The 5 best Fitbit trackers and smartwatches to improve your health and fitness

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • All of Fitbit’s fitness wearables track steps, workouts, and sleep patterns, often automatically.
  • Its devices also give insight into stress levels, health habits, and routines.
  • We compared every current Fitbit for the best in the lineup, from smartwatches to basic trackers.
  • Our top pick, the Versa 3, has all the smartwatch basics plus built-in GPS, a huge display, and a long battery life.

A fitness tracker or smartwatch is an incredible tool to help you pay more attention to patterns in your health, get serious about fitness training, or even just increase your daily step count.

One of the brands at the forefront of the industry is Fitbit, a company whose wearables track everything from daily steps and workout pace, to sleep patterns and stress levels. A Fitbit can help you better understand when you to push yourself more in a workout, when your stress levels are too high and you need to take a moment to decompress, or when that fatigue or irritability you feel is actually the result of poor sleep quality.

As an avid runner, personal trainer, and fitness journalist, I’ve tested more fitness trackers than I can count, even before they became a staple on most people’s wrists. My first tracker, the Fitbit Flex, would light up with just a few red dots to notify me that I’d hit my step goal for the day. At the time, this was revolutionary information – and I loved it. Since, I’ve tried countless smartwatches and fitness trackers from brands like Apple, Garmin, and Polar.

Over the past several months, I’ve tested out the latest in Fitbit’s current lineup. My experience using them on runs, hikes, running errands around town, and even sleeping can hopefully help you decide what fits best with your lifestyle and which may be able to help you reach your own fitness and health goals.

At the bottom of this guide, I’ve also included some helpful insight into how to shop for a Fitbit, as well as the testing methodology I used for narrowing down which models ultimately made the cut.

If you’re deciding which is the best Fitbit to buy, here’s a quick breakdown of the most mainstream contenders:

Fitbit Versa 3

Fitbit Versa 2

Fitbit Inspire 2

Our review

Best overall

Best budget smartwatch

Best for the basics

Average price

$230

$180

$100

Battery Life

6 days

6 days

10 days

Features

  • Automatic activity tracking
  • 20 exercise modes
  • Sleep tracking
  • Water-resistant up to 50m
  • Built-in GPS
  • Built-in music storage
  • Large display for mindful minutes
  • Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant connection
  • Automatic activity tracking
  • 15 exercise modes
  • Sleep tracking
  • Water-resistant up to 50m
  • Large display for mindful minutes
  • Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant connection
  • Automatic activity tracking
  • 20 exercise modes
  • Sleep tracking
  • Water-resistant up to 50m

Drawbacks

  • Watch band can stick
  • Phone sync can take time
  • No built-in GPS or music storage
  • Slightly less modern display compared to Versa 3
  • No built-in GPS or music storage
  • Smaller screen

Still have questions about which Fitbit you should buy? Check out the more in-depth reviews below, along with a few other options for different needs.

Which is the best Fitbit to buy?

Best Fitbit overall

Fitbit Versa

With automatic activity tracking and a huge screen for both mid-run stats and the relax app, the Versa 3 has nearly all the perks of the Fitbit line at a not-totally-absurd price point and with a stylish design. 

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, built-in GPS, water resistant up to 50 meters, oxygen saturation reading, mindful minutes, battery life

Cons: Occasionally uncomfortable, sometimes needs to be manually synced

The Versa 3 stands out for its bright, colorful face and big display that clearly shows any stats. There are a lot of pros to this watch:

During a run or bike ride, the large display is especially great for quick glances at your pace in real time as you move. You can also easily check other stats — total time, average pace, heart rate zones — just by tapping the watch face, even mid-activity. The device buzzes to let you know when you’ve switched between fat burn, cardio, or peak zones. 

In the Fitbit app, you can see the complete overview of your cardio numbers, including time spent in those various heart rate zones, active zone minutes, average, minimum, and maximum heart rate, calories burned, and steps taken. With all this data, the Fitbit also determines your VO2max, the top marker of fitness level.

The Versa 3 has built-in GPS, so you can also go for a run or walk without your phone, which I particularly love to unplug and focus on your steps without losing the data behind how many I got in today.

The Versa 3 also has automatic activity tracking, which is such a nice feature when you forget to hit start on your runs. In addition to straight cardio workouts, you also have easy shortcuts to tracking bootcamp, Pilates, yoga, circuit training, and weight workouts. 

The sleep tracking on the Versa 3 also stands out among other devices in the line, as it reveals your time awake, in REM, deep sleep, and light sleep, plus the percent of time you spend below resting heart rate (aka “restoration”). All these stats lead to an overall sleep score that makes it easy to see the quality of your sleep.

You also get health-promoting tips based on sleep and activity, like when the watch told me I spend more minutes in deep sleep on days my step count hits more than 11,000 (fascinating!).

The final thing worth mentioning about Fitbit, in general, is the Relax app. This comes on each watch, but it’s best on the Versa 3 because you just have to press play and it gives you a pretty visual the Versa’s large screen. You then just follow along for deep inhales and exhales. You can check the mindfulness tap on the Fitbit phone app to see what your starting and ending heart rate is, as well as log how you’re feeling from very calm to very stressed.

The Versa 3 (as well as the Sense) will connect to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to help you check off errands or set reminders, without your computer or phone. You can even pay through the watch.

Lastly, you can control music from Spotify, Pandora, or Deezer, and even answer calls right on the watch face. If you have an Android, you can send voice-to-text responses, too. 

The only big downfall to the Versa (and the Sense) is that sometimes the watch band stuck to my skin — especially at night or when I didn’t dry it off after a workout. I do have sensitive skin, but it left a mark at one point, which went away quickly.

Also, because I close all the apps on my phone pretty often, sometimes I’d need to manually sync the watch to the phone app to see my full list of stats. This sometimes took longer than I wanted it to, especially after software updates.

Lastly, this is certainly not the cheapest watch on our list, but it still comes in below competitor models like the Apple Watch.

Best for monitoring health

Fitbit Sense

The Sense smartwatch has a ton of added features, focusing on heart health and stress management, giving you a more holistic look at your well-being. 

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, built-in GPS, water resistant up to 50 meters, oxygen saturation reading, mindful minutes, EDA scan, ECG readings, stress management score

Cons: Expensive

The Sense offers a more complete picture of your health, tracking not just your physical activity but also your mental state. 

For starters, the Sense offers automatic exercise and sleep tracking, and the stats that come with those readings. 

More excitingly, this smartwatch offers electrodermal activity (EDA) readings. This is a measurement of tiny electrical changes on the skin which is meant to indicate your stress levels. To get a reading, you open the EDA scan app on the watch, hold your palm on the screen, and then do a mindfulness session as it reads your EDA. After, the watch will tell you how many EDA responses it calculated (fewer means you were calm), plus your starting and ending heart rate. It gives you an option to log how you’re feeling (calm or stressed), too. 

Using those EDA readings, heart rate data, sleep patterns, and your exercise for the day, the Sense will also give you a stress management score. I was surprised by how low my score was when I actually felt stressed, but I chalk that up to a balance of physical activity and healthy amount of sleep. 

Lastly, the Sense also reads your blood oxygen levels at night and can act as an electrocardiogram (ECG) reader with the accompanying app. This means with the touch of the screen, the watch analyzes your heart rate and looks for atrial fibrillation (or AFib, which shows an irregular heart contraction and can signal a major health issue).  

The less flashy but super useful features including the ability to answer calls via Bluetooth, sync your calendar, pair the watch with Alexa or Google Assistant, and pay through your watch.

To get all these features, you do have to pay a rather hefty price, and it can take some time to add things like EDA scanning to your regular health routine. But if you’re trying to seriously clean up your overall health or want accountability to stay on track, the Sense’s many features are worth the price.

Best for tracking fitness

Fitbit Charge 4

The Charge 4 hits a budget-friendly price point while offering stellar activity tracking in a smaller footprint than a smartwatch. 

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, built-in GPS, water resistant up to 50 meters, mindful minutes, slim design, long battery life

Cons: Black-and-white display, smaller screen, no music storage

If you want a tracker to record your workouts and daily movement with a few nice-to-haves, but you don’t care about fancy features like a big, colorful screen; answering calls via your watch; or connecting with Alexa or Google Assistant, then the Charge 4 is your match. 

This tracker records and displays you all the stats you want from your workout: current and average exercise pace, distance, heart rate zones, total time, steps taken, and calories burned. Within the Fitbit app, you can also see a map of your run, complete with intensity zones showing where your heart rate climbed highest and dipped lowest. 

The Charge 4 has built-in GPS, so you can run without your smartphone if you want your hands free or the battery is low, which is rarer for a tracker this small.

You also still have the option to sync your calendar and get alerts on events, plus you can read text messages and see when you’re getting calls. The Charge 4 also comes with access to the Relax app for two minutes of deep breathing with dots to follow for each inhale and exhale instead of a video. This device also has Fitbit’s in-depth sleep tracking.

The battery life on the Charge 4 is longer than either Versas or the Sense. The design is smaller and takes up less space around your wrist, which is nice for more petite people. 

However, that also makes the screen smaller for reading and navigating, which can be a huge drawback for some. 

Best budget Fitbit

Fitbit Inspire 2

If you want a straightforward activity tracker to tell you how much you’ve moved today and how good of a workout you got, the Inspire 2 offers the best of Fitbit’s basic features at under $100.

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, water resistant up to 50 meters, mindful minutes, slim design, battery life

Cons: No built-in GPS, smaller screen

This mini-sized watch has the best of Fitbit’s signature features, including automatic sleep and activity tracking, constant heart rate tracking, and mindfulness encouragement via the Relax app. Better yet, it has the longest battery life of all the Fitbits — and it’s under $100. 

On the Inspire 2, you can get smartphone notifications like calendar alerts, texts, and calls (though you can’t answer the phone on the watch).

The slim design is nice for people who aren’t used to something on their wrist, and the minimalist display, while small and harder to read for some people, makes it easy to see what’s important without being inundated with stats and info.

The biggest downfall is that you need your phone every time you head out for a walk or run in order to track mileage and other stats. But that’s not even a huge concession for most people.

Best budget smartwatch

Fitbit Versa 2

If you want the bigger screen of the Versa 3 and the Sense but don’t need to answer calls from your watch or have a built-in GPS, the Versa 2 is a fabulous option to save a little money ($50).

Pros: Cheaper than the Versa 3 or Sense, automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, water resistant up to 50 meters, mindful minutes, long battery life

Cons: no built-in GPS, music storage only works with Deezer and Pandora’s premium service

The Versa 2 has the big, bright screen of Fitbit’s leading smartwatch models (i.g., Versa 3 and Sense), albeit with a little less modern-looking display (though the clock face and straps are all customizable).

It automatically tracks activity and sleep, offers a sleep score, has 24/7 heart rate tracking, and offers guided breathing exercises. It displays real-time pace and distance when you’re on the move. The Versa 2 has 15 exercise modes to record, which is 5 less than the newer models, but still includes all the biggies like running, biking, hiking, swimming, weights, and bootcamp. 

You can connect the watch to Amazon Alexa and control music via apps like Spotify. You also get phone notifications like texts and calls (you can’t answer calls through the watch, though you can use voice replies to texts) and can pay with the watch.

The major thing you’re giving up by opting for the older model is built-in GPS. That means you’ll need your phone with you when you go out for a run, walk, bike ride, or hike. But realistically, most of us take our phones with us running for safety or communication, so this might not be as big of a deal-breaker as it sounds. Plus, built-in GPS drains your battery faster, so you’ll score a longer battery life.

What we’re looking forward to testing

Fitbit Luxe: Fitbit recently announced a new fashion-forward fitness tracker to its lineup, the Luxe. The device is about the size of the Charge 4, but with sleek metal finishes and luxe wrist bands, and the more advanced features of the Versa 3. The device is currently on pre-order and will ship this spring. Our tech team will be testing the device, so check back for updates on how it compares to its predescessors.

How to shop for a Fitbit

Fitbit was one of the first brands in the fitness tracking-space when it came out with its step counter. Since then, its devices have evolved with the needs of its customer base, allowing it to maintain one of the top spots in a growing market of fitness trackers and smartwatches. There are good options from other brands like Suunto, Apple, and Garmin but Fitbit continues to deliver high-quality products that excel in a few key areas:

User-friendly features

Ease-of-use is everything when it comes to any technology, but especially a device you intend to use every day. Fitbit’s found success as a brand thanks to its easy-to-use interfaces and superior activity and sleep tracking. 

What makes Fitbit such a successful brand — and one worth the money — is that all its devices, no matter the price point or type (tracker versus smartwatch), come with all the foundational features you want in a health and fitness tracker. This includes the ability to automatically track sleep and activity, which is the best thing about the brand, in my opinion.

Then, all the models track pace, distance, and calories burned during your workouts, and calculate your heart rate training zones, including fat burn, cardio, and peak. For sleep, you not only get the total hours you slept, but the time you spent in deep and REM sleep, plus the percentage of time you spent below your resting heart rate. 

With some models, these stats are easier to access than others — namely, the Sense, Versa 2, and Versa and 3 because their larger screens are easier to read at a glance. But even with the smaller, more narrow faces of the Charge 4, the numbers are very large which is really nice to have. The Inspire 2 is definitely the hardest to glace stats quickly off of.

The Fitbit app itself, accessed via your phone, is easy to navigate and clearly displays steps, miles, active zone minutes, daily calorie burn, mindfulness days, exercise, and activity per hour. It also reminders you to take 250 steps per hour. Additionally, you can track your menstrual cycle, food and water intake, and weight (though these require more manual entries). 

Easy-access add-on features

Fitbit now also offers a Premium membership, through which you get access to guided meditations, video workouts, goal setting and challenges, and more in-depth health insights, particularly for your blood oxygen level readings, heart rate variability, and breathing rate. 

