After four consecutive weekends of ACK events this month, I’ve gotten my fair share of sun. It’s been a lot of fun, but the bad news is that I haven’t done my best to consider sun protection while I’ve been out there. It wasn’t until a visit to my grandfather’s house prompted me to reconsider my way of thinking.
I had just spent the day working at the Texas Ski Ranch for our San Marcos Demo Days and decided to pop in to say hi to my grandfather who lived nearby. We caught up and watched some football and eventually he commented on the sun burn I had gotten that day. I told him I had put on sunscreen but still managed to get a little burnt, no big deal. He proceeded to tell me about how he’d recently been fighting with skin cancer, brought on by some carelessness to protect his skin when he was younger and spending a lot of time outside just like me. He gave me a info sheet he had gotten from the doctor and that was the end of the conversation.
What the info sheet had on it and what he told me wasn’t anything new. I knew sunburns were bad and could lead to long term skin problems, but for some reason it’s an easy danger to dismiss. It’s also an easy danger to beat, and next weekend when I was out at the National Hunting and Fishing Day I took some extra precautions for the sake of protecting my skin. Just 3 simple steps to protect myself from the sun that’s easy for anyone to follow.
Step 1: Keep Sun Protection in Mind When Planning
Start protecting yourself from the sun before you even get going. When you plan an outdoor adventure, consider the time of day you’re going out. UV rays are strongest when the sun is directly overhead (usually between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM) and during the summer months. If you’re going out during these times, be extra conscious of protecting your skin! On the other hand, you probably don’t have much to worry about if you’re going out for a night paddle.
Also, don’t let the weather fool you. Fall often means more overcast days, but a cloudy sky doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry about the sun. UV rays can penetrate cloud coverage and sometimes even reflect off of a patchwork of clouds to result in more rays on the ground. Even on cloudy days, you need to prepare yourself with proper sun protection.
Step 2: Cover Up What You Can
Protecting your skin involves covering it up. No, this doesn’t mean that you need to be covered head to toe, but covering up in a comfortable and responsible manner is important.
Something for your head is a must have – I don’t know about you, but when I try to apply sunscreen to my scalp, my hair usually gets in the way. The problem is that hair usually isn’t enough to protect your noggin from the sun and an easy and effective way to compensate for this by putting on a hat. Ideally, your hat should be wide brimmed giving 360 degree coverage to your whole head, neck and face. A popular option to do this are the sun hats from Outdoor Research, including the Seattle Sombrero which is perfect for colder Fall weather because of its GORE-TEX fabric crown. Buffs are a popular alternative to hats and come in a wide selection of styles that can cover your entire face. In the end, it’s a personal preference whether you prefer wearing a buff versus a hat, or both like Jeremy choose to do in the picture.
In addition to covering your face, it’s a good idea to wear clothing that offers sun protection as well. Find long sleeve shirts or pants that offers a UV Protection Rating (UPF) that are loose fitting and comfortable so they don’t interfere with your adventuring, like our apparel from Columbia. Gloves, closed toe shoes, sunglasses and other apparel accessories are there if you want to go completely covered, but remember you can always use sunscreen to take care of anything not covered up. In colder weather, you’ll probably want to wear clothing that provides extra coverage to keep warm anyways!
Step 3: Use Sunscreen – and More Than Once
For anything not covered, bring a tube of sunscreen and keep it with you. Aim for one that has a SPF rating of 15 or greater and if you’re planning on participating in some water sports make sure you get a brand that’s waterproof! When applying, cover everywhere from your ears to your toes – easy to forget spots like these are often the first places to get burnt.
Finally, it’s important to remember is that you need to apply more than once if you stay out for an extended period. Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule for how often you need to re-apply as factors like the SPF rating, weather conditions and even your propensity to burn play a factor in how often you need a new layer. When participating in activities where I’m not heavily perspiring or constantly getting wet, I’ve found that it’s best to re-apply every 3-4 hours. Even if you are using a waterproof brand of sunscreen, water sport activities require more frequent re-application of sunscreen, approximately every hour and a half.
Remember Sun Protection on Your Next Outdoor Adventure
Don’t let the sun keep you from adventuring, but remember to take the appropriate steps to be protected. Even if you don’t see direct results of it now, improper steps to keeping your skin healthy can lead to long term problems in the future. It’s best to just be safe!
So how do you protect yourself from the sun? Do you have a favorite brand of sun screen or wear a buff to cover your face? Comment below and let me know!