UPF - Sun Protection Clothing

7 May 2011

Here's another thing I don't know that much about here in The Lake District - Sunshine.

Apparently sunshine is the total spectrum of the electromagnetic radiation given off by the Sun and, when not blocked by the clouds, it is experienced as bright light and heat. Mmmm.

I'm told this phenomenon is quite common in regions south of Kendal, so unselfishly I've decided to help protect the rest of the world against these deadly rays. Firstly, if there is a break in the clouds, I always do a quick calculation before going out to ascertain the extraterrestrial solar illuminance
UPF - Sun Protection Clothing
Don't forget to correct for the elliptical orbit of the earth and the attenuation cause by the atmosphere, and then apply the correct factor sun cream and pull on the correct UPF rated clothing accordingly. That'll keep you safe for sure.

If you're calculator's on the blink or the earth's orbit seems a bit skwiffy today then I'll make it even easier. We all know about sun cream (smear it on exposed parts) but not many people give a monkey's about the protection your clothing gives from sunlight..

What is UPF?What is UPF?
Surely if you've got a tee shirt on then your rippling physique is protected from both jealous/lusting eyes and from the sun?

The answer is - No.

Why is the answer always NO?

All clothing has a UPF rating but some are better than others. UPF means Ultraviolet Protection Factor. The higher the UPF the greater the degree of UV protection the garment offers. UPF rating for a fabric is the ratio of UV measured without the protection of the fabric compared to with the protection of the fabric. For example, a fabric rated UPF 30 means that if 30 units of UV fall on the fabric only 1 unit will pass through. A UPF 30 fabric that blocks or absorbs 29 out of 30 units of UV is therefore blocking 96.7% UV. Maybe using the illuminance equation is simpler after all!!

What's wrong with my T Shirt?
Nothing's wrong with your T-Shirt? Don't get touchy. It looks great but looks aren't everything. When UV radiation hits your (very nice) T shirt it is converted to heat and then becomes harmless. It's the stuff that doesn't get converted that's the problem. Some fabrics are better at doing this than others.

A white cotton T has a UPF of around 5 which means it allows 20% of available UV radiation to pass through. T shirts that are treated with dyes can get up to a UPF of 15 which only allows 6.6% UV through.
T-Shirt TextDense weave fabrics and darker colours block more UV as does a lead lined radioisotope storage safe but they do absorb more heat and turn you into Mr Clammy's moist brother. By the way, that's a lead lined radioisotope storage safe, and no you can't put Fluffy the kitten in there - PET means Positron Emission Tomography - do you not know anything about Biodex Medical Systems???

Sorry, I will continue. The best fabrics for UPF are the light-weight synthetics such as polyester, nylon, lycra and polypropylene. A lot of sun protective clothing use these UV-blocking textiles and are designed with ventilated weaves, moisture wicking and antibacterial properties to assist in cooling and breathability.
UPF Ratings
Clothing manufacturers have adopted the grading system below to classify how good the fabric is at protecting you from the sun. Anything over UPF 15 is good in the UK, but if you're going further a field then I would use 30 or 50 if you're skin as a tendency to become crisp.
UPF Table
Who needs UPF Clothing?
As we all know those UV rays give you sunburn and cancer and also accelerated aging. That's why we look so young up here….

As we know, sun cream and clothing are your main form of protection. If you're dark skinned to begin with then you can forget about the UPF clothing because then any fabric will protect you. But if your natural colour is light blue and you want to spend a little time outside then it might be worth considering.
Who needs UPF Clothing?
Who need UPF Clothing - 2Let's generalize: if you have red hair, freckles, fair skin and the big clue, your toes smolder the moment you step out in your flip flops, then you are the ideal candidate for UPF clothing.

This really matters if you're going abroad or find yourself lost in the vast sand dunes of Morocco. Although if you are lost in the vast sand dunes of Morocco, the effectiveness of your UPF clothing might not be your only concern…. I will write something about escaping from the vast sand dunes of Morocco another time because I know as much about that as I do about extraterrestrial solar illuminance and Biodex Medical Systems.

Thanks for reading.

Ian Young
Links to our UPF Rated Clothing
Men's Columbia Shirts

Men's and Women's Columbia Trousers

Women's Columbia Shirts

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