All of these features are accessed through the Fitbit app, so this is mostly just a plus for Fitbit as a brand. However, most of the new Fitbit devices come with a complimentary free trial, after which it’s $10/month or $80/year, and the upgrade unlocks special features for some devices. The Sense, for example, includes a six-month free trial of Premium, which also offers special mindfulness and mediation features through the watch’s special electrodermal activity sensor. The Inspire 2 comes with a year-long free trial. The Versa 3, Versa 2, and Charge 4 all come with a 3-month free trial.

Superior battery life

Each Fitbit in the line has top-notch battery life, lasting days even with auto-activity and auto-sleep tracking turned on, so you don’t have to worry about charging it every night. 

Officially, the battery for all Fitbits featured last from six days up to 10 days, depending on the device and your usage. In my experience, the Versa 2, Versa 3, and Sense last an average of six days on one charge, the Charge 4 for seven days, and the Inspire 2 a whopping 10 days.

Versatile customization options

For starters, there’s the devices themselves: the Fitbit line is a range of smartwatches and other wearables, all with different features and price points, so you can choose the one that best fits your style and health goals. 

Then, Fitbit offers plenty of options to customize the look of your device. Each watch or tracker comes with a basic band, but all have different colors and material bands you can purchase for customization, from stainless steel mesh for a professional look to expressive prints to more breathable sports bands. The only watch on our list that doesn’t offer a sport-specific band is the Inspire 2.

You can also customize the watch faces, both for aesthetics and readability, and to personalize shortcuts on the devices and what’s displayed on the main app page. The Sense and Versa 3 have the most options for watch faces; you can even download third-party designs or use your own photos, which you can’t do with the other models.

How I tested

In addition to testing past iterations of Fitbit trackers and smartwatches when they were launched, I tested each on the list below for several days (some weeks, even) wearing them 24/7 in most cases. I wore each during different types of workouts, from runs and walks to strength sets and yoga. I also wore the trackers to bed and for mindfulness sessions. Here are the key features I looked for when testing:

Workout tracking

To successfully record stats during a workout and easily check these as you go, it’s important that a watch clearly displays numbers, and quickly and continuously connects to the GPS, particularly if it’s built into the watch. I judged the trackers and watches on whether I could easily see my current pace, distance, and time, and if I had quick access to see other metrics like average pace and heart rate. 

Additionally, I ran another fitness tracking app on my phone to test the accuracy of the watch’s distance and pace. For every Fitbit featured, the numbers were always relatively close (and within the normal range you’d find if you compared almost any other fitness tracker). 

Because Fitbit offers automatic tracking, I also did a few workouts without manually pressing the start button to confirm that it picked up my movement, which it almost always did. 

Tracking and comfort while sleeping

I wore each of these watches and trackers to bed to test the automatic sleep tracking. I checked these stats in the morning to make sure it recorded my time in bed and wake-up times throughout the night. I also wore the devices when occasionally taking naps throughout the day, which they also picked up on. 

The devices needed to be comfortable enough to wear all night in order to get those stats, too. While the bands occasionally stuck to my skin if I got sweaty at night, it never disturbed my sleep — I only ever noticed this after waking up. 

Battery life

I tested the battery life of each Fitbit by charging it to 100% battery and wearing it through workouts, nights of sleep, and throughout the day to see how long each would last. They all surprised me, too — the life lasted even after several workouts, including those using the built-in GPS (which typically drains batteries quickly). The Inspire 2 was the most impressive for battery life. 

App usability

One huge perk of Fitbit is the built-in stress-reducing apps, so how easy these were to use was a key part of testing. I tried Fitbit’s mindfulness program, the Relax app, on all devices, and the EDA scan app on the Sense, which contributes to stress management numbers. I looked for ease of use, visuals, and the stats provided after recording a mindfulness session, like changes in heart rate. 

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The 6 best mineral sunscreens for all skin tones, backed by dermatologists

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Mineral sunscreens are ideal for sensitive skin types and protect the skin against UV rays.
  • We talked with two dermatologists about what to look for in an effective mineral sunscreens.
  • CeraVe is a standout skin-sensitive brand, and its Hydrating Sunscreen Face Lotion is our top pick.

Sunscreen is a must anytime you’re going to be in the sun, but it’s important to pick the right type for your skin and your lifestyle. While most traditional bottles are chemical-based sunscreens, these can sometimes irritate sensitive skin. Enter mineral sunscreen – a safe and effective alternative to typical tubes that is especially recommended for this skin type.

Mineral sunscreens physically block UV rays by reflecting them away from the skin, while chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays, Marisa Garshick, MD, an NYC-based board-certified dermatologist told Insider.

Jeanine Downie, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey, pointed out that mineral sunscreens aren’t necessarily “healthier” for your skin than chemical sunscreens – if you choose a chemical option with gentle ingredients, it shouldn’t irritate sensitive skin and you won’t deal with any white residue. But some people do prefer an always-gentle mineral sunscreen or want to err on the side of caution until we understand exactly how the chemical ingredients absorbed into our bloodstream interact with human hormones.

Mineral sunscreen’s biggest downside is that it’s traditionally been hard to rub in, leaving your arms and legs with a white sheen. But newer formulas rub in just as well as chemical sunscreens, and many brands have formulated options specifically for those with a darker skin tone.

Whichever sunscreen you’re using, it’s important to always use SPF 30 or above and to reapply the formula every two hours if you’re in the Northeast, every hour if you’re closer to the equator, Dr. Downie said. You should apply sunscreen more often if you have fairer skin, too.

With dermatologist-backed perspectives, research, and testing, we rounded up the best mineral sunscreens – and a complementary FAQ on sunscreen use and efficacy – below.

Here are the best mineral sunscreens of 2021:

The best mineral sunscreen overall

CeraVe slide

CeraVe’s Hydrating Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 50 is lightweight, developed by dermatologists, and contains niacinamide, a known ingredient to brighten and hydrate the skin.

Pros: Developed by dermatologists; contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide; oil-free, recognized by the National Eczema Association and the Skin Cancer Foundation; contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide; won’t clog pores; fragrance- and paraben-free; allergen-tested

Cons: May be slightly chalky on darker skin tones

Recommended use: Apply a small amount to one part of your body at a time, preferably 15 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every two hours, or less than that if you have fairer skin.

CeraVe is a brand well known for its use on sensitive skin, and its Hydrating Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 50 is no different. Containing both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays, it’s also oil-free, was awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance and the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Daily Use Seal of Approval.

CeraVe was developed by dermatologists to contain three essential ceramides, a type of lipid that locks in moisture and protects your skin’s barrier from the elements. The moisture-retaining ingredient hyaluronic acid, along with niacinamide, is also found in the formula. These two ingredients, according to NYC-based dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD, brightens and hydrates your skin, which she explained in our best eye creams and serums guide. 

This formula does leave a slight chalky residue, but it rubs in well enough for the majority of lighter skin tones; however, it is probably not ideal for darker skin if you don’t want that white overlay (see our specific pick below).

What’s more, CeraVe is non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores. It’s also fragrance- and paraben-free and allergen-tested. You can use it on your body, too.

The best budget mineral sunscreen

Neutrogena slide

For budget-friendly skin protection, Neutrogena’s Sheer Zinc Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 is a wonderful and accessible option.

Pros: Made with 100% zinc oxide, water-resistant, hypoallergenic, affordable

Cons: Doesn’t contain titanium dioxide

Recommended use: Apply 15 minutes before sun exposure, reapply two hours after (or 80 minutes after swimming or sweating), and immediately after towel drying

The Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 is made with 100% zinc oxide and is water-resistant, so it’s great for water activities in the pool or at the beach.

It’s also hypoallergenic and, according to Dr. Peredo, this distinction means it’s likely void of parabens and fragrances. For an option you can swing at a drugstore at an affordable price, it’s a quality mineral sunscreen to stow away in your beach tote.

The best spray-on mineral sunscreen

Sun Bum slide

The Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray is a hassle-free sun protectant that’s dermatologist-tested and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Pros: Easy application, water-resistant, dermatologist-tested, lightweight, vegan, gluten- and paraben-free

Cons: Doesn’t contain titanium dioxide

Recommended use: Hold the nozzle close to your skin and spray until your skin glistens. Then, rub it in thoroughly. Also, note that this 6 oz. bottle contains six applications, according to spray sunscreen guidance from the American Academy of Dermatology.

Sometimes, applying lotion-based sunscreen can take too long, especially when you’re in a hurry to hit the beach or jump in the water. The Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray allows you to quickly and evenly apply your much-needed protectant, which contains zinc oxide as its active ingredient.

The vegan spray-on sunscreen is also gluten- and paraben-free. Though the spray comes out white, it applies more transparently.

The best mineral sunscreen for darker skin

skinmedia slide

SkinMedica’s Total Defense Repair SPF 34 Tinted Sunscreen is truly a blessing, as its sheer coverage doesn’t leave a white paste that’s noticeable on darker skin tones.

Pros: Doesn’t leave a noticeable white cast, contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, helps treat signs of aging with antioxidants

Cons: None

Recommended use: Apply to face, neck, and body and reapply after sweating, swimming, and towel drying.

As a BIPOC expert, Dr. Downie isn’t a big fan of mineral sunscreens because they often leave a white tint on dark skin. That said, she recommends the SkinMedica Total Defense Repair SPF 34 Tinted Sunscreen, which absorbs well, contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and even helps to treat signs of aging with its antioxidant ingredient blend.

“We, as human beings, react to indoor and outdoor lighting and the blue light from the phone, computer, and tablets,” Dr. Downie said. “Therefore, all races need protection from sunlight and indoor light daily with reapplication.”

For a sunscreen that will protect against UVA and UVB rays, helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and works well for dark skin, SkinMedia is dermatologist-approved.

The best water-resistant mineral sunscreen

EltaMD slide

The EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion is wonderfully formulated for an active lifestyle because it’s oil-free and water-resistant, so it won’t drip off when you sweat.

Pros: Contains zinc oxide, oil-free, water-resistant, won’t clog pores, contains antioxidants for protecting against aging and sun damage

Cons: Doesn’t contain titanium dioxide

Recommended use: Apply 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours.

With the EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion, you won’t have to worry about your sun protectant sliding off. It’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and oil-free, so it won’t rinse off in water or clog your pores.

“Surfers, swimmers, and anyone partaking in water activities should read the sunscreen label which will indicate if the product is water-resistant and if so, for how long — generally 40 to 80 minutes,” Dr. Garshick said. “Those who partake in water activities should also be encouraged to wear UPF clothing for additional protection.”

You’ll also be protected from UVA and UVB rays since it contains zinc oxide and, with antioxidant protection, its SPF formula will help protect against aging and skin damage.

The best mineral sunscreen for your face

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The La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Ultra-Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50 won’t make you look shiny and can conveniently be applied with or without makeup.

Pros: Contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, tested on sensitive skin, fragrance-free, water-resistant, dermatologist-tested

Cons: Isn’t water-resistant for more than one hour, like some of our other picks

Recommended use: Shake well and apply 15 minutes before sun exposure and 40 minutes after water activity.

Sunscreen isn’t just for your body — you have to apply some on your face, too. This will ensure protection from UVA and UVB rays to prevent sun damage.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Ultra-Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50 will effectively blend into your skin and can be applied with or without makeup. It contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, too, so it will properly protect against the sun’s rays. It’s also our top pick in our best facial sunscreens guide.

What’s more, its antioxidant complex — called senna alata — will help to protect against environmental damage. If you’re nervous about applying facial products on delicate skin, it was dermatologist-tested specifically for sensitive skin and is also fragrance-free. 

La Roche-Posay’s water resistance will last for up to 40 minutes. And, if tinted sunscreens aren’t your thing, the brand has a non-tinted version that has a thicker consistency.

FAQs on sunscreen

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Below, our dermatologist experts answered some common questions on sunscreen use and ingredients to look for, based on your skin type.

What is the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen?

“Mineral sunscreens typically contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and physically block UV rays by reflecting them away from the skin, while chemical sunscreens, containing ingredients such as avobenzone, octisalate, and octocrylene, work by absorbing UV rays, converting them into heat, and then releasing the heat from the skin,” Dr. Garshick explained.

But both are considered safe and effective options for protecting the skin against UV rays, she added.

The other major difference between the two is that chemical sunscreens can be absorbed into the bloodstream. However, it does not necessarily mean these ingredients are unsafe or that the absorbed quantity is enough to cause any problems or concerns, Dr. Garshick pointed out. The FDA is continuing to look into this, but until we have research that shows these ingredients in this amount are harmful to humans, the FDA (and all our experts here) still recommend using whichever type of sunscreen you like most.

What consistency is best for a mineral sunscreen?

“The best sunscreen consistency is the one that feels good on your skin,” Dr. Garshick said. “Those with oily or acne-prone skin may opt for a gel consistency, while those with dry or sensitive skin may prefer a lotion or cream. Those with darker skin types may prefer a lightweight lotion that absorbs easily without leaving a white cast.”

How do I know if a sunscreen is “reef safe?”

According to the National Ocean Service, some sunscreen chemicals threaten marine life, ocean reefs, and the overall ecosystem, simply because humans engage in water-related activities. 

“The term reef-safe doesn’t actually have an agreed-upon definition and more research and formal testing requirements would be needed to truly determine what is considered reef safe,” Dr. Garshick said. 

Typically, sunscreens formulated without oxybenzone or octinoxate are labeled as reef-safe, she added.

How do I know if sunscreen is vegan?

“Vegan sunscreens refer to sunscreens that don’t contain animal products and aren’t tested on animals,” Dr. Garshick said. “Some ingredients that may be found in non-vegan sunscreens include beeswax, lanolin, stearic acid, and more.”

What sunscreen should I look for if I have acne-prone skin?

Dr. Garshick recommends looking for a non-comedogenic sunscreen to ensure that the formula won’t clog your pores, thus worsening the condition.

Sensitive Skin Liquid Face Sunscreen – SPF 50 (small)

Can I use mineral sunscreen with prescribed acne or facial medications?

