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The best rash guard overall
Why you'll love it: More casual swimmers and surfers prefer a looser fit, and you'll be comfortable in without losing too much speed in the water.
is my go-to rash guard for all activities aquatic, when and where temperatures permit. It's comfortable in and out of the water, I don't get too hot in it, and it's fine for the bar and grill in a pinch. for women ticks all the same boxes, though many women also like wearing the men's RØ Hoody.
The Hoody rash guard is basically a more-relaxed, less-technical version of the regular RØ hoody that's designed for more rigorous sports. But I find that I'm not trying to win — no less compete — in any tournaments, and I merely enjoy myself in the waves, which involves being comfortable and avoiding sunburn. It also has thumb loops to keep the sleeves from riding up, which is a great bonus.
If you just need something for a day at the pool, in which stinging and biting things are usually not found, a looser-fitting rash guard is also probably your best choice. If some wicked creature has indeed surreptitiously filed into the bottom of your swimming pool, well, you've probably got bigger problems, my friend.
Although Patagonia's shirt has stitching like a wetsuit, it comes in colors that are subtle enough not to announce the fact that you're donning swimwear to dinner. I personally appreciate that, because while summer nights are long, I hardly ever leave myself time to run home and change after being on the water, and more often than not end up arriving at dinner wearing exactly what I surfed, swam, or fished in that day.
While I might smell — my sincerest apologies to past and future dinner companions — I like to think that I (usually) look (sort of) okay. Deny all you like, but I know I'm not the only one.
There aren't as many reviews on the web for as there are for our other Patagonia pick, the RØ Hoody, but I've owned, and used both, extensively. Patagonia's website only includes one (5-star) review by .
Pros:Lightweight, quick drying, comfortable when wet and dry (not too hot)
Cons:Stitching is a giveaway that it's a rash guard, if you're trying to hide that fact, no pockets
The best quick-drying rash guard
Why you'll love it: is quick-drying, lightweight, comfortable in extreme heat, and unbelievably easy to pack for trips.
While maybe isn't the most stylish, its lightweight, airy feel makes it the most comfortable UPF shirt both in and out of the water.
Hurley doesn't offer the same Quick Dry model for women, and while this one is comparable, you'll have to put up with the large logo on the forearm of the sleeve. Instead, you might look into , which comes in more styled patterns and cuts.
I've spent a lot of time in and even though it isn't necessarily the best-made or most technical shirt on our list, it is probably the best for most people just looking to spend a day at the beach while keeping the sun at bay and staying cool. It's also the quickest drying shirt I've tested even when it's wet. That alone makes it my absolute favorite rash guard for surfing.
The most important note to make about this shirt may be that it's comfortable and lightweight enough to leave on after you've gotten out of the water. In contrast, heavier shirts can be a drag to wear wet and even leave you with a chill. This, my friends, is when you're most prone to make the dangerous, egregious mistake of removing your rash guard in order to sun-dry, only to realize hours later that you've forgotten to put it back on, and you're now beet-red.
There aren't a ton of reviews on the web, and none I'll link to, but I can say that Surf writer Chris Dixon and I fell in love with this shirt two years ago while testing for a surf guide at Wirecutter, and both of us still keep it in heavy rotation.
While 12 reviews may not offer a whole lot of confidence, they averaged out to 4.8 out of 5 stars. Some buyers complained that the shirt runs small, and it might, depending on how you wear your shirts. I was happy with my regular size. The only point I'll deduct is for staining — not that this shirt is built for fishing in the first place, but taking it out on the fishing boat was a mistake, albeit mine (especially since it was white).
My favorite rash guard of all time was the , and while you can still get it on Amazon, it appears that Hurley has discontinued it.
Pros:Ultra-lightweight, thin, packable, amazingly quick-drying, as the name suggests, odor-resistant
Cons:Stains easily (at least in white), stitching isn't excellent, but that's not to say it's unraveling on me after two years of heavy use around the world
Buy the Dri Fit on Amazon while supplies last for .18
The best rash guard for surfing
Why you'll love it: is soft, lightweight, and comes with an all-plastic zipper that won't corrode, no matter how many times you take it swimming and forget to wash it afterward.
has been a personal favorite among the hooded rash guards for a while (the is also very popular). I find them to be among the softest, best-fitting, best-styled of the UV shirts designed for outdoors enthusiasts. In a sea of abysmally large, flashy logos and prints, Patagonia stays true to tone, which earns points in my book.
For surfing, though, I've found no better hooded rash guard than . It fits snuggly for optimal performance, and even in cracking, Fijian surf, the hood seemed to hold firmly. I use mine on especially long outings in the summer, and as much as possible when I'm in the tropics. The zippered pocket in the back is an excellent touch for keeping sunscreen, wax, or perhaps even a small pouch or flask (of water).
I've been fishing, surfing, and occasionally swimming in these shirts for years, and as a small disclaimer, I may be somewhat partial, but they're too comfortable and low-profile to ignore for this guide.
Patagonia's site has mostly positive reviews, but Patagonia's fans are generally a loyal legion whose reviews are probably best taken with a grain of salt. One reviewer did mention that the stitching on his shirt came apart right away, but I'm inclined to think that might stack up to an odd defect, because I can't say how many Patagonia rash guards and sun shirts I've owned, and through fishing, hiking, camping, and all the rest, I still haven't so much as loosened a stitch on any of them.
Backpacker magazine also had nothing but good things to say, and the same goes for the folks at Blister Gear Review. While we acknowledge that Patagonia tends to sit on its own high pedestal within the eco-conscious realm of the outdoors industry, the dependable quality of the company's clothes makes it pretty hard to come up with a reason why they shouldn't.
