Technical Clothing - a great option for sun protection

An alternative to sunscreen

Patagonia Sun Hoodie and a bruiser Brown Trout

A few years ago I decided to start being a bit more mature (as my wife would put it) with my sun protection efforts after seeing some of the aftermath of skin cancer that some dear friends have had to endure.  This meant slathering myself up a few times a day with sunscreen and trying to follow the recommendations on each tube of paste that I was using.  I say "paste" because that's how it felt on my skin... in other words, I HATE sunscreen.  I don't hate the fact that it helps keep my skin protected from the sun, I just hate the feeling that my skin is coated with a thin layer of elmer's glue.  I still wanted to protect myself from the sun, but I wanted to find a way to do it without dealing with sunscreen.  I kind of went through a progression of products until I found stuff that I like, but I'm 100% satisfied with where I ended up.  The good thing is that many manufacturers are coming out with a large selection of clothing specifically to block the sun.  Here are my findings from top to bottom.

High quality polarized lenses are very important to help see fish better, but they are equally important in protecting your eyes from the sun.  When selecting glasses, it's important to find something that fits your head/face and that provides maximum coverage.  I have been using two styles of glasses (Smith Touchstone, and Maui Jim Spartan Reef)  over the last 7 or 8 years, and I have been very pleased with the results

I first started out by wearing a larger "sun" hat that would cover my face and ears from the sun.  I bought a Simms Solar Sombrero, and It worked OK, but it was a bit tight on my huge head (I wear a size 8 new era cap without it looking like a gang banger).  I wore it for a while until I just got fed up with it squeezing my brain for hours on end.  There are several types of sun head wear available from several companies, and they are a good start to going sunscreen free.

Everyone is familiar with buffs, and whether people use them to keep out of the sun, or to get the bank robber look while fishing, they are all the rage right now.  My issue with buffs is that they compress my huge head and make me breathe my hot breath all day long.  They are good for winter fishing, but I can't deal with them in the heat.  I have really only tried them on long enough to realize that they drive me nuts (so like 15 seconds).  If buffs are your cup of tea, go for it.  I really think I'd love them if they weren't so friggin' tight on my fat head.

Patagonia Tropic Comfort Hoodie THUMBHOLES!!!
Long sleeves are a MUST!!!  Yes, even in the sun long sleeves can be a very comfortable option to keep the sun off.  If I'm on the boat, I'll keep a spray bottle close by so I can spray my shirt down to keep cool. If I'm wading, I just dip my arms in the cool water.  Either way, it's built in air conditioning especially if there is a small breeze.
 As much as I love my Patagonia gear, I LOVE the stuff from Columbia because they make stuff for big guys (6'5" 285 pounds... yeah)  I started with the Columbia Terminal Tackle long sleeve tee and the XXL was plenty big for my long arms.  I love that shirt and I have put a lot of miles on it, but it doesn't cover my head and hands.  Then I moved up to the Patagonia Tropic Comfort Hoodie II, and I have found sun protection bliss.  The hoodie goes up over a normal hat and buttons under my chin to keep it right where you want it.  It is like a perfect built-in buff that isn't tight against my skin... YAHTZEE!  The sleeves also have thumbholes so they cover almost down to my first knuckles on my hand.  This shirt is a shirt, buff, and sun gloves all built into one.  The fabric is light and breathable, and is very comfortable even in very hot conditions  The Tropic Comfort Hoodie and a regular ball cap are what I use now and it's very effective.

My Columbia pants are great on the boat
I'm a huge proponent of shorts and I pretty much live in my over sized basketball shorts, but if I'm trying to stay out of the sun I'll wear pants.  The issue that I have always had with pants is that the manufacturers never quite have the right fit for me... hence the reason I wear shorts so much.  I tried to find the right fit with Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Pant and skeptically ordered some, and after I tried them on and fished with them I immediately ordered another pair!  They are my go-to fishing pants for wet wading and fishing from the boat.  They actually are pretty good under the waders, but I prefer micro fleece etc. for that job...  They are very comfortable and durable at the same time due to the fact that the fabric is somewhat stretchy.  They have come into contact with lots of barbed wire, sharp rocks, fish hooks, etc. and they are as good as new.  Most serious fishing manufacturers will make zip off versions of their technical pants, but I really don't ever see me using those, so I just got the "perma-pant" option.  Pants also come in very handy when wet wading and breaking through thick brush.
Patagonia and Simms, but I couldn't find anything with a 36" inseam.  I stumbled upon the

When I first started wet wading I was fishing in a pair of original Chaco sandals, and while they are
Even the cicadas love my technical gear.
absolutely bulletproof and durable, they aren't the best at keeping the gravel and pebbles from getting lodged under my feet.  I also had more than one run-in with some wild boulders that jumped out and split my toes up pretty bad.  Wading-specific shoes might be a bit better than sandals, but they still are magnets for pebbles and gravel.  Aside from keeping your feet protected while you fish, your footwear should provide you protection from the sun too.  If I'm on the boat, I just wear my every day comfortable running shoes to keep the tops of my feet out of the sun, but if I'm wet wading, I prefer to use neoprene socks and my wading boots.  My boots give me the best traction, and my feet stay clear of sharp rocks and pebbles under my feet.

In all, it's not too hard these days to find technical clothing that will protect you from the sun.  If you get the right stuff, you will be able to leave that nasty sun block at home!

~ Cheech