Best UPF Clothing for Kids
Ultraviolet Protection Factor (or UPF for short) is protection against both UVA and UVB rays. We LOVE UPF clothing because it means I don’t have to deal with messy sunscreen (as much). I try to look for cooling or moisture wicking tops so we can use them for active things like hiking and biking.
I also only get the rash guard/sun shirt style swim suits for my girls, so much easier to keep them protected playing in the sprinkler or at the beach.
Note: Rash guards or swim shirts should NOT be used for active play or activities out of the water because they are not moisture wicking and could cause overheating. And some UPF shirts should not be used in pools or salt-water because the chlorine or salt can damage them.
We have compiled some of our favorite UPF products to help keep you and your family protected this summer! Worried your kiddo might get too warm wearing long sleeves? Light colored, loose fitting, breathable clothing can actually help keep you cooler than no sleeves. Still warm? Toss your UPF shirt in the washer and run for a “rinse and spin” cycle, the damp shirt will feel cool next to the body!
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What is the difference between UPF and SPF
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is the standard that measures the effectiveness of sunscreen against UVB rays only. Higher SPF generally means you can be in the sun longer before getting burned, but that sometimes gives a false sense of security. Learn more on the EWG website and find safe sunscreens for your family.
Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is similar to SPF, but it measures the effectiveness of a fabric against both UVA and UVB rays.
UPF and SPF numbers are not exactly equal. A UPF of 30 means the fabric will let 1/30th of UVA/UVB rays through- blocking roughly 96.6% of all UV rays continuously. A SPF of 30 (when applied properly, which most people don’t) means that you can be in the sun 30 times longer before burning than if you were wearing none.
The Skin Cancer Foundation tells us this:
The SPF number tells you how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product exactly as directed versus the amount of time without any sunscreen. So ideally, with SPF 30 it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen.
An SPF 30 allows about 3 percent of UVB rays to hit your skin. An SPF of 50 allows about 2 percent of those rays through. That may seem like a small difference until you realize that the SPF 30 is allowing 50 percent more UV radiation onto your skin.https://www.skincancer.org/blog/ask-the-expert-does-a-high-spf-protect-my-skin-better/
UVA and UVB rays
UVA or Ultraviolet A rays causes skin damage that leads to skin again, wrinkling, and tanning. Some UVA rays can also cause sunburn.
UVB or Ultraviolet B rays are the key culprit of sunburn and are a key contributor to causing skin cancer.
Having a product that protects against both is key to keeping your skin healthy.
Why UPF Clothing?
Better than sunscreen
Wearing UPF clothing is way better than sunscreen. Its not messy. It never wears off or washes out. Protection is immediate. If you are wearing the garment, you are protected, simple as that.
Sunscreen must be applied 20-30 min before going outside and be reapplied every two hours, or sooner if you have been sweating, swimming, or toweling off.
UVA and UVB protection
Unless you have a broad spectrum sunscreen, most sunscreens only protect against UVB rays, meaning your skin is still exposed to UVA rays.
UPF clothing can’t wash off when splashing in the pool and it can’t be wiped off when toweling dry. No sunscreen is actually waterproof, just water resistant and it must be reapplied after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
Our Favorite UPF products for kids to protect them from the sun
UPF garments come in a wide variety of products now, from short sleeve tees, hoodies, arm sleeves, shorts, blankets and hats! The hard part is choosing which one to get. Hopefully this guide will help you decide. They are sorted alphabetically by brand.
Read below for sun protective clothing for toddlers, the best sun shirts for kids and sun protective accessories we recommend.
Sun shirts for kids
Columbia Outdoor Elements 3/4 Sleeve Shirt
Moisture wicking fabric will help keep your little cool and dry on the trail. The 3/4 sleeve is great for hiking and biking, with room for elbow pads.
- UPF 50
- Available in toddler 2T-4T and kids XXS-XL
- Material: 94% Polyester, 6% Elastane
- Features: 3/4 length sleeves
Coolibar Kid’s Agility Long Sleeve Fitness Tee
This Coolibar sun shirt is great for those active adventures. Some of their other products are a bit thicker, like swim shirts, and don’t breathe as well, but this one is designed for activitites and is moisture wicking to keep you cool.
- UPF 50+
- Available in kids XS (4) to XL (14-16)
- Material: Polyester/Spandex blend
- Features: Thumbholes to keep the hands covered
Hannah Anderson Sunblock UV Hoodie
This super soft material feels great next to the skin. Material is moisture wicking. This hoodie as a little thicker fabric than the Patagonia or REI Sahara, so it also works good as another light layer on cool evenings at camp. It also comes in a variety of colors!
- UPF 35 (website states blocks 97% which is equivalent to UPF 35)
- Available in sizes toddler 18-24M to kids 12
- Material: 88% poly, 12% spandex knit, STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®
- Features: Hood, thumbholes, kangaroo pocket.
Hannah Anderson also makes this hoodie in a dress version that works great as a coverup!
Patagonia Capilene Cool – UPF Wear for the WHOLE family!
Patagonia’s Capliene Cool line is a super soft and dreamy fabric that comes in sizes and styles for the whole family! Hoodies, tees, and longsleeve shirts that all have UPF 50+. Some of the adult shirts also have some odor busting technology. They are very lightweight too! Also available directly from Patagonia.