The only thing I'd recommend is that you not order it in black if you're in particularly warm water or weather, or especially prone to getting overheated. And, if you like a more relaxed fit, check out the , which is a little more casual and a lot more comfortable out of the water, and the new , which is a little bulkier, but more of a hybrid-style that's great for fishing and maybe a casual dinner out, too, depending on where you are.
Pros:Soft, comfortable, effective, and technical for anglers, button to cover face with hood, a handy and corrosion-free chest zipper
Cons:A little bulky, and not as cooling as , no drawstring at bottom to keep shirt from riding up (but there is a loop to tie to the drawstring on your board shorts)
The best thermal rash guard
Why you'll love it: O'Neill Thermo-X is a versatile piece that many swimmers and warm-water surfers love, and cold-water surfers can use it to insulate wetsuits that are too thin or leaking.
There's a fine threshold between board-short weather and 2mm wetsuit weather, and for those of us who want to stay out of a wetsuit for as much of the year as possible, a thermal rash guard like O'Neill's Thermo-X for men and women is the best compromise. It's still thin, easy to pull on, and doesn't slow you down or restrict your movements the way a wetsuit can.
Apart from extending swimsuit season, what's also great is that, as note, O'Neill's Thermo-X is excellent for unheated swimming pools. Several buyers reported swimming in their chilly pools at night much more comfortably since picking one of these thermal rash guards up, and they really do make a difference.
For fall and year-round bathers and surfers who already have wetsuits, this shirt can both extend the temperature range and the life of your suit. That is to say, if your suit isn't quite thick enough, slide this puppy on first, and you've bought yourself a little more blubber.
Likewise, if you're wetsuit is in shambles (at least the upper reaches of it), a piece like this can shore up holes and slow leaks. All in all, it's a pretty good item to have if you're ever going to be around even moderately cool water, or swimming at night.
O'Neill's shirt is also fervently praised by for its many attributes.
Pros:Thin, but warm, very good at preventing sea lice infestations
Cons:Can get hot very easily in the sun, and you don't want to wear it out of water, so make sure to bring an extra rash guard or sun shirt along with you, or plenty of , for your out-of-water activities
Buy the men's O'Neill Thermo-X Rash Guard on Amazon for .95
Buy the women's O'Neill Thermo-X Rash Guard on Amazon for .95
The best hybrid rash guard
Why you'll love it: On a late summer day at the beach, with a vague chill in the air, you'll be glad to have O'Neill's 24/7 Hybrid UPF Shirt in your bag.
It might seem counterintuitive to buy a rash guard that keeps you warm, but on chillier mornings and evenings, as well as more temperate days in spring and fall, I have come to be extremely grateful for my O'Neill 24/7 Hybrid UPF shirt. The women's version is equally excellent.
When I first tried these shirts on a sultry South Carolinian summer day, it was more than I could bear. This shirt is by no means breathable, and the first one I tried was a pullover. I was drenched in sweat within seconds. I ripped it off, and, lo, received a fine licking from the sun.
But this year the team at O'Neill has come out with a zippered version that allows for controlled ventilation and makes all the difference. Like the same shirt of years past, this one is made of a spandex and nylon blend, which is as soft and stretchy as anything, and I often find myself wearing one well past sundown, and, not to shamelessly plug the "24/7" marketing, but, yes, even to bed — especially on camping and boating trips.
I've also found it to work well for surfing, though I'd recommend a proper rash guard for any swimming beyond casual surf bathing. Also, because it's loose-fitting, I wouldn't recommend anyone learn to surf in it, nor would I suggest wearing it in large or rough surf, where it might act like a sea anchor and weigh you down some.
There aren't many reviews around the web regarding the 24/7 Hybrid Hoody, and all I can tell you in that respect is that it's worked for me. But the matching shorts have received a lot of praise, namely by fellow Insider Picks contributor Chris Dixon when he and I were putting together a surf gear guide for beginners for .
We also tested this Hybrid hoody and both loved it for ourselves, but we didn't think it was the best fit for a beginner surfer. For an all-around summer top, however, it's hard to beat in and out of the water, apart from real scorchers in the Palmetto State, at least.
Pros:Stretchy, soft, comfortable, versatile, just tightly-woven enough to keep you warm on a crisp morning or night
Cons:Too hot in certain climes, maybe a little short for some tastes and torsos (which I didn't mind while surfing as it stayed out of my way)
Buy the men's O'Neill 24/7 Hybrid Zippered Hoody on Amazon for .95-.95 (depending on size)
Buy the women's O'Neill 24/7 Hybrid Zippered Hoody on Amazon for .95-.95 (depending on size)
The best casual rash guard for women
Why you'll love it: If you spend your summers outside, the stylish UPF 50 Women's Swim Tee Rashguard from Land's End will keep you safe from the sun.
While has a huge offering of clothing with UPF 50, its swim and cover-up collection for women is the largest we've ever seen. The swim line includes one-pieces, bikinis, swim skirts, rashguards, and even dresskini styles.
We like the Swim Tee Rashguard because it's a simple, no-fuss rash guard that's comfortable for casual beach wear. It has UPF 50 protection, and it bears The Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation. While our other picks are obviously best for surfing and other aquatic sports, this rash guard is ideal for casual beach use.
The Good Housekeeping Institute tested out the brand's Swim Tee Rashguard and found it "not only provides effective sun protection with a rating of UPF 50, but it also was impressively comfortable by being lightweight, smooth and stretchy."
Land's End also offers plenty of cover-ups with built-in sun protection, including dresses, tees, shorts, and skirts in a variety of colors, prints, and sizes.
While most of the line is at a moderate price point, some of the pieces with technical features like tummy control and Slendertex fabric can be pricier.
Video: Consumer Reports: Best Cheap Sunscreens | Consumer Reports
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