If you’re a seasoned surfer, you’ll know just how much a quality rash guard can protect you, and ensure you don’t spend the next week recovering from your excursion! It’s not just surfers of course, bodyboarder paddle boarders and even sea kayakers can get a little bit of protection too.
In this guide, we’ll look at what rash guards are, how they work and let you know which are the best on the market right now. But if you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick comparison table:
- Best Rash Guards Compared
- What is a Rash Guard?
- Thermal Rash Guards
- Sun Protection
- Rash Guard Vests
- Full Body Guards
- Rash Guards Reviewed
Best Rash Guards Compared
What is a Rash Guard?
Ultimately, a rash guard protects you from getting a horrible rash across your front when paddling your board. For kayakers, they’ll protect you when trying to be-board your kayak after a capsize.
A good rash guard can also help protect your chest and arms from the sun too. This type of protection cannot be emphasized enough, as the sea has a nasty habit of reflecting the sunlight against your body, effectively doubling the chance you’ll get a bad burn!
They can be worn underneath a wetsuit, although they do have a habit of making a brand-new wetsuit even tighter. The best way to wear them, is a standalone garment for a little extra warmth and protection when the sea temperature isn’t too cool.
If you do wear a rash guard, the ideal way is to twin it with a pair of board shorts, or the lower half of a bikini for women. They’re also useful for kayakers who get a little warm when wearing a shorty or full-size suit on longer trips.
Be careful though! Always dress for the cold water you might fall into, rather than the warm air you’re paddling in.
As with most wetsuits, their manufactured from Spandex, Nylon, Polyester and of course the most popular wetsuit material of all, Neoprene.
Thermal Rash Guards
Perfect if you’re taking to chiller waters, the thermal rash guard operates on the principle that thin layers of material retain heat better than one single thick layer.
- These rash guards are popular for people who need a little protection, but aren’t taking to water cold enough for a shorty or full-length suit.
- If you need a rash guard for its insulating properties, try and get one that on the thicker side. All wetsuits and rash guards are measured in mm (millimetres) for thickness. A summer suit is generally around the 3 to 5 marks, whilst winter rated suits will be 6mm and over.
- When looking at thickness, it’s not uncommon to see a rating of 3 / 2 or perhaps 5 / 6 for heavier guards. The first number designates the thickness of the torso, whilst the latter number is the thickness applied to the arms and legs (If you’re looking at full wetsuits too).
It’s always best to think about the coldest water you’ll be facing in your location, and purchase the level of thickness appropriate. If you do find yourself getting too warm in the Summer months, you can always purchase another thin wetsuit down the line.
As always, safety and warmth whilst on the water are critically important!
The suns effects are amplified hugely whilst on the water, as the surface will reflect a huge 40% of the UV light right back up towards you. Just ask a sea kayaker who’s gotten the dreaded “under arm burn” caused specifically from the reflected light burning their elbows and armpits.
It’s nasty stuff, and of course leads to skin cancer if you’re not careful!
- A standard issue, well fitted rash guard should always cling to the skin; however, there’s no hard and fast rule, and you might want to go up a size if you want something a little for forgiving. Be careful though, as wetsuit material will gently stretch over time, and nobody likes a super loose suit as it gets in the way!
- Shorty arm guards, are a great way to give your arms a little more leeway, and are popular with bodyboarders, surfers and kayakers in equal measure. Don’t forget to rub a little water repellent sun cream on your lower arms though, they will burn!
- If you’re a frequent bodyboarder, board short connectors ensure your guard and your shorts don’t ride up against each other. I have seen kayakers use this connection as a handy paddle leash connection too, as it rides at the side, not getting in the way of paddling as much.
Rash Guard Vests
These are much thinner and smaller vests that are typically worn for sea/ocean sports. Some people wear them in addition to a decent quality wetsuit in colder climates, whilst others use them to brave cool, but not freezing water.
These vests have no arms, which means you can move far quicker, making them popular with white water canoe enthusiasts, and sea kayakers who like to make good time when paddling.
- Some vest contains Lycra, to help movement even more.
- As with wetsuits and standard rash guards, a rash vest rated for warmth will have a mm value. Of course, it won’t have a 2 / 3 rating, as there’s just the torso to keep warm.
Full Body Guards
Think of these as a full-sized wetsuit, yet cut off below the midriff. They’re ideal for staying warm in colder climates, and are usually twinned with board shorts. Surfers love these for the additional freedom they give their legs, whilst kayakers like the fact their legs won’t roast whilst sitting in their vessel.
Rash Guards Reviewed
We’ve looked at rash guards that are available on the market right now. There’s a multitude of options available, and we’ll help you pick the one that best suits your needs.
O’Neill Wetsuits Rash Guard – Best for Serious Watersports
We thought we would start with the granddaddy of wet-suits, who sadly died in 2017 at a ripe old age. O’Neill, designed the wetsuit way back in the 60’s as he saw surfers suffering against the cold during their trips.
The O’Neill rash guard, is a full-sized guard, with full length arms and a torso running down to the midriff. This makes the O’Neill rash guard perfect for cooler climates, and those who feel the chill even in warmer water.
It’s rated at 6oz, and has a Polyester and Spandex mix material. This is a standard Spring/Summer level of protection, yet will allow you’re a high degree of freedom in movement.
As it standard on O’Neill wetsuits, a flatlock zipper is located on the back, and take it from someone who owns an O’Neill shorty suit for kayaking, it’s the best zipper out there! The O’Neill rash guards are also available in a huge array of colors, suitable for both men and women.
