Applying sunscreen in the outdoors can be a pain. As such, whenever possible I wear clothing that can do double duty by blocking the sun’s harmful rays.
Wide-brim hats and handkerchiefs on the neck are no-brainers. But less known is clothing with built-in UPF protection.
Last month, on a two-day mountain bike trip, I tested a shirt called the Solar Jet Jersey from Specialized. The long-sleeve top has a rating of UPF 50, meaning my arms and upper body would be about as protected as I could ever hope without applying copious amounts of tacky white sunscreen.
The venue for the trip, the desert-like Badlands of North Dakota, featured long days with clear skies. Sunlight burned for 13 hours at a stretch nonstop each day as we rode, with 50 miles our per-diem goal.
My plan was to wear clothing with maximum coverage and protection from the sun. I would apply sunscreen on my neck, lips, cheeks, and the back of my calves – but that was it.
Otherwise, my sun-defying kit included gloves for protecting the hands, a cycling cap under my helmet for shade on the face, and knicker-length bike shorts that extend past the knee. Sunglasses protected my eyes. Then the Specialized jersey covered me on top.
Made of a sun-screening polyester fabric, the $100 Solar Jet jersey is a slick piece. Long sleeves, a midheight collar, and a full front zipper give it the feel of a jacket. But the fabric is light and breathable enough to wear on an 85-degree day.
Specialized calls its sun-blocking fabric technology “Reflexsun.” It works to deflect harmful rays via white fabric with an ultra-dense weave. The company touts “two to three times the sun protection” as compared to a regular shirt.
The dense-weave fabric also holds almost no moisture. This means sweat does not easily soak through, though the top is not clammy either. On our bike trip, I dunked the Solar Jet Jersey underwater once to soak it in a creek in an attempt to cool down. But the hydrophobic polyester material retained almost no water, and the top was dry within a half-hour biking in the wind. Foiled!
During the ride, my partners rubbed sunscreen onto their arms multiple times a day. As planned, I never applied a drop except to my neck, face, and lower legs.
I ended the bike trip sunburn-free. My legs were tired, and my body was beat. But my scheme to block the sun had worked like a dream.
One warning: With its gleaming white fabric, the Specialized top begs to attract stains. The fabric is fairly dirt-resistant, though after two days of hard use on a dusty trail my jersey no longer looks new.
Its white fabric is faded to a subtle yellow now in spots where sweat, dirt, and other detritus of the trail got in the way.
On the Web: www.gearjunkie.com
Most recent column
The fastest Inland Northwest skiers and snowboarders who’ve collected the most medals are no match in hero status to the founders and perpetuators of the Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol’s annual Ski Swap. Without the Swap, many families could not afford regular upgrades in equipment – …
Recent blog posts
WILDLIFE WATCHING – A wildlife biologists will present a free program, “Bats: Wonders of the Night, at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 3, at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, 702 ...
FISHING -- When traditional fishing methods don't cut the hot mustard with high-flying Asian carp, some athletic young men behind a tow boat come up with a creative solution: Skarping. ...