Guide to summer survival gear to help beat the heat

Published August 20 2015
Updated August 21 2015

The last week of August always seems like the hottest time of the year. I don't know if there is any empirical evidence to support this assertion, but I can tell you that when I hit this point of the summer, I'm tempted to trade the outdoors beat for something cooler, such as air-conditioned city hall.

But if you are a dedicated, boater, angler or paddler, somebody who pursues your passion 24/7, 365 days a year, you've got to carry on in spite of the elements. Fortunately, gear technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years. Today's outdoor clothing and accessories make fishing the flats a little easier, even if it is, as author Thomas McGuane would say, Ninety-two in the Shade.

The key to coolness is coverage. If you don't believe that, take a look at one of those old French Foreign Legion movies. Those guys marched through the Sahara Desert covered from head to toe. Sure they were miserable. But at least they weren't sunburned.

But their old uniforms of wool and cotton were far from high-tech. What they would have given for an ExOfficio Sol Cool Ultimate Hoody. ExOfficio, a pioneer in the technical clothing business, was one of the first manufacturers to come out with clothing that actually cools. A recent gear test in Backpacker Magazine called it "cooler than wearing nothing at all."

The shirt uses "Icefil" technology, which is designed to actually lower body temperature. The compound Xylitol, which occurs naturally in the birch tree, is woven into fabric. When the compound comes into contact with moist sweat, it reacts, creating a cooling sensation similar to mint gum. The compound can reportedly drop the temperature of the skin surface by 5 degrees.

Nano-particles woven into the cloth also eliminate odor molecules and disperse UV rays. The shirt is also rated to UPF 50-plus, the highest sun protection rating possible for a garment. The shirt is pricey, $78. But how much is your comfort worth?

You'll also need a neck gaiter, a standard piece of equipment for flats fishermen. The company Buff has become nearly synonymous with this apparel item. When neck gaiters first hit the market a decade or so ago, I resisted the urge to wear a turtleneck fishing.

But over the years I have become a believer because they work. Beach lifeguards know that if you want to cool off, put a wet towel on the back of your neck. So the thinking goes that if you keep the back of your neck out of the hot sun, you may stay a little cooler. Available in dozens of patterns, a Buff Neck Gaiter is the best $25 you will ever spend.

The best way to shade your head from the sun is to put on a hat. Check out the cabana boys on any beach — they are all wearing straw hats. But sombreros tend to be hot and bad in the wind. That's why the Outdoor Research Oasis is a good alternative. Roll it up, stick it in your tackle box and it comes out looking good. Price, $38.

Another way to extend your time in the sun is to invest in a good pair of sunglasses. Eye fatigue will cut your day short. Quality shades will protect your eyes and help you find fish. Smith, a company known for its ski glasses, also sells great fishing specs. The Smith Discord with Chromapop polarization will help you see snook in skinny water. At $209 these are not the most expensive glasses on the market, but they are among the best.

And finally, flip-flops are the footwear of summer, but they can be dangerous on boats. I've slipped and fallen on too many decks. Chaco, a company started by white-water rafting guides, builds a durable sandal that is equally at home on the sandbar or in the yacht club. Chaco Blossom, $105.

       
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