10 Best Sun Protective Clothing Reviewed and Compared

Whether you have a sensitivity to the sun or if you're preparing for a day basking in it, the best sun protective gear can be a saving grace against the burn. With all the talk about how bad sunscreen is for the environment and your skin, it only makes sense to invest in the best sun protection clothes.

The Best Sun Protective clothes are made to keep out the sun while keeping you cool. They should breathe well and offer high levels of UPF in the fabric. Surprisingly enough, even some of the thickest feeling fibers won't keep the sun out and that is why there are clothes made just for this.

We offer in-depth research, making sure you are enjoying the best sun protective clothing for your needs. We offer a wide variety, helping you set up for surfing, running or any other outdoor activity you love.

Standout Picks

Outdoor Research Sun Runner
We had to include at least one hat and this one designed for runners fit the bill. It includes a snap-on skirt for totally blocking out the sun and has mesh side panels for extra breathability. It has a UPF 30+ rating and a sweat absorbing headband.
 Vapor Apparel UPF +50
This long-sleeved shirt provides effective sun coverage. The material has anti-microbial properties and is lightweight and moisture-wicking to keep you protected and comfortable even on hot days.
Amazon Link
 Coolibar UPF 50+
This shirt has zinc oxide, the same ingredient found in sun block, infused in every strand to provide excellent sun protection. The construction is very soft and lightweight to keep you cool and comfortable on a hot day.
Amazon Link
 ExOfficio Sol Cool
This jacket provides maximum UPF protection with a hood and thumb holes to cover the neck and hands. Despite being a jacket, this treated fabric will cool skin up to 5 degrees upon contact with moisture. Three security zip pockets can fit a passport making this jacket perfect for travel.
Amazon Link
 Columbia Terminal Tackle
This high quality fishing sweatshirt is great for exercise as well as casual wear. With a UPF of 50, long sleeves and a hood, it provides effective and lightweight sun coverage that will not cause you to overheat.
Amazon Link
TSLA UPF 50+
TSLA UPF 50+ is a half zip-up rashguard that offers tons of protection and comfort. It dries rapid fast and the polyurethane mixed in the polyester material makes this one of the most durable options on our 10 Best Sun Protective Clothes Line Up. The zip-up style is a great addition and makes it easy to put on and take off.
Amazon Link
 Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
We wanted to have a pair of pants on our list and chose these for their effectiveness and versatility. They feature OmniShade UPF 50+ fabric, zip-off legs, and are lightweight, breathable, and quick drying. Users with slim to normal builds will find they run true to size but people with thicker and/or more muscular legs and backsides will want to order a size up since they have a more tapered and athletic cut than you might expect.
 Hanes Long Sleeve
Effective sun protection at a very affordable price so you can stay covered for every outdoor workout. Lightweight, moisture-wicking material is very breathable while still providing the torso and arms with UPF 50+ sun protection.
Amazon Link
Baleaf UPF 50+
Known for their high-quality wicking and breathability Baleaf is a leader in great activewear without looking like, well, activewear. Whether you are looking to catch some fish or some waves, Baleaf UPF 50+ shirt is a great option for keeping you protected from the sun while keeping you cool from the heat.
Amazon Link
 Under Armour HeatGear Sleeveless
For those who can’t stand to cover their arms during a workout, this sleeveless compression shirt provides some extra protection for the back and chest.
Amazon Link

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Effectiveness

When choosing sun protective clothing, there are many factors to take into account.

Not only do you want to make sure you are protected from the sun, but you also need a reliable workout shirt that will stretch with you as you move and keep you cool as you sweat. To make the choice a little easier, we compared clothing based on the following criteria.

The Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is the rating system used to measure sun protection in clothing, similar to SPF for sunscreen. While SPF focuses on protecting skin from UVA (long-wave) rays, UPF protects from both UVA and UVB (shortwave) rays. UPF is measured by the fraction of light it lets through. For example, anything with a rating of UPF 50+ (the highest rating) lets in less than 1/50th (2%) of the sun’s rays. Anything less than 15 (letting in 6.6% of UV rays) is not considered to be UV protective. A cotton T-shirt, for example, would typically have a UPF around 5, reducing UV exposure to 20%.

