The ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF, is a rating clothing manufacturers acquire by proving their garments block ultraviolet light at certain levels. We evaluated these popular brands of outdoor clothing so boaters could choose models for their comfort and individual style — and do it with confidence that they are indeed getting good sun protection.
How We Tested We used a General Tools UV513AB UV light meter to measure the UV light from a black-light tube striking its sensor. We measured the bare-light transmission, then measured the light transmission through the main garment fabric. While this simple test doesn’t match American Society for Testing and Materials protocol used in laboratories, it has proven to be a reasonable gauge of the value of protection. In the past, when our tests showed deficiency in UPF ratings, the manufacturer was able to return to the fabric or garment vendors and get standards upgraded. You’ll notice some shirts that fall short of blocking UV light to meet their UPF rating as required by industry standards. We don’t take that as proof they’ve failed their sun-protection mission.
All the garments advertised some sort of stain guard, be it Scotchgard or a Teflon product. We threw all the garments tested on the floor and poured coffee and barbecue sauce on them. An hour later, we ran them through the wash. Not one stain remained on any garment.
Notes The thickness of the weave or fibers, the density of the fabric, and the color all impact UV protection. Bluer or darker colors tend to reflect or absorb UV light better than whiter colors. The whitest shirts did not test well in our protocol, and we omitted them from our report.
It’s also important to remember UPF ratings are the result of a monetary partnership between the garment manufacturer and the rating organizations. Many garments in our closet had high UPF factors but were not rated. The big advantage to these garments is the combination of UPF and designs made specifically to enhance outdoor sports and boating.
Huk Performance Vented Long Sleeve
Only the Kryptec Fade T-shirt was as comfortable as this one. The mesh underarms and lower back prevent sweat buildup and allow cooling ventilation. If you’re not a camo fan, this popular vented cut gives great UV protection and cooling comfort while protecting from the long-term effects of sun exposure.
Fabric: 90% polyester/10% spandex UPF Rated: 30 Stain Resistance: 100% UV Blocked: 100% Ups: Form-fitting but not tight, the shirt is cool and comfortable and doesn’t restrict mobility. Downs: The breathable mesh isn’t as UV-resistant, but only in areas that don’t normally get direct sun.
Simms Solarflex Armor
The Solarflex Armor protects you like a ninja from the sun and actually looks a little like a ninja uniform once the inner face guard is pulled up over the nose and ears and the hood is pulled over the head. Laser perforations in the mask reduce the stuffy feeling of some buffs. The breathable shirt fabric and conformable cut make it a great jogging shirt in addition to sun protection for outdoor fun, especially fishing.
Fabric: 85% polyester/16% spandex UPF Rated: 50 Stain Resistance: 100% UV Blocked: 95% Ups: Thumb loops keep the sleeves from creeping up. Downs: My breath fogs my glasses when the face buff is pulled up.
Simms Intruder Bicomp
Comfortably roomy but trim enough for unencumbered fly-fishing, the sleek look of the Intruder comes from side and underarm panels of stretchy, breathable fabric sewn in that give it excellent ventilation while moving with comfortable conformity to the body. Even the sleeve cuffs are stretchy, not snapped, for a snug fit.
Fabric: 100% polyester UPF Rated: 30 Stain Resistance: 100% UV Blocked: 97% Ups: The snaps are secure, smooth and look great. Downs: The sunglass cleaning patch would be easier to use if sewn onto the right shirttail, not the left.
Smooth, supple fabric is tightly woven to protect from the sun but remains cool on the skin. The cut is generous, moves with the body, and allows cooling air circulation with a cape back. Pockets are pleated for expandable cargo capacity. It’s dressy and sheds liquid for stain resistance. Sleeves roll and stay up using button straps.
Fabric: 98% polyester/2% spandex UPF Rated: 50 Stain Resistance: 100% UV Blocked: 99% Ups: Its aqua or mint color, like most blues, absorbs and reflects more UV light, increasing effectiveness. Downs: A label on the sunglass cleaning patch reduces its effectiveness.
Huk Kryptek Fade Icon
Of all the T-shirts in this test, I found this one the most comfortable and breathable. The mesh underarms and lower back prevent sweat buildup and allow cooling ventilation. The Kryptek camo is the most popular variety on the market now and, in its turquois color, does a great job of deflecting nearly 100 percent of sunburn- and skin-cancer-causing UV light.
Fabric: 90% polyester/10% spandex UPF Rated: 30 Stain Resistance: 100% UV Blocked: 100% Ups: Form-fitting but not tight, the shirt is cool and comfortable and doesn’t restrict mobility. Downs: The mesh isn’t as UV-resistant, but its used only in areas that don’t normally get direct sun.
AFTCO Sirius LS Tech
Pleated vents in the back are closed with white mesh to allow movement and ventilation and keep the sun protection uniform over the body. The fabric is comfortable on the skin, wicking moisture away and giving the shirt a cottonlike feel. Pleated pockets are smallish, not large enough for an iPhone 8, but trim, so if you’re a fly-fisherman, you can expect to cast without snagging.
Fabric: 100% polyester UPF Rated: 50 Stain Resistance: 100% UV Blocked: 99% Ups: Thumbs up for the button pocket flaps, which I prefer over Velcro, and the sunglass temple slot for keeping glasses secure. Downs: Oh drat, I still want to button my iPhone 8 in the pockets.
AFTCO Sirius SS Tech
Like the long sleeve, this one had the same comfortable fabric that didn’t cling, get clammy in sweaty conditions and offered cool breathability. It is dressy and sporty all at once, and when we doused it in barbecue sauce and coffee, let it dry and washed it, it came out perfectly clean, so fish away and look great doing it. Why can’t all garments be this durable? It’s designed to cross over from sport to offshore fishing, and we’d be unconcerned about fish blood or bait stains.
Fabric: 100% polyester UPF Rated: 50 UV Blocked: 99% Ups: A full cut gives ample room for mobility, but the design is sleek for keeping fishing lines free. Downs: We would like to see this design in a solid color, though checks are all the rage today.
AFTCO Samurai LS
The fabric feels like a second skin but offers a mobility that makes its feather-light design more comfortable than going shirtless, as we did back in the day before the ravages of sun damage were known. The sleeves fit snugly around the wrist but have enough elasticity that they can be pushed up over the elbow when doing dirty jobs like checking motor oil or cleaning fish.
Fabric: 100% polyester UPF Rated: 50 UV Blocked: 99% Ups: Its near-naked feel offers cooling breathability, surprising in full-coverage T’s. Downs: A pocket somewhere would sure be handy — maybe a pouch like on a hoodie.