“It is especially important for those with acne to wear sunscreen,” Dr. Garshick said. Some acne treatments can make you more sensitive to the sun, plus sunscreen can help to prevent and reduce the dark marks or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that can go along with breakouts, she added.

Moreover, some sunscreens may also be formulated with calming or soothing ingredients, like niacinamide which can help to reduce redness and blemishes.

What sunscreen should I look for if I have dry skin?

For dry skin, Dr. Garshick recommends looking for hyaluronic acid, an ingredient known for its hydrating properties. This will nourish and protect your skin from the sun.

Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50 (small)

What sunscreen should I look for if I have oily skin?

For oily skin, Dr. Garshick recommends looking for an oil-skin sunscreen to prevent clogged pores.

Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50 (small)
Our experts

Jeanine Downie, MD is a board-certified dermatologist licensed in California, New Jersey, and New York. Currently, she practices at Image Dermatology P.C. in New Jersey and specializes in cosmetic dermatology, laser and dermatologic surgery, and laser treatments, among other areas.

Marisa Garshick, MD is an NYC-based, board-certified dermatologist who practices at MDCS Dermatology: Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery. She specializes in cosmetic and medical procedures, including treatments for acne, eczema, and skin cancer. She’s also an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell-New York Presbyterian Medical Center.

Marina Peredo, MD is an NYC-based, board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Skinfluence, a practice offering a customized approach to cosmetic surgery. Previously, she served as a primary investigator in several FDA clinical trials.

Check out our other summer guides

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The 6 best kayaks for recreational use, sea touring, or whitewater kayaking

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Kayaking is a great way to spend time on the water, be it paddling on a lake, riding river rapids, or going fishing.
  • Kayaks vary in design, with some intended for sea touring and tandem kayaking, while others are inflatable.
  • Our top pick, Dagger’s Stratos 14.5, is stable and easy to maneuver, and rides well in the ocean, on lakes, and in rivers.

As is the case with many other outdoor activities, kayaking can be as intense or as relaxing as you’d like. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a gentle paddle across a serene lake or an adrenaline-inducing ride through turbulent whitewater, the sport has something to offer just about everyone.

It also makes for an excellent form of exercise and is a great way to bond with friends and family in the outdoors. Kayaks can also be used in both wilderness and urban settings, providing unique perspectives on both environments.

I’ve been a fan of kayaking for as long as I can remember. From riding Class 4 rapids to casual paddles at my local lake, I’ve spent plenty of time learning what does (and doesn’t) make a good kayak. Thankfully, the good has more often outweighed the bad, and the current variety of kayaks fit a range of budgets and skill levels.

To help narrow down the best kayaks available, I’ve tested a number of models from top brands like Dagger, Oru, and Perception Kayaks. I’ve broken my selections down into a variety of categories based on the type of kayaking, so if you’re in the market for a new boat of your own, these are the models that should be on your shortlist.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some insight into how to shop for a kayak and what to keep in mind, as well as the testing methodology I used in deciding which models ultimately made this guide.

Here are the best kayaks:

The best kayak overall

 Dagger Stratos 14.5

A stable and maneuverable boat that excels on the open ocean but can also be used on lakes and rivers, the Dagger Stratos 14.5 provides outstanding versatility for paddlers of all levels of experience.

Pros: Stable, easy to maneuver, plenty of fun to paddle

Cons: Not the fastest kayak on the water

Because they’re designed for use on more turbulent waters, sea kayaks tend to be longer and narrower than other models. This helps improve not only their stability but their speed and tracking, too, making this type of boat easier to paddle even in rougher conditions. But their longer length can also make them less maneuverable, limiting their usefulness on other bodies of water.

That isn’t the case with the Dagger Stratos 14.5 as this is a boat that’s easy to control and paddle straight whether you’re in heavy ocean surf, on a calm lake, or floating along with the current of a river.

The versatility of the Stratos is one of its biggest strengths, making this a boat that’s equally well-suited for day trips on a local bay or extended multi-day outings along rugged coastlines. It features a large, comfortable cockpit, two watertight hatches, and bungee cord storage on the deck itself. This makes it easy to carry everything you need on the kayak, with ample cargo space for any adventure.

Surprisingly nimble and easy to paddle, the Stratos 14.5 doesn’t feel like a boat that’s more than14 feet in length. Beginner paddlers will find it offers a wide margin for error when it comes to perfecting their kayaking skills, while veteran kayakers will love how easy the boat is to maneuver, even in tight quarters. Despite its length, the Stratos can turn on a dime, and thanks to a built-in, adjustable skeg, it maintains its tracking with relative ease.

Ocean kayaks aren’t especially well known for their speed and the Stratos is no different. Compared to other models in this category, it isn’t exactly slow, but it also doesn’t compete with the shorter, lighter-weight boats that are purpose-built for use on lakes and rivers. Still, it’s easy to get this kayak moving and maintain a constant pace.

If you primarily find yourself kayaking on the ocean, you’ll find that the Dagger Stratos 14.5 is a fun, comfortable, and stable boat for use on those outings. But its ability to extend its use to other types of paddling helps separate it from the competition.

The best budget kayak

Perception Sound 10

The Perception Sound 10.5 is proof that you can buy a versatile, full-featured kayak without blowing your budget. 

Pros: Budget-friendly, versatile, stable, and customizable

Cons: Lacks features, slow, and heavy

As the popularity of kayaking has grown in recent years, the availability of high-quality boats that don’t break the bank expanded, too. Case in point, the Perception Sound 10.5 is a model that offers solid performance and versatility, at a wallet-friendly price. 

Designed primarily for kayak fishing, the Sound 10.5 is nevertheless a good all-around recreational model. It’s incredibly stable and offers straight tracking, making it feel right at home on lakes, slow-moving rivers, or calm coastlines. Because it’s a sit-inside model, it also provides good protection from the elements — the open cockpit is airy and comfortable in warm conditions, too.

The included seat is surprisingly supportive and adjustable, especially for a kayak at this price point. The boat comes with a large, open storage area that sits behind the paddler, although this compartment isn’t watertight and uses only bungee cords to keep its contents in place. The Sound 10.5 features two molded fishing rod holders built right into hits hull, along with sturdy grab handles at either end to help get it in and out of the water. 

To keep the cost of the Sound 10.5 low, Perception stripped away a few features, with the option to add them back in as needed. The boat has a dashboard that includes several mounting points, allowing the kayaker to customize it to fit their specific needs. This lends the Sound an extra level of versatility, allowing it to perform multiple roles. 

Make no mistake, the Perception Sound 10.5 won’t be the fastest or flashiest kayak on the water, but it does offer simple, reliable performance at a great price. For most recreational paddlers, this is a boat that fits their needs nicely, while still offering room to grow. Don’t let the inexpensive price tag fool you, this is a quality option for those who are looking for great value without the need for top-end performance. 

The best whitewater kayak

Dagger Mamba Creeker 8

Whitewater boats don’t come much more agile and quick than the Dagger Mamba Creeker 8.6, a boat that was designed to take on the most challenging rapids imaginable.

Pros: Stable, great for beginning paddlers, and highly reliable performance

Cons: Slow and ponderous

Unlike kayaks designed for touring, a whitewater boat is short, nimble, and incredibly maneuverable. Built to help paddlers negotiate fast-moving rapids, these models excel at winding their way through the wildest water imaginable and few can do it better than the Dagger Mamba Creeker

A mainstay in the whitewater world for years, the Mamba Creeker is a kayak that has a reputation for providing outstanding performance in the most demanding of conditions. Designed to operate in turbulent, shallow waters, the boat is incredibly buoyant, something that’s crucial to success for whitewater paddlers. This kayak also offers a high level of control, allowing its small body to deftly weave in and out of tight situations with surprising ease. 

The interior of the Mamba Creeker‘s cockpit has been designed to not only keep the paddler well protected but to help them maintain control at all times. Padding has been placed at strategic points — such as along the hips — in an effort to prevent bruising and soreness brought on by a particularly fast and furious whitewater run. 

Meanwhile, the seat’s positioned in such a way that it can best take advantage of the boat’s integrated leg lifters, which increases the amount of energy transferred from the paddler to the kayak itself, facilitating the quick turns that are an important part of whitewater paddling. 

The hallmark of the Mamba Creeker is its stability, something that helps to make this boat a good option for beginners. It also provides a high degree of versatility, making it useful in a variety of different whitewater settings. It’s even quite comfortable for this style of boat, which can sometimes feel cramped and confining. 

Its main drawback is that the Mamba Creeker isn’t a very fast boat and its aging design has allowed competitors to close the gap some. More experienced paddlers may find other models more to their liking, but it is difficult to beat this kayak’s steady, tried and true, all-around performance. 

The best tandem kayak

Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus

Take to the water with your favorite paddling partner aboard the Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus, a two-person kayak that’s lightweight, speedy, and very roomy. 

Pros: Fun, surprisingly agile, and stocked with lots of handy features

Cons: It’s heavy, even for a tandem, and it should come with a rudder

As the name suggests, a tandem kayak accommodates two paddlers, allowing them to paddle at the same time to propel the boat along. If those two kayakers work well together, a tandem model can be quick, agile, and efficient out on the water, making for a fun shared experience. The Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus is the perfect example of just such a boat, combining a spacious design and a host of features that help elevate it above the competition. 

One of the more notable features of the Dirigo Tandem is that both cockpits are large, open, and extremely accommodating. This not only makes it easier for both paddlers to get in and out of the boat but also improves the level of comfort as well.

The included seats are nicely padded and easily adjustable, allowing both individuals to tune them to meet their own needs. Thigh pads provide additional support and protection, while adjustable foot pedals make paddling more efficient. 

Old Town outfitted the Dirigo with a number of additional features such as a dry hatch and integrated bungee cables for deck storage. There’s also a sealed glove box-style hatch for securing cell phones, cameras, or other important items, as well as built-in paddle holders, retractable handles for carrying the boat, and cup holders. 

Tandem kayaks aren’t always known for their versatility, but the Dirigo breaks with tradition in this area, too. Old Town put plenty of thought into its design and the ways it can be used. To that end, it’s managed to squeeze in a child-sized jump seat that can accommodate smaller members of the family, ensuring no one gets left behind. 

Additionally, the rear seat can slide forward, effectively changing the center of gravity and allowing this tandem to be paddled solo should the need arise. These seemingly minor changes make it easier for a paddling family to buy a single boat that everyone can use together. 

Tipping the scales at 72 pounds and measuring over 15 feet in length, the Dirigo can be a bit ponderous getting on and off the water — especially when paddling solo. The kayak also doesn’t come with a rudder (though you can add one to it), which would be a major help when trying to paddle straight in challenging conditions.

The best folding kayak

Oru Bay ST

Lightweight and easy to paddle, the Oru Bay ST is a folding kayak that performs like a traditional model but can be stored in a closet and transported to and from the water in a trunk. 

Pros: Very beginner-friendly, easy to store and transport, ingenious design, and just plain fun

Cons: Not as fast or efficient as a traditional kayak and has a learning curve when it comes to assembly. 

Thanks to vastly improved designs and better all-around build quality, modern-day inflatable and folding kayaks now rival traditional models in terms of performance.

Leading the way in this category is Oru Kayaks, a company that’s looked to the Japanese art of origami as a source of inspiration. The company’s Bay ST model in particular is a marvel of creativity and design, proving just how impressive a folding kayak can truly be. 

Built from a single sheet of custom-made polypropylene, the Bay ST— like all of Oru’s kayaks —folds flat and stores in a plastic box that somewhat resembles a large suitcase. When taken out of the box, it assembles in a matter of minutes, transforming into a touring kayak that’s both stable and durable with solid tracking. The entire process is simple, although you’ll need to do it a time or two before it becomes natural. 

Inside its closed cockpit, the Bay ST is roomier than you’d expect. It accommodates paddlers of up to 6 feet, 3 inches in height, with a bit of extra room left over for storage. Bungee cables on the deck store additional gear, such as a water bottle or dry bag, as needed. This makes the boat a great choice for shorter excursions or even day trips, but not necessarily overnighters.

The boat also performs the best on flat water lakes, gentle rivers, and a relatively calm ocean. For the most part, it’s best to avoid fast-moving rapids in this one.

Oru outfit the Bay ST with a seat pad and it also includes an adjustable back- and footrest. This gives the paddler the ability to somewhat tune the fit to meet their needs. Smaller paddlers will likely feel comfortable and right at home at the helm, although larger kayakers may feel a bit cramped.

The best feature of the Bay ST is its ability to fold down and store in a relatively small space. This makes it ideal for apartment dwellers or those who simply don’t want a larger kayak taking up space in their garage. Oru owners don’t need a kayak carrier on their car either.

The best recreational kayak

Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

An excellent all-around performer, the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is the recreational kayak made for casual paddlers, weekend warriors, and seasoned veterans alike. 

Pros: Quick, easy to paddle, very comfortable, and spacious

Cons: Jack of all trades, master of none

Built mostly for use on flat water and gentle rivers, recreational kayaks are designed to be comfortable, easy to paddle, and offer solid all-around performance. That’s exactly what you’ll get from the Pungo 120 from Wilderness Systems, although this model does plenty to elevate itself above the competition in this very crowded segment of the kayak market. 

Blending stability, speed, and maneuverability, the Pungo is a good choice for just about anyone who isn’t venturing out onto the ocean or running whitewater. Its wide body is comfortable, easy to get in and out of, and extremely accommodating.

It also tracks extremely well, maintaining a straight line across the water with minimal effort. This boat glides along so effortlessly that it makes it much easier to enjoy your natural surroundings — a major draw for kayaking in the first place. 

While most kayaks ship with a minimally padded seat, the Pungo comes standard with a model that provides an excellent amount of support and comfort. This makes for a much better experience out on the water, particularly when you spend hours at a time inside the cockpit. And when the seat is adjusted to work in tandem with the built-in foot pedals, it almost feels like the boat was custom-made specifically for you.  

