The full sun rig

It’s not too often I have cause to dress only for sun and heat, but there always at least a few weeks mid-summer, and this year they are here right now. Thankfully, I’ve finally discovered the missing link in my system for multiday backcountry trips when it’s darn hot.

M photo.

As per above; I have shades, cheapo synthetic truckers hat, and a homemade cancer curtain on my head, long sleeve thrift store shirt and wicking synthetic t-shirt on my torso, and shorts. If the sun and/or is really bad or I’m bushwacking I’ll add pants, but strongly prefer shorts.


I try to minimize sunscreen because in the backcountry it’s a non-renewable resource, and gets in your eyes when you sweat.  The cancer curtain shown above is key to making this work.  It’s a simple 2/3s of a bandana sewn over a thin piece of shock cord, with a small cord lock on the end.  Not my idea, by the way, but a very good one.  It goes over any hat, and even helmets if you leave enough cord, and can be stowed when not needed.  Custom cut it for length and width, so it reaches your collar with a bit to spare, and just doesn’t get in your peripheral vision.


A cotton/poly blend dress shirt, in a very light and light-colored fabric is a great tool for hot sun, and cheap.  It keep the sun off, and can be soaked in creeks for cooling.  The issue has always been the boggy chafe after a few days of continuous wear.  The solution this summer has been to wear a Mountain Hardwear Way 2 Cool t-shirt underneath.  I thought the fabric tech here was hype until I found one half-off at Zion Adventure Company this spring.  Now I’m a believer.  It wicks and dries incredibly fast, and the combo of a close fitting synthetic t-shirt under a cotton shirt has proven the best I’ve used.


Most thrift shirts will require a bit of tailoring for optimum fit.  The new one above is a large, which I need for long enough sleeves, but the diameter of the chest is a full 2 inches larger than I prefer.


Simply take in the side seams to fix this.  You’ll want fairly straight seams, but it doesn’t need to be especially neat.  Cut off the extra, and roll the seam and sew again to keep unraveling at bay.  Further mods I usually are taking any plastic stiffeners out of the collar, and sometimes shortening the tails in front.

My favorite hiking shorts, by far, are the various Patagonia board shorts.  All are expensive.  The stretch ones are more comfortable, the heavier non-stretch fabrics a bit more durable.  The key feature here is the waistband, which is totally flat under a hipbelt.  The bunched elastic common to most running shorts sucks under a decent pack load.  I wish Patagonia put this design on a pair of pants.

On the subject of pants, finding good summer pants is tough.  Look for a 100% nylon, probably plain weave, under 4 ounces a yard, and in a baggy fit.  This should result in something fairly breezy, while still being bug resistant and tough enough.

All I need besides this is a bit of sunscreen on my nose and backs of hands and I’m good to go.


5 responses to “The full sun rig”

  1. Great stuff, Dave! I’m all about thrift store MYOG.

  2. My understanding is that Cotton/Poly fabrics are made with a thread that has a cotton sheath over a polyester core, so the exposed fabric is all cotton. I’ve been wearing Cotton/Poly work shirts for years, primarily because they don’t catch fire when you get some weld spatter on them. Spatter burns holes in the shirts (and your skin), but the shirts don’t catch fire. Polyester shirts do. I’ve got mixed feelings about the wet fabric dying times, but over a polyester T-shirt, it’s probably the most workable combination. My work shirts are oxford cloth and probably a bit heavier than your thrift store shirts. I suppose that the fire resistance is why I still wear a lot of cotton. My socks are always Acrylic and it’s real interesting when you get a glob of molten steel in your shoe. I suppose that is why welders are supposed to wear boots. Do you have any feelings on fire resistance?

    1. I’d have no problem with fire resistant synthetics, especially in rain gear (as it’s the one thing I really don’t want holes in). I don’t regard it as essential or a safety issue, and judging by the cost of milspec fire resistant synthetics, we’re a ways out from them being widely available.

  3. You might appreciate the waistband on the Arc’Teryx Palisade Pant, Dave. Although as dreadfully expensive as Patagonia the flat waistband and very low profile belt and buckle closure does not bother me under a hipbelt. And the Tweave they’re sewn from is indestructible.

  4. […] time the fabric minimizes any benefit you might get from evaporative cooling.  I’ve used poly/cotton dress shirts for quite some time, with a fair degree of success, but after a few days they get nasty and […]

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