Our Favorite Sun Protective Clothing Reviewed and Compared
In a Hurry? The test winner after 17 hrs of research
Snap-on sun skirt
- Outdoor Research Sun Runner
- Vapor Apparel UPF +50
- Coolibar UPF 50+
- ExOfficio Sol Cool
- Columbia Terminal Tackle
- Hanes Sport Cool DRI
- Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
- Hanes Long Sleeve
- Vapor Apparel Performance
- Under Armour HeatGear Sleeveless
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Our Favorite Sun Protective Clothing
1. Outdoor Research Sun Runner
Snap-on sun skirt
Traps some warm air close to the neck
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
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.
Without the skirt, it looks like a fairly typical runners cap. With the skirt on you'll look like a road warrior.
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.
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.
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
- Lightweight and moisture wicking fabric keeps you cool
- Anti-microbial zinc shield
- UPF 50+
- Fit does not work for everyone
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
UPF 50+ fabric that covers the entire upper body from the neck to the wrists.
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.
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.
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.
This shirt is fairly basic when it comes to design but it is available in 18 colors.
This shirt is mid-range compared to others on the market.
3. Coolibar UPF 50+
- Keeps you cool
- UPF 50 and long sleeves
- Slightly fitted
- 10 color options
- Machine washable
- Sleeves run a bit long
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
This simple shirt has a flattering fit without being too tight. It also comes in 10 solid colors.
This shirt is a bit pricier than the budget options but it will provide reliable sun protection through many washes.
4. ExOfficio Sol Cool
- UPF 50+
- Xylitol-infused fibers have a cooling effect
- Full coverage including hands and neck
- 3 security pockets
- High quality
- Limited color options
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
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.
The 91% Polyester and 9% Spandex knit provide the perfect combination for a quick-drying but elastic jacket.
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.
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.
Strategically placed seams give this jacket a flattering, contoured look while still maintaining a looser fit. Unfortunately, only limited color options are available.
This quality jacket is a bit on the expensive side.
5. Columbia Terminal Tackle
- UPF 50
- Streamlined hood for neck coverage
- Moisture wicking
- More expensive
- No hand coverage
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
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.
100% polyester fabric is lightweight but durable.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6. Hanes Sport Cool DRI
- UPF 50+
- Covers shoulders and chest
- Arms are exposed
- No stretch
- Fit is awkward for some
- Material is very thin
Affordable sun protection for the areas that need it most. This semi-fitted shirt covers the chest and shoulders while leaving your arms uncovered to let them breathe.Read more
This t-shirt provides a maximum UPF rating of 50+ and covers the easy-to-burn areas such as the chest and shoulders.
This 100% polyester shirt has a tight jersey knit to protect from the sun. The lightweight material is very thin and the lighter colors have a tendency to show whatever you are wearing underneath.
This shirt has as tailored fit that works well for most women. However, some find it to be a bit too structured in the shoulders.
The fabric is lightweight and moisture-wicking making it a great option for days you know you will sweat. Being 100% polyester, this shirt does not have much stretch.
These basic t-shirts have a tailored fit that is more flattering for women than your average tee. It is available in a few classic color options.
These shirts are inexpensive and a great basic for any workout wardrobe.
7. Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
Variety of pockets with secure closures and mesh
Very effective at sun protection
Some users don't like the slim, tapered cut
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- UPF 50+
- Light, breathable fabric
- Long sleeve coverage
- No neck or hand coverage
- Material may be too thin
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
This long sleeve shirt provides UPF 50+ protection for the torso and arms.
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.
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.
Users note this shirt feels silky smooth and has a very thin, breathable material.
This basic shirt is available in a variety of solid colors. It may be a bit too thin for casual wear.
These Hanes tees are sold in affordable multi-packs, making it easy to stock up on easy sun protection for every workout.
9. Vapor Apparel Performance
- UPF 50+
- Lightweight and breathable
- Quick-drying microfiber
- Covers chest and shoulders
- Lighter colors may be see-through
- Not ideal for busty women
- Leaves arms exposed
Lightweight workout shirt with UPF 50+ that is perfect for covering chest and shoulders during a summer run. Most women love the fitted feel but bustier women find it too constricting around the chest.Read more
This workout tee offers a maximum UPF rating of 50+ and provides coverage for the commonly burned shoulders and chest while you are on the run.
