- Read our review guidelines
Do you find wetsuits irritating and uncomfortable on your skin? Or do you sometimes want a little more insulation from your wetsuit? If so, you may well be in the market for a rash guard.
As with all other kayaking and water sporting equipment, there are several types, styles and brands of rashies (that’s what the cool kids call them) available.
Rash Guards: Top Picks
- O’Neill UV Sun Protection Mens Basic Skins Tee
- Quiksilver Men’s Performer
- O’Neill Men’s Long Sleeve
- Mares Men’s Rash Guard Shorts
- Private Island Hawaii UV Women Rash Guard Short Pants
- Micosuza Full Body Swimsuit Swim Suit Full Coverage
- Layatone Lycra Full Body Swimsuit
- O’Neill Women’s Premium Skins
- Speedo Men’s Longview Long Sleeve
- Rip Curl Women’s Trestles Front Zip
- Hurley Men’s One & Only Long Sleeve
No idea where to start? Well, look no further as we’ve compiled a list of the best rash guards on the market.
What Exactly Is A Rash Guard?
In short, a rash guard is a thin piece of clothing used to protect your skin from rash and irritation whilst also providing warmth and protection from the sun.
They can be worn underneath a wetsuit for extra insulation and rash protection, or in warmer climates they can be worn by themselves for rash and sun protection. They’re usually made from materials such as spandex, nylon, polyester or neoprene and are designed to insulate and breathe at the same time.
Rashies are used across all sorts of water sports and are particular popular among surfers and kayakers as they protect your skin from rashes and irritation that can be experienced from repetitive movement (paddling) or brushing your skin up against rough surfaces (surfboards).
You’ll find that a lot of the rash guards out there will offer sun protection, with a UPF rating. This means the Ultraviolet Protection Factor and shows how much sun protection the clothing can provide.
The higher the rating, the more protection the clothing can give you. Unlike the ratings given to sunscreen lotions (SPF), the UPF rating can show how much of the sun’s rays can be blocked by the fabric rather than how long you might be able to stay in the sun before you burn.
UPF rated clothing can protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
Rash guards are often designed for warm weather use when it would be too warm to wear a wetsuit, so they will tend to be lightweight. A rash guard is generally not designed to keep you warm.
The fabric used will often be lightweight, moisture wicking fabric that is designed to wick moisture away from your body, which can also help to draw perspiration away.
These moisture wicking fabrics are also designed for breathability and because of their moisture wicking properties, they should dry pretty quickly too – meaning if you do sweat, your rash guard shouldn’t theoretically stay wet.
You may come across several materials that can be used in rash guards, each offering different levels of breathability and weights, with polyester being one of the most breathable.
If you’ve been to the beach or pool recently, you might have noticed people wearing rash guards for swimming and they can often be ideal for swimming.
However, you might find that some of the looser fitting options may not be the best choice, as the tighter performance fit options can provide less resistance in the water.
Plus, with the tighter fitting rash guards, there might be less chance of you getting caught on other objects, particularly if you’re surfing too.
A rash guard could provide you with more sun protection than traditional swimwear, which can be a good reason to wear one. This can often be why you might see lots of younger kids wearing them at the beach.
Types of Rashies
Rash guards come in various styles for various uses. Some are made primarily for rash protection and are designed to protect your more sensitive areas such as armpits, nipples and necks.
Others are made more with insulation and sun protection in mind.
- Short sleeve rash guards are simple, fitted shirts that cover your shoulders. They’re great for extra insulation under a wetsuit or ideal to wear alone in warmer climates.
- Long sleeve rash guards are fitted shirts that cover you up to your wrists. They cover more of your body, providing more insulation and are therefore great for cooler waters.
- Tank or vest rashies are ideal for warmer climates as they do not cover your shoulders or your arms. They are also ideal for extra insulation under a wetsuit when you want to minimize restriction on your arms and shoulders.
Rashies also come in shorts or full suit form, allowing protection to your legs and pelvic areas or your entire body in the same shape as a full wetsuit.
You can also get thermal rash guards which are designed specifically to provide extra insulation and are therefore a better choice for chilly climates. Usually made from neoprene, the thickness of a thermal rash guard will be displayed with two numbers separated by a slash on the label.
These numbers refer to the thickness of the material in millimeters, the first number is the thickness around the torso and the second number refers to the material around the limbs (which is usually thinner to allow smoother movement).
How Do I Size One?
For active water sports, your rash guard should be fitted nice and tight. Although not necessarily flattering for all body types, this will minimize chaffing and rubbing when moving around (they are called rash guards for a reason after all).
You can also get loose-fitting rash guards but these should be used for less active sports where movement is minimal or restricted. Most brands and stores will offer online sizing charts to help guide you towards the best fit for you.
Best Rash Guards
1: O’Neill Wetsuits UV Sun Protection Mens Basic Skins Tee
This is a slim fitting short sleeve rash guard. Made for a slim fit but not too clingy, it comes with a UPF 50+ rating, allowing you to comfortably enjoy your time on the water without getting burnt.
