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I’d like to interrupt my regularly scheduled post about our Southern Minnesota State Park tour to talk to you about a topic near and dear to my heart (and face…and hands…and everywhere else the sun touches):
This week, I’m fresh off a trip to the prairie AND the dermatologist! With bandaids still covering a couple of spots, I thought it would be a good time to talk about some of the ways I protect myself from the sun.
Lets start from the beginning…
I was born and raised a red-headed freckle-faced kid in sunny Southern California in the 1970s, before people really worried about skin cancer. I remember sunburns from trips to the beach, and from camping trips to Baja and the Anza-Borrego desert. As a teenager, I climbed up on the roof of the garage with my friends, rubbed baby oil on my tummy, and aimed my face to the sun. I can still smell the stinky witch hazel and vinegar, radiating off my back and shoulders as Grandma tried to take the sting away with soaked cotton balls, and Grandpa telling me he didn’t need sunscreen because he ate his vegetables. Before you chuckle at that…he’s a healthy 90 year old mountain man, still living on a ranch. Knowing what we know now, about antioxidants, I think he may have been on to something!
I started taking care of my skin in my late 20’s and developed a spectacular allergic reaction to regular sunscreen after I turned 40.
I know, weird.
Last week, my dermatologist took another slice out of what we like to call “the world’s largest freckle”, and told me that the calf was the most common location that women get melanoma (!) Thankfully, my biopsy came back clear, but it it got me thinking about all the things I do now to enjoy the sun responsibly as I age.
Since I can’t just slather on regular ol’ sunscreen anymore, I like to cover up with hats, umbrellas, UPF Clothing (ultra violet protection), gloves and anything else that physically blocks the sun. When sunscreen is my only option, I have a few mineral based favorites, but they usually leave me looking a little pasty and need to be re-applied more often to stay effective.
Summer is winding down and gear sales are winding up! Backcountry’s Semi-annual Sale is on right now and REI’s big Labor Day sale should start towards the end of the month. Hopefully this post a helpful reminder to take care of your skin…and you can find a deal or two.
Hiking umbrella – this Six Moons Silver Shadow umbrella (hopefully back in stock soon!) is similar to the one I bought almost 3 years ago but its lighter and $10 cheaper! Its lightweight, durable, and has notches in the handle so you can attach it to your pack strap for hands-free use. The black and silver finish maximize heat reflectivity and cooling shade, even in the blazing sun. My umbrella is my favorite piece of sun gear, its also great for cooking under in the rain and I’ve even used it as a door on cold nights in my tarp shelter! Umbrellas are also a great way to stay cool because they let the breeze in and you can take off a hat or a hike in a tank top. A regular umbrella will work, but I notice a difference in temperature under the black/silver combo and its nice to have a lightweight option if you are counting ounces backpacking.
Sun gloves – Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Gloves– I grabbed these on sale last year and have hiked with them all summer. I think they are pretty great since I have already had some sun damage to the backs of my hands and forget to cover them up. They stay cool in the heat and have little grippies on the palms to keep things from slipping around. I’m also breaking in a new set of trekking poles, and the finish on the cork is kind of sticky when I sweat, so these address that issue too. I just throw them in the wash and air dry them after each trip. If I didn’t already have a pair, I might have chosen these because of the suede palms and happy yellow print!
UPF pants – The Exofficio BugsAway pants with UPF provide excellent protection from the bugs, sun and zip off into shorts! The newer version of these pants don’t include a zip off feature (boo). But, check the label, many hiking pants have sun protection built in…I like having the bug stuff baked in for tick protection, so I don’t have to chemically treat my clothes as often.
Wicking tee – I bought the Sherpa Women’s Rinchen Short Sleeved Tee with UPF and silver salt anti-microbial fibers for my Superior Hiking Trail trek and love that it provides sun protection as well as having silver fibers that reduce the stink. It’s very lightweight, UPF40, dries super quick and has been discontinued by Sherpa (boo)..so the stock is probably pretty limited in the link above – just heads up, if you want one. I started in a smartwool wool shirt, but it never dried and wasn’t as light and breezy as this shirt!
Sun shirt with vents – My favorite button up long sleeved hiking shirts are made by Columbia with built in Omni-shade! I also have a men’s Sahara shirt from REI that I handed down to one of our sons. I like these shirts because they are designed with several vents, wick/dry quickly and allow for air flow on hot days. Some of these shirts have a double flip up collar to protect the back of your neck and curved cuffs for extended coverage of the backs of your hands. Those are great features if you can find them, and the more vents the better!
