Best Gaiter for Sun Protection

Blue UPF Gaiter Fabric

Gaiters are one of our favorite ways to protect faces, ears and necks from UV damage, but not all neck gaiters are created equal. To help you choose the best gaiter for sun protection, we’ll examine our favorite UPF gaiter to highlight what makes it so great for UV protection.

UPF 50+ for Maximum UV Protection

First and foremost, all of Rayward Apparel’s products are rated at UPF 50+. This is the highest level of UV protection for fabrics, and our UPF gaiter is no exception. Lower UPF ratings found on competitors’ products will block a smaller percent of UV rays. Worse yet, their effectiveness will likely diminish even more when the gaiter is subject to moisture, which is common when sweating or near the water. In order to create the best gaiter for sun protection, our minimum was the maximum, so to speak. In other words, we were unwilling to accept anything less than UPF 50+. The end result of our uncompromising approach is an amazing neck gaiter with the highest possible ultraviolet protection factor.

Super Soft & Stretchy Fabric

One of the first things you’ll notice when you wear Rayward Apparel’s UPF 50+ gaiter is that it’s extremely soft and stretchy. After all, a gaiter must be worn to be effective, so comfort can’t be compromised. Fortunately, in the case of our UPF gaiter, it isn’t. You’ll love the buttery soft feel of our gaiters which feature a fabric blend designed to stretch and flex, but still rest securely around your head and neck.

Lightweight & Breathable UPF Gaiter

Something else you’ll notice right away about Rayward Apparel’s Del Mar UPF gaiter is that it’s very light and breathable. Don’t let the lightweight fabric fool you into thinking this gaiter won’t do its number one job, however, because it’s been tested and verified as UPF 50+. That means these feather-weight gaiters punch above their weight-class, blocking greater than 98% of the sun’s UV rays. Plus, this same lightweight fabric is also extremely breathable, so you won’t feel stifled or uncomfortable with the Rayward Apparel UPF gaiter pulled up over your face.

Durable & Detailed Finishing

From afar, many neck gaiters look the same. However, it’s upon closer inspection that you’ll notice the little details that make a big difference in quality and performance. For starters, Rayward Apparel’s UPF gaiters feature finished seams. This prevents the ends from unraveling or curling up, as often happens on gaiters with unfinished edges. Additionally, we use a flexible yet durable thread that provides the stretch you need to wear our gaiter multiple ways (more on that below), but it won’t stay stretched out. Instead, it bounces back to form, allowing you to continue enjoying our UPF gaiters for years to come.

A UPF Gaiter Designed for Versatility

Rayward Apparel’s Del Mar UPF 50+ gaiters are the perfect example of addition by subtraction. Where some of our competitors add “features” like ear loops, nose bridges, mouth vents and so on, we know those offer little to nothing in terms of improved sun protection or performance. In fact, some of these features can even lower the sun-blocking effectiveness of the gaiter. 

There are two big advantages of our less is more approach. First, you won’t pay for anything that isn’t creating a better product. Second, you have more flexibility with how you choose to wear our gaiter. That could mean you twist it into a temporary hair tie, or fold it into a beanie. Because of its closed tube design, our sun gaiter will look just as good worn down around your neck as it will pulled up over your head into a hood. Therefore, you have the freedom to figure out your favorite way to wear the versatile UPF gaiter from Rayward Apparel. Of course, we recommend you wear our UPF however it safely offers you the greatest UV protection.

Rayward Apparel's Del Mar UPF 50 Neck Gaiters

You can now purchase our favorite UPF gaiter, Rayward Apparel’s Del Mar UPF 50+ Lightweight UV Neck Gaiter!

If you’re still not convinced that your neck need protecting, check out this short video. It shows how UV rays cause skin cancer and aging:

* Rayward Apparel’s UPF gaiters are not designed for preventing the spread of disease. Our UPF 50+ gaiter is tested for UV protection, but not for effectiveness at preventing the spread of disease, such as COVID19. It should therefore not be used as an alternative to any appropriately-rated face masks.

Does UPF Clothing Really Work?

UPF Clothing Effectiveness People Walking

Most people believe that as long as they are physically covered by a fabric, they are protected. All clothing has some UPF value. However, what most people don’t know is that the average t-shirt generally has a UPF value of 1-5. Does UPF clothing really provide that much more protection than everything else? The short answer: yes!

