Comfy Sun Shirts to Keep You Cool in Extra Sunny Conditions

There are two approaches to dealing with the heat: lather on the sunscreen and bare it all, or cover up with lightweight layers, like a sun shirt or sun hoodie. In the West, the bare it all approach reigns supreme. The hotter the temp, the fewer the clothes. On the other hand, in places known for high heat and sweltering sun, like Central America and Southeast Asia, many employ the opposite approach. As temperatures rise, people cover up to deflect the sun’s powerful UV rays. Makes sense, right?

For many, it might seem counterintuitive to wear a long sleeve shirt or hoodie in high temps, but with the right materials, walking around in your own cooling shade will convert even the most diehard “suns out, buns out” devotee.

In recent years many outdoor brands have rolled out lightweight hoodies, long sleeve sun shirts, short sleeve t-shirts, and even button-downs that are breathable, moisture wicking, and feature built-in protection against UV rays, making them ideal for long days of fun in the sun, be it boating, paddling, fly fishing, hiking, biking, rock climbing, trail running, and so on.

In this guide you’ll find the best sun protective clothing for any season, plus a breakdown of why it’s worth trusting. It’s time to ditch those tank tops folks!

What is a UPF rating?

When shopping for a sun shirt or sun hoodie, you’ll often come across UPF ratings in the product specs. They tend to appear along with a number, as in “UPF 50” or “30+ UPF sun protection.” UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, and it’s a standard that measures the effective sun protection of a fabric. (Too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can damage the DNA in skin cells, which can cause cells to grow out of control, which can lead to skin cancer. Over 80% of skin cancers are caused by overexposure to UV radiation.)

UPF is similar to SPF, but the latter rating is specific to sunscreen. In simplified terms, the higher the UPF number, the more protected your covered skin will be from UV rays.

Are Sun Shirts Better Than Sunscreen?

UPF rated sun shirts offer several advantages over conventional sunscreen when it comes to UV protection in the outdoors, especially for extended periods of exposure and for water activities.

While both options can help protect your skin from the harmful UV sun rays, sun shirts act as a physical barrier, reflecting and blocking UVA and UVB rays while conventional chemical-based sunscreens absorb UV rays like a sponge (it’s worth noting mineral sunscreens also block and scatter UV rays like a sun shirt). And of course, sun shirts don’t require reapplication, can work when wet, and provide continuous coverage.

That said, it’s essential to note that sun protection shirts may not black ALL of the sun’s UV rays, meaning it is possible to get burned through a sun shirt. By combining the use of sun shirts and sunscreen, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding a sun burn altogether.

Field Mag’s Top Picks:

Read on for a full rundown of our top 10 picks for the best long sleeve t-shirts, button-ups, and hoodies with UPF protection available now.

10 Best Sun Shirts & Sun Hoodies With UPF Sun Protection