How To Choose Sun Protection Clothing: A Guide In Choosing The Best UPF Clothes

Rilor Staff
Update: April 12, 2021
Table of Contents

How to choose sun protection (UPF) clothing?

At first glance, it may seem odd to be talking about proper clothing for an outdoor camping trip. After all, what is most important is that you can get far away from the city and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You can find wild plants to eat and drink from natural sources like lakes and streams. And there is a whole new world to explore—one that is untouched by the human hand. 

However, proper clothing can spell the difference between a fancy outdoor experience from a disastrous one. During summer or any sunny conditions, being equipped with suitable clothing protects you from harmful UV radiation, sunburn, and other ill-effects due to prolonged exposure to heat. 

Why Do You Need Sun Protection Clothing?

Keeping safe when you're out in the sun is more important than ever in this age of skin cancer. The sun plays an important role in our health, but too much exposure can lead to serious health problems. Wearing protective clothing is a great way to avoid the harmful effects of UV exposure.

Sun protection clothing is essential for individuals who are sensitive to the heat of the sun. They are those who have skin that gets burned quickly when exposed to UV rays. 

Of course, children also require the protection of these UPF clothing. After all, their skin is more sensitive and thinner than adults. If they don't get enough sun protection, it can cause problems in the long-run.

Hikers who typically hike at high elevations are more exposed to extreme heat intensity. The same is true for those who are in regions near the equator. 

In some cases, the heat of the sun is harmful to those who are taking special medications, such as antihistamines and antibiotics. Hence, it is vital that you check the medicines you take and see if they have adverse effects on your skin. 

What Is UPF Rating?

The UPF rating is a standard method of labeling for how much UV protection a clothing item provides. It is a measure of the strength of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and the rating system is standardized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The UPF rating system helps consumers to make informed decisions about the sun protection provided by the clothing they buy. 

UPF is a measurement for the ability of the fabric to defend its users from ultraviolet rays. 

Checking the UPF rating of a clothing product is quite simple. There are labels that indicate this. The higher the number, the more protection the item can provide to you. 

See the table below for reference:

UPF Rating Categorical RatingUV Transmission
40, 45, 50, 50+ Excellent2.5% or less
25, 30, 35 Very Good4.1% to 2.6%
15, 20 Good6.7% to 4.2%

In the table, you can see that the numbers indicate the UPF rating of garments. For instance, a 30 UPF rating suggests that the clothing's fabric enables 1/30th of UV rays to pass through it. Meanwhile, a UPF rating of 50 tells that the garment will only let 1/50th or 2% of the sun's radiation penetrate. 

If you don't see any of these numbers in particular clothing, that simply means that the latter doesn't offer any sun protection. If the number is too low (i.e., 5 or 10), the clothing is not an effective means to block UV rays. 

How To Choose Sun Protection (UPF) Clothing?

These are the factors that determine if a piece of clothing can give ample protection to you while camping or hiking under the heat of the sun. 

Built And Design

Garments that are tightly and densely constructed can reduce the volume of UV radiation that can pass through them. Furthermore, the thicker the fabric, the more resistant it becomes against the harmful heat. 


Based on elementary science lectures, dark colors can absorb UV light better than light colors. Hence, at this point, it is essential that you pick clothing clad in colorful and vibrant hues. 

Synthetic Applications

There are certain dyes and chemicals that are applied to garments to improve their sun protection. These treatments can improve the UPF rating of outdoor clothing.


One of the most suitable fabrics that can defend you from the heat of the sun is polyester. It easily deflects UV rays. The same is true with nylon. Meanwhile, silk and wool have moderate sun protection capabilities. On the flip side, fabrics like hemp, cotton, and flax have poor UPF ratings.

What Affects The UPF Rating Of Outdoor Clothes?

There are certain things that can reduce the effectiveness of a garment in dealing with harmful UV light. If you are going on a trip, you have to be aware of the following things.

  • Water and moisture - One should realize that clothing drenched in water can lose a significant amount of its sun protection. However, according to some people, polyester does not get affected by the water element. 
  • Wear and tear - The more worn the clothing's fabric, the weaker its UPF rating becomes. Sooner or later, it will not become an adequate item of clothing in dealing with UV rays. 
  • Stretch - Also, keep in mind that stretchy fabrics are not effective in dealing with the sun's heat. Even if it has a good UPF rating, as long as it stretches, you can expect that it will not protect you well against UV light.

Essential Features Of UPF Clothing

How can you spot sun protection clothing right from the get-go even without checking its UPF ratings? The following features can give you a clue. 

  • Comprehensive coverage - Clothes that are designed to protect you from the heat of the sun have extended coverage. This comes in the form of shirt collars, cuffs that cover the hands, and long sleeves. If you are looking for hats, make sure that they have wide brims. 
  • Vents - Even if you want your clothes to offer full protection against the elements, you don't want to compromise your breathability. For instance, tight and thick fabrics can really make things hot inside. You should look for garments that have vents and other forms of ventilation. 
  • Moisture-wicking fabrics - As I've mentioned, water and moisture can reduce the UPF capability of fabrics. Hence, you would really benefit from clothing that has a quick-drying feature. Alternatively, you can bring extra pieces of UPF clothing to ensure that you remain dry all the time. 

Tips To Get Extra Sun Protection

  • Apply sunscreen with a high SPF rating on your body, especially those that are naturally exposed to the heat of the sun.
  • Use sunglasses that provide ample protection against UV rays
  • Look for a shaded area if things are too hot
  • Don't prolong your exposure, especially during peak hours 


The importance of sun protection clothing can never be overstated as it is absolutely vital if you're going to spend any length of time in the sun. UV is a type of energy radiation that can cause skin cancer, sunburn, and sun damage, so it's essential to wear specialized clothing to protect yourself. 

I hope you find this guide useful. Feel free to ask any related inquiries in the comment section below.

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