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What does UPF mean anyway?

One of life’s great pleasures is being out on the water casting a line. Chances are you’re probably aware how damaging the sun’s rays can be. That’s why sunscreen is on every outdoor packing list. It's why we wear hats and sun protective clothing outdoors. But did you know that different materials – even different fabrics – offer different protection from the sun’s damaging rays? In this article, we will explain those differences and what all those UV, UPF, SPF ratings mean. We’ll even guide you on how to choose the best UPF fishing shirts.


Why should I wear UPF rating clothing?

"It's like walking around in the shade all day, without actually needing to be in the shade. That's one of the big benefits of clothes made specifically for UV protection", explained Lisa Garner, MD, a dermatologist practicing in Texas. UPF rated clothing provides ample protection in fabrics that are actually comfortable and breathable on hot, sunny days.

Who among us actually remembers to reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off, as most bottles direct? Sunscreen is great, but it's often used improperly. UPF rated fishing apparel and clothing takes out all the guesswork. Plus, who likes the oily hand thing...


What is UPF?

Let’s start with the basics. Sunlight includes rays of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and exposure to those rays can lead to sunburn, premature skin aging and skin cancer. UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is the lab-tested rating system textile companies and manufacturers use to rate the amount of ultraviolet radiation that gets blocked by a fabric.

UPF is very similar to SPF, the rating system used for sunscreen products. SPF (Sun Protection Factor) however only pertains to a sunscreen's effectiveness against UVB rays (considered to be the more damaging type of light) and is based on the time it takes for UV-exposed skin to redden. UPF ratings gauge the fabric's effectiveness against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light. According to the skincancer.org foundation website, UPF 50 Fabric blocks 98 percent of the sun’s rays and allows two percent (1/50th) to penetrate, thus greatly reducing your exposure risk.

When you shop for fishing apparel, things are relatively simple: the higher the UPF rating the more sun protection your fishing shirt is going to have.



UPF Rating Protection Category Effective UV Transmission (%)
15,20 Good 6.7-4.2
25,30,35 Very Good 4.1-2.6
40,45,50,50+ Excellent Less than 2.5


Can fishing shirts be rated below UPF 15?

Not really. Fabrics rated below UPF 15 are not considered UV-protective. For instance, a normal everyday white cotton T-shirt, offers a UPF rating of 5-7, which means that 20% of the UV radiation passes through it.


What makes fishing apparel sun safe?

As you may may know, your clothing definitely protects you to some degree, but not all fabrics and colors provide equal protection. There are plenty of options and factors to consider when you're shopping for the best fishing apparel.

Color: Dark or bright colors keep UV rays from reaching your skin by absorbing them rather than allowing them to penetrate. That’s why these colors offer better protection than lighter shades. Ever seen fishing guides wearing black fishing shirts? –––> Reel Sportswear Portside Fishing Hoody

Fabric Construction: Densely woven cloth, like denim, canvas, wool or synthetic fibers, are more protective than sheer, thin or loosely woven cloth. You can check this easily by holding it up to the light. If you can see through the fabric, UV radiation can easily penetrate and reach your skin.

Content: The composition of your fabric really matters. Unbleached cotton contains natural lignins that act as UV absorbers. Shiny polyesters and even lightweight satiny silks can be highly protective because they reflect radiation. High-tech fabrics treated with chemical UV absorbers or dyes prevent some penetration from UV rays.

Fit: Loose-fitting apparel is preferable. Tight clothing can stretch and reduce the level of protection offered, as the fibers pull away from each other and allow more UV light to pass through. Think back to the fabric construction point. If you can see through the fabric you’re less protected.

Coverage: The more skin your outfit covers, the better your protection. Whenever possible, choose long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts.

Activity: Regardless of UPF, if your clothing gets stretched or wet, it will lose some of its protective ability and become more transparent, exposing your skin to more UV light.

Fabric wear: As a fabric becomes worn or faded, it also becomes less effective at blocking UV light. That’s why it is important to get a new fishing shirt each year.


How laundering affects UPF ratings?

Washing your clothing can either increase or decrease its UPF, depending on several factors:

  • Detergents with brighteners: While most detergents contain them and most brighteners do enhance UPF, there’s no way to tell for certain if a given detergent will enhance your garment’s rating.
  • Shrinkage: All else being equal, shrinking a garment gives it a tighter weave, which can increase its UPF.
  • Clothing that relies on finishes for its UPF rating: As the finish washes out, UPF diminishes. Check to see if your garment states that its UPF rating is good for a specific number of washes.
  • Clothing that relies on inherent fabric properties for its UPF rating: UPF should remain relatively unchanged as a result of washing—until it diminishes simply because the fabric becomes worn or faded.


Reel Sportswear UPF Rated Fishing Shirts:

At Reel Sportswear, we are creating fishing clothing and apparel products that hold up to the elements and are made to be worn day in, day out. We use our tagline “Wear What Guides Wear®” because many of our brand ambassador fishing guides fish 80-120 days per year. That’s a lot of clothing abuse and a lot of product testing. All of Reel Sportswear's fabrics are rated UPF 50+ to provide the maximum ultraviolet protection, keep you cool and keep you running.

Over the last year or so, we have worked hard with our brand ambassadors and made some amazing improvements to our fishing shirts. First, we wanted to address the fabric, since fabric composition and weight play a large role in the sun protection game. This meant a slight increase in the fabric weight (we’re talking grams). Our original Reel Sportswear long sleeve fishing shirts were roughly 4.1oz and our newest line of fishing apparel runs about 5.6oz. The weight change not only increased the protection factor, but it lended itself to a softer hand and increased quality.

Another slight modification was the fit of the garment. All of our new performance fishing shirts have a looser cut. This provides more comfort and the likelihood for increased sun protection.


Check out our latest UPF rated products.

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