Gear Review: Sun-protective Jacket Rating: Recommended A great alternative if you have to avoid the sun.
Sun Precautions Ultra Athlete Full Zip Shirt $94.95 (#1540K06)
Upsides + SPF protection of 30+, even wet + Super lightweight with vents galore + Full zip means easy on-off
Downsides - A bit pricey at nearly $100 - Not as cool as a basic T-shirt - Can’t use Woolite
Trekking through the jungles of Guatemala in a quest to explore Tikal, the world’s most celebrated Mayan ruin, I sensed the occasional stare of a local. I’m guessing they might have been wondering why in Cortez’s name I was wearing a long-sleeve jacket on a sunny, humid 90-degree day.
But this wasn’t your typical “keep-you-cozy-warm” jacket. It was Sun Precautions’ Ultra Athlete Full Zip Shirt. They call it a shirt, but it’s really a super-lightweight and super-ventilated jacket with patented Solumbra fabric. The fabric provides an SPF of 30+ (dry or wet) and protects against both UVA and UVB rays, blocking over 97 percent of the harmful buggers. The jacket’s raised collar adequately protects your neck without looking out of place while the elastic cuffs keep sleeves from riding up your arm while hiking.
The highlight of the jacket, at least for the gear junkie, is Sun Precautions’ “Ultra Ventilation System” (aka, UVS), with “ventilation panels that start at each shoulder and run down to the waist, scooping the air as you move and venting it out the panels in the back.” There are also underarm mesh vents and concealed front and back mesh panels, not to mention a hidden zipper pocket perfect for credit cards or keys. Even with all these vents, the jacket still manages to look fashionable in a outdoor techy good way.
The $94.95 jacket, er shirt, comes in six color flavors: white, stone, desert khaki, indigo, Pacific blue, and azure. Light colors, in particular the white and stone, seem to make the most sense in terms of minimizing the sun’s heat. Tall versions are available, but unless you are over 6 feet, I’d opt for the regular fit. Customer service from Sun Precautions is impeccable--I even received a personal phone call after ordering the product over the web. If for any reason you are not satisfied, they offer a full money-back guarantee, less shipping.
Performance: So how did it perform as I crawled over sun-baked Mayan ruins? Impeccably. The jacket was surprisingly cool in the sun and provided ample ventilation, especially when moving. The “cropped” length meant the jacket never got in the way when rock scrambling. While it’s not quite as refreshing as a plain cotton T-shirt--or going bare-chested for that matter--the jacket keeps your arms from roasting, doing a far better job than sunscreen.
Other Notes: If you are traveling and need to wash your Solumbra jacket, you can’t use Woolite, the typical traveler’s detergent of choice. And on the tax front--yes, tax front--technically it’s considered a “medical device,” so for those who write off medical expenses on their taxes, here’s yet another one.
ActiveMSers Bottom Line: If there is a better lightweight, ventilated jacket, I certainly haven’t found it. The high-tech ventilation system works great and the sun protection factor is a big plus, particularly for anyone sun sensitive (or for those on anti-depressants or other medications that suggest limiting sun exposure). Definitely opt for the zipped version and not the anorak, as you can fully unzip the jacket for maximum cooling, critical for us active MSers.