Wilderness Systems supports the Pungo with a variety of accessories, allowing owners to customize the kayak to fit their needs. This gives you the ability to add things like deck pouches for additional storage, a dry box for protecting important gear, or a spray skirt to help keep you drier.

Aimed mainly at casual paddlers, the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is a kayak made for the masses. As such, it performs very well in a lot of different areas, although it isn’t especially outstanding in any of them. This may turn off more experienced kayakers looking for a more versatile experience, although beginners and intermediate paddlers will likely fall in love with it.

How to shop for a kayak

Unsurprisingly, getting the most out of any kayaking experience starts with having the right boat. Over the years, kayak designs evolved dramatically to the point where you can now buy highly specialized models purpose-built for a specific type of paddling. 

If you want to explore coastlines and paddle on the ocean, for example, a longer, more stable sea kayak is required. If gently flowing rivers and flat lakes are more your style, a more traditional recreational or touring kayak is what you seek. And if your goal is to make epic whitewater runs, you’ll want a shorter, more maneuverable kayak designed for those conditions. 

In addition to deciding what type of paddling you’ll be doing, there are a few other options to consider as well. For instance, do you want a more traditional sit-in model or a sit-on-top kayak? Sit-in versions tend to offer better performance and feature a closed cockpit that provides a measure of protection from the elements.

Conversely, a sit-on-top model leaves the paddler exposed but is often more comfortable, easier to get in and out of, and is better suited for warmer environments. 

For those who want to bring a buddy along on their paddling adventures, kayaks also come in tandem versions. These models feature multiple seats, allowing two people to share the same boat. Due to their increased capacity, they’re also longer and more stable than a single-person kayak and have the potential to be faster provided both paddlers work well together.

Tandem boats are great for people who know they’ll be kayaking together regularly, allowing them to buy just one boat they can share, rather than purchasing two single-seat models. 

What else to consider

The vast majority of kayaks available today are made from a hard plastic shell. This allows them to stay lightweight and provides exceptional levels of performance and buoyancy, although the rigid structure makes transporting and storing the boats a challenge. 

Inflatable or folding kayaks overcome those problems, however, with models available that can be stored in a closet or under a bed and transported in the trunk of a car. These types of kayaks tend to sacrifice a bit of performance in terms of speed and tracking but are a viable alternative for those shopping for a space-saving option.

How we test kayaks

Each kayak featured in this guide went through a series of on-water tests to see how well it performed across these four categories: Performance, versatility, durability, and value. Specifcally, here’s how each category factored into what kayaks made this guide:

Performance: How a kayak performs in the water comes down to how well a kayak handles in the water, how stable it is across a variety of water conditions, and how easy it is to steer, paddle, or pedal. Of course, some kayaks are more well-suited to specific conditions and ride styles, and those differences were certainly heeded during our tests. 

Versatility: A recreational kayak may not be the best in white water (or vice versa) but kayaks should still have some level of versatility to them — even if you are just in the market for a hyper-specific boat to do one or two things well. Each kayak has its limitations but the best can at least somewhat handle rides outside their purview.

Durability: Kayaks can take a beating, whether they’re getting thrown into the back of a truck or stored in a garage among throngs of additional gear. Because of this, boat durability is vital — you’d prefer the thing to last you at least a few years before you ever have to think about it running the risk of taking on water. 

Value: A sum of its categorical parts, value isn’t just an analysis of its price. Of course, that does matter but it’s always better to spend more on one high-quality kayak than to spend less on several shoddy boats.

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The 5 best sun shirts for men for added UPF protection while spending time outdoors

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • While sunscreen keeps sunburns and cancerous skin cells at bay, the best prevention is to wear a sun shirt.
  • Sun shirts have UPF protection which is designed to protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
  • Our top pick, the Hanes Cool Dri, is affordable, durable, and comes in a variety of colors to match anyone’s style.

Sun shirts have never really been an interest where the style-savvy are concerned. They’re sporty, synthetic, and generally emblazoned with giant brand logos. But we’ve had decades now to process the grim reality that even our beloved sun can give us cancer, and I for one am tired of getting sunburned through the old, tattered shirts I have always tried to wring a second life out of by wearing while outdoors.

I, like many of you, do not enjoy slathering sunscreen all over my torso and making myself into a greasy mess for the day just to ward off UV rays. Moreover, sunscreen is expensive, especially if you tend to use a good, chemical-free mineral-based sunscreen, and find yourself in the sun often.

But the market for sun shirts is becoming a little more innovative to accommodate diverse, mainstream aesthetics, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Now, brands like Patagonia, Columbia, and even Filson have begun introducing their own take on the sun shirt – and they make for a great addition to anyone’s outdoor kit.

Now that sun shirts are permanent staples in my own spring and summer wardrobe, I decided to test a few of the newer styles across activities like surfing, fishing, hiking, and camping. Below, I’ve compiled five of my current favorites, and have also included some tips on what to keep in mind while shopping, as well as a few other shirts I tested that didn’t quite make the cut.

For women-specific styles and sizing, check out our guide to the best sun protection clothing for women.

Here are the best sun shirts with UPF protection:

The best sun shirt overall

hanes cool dri shirts

Hanes’ UPF-treated Cool Dri shirts are plain and simple but sturdy and serviceable. They’re also some of the most affordable ones you can buy.

Pros: Price, tag-less, moisture-wicking, low-profile, short- and long-sleeve versions

Cons: No hood, no loop for tying to board shorts (helpful if surf-bathing)

When it comes to getting something practical and affordable, Hanes does the trick. You can spend three or four times as much and get something more stylish, more technical, and/or lighter weight, but UPF is UPF, and after having tested Hanes’ Cool Dri for a good two years, I’m sold that this is all you need.

Plus, another thing to keep in mind when buying a sun shirt is sunscreen damage: Is this something you’re going to stain with sunscreen? Are you going to be rolling around in the mud? Are you really, really concerned with the way it’s going to look after a few trips to the beach or the lake?

The Cool Dri comes in long- and short-sleeve, and several colors. They’re plain, tag-less, and logo-free, so if blaring logos down the shoulder or across the chest aren’t your thing, that’s another reason to save some money and just buy Hanes.

As for general quality, I have worn these shirts for two years, surfing and fishing my way around North and Central America for months on end. The four-ounce polyester jersey is usual cotton t-shirt thickness but moisture-wicking, the UPF treatment is still going strong, and I’ve not gotten burned through the shirts once. The stitching, while far from top-notch, hasn’t given way at all, either.

My only gripe with these shirts is on the technical side, and for most people, they’re perfectly fine as they are. But a loop to tie them to your board shorts and an option with a hood wouldn’t hurt.

Lastly, note that the long-sleeve version (which I recommend most) is sold in a two-pack on Amazon — go for that option. These things are only so great as the amount of time you use them, and it’s always good to have a spare.

The best hooded sun shirt

patagonia sun shirt with hood

Patagonia’s Sun Shade Technical Hoody is soft, lightweight, and comes with an all-plastic zipper that won’t corrode, no matter how many times you take it swimming and forget to wash it afterward.

Pros: Soft, comfortable, effective, and technical for anglers, button to cover face with hood, a handy and corrosion-free chest zipper

Cons: A little bulky, and not as cooling as Columbia’s Solar Shade

Patagonia’s Sun Shade Technical Hoody has been a personal favorite among hooded sun shirts for a while. I find them to be the softest, best-fitting, best-styled of the UV shirts, designed for outdoors enthusiasts. In a sea of abysmally large, flashy logos and prints, Patagonia stays true to tone. And you might just catch me out and about in one of these. No shame here.

I’ve been fishing, surfing, and occasionally swimming in these shirts for over five years, and as a small disclaimer, I may be somewhat partial, but they’re too comfortable and low-profile to ignore for this guide. I should also note that, unlike with some other sun shirts, stains seem to lift from these better than others. Sometimes, however, I’ve noticed that it takes a few washes.

It’s hard to ignore Patagonia within this realm, with its loyal legions whose reviews are probably best taken with a grain of salt. Do you need to spend this much on a sun shirt? Of course not. But I can’t say how many Patagonia sun shirts I’ve owned, and through fishing, hiking, camping, living on boats in the tropics, and all the rest, I still haven’t managed to loosen even a stitch on any of mine. 

The only thing I’d recommend is that you not order it in black if you’re in particularly warm water or weather, or especially prone to getting overheated. And, if you like a more relaxed fit, check out the Tropical Comfort Hoody II, which is a little more casual and a lot more comfortable out of the water.

The best sun shirt for fishing

Columbia sun shirt

Columbia’s PFG button-down shirts are lightweight, comfortable, and subtle enough to be worn just about anywhere, but shine when fishing.

Pros: Lightweight, well-ventilated, many pocket arrangements to choose from

Cons: May run large according to your taste, some customers complain of them being wrinkle-prone (but remember, you’re probably not going to the office in one of these — congratulations if you are, though!)

Yes, Columbia’s PFG button-down is a bona fide bonefishing shirt, so whether you’re wading the flats or touring the pyramids, Columbia’s classic PFG button-down will serve you well. This is the brand’s bestselling shirt, and it’s no surprise why. Unlike Columbia’s newer technology that makes concessions where many people’s style might be concerned, these shirts pass off just about anywhere.

You’ll see the ubiquitous presence of this shirt around bonefishing lodges and on safaris, but you’ll also see newscasters and wildlife biologists in them, too. Why? Well, the simple fact that they work, they keep you cool, and they’re also shockingly lightweight and full of pockets, which make them ideal shirts for the field. I left my favorite PFG shirt behind in a hotel room in Fiji years ago, and I’ve lamented that day ever since.

I also tried Columbia’s new Solar Shade Zero Woven Long Sleeve, and while it worked wonders, I felt like I was wearing a bowling shirt, a la Charlie Sheen’s character in “Two and a Half Men.” For me, that was a problem.

I’ll continue to wear it because it works every bit as good as all of Columbia’s highly technical, if sometimes busy-looking clothing, but again, only on the boat. I did love the plastic zippered pockets in it, though.

The best lightweight sun shirt

filson ultralight

Filson’s Ultralight shirt is tissue-paper thin, moisture-wicking, and styled enough so that should you find yourself at a bar, restaurant, or possibly even the office after some time outdoors, no one would be the wiser.

Pros: Lightweight, breathable, versatile

Cons: Pricier, probably overkill for most people

If you’re looking for something in the featherlight category, which we highly recommend if you’re in hotter, muggier climes, look to Filson’s Ultralight Shirt, made with breathable 2.6-ounce polyester ripstop (that’s basically parachute material).

Filson’s Ultralight Shirt is the best of both worlds, and it’s something you might get away with in the office just as soon as you would on a flats fishing boat — depending on where you work. The double-breasted pockets could be a bit of a giveaway.

But I’ve found nothing more lightweight and after a few months, I’ve managed to avoid ripping, staining, or otherwise degrading this shirt. And like all of my picks, I haven’t seen the UPF treatment wear out. Despite a slightly lower UPF30 treatment (as opposed to the 50 you’ll see on most shirts I recommend), I haven’t gotten a sunburn in it, either.

This shirt is truly paper-thin, and it’s the shirt I choose for the best and worst summer has to offer. If you tend to overheat, if you’re out in direct sunlight all day long, and especially if you’re hiking or fishing, this shirt is a sound investment.

The specific features make this shirt a little sporty, which is to say that double-breast pockets, button tabs for rolled-up sleeves, and a spread collar might be a bit excessive for someone just looking to spend the day at the beach. But for an almost impossibly light adventure-ready shirt, I dare you to find one better.

The best hybrid hoodie

oneill sun shirt

On a late summer day at the beach, with a vague chill in the air, you’ll be glad to have O’Neill’s 24/7 Hybrid UPF Shirt in your bag. 

Pros: Stretchy, soft, comfortable, versatile, just tightly woven enough to keep you warm on a crisp morning or night

Cons: Too hot in certain climes, maybe a little short for some tastes and torsos (which I didn’t mind while surfing as it stayed out of my way)

It might seem counterintuitive to buy a UPF sun shirt that keeps you warm, but on chillier mornings and evenings, as well as more temperate days in spring and fall, I have come to be extremely grateful for my O’Neill 24/7 Hybrid UPF shirt.

When I first tried these shirts on a sultry South Carolinian summer day, it was more than I could bear. This shirt is by no means breathable, and the first one I tried was a pullover. I was drenched in sweat within seconds. I ripped it off, and, lo and behold, received a fine licking from the sun.

But this year the team at O’Neill released a zippered version that allows for controlled ventilation — and it makes all the difference. Like the shirt of years past, this one is made of a spandex and nylon blend, which is soft and stretchy, and I often find myself wearing one well past sundown. 

I’ve also found it to work well for surfing, though I’d recommend a proper rash guard for any swimming beyond casual surf bathing. Also, because it’s loose-fitting, I wouldn’t recommend anyone learn to surf in it, nor would I suggest wearing it in large or rough surf, where it will act as a sea anchor and weigh you down.

For an all-around summer top, it’s hard to beat in and out of the water, apart from real scorchers in the Palmetto State, at least.

What else we considered

sunshirts

Backcountry Tahoe Sun Hoodie: If you’re looking for a generic sun shirt with a hood, the Tahoe Sun Hoodie from Backcountry fits the bill. It’s not within the budget price zone of our overall pick from Hanes, but it does tend to be somewhere in the middle of the price range for sun shirts, and might save you a few bucks, depending on what you’re after.

Duck Camp Co.: Duck Camp Co.’s fishing shirts are a lot like Columbia’s PFG line. The quality of the fabric is all there and the technical aspects of the shirt are great. We’ve only spent a bit of time with these shirts, and we’re a little skeptical of how the zippers will fare over time compared with Columbia PFG’s tried and true, but after two months of use and exposure to the brine, they’re still doing well.

Orvis Drirelease Pullover Hoodie: The Drirelease Pullover Hoodie from Orvis is moisture-wicking and fast-drying, and it’s somewhat comparable to Patagonia’s answer in our pick above, but it’s not quite as soft, and it’s a little more expensive. Still, this is Orvis quality and if you’re a devotee, you won’t go wrong.

