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Sun protection buying guide


Summer is here. So is the sun. Mostly that’s a good thing. It means longer days for playing with your friends and exploring the outdoors. But if you’re not careful, too much exposure to the sun can cause problems for you now and down the line (think: sunburns AND skin cancer).

Who better to tap for sun-protection advice than a professional angler who fishes more than 150 days a year and spends up to 12 hours a day on the water?

“I’m constantly out there and definitely in the sun all the time,” says Justin Lucas, a 23-year-old pro fisherman with Team National Guard.

There are some simple things you can do, and gear you can use, that are effective while still letting you squeeze every last drop of fun out of summer. Read on and get the lowdown.


“It’s nice to have a good-looking tan, but you also have to think about your skin down the road,” Lucas warns.

The sun’s rays are broken into two types of ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB. Both are harmful, but UVB rays burn your skin and cause most cases of skin cancer. Covering yourself with clothing and a hat is the best way to avoid sun exposure, but for the parts of your body that are uncovered, wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.

All sunscreens are labeled with an SPF number. The higher the SPF, the longer your skin can last in the sun before it burns (though most experts say anything over SPF 30 doesn’t add much protection). So if you normally burn in about 10 minutes, SPF 15 sunscreen will protect you for about 150 minutes. “I always put sunscreen on first thing in the morning when it’s still dark outside,” he says. “It’s important to put it on at least 20 minutes before your skin is exposed to the sun. Then I reapply it at least two times throughout the day.” Apply plenty of lotion, and pay special attention to your face, ears and neck. Don’t forget the tops of your feet if you’re wearing flip-flops.

The sun is at its strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. At higher elevation, the sun is even stronger. Water reflects almost 100 percent of UV radiation. Even if your head is covered, the UV rays will still find your face. So be prepared — and be smart.


A hat can act as your own personal shade tree. One with a four-inch brim will reduce the sun exposure to your head, neck and face by up to 70 percent. For maximum protection, look for a hat made with UPF (the amount of ultraviolet light that penetrates fabric) of 15 or greater.

“A lot of guys I fish with wear sun hats, the ones with the big rounded bills,” Lucas says. “They are good, but for me it’s just easier to wear a regular baseball cap.” Baseball caps are fine, but if you wear one, Lucas says you must remember to put sunscreen on spots a hat won’t cover, like the tops of your ears, cheekbones, the tip of your nose and the back of your neck.


Too much sun can harm your eyes. Prolonged exposure to UVB rays over many years can cause cataracts, a nasty disease that clouds the lenses of your eyes. So protect yourself with a quality pair of sunglasses.

Gear Guy has preached to readers about this in the past: Don’t even think about wearing those cheap drugstore sunglasses. And darker lenses aren’t necessarily better. Make sure you get glasses that are labeled 100 percent UV protection or UV 400.

“The real key to sunglasses when you’re in the outdoors is polarization,” Lucas says. “As fishermen it helps us see into the water, but polarization also drastically reduces glare no matter what you’re doing.”


Last summer, your mom was probably nagging you to wear a T-shirt in the water so you wouldn’t get a sunburn. Well, that only sort of works. A dry cotton T-shirt gives you the protection of only about UPF 8; a wet one offers only approximately half that.

For best protection, wear a shirt that’s designed to protect you even when it’s wet, like the one from O’Neill below. Otherwise, look for stuff that has at least UPF 15.

“Long-sleeve shirts and pants are best,” Lucas says. “They protect your skin and actually keep you cooler, especially the ones that have vents in them.” Stick with light-colored fabrics and those made of lightweight nylon blends that keep you dry while wicking the sweat away from your skin.

29 Comments on Sun protection buying guide

  1. For your head, try a marathoners hat. They are very light, non-stiff and have a neck flap in the back. They usually cost about $6.00 and come in plain or very colorful designs. They are a favorite amongst ultralight backpackers.

  2. Nice advice!

  3. coolman360 // June 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm // Reply

    get a desert hat. they have a flap on the back of the hat so if you are fair-skinned your neck won’t get sunburned.

  4. Off-trail monkey // March 26, 2012 at 8:09 pm // Reply

    Sleep all day and play all night and you’ll never get burned, but your mom might get mad.

  5. troop 43 mazter // February 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm // Reply

    also use a nice light hat. it will definitly keep the sun out ur eyes but also catches sweat!

  6. troop 43 mazter // February 22, 2012 at 7:59 pm // Reply

    sun screen! i always make sure i have some on at summer camp. keep ur body safe!!!

  7. Where do you get swim mask to protect against sun?

  8. Idaho guy // July 3, 2010 at 2:58 pm // Reply

    A good cowboy hat works really well.

  9. fisherdude // June 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm // Reply

    what about the “sun mask” convertible cover for the face? It is getting very popular with outdoorsmen because of the comfort and efficiency in blocking UV rays. It comes in several cool colors and designs. About $20-25.

  10. get up and go // April 3, 2010 at 1:31 pm // Reply

    Two words for you, “banana-boat!… NOT what you want!!!!!”
    What you want is Coppertone Sport brand. I recommend the 70 SPF.

  11. Get a military boonie hat, they work great, and will keep your head protected from the sun and rain. Find them at any army-navy surplus store.

  12. I think that these are reallly good tips so don’t make fun of them, especially if you use this in the future.

  13. Band Geek #1 // October 27, 2009 at 6:28 pm // Reply

    WEAR SUNSCREEN!!!!Believe me!I had 2nd degree sunburn a few days ago!IT HURT!

  14. I recommend either coppertone sport spray or bullfrog spray

  15. Tuck a neckerchief, bandanna, or spare t-shirt under your cap if you don’t have a fancy hat with a built-in neck flap. Gloves are also a good idea – batting gloves have great grip for paddle sports. Consider water shoes or neoprene booties if you’ll be on the water for a while, its reflective surface can really burn your feet. Definitely wear polarized sunglasses, and use a strap if they might fall off or get lost.
    Wearing thin, long sleeved white or tan linen or cotton shirt and pants is cooler than a t-shirt and shorts on a sunny day, and you protect your skin.


  17. what is the right first aid kit for me. im a boyscout working on first class

  18. i might like the idea

  19. RedLobsterSunBurn258 // July 31, 2009 at 5:43 pm // Reply

    Zinc Oxide will prevent sunburn. If sunburn does occurr, aloe vera will soothe the sting of a reddened sunburn. If a person’s sunburn is so severe as to turn a person’s skin purple-blue, only a physician can suggest a product to treat a purple-blue sunburn.

  20. I agree with John Doe

  21. i already have a tan, how can i keep from getting skin cancer and burn

  22. i agree with burntboy#1

  23. pretty cool stuff

  24. That white pear of sunglasses are UGLY!!!

  25. nice guide buddy’

  26. I have those sun glasses!!!

  27. Burntboy#1 // June 16, 2009 at 11:45 am // Reply

    I love fishing but the sun is a killer so thanks.

  28. cool

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