Whatever your style, you’ll be able to find something to suit you.
Pros: It’s an O’Neill guard, so the quality will be sky high. It also comes with 50+ UV protection too.
Cons: The price might put some water sports people off.
- 6oz. Polyester/Spandex Rashguard Crew - Quick Dry, 4-way stretch
- 50+ UV Protection Factor
- Performance Fit: Form fitting tight layer fits like a second skin. Flatloc Stitched - To avoid skin irritation.
Sanabul Essentials Short Sleeve Rash Guard – Best for Men
Another almost full-sized rash guard comes courtesy of Sanabul, yet this time we’re ditching the full-length arms and just focusing on the torso.
It’s worth saying, that the Sanabul Guard is quite thin, so might not be the perfect solution for taking a dip in early Spring or Fall. We would suggest the O’Neill as it’s thicker and rated higher.
Even so, the Sanabul is the perfect rash guard for a Summer splash, with its shorty arms and thin material offering a little protection, whilst allowing free movement.
UV protection is good too, boasting a massive 50+ rating. We’re starting to look at this rash guard as a good Summer guard for the frequent surfer or kayaker.
It’s available in several colors, including red, blue, grey, brown and white. It’s not quite as stylish as the O’Neill, and has more of an athletic quality, rather than the O’Neill with it’s out and out surfer feeling.
Pros: A low cost rash guard that’ll be perfect for the Summer months.
Cons: A little “gym bunny” looking for some of our review team, and too thin for the months of early Spring and Fall.
- Antimicrobial treatment to help reduce bacterial and fungal growth. This will help prevent the spread of bacterial and fungal infections...
- Ventilated mesh underarm area to help disperse heat
- UV SPF 50 protection for when you want to wear your bjj rash guard while surfing or during any other activity outdoors.
Carve Designs Cruz Rash Guard – Best for Women
The Carve rash guard is an extremely pretty design, and perfect for women who want to wear something a little stylish whilst down the beach.
It’s 82% Nylon and 18% Spandex mix allows the guard to be reasonably fitted to your body, yet allowing you free movement to do as you wish. Like the O’Neill rash guard, the Carve is a full-sized rash guard, with full length arms to protect you from the cold and sun.
One of the benefits of this rash guard, is the fact it’s light colored. Often, black wetsuit material attracts heat and dries quickly, leaving the poor wearing sweating badly! The Carve design neatly sidesteps this issue, meaning you’ll be just as comfortable wearing this on the beach as in the water.
UVA protection is rated as 50+, and the material is on the thin side, making this a perfect Summer rash guard. We feel you might want to invest in a guard that’s a little thicker too, especially if you like to head out in the colder months.
The Carve rash guard is available in tropical blue, brown, grey and pink.
Pros: A looking rash guard for the Summer months.
Cons: You want something thicker in the winter, and the looser fit might annoy some keen surfers. A great rash guard for kayakers in more temperate climates though!
Woman’s Rash Guard, Long Sleeve – Best for Style
A well-made rash guard with an extremely keen price, this rash guard is rated at 50+ UVA and is quite thick! We think it’s easily a 2mm, and should keep the cold at bay even in cooler water.
The lower half of the guard is adjustable, allowing you to keep the guard as long, or as short as you need it to be. Material wise, it’s made from an 82% Nylon and 18% Spandex mix, perfect for maintaining arm movement.
This rash guard is available in purple, aqua blue and bright yellow fabric.
Pros: A well-priced rash guard that looks great, and provides a high level of UV and cold protection.
Cons: Possibly not good enough for serious water sports use.
- ★Multi-purpose: The rash guard women water shirts are great for a day of Surfing, Diving, Fishing, Boating, Sailing, Swimming, Rowing,...
- ★Key features: Front half zip: easier put on and take off. Ruche design: hide middle imperfection. Sand-proof.
- ★UPF50+ rating to block off 95% sun's harmful rays. Sexy look in the snug fit wetsuit long sleeve top. Easy clean and quick dry
Boy Short Sleeve Rash Guard
A super cheap rash guard, puts this guard perfectly in the frame for a young family taking their children to the beach on a Summer holiday.
This rash guard, is made from thin Polyester and Nylon, with a loose fitting that should keep up with your child’s movement from the sea to the beach.
It offers good, yet not quite 50+ UV protection, and comes with a nice motif on the front that your child should love.
Pros: Super cheap, and perfect for the occasional beach trip.
Cons: If your child ends up being a keen surfer, they’ll need something a little more robust and warmer.
- Fits children sizes 8-10
- Perfect for trips to the beach or the pool as well as for lounging around
- Machine washable rashguard tee featuring crew neckline and raglan-seam short sleeves
O’Neill UV Sun Skin – Best for Girls
We thought we would round up this review by looking at a rash guard that’s perfect for budding young female surfers. The O’Neill Youth Skin, is a bright pink half-length rash guard, that maintains everything you know and love about O’Neill wetsuits, yet with a bright style that any girl should love.
Unlike the men’s version listed above, the arms are only half length; however, everything else is the exact same, with the same levels of cold and UV protection on offer. We like this guard, as that bright pink color will reflect a lot of heat, keeping us girls much cooler during hot days!
Rated at 6oz, and with a Polyester/Spandex mix fabric, this rash guard should be perfect for early Spring, right through to the earlier months of Fall.
Pros: Well-made and works extremely well, just as you expect from O’Neill. A very pretty color too!
Cons: The price, although keen, might put off the day tripper crowd. This is of course not what O’Neill is about anyway, one for the seasoned water sports girl out there!
Last update on 2017-09-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API