10x the Protection of the Average T-Shirt

UPF clothing is designed specifically with sun protection in mind. If you compare a UPF 50 long sleeve shirt to a standard cotton long sleeve shirt you’d be surprised how differently they function. They might fit the same and cover the same amount of skin, but the UPF 50 shirt only allows about 2% penetration of damaging UV rays. An average cotton shirt at UPF 5 allows 10 times the UV penetration of the UPF 50 shirt.

Consistent, Reliable UV Protection

Unlike sunscreen, a sun protective shirt will keep you protected for as long as you are wearing it, no reapplication needed! If you purchase quality sun protective apparel, it will also last for years—saving you a lot of money in the long run. The cost savings are even higher if you are wearing a UPF 50 long sleeve shirt instead of a short sleeve shirt, keeping you from having to apply sunscreen on your arms every time you go outside. One quality UPF shirt can save you from buying dozens of bottles of expensive sunscreen.

Even with the Best UPF Clothing, Sunscreen Is Still Needed

Even with a high quality UPF 50 long sleeve shirt parts of your body are still exposed. The back of your hands, neck, and face will still need protection. A long sleeve shirt will help provide maximal coverage and reduce the amount of sunscreen needed. However, you still need to pair your sun protective shirt with a high quality sunscreen. This is critical to make sure all areas of your body have proper protection. 

When purchasing a sunscreen, make sure you are getting the right one. ALWAYS make sure the sunscreen is broad-spectrum to protect you from UVA and UVB rays. Also check on statistics like it’s water resistance rating and whether it’s a spray or lotion. If you are going to an area that requires reef-safe products ensure that it meets those requirements as well. If you need more help choosing a sunscreen and want to learn more about the chemical makeup of the different options, the video below is a great summary:

What Is a Neck Gaiter?

Green Neck Gaiter Fabric

Neck gaiter masks have been popular with outdoor enthusiasts for a long time. In fact, neck gaiters were popular long before face masks became ordinary during the 2019 coronavirus outbreak. So what exactly is a neck gaiter? And perhaps more importantly, should you wear one?

The Basics: What Is a Neck Gaiter?

A neck gaiter is a specialized piece of apparel worn around your neck and/or face to protect against the elements. Popular and beloved for their versatility, neck gaiters can be worn multiple ways to meet the needs of many situations. This includes keeping you warm as a gaiter neck mask, keeping you cool or shielding you from insects. Plus, as is the case with Rayward Apparel’s Del Mar sun protection face shields, protecting your skin from the sun.*

Basically, neck gaiters are the perfect outdoor accessory, and they have nearly as many names as they do functions. Some of the most common alternate names for neck gaiter face masks include tube headwear, gaiter masks, neckbands, buffs, neck warmers, neck shields, neck wraps, neck scarves and multifunctional headbands. Our favorites are simply gaiter, and sometimes neck gaiter (so as not to confuse it with the ankle variety).

Neck gaiters are closed tubes of fabrics sized to fit over your head and around your face, neck or head. They can be made out of heavier fabrics when the goal is warmth, such as in the winter. Other times, and probably more often, neck gaiters are made of lightweight and breathable materials to be comfortably worn in a wider range of climates and conditions. The best is when neck gaiters are made of UPF fabrics, such as those used in our lightweight gaiter neck mask.

Neck gaiter masks are great for outdoor activities because they are small, lightweight and packable, and help you regulate your desired temperature. Depending on the activity for which they are designed, they may be windproof, insulated, UV protective, quick-drying and moisture-wicking. They really are one of the most versatile pieces of clothing!

Rayward Apparel's Del Mar UPF 50+ Neck Gaiter

How to Wear a Neck Gaiter Mask

There are many ways to wear a neck gaiter, and the most popular of these are covered more in-depth in our post, How to Wear a Neck Gaiter. However, here are some of the more common ways in which our customers wear their gaiters:

  • Neck gaiter/scarf: simply worn loose around the neck
  • Face mask: pulled up over nose and ears
  • Hood: pulled up all the way over ears and to top of head, leaving only face exposed
  • Headband: folded over itself and worn around the forehead
  • Hairband/hair tie: wrapped around head or twisted to secure hair, like a ponytail
  • Beanie: twisted at the middle and then folded over itself to form a closed head cover
  • Hat liner: folded over top of head for light layer beneath hat or helmet
  • Wristband: wrapped around wrist for future use

As mentioned above, these are but a few of the many ways to wear your gaiter. However, if your gaiter is being used as a sun protection face shield, then you must keep in mind that you are only protected where you are covered, so gaiter responsibly.

