The Best Rash Guards

These six picks are great for summer and fall on the water

Rash guards—the protective clothing once used exclusively by surfers and paddlers—has now become somewhat of a fashion staple. Walk around a beach town or head to the lake and you’re bound to find a few people sporting these performance pieces purely for the look, but water sport athletes still use this apparel too.  

The Owner of Nalu Standup Paddle and Surf in Rocky River, Ohio, Bill Cochrane is familiar with the more technical, performance-oriented side. Though life on Lake Erie makes wetsuits the main priority, he shared his top rash guard options for the summer and for those times when you need a little more warmth and protection. Through research and testing, we made the other selections on the list.

Level Six Vapour Hydro Shield Shirt

For general paddle days in the summer on Lake Erie, Cochrane says he usually opts for a loose fitting rash guard. “My pick is the Level Six Vapour…Level Six is a performance apparel company out of Ottawa Canada who started in kayaks,” he said. “The shirts are treated with Hydro Shield for a highly water resistant finish and offer at least a UPF 35 rating (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). The silky feel is comfortable and it’s at a nice price point.
levelsix.com; $24

Level Six Mist Hydro Shield Shirt

Just as the Level Six Vapour (a men’s shirt) offers UPF protection, a highly water resistant finish and a comfortable fit and feel, so does the women’s Mist long sleeve. Great for layering or as a standalone rash guard, the Mist offers great protection at a refreshing pricepoint.
levelsix.com; $24

O’Neill Basic Skins Rash Guard

A long sleeve crewneck boasts UPF protection, flatlock seams and a slim fit. A top choice for paddling in the summer, this rash guard was lauded for its durability and tendency to stay in place, but before you order, you might want to consider going a size up, as this rash guard runs a bit small.
tactics.com; $31

Body Glove Smoothies Sleek Rashguard

This highly rated women’s rash guard features a close-to-skin performance fit, UPF protection and a blend of nylon and spandex for maximum comfort. Available in a series of bright colors, this rash guard is a great option for your next summer day on the water.
zappos.com; $52

Xcel Infiniti Smoothskin Wetsuit 2mm Top

Cochrane says this is his top pick for paddle surfing, even though it technically belongs in the wetsuit category. “It’s not really classified as a rash guard but it does a great job of offering some insulation on those early fall and late spring sessions when the water is hovering in the upper 50’s/low 60’s. Its smooth skin front and back offer nice wind resistance and help to keep the core warm,” he said. “It has a nice tight fit and an offset back zipper for easy on and off [and] seeing that it will also prevent a board rash it is a rash guard of sorts.”
xcelwetsuits.com; $110

Xcel Manda Front Zip Wetsuit Top 2/1

For the chillier days, ladies can opt for the Manda front zip from Xcel, with 2mm of neoprene protection around the core of the body and upper arms. The close-to-body fit and flatlock seams offer comfort and the front-facing zipper helps with getting in and out of the top.
xcelwetsuits.com; $80

More Reading:
The Best Surf Towns in the World
The World's Most Surprising Surf Spots
Adventure Travel Tip: Wear a Rash Guard When Rafting

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