How to shop for a sun shirt

When shopping for a sun shirt, there are a few things to keep in mind, namely the features the shirt comes with and its UPF rating. Much of the decision about which shirt to buy comes down to how and where you’ll be wearing it.

Here’s what to consider when picking out a sun shirt:

  • UPF vs. SPF: Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) measures the amount of UV light that passes through fabrics, while Sun Protection Factor (SPF) measures the amount of time it takes sun-screened skin to redden, or, in other words, the effectiveness of sunscreen.
  • Temperature: If you’re going to be somewhere really, really hot, like Death Valley, or the Atacama Desert, forego your choosy inklings and buy something with the newfangled cooling technology, most notably by Columbia or Under Armour. They’re a bit loud, though, so if you want to strike a pose for your Instagram post, consider throwing in another shirt for photo ops that you’re willing to be caught dead in.
  • Style: Your style is your style, and we’re not telling you what to wear, not ever, and not now. Sun shirts come in all cuts, and it really comes down to personal preference, for most. If you’re going to be doing a lot of swimming, surfing, or spending time in direct sunlight, a hood is beneficial, if not paramount to outwitting the sun and its rays. You also might want thumb holders and a loop to tie it to your shorts. If you’re fishing, pockets are also kind of a must, and a button-up with plenty of pockets is arguably the best way to go.
  • Weight: If you’re traveling — or living — lightly, some of our picks are a bit on the heavy or bulky side. Consider passing on those for our other picks.

A note on fit

Although the sun shirts featured in this guide say they’re for men, anyone can wear any style, size, or brand of shirt they desire, regardless of the gender the brand says it’s actually for. The sizing of men’s shirts does differ from women’s, most notably by having broader shoulders and a less shapely or fitted cut.

However, the most important consideration is that the gear fits properly and functions how you need it to.

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The 5 best wetsuits for surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding

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  • Wetsuits protect you from cold water, allowing you to surf, swim, or dive longer than if you didn’t wear one.
  • Choosing a wetsuit depends on how you’ll use it as surfers have different needs than kayakers, for instance.
  • Our top pick, O’Neill’s Psycho Tech, features water-resistant neoprene, durable stitching, and a comfortable fit.

For anyone who doesn’t live in the tropics, wearing a wetsuit while surfing is a necessity. Paddling out to a break with water temperatures anywhere below 65 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit without a generous helping of rubber can range from slightly uncomfortable to downright deadly – but wear the right wetsuit and you’ll quickly forget all about the hypothermia-inducing water temp (for the most part).

Surfing isn’t the only water sport one might wear a wetsuit for, however. Paddleboarders, kayakers, and divers, among others, also don neoprene getups to keep cold water from cutting their outings short – but not every wetsuit is a jack-of-all-trades type of suit. What one person might need for kayaking might be too cumbersome or ill-fitting for a surfer.

To help anyone shopping for a new suit, I’ve field-tested a number of wetsuits from top brands like O’Neill and Rip Curl, consulted with diving and surfing enthusiasts, and conducted plenty of research to come up with a list of the best currently available.

At the end of this guide, I’ve included some tips on how to shop for a wetsuit, including the differences in suit types and thickness, as well as some insight into the best way to care for your wetsuit and how to pick out a dive suit.

Here are the best wetsuits:

The best wetsuit overall

ONeill wetsuit

The O’Neill Psycho Tech is made with water-resistant neoprene to keep it from retaining water, and its top-notch stitching makes it almost watertight.

Pros: Warm, almost watertight stitching, lightweight, quick-drying

Cons: A little pricey

O’Neill’s Psycho Tech is the kind of cozy, stretchy, almost watertight suit that becomes oh-so-precious to cold-water surfers when winter storms roll through and leaky seams threaten to end surf sessions early.

If there’s one company I’d put all my good faith in keeping me from the wrath of hypothermia, it’s the late, lauded laureate and godfather of the modern wetsuit, Jack O’Neill.

O’Neill puts a lot of money into research and design, and while the US military doesn’t exactly endorse or use any single wetsuit, they’ve frequently sent personnel out in O’Neill suits. That alone may or may not speak volumes to you, but the US military is not known to be one to skimp on matters of national security.

This wetsuit is flexible, and I’ve found it to hold up in temperatures considerably lower than their rating. My old Psycho II model from 2009, which saw heavy service through 2010 and has seen service in most of the years since, is still, shockingly, in pretty good shape. The new Psychos are miles ahead, but there aren’t enough problems or even one single tear in my suit that warrant tossing mine out just yet.

Cleanline Surf, the Pacific Northwest’s coldwater surf aficionados, called the Psycho Tech “the pinnacle of wetsuit technology and performance.” The site goes on to taut it for being lightweight, warm, durable, and flexible — I don’t disagree.

Also, the TechnoButter neoprene rejects water so well that it stays light even when wet, and it dries much faster than most suits.

The best budget wetsuit for women

RipCurlDawn

Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits cost less than $200, feature an easy-to-use rear zip entry, and have both stitched and glued seams for added durability. 

Pros: Easy in and out via a rear zip entry, stitched and glued seams, inexpensive (as far as wetsuits go)

Cons: Its 3/2 millimeter thickness won’t keep you warm very long in colder water temps

Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits are extremely flexible, thoroughly stitched, taped, and glued, and very reasonably priced.

The suit has been a bestseller for several years and being blindstitched, glued, and taped for under $200 certainly hasn’t hurt its reputation. It also comes in both men’s and women’s designs, but, I must make a full disclosure: I’ve never owned one, though I’ve envied them from close and afar over the years. 

The best budget wetsuit for men

7seaslarge

VISSLA’s 7 Seas is economical but doesn’t cut any corners to deliver a functional wetsuit at a fair price.

Pros: Price tag, sleeve gaskets, stitching and gluing, 1-year warranty

Cons: Neoprene retains water and gets a little heavy

I tried VISSLA’s 7 Seas model in New York this late spring and was hot in the 3/2-millimeter full suit. That’s a good sign. I also caught up with an old friend on Montauk who’s in his third season with the same model, which is as much as most people ask of even a luxury suit. That was good enough for me.

It fit me exceptionally well, which is a shock because I’m six feet tall, generally, stay shy of 160 pounds, and almost no company designs standard suits sized for stick-figured string beans like me.

The seams are held together by double blind-stitching and taped three times over, which somewhere around five years ago was unthinkable for a suit under $200. Matter-of-factly, this suit is designed in much the same way one of my nicer suits from about 10 years ago was, only that one cost me about twice as much. The suit’s also backed by respective 1-year warranties for both the neoprene and the stitching.

Although the neoprene retains water and gets heavy, the suit is remarkably stretchy — maybe stretchier than Patagonia’s Yulex suits — and the wrist gaskets that are located a few inches above the cuff really kept water from getting up my sleeves and slowing my paddling. Further, taking water up the sleeves in fall or winter is shockingly chilling.

I also liked the fuzzy lining, which is akin to Patagonia’s, but, again, this suit is less than half the price (at the time of this publishing). While Patagonia’s suits are nice, and I love mine, I don’t see any need to step up unless you really feel like spending the extra money or you’re going to be surfing in exceptionally cold waters where you’ll probably want the best technology you can get.

The best non-neoprene wetsuit

Patagonia wetsuit

There are other non-neoprene suits emerging on the market, but my Patagonia suits have lasted through a lot, and it will take a lot for another suit to knock them off their throne.

Pros: Long-lasting (as long as if not longer than most neoprene suits), neoprene-free, almost petroleum-free, very warm, so you can often get away with a thinner suit

Cons: Not cheap, maybe a little stiffer than neoprene suits

Patagonia’s current crop of wetsuits comes via a biochemical company called Yulex. Yulex manufactures neoprene from the guayule plant, a hardy shrub native to the Southwestern United States that’s used to make rubber that’s both renewable and nearly chemical-free.

The latest Yulex-branded suit now has a new patterning intended for “improved fit and increased mobility.” Yulex’s brand of rubber often had a reputation among wetsuit users as being stiff compared with neoprene, which isn’t generally a good thing for water enthusiasts. However, the suits do feature a fuzzy synthetic liner that makes the inside of the suit feel silky smooth while also doing well to make me feel warmer in frigid water. 

The company now uses a water-based glue in all its suits, eliminating the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that were used for decades. The new suit also includes solution-dyed fabrics that reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions by 86% and 96%, respectively.

Of course, as goes with the Patagonia story, everything is Fair Trade Certified, and you’ll also get Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee, so if you’re not thrilled with your new suit, you can send it back.

What excites me most about this suit is that, although Patagonia hasn’t made the leap to zipperless suits, the corrosion-resistant zipper on this suit is now actually replaceable, so if it wears out before the wetsuit does, you can extend its life a little longer. This is great news because oftentimes the collar or zipper area is the first thing to wear out on a wetsuit.

Learn more about Patagonia and Yulex’s bio-rubber here.

The best wetsuit for paddlesports

Screen Shot 2018 08 07 at 5.16.06 PM

If you’re tired of hanging up your paddles for the winter, O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is just enough to keep you comfortable as water temperatures reach the 60s and maybe the 50s. 

Pros: Flexible, breathable, affordable

Cons: The chest rubber can be overly sticky

Because our bodies are mostly out of the water when paddling, we tend to work up a sweat beneath a neoprene wetsuit. While any combination of layers can do the trick, I’ve found that a farmer john-style (sleeveless) wetsuit with flatlock seams works best unless you’re dealing with temperatures below 50° F or so, at which point I’d opt for a dry suit. Stohlquist makes a good one for men and women.

Since you’re getting such a thorough upper body workout, I’d suggest avoiding sleeves, which apart from causing you to overheat also tend to constrict movement and cause chafing. O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is 2 millimeters thick and comes with flatlock seams, and at less than $100 can’t really be beaten.

If it’s a little cooler, you might want one with full-length legs (the women’s model, the Bahia, comes in a 1.5mm), or a 3mm. O’Neill doesn’t make the sleeveless suit in a 3mm, but Aqua Lung does, for men and women. Anything above 3mm tends to get a little too hot for paddlesports, at least if you’re not getting in the water.

If you want to spend even a little more money — unless you’re surfing in one of these suits, keep in mind that quality might not be quite as paramount — Patagonia’s Long John (men’s) and Long Jane (women’s) are $169 and worth it. They’re made of the same non-neoprene Yulex rubber as Patagonia’s other suits, but flatlock-stitched so that they breathe a little better.

How to shop for a wetsuit

Open-cell vs. closed-cell wetsuits

Apart from temperature, what you’ll be doing in or on the water is a major deciding factor for which wetsuit is best. If you’re swimming or surfing, a floaty, hydrodynamic closed-cell or single-piece suit is likely your best bet. These are either chest- or back-zipped and come with different sleeve and leg cuts.

But if you’re diving, a closed-cell wetsuit allows too much water flow between it and your skin. You’ll find yourself feeling stiff and cold, and stiff and cold are never what you want while diving for long periods of time. An open-cell wetsuit provides suction between the skin and suit that’s nearly watertight. While these types of suits are a pain to get in and out of, they keep you much warmer and allow for much greater flexibility underwater.

Editor’s note: If you use a little eco-friendly dish soap, getting into an open-cell wetsuit is much easier.

Open-cell suits usually don’t have zippers apart from the wrist and leg cuffs but closed cells come in a variety of different zipper configurations. Some manufacturers are starting to develop zipperless models, too, which could eliminate zippers altogether — at least on more expensive suits.

Zipper variation

Back-zip suit: Back-zip wetsuits are the original design, and almost always cheaper than chest-zip or zipper-less suits. They’re fine for swimming in temperate waters on relatively warm days, but I’ve found that having cool water seep down your back on a chillier day — or in the middle of winter, for that matter — can be miserable.

Chest-zip suit: Usually more expensive, chest-zip wetsuits tend to keep you warmer thanks to a smaller, well-protected zipper that sits on the front of the suit. This also makes them the most difficult to get in and out of, but, overall, we think they’re worth it. They tend to last longer, and some even allow for the neckpiece to be replaced, which is often the first thing to wear and tear on a wetsuit.

Zipperless: I haven’t yet tried out a zipperless wetsuit, though I’ve been hearing positive buzz about O’Neill’s Hyperfreak Comp zipless model. It would be more of a performance suit than most require, and it’s hard to say whether the lack of a zipper will, in turn, stretch the suit more or keep us warmer, but we will see how they fare over time and update this guide with our findings.

Wetsuit thickness and temperature rating

Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters, and the core is most often thicker than the extremities to keep your body temperature up while allowing for more mobility in the arms and legs. This is why you’ll see two — or sometimes three — numbers, listing the core’s thickness first (e.g., 3/2, or 4/3/2).

Temperature rating corresponds with thickness, for the most part, but varies some from company to company and material to material, but here’s a basic rule of thumb:

  • Mid 60s to low 70s: 2 mm
  • Low 60s to high 60s: 3/2 mm
  • Low 50s to low 60s: 4/3 mm, or 4/3/2 mm
  • Low to high 40s: 5/4 mm, or 5/4/3 mm
  • High 30s to low 40s: 6/5 mm or 6/5/4 mm
  • Upper 30s and below: While a good 6/5- or 6/5/4-millimeter suit can do you well in the upper 30s, it’s tough to stand it any colder. There are 7/6- and 7/6/5-millimeter wetsuits, but they become impedingly stiff at that point. A good 6/5 or 6/5/4 with hood, boots, and gloves will take care of most of us through winter.

Not all sizing is consistent

Size charts vary from company to company, so make sure to have a look at the chart to be sure which one fits you best. Unless you get a custom suit, none are likely to fit you perfectly but you should be able to get close enough.

Stitching and seams

Not all wetsuits are created equal, and while most are made of neoprene — and come from the same factory in Taiwan, despite different brand names — it’s the stitching and seams that make all the difference.