This sun protection is great but, UPF rating will not have any effect on skin left uncovered. All T-shirts will provide coverage for the back, chest, and shoulders but it is best to find shirts that will provide coverage for the arms, backs of hands and neck as well.

Style

You should also consider the style for the shirt you are thinking about getting.

Quality construction is essential to the durability of any shirt, but tight seams and dense construction are very important for a good UPF rating. These factors are ideal for sun protection but not great for the hot conditions in which you will likely be exposed to the sun. So, we looked for shirts that have breathable, moisture-wicking fabric to keep you cool even when fully covered.

The comfortable and flattering fit is always important for workout attire. However, the fit of your shirt may also impact the efficacy of your sun protection. Typically, tighter shirts are less protective as the material will be stretched a bit thinner. When choosing a size, opt for the one that will give a little bit of room.

Comfort

Like all activewear, you want a shirt that will not weigh you down or restrict movement.

For a sun protective shirt, you will also need something that will wick away moisture and keep you cool. Many of these shirts have features that will actually keep you cooler in the sun than wearing nothing at all. UV rays are damaging to everyone but there are certain individuals who are at higher risk when exposed. Fair skinned individuals tend to be more sensitive to the sun due to the lower levels of melanin in their skin. This means these individuals burn easily and are at increased risk of developing skin cancer. Additionally, those with a family history of skin cancer, regardless of how much you burn, are at increased risk of developing skin cancer. Children also should take care to cover up as their skin is thinner than adults and damage at an early age is more likely to cause issues in adulthood. Temporary risk factors such as medications also play a role in your vulnerability. Double-check your medications and herbal supplements, especially acne treatments, antihistamines, and antibiotics, as these may increase sun sensitivity.

Value

Value should not be your primary concern but will come into play as you choose your sun protective apparel.

Sun protection is the number one consideration but it doesn’t hurt to look good either. We looked for shirts that had a flattering fit and attractive color options. Price ranges for sun protective clothing depending on the brand, style, and UV levels. If you are spending a bit more you want to make sure it is on a garment that will hold up well and provide reliable sun protection through many washes. Darker colors tend to absorb more light, including UV rays, that makes them less effective and they have a tendency to be warmer than lighter colors. Bright colors also tend to reflect light more effectively than their paler counterparts.

Breathability

Most sites won't tell you this...

So here's the deal with sun protection clothing and breathability. Almost as a rule, these types of products are lightweight, quick drying, and yes, they're breathable and will wick moisture away from your skin. But the UPF rating actually makes them less breathable than you'd think and that the companies who make them will let on, and here's why. Sun protection clothes with a UPF rating are made out of synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers, let's use polyester as an example, literally cannot absorb moisture. They just can't do it. As a result, water, sweat, etc. starts on your skin and then goes around the synthetic fibers to the outside air where it can dry naturally. This is why apparel that is marketed as breathable is always made out of synthetic fibers, usually polyester. However, if the weave of the fabric is too tight moisture cannot pass around the synthetic fibers as easily and is more likely to stay trapped against your skin. Now, this isn't to say that you're going to turn into a sweat-soaked monster while wearing sun protection clothing, far from it. It is still breathable and manufacturers are getting better and better at improving their products. Just know that it may not be as breathable as you were expecting or as marketing materials would like you to believe.

Our Favorite Sun Protective Clothing

1. Outdoor Research Sun Runner

Outdoor Research Sun Runner
Amazon Link

We had to include at least one hat and this one designed for runners fit the bill. It includes a snap-on skirt for totally blocking out the sun and has mesh side panels for extra breathability. It has a UPF 30+ rating and a sweat absorbing headband.

Read more

Effectiveness

With over 300 degrees of sun protection, it will definitely keep you from getting scorched. The sun skirt easily comes off via snaps for cooler days, early morning, and evenings. This makes it versatile.

Style

Without the skirt, it looks like a fairly typical runners cap. With the skirt on you'll look like a road warrior.

Comfort

It's very lightweight and well designed to sit on the user's head without distraction. It's also adjustable and one user review liked that it was able to fit his large head.

Value

It's less expensive than the shirts on this list and does a great job keeping the sun off your pretty face. A good buy.

Breathability

The nylon material does an ok job of wicking moisture but it could be better. The TransAction headband, however, is highly effective and mesh side panels help. The design does tend to trap some warmer air closer to the body than a wide-brim hat would be some people prefer this type of style.

