Sunday, December 10, 2006

Shopping for “Protection”

Sun protection, that is. One thing I’ve noticed since moving to New Zealand is just how dangerous that gaping hole in the ozone layer can be! Where previously a good coating of SPF 15 sunscreen would keep me burn-free for the day, that just doesn’t cut it down here.

On my last day hike (where I finally got to use my Diva daypack – and was totally happy with it!) the sun was shining. I slathered on the SPF 30 Coppertone, donned my hat and shades, and basked in the first glorious summery day. (Which has also been the ONLY glorious, summery day so far!) By the end of a short hike and a stroll along the beach, I could see that I was beginning to get a bit pink. If I’d been out in the sun all day, I would certainly have burned.

I decided it was wise to get myself a long-sleeved summer top to help keep my skin unexposed on long, sunny hikes. So the next week, I hit all of my favourite camping stores in search of the perfect hiking shirt.

I must have tried on about 20 shirts that day. As usual when I go shopping for clothes, almost nothing fit me properly. Some of the shirts fit just like men’s shirts – the shoulders were too broad and the torso was baggy. Some seemed to be designed for women with no breasts whatsoever, which is definitely not me!

I was tempted to get a top by the Aussie company “Mountain Designs” simply because it came in a pleasant, mauve colour – while everything else in the ‘dress shirt’ style was predictably beige, blue or khaki (at least from the selection they had in stock). What’s up with that? Sadly the fit on that shirt wasn’t quite right, although it made claims to be infused with some kind of mosquito repellent which I found intriguing.

I found that sizing was almost impossible to predict. ‘My size’ turned out to be anything from 6 to 12 depending on the manufacturer. Some of this is due to Australia and New Zealand using different size guidelines to the US, but I think some is just randomly decided by the manufacturer – and it’s a big pain in the ass when you’re trying on 3 or 4 sizes to figure out which one fits best.

In the end there were only two shirts in contention. One was by Columbia and the other by Mountain Hardwear. Both claimed to offer protection equivalent to SPF 30. Both fit me like a proper shirt, wide enough to not pull open at the chest, then tapered in a bit around the waist. Both were only available in my size in an uninspired shade of beige, although the Mountain Hardwear one has a bit of a green tinge to it.

In the end I bought the Mountain Hardwear shirt. The deciding factor was a 20% off sale price. I have yet to test it out on a hike (we’ve been busy with more domestic pursuits this past weekend) so I’ll have to report back on whether its sun protection claims hold up in practice.