When to Wear a Gaiter

Knowing when to wear a neck gaiter requires knowing what it was designed for, as well as what you need it to do. At Rayward Apparel, our goal is to protect you from harmful UV rays. This means our gaiters are all UPF 50+ for the highest possible sun protection rating. Therefore, you should wear our gaiters as a sun protection face shield whenever you are outside and your face and/or neck are not already protected by any other means.*

Kenyan Sunset Demands Neck Protection

Should You Wear a Neck Gaiter?

Worn alone, neck gaiters are great, but they really shine as an accessory complementing the rest of your outdoor apparel. For instance, Rayward Apparel’s Sun Bound shirts won’t always protect your face and neck, but when paired with our Del Mar UPF 50+ gaiter, you have UPF 50+ sun protection from your face to your waist. So should you wear a neck gaiter? Absolutely! Ours are lightweight, soft, breathable and, most importantly, UPF 50+ for maximum UV protection.

Shop Rayward Apparel’s sun protection face shields and neck gaiters today and see for yourself why neck gaiters have become one of the most popular outdoor accessories.

Bonus: Curious to know how the sun can damage your skin? Check out the video below which highlights how UV rays affect your skin:

* Rayward Apparel’s gaiter neck masks are not designed to prevent the spread of disease. Our sun protection face shields have not been tested for their effectiveness at preventing the spread of disease, such as COVID19, and should therefore not be used as such.

What Fabrics Block UV Rays?

What fabrics block UV? Rayward Apparel

Your clothing is more than just a fashion statement, it helps keep you protected from damaging UV radiation, one of the leading causes of skin cancer. Certain types of materials, like bamboo shirts, often come with a higher UPF rating (less UV rays can pass through), but it depends on a lot more factors than just fabric composition. Every product is different, some provide superior protection while others provide little to none. If you are shopping for sun protective clothing and do not see a UPF value listed, keeping the below factors in mind will help make sure you are selecting a product that will help keep you protected.

Material

Fabric Spools
  • Fibers: The fibers themselves have different UV protection qualities. Synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester generally have a higher UPF value than other popular fibers such as bleached cotton. Bamboo fibers (when purchasing bamboo shirts, it’s generally labeled as viscose from bamboo) also tend to have a higher UPF value than cotton. However, the process of turning bamboo into bamboo viscose can sometimes alter the properties of the fabric, so make sure to check for a UPF rating and don’t make any assumptions.
  • Construction: Ultimately the goal is to reduce the amount of light that can pass through. With a tight weave, you have less space between the threads and thus less potential for UV radiation to pass through. Also, a shirt’s thickness can help protect your skin as it often has more fibers per square inch and a much tighter weave. A good simple test is to hold a shirt up to the light. Then, if a lot of light is passing through, it likely has a lower UPF rating than a shirt where no light passes through.

Fit

Generally speaking, loose-fitting apparel is preferable to tight clothing. Tight clothing has a tendency to stretch which separates the fibers – allowing more light to pass through. Loose unstretched fibers are going to provide more consistent protection, and are also less likely to become permanently stretched over time, therefore maintaining their UPF protection rating for longer. This also helps determine whether a shirt will maintain its UPF rating after being washed.

Style

The more coverage the better. It goes without saying that a short sleeve shirt cannot keep your entire arm protected, so try and find products that maximize the surface area coverage. Long sleeve bamboo shirts are great, and hooded long sleeve shirts offer even more protection for your ears and neck.

Color

Fabric Colors Bamboo Shirts

Darker is better, but there is no formula for determining which specific color is best for sun protection. If you have to choose between a black and white shirt and are looking for maximum UPF value, more often than not the black shirt will provide more protection. This is in part due to the color absorption properties, but also due to the process of coloring a fabric with different dyes which further reduce the amount of UV radiation that can pass through. But keep in mind, just because a shirt is white does not mean it is not keeping you protected. A shirts protective qualities is a combination of all of the above factors and it’s very possible that your white bamboo shirts are keeping you just as protected, if not more protected, than your black cotton shirts. 

