Currently achievable cosmetic items
The following wearables are currently available without having to buy anything on Steam or in the Mann Co. Store.
TF2 achievement items
- The Pyrovision Goggles, obtained with the "A Fresh Pair of Eyes" General achievement by dominating a player wearing Pyrovision Goggles.
- Whatever the youngest version of the Ghastly Gibus is (as of mid-2013, this is the Ghostly Gibus), obtained with the "Ghastly Gibus Grab" Halloween Pack achievement by dominating a player wearing any Gibus. See the section on Halloween below for the history of this achievement's item.
- The Frontline Field Recorder, obtained with the "Local Cinema Star" Replay Pack achievement by uploading a replay to YouTube that gets 1000 views.
Other free-to-play game achievement items
- The Alien Swarm Parasite, obtained with the "Hat Trick" achievement in the freely-downloadable Steam game Alien Swarm.
- The Spiral Sallet, obtained with the "Mission Accomplished" achievement in the free-to-play Steam game Spiral Knights.
- The Bolt Action Blitzer, obtained with the "Mission Accomplished" achievement in the free-to-play Steam game CrimeCraft GangWars.
Other freely obtainable items not linked to an achievement
- The Dueling Badge, found at Bronze after winning at least one duel and upgraded to Silver, Gold, and Platinum at level 25, 50, and 75, respectively.
- The Mercenary badge was originally supposed to only drop for players that joined before April 22, 2010, but is still dropping for new players (may reportedly take up to a week).
Previously distributed items
These hats required no purchases on Steam or the Mann Co. Store, but are no longer available:
- The Cheater's Lament, initially awarded to players who hadn't used spoofing programs to game TF2's item drop system and earn free hats. Later awarded to all other players during the Mann-conomy Update.
- The Earbuds, awarded to Mac players in the months following the Mac Update.
- The Proof of Purchase (awarded to players who owned TF2 before it was free, or new players who purchase one of the remaining physical retail copies of TF2 and activate it on Steam)
- The Party Hat (awarded to all players on TF2's 15th birthday on August 23, 2011 - future birthdays may yield similar hats)
- The older 119th Update medals (Primeval Warrior, Grizzled Veteran, and Soldier of Fortune) are only avaiable to players whose first launch of TF2 was a certain amount of time ago, so if you're a new player these medals are out of reach (and unobtainable through trading).
- Tux, awarded to Linux players from TF2's release on Linux on Febuary 14, 2013 to the end of March 2013.
Additionally, the Ghastly, Ghastlier, and Ghastlierest Gibuses are no longer available. To see how these hats were originally distributed, read the section on Halloween below.
Valve usually gives out items during events. Traditionally, these events have coincided with Halloween (near the end of October through the first week of November) and Australian Christmas (near the end of December through the first week of January).
There are some items that can only be obtained during Halloween Events. There has been a new Halloween event each year since 2009. Some of these items can technically be gotten year-round on servers that are forced into Halloween Mode by setting
tf_forced_holiday 2 in the server's configuration / console.
This update introduced the event map koth_harvest_event (Harvest Event).
- The page announcing the original Halloween event had a hidden link to a page that gave out the Ghastly Gibus to the first 10,319 players to find it.
- Players who achieved the Ghastly Gibus Grab achievement in the year after the initial distribution from the announcement page received an original-run Ghastly Gibus.
On top of the original Ghastly Gibus (awarded year-round until being replaced by the Ghostly Gibus in 2012), the first Halloween Special had an additional achievable item:
- The Mildly Disturbing Halloween Mask obtained with the "Candy Coroner" Halloween Pack achievement by collecting 20 Halloween pumpkins from dead players - these pumpkins only drop on event maps during Halloween events (Holiday restricted to only be wearable during Halloween events)
This event introduced the event map cp_manor_event (Mann Manor).
- Players who already had a Ghastly Gibus before the Halloween 2010 event had all their original-run Ghastly Gibuses upgraded to the Ghastlier Gibus.
- Players who achieved the Ghastly Gibus Grab achievement in the year after the 2010 Halloween event received a second-run Ghastly Gibus.
The Scream Fortress event added these items, which were restricted to be only visible during Halloween (or during a full moon, after the 2011 Halloween update):
- The Horseless Headless Horsemann's Head, obtained with the "Sleepy Holl0WND" Halloween Pack achievement for participating in killing the Horseless Headless Horsemann (who only spawns on cp_manor_event during Halloween events). Wearing it makes you immune to the "BOO!" taunt paralysis the Horsemann casts periodically.