  • Overlock stitching: This is the most basic stitching, and it will let water flow through your suit like Victoria Falls. Okay, not really, but I save these cheap suits for spring and summer, or when it’s not exactly board-short temperature, but a constant flush is actually refreshing.
  • Flat stitching: This is probably a little fancier than the stitching they taught you in Home Economics class. By no means is it watertight, but it lies flatter and holds up better than basic overlock stitching.
  • Blindstitching: Blindstitched suits have even narrower stitching than flat-stitched ones, and the seams are usually glued, which does a pretty good job of preventing water seepage.
  • Sealed, taped, glued: This is a definitive step up, and usually what you’ll find with blindstitched suits. Once you get into blindstitching, you start to notice that very little water seeps through your suit, and you stay relatively dry inside. The best of these suits are also sealed and taped both inside and out, but the full combination is where suits start to get above the $500 price tag, which isn’t crucial for most. Still, if you plan to be surfing in sub 55-degree Fahrenheit temps, we highly recommend forking over the extra dough.

How to take care of your wetsuit

All outdoors equipment requires a little love to survive its life expectancy and, hopefully, beyond. Protect your wetsuit and it protects you — at least from the cold.

Here’s what every first-time wetsuit owner should know: 

Wash your suit every time you use it, or at least as frequently as you can stand to. Wetsuits take on everything you put into them, from your sweat, sunscreen, seawater, and yes, urine. While it may not damage your suit, it will surely smell bad.

And even though Helen Hunt does it, it’s not exactly a good idea to pee in your wetsuit, for obvious reasons. Regardless of whether or not you decide to relieve yourself in your suit, get a wetsuit shampoo, and follow its instructions well. Do NOT use any old soap for this, or you’ll be sorry.

Store your wetsuit in a dry, shaded area with plenty of ventilation. We all know what happens to wet things in confined spaces, but hanging your wetsuit to dry in the sun is surely the quickest way to end its life.

Hang your wetsuit loosely on a thick-framed clothes hanger, a proper wetsuit hanger, or fold it loosely. If you hang a wetsuit on a sharp wire hanger, it will stretch out. If you fold it too tightly, it’ll crease. I roll mine up when I travel to avoid creasing.

How to choose a diving wetsuit

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A simple, closed-cell suit like a surfing wetsuit works above the surface where you have heat from the sun and little pressure, but when you get below the surface, it can get stiff and cold. An open cell suit will keep you much warmer and more flexible, whether you’re freediving or using scuba tanks. 

I’ve never actually owned an open-cell diving suit — I use a surfing suit to dive, which I assure you is less than ideal — so I called on a lifeline: an old friend who spends his workdays and sometimes his nights underwater in the marrow-chilling depths of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds. If anyone has earned the authority to deem a wetsuit good or bad, we figure it might be a commercial diver, after all.

A commercial diver’s input

The array of both open cell and closed cell diving suits in the locker where he works is almost exclusively with Beuchat and Cressi wetsuits, and while many of the members of the dive team do wear closed cell suits to work, they don’t last as long — maybe that’s intended. Open cell suits are snug, and almost suction-cup your skin, which is extremely efficient for keeping you warm, but makes them very difficult to get on and off.

When we would go spearfishing together — I in my 5/4-millimeter closed-cell surfing wetsuit, he in his 7-millimeter open-cell diving suit — I’d be in and out of my suit in half the time it took him to roll his on and off. But, by the same token, he could still feel his hands and feet after an hour of diving. Meanwhile, my lips would be turning blue.

Bottom line: If you’re going to be in even moderately cold water, save yourself the agony of freezing and put up with the nuisance of stretching into a skin-tight open cell suit.

How to shop for a dive suit

If you’ve never worn or owned a diving wetsuit before, you’ll probably want to go to the local dive shop and have the pros sort you out, or at the very least fit you.

When picking out a diving suit, color, or rather pattern, is a consideration that goes beyond aesthetics. If an experience with wildlife is what you’re after (even if you’re not in search of dinner), then a camouflage suit is probably a good idea, simply because you won’t startle as many creatures as quickly as you would with a black suit, or one of any color, really.

Also, note that camouflage is relative: If you’re going to be in open water, you’ll want a rhapsody in blue, and if you’re going to be in kelp, coral, or rocks, you probably want to look for a more greenish-brown pattern.

A few drawbacks

The main downfall of many closed-cell suits is that they are made of or coated with a softer, more delicate rubber-like neoprene skin which, while it keeps you warmer and leaves you agiler in the pressured depths, is highly prone to tearing.

Also, always make sure your wetsuit is wet when you’re pulling it on, and follow instructions for care and maintenance like these, from Aqua Lung. Never leave any wetsuit in the sun but especially not a suit with skin material, which will melt and stick to itself, a tragedy not covered by any warranty far as I’m aware.

Aqua LungBeuchat, Cressi, and Mares are companies that have all been around since recreational diving has, more or less, and they all have similarly long legacies and popular standing with commercial and recreational divers alike.

Pros: Tighter-fitting, more watertight, keeps you warmer, less constricting

Cons: Can be more expensive, much more delicate, difficult to don and doff 

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The 5 best first aid kits of 2021 to keep at home or take with you on the go

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best first aid kits should have items like bandages, wraps, antibiotic ointment, and pain relievers.
  • It’s smart to routinely check your first aid kit to be sure nothing is expired, low on stock, or needs updating.
  • Our top pick, the First Aid Only First Aid Kit, is compact, carefully curated with essentials, and costs under $25.

As a frequent camper and hiker, I know that having a first aid kit isn’t only a good idea, it’s a necessity. When you’re a three-day hike from the nearest hospital, you’d better be able to count on your own supplies in the event of injury or illness – so long as those supplies cover the basics.

When buying your own kit, it should have at least some assortment of the following: Bandages, antiseptic wipes, medical tape, anti-itch cream, burn relief gels, gauze, and antibiotic ointment, among others. It’s also important to choose a first aid kit that best suits the people and the situations in which they’ll be used. If you need just a small first aid kit for your home, there’s no need to splurge on a larger, disaster preparedness-style kit.

It’s also smart to opt for pre-packed kits whenever possible, especially if you’re relatively new to buying first aid kits, or aren’t entirely sure what all it should have. Piecing together your own is an option but should only be done by those that are experienced, or who have someone experienced helping them.

To help you find the best pre-packaged first aid kits available, I tested a number of options designed for a variety of use cases. No matter if you’re on a budget or just want a small kit for your home office, I have you covered. I’ve also included some insight into how to shop for a first aid kit at the end of this guide.

Here are the best first aid kits:

The best overall

first aid only

The First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Kit comes with all the basic medical supplies you need for quick diagnostics and the treatments of many ailments. 

Pros: Compact but comprehensive, great low price, well organized

Cons: Limited shelf life, included tape is not as adhesive as it could be

The First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Kit packs 299 doctor-recommended supplies into a soft-sided case measuring just 9.25 by 7.5 inches on its sides and about three inches deep. It’s about the size of a hardcover book but within this kit, you will find the tools needed to assess and treat everything from a scraped finger and heavily bleeding gash to a mild headache or high fever.

This kit comes with comprehensive wound cleaning and closure supplies, including multiple butterfly strips, gauze rolls and pads, and several types of bandages, not to mention the various alcohol, antiseptic, and antibiotic wipes and ointments. It’s the perfect triage kit for a variety of common injuries.

The kit also comes with an array of supplies invaluable to the person administering first aid, such as sterile vinyl gloves, a single-use thermometer, tweezers, and nickel-plated scissors. For all that, it still costs less than a nice meal — and certainly less than a trip to the ER.

The plastic partition pockets keep everything well-sorted and easy to find in a snap, so you won’t be fumbling for the right gear when time is of the essence, either. 

WebMD suggests you should replace your first aid kit once a year and replace any missing or expired items. At its affordable cost, you could replace the entire kit once a year without breaking the bank, maintaining a nice peace of mind in your home or workplace.

The best budget

coleman first aid

The Coleman All Purpose Mini First Aid Kit costs less than a fancy cup of coffee but it helps treat all sorts of minor scrapes, scratches, bug bites, and more.

Pros: Very affordable, lightweight and compact, perfect for travel

Cons: Not at all comprehensive

If you need to treat a compound fracture, you’re probably going to need a more advanced medical kit than this option from Coleman. More often than not, the damage we endure is often along the lines of minor cuts and scrapes, burns and bites, and the occasional puncture wound. For those everyday injuries, the Coleman All Purpose Mini First Aid Kit is the ideal choice.

It costs so little that there’s really no excuse not to buy one, and given the diminutive size of this kit, you can (and should) bring one along whenever your travels might lead you away from ready access to medical treatment.

Into a charming little tin, Coleman packed several antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, sting relief wipes, and a total of sixteen bandages in five different size and shape varieties. There’s also a razor blade for cutting away clothing or trimming medical tape, as well as a pair of safety pins.

The best portable

VSSL

VSSL’s First Aid is the perfect portable kit that’s great for camping, backpacking, or even just keeping around in your car or office, and includes 15 unique items all stored in a waterproof, aluminum container.

Pros: Compact and highly portable, has 15 unique pieces and 46 total items, comes in an aluminum carrying tube that’s waterproof

Cons: Not a comprehensive enough kit for large groups

Ingenuity and convenience are the main calling cards of VSSL’s first aid kit called, aptly, First Aid. Featuring 15 different items (and 46 total essentials) in an aluminum, waterproof carrying case, the First Aid is a highly useful and portable kit that can go just about anywhere. It’s perfect for the campground and the backcountry but also functions well at the job site or in the office. 

As the photo above shows, the First Aid is a tube-shaped kit that has everything packed neatly inside. Contents include a flashlight, compass, variety of bandages, adventure tape, and Steri-Strips, to name a few. It also has some antiseptic towelettes, medical face masks, and antibiotic cream. 

The entire contents of the kit store into a sleeve that conveniently folds up to slide inside the tube. The sleeve itself features hooks on either side so that it can be hung up for easy access, too. 

At just 14 ounces in weight, the First Aid weighs less than a pound and can be easily stashed in a backpack, glove box of a car, or in a desk. As mentioned, the entire thing is waterproof, so you can rest assured nothing will get ruined if it gets submerged in water or you’re trying to use it in the pouring rain. 

I’ve had my own First Aid (and replaced it a few times) for the last several years, and never leave home on a camping or backpacking trip without it. It’s highly convenient, has enough first aid supplies to adequately support one to two people, and is useful in more ways than just administering first aid. — Rick Stella, fitness and health editor

The best for the office

be smart first aid

The Be Smart Get Prepared 250 Piece First Aid Kit is OSHA and ANSI compliant and covers the first aid needs of up to 50 people, making it perfect for the office.

Pros: Great choice for the workplace, comes with a selection of medicines, hard plastic shell protects components

Cons: Case is bulky and not water-resistant, latch is prone to failure

The Be Smart Get Prepared Kit is a large, comprehensive first aid kit designed to meet the needs of several dozen people. It’s a great choice for businesses, retail locations, schools, churches, and even for the home, though it’s not a good choice for travel due to its bulky hard case.

The case helps keep the components organized and protected but it’s not watertight or resistant to moisture or temperature fluctuations which can affect some of the components. Because of this, it should be stored in a temperate indoor environment.

The Be Smart Get Prepared 250 Piece First Aid Kit has all the wound care components you would expect, from alcohol prep pads and antiseptic towelettes to multiple bandages in varied sizes.

What sets this kit apart from the others in terms of suitability for use in the office or at a school are the medicines it comes with. You’d likely already have access to many of these medicines at home — like pain and anti-inflammatory tablets and antacids — but it’s not always a given at work, school, or at other such locations.

It also includes cold packs, another handy feature for use when ice might not be nearby.

The best for disaster prep

Lightning X first aid kit

If you’re cut off from emergency services following a natural disaster or in times of civil unrest, you’ll be glad you have the Lightning X First Responder First Aid Kit.

Pros: Comprehensive supplies, features advanced medical gear, comes with backpack

Cons: Pricier than other options, many components not needed for basic first aid

If you foresee a time where there won’t be anyone on the other end of a 9-1-1 call, or you just like to be prepared for anything, the Lightning X First Responder First Aid Kit is the way to go. This kit certainly borders on overkill for most households but it’s likely the last kit you’d ever need to buy (not counting the items that merit periodic replacement, like alcohol wipes).

Anyone in need of first aid or preparing to administer it will appreciate the many bandages, the rolls and pads of gauze, the antiseptic wipes, the ointments, the tapes, and more. Anyone with actual medical training will also like the included stethoscope, sphygmomanometer, airway kit, and other more advanced medical tools. In the right hands, this kit is essentially a mobile trauma center while also having all your basic and intermediate first aid needs covered.

This comprehensive first aid kit comes loaded in a lightweight, ergonomic backpack with padded straps and reflective stripes, allowing it to be easily taken on the go — it’s even comfortable to carry and highly visible. While it’s a great choice for a well-prepared home, this kit was designed for emergency response professionals to use in the field.

How to shop for a first aid kit

A reliable first aid kit isn’t exactly a mobile trauma center but it does provide the basic supplies you need to mitigate the ill effects of an accident, injury, or sudden illness. Remember, it’s first aid, not final, comprehensive aid.

When choosing a first aid kit, you need to think about who might depend on it (in terms of the sheer number of people and the age and disposition of the user), where it will be stored and/or carried, and in what situations the likely users might endure an injury or illness.

Any first aid kit worth considering should have supplies capable of treating minor cuts, punctures, burns, and other such common injuries. Beyond that, the suitability of a given kit depends on careful consideration of factors ranging from weight to packaging to redundancy of the supplies included.

Check out our guide to the best emergency kits

emergency preparedness supply kit shutterstock_222250729

The best emergency kits

An emergency kit is something you should have around, in case an unexpected dangerous event happens. You can make your own, or purchase a pre-assembled kit that has everything you may need. We’ve rounded up the best emergency kits you can find pre-assembled.