2. Vapor Apparel UPF +50

Where to buy
Amazon Link
 Vapor Apparel UPF +50
Amazon Link

This long-sleeved shirt provides effective sun coverage. The material has anti-microbial properties and is lightweight and moisture-wicking to keep you protected and comfortable even on hot days.

Read more

Coverage

UPF 50+ fabric that covers the entire upper body from the neck to the wrists.

Construction

This shirt is 100% microfiber. The dense fabric feels lightweight and breathable but still provides effective sun protection. Vapor guarantees 99.92% UVB block after 25 washes.

Fit

This shirt has a trim fit that is more fitted around the shoulders and chest but looser at the waist. It is not a compression shirt but it is a bit more form fitting than the typical men’s long sleeve. It also tends to run a bit long, especially in the larger sizes.

Comfort

The soft and lightweight construction is breathable and comfortable for any temperature. The microfiber fabric is infused with PURE-tech moisture wicking fabric to help keep you cool and dry in the summer heat. It also features a zinc-based anti-microbial shield to help reduce odor and extend the life of this shirt.

Style

This shirt is fairly basic when it comes to design but it is available in 18 colors.

Value

This shirt is mid-range compared to others on the market.

Amazon Link

3. Coolibar UPF 50+

Where to buy
Amazon Link
 Coolibar UPF 50+
Amazon Link

This shirt has zinc oxide, the same ingredient found in sun block, infused in every strand to provide excellent sun protection. The construction is very soft and lightweight to keep you cool and comfortable on a hot day.

Read more

Coverage

This long sleeve shirt with a slight V-neck has UPF 50+ protection and covers the arms and torso completely. The sleeves tend to run long to protect the backs of hands as well.

Construction

ZnO SUNTECT fabric is made of a blend of cotton, viscose from bamboo and spandex with particles of zinc oxide in every fiber. Because the zinc oxide is part of the fabric, it will not wear or wash out. This shirt is machine washable.

Fit

This long sleeve shirt is slightly fitted so it has a nice shape while still remaining loose and breathable. The sleeves do tend to be a bit long but the extra length provides some additional coverage for the hands. The slight V-neck is very conservative. It gives a flattering shape while still providing plenty of sun coverage for your chest.

Comfort

This lightweight fabric is very soft and keeps you cool despite the long sleeves. The design is perfect for a hot summer day or as a winter base layer.

Style

This simple shirt has a flattering fit without being too tight. It also comes in 10 solid colors.

Value

This shirt is a bit pricier than the budget options but it will provide reliable sun protection through many washes.

Amazon Link

4. ExOfficio Sol Cool

Where to buy
Amazon Link
 ExOfficio Sol Cool
Amazon Link

This jacket provides maximum UPF protection with a hood and thumb holes to cover the neck and hands. Despite being a jacket, this treated fabric will cool skin up to 5 degrees upon contact with moisture. Three security zip pockets can fit a passport making this jacket perfect for travel.

Read more

Coverage

This jacket offers great protection from harmful UV rays with a UPF of 50+, thumb holes to cover hands and a hood for optional neck coverage.

Construction

The 91% Polyester and 9% Spandex knit provide the perfect combination for a quick-drying but elastic jacket.

Fit

This semi-fitted jacket runs a bit large and has some nice stretch from the spandex material. Most women love the extra room and slightly longer length so they don’t have to keep pulling the jacket down as they run.

Comfort

Many buyers report feeling cooler wearing this jacket than having bare arms. This is due to the signature Icefil® treated fabric that features Xylitol, a compound also found in the birch tree, that is woven into the fibers. This, along with the polyester works to wick moisture away and cools skin up to five degrees.

Style

Strategically placed seams give this jacket a flattering, contoured look while still maintaining a looser fit. Unfortunately, only limited color options are available.

Value

This quality jacket is a bit on the expensive side.

Amazon Link

5. Columbia Terminal Tackle

Where to buy
Amazon Link
 Columbia Terminal Tackle
Amazon Link

This high quality fishing sweatshirt is great for exercise as well as casual wear. With a UPF of 50, long sleeves and a hood, it provides effective and lightweight sun coverage that will not cause you to overheat.