UPF Rating

The safest way to make sure you are protected is to buy products with a posted UPF rating. This means that the shirt has been tested and proven to have UV protective qualities. For maximum protection, look for apparel that has a UPF 50+ rating.

What Color Is Best For Sun Protection?

Rainbow for Sun Protective Clothing

There are a lot of different factors that play into the UV protective rating of a shirt. Fit, fabric composition, weight, density, and sometimes even color. However, determining whether or not specific colors are more protective than others is not as easy as it seems. Continue below to see how color impacts the UPF of sun protective clothing.

Darker or Brighter is Generally Better

Hot coals

Dark and bright colors attract and absorb more light than their lighter counterparts. So if you don’t own any sun protective clothing and want to get as much protection as possible – lean towards the darker and brighter clothing options. However, this also comes with a downside. The darker the color, generally this also means it will generate the most heat. This can be particularly uncomfortable if you live in the south during a hot summer. The following YouTube video does a great job representing this dynamic using various colors of crayons in the sun:

So you want to stay protected, but you don’t want to bake inside your own shirt. Especially when you are actively exercising or playing sports, this can be a deal breaker. Good news is, you don’t have to choose between being protected and being comfortable. There are plenty of light colored sun protective clothing options out there providing excellent protection. You just have to make sure it has the UPF rating listed. Here at Rayward Apparel all of our products are certified at UPF 50+.

Color Can Sometimes Be Misleading

As mentioned previously, there are many different factors that play into the UPF rating of a fabric. If the shirt is too thin or stretched extremely tight you are likely not going to receive proper protection regardless of the color. The same goes with many of the other factors – if a shirt is severely lacking in one it’s possible the color will have very little impact. If your white shirt is UPF 3 and black shirt is UPF 4, that’s still well below the recommended protective value. Although it may seem odd, In these circumstances it’s best to simply wear sunscreen underneath your shirt to stay protected.

Color dye sun protective shirts

Also, while different colors have different UV absorption qualities, it’s not always that straightforward. The color of a shirt is made through a variety of color dyes. Sometimes the dye itself can have a bigger impact on the UPF rating than the color – so it’s possible your light grey shirt has a better protection rating than your black shirt. However, the only true way to determine the true UPF value of a fabric is to have it lab tested. All sun protective clothing with a listed UPF value should have been tested and certified accordingly.

UPF 50+ Sun Protective Clothing Provides Excellent Coverage Regardless of Color

In summary, while the color of a fabric certainly has an impact on the UPF rating it’s difficult to determine its true protective value without knowing it’s UPF rating. While all clothing has some level of UPF, oftentimes it’s far less than needed. If you are trying to make sure you get proper coverage, your best bet is to simply purchase clothing that has been tested at UPF 50+. Regardless of the color, if your sun protective clothing has been properly tested at UPF 50 you can rest assured knowing you are well protected.

Does UPF Wash Out Of Clothing?

Will UPF wash out? Washing Machines.

So you’ve gone ahead and bought some UPF 50+ clothing, but what happens when it goes through the wash? Will any of that sun protection value be ‘washed out’ or will it keep protecting you at the same level? 

Depends On How the UPF Value Was Initially Achieved

The two most popular ways apparel achieves a UPF rating are through A) fabric blends, or B) chemical treatments. At Rayward Apparel, we use the chemical-free option when a suitable fabric exists that meets our demands. Other times, we may utilize chemical treatments when fibers alone aren’t enough for the combination of protection and performance demanded.

Design

The fabric design and composition plays a big part in the UPF rating. Some of these factors include the shirt weight, fabric blend, color, fit, and more. When possible, this is how we achieve our UPF values (versus using chemical applications). This way, the UPF 50+ clothing will maintain that value for the life of the garment, and can’t wash out of the product.

Chemicals

There are a variety of different chemical and oil infusions that can help boost a fiber’s UPF value. At Rayward Apparel, this is used when achieving a UPF 50+ rating for an untreated fabric blend would require the fabric to be prohibitively heavy or hot. In these rare cases, safe chemical treatments can be used to still achieve a UPF 50+ rating, but with a fabrics that perform as needed.

