The word Boonie Hat comes from the slang term for wilderness "Out in the boondocks" or from the Military perspective "Out in the Field" away from the base.
The Boonie Hat is similar to the Australian bush or Giggle hat and the Camo Bucket Hat. The US soldiers began to use them during the Vietnam War. They were not a Military Hat or issued item. They would purchase a hat from local tailors. It was usually some type of tiger stripe camo pattern made from pieces of old uniforms or simply the design of that tailor. Many tailors made these hats and brim sizes and camo patterns varied. These hats are still produced in Vietnam today by a small homebased industry mainly for sales to tourists.
The Republic of Vietnam Soldiers wore these locally produced hats. The US Special Ops liked these hats. They were lighter and made better camouflage than the heavy bulky metal helmet. These floppy hats broke up the pattern of the head more, were cooler to wear and didn't interfere with hearing like a metal helmet. They were suited very well for use in infiltration were your not supposed to be seen. Obviously the home or local tailormade cloth Boonie Hat was not as protective as the helmet. The helmet is a far better choice for guard duty or in fox hole where you have been or can easily be seen and you are the target.
The origins of the hat we have today was made for use in the Vietnam Jungle. Hence, Jungle Hat is another common name for the Boonie Hat.
Eventually the US Military did adopt and standardize the Boonie Hat and designated it as "Hat, Sun, Hot Weather." While they did not come up with the Boonie hat they did standardize it and made it very popular. It was used to supplement the baseball style patrol cap. The Military Boonie Hat was issued as standard equipment to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each branch of the service has their own colors and camouflage patterns. Most of those camo patters, along with hunting patterns, are available to the public thru aftermarket vendors. These vendors have copied the hats very well.
Military Boonie Hats are made with a wide brim to protect the face and neck from the Sun. The wide brim also keeps water out of your eyes in the rain. It has two mesh covered vents on each side of the hat for ventilation. A chin strap is provided to tighten the hat so it stays on in the wind. There is a fabric ring around the hat that has been sewn to make loops. These loops are to help camouflage the hat by poking vegetation of all types through them to match your surroundings. Early issues of the hat came with a mesh screen for use in the jungle to protect against insects. They are made with either cotton rip-stop or nylon blend fabrics.
Boonie hats are worn by the Military, Law Enforcement SWAT teams, Tactical and Survival enthusiasts, as well as guys like me who think they are just plain practical. They are great for activities like working, climbing, hiking, backpacking, boating, gardening, four wheeling and really just about any outdoor activity. Scrunch or wad it up and stuff it into a pocket or pack. Use when needed then wash and repeat. I went to an amusement park one very hot summer. I soaked my Boonie Hat with water and then wore it. It was great. However, my wife was not quit as impressed as I was with this excellent use of my hat. She really couldn't argue with the practicality of the situation but did have something to say about its fashion statement, especially after it was dripping wet on my head.
A good hat is a great thing to have. It can make an outdoor experience much more pleasant. Almost all outdoor adventurers or workers have a hat or covering of some kind. The Boonie Hat is my favorite.
M. Shane Sullivan, Owner/Manager of Paracordgalaxy.com