My Dermatologist Loves This Sun Hoody, And I Do Too

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Most of my childhood memories are smudged with sunscreen. The white handprints and smears I accidentally left on my seat in the back of my mom’s minivan, the lessons about lathering up even on overcast days because the sun still burns through clouds. I can even still remember the smell of the Bullfrog zinc sunscreen that I wore to the beach—the thick cream left a white cast on my skin that made me stand out against the typical sunkissed kids. I spent so long self-consciously rubbing my face, begging my ghostly visage to blend in.

Today, I don’t mind a white cast—the sunburned haters can keep hating—but I do mind the feeling of caked-on sunscreen three days into a backpacking trip. I’m already dirty enough on the trail; I don’t need a greasy dirt magnet attracting crumbs of dust and debris onto my body. There aren’t too many water sources where I typically hike and backpack, so sometimes I have to go a couple days in the sun before a good rinse. By then, I’m more caked-on sunscreen than person, and I’m feeling pretty gross. So, I purchased the Outdoor Research Echo sun hoody, and I never looked back.

The Echo has been with me while backpacking long stretches of the arid southernmost sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, rock climbing in Joshua Tree, and dayhiking through Canyonlands on a parched summer day. It has worked overtime as a baselayer in the winter and my only layer in the summer, keeping me both warm and cool when needed, and protecting me from the sun always. The fit is amazing: The arm sleeves are long enough that long-limbed adventurers can use the thumb holes without losing circulation, too. Its relaxed fit gives enough space to wear it over a baselayer if needed without feeling too billowy on its own.

The hood deserves its own paragraph. It has a ponytail hole, which is as exciting as dresses with pockets. This lets me hike, wear a ponytail, and protect my neck from both the sun and desert winds without giving me a conehead like other sunhoodies did.

My one and only frustration with the Echo is its fray-prone 100 percent recycled polyester material. At 2.3 ounces, it’s featherweight, almost too much so: I’ve scraped it against monzogranite while bouldering in Joshua Tree and thwacked plenty of branches while trail running around a local lava dome, and it shows. But when it comes down to it, I don’t really care about that. I’d prefer my hiking shirts to have battle scars than my actual skin. And, the spots I always forget to put on sunscreen, such as around my Garmin watch, the back of the neck, and the tops of my hands, are as protected as ever.

That’s why my dermatologist loves this sun hoody. Through the years, I’ve gotten plenty of warnings from her about the amount of time I spend in the outdoors—to be fair, they’re completely reasonable: I have red hair, fair skin, and a family history of melanoma, which doesn’t exactly work well with my affinity for long dayhikes and adventures in the fully exposed desert. I have plenty of gear that will save my life in the short-term (climbing harness, bear spray, etc.) but this sun-shielding piece of gear is the one that will keep me alive, healthy, and protected years down the line.