Europe, it’s time to meet the Sunshirt

We found ourselves with climbers from all over Europe gathered together on the balcony of the Engelhorn Hut. Some drank beer, others stared at phones, most chatted, and all sat in discomfort as the record-setting heat baked us. Mostly, we were all waiting for the sun to go down.

There was nowhere to hide. With the hut tucked against the hillside, a shady side didn’t exist. Even the dark hut interior provided no escape since dinner preparations made it even hotter inside.

My friend Greg and I sat small talking with a French couple who planned to do the same route as us the next day. Greg and I are from Bishop, California, famous for its bouldering, long granite routes and year-round blue sky. It’s also infamous for 3 – 4 months of searing heat. The Engelhörner was hot, but it was no Bishop summer day. Like good Californians, we each sat in our sun shirts, hoods on, backs to the sun, necks covered, arms fully protected. Meanwhile, the Euros, trying to do the same, wore inappropriately heavy garments which only made the problem worse.

 “Those shirts look like a very good idea,” our new French friends commented.

I realized that the sun shirt, a normal thing in the Western US, is an unknown article in Europe. Why should it be common? For ages, it’s been the rain jacket that European mountain people had greater need for. Times are changing. The Alps, like California’s Sierra Nevada, are now baking hot from June to September.

As we sat showing off the benefits of our shirts, the sweaty hut keeper emerged from the sauna-like interior carrying, unsurprisingly, piping hot bowls of soup.

Europeans are slow to break traditions: If it’s dinner time in the mountains, you start with soup. If it rains, you put a jacket on. If it’s a million fucking degrees you… what? There isn’t really a precedent for this one. It’s time to meet the sunshirt – a piece of gear you fully rely on to avoid all the damage too much sun can do. And besides avoiding damage, I feel less parched at the end of a long day when my skin isn’t fried.

Sunshirts are made of highly breathable, ultralight material that also reflects ultraviolet radiation. While we’d all probably prefer to be in shortsleeves, a hooded sunshirt does keep your arms and neck from burning, and the material can be cooling once you start sweating. 

Look for a sunshirt that offers a UPF 50+ rating, which is the maximum for these specially designed sun protection fabrics. A hood is mandatory, as well as super stretchy material for when you are sweaty, sticky, and cranky. Thumb loops can also be useful to keep material pulled over the backs of your hands. In the photos, we’re using the Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody and Alpenglow Pro Sun Protection Shirts.

Take it from a Californian used to extraordinary mountain heat, get a sunshirt, and some gazpacho would be good too.

It’s hot these days, cover up


Comments 2

  1. Indeed, an awesome piece of kit. I have three! And what are those goggles-looking sunglasses you’re sporting? Would you recommend them?
    Thanks for keeping us posted!

    1. Post

      Kim’s wearing the Julbo Density and they are absolutely great, the lightest glasses we’ve used. They’re also what we used in the Himalaya. I am wearing the Julbo Rush.

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