What is UPF?

What is UPF protection?


Now we’re not talking about the United Peace Federation – maybe later. We are talking about the Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating in clothing.

 Zinc Oxide Nose

We all remember from growing up (especially here in Arizona) that sunscreen was essential for outdoor  activities. Remember the white zinc oxide nose cover?  Our moms forced us to wear this stuff because it was common knowledge that the sun’s rays were harmful and we have to protect ourselves from them. Well, as much as they try, our moms don’t take care of us anymore and don’t dress us in the morning, hopefully. So now it’s our own responsibility to protect ourselves… enter UPF rated clothing.


A few years ago this acronym, UPF, popped up from almost no where. Is it SPF for clothing?  Kinda. What actually is it? It’s been around since 1998 and most people know that it’s good for you in the sun, but they don’t know the science or reasoning behind it. As we enter into these sun-intensive summer months, let’s explore what UPF is.


The first thing to know about UPF is the rating system. 

UPF Rating

Protection Category

 % UV radiation Blocked

UPF 15 - 24


93.3 - 95.9

UPF 25 - 39

Very Good

96.0 - 97.4

UPF 40 - 49


97.5 – 97.9

UPF 50+

Ultimate in UV Sun Protection

98.0 or more


As you can see from this table, the higher the UPF rating, the higher the percentage of UV protection and that means the more protected you are from the sun’s harmful rays. This is important because we do not realize that clothes without this UPF rating can let these rays through to our skin. We could wear the appropriate hat and the best sunscreen money can buy, but we are still vulnerable through our clothing. This is why it is essential to upgrade your outdoor clothing to UPF rated stuff.


There are a number of factors that affect the level of ultraviolet protection provided by a fabric and the UPF rating. In order of importance these are: weave (tighter is better), color (darker is better), weight (also called mass or cover factor - heavier is better), stretch (less is better) and wetness (dry is better). The other major factor that affects protection is the addition of chemicals such as UV absorbers or UV diffusers during the manufacturing process. Many factors that make a garment comfortable also make it less protective – the major design challenge for sun protective clothing is how to combine comfort, style and protection in the one garment (http://www.coolibar.com/upf-ratings.html). Check out today’s UV Index in your area here.

 UPF Hiker

So now that we have a bit of understanding as to what UPF rated clothing is and what it entails, let’s have a look at a couple of examples from head to toe…

Columbia Omni-Shade Schooner Bank Hat
UPF 50 - $20

UV Buff Headwear UPF - $23

UA HeatGear Tech T-Shirt UPF 30+ - $25

Columbia Omni-Freeze Woven Shirt UPF 50+ - $70.00

WWS Hybrid Angler Pant UPF 50+ - $25


Whether you're fly fishing, bow hunting, or just out enjoying the kids' soccer game... now you’re protected, stylish and ready to take on the outdoors!

-- Richie Campana
Bass Pro Shops Mesa, AZ

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