Periodically, we will talk about a piece of gear that we wouldn’t go without! These are pieces of gear we feel are invaluable after years of experience living, learning, and working in the alpine environment.
Glaciers in the summertime can be a brutal place. For every 1000 feet of altitude gained, UV radiation increases by 4%, because the thinner atmosphere filters less UV radiation. What’s more- the surface of the snow can reflect up to 80% of the UV radiation hitting it, creating an intense solar oven. Any seasoned mountaineer can attest to the extreme power of the sun at altitude, and most can also attest to the severity of sunburns possible in a mere 30-minutes of exposure!
Often, temperatures on a sunny glacier can fluctuate wildly- with fickle winds, a chilly breeze can become a stagnant, still solar oven in a matter of seconds. The best way to avoid sunburn is to cover your skin as much as possible- an uncomfortable prospect at best when one considers the heat and perspiration that will quickly build up with tight fitting baselayers in these conditions.
Enter the Sun Hoody!
Loose-fitting, super thin and breathable baselayer fabric is spun into a hoodie for the perfect glacier garment. These stretchy, breezy hoodies are ideal for keeping sun at bay while providing good wicking and breathability. Co-opted from sports fishermen (who spend hours at a time in direct sunlight on the water), mountain guides have been using these for years, often to the dismay of other climbers wishing for a more comfortable solution to the powerful UV-rays of the sun.
A built-in hood is a crucial aspect to this piece, offering shade on-demand over a sun hat, and complements a buff to provide complete sun protection for the face and neck while remaining light and breathable.
There are a couple of great options for sun hoodies on the market – guide favorites include the Outdoor Research Echo Sun Hoody, Patagonia Tropic Comfort Hoody, and Black Diamond Women’s Alpenglow Hoody. All offer UPF 50+ protection, loose-fitting hoods, and excellent wicking properties.
As always, you can read more about every item in your mountaineering kit on our Gear Lexicon!