Read more

Coverage

This UPF 50 shirt minimizes UV exposure with long sleeve and a high neck to provide some neck protection even when the hood is down. The streamlined hood is also small enough to fit under a hat for additional coverage of the face and neck.

Construction

100% polyester fabric is lightweight but durable.

Fit

This light sweatshirt runs quite a bit large. Follow buyer advice by ordering a size down and you will still have a loose-fitting hoodie.

Comfort

Many users report feeling cooler in this lightweight hoodie than when wearing no shirt at all. The polyester fibers work to wick moisture away from skin and provide a cooling effect as they evaporate.

Style

This hooded sweatshirt has a slightly loose, but flattering fit. It comes in 12 solid color options with a large contrasting “Columbia” brand name written down the left sleeve.

Value

The price is mid-range but does runs quite a bit higher than many of the budget options. The high quality look and stylish design make this top worth the investment.

Amazon Link

6. TSLA UPF 50+

Where to buy
Amazon Link
TSLA UPF 50+
Amazon Link

TSLA UPF 50+ is a half zip-up rashguard that offers tons of protection and comfort. It dries rapid fast and the polyurethane mixed in the polyester material makes this one of the most durable options on our 10 Best Sun Protective Clothes Line Up. The zip-up style is a great addition and makes it easy to put on and take off.

Read more

APPLICATION

Designed for simplicity and protection, TSLA Rashguard zip-up UPF 50+ is ideal for any surfer or beach style sun protection application. As all the other items on the 10 best list, it helps keep away the mess of sunblock.

Due to its zip style, on and off is easy. Unlike some rashguard designs, you won’t have to struggle sliding on and off the clingy material over the head and getting caught up in the tighter fabric.

STYLE

This is long-sleeve rashguard style zip-up that gives dense protection to the sun as well as other elements such as board wax and sand irritation. TSLA made this to keep you dry and protected. Moreover, it has a 3-D twisted fabric that gives a unique style to the already stellar UV protection.

COMFORT

TSLA UPF 50+ zip-up rashguard dries fast, offering a two-way circulation design. It also sheds water and is super stretchy, making it less absorbent than other materials. Adding flat lock stitching only makes this design even more comfortable, preventing chaffing and irritation.

Made with a trendy 3-D twisted patterning, the high-density fabric is meant to hold up to anything with style. And as we mentioned before, the front half-zip up feature makes it an easy one to take on and off as needed.

Amazon Link

7. Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants

 Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
Amazon Link

We wanted to have a pair of pants on our list and chose these for their effectiveness and versatility. They feature OmniShade UPF 50+ fabric, zip-off legs, and are lightweight, breathable, and quick drying. Users with slim to normal builds will find they run true to size but people with thicker and/or more muscular legs and backsides will want to order a size up since they have a more tapered and athletic cut than you might expect.

Read more

Effectiveness

These do a great job of protecting you from the sun because of the tightly woven UPF 50+ fabric. They also dry very quickly if they get wet.

Style

They have an athletic, tapered cut that is great and flattering for those with slimmer builds. People with larger, more muscular lower bodies may not be pleased with them for this reason, however. As far as looks go, think Indiana Jones with 2019 clothes and you're there.

Comfort

The OmniShade fabric is soft and lightweight, feeling good against your skin. Some users felt that they rode a bit low on the hips for their taste but this was definitely the minority of users.

Value

They aren't cheap but they won't break your wallet either, and for a quality pair of pants that can also be worn as shorts because of the zip-off legs, they're a good deal.

Breathability

The polyester and nylon mesh fabric is moisture-wicking, but not as much as you might expect from such a lightweight fabric. The reason for this is that fabrics that protect against the sun do so because they have a tight weave. Synthetic fabrics such as polyester allow moisture to escape because the fibers literally cannot absorb water so it has to pass around the fiber to the outside air where it can dry naturally. But when you have a tightly woven fabric such as that in sun protective clothing the tight weave makes it more difficult for moisture to pass around the fibers so as a result, sun protective clothing is less breathable than other similar products that don't have a UPF rating. There's not much to be done about this, it's just something we want you to be aware of.

8. Hanes Long Sleeve

Where to buy
Amazon Link
 Hanes Long Sleeve
Amazon Link

Effective sun protection at a very affordable price so you can stay covered for every outdoor workout. Lightweight, moisture-wicking material is very breathable while still providing the torso and arms with UPF 50+ sun protection.