This shirt has a dense 100% microfiber weave that feels lightweight and breathable. It is machine washable and the company guarantees 99.92% UVB block after 25 washes.
The women’s slim fit cut is flattering for most women. However, some bustier women find it to be a bit too constricting across the chest.
The soft material is comfortable and wicks away moisture to cool you down as you sweat.
This simple shirt has a flattering fit but otherwise appears similar to any basic activewear.
This shirt is pretty affordable for reliable sun protection.
10. Under Armour HeatGear Sleeveless
- Sleeveless shirt allows for full range of motion
- Moisture-wicking material
- Underarm stretch-mesh panels for ventilation
- Comfortable compression fit
- UPF 30
- No shoulder or arm coverage
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
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.
Fabric is 84% polyester and 16% spandex with a compressive feel and moisture wicking abilities.
This compression shirt should fit like a second skin and will hug the body just a bit.
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.
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.
Price is standard for quality activewear.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Find a good quality hat to protect your head and face to go along with the rest of your sun protective clothing. We have a cap at number one on our list for a reason; the sun shines from above so sun protection starts up top.
Using sun protective clothing is a must to protect yourself while out in the sun, but it may not be enough. Use a good quality sunscreen to protect your exposed areas.
Other Factors to Consider
Covering up with sun protective apparel is a great start but it is also important to take care of areas not covered by your clothing. Be sure to take care of the tops of your ears and bottom lip as these are areas that are often missed and frequently develop skin cancer. Adding sweat-resistant broad-spectrum sunscreen and a hat are good ways to reduce exposure to damaging rays. Sunglasses are also very important as UV rays can harm eyesight as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes and no. Regular clothing will decrease the number of UV rays that reach your skin but anything with a UPF of less than 15 is not considered to be UV protective. A regular cotton T-shirt will reduce UV exposure by 80%. This may seem like a good amount of coverage but it is significantly less than the coverage of even a 15 SPF sunscreen, which reduces UV exposure by 93%.
Ultraviolet light sits just beyond the color spectrum and is invisible to the naked eye. The longest of these UV rays is UVA which penetrates skin most deeply and is responsible for tanning, photoaging, and wrinkles. UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and penetrate the outermost layer of skin–the epidermis. These UVB rays are largely responsible for reddening of the skin after sun exposure. Both UVA and UVB cause damage at the cellular DNA level. Damage to the DNA causes mutations which can lead to cancer. This is why it is important to always wear sun cream and sun protective clothing, even when you are not exposed to direct sunlight for a long period of time; UV damage is cumulative and you don’t need to be sat outside in the blaring sun in-order to suffer damage.
Each piece of clothing will be a bit different so be sure to follow tag instructions. Anything treated with a UPF protectant may lose its efficacy with frequent washing or harsh detergents. Many people choose to hand wash their shirts right after a run. As most of this UPF apparel is designed to dry quickly, their garment is clean, dry and ready to go by the next day. You can also wash your sun protective clothing in the washing machine most of the time, but you should always check the garment’s individual label as some can be damaged by going through the washing machine or tumble dryer. We definitely recommend air drying because any shrinking of the shirt can cause it to lose some of its breathability. For a detailed explanation of this please see our criteria section under the breathability heading.
Some garments may provide some protection. However, the fabric of most of this clothing is thinner with the intention of keeping you cool, so it will not offer the most effective barrier against bugs. For protection against mosquitos which can carry malaria and other diseases in certain developing countries, it is always best to carry specialist mosquito or bug spray. These sprays are specially formulated with chemicals which will keep these mosquitos away from you. If you do get bitten by a mosquito, it is always wise to seek medical attention.
Yes! UV rays can quite easily penetrate clouds and if you are in a part of the world where the sun is particularly strong, or you are having a heatwave, the UV rays coming from the sun will be a lot more concentrated. Just because the sun is behind the clouds does not mean you are safe from sun damage, and being in a cold climate doesn’t mean you’re safe either. In Norway and Greenland, for example, the sun bouncing off of the snow is enough to cause sunburn, even though the climates are generally colder.