Sun-Protection Favorites for Beating the Heat
Whether you’re hiking or heading to the beach, these six items will keep you protected from UV rays
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While summer was slow to kick off where I live in the Pacific Northwest, it’s roasting now. Sunscreen is always a necessity (don’t make these sunscreen mistakes), but sun hats, sunglasses, and UPF clothing add even more protection to ward off harmful rays—without requiring you to reapply.
The ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF, specifies how much radiation (both UVB and UVA) a fabric allows to reach your skin, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. UPF 50 fabric blocks 98 percent of the sun’s rays, allowing just two percent to penetrate, UPF 25 blocks 96 percent of the rays, and UPF 15 blocks 93 percent. UPF 50+ is generally the highest rating found in clothing, and anything less than UPF 15 isn’t considered sun protective. Some non-UPF-rated clothing—like a lot of the stuff already in your closet—will offer sun protection (usually about UPF 5-7), but a measured UPF rating will give a little extra peace of mind and protection for a full day in the sun.
From breathable button-ups to knick-resistant sunglasses, here are a few of my favorite summer essentials for living through a heatwave.
Helly Hansen Viken Recycled Dress ($80)
Most outdoor dresses look frumpy. But the versatile Viken dress checks all the boxes for an everyday summer piece. It’s made from Bluesign-certified recycled polyester and spandex, with UPF 50 protection. The fabric has also been treated with S.Café®, an infusion of coffee grounds in the polyester to boost sun protection and odor control. The A-line silhouette flatters most body shapes, and the adjustable waist cord cinches the fit even more, then tucks into the seam to stay out of the way. The four-way stretch fabric is lightweight, breathable, and comfortable for an active day. I usually toss it on over a swimsuit because it dries quickly after getting wet. One zippered inseam pocket stashes a key and ID card, while two hip pockets can hold a smartphone and pair of sunnies. Bonus: it’s great for traveling because it doesn’t wrinkle.
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Columbia Coolhead II Zero Booney Hat ($45)
The Columbia Coolhead sun hat isn’t exactly stylish, but its wide brim, stowable neck cape, and adjustable toggles on the band and chinstrap make it a mainstay for summer adventures. The hat’s poplin nylon fabric delivers UPF 50+ sun protection, and there’s an added section of mesh paneling around the crown that vents heat but isn’t UPF-rated. The neck cape is great for preventing sunburns while hiking and kayaking when the sun is consistently beating down on your back, and it tucks away into a small pocket when you don’t need it. The sweatband does a great job of keeping sweat from dripping down into your eyes, and the flexible bill has held its shape through two years of wear.I recommend packing it flat to prevent creases.
Tifosi Optics Sizzle Sunglasses ($35)
The Tifosi Sizzles are my go-to summer shades because they’re affordable and easily transition between outdoor activities and everyday life. I’m really hard on shades so I’m wary of anything too performance-driven because I know they’ll likely end up scratched or broken. But after a month of tossing these in my daypack, there’s not a mark on the lenses or frames. The Sizzles have a single-shield lens (one continuous lens instead of two) so the field of vision is wide, and the frame is durable, light, and comfortable enough for all-day wear. They’re not polarized, but do offer 100 percent UVA/UVB protection. My favorite detail is the rubber nose pads, which are soft, don’t leave marks on the skin, and help prevent the glasses from slipping around while you sweat or play in the water.
Mountain Hardwear Shade Lite Long Sleeve Shirt ($75)
The fabric and style of the Mountain Hardwear Shade Lite shirt make it a worthy replacement for the now discontinued Chiller shirt, a favorite of mine that still looks practically new after years of use. The Shade Lite can be worn on its own or over other layers because it’s not too fitted or too baggy. And even after crumpling it in a backpack or duffel, it doesn’t wrinkle. The quick-drying polyester with UPF 50 doesn’t cling to your skin when you’re sweating, and side vents and roll-up sleeves increase airflow. One button-closure chest pocket and one hidden zippered chest pocket stores small essentials. Plus, the button-front placket and collar make it equally suitable for going out for a casual dinner on a hot patio.
Jack Wolfskin JWP Shorts ($60)
For the last two summers I’ve lived in Jack Wolfskin JWP shorts. I wear them traveling, working out, and over my swimsuit. The polyamide-elastane fabric is flexible enough for all types of movement and the elastic waistband keeps them snug while I’m hiking, cycling, and chasing my kid around the playground. They’re UPF 40+, easy to wipe clean, don’t stink after a workout, and dry quickly when they get wet at the beach. Two hand pockets are deep enough for my glasses and keys, the zippered back pocket is handy for even more carrying capacity (although can sometimes bunch up), and they come with a small pack bag for stowing.
Outdoor Research Women’s Echo Tank ($39)
The Echo Tank is the closest thing to not wearing a shirt while still wearing one. Its barely-there mesh recycled polyester fabric isn’t totally see-through, and the looser fit around the torso allows air to circulate during movement. After wearing it while roasting in the hot sun all day, it also doesn’t stink thanks to the ActiveFresh odor control treatment. The UPF rating—15 in arctic and guava, 20 in other colors—isn’t as high as other layers, but it’s a tradeoff worth making given how ultralight and breathable this racerback tank is. Another reason to love it: it’s less expensive than other tanks with similar tech.