In the South Pacific, on a beach or on a sailboat, the sun can quickly turn unprotected skin into so much blistered regret. He’s lost count of the times He’s remembered, too late, to reapply sunscreen (or She has reminded Him), or HE even put sufficient quantities on exposed skin, especially his neck, ears, arms and top of his head (thinning hair is a bitch, He admits). She on the other hand is a bit obsessive about slathering on the sun goo and covering up – and finding best ways to do that even when it’s hot, which can be a challenge.

For a sailing and traveling adventure a number of year ago, we both packed along lightweight friends to help in our fight against sunburn and heat discomfort —  ExOfficio’s Sol Cool Men’s Hoody ($75) and Women’s Zippy Long-Sleeve Jacket ($85).

Made of very lightweight polyester with Spandex and treated with something called Icefil technology that binds Xylitol, a substance found in birch tree and mint gum, to the fabric fiber, the promise from the company was that wearers would feel up to five degrees cooler than when not wearing the shirt. Plus, the Sol Cool fabric boasts a UPF 50+ sun protection rating which is the highest level a garment can earn.

He says: The first morning I was working the deck of the sailboat we were crewing in New Caledonia, I wore the Sol Cool Hoody. Thumb loops helped keep the sleeves down over the backs of my hands even when working the winches and hauling the sheets to raise the sails. As the sun beat down from above, up came the hood, which fit snugly but comfortably – although I did feel a bit like a speed skater off the ice. And while I can’t say I definitely felt five degrees cooler, others who were on the deck at the same time as me, wearing cotton, quickly began commenting about the heat, and I, somewhat surprisingly, remained feeling relatively cool. Best of all, I found it far easier to slip on the shirt than slather on ounces of goopy sunscreen and the result remained the same: no sunburn.

The fabric itself was very comfortable next to the skin, and the fit of the Sol Cool Hoody was superb. It was also quick to dry after swimming (I wore it snorkeling once to protect that back of my head from sun) and after washing.

She says: I wore the long-sleeve Sol Cool zippy jacket – and with a more relaxed fit felt it went with everything and went everywhere. I wore it on the boat, ashore on walks, or in town while shopping, over dresses, shorts and shirts. And felt I could zip it up or down depending on my need for a little extra breeze. Granted, that meant that if I didn’t have a higher-cut shirt on, I had to be sure to have slathered a little sunscreen on the chest, but as a woman I have an easier time remembering to put on lotions and creams.

Did it make me feel cool? I can’t vouch for that per se but I was protected from the sun – no burns and no feeling of sizzling skin. Plus, it’s antimicrobial, which is likely why it lasted for a couple of weeks of hard wear without getting that stanky stink going.

The current style has changed a bit from the one I had – all for the better. It now has a security pocket – mine only had two slim front scoops that I didn’t trust to hold anything except perhaps lip balm or a tissue. It also now has longer sleeves with thumb loops to hold down over your hands for extra protection – a totally great addition form the regular sleeves on mine. Mine didn’t have a hood and the new one does – not that I missed a hood really since mine had a collar I could turn up on my neck if needed so this is a matter of personal taste. And this new one has sides that pull up and gather to customize the length.


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Sol Cool Zippy for women by ExOfficio

Therese wearing the Sol Cool Zippy by ExOfficio

All in all: He and She both loved the Sol Cool coolness and protection. Because He loved his Sol Cool Hoody so much — and since the company apparently made needed changes that satisfied her nitpicks — we’re pleased to give both the Sol Cool Hoody and the Sol Cool Zippy our HITT Seal of Approval.  In fact, we are already eyeing additional items from the collection that ranges from various types of shirts and tees, to cover-ups and dresses (for Her of course!) and a unisex neck gaiter too.

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