Courtesy Body glove, Columbia, O’Neill
These days, thanks to brands’ increasing awareness of the importance of sun protection along with advancements in fabrics and design, there are more ways to cover up your top section than ever before. Of course, with more options can come more confusion, especially when some rash guards seem like they’re made out of neoprene, or others appear to fit looser like a sun shirt. We’re here to help, but should note that the lines between each of these shirt styles are more blurred than ever. Ultimately, the right shirt for you depends on what exactly you want to wear it for and in what kind of conditions.
Rash Guard: Body Glove Basic
Originally created as thin Lycra shirts to protect surfers’ chests from the wax on their boards, rash guards have evolved into a multitude of styles in a variety of materials. You can still find Lycra-based rash guards anywhere, but go to a few surf-specific brands’ websites, like Body Glove, O’Neill or Billabong, and you’ll find many options. Rash guards cross over into the sun-shirt realm but can get wet. You can find skintight or looser varieties, short- or long-sleeved, hooded and much more.
Price: $24.99; bodyglove.com
Sun Shirt: Columbia PFG Skiff Guide Knit Hoodie
Sun shirts (also called UV shirts) come in two groups: Those designed to go in the water and those that aren’t. Many are designed as boating-urban-clothing combos, but not necessarily for the aquatic life. Sun shirts designed to be worn wet or dry are often now categorized with rash guards; a true sun shirt would be looser-fitting, with stretch, moisture-wicking and airflow features. These shirts are comfortable to wear, even on the hottest days, and offer UV protection.
Price: $55; columbia.com
Read Next: Three Types of Sun Protection for Boaters
Neoprene Top: O’Neill Reactor-2 1.5 mm
These tops are the easiest of the group to differentiate. They are made of neoprene or a similar material, fit tight to the skin, and help keep you warm while in the water. The thicker the material, the more warmth they offer. Neoprene tops are great for boaters who are into watersports but don’t need the protection of a full body suit (or don’t want to deal with the awkwardness of getting in and out of one). Like wetsuits, neoprene tops are measured by thickness, generally ranging from 0.5 mm to 2 mm.
Price: $79.95; oneill.com