Top Sun Protection Picks: How I Safeguard My Skin from the Colorado Sun

August 17, 2023

Living in Colorado has many perks; from the breathtaking mountain views to the exciting outdoor activities, there’s always something to look forward to. But with over 300 days of sunshine each year, protecting oneself from the sun’s harmful rays is an absolute must. The state’s high elevation further magnifies the sun’s strength. If you, like me, enjoy spending time outside, then shielding your skin is a high priority.

I’ve tried numerous products and methods over the years, and I’d love to share with you my absolute favorites. Here’s a deep dive into the best sun protection items for Colorado’s intense sun.

My Top Sun Protection Tips for the Colorado Sun: 


Extra points if it’s got long sleeves and a hood. Sunshirts truly are great options on hot days because they help keep you cool and protect you from getting sunburn, which means you don’t need to remember to continuously keep applying sunscreen all day. I remember my first long backpacking trip during the heat of the season, I wore a tank top the first day, was too tired to remember to put sunscreen on, and ended up getting super burned day one of our trip. Needless to say I was miserable everyday after that, and a heavy pack didn’t make it better.

My Favorite Sunshirt: The Patagonia Capilene Cool Hoodie
Sun protection is not just about creams and lotions; it begins with what you wear. I’ve fallen in love with the Patagonia Capilene Cool Hoodie. This sunshirt offers UPF protection, which is essential when facing Colorado’s powerful sun. This one in particular is my favorite because its buttery soft no matter how many times I wash it (going on 2 years now), extremely odor resistant, and super lightweight. My only complaint is it doesn’t have thumbholes. 

Runner Up: REI Sahara Sunshade Hoodie
Close up is the REI Sahara collection Shade Hoodie. This one is slightly thicker and has a more cotton-like feel to it. It has a slightly oversized feel rather than something more fitted, which is really nice on hot days. REI gets extra points on this one because it has thumbholes so you can protect your hands a bit from the sun too. 


Read next: Pack Like a Pro: Your Ultimate Hiking Gear Guide


A hat is more than just an accessory. It’s a shield for your beautiful face against the relentless sun. While I don’t have a one-size-fits-all recommendation, make sure your choice offers a wide brim for maximum coverage. In my opinion, protection comes first, and style second (though if you can combine both, why not?).

A Breathable Option
I had a hard time finding the exact hat I’m wearing here, but you get the idea. Something that breathes well will feel really comfortable on a long, hot day adventuring. This trucker hat is a good option, or if you’re looking for something even lighter, check out this REI flash air cap. The main feature in both of these is having some sort of mesh or breathable panel so your head can stay more cool and dry. 

A True Sunshield: the Sunbriolet Sun Hat
The Outdoor Research Sunbriolet Sun Hat is UPF 50 with a wicking fabric and vents to keep you cool and dry. This hat will be your trusty steed in the mountains or in the middle of the ocean. This is also a great option if you are in windy conditions, and if it blows off your head somehow, it’s lined with a foam brim to stay afloat so you can retrieve it! If it does get wet, it’s made with a water-resistant material and is quick-drying. 


In the glaring sun, especially with Colorado’s snowy terrains reflecting sunlight, a good pair of sunglasses is non-negotiable.

The Only Sunglasses I Like Anymore:
My eyes thank me every day for my SMITH sunglasses. My current favorite (since my other pair got stolen) are the Wander glasses with their Chroma Pop Polarized Bronze Mirror lenses. They reduce glare, protect the eyes, and of course, look really cool. I specifically wear prescription sunglasses, and the quality of SMITH is untouched. Their Chroma Pop line impressively allows you to see the trail better and navigate easier. 

Read next: Backpacking Essentials: Your Ultimate Backpacking Gear Guide (PLUS a Downloadable Checklist!)


I don’t know about you, but sunscreen instantly makes me nostalgic for childhood beach days. There’s just something about it. These days, it’s important to choose wisely when it comes to what you’re putting on your skin, and especially if its accompanying you in the great outdoors. The environmental impact of sunscreens is an area of growing concern, and choosing an environmentally friendly sunscreen is crucial. My unwavering pick? Kinfield sunscreen (SPF 35). I like their Daily Dew for most of my adventures, but when I’m looking for a more feminine feel, the Sunglow is lovely. I adore how it feels on my skin, plus it’s eco-friendly and offers robust protection, especially vital at high elevations. Not to mention their customer service is amazing! Don’t forget to reapply!

Hi there! I’m Shelby, a
Colorado hiking guide!

I’m here to inspire you to climb your mountain from the ground UP.
I’m an avid hiker and backpacker, and also love camping, fishing, and anything else I can do outdoors, even if it means going alone! I believe nature is the best teacher of all, and I find joy sharing this knowledge so you can feel empowered on your own adventures! 

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Many miss this, but your lips are vulnerable to sun damage too! A good SPF lip balm is an absolute necessity – I’ve tried countless balms and was one the hunt for one I love for years. I’m always disappointed by either the taste, it coming off my lips easily, or just simply not working. I recently discovered the Kinfield Lipblock, and I can honestly say it is in a league of its own. I promise, this is a summer and high-elevation must have. It’s tasty and enduring, it doesn’t vanish in minutes like other brands. Plus, it stands its ground even in the sweltering heat. Give this one a try!

Colorado’s beauty comes with its unique challenges. Don’t underestimate the deceiving intensity of the sun at high altitudes. With the right sun protection tools and a consistent routine, you can enjoy the great outdoors while keeping your skin safe! 

What’s your go-to sun protection ritual? Drop a comment below, and let’s share and learn from each other! Remember, taking care of your skin is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors. 

Looking to spend more time outdoors but don’t know where to start? Consider booking a guided trip with Ground Up Adventures! You can deepen your understanding of nature, and learn the tools needed to explore safely and responsibly. It’s time for your next adventure. Learn more!

Read next: A Comprehensive Dining Guide to Buena Vista, Colorado: Where to Eat and Drink Like a Local

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