Boonie Hats: Patrol Cap Alternatives For Comfort And Concealment

Likewise referred to as "bush hats", Boonie hats are wide-brimmed hats frequently used by members of the Armed Forces. These types of head gear often feature a tape band made of fabric is sewn around the crown. This band is for holding leaves, twigs and other types of vegetation that can facilitate disguise. The band is also called a foliage ring, clearly in reference to the additional concealment it provides in woodland areas. A strap keeps the bush hat in place and provides stability.

Boonie hats were first used by the U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. They were used by the United States Army Green Berets, together with members of the Australian and Army of the Republic of Vietnam units. The first camo boonie hats may have been made of tigerstripe camo cloth. These bush hats were evidently locally procured, with the fabric salvaged from uniforms that no longer serve its original purpose. The U.S. Army began issuing the boonie hats, which they called "Hat, Jungle, with Insect Net", in 1967. It was made of wind resistant poplin and cotton in three types, namely, tigerstripe, olive drab and ERDL which stands for Engineer Research and Development Laboratories, fabric. The ERDL is a type of camouflage design made up of four colors in an interlocking pattern. Though developed in 1948, the fabric was not issued until 1967, during the Vietnam War.

The issuance of the military boonie hats in 1967 was for the purpose of supplementing and even replacing the baseball and patrol caps that U.S. Military personnel have been using since World War II. The boonie hat, because of the comfort and shade it provides, eventually found its way to the official uniforms of all branches of the U.S. Military. The cut and design of the boonie hat itself has changed little since its conception in Vietnam more than forty years ago. The current ACU boonie hat doesn't look much different than the previous bush hats that were issued then, except in the design of the fabric used. Boonie hats have been used in Afghanistan and Iraq, serving as alternatives to patrol caps.

Boonie hats come in a variety of camouflage designs. Current official selections include the U.S. M81 woodland design, the three color desert camouflage pattern, the UCP, desert and woodland versions of MARPAT and the Air Force ABU pattern. An Army serviceman who wears a Woodland digital boonie hat expectedly wears his rank insignia pinned to the front, just above the branch loops.

Boonie hats were introduced during the Vietnam War because at that time, it served a purpose. It provided more shade against the hot tropical sun which patrol caps have limited capabilities to provide. Moreover, its design allowed them to put different kinds of vegetation that were found in the environment enhancing concealment. Though it was initially used unofficially, it soon became apparent that it has benefits that are worth exploring thus, it was included as an alternative head gear during the course of the Vietnam War. Until today, the boonie hat is still used as an alternative to patrol caps with the most current ACU although the official head gear for the current uniforms are the combat helmet, patrol cap and the black beret, with the latter being used for garrison duties.

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