Sun Sleeves – Runners and bikers use these UPF fabric sleeves for lightweight coverage without having to tow along a long sleeved shirt. The REI brand sleeves are nice because they have mesh vents for cooling – I have two pair and use them both! I found these on at an REI garage sale right before my SHT hike and loved having a light weight option to add to my shirt for cooler temps and sun protection. I know friends that have made sleeves out of old socks or other fabric tubes…but these come with a nice grippy elastic that keep them from falling down. They can be pushed down and pulled back up as needed, weigh less than a long sleeved shirt and compress very small. I wear the bright yellow ones while bike commuting for added visibility (or when I just want to add a little flair to my outfit).
Full coverage hat – I started with this lovely fashion statement, the Outdoor Research Sun Runner hat and didn’t love the side flaps (but is sure does protect ya!). Then moved to a wide brim paddlers hat- my dermatologist recommended getting a BIG HAT for our scout trip to the Florida keys, and bonus….IT FLOATS! Mine came from Costco, and they don’t sell it anymore….but this one is similar. It has a large oval shape, vented roof and I love it. I would wear it all the time, but it snags on my backpack…so this one stays on my head in the garden and when I’m on the water.
Rash guard/Swim Shirt- another dermatologist recommendation. Swim shirts are not new and there are all kinds of them out there. Because of this, they are pretty easy to find and affordable. I love the extra coverage when Im on the water.
Compression sleeves – I don’t know if the Zensah Compressions Sleeves that I use are officially UPF rated, but I like them for the same reasons as my arm sleeves and I think they help me in preventing hikers rash and with muscle recovery.
Neck gaiter– I learned about Buffs or neck gaiters as a form of sun protection from the people fishing in the Florida Keys. These are a versatile piece of gear everyone should have in their kit! There are so many ways to wear them, and they are a great way to protect your skin from the elements year round!
Plus up your bike helmet! I got a running visor at a gear swap a few years ago and just started wearing it under my new Bontrager Wave Cell bike helmet for added sun protection. It works pretty well, since I ride just for fun and don’t worry about aerodynamics. I used to have a BERN helmet with a teeny little visor, but didn’t really do anything to protect me from the sun, so I used it as inspiration and added a longer visor this Spring (not pictured).
Sunscreen – Not my favorite…but definitely an essential. Because of my weird allergic reaction to regular sunscreen, these are the brands I use. EWG has a long list of safer sunscreens here. I have tried a few on their list over the years, but usually am not proactive enough to order online when I need sunscreen and just end up running to the store.
- Pacifica Bronzing Spray Mineral Sunscreen – SPF 30 – I found this new favorite on clearance at Target last summer. It’s zinc oxide based, which usually leaves a white residue…but the slight tinting tones it down and blends in a little better. I leave a can of this and a hat in the car so I’m always ready if Im outside unexpectedly.
- CeraVe SPF 50 Sunscreen for face– My dermatologist recommended this and it’s my favorite all around mineral sunscreen for face. Not cheap, but dries almost transparent.
- Neutrogena 50+ Sun Stick– this is my favorite to bring backpacking, since its a powerful solid and easy to put in a smaller container. The solid stick also gets thrown in my bike bag and daypack. Its got more chemicals than mineral sunscreen, but it doesn’t irritate my skin and stays put.
- Neutrogena 100+ Spray Sunscreen– sprays have recently been in the news as being not so good for humans…but neither is skin cancer, so I only use this occasionally.
Share your bright and sunny ideas here!
If you’ve made it this far…thanks for reading! I’m always on the lookout for new gear hacks and recommendations, so if you have a good one to share, drop me a note in the comments or join the convo on the Wandering Pine Facebook page.
I’m also all about the deals and saving money. Most of my gear comes from gear swaps, REI garage sales , is home made or found on sale. I only recommend gear I would use myself and point to sales and deals whenever I can. If you have the means to support this blog by purchasing through the links above or here, it is much appreciated! If not…that’s totally ok too! There is no additional cost when purchasing through these links and it helps cover my annual site hosting fees. Thank you for your support!
I hope you are having an amazing Summer! Stay tuned for an upcoming trip report and video from our tour of Southern Minnesota State Parks! Subscribe via email at the top of this page and on the Wandering Pine Youtube for updates on new content! (and check out my Instagram story if you want to see my garden and canning experiments!)