Gear Guy

Q:

What's the best sun-proof apparel?

I love the outdoors, but I'm at risk of developing melanoma (my mom passed away a few years ago from it) which limits my ability to be outside. What can I wear to reduce my risk of melanoma and remain comfortable?

What's the best sun-proof apparel?
ExOfficio Air Strip Lite Shirt (Courtesy of ExOfficio)
A:

You’re being prudent, Matt. Skin cancer is nothing to take lightly, as you know all too well. I’m far more careful than I was years ago, and many clothing makers have dedicated themselves to making apparel that resists sun well.

First, some definitions. Some clothing companies use SPF ratings, which measure the garment's ability to stop UVB rays, the ones that cause a sunburn to hurt and turn red. But others include UPF ratings, which keep track of both UVB rays and UVA rays. UVA rays can also cause skin cancer.

My go-to brand for sun-beating clothing is ExOfficio. They make a wide range of clothing for sunny pursuits, from pants to shirts to hats. In particular, I like their long-sleeve Air Strip Lite Shirt ($85). It’s comes with a comfortable cut, sleeves that roll up easily (and can be secured with sleeve tabs), a ventilated back, and two generous chest pockets. ExOfficio made it with a breathable, quick drying nylon/polyester blend that's rated to UPF 30, meaning you can stay in the sun 30 times longer with this shirt than you could if you were bare chested. A normal white cotton T-shirt, by way of comparison, has an UPF rating of around 5.

Sun Precautions Cargo Pants
Sun Precautions Cargo Pants (Courtesy of Sun Precautions)

Sun Precautions Solumbra Sun Hat

Sun Precautions Solumbra Sun Hat

I also like Sun Precautions's Men’s Cargo Pants ($85), a comfortable, practical pair of pants with two cargo pockets, belt loops, partially elastic waist, and traditional straight legs. Sun Precautions says the Cargo Pants have an SPF rating of 100. The company also makes the Solumbra Sun Hat ($53), which is also made with UV-reducing Solumbra fabric and has a wide, sun-defeating brim that keeps your eyes face protected.

Patagonia Silkweight Capilene T
Patagonia Silkweight Capilene T (Courtesy Patagonia)

For a base layer, it’s very hard to beat Patagonia's Capilene 1 Silkweight Stretch Crew ($35). I’ve worn the short-sleeve version (pictured) during two recent multi-day hikes in the Grand Canyon. It kept me cool, dried fast, and, with a UPF rating of 50+, repelled the sun beautifully. And one final thing to note when buying sun-repellent clothing: in some cases, dark dyes block UV rays better than light ones. The tradeoff, of course, is that dark shirts are also hotter in warm weather.

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