Too early for a Mark Johnston Gear of the Year Award? Maybe… then again maybe not.

This is my first gear review for the bunches of clothes, electronics and random assortment of other junk I stuffed and smashed into my backpack before leaving for a year of travel abroad. Out of all of it though, there is already one item I know I couldn’t live without: The North Face Horizon Folding Bill Cap.

Cursed with skin that is either white or a lobster-shade of red, I have to remain ever vigilant while enjoying the great outdoors–always applying ample protection in the form of clothing or lotions. Add to that the not-too-thrilling fact that hair is steadily vanishing from my head and you might understand why some sort of hat is a must on my packing list.

I already owned a number of baseball caps and wide-rimmed sun hats back home, but none of them seemed the right fit for this trip; packing and unpacking baseball caps would soon bend the rim out of shape and sun hats look ridiculous when worn anywhere other than backcountry trails or in the garden.

So on a last minute trip to REI I was happy to find the Horizon Folding Bill Cap with it’s, gasp, folding bill, (I ended up buying it online at for a better deal), and it’s been indispensable. I’ve even made a habit of locking it away with my other valuables so it doesn’t ever wander off in a hostel room!


Lightweight and comfortable to wear, I usually forget the thing is on my head–thus it’s in almost every photo of me since we left–and one size fits all with an adjustable back clip closure. Made from 100% ripstop nylon, (with a terry sweatband lining), and with the folding bill, the hat seems relatively indestructible. Wearing it for months straight in a variety of conditions, smashing it into an overstuffed pack and sitting on it repeatedly in my back pocket has done no harm to its shape.

When soaked in rain and sweat in Yangshuo or washed in a sink, the hat has dried quickly with no signs of wear or discoloration. It provides UPF 50 sun protection, (good for that bald spot), with a reasonably well sized bill for shade.

As far as style points, I’ll let you judge for yourself. For what I’m wearing, it’s a good match and I’m happy not to be walking through the heat of Beijing in a floppy-brimmed sun hat.

If you’re looking for the right fit for a travel hat that provides good sun protection and great packability, go ahead and stuff The North Face Horizon Folding Bill Cap into your pack, even if just as a backup to your sombrero.

A small, lightweight and, if found on sale, affordable hat that wears comfortably and can be folded and slipped into a pocket or smashed into a full pack.
  • Fits in a pocket
  • Takes a beating
  • Reasonably priced (on sale)
  • I'm wearing it in every single photo
4.5Overall Score

About The Author


Mark quit everything to travel the world for a year with his wife, Britnee. Along the way, he picked up a love for many other things, including illy coffee, Nepal, Bolivianos bills, and Thai beaches. Now happily home in Utah, Mark is a balding marketing professional with a mountain biking addiction.