Patagonia Tropic Comfort II Hoody
- Ultralight 94% polyester / 6% spandex jersey fabric with Polygiene® permanent odor control and 50+ UPF sun protection
- Classic, relaxed tee silhouette with generous hood designed to fit over a baseball cap
- Thumb holes for added sun protection for the backs of the hands
- Fair Trade Certified™ sewing, bluesign approved fabric
Size Tested: Large
Claimed Weight: 235 g / 8.3 oz
Blister’s Measured Weight: 263 g / 9.3 oz
Reviewer: 5’8”, 195 lbs
Test Locations: Northwest backcountry, Stonehill, Glacier National Park, Humbug Spires, & Downing Mountain Lodge, MT; Tornak Hut, ID; Washington Pass, WA; Banff, Lake Louise, & Skaha, BC
Days Tested: 30+
Slimy sunscreen is one of the less-enticing aspects of spending time outside, but getting sunburnt isn’t a great option either. So as an alternative, several companies make “solar hoodies” that provide protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
The Tropic Comfort Hoody II is Patagonia’s offering in this category, and though they market it toward fishermen, I was curious about its performance outside of angling. Could this be an all-purpose solution to sun protection for a variety of activities, or is it really only suited for use on the water? How does it hold up to the abuse of activities like ski touring and climbing? I’ll be addressing these questions and more, as well as offering some comparisons to a couple other sun hoodies in order to get a better idea of where the Tropic Comfort Hoody II performs best.
Background on Sun-Protective Clothing
For a full discourse on ratings, testing, and thoughts on clothing that blocks the sun, you can take a look at this article from the folks at the Skin Cancer Foundation. But for now, here’s a quick summary:
- Because testing differs between skin and garments, clothes use UPF ratings (ultraviolet protection factor) instead of SPF ratings (skin protection factor).
- UPF measures the amount of ultraviolet rays that are able to penetrate the fabric (50 UPF means 1/50th of the sun’s ultraviolet rays would reach the wearer’s skin).
- UPF garments generally offer a higher UPF factor than advertised because they perform better in the field than in testing environments (the reverse is true of SPF).
- Fabrics generally let more sun through when wet.
- Fabrics can block sun through a tight weave, a treatment, or even different dyes.
- Fabrics with a UPF of 30+ get the seal of recommendation from the Skin Cancer Foundation.
This all makes sense, yet the skeptic in me wonders if UPF clothing is just some marketing scheme. It makes sense that a thin cotton t-shirt will protect me far less than a 50+ UPF baselayer with a hood, but anecdotally, I’ve never been sunburned through any shirt, even when I knew the fabric was only rated to UPF 15. However, a sunburn is not a very precise measure of sun exposure — generally, I only know if I’ve not been burned, got burned, or am really lobster-level crisped.
In the end, the standardized UPF test says that 15 UPF fabric allows more exposure than 50 UPF fabric under the same sun and exposure conditions. And ultimately, if the goal is to use clothing for comprehensive solar protection (and while ditching some sunscreen), it makes logical sense to go for garments with a higher UPF.
The Tropic Comfort Hoody II comes extra baggy, meaning it’s cut loose even by the standards of Patagonia’s Regular fitblock. My size Large is huge on me (I could easily fit into a Medium), and those who prefer a slimmer fit could certainly drop one size. However, I don’t think I’d choose to size down since the Large affords a lot of room to keep me cool and comfy while the sun glares down.
Both the sleeves and drape of the hem are pretty long and offer plenty of coverage. The hood stretches to accommodate climbing helmets like the Petzl Sirocco & Black Diamond Vector, or even a ski helmet like the Pret Cirque.
The Tropic Comfort Hoody II is, essentially, a shirt with a hood. However, Patagonia thought of some good details here.
The hood itself scales well. It fits loose without a hat, which can block your vision, but with a ball cap underneath, the sides pull out to shield your cheeks a bit. It also fits over helmets of all sizes, stretching and twisting easily. The single button at the bottom of the hood allows you to tighten it up or leave it open for increased ventilation.
The fabric is light, airy, and dries relatively quickly (more on fabric performance and comparisons later).
Thumb holes, with binding on the edge of the fabric for durability, make it easy to hide your hands or pull layers on over the Tropic Comfort Hoody II without the hoody’s sleeves riding up.
Patagonia designed the Tropic Comfort Hoody II for fishing. In my test, I did precisely zero fishing in it. But I have skied, climbed, run, and hung out a lot in the Tropic Comfort Hoody II.At first, the idea of putting on more sleeves and hoods as things get hot seemed odd. Yet, if you look at cultures that truly spend a lot of time in the sun, they’ve been covering up in clothes that emphasize airflow since long before the invention of sunscreen. And after my time with the Tropic Comfort Hoody II, it seems like they were on to something.
At first, the idea of putting on more sleeves and hoods as things get hot seemed odd. But if you look at cultures that truly spend a lot of time in the sun, they’ve been covering up in clothes that emphasize airflow since long before the invention of sunscreen. And after my time with the Tropic Comfort Hoody II, it seems like they were on to something.
Last winter, I used the Tropic Comfort Hoody II while ski touring and found that the thin fabric did fine when it was warmer, but tended to freeze when sweat-soaked in temps under 20 F.
Springtime showed where the Tropic Comfort Hoody II really shined. Long, sunny days of touring with reflective snow everywhere meant that I was often hiding under the hood, a hat, and sunglasses. Throughout all of this, the Tropic Comfort Hoody II breathed well, never chafed, and took a few days of exertion before it really smelled bad.
The Tropic Comfort Hoody II has also become a staple for big multi-pitch days on the rock, even in the heat of summer. The loose cut, airy fabric, and shelter of the hood at belays makes for a very happy climber. Less sunscreen on my neck, ears, and arms means fewer greasy fingerlocks. And the Tropic Comfort Hoody II even offers a bit of extra coverage when things get cold in the alpine.
In addition to the Patagonia Tropic Comfort Hoody II, I’ve also been using the Black Diamond Alpenglow (50 UPF, $79) and Outdoor Research Echo Hoody (15 UPF, $65). So here are a few quick comparisons:
The Black Diamond Alpenglow’s fabric feels sturdier than the Tropic Comfort Hoody II, breathes about the same, and has the same UPF 50 rating. It’s more slim cut in a Large, and also costs $19 more than the Tropic Comfort Hoody II.
The Outdoor Research Echo Hoody is lighter, more sheer, and far faster drying than the Tropic Comfort Hoody II and Alpenglow, making it better for highly aerobic pursuits like running or very wet activities like rafting. It also comes with a hood drawcord and a rear zippered pocket. However, the biggest difference is probably the 15 UPF rating — folks with sensitive skin or those who are often out in the sun all day might want to opt for a hoody with a higher UPF rating.
My primary concern with the Tropic Comfort Hoody II was that I wasn’t fishing in it — ski touring, and especially climbing, are far more abrasive on clothing than hanging out in the bonefish flats of the Caribbean. Happily, I’ve only seen a little fuzzing on the flat seams of the sleeves, and that’s been the extent of the damage after my 30+ days in the hoody. Oh, and don’t get the bright colors if you’re gonna be covered in dirt.
If you don’t like sunscreen or want a more comprehensive solution to protecting yourself from the sun, a solar hoody can be a great solution. And if you’re looking for the best year-round option, with an airy cut and big hood to offer plenty of coverage, then the Patagonia Tropic Comfort Hoody II is a great choice.