Product Quality

As mentioned above, a lot of factors go into the design of a sun protective shirt to ensure it keeps you protected from harmful UV rays. Some of these factors include the shirt weight, fabric composition, color, and fit. But at the end of the day, the quality of the shirt plays a big part in maintaining its UPF rating, especially if it’s being worn and washed often. 

As your clothing starts to age it naturally becomes a little worn down. So you may not be ‘washing out’ the sun protection rating of your UPF 50+ clothing, but it’s possible the rating drops as the shirt ages. This is especially true with a low quality shirt. Depending on the durability of your clothing, the fabric composition may be compromised after only a couple washes. In other words, as the threads thin out, the shirt allows more UV light to pass through. So while the UPF does not necessarily “wash out,” the UV protection rating will eventually drop over time. Higher quality shirts with more durable fabrics (like our viscose from bamboo) are designed to withstand the harshest environments and maintain a UPF rating for the life of the shirt. 

Simple Recommendations to Make Your UPF 50+ Clothing Last:

Clothes Line with UPF 50+ Clothing
  • Don’t wring out your sun protection clothing. This can permanently stretch the fibers and lower the UPF rating.
  • Do not bleach because it can damage the fibers. Bleach is great, but it’s a fairly harsh chemical on clothing. It’s best to keep your UV protective shirts intact. 
  • Wash your clothing in cold water. Warm and hot water is more likely to shrink your fabric, which could in turn shorten the lifespan of the UPF clothing.

To learn more about our apparel and to view our current line of UPF 50+ clothing, check out our shop!

Does All Clothing Have UPF?

Variety of Clothes, do they have UPF?

UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, the degree to which a fabric protects you from UV rays. All fabrics have some level of protection, but without proper testing it’s impossible to know the exact UPF rating. Continue reading to learn the role of UPF ratings in UV protective clothing.

How Do I Know If My Shirt Has a UPF Rating?

Generally speaking, if a fabric has been tested to determine it’s UPF rating you will see it somewhere on the fabric itself. It may be fused onto the inside of the shirt, or on the tag. In addition, you can also quickly look it up online to see if the UPF rating is listed in the description. If you’ve checked all of those areas and still cannot find the UPF rating, it’s likely it was never tested. While most UV protective clothing goes through the extra steps of verifying it’s rating, it’s a costly process. Most clothing without UV protection in mind will not have the fabric lab tested, and thus will not have an official UPF rating.

What Is the UPF of a Cotton Shirt?

As mentioned previously, without proper testing it’s impossible to provide an exact number. There are a lot of different factors that impact a shirts UPF rating, so every shirt is different. However, a good rule of thumb for a fairly standard cotton shirt is to assume a UPF rating of about 5. UV protective clothing has a minimum rating of UPF 15, so 5 is far below anything professionals would consider ‘protective’. The following video provides a great summary of the difference a UPF rated shirt can provide versus your standard cotton shirt:

What Is Considered a Good UPF Rating for UV Protective Clothing?

The ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) sets the standard for the different UPF ratings in the United States. They published the below chart, which determines the ‘protection category’ of different fabrics based on the UPF rating:

UPF RatingProtection Category% UV Radiation Blocked
UPF 15 – 24Good93.3 – 95.9
UPF 25 – 39Very Good96.0 – 97.4
UPF 40 – 50+Excellent97.5 – 98+

In summary, anything below UPF 15 does not even receive a protection category and is not considered UV protective clothing. At Rayward Apparel, we only sell apparel that has a UPF 50 rating or better, ensuring our customers are properly protected. 

You may be more familiar with SPF, as it’s the rating given to sunscreens. As far as the actual rating number is concerned, they represent the same level of protection. So a UPF shirt provides the same degree of protection as an SPF sunscreen, but there are some differences which you need to be aware of:

Is UPF The Same As SPF?

Umbrellas, UPF vs SPF

UPF is the rating given to fabrics, whereas SPF is the rating given to different sunscreens. The number itself is the same, it determines the protection factor in which it blocks UV rays. However, there is one major difference which is important to keep in mind: UPF is inherently broad-spectrum – it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. SPF on the other hand, only rates it’s effectiveness against UVA rays. So when buying UV protective clothing, no need to check for a “broad-spectrum” statement. But, when you are buying sunscreen make sure it’s labeled as “broad-spectrum” so you get full protection. Both UVA and UVB rays are linked to skin cancer, so you should definitely be protecting yourself from both.

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