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Your ultimate guide to gearing up for spring 2021, from cleaning products to gardening gear to patio furniture

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Spring is the time to refresh our homes, reenergize our well-being, and prepare for summer.
  • In our Spring Forward coverage, you’ll find articles to help you achieve your spring goals.
  • See more stories from Insider Reviews.
Outdoor Furniture Deals and Sales

Spring is a time of renewal, when flower buds bloom, leaves return to barren trees, and the remnants of winter fade away. For many people, it’s a time to refresh our lives and surroundings: reorganizing and tidying the home, planting new seeds, cleaning the grill and pool, setting up outdoor play areas, picking up hobbies where you last left off, and making travel plans, to name a few things.

As more people emerge from a year staying at home, they will want to get outside. Many others will continue to stay indoors and will want to make their homes more comfortable for both work and play. Whatever your situation may be, as part of our Spring Forward coverage, the Insider Reviews team researched and tested the best products and services to help you rejuvenate yourself and your family.

Here are all our favorite resources to help you Spring Forward, including discounts on cleaning products, outdoor gear, and spring style.

All the spring deals and discounts happening now

Target outdoor deals 2021

We look for the best deals available online daily. Take a look at these great discounts on a variety of popular products.  

The best spring cleaning products

favorite cleaning brands

Spring cleaning is the time to refresh our homes — especially if you’ve been stuck indoors for most of last year. But to do a proper job, make sure you have the best cleaning products and tools on hand. 

 

The best spring cleaning appliances

The best home, kitchen, and gardening products

best gardening gloves 2021 pine tree tools bamboo

Whether it’s preparing your home to cool down the upcoming summer months or setting up the backyard for outdoor fun, we have you covered with our expert guides from our Home and Kitchen team. For more products and resources, see our companion guide on spring cleaning.

The best grilling products

traeger grill

Summer isn’t summer if there isn’t grilling involved. Before you start the cookout, make sure your grill and smoker are cleaned and ready for the job, and springtime is the best time to take care of that. If you don’t own a grill yet, spring is the best time to pick one up.

The best outdoor entertaining products

best patio umbrellas 2021 thumb

Now that you’ve gotten your grilling gear up to par, it’s time to set up your outdoor space to enjoy all those burgers and dogs al fresco. Whether you need new patio furniture or a fire pit to roast marshmallows around, now is a great time to gear up.

The best outdoors gear for spring

Salomon sense rides trail runners

As the weather warms up and it becomes safer to venture outside, it’s time to plan that outdoor adventure. From hiking trails to biking trips, check out our stories on the best outdoors gear you can buy.

The best outdoors shoes and apparel

The best outdoors accessories

The best bikes and bike accessories

The best spring travel destinations

carry-on luggage for travel with kids

With the increase in vaccinations and more states and countries reopening for visitors, there is a demand for travel. Whether it’s domestic or international and by plane or by car, if you are considering traveling for leisure, check out these best destinations for spring travel. 

The best pet gear for spring

Best dog raincoats in 2021

Other great products to enjoy this spring

Sonos Move

To get the most of the spring season this year, check out these other great products.

The best health products and resources

The best tech gear and entertainment

The best apparel for spring

 

 

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I used Arrive Outdoors to rent all the camping gear I needed for a weekend trip – here’s how it works and why I’ll gladly use the service again

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

arrive outdoors review
  • Arrive Outdoors partners with top brands to rent outdoor, camping, and ski gear.
  • The company offers everything from one-off items like tents to full collections and sets of gear.
  • Prices start from $1 per day, but range depending on season, number of rental days, and popularity.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Over the last year, there’s been a steep rise in the popularity of camping and other outdoor pursuits that make it easier to practice social distancing.

In fact, according to KOA’s North American Camping Report, 46% of leisure travelers have spent significantly more time outdoors since the start of the pandemic. Even those who typically prefer a more luxurious hotel-style stay have been keen to take up camping, and it’s a trend that’s likely to continue this summer too.

For those who don’t typically do much hiking or camping, investing in new equipment to get started can be expensive. While many campgrounds are quite cheap to book, tents, sleeping bags, camp stoves, hiking boots, and other essentials are not. And for city dwellers who lack roomy sheds, basements, or even closet space, there’s also the question of where to store everything.

Enter Arrive Outdoors, a company that rents camping, outdoor, and ski/snowboard equipment. Customers choose the items they want, the number of days they want to use them, and get them shipped right to their front door. After a fun weekend hiking and curling up by the campfire, just pack it all back up and ship it back.

What is Arrive Outdoors?

Arrive Outdoors is a company that partners with top brands to rent out camping and outdoor equipment. You can rent everything from tents and sleeping bags to ski pants and snowshoes and can choose a window of days to rent the gear. When finished, all gear is easily returned so there’s no need to own or store all your own equipment.

The gear is sent directly to your door via FedEx and comes with return shipping labels to send it back once you’re done. You can rent both equipment and clothes, though most of the equipment is for camping (you can’t rent actual skis, for example).

You can rent one-off items you may be missing, such as just a tent, just hiking boots, or just ski goggles, or you can rent entire sets the company curates. Sets range from camping sets for one, two, or four people to ski clothing sets for men, women, and even kids.

For those who only camp, hike, ski, or snowboard occasionally, want to try gear out before committing to buying it, or just want to save on storage space, Arrive Outdoors is an excellent option.

Arrive Outdoors review - Gear arriving

How much does Arrive Outdoors cost?

Rentals are priced per day so the total cost depends on how long you plan to use it. The prices also fluctuate quite a bit depending on the time of year and how many other people are looking to rent at the same time.

Small items like trekking poles or even hiking boots go for as little as $1 to $5 per day, depending on the season, while a two-person tent typically runs roughly $12 per day. Full sets like ski clothes for men (including everything from base layers to the ski jacket and gloves) costs closer to $80 per day.

If you’re willing to enter your email into the Arrive Outdoors database, you can also receive 10% off your first rental of $99 or more.

Where does Arrive Outdoors deliver?

Arrive Outdoors delivers anywhere in the contiguous United States via FedEx. Delivery is extremely easy and comes right to your door. You can even choose to get your equipment delivered to your home, a hotel, an Airbnb, or to one of over 10,000 FedEx or FedEx affiliate locations.

Arrive Outdoors COVID-19 policies

Arrive Outdoors has new policies in place specifically for COVID-19 that include:

  • Gear and apparel are thoroughly cleaned and treated with CDC-recommended cleaning solutions​;
  • All apparel goes through a​ commercial launder system and gets treated with laundry additives to fight viruses​ and bacteria;
  • All staff who handle gear or shipments are ​required to use disposable gloves at all times and use sanitizer ​frequently and between stations;
  • All ​product surfaces are cleaned with CDC-recommended disinfectants​.

My review of Arrive Outdoors

Arrive Outdoors review - inside Tent View

I’m no newbie to camping and typically have my camping packing list set. However, storing camping gear in my small Brooklyn apartment presents quite a challenge, and since I don’t camp as often as I used to, many of my bigger essentials like tents, sleeping pads, and coolers are currently stowed with my parents in New Mexico.

Because of that, I decided to try out Arrive Outdoor’s Camping Set for Two for my fiance and me (which was comped for review purposes). I also wanted to experience what it would be like if I had no equipment of my own and needed to rely exclusively on Arrive Outdoor’s supply.

The Camping Set prices fluctuate quite a bit. Though they start as low as $23 per day, the kit typically runs closer to $55 per day in the fall season. However, I went over an August weekend when camping was at peak popularity and the set ran $83 per night. For an entire weekend trip, I was looking at $166, plus a shipping charge of $20.

While that may seem pricey to rent gear and sleep on the ground, the set comes loaded with just about everything you need. This includes a high-quality Marmot tent, two Nemo sleeping bags, two Therma-a-Rest luxury sleeping pads, two headlamps, a lantern outfit with charging ports, a small YETI cooler, a camp stove and cooking pots, and two foldable camp chairs. If I bought everything included on the list, it’d run more than $1,600, which suddenly makes the $160 price tag much more reasonable.

The reservation process was also very easy and Arrive Outdoors allows you to reserve for free – it only charges your card once the gear actually ships. I also liked that it gave me options when choosing the sleeping bag for how warm I wanted it to be.

The gear arrived in two large boxes right on time and directly to my door. Everything was neatly packed and there was a note on the top outlining the brand’s new cleaning policy. This definitely helped put my mind at ease about renting gear in the COVID era and true to its word, all the equipment was spotless.

arrive outdoors review - lantern setup

The gear was also in excellent shape. I found no rips or tears in the tent or sleeping bags, and no missing tent poles or required components. I’d still recommend looking everything over and even pitching the tent once before embarking on an extended trip. There’s nothing worse than arriving at an isolated location miles away from home before realizing your tent zipper doesn’t work or your headlamp is broken.

Our campsite was a short, two-hour drive away and we arrived just before dusk on a Friday afternoon. Because it wasn’t my usual tent, I did end up having to pull up a short Youtube video to check how the poles were supposed to connect after some initial confusion. Despite that, I still felt that the equipment was extremely user-friendly, and setting up the tent a second time would’ve taken mere minutes after I’d gotten the hang of it.

All the extra equipment worked flawlessly and nearly everything we needed was included. However, there were a few key items missing that those who have never camped before could easily overlook. I’d recommend bringing some sort of pillow (inflatable or otherwise), a sturdy tarp in case of severe weather, and fire starters, at a bare minimum.

Overall, the equipment made for a comfortable and easy campsite. I particularly liked that the tent was actually a three-person tent, making it a bit roomier for both my fiance and me. The lantern that doubled as a charging port was especially handy and I’m even considering buying the same one now to add to my regular camping kit. We even took the camp chairs down to the beach and it made for an easy way to relax and enjoy the sunset view.

Arrive Outdoors View

When we got back, we made sure everything was packed back up, put it all back into the boxes with the pre-printed return shipping labels affixed, and dropped it off at a nearby FedEx. Do note that the boxes are big and heavy and if you don’t have a car, it can be a serious pain to get them to a drop-off location. I ended up needing to use a dolly just to wheel them to the drop-off.

The bottom line

My overall experience with Arrive Outdoors was an excellent one and I definitely plan to use it again this summer for my outdoor and camping gear needs. The company is very useful for those who are new to outdoor pursuits, want to try out equipment before buying, or who live in smaller spaces and don’t have the storage space for gear like tents or snowshoes.

The prices are especially reasonable for one-off items such as renting a single tent, a set of trekking poles, or a pair of gloves. However, the full sets make activities like camping and skiing more accessible for those who aren’t quite ready to invest in the gear required to get started – and it still offers great value when compared to the full retail prices of what’s included.

If you do plan to hike, ski, or camp often, it’s worth it to invest in your own equipment since rental prices add up over time, but for the occasional outing, Arrive Outdoors is a smart and worthy option.

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The 6 best hydration packs for day hikes, long-distance runs, and other outdoor activities

  • It’s crucial to stay hydrated while exercising, particularly in the heat.
  • Hydration packs make it easy and comfortable to carry liters of water on a run, hike, or bike ride.
  • The Osprey Skarab 18 hydration pack is comfortable and holds 2L of water plus all your hiking essentials.

You know it’s important to stay hydrated on a hike, run, bike ride, or literally any adventure in exercising. But carrying a water bottle or and having to constantly stop to pull it out of your pack gets old quick.

Hydration packs are the ideal way to make carrying and accessing water easier and minimize stoppage time. The best hydration packs not only have a pouch big enough to hold 1+ liters of water, but they also provide storage for snacks, layers, a first aid kit, and any other essentials you might need on a day hike or run. What’s more, the pack also needs to be comfortable, breathable, and quick-drying to not weigh down your adventure.

For longer hikes and backpacking trips, check out our guides to the best backpacks for men and for women.

The number of hydration packs on the market can be overwhelming. But we’ve dug into which packs can actually keep up on your putting and, therefore, which are worth your money.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Here are our top picks for the best hydration packs:

The best hydration pack overall

Osprey hydration pack

Osprey’s Skarab 18 is the only day-hiking hydration pack you’ll need, thanks to its high-quality construction, internal frame that keeps it comfortable mile after mile, and easy-to-access water reservoir.

Pros: Comfortable to wear even over several hours, extra-wide clip-on water reservoir allows for easy cleaning and refills, 2.5-liter capacity is perfect for long day hikes, offers plenty of interior storage, and the ventilated foam frame helps avoid excess sweat

Cons: Too small for longer backpacking trips

Osprey has consistently made some of the finest backpacks for decades, so it’s no surprise that the Osprey Skarab 18 also happens to be our favorite hydration pack.

It’s the ideal size for a day hike, weighing just over one pound with enough storage space for hiking essentials. Its foam frame allows for great ventilation, keeping your back cool and mostly sweat-free. Like all its packs, Osprey decked out the Skarab with plenty of straps to allow for the ultimate custom fit, regardless of who’s wearing it.

But what makes this bag truly shine is the large, 2.5-liter water pouch, which should keep you hydrated for most day hikes. Additionally, its extra-wide clip opening makes it easy to add more water or clean the reservoir after use. The pack even has a magnetic bite valve attachment that allows it to quickly attach to the Skarab’s sternum strap, allowing for easy access.

Added extras like stretch mesh pockets on the side of the pack, a scratch-free stash pocket, removable hip belts, and external bungees for more gear are Osprey staples and only add to the pack’s overall quality. Osprey’s Skarab 18 is simple when it needs to be yet versatile and technical for those who demand it.

The best for male runners

camelbak hydration pack

Runners don’t want anything weighing them down, and CamelBak’s HydroBak weighs just five ounces — before being filled with water, of course. 

Pros: Weighs just five ounces without water, mesh back panel and harness aid in ventilation, new Crux reservoir allows 20% more water per drink, and its leak-proof valves are easy to flick on or off

Cons: Doesn’t offer much in the way of storage (not that runners need much of it, anyway)

A running-specific hydration pack should sinch down tight and comfortable, and be able to carry enough water for long miles. Camelbak’s HydroBak has a mesh back panel and harness to help with ventilation and keeping you cool. Its reflective accents help with visibility for early or late runs. 