- the Class Masks available in package drops (which only occur with recognition by the item server during Halloween events) on Mann Manor.
Crafting one of each of the Class Masks together yields the Saxton Hale Mask, which has no Halloween / Full Moon restriction.
This event introduced the event map koth_viaduct_event (Eyeaduct).
- Players who already had a Ghastlier Gibus before the Halloween 2011 event had all their orignal-run Ghastly Gibuses (which had been upgraded to the Ghastlier Gibus in 2010) upgraded to the Ghastlierest Gibus.
- Players who already had a Ghastly Gibus before the Halloween 2011 event had all their second-run Ghastly Gibuses upgraded to the Ghastlier Gibus.
- Players who achieved the Ghastly Gibus Grab achievement in the year after the Halloween 2011 event received a third-run Ghastly Gibus.
This event introduced the event map koth_lakeside_event (Ghost Fort).
- Players who achieve the Ghastly Gibus Grab achievement in the year after the Halloween 2012 event receive the Ghostly Gibus.
- All the previous versions of the Gibus (the Ghastly, Ghastlier, and Ghastlierest Gibus) were modified to have an additional "Ghostly" style that could be used to give them the appearance of the Ghostly Gibus.
There's also the Bounty Hat / Treasure Hat / Hat of Undeniable Wealth And Respect, from the Great Steam Treasure Hunt in Winter 2010, and the Summer Shades from the Steam Summer Camp Sale in 2011. These technically didn't require purchases, but they required owning games on Steam and obtaining certain achievements: any three were required for the Summer Shades, including some from free-to-play games, but the Treasure Hunt hats required 5, 15, and all 28 achievements (respectively) in games that ranged from "cheap on sale" to "somewhere around a hundred dollars" (hence the "Hat of Undeniable Wealth And Respect").
In the same vein was the Resurrection Associate Pin, awarded for playing all 13 indie games involved in the Potato Fools' Day ARG leading up to the launch of Portal 2 (the Potato Sack pack). Again, didn't technically require a purchase, but effectively did.
During the 2011 Steam Holiday sale, there were three hats (the BMOC, Ebenezer, and Holiday Headcase that could be crafted with 7 pieces of Holiday Coal (Steam items you had a chance of receiving when completing an achievement for the event, in place of a proper gift).
Additionally, the Australian Christmas 2010 event had all players who logged in receive a Stocking Stuffer Key which could open any crate, Holiday or otherwise, meaning that players could potentially receive any hat available in a crate for free.
The Three Moving Hats
There are three hats in TF2 that are held by the player, every day, who scored highest in a particular metric the day before. At the end of the day, the hat is moved from that player to whoever won that day (if the same player scored highest again, they get to keep the hat for another day). These hats are normally tied to amounts of money spent, but only one of them truly requires that you make purchases:
- The Philateler, awarded to whoever purchased the most map stamps. This is the only one directly tied to purchases in the store.
- The Dueler, awarded to the player who won the most duels. By far, the easiest way to obtain Dueling Mini-Games is to purchase them in the store, but you can also obtain them through random drops, and you don't have to be the one who initiated a duel to win it - so, if a bunch of other people challenge you to duels and you win them all, you could become the holder of this hat.
- The Gifting Man From Gifting Land, awarded to whoever gave the most gifts through the Secret Saxton or Pile o' Gifts items. Both of these items are only available in the Mann Co. Store (although every Premium player who logged in during Australian Christmas 2011 was given one Secret Saxton), but since the hat is based on uses of the item and not purchases of the item, you could theoretically win this item without making any purchases if you obtained many of these items by, say, someone who had bought a bunch of them for themselves and then decided they wanted to give you all their stuff. In theory.
In some instances, Valve has awarded special wearables in recognition of special community members. Many of these are/were for participating in a specific community event (like a contest or a tournament), while others are accolades given out in more or less quantifiable circumstances.
- 3 prize hats were awarded to the winners of the Propaganda Contest held during the WAR! update:
- Notch, creator of TF2-team-beloved indie game Minecraft, posesses a specially-styled hat called the Top Notch.
Contest participation awards
- Polycount Pin (to entrants in the Polycount Contest)
Anybody who contributes a model for an item that gets added to TF2 gets a special "Self-Made" version of that item with the "Community Sparkle" effect.
Valve awards medals to participants and winners in various competitive TF2 tournaments:
Non-TF2 tournament non-medals