Read more

Coverage

This long sleeve shirt provides UPF 50+ protection for the torso and arms.

Construction

Tight jersery knit 100% polyester offers an ultralightweight barrier to protect from the sun. There is double needle stitching at the hems but there is still some fraying threads that need to be cut off after repeated use.

Fit

These shirts have a snug fit but are not compression. If you want a bit more room in your workout shirt, most buyers recommend sizing up.

Comfort

Users note this shirt feels silky smooth and has a very thin, breathable material.

Style

This basic shirt is available in a variety of solid colors. It may be a bit too thin for casual wear.

Value

These Hanes tees are sold in affordable multi-packs, making it easy to stock up on easy sun protection for every workout.

Amazon Link

9. Baleaf UPF 50+

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Baleaf UPF 50+
Amazon Link

Known for their high-quality wicking and breathability Baleaf is a leader in great activewear without looking like, well, activewear. Whether you are looking to catch some fish or some waves, Baleaf UPF 50+ shirt is a great option for keeping you protected from the sun while keeping you cool from the heat.

Read more

APPLICATION

Baleaf UPF 50+ is worn as a normal long-sleeve T-shirt and doesn't restrict or cling to the body like some other styles of sun-protective clothing. However, it offers solid sun protection and style. The application is you putting on your favorite shirt which protects you better than having to reapply messy and sometimes toxic sunscreens.

STYLE

As we mentioned, Baleaf UPF50+ is a long sleeve style shirt. It has a classic simple look to it with a lot of protection. This is the best option for those that want a relaxed fit that rashguards and other materials may not offer.

Some of the best sun protective clothes offer clingy material that drys uber fast and protects from other elements. The Baleaf is a favorite among wearers because it is soft, reliable and keeps you cool while still offering all that sun protection. This is a sun-protective shirt you can use as daily wear that looks great with shorts or your favorite jeans.

COMFORT

Soft, loose and protective, Baleaf made a classic long sleeve design that is super light and that you won’t want to take off. The material offers the wicking and fast drying wicking technology that most of the best sun protective clothes offer. This shirt is just softer and flowier than most.

The material is designed in such a way that it offers the comfort of a traditional long-sleeve T-shirt. It is the best option for those that want the protection but don’t want to look like they just came off the boat. Furthermore, the flatlock seams prevent chafing.

The looser fit to this Baleaf favorite offers great mbility as well. So when your fighting with pulling in the “big one” you won't have to worry about getting caught up in your shirt. And jsut as an add, you can throw it in the wash machine without worrying about it loosing effectiveness, it polyester and super easy to care for.

Amazon Link

10. Under Armour HeatGear Sleeveless

Where to buy
Amazon Link
 Under Armour HeatGear Sleeveless
Amazon Link

For those who can’t stand to cover their arms during a workout, this sleeveless compression shirt provides some extra protection for the back and chest.

Read more

Coverage

Due to the tight fit of this compression shirt it has a UPF of 30 and provides coverage for your torso while leaving the neck, shoulders and arms exposed.

Construction

Fabric is 84% polyester and 16% spandex with a compressive feel and moisture wicking abilities.

Fit
This compression shirt should fit like a second skin and will hug the body just a bit.

Comfort

The snug fit is comfortable enough to wear all day. Many men love to have these trimming tees as undershirts as well as activewear. The 16% spandex material and 4-way stretch is designed to move with you in any direction. Unlike many compression shirts, this sleeveless top does not roll up as you move. The moisture wicking material and stretch-mesh underarm panels work together to increase ventilation and keep you cool as you sweat.

Style

The tight fit of this top holds in the stomach to create a flattering silhouette. Available in a variety of neutral and vibrant colors it is perfect for layering as an undershirt or wearing on its own.

Value

Price is standard for quality activewear.

Amazon Link

Sources

  1. Smith, Scott, How to Choose Sun Protection (UPF) Clothing, Web Article
  2. Skin Cancer Foundation, UVA & UVB, Website
  3. Butler, Sarah, Run and Sun: Protect Your Skin, Web Article
  4. Golf4her, Tips on How To Select Sun Protective Clothing, Fashion Publication

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Inside RunnerClick Pro, runners of all strengths come together to meet and support one another, get answers to burning questions, learn from experts, participate in personal challenges, and more.