Made form a combination of nylon, polyester and spandex, it is designed with strategically placed seamless paddle zones and flatloc stitching to further reduce any rashes or skin irritation.
2: Quiksilver Men’s Performer
This one’s a long sleeve rash guard designed for a snug fit. Made primarily from nylon, it’s flexible and stretchy which makes it perfect for swimming, paddling and any kind of activity that requires free movement.
It also comes with a UPF 50 rating and is therefore great for sun protection.
3: O’Neill Wetsuits Mens Long Sleeve
This rash guard is similar to the short sleeved O’Neill one mentioned above but this one comes with full length sleeves. It offers the same ‘slim but not too clingy’ fit along with the seamless paddle zones and flatloc stitching for your comfort.
It also comes with the same UPF 50+ rating so you can rest assured that you will be protected from the sun and its harmful UV rays.
4: Mares Mens Rash Guard Shorts
As you may have guessed from the name, these ones come in shorts form. Made from 15% spandex and 85% polyester, they are designed for a snug fit and can be worn underneath your wetsuit or board shorts to protect your skin from chaffing and irritation.
Or, with their UV protection rating of 50+, they can also be worn on their own in warmer waters and summer weather.
5: Private Island Hawaii UV Women Rash Guard Short Pants
Made from 80% Nylon and 20% Spandex and with a protection UV50s function, these women’s rash guard pants are suitable for an array of sports in an out of the water. From kayaking and surfing to golfing or yoga, you can make use of these pants everywhere.
Machine washable and available in sizes Small to 3XL, they are versatile and suitable for women of all shapes and sizes.
6: Micosuza Full Body Swimsuit Swim Suit Full Coverage
This full length swimsuit does exactly what it says on the tin. Made specifically for women, it covers you from your ankles to your wrist and even comes with a hood for extra comfort and warmth.
Made from 82% Nylon and 18% spandex it is designed to be flexible, breathable and soft on the skin allowing you maximum movement and freedom. It also has a UPF rating of 50+, providing the ultimate sun protection.
With a front zipper for easy entry and exit, this suit is suitable to wear both on its own and under a wetsuit for further insulation.
7: Layatone Lycra Full Body Swimsuit
Another full body swimsuit suitable for wear underneath a wetsuit or on its own. Like the suit mentioned above, it is also made from 82% Nylon and 18% Spandex and is designed to allow maximum freedom and flexibility whilst also protecting your skin from irritation and chaffing.
With a UPF 50+ protection rating quite literally from head to toe, you needn’t worry about UV radiation in this suit.
8: O’Neill Women’s Premium Skins Long Sleeve Rash Guard
This O’Neill women’s rash guard is a performance fit rash guard that’s intended to fit like a second skin. It features long sleeves, which can help to provide added protection from friction during certain watersports, including surfing.
The nylon/Spandex fabric features UPF 50 sun protection and benefits from a four way stretch, which can help to improve comfort during activities. The fabric is also designed to be quick drying.
It comes in a range of colors and a wide range of sizes and can be ideal for a variety of water sports, from kayaking to swimming.
9: Speedo Men’s Longview Long Sleeve Rash Guard
The Speedo men’s rash guard has a relaxed fit, more like a long sleeve t-shirt, which you might find more comfortable if you don’t like tight fitting clothing.
This long sleeved rash guard can help to keep your skin protected from the sun with the UPF 50 fabric.
It’s designed to be quick drying for added comfort when you come out of the water and is made from lightweight polyester fabric.
This can be a good rash guard for a range of water sports but it can also be worn while on the beach or even during non-water activities.
10: Rip Curl Women’s Trestles Front Zip Rash Guard
This Rip Curl rash guard has long sleeves for added protection and benefits from a full zip front, which can make it easier to get on and off. It’s made from lightweight polyamide and elastane fabric that features UPF 50 sun protection, so can help to prevent sunburn.
The fabric is stretchy and designed to be performance fit, so it should be a snug fit and can be worn over swimwear.
This could be a good option for sports where movement is important, such as swimming, surfing or paddle sports.
11: Hurley Men’s One & Only Long Sleeve Rash Guard
This men’s rash guard from Hurley is made from a nylon/Spandex fabric that has a UPF 50 rating, meaning it’s designed to protect your skin from the damaging UV rays from the sun.
It’s also designed to be moisture wicking, which can help in warm climates and can also be useful when it comes to drying off after being in the water.
It has a relaxed fit so it’s not too clingy, which might be more comfortable for certain water activities, such as kayaking or paddle boarding, where hydrodynamics might not be an issue.
The shirt comes in a range of sizes and colors.
Rash guards have three major functions. They are designed to protect your skin from rashes and irritation, provide warmth and insulation and also protect your skin from the sun. They come in various styles, all of which catering for different uses and conditions.
When selecting your rash guard, consider whether you will be using it alone or under a wetsuit, what kind of climates and weather you will encounter and finally what kind of activity you will be doing. This will help guide you towards the style you need.