Sep 10 2013

Tilley TO55 Orbit Hat Review

It was just a couple of months ago that I experienced a Spring that thought it was Winter in London. Rain sheared down from the sky in chilling waves intent on ruining the trip of a lifetime. This is when I learned the joys of a hat and why a gentleman always has one.

So, when Tilley reached out to me to ask if I thought our readers would be interested in learning about a Tilley hat, I knew it was a sign of sorts.

They sent me one of their TO55 Orbit hats to run through its paces.

tilley hat

The TO55 is made from an organic cotton/hemp blend. It has what Tilley describes as an intermediate brim which is a little wider than their medium brim. While I am not quite certain what it is, the hat is hand-made with “Canadian persnicketiness”. It says so right in the crown of the hat.

Also in the crown of the hat is a pocket with a velcro closure. A little bit of cash, a credit card or a hotel key can safely be tucked up in here. I even tucked a small cell phone in there at one point while on the beach.


The secret pocket with a Motorola Defy peeking out.

When you receive a Tilley hat it has a zip-lock plastic bag in this pocket which is filled with what Tilley calls “brag tags”.

My favorite was the one from a man that detailed how an elephant had plucked his hat off of his head and eaten it. This actually happened three times! Each time after nature, ahem, took its course, he washed the hat, dried it and put it back on. This allowed it to play the role of elephant Activia two more times. Needless to say, this shows the durability of the Tilley hat.

I gave this card to my brother-in-law the veterinarian, who actually works on elephants. He raised his eyebrows and mentioned he would need to get one of those hats!

There are two cords inside of the hat. One of these is designed to pull under your chin to secure it when the wind is whipping around. The other is adjustable by sliding two knots around the cord. This cord is designed to go behind your head. By pulling it tight it can add stability to the hat, and hold it on a bit tighter if the wind is not at gale force level.

Since Tilley recommends a looser fit (two fingers should fit inside the band while it is on) they expect that gravity will normally keep the hat on. This looser fit makes the hat much more comfortable in hot weather. The band is designed to wick sweat away from your forehead and allow it to evaporate, keeping you cool. Having the cord to add security with this looser fit is quite useful, but if you don’t need it, just tuck it up inside of the hat.

Tilley also wants to make sure that you have the perfect fit so they have 11 different hat sizes and will even make you a custom hat if you have an unusually sized noggin.

In Use

My first test of the TO55 was when I participated in a charity golf tournament. It was the weekend before Memorial Day and the weather had just gotten hot. I plopped the Tilley on my head and ran off without a drop of sunscreen to prove how ill prepared I really was.

Five hours later my face, ears and the back of my neck were well protected by the level 50 sun protection factor of the hat. I, unfortunately, had a triangle of red on my chest where the collar of my shirt had been open. The Tilley did its job at least!

The next real test was a week at the beach with the TO55 serving as my only head cover. The Florida panhandle in July is about like living in a convection oven. The Tilley shaded me and kept me cool and composed all week. Although I didn’t actually get to do this test with the Tilley, they claim that their hats float, making them a great waterside choice.

I kept waiting for the secret handshake from a fellow Tilley owner based on this from their website:

“Those who wear Tilleys usually have innate good taste, creative minds and uncommon intelligence. Everybody knows that! And the Hats serve to identify such people to each other – immediately. Because of these exceptional yet shared traits, virtually always, especially in foreign countries, Tilley wearers greet each other. Friendships have been formed because of the Hat, and that can be the nicest thing of all.”

No luck so far…I guess I will have to keep wearing it.


Persnicketiness must mean that you make something with a ridiculous attention to detail, because that is apparent in everything that goes into a Tilley. This must be what drives them to have a ludicrously over the top set of warranties:

Your Hat is guaranteed for life (yours, mine or its) not to wear out or fall apart. We’re delighted to think that yours may be passed on to the next generation!

With your Hat, you’ll be provided with “The Straight-Shooter’s Statement of Loss of a Tilley Hat” insurance policy. The insurance is for two years, all perils, 50% deductible, and is not issued by Lloyds. We understand the anguish of losing this reliable companion, or of having your dog terminally gnaw it. Should that happen, we’ll replace your late, lamented Tilley at half the current catalogue price.

I have seen lots of companies that warranty a product for life against defects or damage, but loss? This is a company that wants you to take as much pride in owning their product as they do in making it. Get ready to make sure your Tilley is listed in your will because it is going to be in the family for a long time.

The most powerful thing that has happened to me when it comes to the Tilley is its association. I cannot help but feel like I am on vacation when I clap it on my big, fat head. My Tilley simply makes me happy!

More of an investment than a purchase.

Highly recommended.

Tilley TO55 Orbit Hat $84

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