Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
The great coverup: Sun-shielding fabrics and full-coverage designs help consumers defy UV damage in this season’s crop of performance apparel.
NO GETTING AROUND IT: Playing outside means exposing your skin to the sun. But as the public’s concern about the dangers of solar radiation has grown—along with the realization that sunblock alone doesn’t always cut it—the desire for sun-protective clothing has heated up to match. Some brands are introducing fabric with UPF sun protection to performance apparel designs for the first time, while previously sun-savvy companies are expanding existing lines or highlighting their UV-busting bona fides.
“Let’s face it—the more time you spend on the mountain, trail, or water, the more you are at risk,” said Joanna Tomasino, Mammut sports group category manager of softgoods and footwear. “Over the last several years, our society has paid more attention to climate change and skin cancer, which has had an impact on companies and suppliers in terms of product development.”
Also, people are “tired of applying and reapplying messy lotions and creams,” said Andy Nordhoff, public relations manager at Columbia, making a built-in apparel solution even more attractive.
In other trends: Consumers no longer have to choose between light weight and toughness in their apparel. “In the past, there was a huge gap between light and durable,” said Byron McCann, marketing manager of Bergans of Norway. The gap has tightened, he said, pointing to Pertex Quantum fabric, a 70-denier ripstop nylon that’s windproof and water-repellent, yet airy-feeling.
Do-it-all pieces are also popular. “Versatility and hybrids are trending in fabrics,” said Christine Westermark, category managing director of mountain for Helly Hansen. “Consumers are increasingly looking for products that meet a variety of uses, so they don’t have to buy a special product for each activity. This makes sense, particularly for increasingly time-crunched people who want to spend some time outdoors, but can’t afford to become an expert.” Brands are responding with stylish, three-season pieces that work as well for alpine hikes and bike rides as they do for the pub.
1. The lightweight Trail Strike Long Sleeve (MSRP $100) from Columbia keeps wearers cool, sunburn-free and smelling good with Omni-Wick, UPF 50 sun protection, and an antibacterial coating that combats the stress sweats. Cordura yarn woven into the high-friction areas (like under pack straps) boosts durability.
2. Bergans of Norway ups its eco-effort with Expedition 2020: a pledge to increase company-wide sustainability initiatives, from material sourcing to freight transportation to office energy, over the next four years. One example: the Slingsby Ultra Jacket (MSRP $239), which features Ecodear—a 30-percent plant-based polyester fabric—on the front, arms and hood. The inlay on the back is a recycled polyester wool blend, made by Repreve, which upcycles plastic bottles into new goods. Bergans also requires the mills that produce Repreve to source the bottles locally.
3. Expanding its line of trail running tops, Mammut releases the MTR 71 Advanced T-Shirt (MSRP $55) built with Polartec Power Dry fabric featuring two differently sized fibers that operate together to pull sweat off the body, then dissipate it, for better moisture management. An antimicrobial treatment helps fight odors, and the shirt touts a UPF 50-plus rating for sun protection.
4. Stonewear Designs releases a comfy ladies’ climbing short—dubbed the Dynamic Shorts—with UPF 50-plus sun protection, made of lightweight stretch-woven fabric, harness-compatible (gusseted crotch intact) and featuring a chalk brush holder (MSRP $95).
5. Montane introduces the hybridized Fusion Alpha Jacket (MSRP $219). The latest Pertex Quantum CS-10 fabric adds windproof zones around the core and on the shoulders; the shell also has breathable areas (developed using thermal imaging data) for alpine climbing and play.
6. Outdoor Research debuts the men’s Helium Hybrid Hooded Jacket (MSRP $145) with breathable softshell panels beneath the arms instead of pit zips and the waterproof/breathable fabric of the current Helium Jacket everywhere else. The result? A non-sweat-to-death experience that blocks out wind and rain.