The Case for Sun Sleeves

Bennett 'Jolly' Fisher
Sun Sleeves Ultralight Backpacking Thru-Hiking Jolly Gear GGG Garage Grown Gear

Editor’s note:
We’re thrilled to share this article written by Jolly, founder of Jolly Gear. Known for the Triple Crown Button Down and Flip-Flopper Sun Sleeves, Jolly Gear is the culmination of thousands of thru-hiking miles. Want to learn more? Check out GGG’s brand profile, Jolly Gear — Where Function Meets Thrift Store Fashion!

With the boom in ultralight backpacking over the last decade, there has been a cry for multi-use gear. Any lightweight piece of gear that performs more than one use has increased value. And gear with three or more uses? You’ve struck ultralight gold, my friend! Let me share with you one last category that still has gold in them thar hills — the sun sleeve. It’s a 2-ounce piece of gear that has loads of popularity in other sports, so why not ours?

What is a Sun Sleeve?

“A piece of lightweight clothing worn on the arms to block harmful UV rays. Often featuring a thumb hole opening at the wrist and silicone grip tape around the bicep. Primarily used whenever sunscreen would be applied.” (The Jolly Gear Dictionary, 2023)

Why Sun Sleeves?

Sun Sleeves Ultralight Backpacking Thru-Hiking Jolly Gear GGG Garage Grown Gear

Sun sleeves can replace the need for a long-sleeve shirt, sun gloves, and sunscreen. Additionally, they can create a barrier against a brisk morning. Most sun sleeves feature a thumb opening that, when in use, allows the sleeve to cover your palm and the back of your hand. All that additional arm and hand coverage means less sunscreen allowing you to carry much less! And even though they are made of a very lightweight material, on those early chilly mornings, they can add a bit of warmth to your arms as you start your day.

Versatile: There’s no need to give up the comfort and breathability — not to mention stylin’ hiker trash looks — of your favorite short sleeve shirt. With sun sleeves you’ll always have the option to convert it into a long sleeve when UV rays start to beat down.

The ability to alter your sleeve length in seconds, without needing to break stride or take off a pack, is a big win for the sun sleeve. Enjoy a sleeveless morning or afternoon siesta, then slip on your sleeves when leaving the safety of the shade.

Going into town? Well, maybe keep them on to flag down a hitch, but in town, enjoy the new you. With only one outfit on trail, it's always nice to have a way to shake it up, but don't worry, even with your fashion transformations, no one in town will mistake you for a day hiker or local in your wool socks, short shorts, and dirty shoes… not to mention the cloud of dust and smell whirling around you akin to Charlie Brown’s Pig-Pen. 

Sun Sleeves Ultralight Backpacking Thru-Hiking Jolly Gear GGG Garage Grown Gear

Ultralight: Let's talk about what you all came here for, “Will this save me weight in my pack?” Yes and no. The sun sleeves weigh a mere 2 ounces, and allow you to carry less sunscreen. Comparing a long sleeve Jolly Gear shirt size men’s medium and a pair of OR sun gloves (9.8oz) to a short sleeve Jolly Gear shirt men's medium and Jolly Gear medium sun sleeves (9.63oz), there are some weight savings. Without the gloves, the long sleeve wins at a weight of 9.2oz. These are minimal weight differences for added flexibility. But who are we kidding? You’ll probably mark all of this as worn weight anyway! *Wink*

Breathable & Cooling: Made from lightweight, thin, UPF 50 fabric, Jolly Gear Sun Sleeves are ultra-breathable. While many might assume they make you hot or keep you warm, they do the opposite. Since the fabric is so close to your skin, a cooling breeze can be felt through them immediately. The fast drying of the fabric increases the evaporative cooling, so add any amount of sweat or water to the sleeves, and you have mobile A/C. I am always impressed by how cool the sleeves feel. 

What are the Downsides of Sun Sleeves?

Sun Sleeves Ultralight Backpacking Thru-Hiking Jolly Gear GGG Garage Grown Gear

From talking with others, the idea and experience of constantly having to pull the arm sleeves up to keep them from falling down your bicep is a barrier to the enjoyment of sun sleeves. Most companies, at a minimum, use a grip tape around the bicep, like that on a pair of bike shorts, to mitigate slippage, but sometimes that isn't enough. Jolly Gear has implemented a cinch cord in addition to the silicone grip tape to help ensure a worry-free, snug fit.

Too Tight: After trying several brands of sun sleeves, I’ve found that some brands’ sleeves fit incredibly tight. This can make them hard to put on or take off. Getting the right size and fit will make or break your experience with sun sleeves.

Will You be Striking Ultralight Gold this Summer?

Sun Sleeves Ultralight Backpacking Thru-Hiking Jolly Gear GGG Garage Grown Gear

This alternative to sun hoodies and button-downs could have you loading your pack with one or two fewer clothing items this summer. Breathable, versatile, stylish, and lightweight, sun sleeves increase your comfort and options while on the trail, preventing your arms from getting scorched by the sun.  


> Shop the Jolly Gear Triple Crown Button Down in a GGG Exclusive Design!
> Shop the Jolly Gear Flip-Flopper Sun Sleeves! (available directly through Jolly Gear)


Article by Bennett “Jolly” Fisher, Owner at Jolly Gear

Trail talk




Hey hey Lisa!

I wrote this article, sorry for the confusion. The Jolly Gear arm sleeves are UPF 30! I hope you love them when your pair arrives!

Lisa Davis

Lisa Davis

I couldn’t help myself; I did buy the sun sleeves, with the “shipping cost” sealing the deal. I liked one of the colorful ones quite well, but got the winter one because I like trees and it would match everything I own.
FYI, the GGG article indicates they are SPF 50 but the website indicates SPF 30. I’d prefer the 50 but, at this time, would just prefer to know which one they are for sure. Thanks!

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