UPF Clothing Discussion: With OR Echo Hoody and Ferrosi Pants review
December 15th, 2022
I spent the majority of my life in Phoenix, Arizona and always hiked in trail runners, shorts, and a cotton t-shirt. In the past 6 years, I have moved to spending most of my time in the Colorado Plateau and Rocky Mountains. Higher elevations with the same dry climate meant more intense sunshine. Other changes in my activities meant things like more bushwhacking, more mosquitos.
This all came to a head on an August, 2019 trip to the Sierra Nevada. I wore shorts, a t-shirt, and brought my first sun hoody: an OR Enseñada. The mosquitos and UV index were both horrendous, maybe the worst I've ever experienced to this day. At the end of the trip, my (usually very tan) lower legs looked inflamed and had hundreds of bite scars. My upper body hadn't done much better, because I was usually too hot to tolerate wearing the Enseñada while on the move.
Since then, I have spent an ever-increasing amount of time outside. Like, over 250 significant days per year. I'm not a thru hiker, but I worked summers of 2019 and 2020 as a field ecologist and all of 2021 and 2022 as a backpacking guide. Outside of work, I am hiking, running, mountain biking, or packrafting almost daily and backcountry skiing when conditions allow. I needed to find protective clothing that I could tolerate wearing, and worked for multiple activities.
When I bought my original Enseñada, I was inherently attracted to the UPF 50 rating. The fact that it had a drawstring hood and a chest pocket seemed to subconsciously justify the price. It felt like a true "sun hoody". I also noticed the Echo, which sported a UPF 15 rating, for only $5 less. That seemed expensive for "just a shirt with a hood".
When I ran into issues wearing my Enseñada for high output or hot activities, I began to take a deeper dive into sun hoodies. I returned to the Echo as an option, and was also interested in the popular Patagonia hoodies like the Tropic Comfort and Sunshade. Those Patagonia hoodies still had the UPF 50 rating, but when I checked them out in stores they seemed still quite thick and intolerable. The Echo was seeming pretty nice and light. So wait, what did UPF mean again?!?
Sun protective clothing allows a fraction of the sun's UV radiation to penetrate through. The UPF rating translates that fraction into a simple name. "UPF 50" lets 1/50th of the UV through. "UPF 15" lets 1/15th of the UV through. Clothing must have at least a 15 rating to be considered rated as "sun protective" and earn a happy little sun wearing sunglasses for it's tag.
Even with the amount of time I spend in the sun, my first thought when I revisited the definition was "well dang, sounds like UPF 5 would be plenty, 15 is amazing!". To achieve a higher rating, fabrics must inherently have a tighter knit, reducing breathability.
When's the last time you've been sunburnt through your clothes? Why are so many of us sacrificing breathability (extremely important for activity) in exchange for UPF 50 (not very important)?
OR Echo Hoody Review:
I have worn 4 Echo hoodies for a total of at least 500 days. I purchased my first Echo hoody in January 2020. It immediately became my favorite shirt/baselayer/whatever for all outdoor activities. I put over 180 days on that shirt in 2020 alone and finally retired it in April of 2021. I have since retired one more, and still have my latest 2. Here's why I love them and you should too:
Fabric: I consider the Echo fabric to achieve a great balance between UPF and breathability. I have never been sunburned through it, and I have seen it adequately protect very fair-skinned people just as well.
Daniel is the most sunburn-prone person I know and also spends an extrordinary amount of time outdoors. He has traditionally worn woven UPF50 button shirts.
I gave Daniel an Echo hoody because I thought he could be more comfortable. I also wanted to sacrifice his skin for science. Luckily there has been no sacrifice yet, despite some high, long, and sunny days (though never all of those things to the extreme at once).
The breathability advantage over UPF50 sun hoodies is extreme. I have worn this shirt in up to 100 degree weather hiking and biking. My breathability needs are less for packrafting, because it's lower output and it's easy to cool down for obvious reasons. I still love the breathability for backcountry skiing, though. In a sunny climate, I am often ascending in only the Echo.
The "wicking and quick dry" factor is important to discuss when talking about the fabric too. I don't hike in weather above 80 degrees on purpose (it's for work) but when I do, I appreciate the ability to dunk myself in water while wearing the hoody, and the wet fabric keeps me cool by evaporating the water. But it doesn't stay wet for long - it's always dry by nighttime. In fact, it's the quickest drying fabric I've seen used in a shirt, just because it's such low mass and absorbency.
Durability is a valid concern with such a thin fabric. Fortunately, I can assure you that the Echo is adequately durable for just about anyone's purposes. I can honestly identify myself as an extreme user. In the summer of forestry work that I used this hoody, I spent 10 hours bushwhacking through oak forest 4 days a week. I also do some technical canyoneering and a lot of desert and alpine scrambling. On trail use is a complete non-issue.
