything related to the jungle or remote wilderness. Eventually, it became simply “boonie” for short.

What is a Bucket Hat?

A bucket hat, on the other hand, is a type of sun-protection hat that has a soft brim. The bucket hat was originally designed for fishing and other outdoor activities but has since become popular in a variety of contexts.

It's usually made from heavy-duty cotton fabric such as denim or canvas, or wool. It has a small brim that slopes downward and often features eyelets for ventilation. Some bucket hats are designed with a string at the back of the rim, allowing you to tie it under your chin.

Bucket hats were traditionally worn by Irish farmers and fishermen, to keep the rain off their heads. Because of its popularity in the 1960s, it also became associated with youth culture movements such as ska and punk rock.

bucket hat

What's the Difference Between a Boonie Hat vs. a Bucket Hat?

At first glance, a boonie hat may look similar to a bucket hat, but they are two distinct styles of headwear with key differences in design.

1. Shape

A bucket hat is usually made from a single piece of fabric and features a rounded crown and a short brim. It's easy to recognize due to its round shape, often with a drawstring or toggle at the back of the crown.

On the other hand, a boonie hat is much more rugged in appearance than a bucket hat. It usually has an upturned brim that helps keep the sun out of your eyes, and typically has a wide brim that wraps all the way around.

Boonie hats often have loops or snaps on either side so that you can attach foliage to break up your silhouette or even wear a face veil. Most boonie hats also come with an adjustable chin strap so you can tie it under your chin for added security.

2. Brim

The biggest difference between a boonie hat and a bucket hat lies in the brim: the brim of a boonie hat is stiff and can be shaped to minimize the silhouette, whereas the brim of a bucket hat is floppy.

This stiffness allows for more versatility when it comes to how you wear your hat--bending it into whatever shape best suits your needs. However, U.S Army regulations prohibit modifying the brim of a boonie hat in any way, so it's important to check with your specific branch before altering yours.

3. Outdoor Protection

Unlike the boonie hat, the bucket hat is not designed to provide protection from the underbrush and other environmental elements. The stiff brim also helps provide extra sun and rain protection--something you won't get with a floppy bucket hat.

boonie hat

Boonie Hats: The Navy Seal Choice

While we offer both a boonie hat and a bucket hat at Highland Tactical, the bucket hat vs. boonie hat debate comes down to a few key factors. For Navy SEALs and other special forces operators, the boonie hat is the choice due to its superior protection from outdoor elements. The stiff brim and longer crown provide much-needed sun and rain protection, making them ideal for harsh environments. Additionally, a boonie hat can be easily modified with insignia or camouflage cloth as needed.

If you're looking for greater visibility in the outdoors and an overall more rugged look, a boonie hat is the way to go. With its classic military styling and increased protection from the elements, you can't go wrong with this timeless piece.

Shop our tactical hats collection today.