The Campaign Hat

The campaign, or “Smokey Bear” hat, goes back long before Scouting. It was a broad brimmed hat worn on the plains, not just of the United States west, but other areas of the world as well. In the U.S. it was known as the Montana Peak, and provided good protection from the sun as well as rain. Baden Powell, who was freckled with fair skin, favored it and used it during his time in the African campaigns in the army.  He adopted the hat from the Boers and found it well suited to the climate there. There the hat was sometimes referred to as “the Boss of the Plains,” which tickled B-P, as it was also, of course, his initials.


It would come as no surprise that B-P would adapt this practical hat as part of the Scout uniform in 1908. It was easy as well for the Boy Scouts of America, as the U.S. Army also used the hat as part of its uniform. It figured prominently in the opening of one of Stephen Spielberg’s (who had been a Scout) Indiana Jones movies. The hat fell out of favor following World War II and pretty much replaced by the ‘overseas cap’, which was considerably less expensive, and could by carried folded over the belt indoors. An olive green “fatigue” style cap followed in the 60s and 70s (with a red beret also making an appearance in the 70s) until replaced by the modern and prolific baseball style. It is interesting to note that the Scout catalogue does offer several types of broad-brimmed class B outback-style hats.

The campaign hat is still a part of the uniform, however, and is chiefly worn on formal occasions. (from “Baden-Powell, The two lives of a Hero” by William Hillcourt, “Scouting for Boys”, and a not always reliable memory.)

Many thanks to Roger Shellman from the Voyageur District for this effort. If you have any questions, please contact him at