After 180 days in my original Echo Hoody, I did have to retire it (which I consider totally reasonable). Why? Eventually, abrasion had worn the shoulder fabric threadbare enough that holes ripped easily from simple acts like putting on a backpack. I patched many of these with tape, but eventually it became no longer worth it. A hoody with holes is still wearable, but does not protect from the sun.
The fabric absorbs dirt after enough use,
But still looks and works fine.
Final photo with my 1st Echo.
Features: The hood on the Echo is a great high-coverage design. I hypothetically do like the button on the neck of some Patagonia hoodies that allows for a choice between protection and ventilation. But I also like simplicity. This hood works great, it's always protective and it never blows off. The women's version has a ponytail hole!
*A side note about hats for use with sun hoodies: try a visor instead. A minimalist visor makes it easier to put the hood up and down and allows your head to breathe better. It also is more comfortable under a helmet, and allows people to see your cool hair! Unless maybe if you're bald, the hood itself provides adequate protection for your head.
Other features are almost nonexistent, although the addition of thumb holes is well-executed. Most outdoor users worship thumb holes and think all garments should have them. I'm glad the Echo has them to appease these users, but I do question their worthiness of worship. Even perfect thumb holes don't result in adequate hand coverage - just about half. For hiking (especially with trekking poles) and paddling I wear OR's half-finger sun gloves to fully protect my hands. For biking I wear half-finger bike gloves.
Fit: I am privileged to be a male, 6'2", 180lbs. The sizing in the outdoor industry serves me fairly well, so I can't speak much to size inclusivity. I do find that many garments are too baggy for me, so I've been pleased with the Echo.
My first Echo hoody was actually a women's XL, which fit me very well. This is a hint that perhaps the line lacked inclusivity for plus-sized users (since changed to sepecifically include an Echo+ model), since I found it slim enough. I had no major complaints with that size, but my subsequent 2 hoodies are mens L, the size I really should have. This works a little better for me, if anything, because the sleeves and torso are longer. It's a perfect fit. I usually need a Large in men's clothing for most reasons, but am often tempted to go Medium because many torsos are too boxy for me. Glad to report the Echo has a reasonably slim fit.
OR Ferrosi Pants Review:
I have so far focused on sun hoodies as a platform to talk about UPF, but pants are important too. Many hikers wear shorts even for extended trips (even if they wear a sun hoody!), and I think that's great for them. But if you're like me, you need pants to protect your whole legs from sun, bugs, rocks, and brush. If none of these things are a concern, I take off my pants and hike in my underwear because I don't need shorts either. But most of the time, I need pants. If you do any high-output activities in anything besides the coldest weather - you want your pants to be as breathable as possible, so that they don't completely suck to wear. Enter the OR Ferrosi, the pants I have worn for over 350 days outside. I wear them every day I wear the Echo besides biking or skiing days.
Fabric: Pants are inherently subject to more wear than shirts, so more durable fabric is in order. This is inevitably less breathable, but fortunately our legs can tolerate that. A shirt made of Ferrosi fabric would be miserable, pants made of Echo fabric would shred if you sat on a boulder. We are very fortunate that this is true, if you think about it.
But breathability is still important in pants, enough that I feel the need to draw attention to the Ferrosi. I've tried other popular pants on the market (like the PrAna Zion and the Eddie Bauer Guide Pro) that many hikers claim to be "very breathable". They're not. I have found them to be, quite frankly, miserable to wear. The OR Ferrosi pants are the most breathable pants that I have found with reasonable durability. What's reasonable? Around 200 days, conveniently the same lifespan as my Echo hoody.
UPF is much less of a talking point in pants. Because the fabrics used are thicker, all pants suitable for hiking are at least UPF 50.
Features: Pants should have belt loops, and the Ferrosi do. I have found every integrated belt to be garbage, and elastic waistbands aren't applicable to anything that has weighted pockets. Get pants with belt loops, and if you need a belt wear an Arcade belt.
The pockets on the Ferrosi were perfect. The single butt pocket will satisfy some users, but doesn't see any use from me. The standard, deep, SIDE-OPENING, hand pockets were excellent (to my dismay, OR has recently changed the pockets to jean-style top opening). They held a phone securely, and still allowed you to put your cold hands in them. The single zippered pocket on the leg usually does nothing for me, except when I'm wearing a climbing harness and need it to hold my phone for accessibility and security.
I haven't used the women's Ferrosi pants for semi-obvious reasons, but I imagine that their pockets are horrible, because literally every pants manufacturer hates women. I would love for these to be the first pants to prove me wrong.
Fit: The Ferrosi are OR's flagship pants, so a plethora of size options are available. For me, the ability to get 30 waist 34 length pants is invaluable. I usually tolerate wearing 32x34 pants by using a belt, because that's all that's available. My first pair was a 31x34, but they both ran large and stretch out, so downsizing to the 30 waist was in order. OR has since updated the waistband to a stretchproof design, so I'm back to 31.
Besides the ability to get basically any numbers you want, the fit continues to be excellent. The legs are slim enough to look reasonably good but open enough to breathe well and fit over boots (but who wears boots?).