Stay Cool with This Sun Protection Checklist for Backpacking

One of those pesky elements you’ll encounter on most backpacking trips is the sun, even if it’s hiding behind a blanket of thick clouds looming overhead. That sun is out to fry you  like the bacon you cooked on that little portable stove you love so much. This is why you’ll want to block those UV rays with sufficient sun protection at all times on your travels.

Here’s a nice checklist to make sure you get the best sun protection for backpacking trips, whether you’re out there for a brief weekend getaway from the annoying people in your life or on a trek across the country to prove that you’re devoted to becoming one with nature, even if it doesn’t really want you.

Sunscreen for Backpacking

old woman applying sunscreen lotion to kid's faceLike any outdoor excursion, you’ll want to choose a good sunscreen with all of the SPFs that matter. We’re not at the point where we need SPF 2,000,000, like Sarah Connor suggested we might in Terminator 2 following a nuclear apocalypse ignited by human-hating sentient A.I., but you should get something a little higher than SPF 1 to protect against those invisible UV daggers that are stabbing at you every time you step outside.

Remember that the higher the SPF level doesn’t necessarily mean the more protection you get, either. Generally anywhere between SPF 15 and SPF 45 can give you sufficient protection, with 45 protecting you against about 98% of UV rays. Anything higher than that is unnecessary, and may indicate that you’re unhealthily paranoid of sunlight if anything.

What you want is sunscreen that’s good enough to coat exposed areas, and if you’re backpacking on longer trips you may want something thicker than spray sunscreen. One recommendation is Amazon’s Choice Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, which is only a little over $10 for a two pack of lotion and carries an SPF level of 45, an ample amount if you’re outdoors for an extended period.

Backpacking Sun Caps

ICOLOR backpacking sun cap with face and neck flapSunscreen can only do so much to protect your skin from those demonic sun rays that want to sting your skin into submission. Depending on how long you’re outside or how much of your head is exposed, pencil-eraser bald or not, you may want to consider a sun cap (or sun runner) for backpacking trips.

While you may simply consider holding your hands over your head like you’re being arrested the entire time you’re hiking, like a thieving survivalist hermit that’s finally been located by the police and being led outside the woods, you’ll probably have a more pleasant time with a sun cap that lets you relax.

One backpacking sun cap I recommend you use during your excursions into the unknown is the iColor unisex sun cap with a neck and face flap, available on Amazon. It provides 360-degree solar protection with a UPF of 50+ to give you all of the protection you need. Use it for backpacking, cycling, hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, or even just tending to your garden while your neighbors wonder why you’re trying to be anonymous.

Cool-Looking Sunglasses

man wearing fuzzy sunglassesAnother great item for sun protection on backpacking trips is something that can protect your eyes while looking pretty cool. Sunglasses are great because they keep those sun rays away from your precious eyeballs, so they can sit comfortably in your head like a couple of living olives in a pair of wet cavernous sockets. Think of sunglasses as the garage door to your eyeballs’ home, keeping them contained and safe at all times.

There are a lot of sunglass models out there to choose from, but while style might be something you want, you also want something that’s designed for long walks, or boating trips, or cycling trips, or flying on wind streams, or traveling across different existential planes, or—sorry, I’m thinking about what I’ve encountered while backpacking through Malaysia. Great trip, but I digress.

One cool product that’s good for men and women are these AFARER polarized sport sunglasses with a TR90 unbreakable frame, also available on Amazon. Obviously, there are plenty of other sunglasses that you can use depending on your style or lack thereof, but polarized glasses are ideal for changing levels of brightness you’ll likely see outdoors.

Combine These Items for Maximum Sun Protection When Backpacking

While there isn’t a whole lot you need to keep your skin protected from those monstrous sun rays, you should utilize one or more of these helpful items for sufficient shielding. With sunscreen, sun caps/sun runners, and sunglasses at your disposal, you can make sure that you’re prepared for when that high-hanging yellow bulb becomes too intense.

Sure, if you’re covered in these things, some people might mistake you for the ghost of the Unabomber or a member of a secret society of anonymous melanin-less explorers trying to convert the Earth into a sunless landscape so they can live comfortably, but neither of these is likely, and being secure is better than looking cool. Not to mention those shades look pretty great.

So, ultimately, this backpacking sun protection gear is great if you’re gonna be outside for days to months at a time.

To learn EXACTLY about what all to bring on your backpacking journey, check out our ultimate backpacking guide.


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