Sunblock Clothing for Hiking

sunblock clothingEvery hiker should consider sunblock clothing in addition to sunscreen.  The sun emits harmful rays that can damage and harm your skin.  Sunscreen can help, but sunblock clothing designed for hiking can add to that protection.

What is Sun Protective Clothing? (Help me, I’m melting)

Sunblock clothing that is considered “sun protective” will have an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) on their label.  UPF clothing is specially designed to block the sun’s harmful UV rays.  The industry standard for UPF clothing was originally developed by Australia and New Zealand (AS/NZS 4399).  Below is a graph showing the levels of protection:

UPF Ratings and Protection Categories
UPF Rating Protection Category % UV radiation Blocked
UPF 15 – 24 Good 93.3 – 95.9
UPF 25 – 39 Very Good 96.0 – 97.4
UPF 40 and over Excellent 97.5 or more
UPF50+ The highest level of UV Sun Protection

Beware of clothing manufacturers that state that their clothing has an “SPF” rating.  This rating is given for sunscreens and not clothing.  There is a difference!

American Standards:

Laboratories and testing agencies in the U.S. have developed similar procedures to test a fabrics blocking effectiveness:

  • American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists: Test Method 183
  • American Society for Testing and Materials: D6544 and D6603

How Does UPF Rated Clothing Work?:

  • Dyes: There are many dies that reflect no UV rays, while others reflect a lot.  A UPF garment can have specific dyes that help absorb the bad rays.
  • Dense Fabric (no, not dumb): Fabric that has a very tight weave or knit will eliminate most of the light getting to the skin.
  • Type of Fabric: The type of fabric can make a huge difference.  Cotton normally scores very low on the UPF scale.  Other fabrics like polyester and nylon are very effective.  Silk and wool materials fall somewhere in the middle of the scale.
  • Chemical Treatments: There are many chemicals, when added to a fabric that can add UV protection.
  • Fit: Tight fitting clothes, which are stretched, can decrease its effectiveness against UV rays.  This is because the spaces in the weave are enlarged, letting in more light.
  • Water: When a garment gets wet, it can lose up to 50 percent of its UV blocking effectiveness.

Sunblock clothing is available for almost every garment type: hats, shirts, pants, bathing suits, shorts and skorts.

It is also available for children and adults.  If you have a child that is resistant to wearing sunscreen, maybe you could get them to wear UV protective clothing.

Sun Protection:

UV Radiation:  Around 6 percent of the sun’s light rays are in the Ultraviolet (UV) spectrum.  This light is extremely harmful to the skin.  It is divided into UVA/UVB/UVC type rays.  UV rays can not only cause sunburn, but also skin cancer and premature aging of the skin.

Tips to protect you from the effects of the sun from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

  • Where a hat with a broad brim at least 3 or 4 inches.  A baseball cap will only cover your face and leaves your neck and ears exposed.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Stay out of the Sun from 10 am to 4 pm (this is the time of day when the sunlight is strongest).
  • Never go to a tanning salon and avoid lying out in the sun to tan.
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher every morning.
  • 30 minutes before you go outside, apply 1 ounce of sunscreen to your whole body
  • Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours.
  • Never allow a newborn to sit in the sun.  Apply sunscreen on babies only six months or older.
  • Make sure that your physician examines your skin every year.
  • Try never to get sunburn.
  • Wear sun protective clothing

One new update to the sunblock clothing is an additive to your wash. You just wash your clothes in this laundry additive and your apparel becomes more resistant to the sun’s rays. It is amazing. So, if you have a favorite hiking, biking or outdoor shirt, just wash it in this additive and you will have better protection from the sun.

So, before going on your next hiking adventure after putting on the sunscreen, make sure that you also put on a set of sunblock clothing.  Your skin will be glad you did.

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