Sunday, 24 August 2014

Outdoor Research Spectrum Sun Sleeves Review

Due to a large amount of scarring, and a skin graft the full length of my forearm I’m unfortunate to find myself, like many other people, in a high skin cancer risk group. So although bright sunny weather is great for walks, it has it’s risks. This requires that throughout the summer I have to always carry factor 50 sunscreen, and apply it when necessary. The problem with these creams and sprays is they don’t last all day, perhaps up to 8 hours. And a consistent coverage all over is not guaranteed.  And when you have a high skin cancer risk, it’s a perhaps too far. I have to know for certain, because forgetting to reapply could be potentially life threatening. And missing a spot is not an option.

My favorite sunscreen is the TOG24 spray on type ( It’s easy to apply and quite resilient, but at £7.95 for a tiny tin that may last me a few days, it’s an expensive option. Lifesystems produce a nice SPF50 cream that works well, but it’s greasy. And at £8.50, is again expensive for the period of time it will offer protection (

These creams and sprays are great, but I think you start to become too dependent on them, and for me I tend to prefer other ways that are more consistent. In my case I have tended to wear long sleeve shirts in the hot weather which results in me getting quite hot, avoiding t-shirts. I go for shirts that are made of materials with at least a value of SPF30, but shirts with SPF50 are available. The problem with long sleeved shirts is that if I find some shelter, I can only roll the sleeves up so far. So how about if I could remove the sleeves, enter the Outdoor Research Spectrum Sun Sleeves.

These roll on sleeves seem to have been produced for quite some time for cyclists, runners and golfers. Outdoor Research have produced their own variation of the concept that brought this under my radar. They are generally targeted at UV protection, although they may offer other types of protection as well. 1000 Mile produce a variation that offers protection from the cold. I have a Marmot variant that just keeps your wrists warm. But my interest is in the UV protection.

Their specification is:

UPF 50+
Quick Drying
Bicep Grip
Thumb Hole
Silicone Grip Palm
Fabric 91% polyester, 9% polyurethane
Avg. Weight (oz./g): 1.3oz / 36g (L/XL) 

The construction of the sleeves is fairly simple. They are long nylon tubes with a thumb hole, a middle finger loop and silicon on the inside, at the top, to hold them up. The material is stretchy and light. There is a dotted grip pattern made of silicon in the palm area to help with gripping such things as walking poles, your phone, etc. For the weight conscious, my size L/XL weigh 45g for the pair.

Putting the sleeves on is pretty straight forward with a little adjustment usually necessary to get them to sit right. I find myself not using the middle finger loop. But since I very rarely use trekking poles, I don’t see the need. If I did, then these loops would probably help. In general I find the thumb loops provide enough purchase to stop the sleeves riding up my arm. The silicon around the top inner surface where the sleeves cover your bicep provide enough grip to stop the sleeves sliding down.

The UPF 50+ rating seems to be right. I’ve warn the sleeves on some hot, sunny days and had no redness, or any other signs that the suns rays got through. Another bonus to the sleeves is their slight cooling effect. My arm felt a little cooler than the rest of my body pretty much instantly. So a couple of benefits. 

The only potential downside to me is how long they will last. I have only had them a couple of months and used them four times. They are perfectly fine at the moment, but a few weeks in the Lake District and similar locations with scrambles and heavy use will be the only way to know. But having said that, I think the £19.95 I paid for them is better than the alternative. And when you consider the price of sunscreen, they should work out a lot cheaper even in one year. The majority of the sunscreen I use goes on my arms.

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