- UPF 50+
- Available in toddler 2T-5T, kids XS-XL, and men’s and women’s XS-XL
- Material: 100% recycled polyester
- Features: Some hooded, lightweight, super soft
Primary Stay Cool Pullover Hoodie – BUDGET PICK!
This light weight hoodie is a team favorite at a great price! They are a little lighter weight than the Patagonia hoodie, but are still soft and feature a stay-cool weave to help wick moisture and dry quickly. They run true to size and have a great hood and pocket. However, they do tend to stretch a bit when wet.
- UPF 50+
- Available in kids sizes 2-3 to 14
- Material: 95% Polyester 5% Spandex, STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®
- Features: Hood, thumbholes, kangaroo pocket, reflective detail on sleeve
Check out the rest of Primary’s UPF clothing here!
REI Co-op Sahara Sun Hoodie
This lightweight hoodie is airy, keeping you from getting to hot when you are active in the sun. Moisture wicking and breathable plus it dries super fast. This is one we often use for biking. The XXS even fits my petite 2 year old with a little sleeve rolling. Downside, it does seem to snag easy and only has a UPF of 15.
- UPF 15
- Available in kids sizes XXS(4-5) to XL (18)
- Material: Polyester
- Features: Hood, thumb holes, slit vent at the back of the hood for pony tails, and underarm eyeholes for ventilation
Looking for an adult version? REI has the REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie with a UPF of 50+
The North Face Long Sleeve Sun Set
This set is a great pick if you want a shirt and shorts that match! The tops all feature TNF’s FlashDry technology to help keep your kids sweat free. We love that these come in lots of color options and are lightweight. The neck and long sleeves help provide adequate protection. Downside, the shorts tend to run a little big are have been falling off kids who typically wear the same size and they do snag easily.
- UPF 50+
- Available in a set for Toddler sizes 2T-6T. Long Sleeve Tee only available in Girls and Boys XXS-XL.
- Material: 90% Polyester, 10% Elastane
Stonz Sunsuits, Shirts, Shorts and Skorts
Stonz’ sun protective wear is different because the UV protection is actually woven into the fabric opposed to being sprayed on like most other products. No matter how many times you wash it, it’ll protect your little one from the harsh sun reducing the need to expose them to harmful chemicals found in sunscreen. It’s permanently protective, which is why we love it so much.
Amelia has found that this clothing does not fade or stretch in chlorine and is incredibly durable and comfortable. It can be used both for hiking and for swimming.
>>>Use code “mtnmama” for 15% off Stonz!<<<
- UPF 50+
- Available as a diaper-friendly suit for for Baby and Toddler sizes 2T-6T. Long Sleeve Tee only available in toddler girls and boys 2T – 6T
- Material: 85% Polyester 15% elastane – UPF protection is NOT sprayed. It is naturally built into the fabric.
Sun Protective Accessories
Coolibar Baby Batibou Sun Blanket
This blanket was great when our littles were babies. We could cover their legs, drape over the stroller or even swaddle and know they were protected from UV rays. Now, we still use it in the stroller, or out on the boat. Put it in the washer for a rinse & spin before hand and it also works as a great cooling blanket. Soft and stretchy, this blanket has many uses!
- UPF 50+
- Blanket is 36″ x 40″
- Material: Cotton/Viscose from Bamboo/Elastane blend
Sunday Afternoons Play Hat
Hands down… this is our favorite sun hat for the girls. For the most part, they know that they aren’t playing outside without it on their noggin. Lightweight, easy care, and tons of fun prints.
- UPF 50+
- Available baby/kids S (6-24M), M (2-5 years), L (5-12 years). (Adult styles also available!)
- Material: Solids: 100% Nylon / Prints: 100% Polyester
Check out all our recommended sun hats for kids here!
Swimsuits with UPF
There are a lot of choices out there for UPF blocking swimwear. Since its hard to narrow to a single item we are going to give your our favorite brands for UPF swimwear!
- Carters: Baby, toddler, and kid UPF 50+ swimwear
- Coolibar: Baby through adult UPF 50+ swimwear and accessories
- Hannah Anderson: baby, toddler, and kid UPF 35 swimwear
- Reima: Baby, toddler, and kid UPF 50+ swimwear and accessories. USE CODE “mtnmama” for 20% off.
- Target Cat & Jack or Art Class: Baby, toddler, and kid UPF 50+ swimwear
- UV Skinz: Baby through adult UPF 50+ swimwear and accessories
Some more thoughts on UPF garment care
UPF garments are not invincible and over time can lose their effectiveness as they wear out. Treat them with care by following the instructions on the care label for laundering and replace when they are worn or tattered.
Keeping your body protected from harmful rays requires a multi-level approach. One product can’t possibly protect all of you, so you will need a few different things like… a hat for you head, sun shirt for your body, sunscreen for exposed skin, and sunglasses for you eyes.
Remember to seek shady areas when possible and limit your UV exposure during peak hours, roughly 10a-4p, but if you still want to go have fun in the sun, just check the tips above before you head out.
- Best Sun Hats for Kids
- Best Sunglasses for Kids
- Natural Sunscreens for Kids
- Outdoor Family Summer Gear Guide
Best UPF Clothing for the Whole Family
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Backcountry Skincare for Families - Tales of a Mountain Mama
Wednesday 31st of August 2022
[…] My three boys wear an assortment of sun shirts. our favorite is REI Co-op Sahara Sun Hoodie. My son loves the extra ventilation at the hood and armholes. (We’ve rounded up more of our favorite kids’ sun protective clothing here.) […]