Uniquely, the HydroBak features a Crux reservoir which lets you pull a full 20% more water with each swig. That means less time sucking on the tube and more time focusing on your stride. Additionally, the pack features easy-to-use leak-proof valves that you can flip on or off with a gentle push for less wasted water and no fumbling with the tube while running.

CamelBak also outfitted the Crux with a leak-proof cap and coated the tube with its anti-microbial HydroGuard technology, which is 100% BPA free and reduces the risk of bacteria growth.

Though it’s small, the HydroBak still features a few zippered pockets perfect for keeping energy gels, granola bars, and some cash for those well-earned post-run beers.

The best for female runners

salomon adv skin 8

The Salomon ADV Skin 8 is specifically designed to sinch down on the female figure, and can carry 1 liter of water with the option of adding a reservoir in the back.

Pros: Female-specific design, adjustable to fit different chest sizes, soft material, 2 soft 500ml flasks included, many mesh and zipper pockets, room to carry warm layer

Cons: Expensive, straws can be a bit tricky to adjust

While females can wear any hydration pack, they’ll be the most comfortable in the Salomon ADV Skin 8. Designed by one of the leading trail running brands today, the ADV Skin 8 is uniquely shaped to sinch down tight around female curves so your pack isn’t throwing off your momentum. Specifically, this pack was crafted to alleviate pressure on your breasts and has an adjustable drawcord fasten in the front for a personalized fit. I’m small-chested and have lent this vest to friends as large-chested as 34DD who say it’s just as comfortable for bigger breasts.

While you can slide a traditional reservoir in the back of the pack, the other feature that makes Salomon running vests so great is their integrated soft flasks. Two half-liter water flasks sit on either side of your chest in a soft mesh pocket, allowing for quick water access mid-run.

Additionally, this pack has mesh and zippered pockets strategically placed in nooks and crannies, as well as down the back, to stash everything from car keys to a warm layer. You can even move the elastic cords and loops around to carry trail running poles wherever feels most comfortable to you.

I’ve been running in this hydration vest for two years and the only bad words I have to say about it is it’s expensive (but, in my opinion, worth it for runners) and the straw on the included flasks might need to be cut down, which can be a little tricky to do. –Rachael Schultz, Health and Fitness Updates Editor

The best for day hikes

platypus hydration pack

The Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0 is a day hiker’s dream, offering 7 liters of storage, strategically-placed tool organizing loops and compartments, and a huge, three-liter water reservoir. 

Pros: Plenty of storage options despite its modest 7L capacity, external tool and gear loops, capable of fitting many different body types, comes standard with huge three-liter BigZip water reservoir and magnetic hose, and FloatAir back panel offers comfort for even the longest day hikes

Cons: Expensive

Platypus’s Duthie A.M. 10.0 has plenty of internal and external storage options with a 7L capacity, perfect for short jaunts into the backcountry or several mile excursions. Its strategic approach to organization also means you won’t be digging past your car keys to get to your snacks — everything has its own place in the pack.

When it comes to the Duthie’s hydration capability, few companies deliver as well as Platypus. Featuring a large three-liter reservoir, the brand’s patented BigZip water pouch features a magnetic hose clip and also offers wearers the ability to route the house in multiple ways — a welcome function not typically seen in hydration packs.

For hardcore day hikers who also have other activities in mind, the Duthie also offers a useful carry system designed to hold pads or full-face helmets and even sports a fleece-lined pocket perfect for stashing a pair of shades.

Additionally, the pack easily conforms to a variety of body shapes and sizes with just a few adjustments of its straps and hip belt. After finding the perfect fit, Platypus’ FloatAir back panel keeps you mostly sweat-free and comfortable, no matter how long the hike.

The best for cycling

gelindo hydration pack

Forget reaching down for any built-in water bottle holders because with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, staying hydrated while biking is as easy as simply drinking out of a straw.

Pros: Insulated water reservoir pocket keeps liquids cool for up to four hours, mesh back panel keeps airflow at a maximum, interior organization capable of holding a variety of items without feeling cluttered, and its easily adjustable straps are capable of fitting almost any body type

Cons: Limited reflective details

While most bikes have space for attaching a water bottle holder, a hydration pack makes staying quenched much easier and Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack is perfectly fit for the job.

This pack has an insulated pocket to carry its 2.5-liter water reservoir, which will keep your water cool for up to four hours. The pack is also designed to keep your body heat from warming the water. 

Gelindo included several storage pockets capable of holding energy bars and car keys, and bigger compartments to hold a spare change of clothes, larger items of food, or spare tubes. Organization also scores highly as it’s easy to reach for and access any of the interior contents, no matter how full the pack gets.

It’s no secret cyclists care about comfort and with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, finding a perfectly comfortable fit is easily done via its adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt. Furthermore, its ergonomic mesh back allows for steady airflow to keep you from overheating, keeping you comfortable throughout the entirety of your ride.

The best for commuting

gregory hydration pack

Gregory’s Inertia 30 makes it easy to stay hydrated while commuting with its easy-access water tube, ample interior storage, and comfortable shoulder harness.

Pros: Plenty of storage for whatever the workday requires, quick-drying 3L water reservoir is easy to fill up and features an integrated drying hangar, hydration sleeve auto-centers the water pouch to stabilize weight, versatile enough to even act as a day-hiking pack

Cons: Expensive

Even just commenting to wor requires energy, so it’s important to stay hydrated. The Gregory’s Inertia 30 is designed to not only quench thirst but also to pack a work day’s worth of gear. Be it a laptop, notebook, tablet, or otherwise, the Inertia offers enough interior storage space to tote along whatever the day calls for.

It even features several exterior pockets perfect for storing items that need to be quickly accessible, as well as a padded zippered pocket designed for sunglasses or house keys.

Gregory includes a quick-drying 3L water reservoir that has a built-in drying hangar, perfect for airing it out to avoid mold or mildew buildup. The Inertia’s dedicated hydration sleeve makes it easy to just toss the reservoir into the pack, and it automatically stabilizes the pouch’s weight to the center of your back. Gregory even made the reservoir’s tube magnetic, making it easy to take on and off.

Though we chose it for its ability to act as a commuter bag, the Inertia 30 also excels as a day-hiking pack, offering exterior loops for trekking poles, compression straps on either side, and load lifters that help stabilize the pack when it gets heavy.

At $120, it’s not the cheapest bag of the bunch but considering what it offers, and the Gregory name also means supreme durability, the Inertia 30 is worth every penny.

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Tentrr lets you book private campsites and glampsites around the country – here’s what it’s like to use

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Tentrr review

  • Tentrr connects campers with private landowners and State Parks for secluded camping vacations.
  • Campers can choose fully-equipped ‘glampsites’ or opt for traditional campsites with their own gear.
  • Prices for glamping destinations typically start in the low $100s and campsites start from $35.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

In the last year, camping has skyrocketed in popularity since it presents a way to easily social distance while vacationing. Although vaccine rollouts are well underway in the US, camping and glamping destinations are still expected to be popular options this summer.

However, not everyone knows how to pitch their own tent, and sleeping on the ground isn’t appealing to all. Plus, as camping has increased in popularity, campsites have become increasingly booked up and crowded, which defeats the entire purpose of a secluded getaway in nature (though, if you’re wondering where to book last-minute camping reservations, start here).

Tentrr is a booking site that connects vacationers with private landowners for an upgraded camping experience. Campsites are generally on acres of private land for a truly immersive experience, and users can opt for traditional campsites or glampsites that come with canvas tents or cabins and true beds for a slightly more luxurious night’s rest.

What is Tentrr?

Most Tentrr campsites fall somewhere between camping and glamping. While the campsites aren’t as luxurious as top glamping destinations, they’re firmly a step up from pitching your own tent and sleeping on the ground.

Each spot comes with either a thick canvas tent that’s already set up, or a small cabin. All sites have a Queen-size bed inside with the basics ready to go, and many have extras you can add on for a low fee, such as firewood and fire starters if you don’t want to pack your own. But you’ll still largely be roughing it in the outdoors and you’ll need to pack and cook all your own food.

What truly sets Tentrr apart is the fact that it exclusively connects campers with private landowners and State Park grounds for a far more secluded stay than typical campgrounds. Forget parking your car amidst hundreds of other campers and pitching your tent within earshot of that other family’s crying kids – most Tentrr sites are secluded on 10 acres of land or more, making them ideal both for social distancing and for truly immersing yourself in nature.

tentrr reveiw - field of deer

The service also offers a smaller selection of backcountry sites that are closer to traditional camping. At these sites, campers bring all their own equipment, but can still enjoy a more secluded setup.

Tentrr is a four-season company and when searching for sites, they have an icon designating those that are “winter-ready” and that come with cozy winter extras to ensure you’ll be nice and toasty even in the snow. Campsites specifically designated as winter sites include insulated tent flies and flooring, along with propane heaters and, generally, extra blankets.

How much is Tentrr?

The cost of Tentrr varies depending on the type of campsite you choose and the season. Backcountry campsites with no equipment start as low as $35, while signature sites with tents or cabins start from around $125. Generally, signature campsites start in the low to mid $100s.

The very best signature campsites can cost upwards of $300 on weekends in the summer high season but even these drop closer to $190 in the fall and winter. While that might sound pricey for a bed in a canvas tent, it does allow novice campers to avoid having to invest in their own equipment. For others, the price of total seclusion, especially amidst the pandemic, is more than worth it.

Where does Tentrr have campsites?

Tentrr currently includes listings in 41 states, plus Puerto Rico. You can filter campsites by Signature or Backcountry listings depending on whether you prefer roughing it or more of an upscale experience. Signature sites include canvas tents or cabins with simple beds set up inside. Backcountry sites are more traditional campsites where you bring your own equipment, but are still in a secluded area without other campers around.

My review of Tentrr

Tentrr review - Waterfall Paradise, Walking Distance to River Cabin

Like many travelers, I was recently longing for an outdoor escape but still had safety as a main priority. I grew up camping with my family in New Mexico, but haven’t done as much of it since moving to the East Coast. However, camping felt like a relatively safe way to enjoy a short getaway.

My first venture out was to a campground near a beach on Long Island with rented camping equipment. However, when a nearby car alarm went off at 3 a.m. followed by someone accidentally turning on their headlights right into our tent, I knew crowded campgrounds were not the peaceful commune with nature I was dreaming of.

So, when I first learned about Tentrr I lept at the chance to stay in a secluded spot. My fiance, who is a novice camper, was thrilled by the idea of not needing to pitch our own tent and having a slightly comfier stay. I did a quick search for fully-equipped campsites within easy driving distance of New York and was drawn to the checkbox that let me search by those by a river or stream. When I saw a site that was called “Waterfall Paradise, Walking Distance to River,” I was sold. It came with a small cabin, a fire pit, and was set directly next to a peaceful stream.

We arrived in the afternoon after following the driving instructions we’d been sent and drove down a long dirt road past a small house and into a wooded clearing with a yellow sign marked “Tentrr” nailed to a tree. The cabin came into view and we parked right next to it. While the campsite was actually just a short drive from the small town of Port Jervis, it felt like we were a world away immediately.

Fresh air filled my lungs and the forest symphony of the stream and small waterfall was the only audible noise. The tiny wood cabin was minimalist but extremely cozy. The bed came with linens and a colorful blanket for added warmth. There was a tiny wood-burning stove in the corner (which proved very necessary once the sun went down), as well as two kerosene lanterns on either side of the bed. The ceiling was made of a thick, see-through plastic so I could gaze up at the trees or night sky from bed.

There was also a little porch with two Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, a picnic table, and a wooden platform built right over the waterfall with a table made out of a tree and an umbrella. A sink for washing up was just across the river and there was a simple shower set up right at the river for the ultimate outdoor bathing experience. The listing was not exaggerating when it called this spot “paradise.”

Our hosts, who lived in the small house we passed on our way in, left us a nice note explaining where everything was, plus their phone number in case we needed anything. Cell service, however, was mostly non-existent, making that a challenge if we actually did need something.

Tentrr review - Waterfall at tentrr Site

We followed a map our hosts left for us to a large waterfall just a short 10-minute walk away. The entire area was stunning and we had it all to ourselves – a serious treat for city dwellers.

Because we were only staying for one night, we didn’t do much cooking and instead brought on-the-go meals and snacks. However, we ate them at the picnic table while enjoying the scenery and even built a fire in the fire pit to keep warm and roast some marshmallows.

At sunset, I walked to a nearby field and found a family of deer nibbling on the tall grass, truly making for a fairytale experience. The night was perfectly capped off when solar-powered twinkle lights on a few of the trees slowly began to turn on, adding to the enchanting setting.

Tentrr review inside cabin

We did run into a brief issue trying to light the kerosene lanterns, as neither of us had ever done this before and there were no instructions, but eventually we figured it out. The wood-burning stove and extra blanket proved extremely useful since it did get cold but when I woke up the next morning, all I wanted to do was stay longer.

The bottom line

While Tentrr is certainly more expensive than traditional campgrounds, it’s on par with or less expensive than many glamping sites. For those seeking private campsites, an upgrade from a sleeping bag, or novice campers who just want to experience an outdoor escape without needing to bring major equipment, Tentrr is an ideal option.

For those looking to save on costs or who already own all their own gear and prefer the typical camping experience, Tentrr’s backcountry sites still provide an alluring and peaceful alternative to crowded campgrounds. For me, camping is really about reconnecting with nature, and the private campsites truly achieve this regardless of if you opt to stay in a traditional tent, a canvas tent, or a small cabin.

However, I found the fully-equipped campsite to be well worth the cost during my stay. My waterfall campsite was nothing short of magical, and I’m already planning on booking another stay. In an undoubtedly taxing year, escaping for even one night with Tentrr was a true highlight.

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