Outdoor Research ActiveIce Sun Spectrum Gloves Review

Outdoor research ActiveIce Sun Spectrum Gloves Review

Outdoor Research ActiveIce Sun Spectrum Gloves are lightweight fingerless gloves that protect your hands from the sun’s harmful rays. They’re great for hiking, backpacking, paddling, running, or fishing because they eliminate the need to carry suntan lotion while protecting your hands from blisters and biting insects. They have anti-slip palm prints that enhance your dexterity and have been treated with xylitol crystals (a natural sugar substitute) to cool your skin as the fabric wicks away sweat.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 0.7 oz/pair
  • Material: 92% recycled polyester, 8% spandex, stretch-knit
  • Sizing: XS, S, M, L, XL
  • Protection: UPF 50+

I originally bought these gloves because I spend a lot of time out in the sun fly fishing, but I quickly started using them for hiking and backpacking as well. I hate carrying and using suntan lotion or bug dope and these gloves let me avoid both without hindering my normal activities. Being fingerless, I still have all the dexterity I normally have without them.

The gloves themselves are every lightweight and you need to keep track of them if you take them off or they’ll disappear into your backpack. They have medium-length wrist gauntlets so I get complete sun coverage when worn with the lightweight long sleeve shirt that is part of my normal hiking uniform. The palms have printed dots to enhance your grip, and there are tiny pull tabs inside the wrist to help you pull the gloves on if your hands get wet. Durability is also quite good and the seams at the ends of the fingers don’t unravel like those on most fishing gloves, like Buff’s Sport Series Gloves, even after months of near-constant use.

The ActiveIce Sun Spectrum Gloves has printed dots on the palms for enhanced grip.
The ActiveIce Sun Spectrum Gloves has printed dots on the palms for enhanced grip.

Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF)

These ActiveIce Gloves have an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 50+ which means they absorb 98% of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and prevent it from reaching your skin. The numerical rating of 50+ means that only 1/50th of the UV gets through the fabric to your skin. UPF is different from the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) listed on suntan lotion which measures the amount of time it takes for sun-exposed skin to redden. For example, if your skin gets red in 20 minutes without sunscreen, a suntan lotion with an SPF of 15 will block 93% of the sun’s UV light and protect you for 300 minutes before it needs to be reapplied. The problem with SPF is that the rate at which people burn without sunscreen is different, so it can be very hard to know how long it will protect you for. The nice thing about sun protective clothing is that the protection is permanent and doesn’t have to be reapplied later in the day.

That said, sunburn isn’t my chief concern, but skin cancer is since there’s a history of it in my family of sun worshippers. I can still remember my parents putting baby oil on their skin at the beach to improve their tans. It sounds crazy today, but having a good tan was a sign of prosperity and vibrant health a couple of decades ago. It still is I guess, although my dermatologist wouldn’t agree.

Cooling Factor

Outdoor Research has an entire product line of ActiveIce gloves, arm warmers, hats, and gaiters that are treated with a natural sugar substitute called xylitol which makes these gloves feel extra cool when they wick sweat from your skin. I have no idea if it actually works, although I trust Outdoor Research more than most brands when it comes to such claims. That said, it’s hard to tell how much of the cooling effect is due to the xylitol and how much is due to the regular wicking action that occurs when you sweat into a hydrophobic fabric that promotes evaporative cooling.

Frankly, the cooling xylitol treatment used on these ActiveIce Gloves isn’t a terribly important feature for me, but I can see how it would be if you are someplace that has hot dry heat. That said these gloves can be a bit cool to wear in the early morning but become quite comfortable when temperatures rise. Then again,  I don’t recall ever sweating when I’ve worn these gloves while hiking or backpacking even on high humidity days.

Insect Protection

While the ActiveIce gloves provide good insect protection, simply because they cover your hands with fabric, you can still get insect mosquito bites when wearing them. To prevent this, I spray all my gloves with Permethrin a few times each season, which is an insecticide designed for use on clothing but not people. That stops them cold and I’ve never gotten an insect bit through the gloves since. For more information about Permethrin, see Treating your Clothes with Permethrin Spray and the Permethrin Soak Method Guide for treating larger amounts of clothing at once.

I wear sun protective gloves during the warmer months whenever I go hiking or fishing.
I wear sun-protective gloves during the warmer months whenever I go hiking or fishing.


Outdoor Research’s ActiveIce Sun Spectrum Sun Gloves are a great way to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays and eliminate the need to carry or use sunscreen. They have a UPF rating of 50+ and block 98% of the sun’s ultraviolet light from reaching the skin of your hands.

Outdoor Research also sells a similar product called Protector Sun Gloves (UPF 50+) which are very similar to these ActiveIce Sun Spectrum Gloves, but they don’t have the xylitol cooling treatment or the printed dots in the palms for enhanced grip. They also cost $5 less per pair. The Protector Sun Gloves can be very difficult to find in stock during the offseason, which is what led me to try the ActiveIce Sun Spectrum Gloves which are much easier to find year-round at the Outdoor Research website and other outdoor retailers. Both products provide excellent sun protection for my needs and I recommend them highly.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product.

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  1. I’m interested in the hiking pole grips in the photo of the gloves

    • Pacerpoles
      Been using them for 8 years. Will never use another trekking pole ever.

      • If you buy them, buy the Dual-Lock model, which doesn’t slip like the old twist lock models.

      • Second on the Pacerpoles as well as the Dual Lock version. They’re awesome for arthritic hands. The Dual Lock has much less fiddle factor than the twist lock model.

      • Another off topic comment… coincidentally, I am looking to buy my mom (late 60’s, lives in MT now) a pair of trekking pole for when she goes walking with her grand kids. (After her knee replacement she uses a single cane which seems inadequate and like it will promote poor ergonomics.) Would you suggest pacerpoles? And if so, which ones?

      • Dual lock pacerpoles. The owner gave my mother a pair to recuperate after her knee surgery and she loved them. My wife also used a pair after a hip replacement. They are really brilliant.

      • I had a bad experience with some Leki’s with a pin based locking mechanism, (the edges of the pin hole wore over time until the pin would randomly slip and the pole would totally collapse under weight) but I’ll assume that the pins haven’t given your wife or mother any troubles. Any guidance on carbon fiber vs aluminum for the lowers? Do you have an affiliate link to purchase them through? (I’m happy to help generate revenue if I can.)

      • I’d go with the CF. They’re a little thicker than the really UL poles you get in the states. No problems with the pins. No affiliate comp on these. The company is really a small extended family business and not really saavy that way. They’re also in the UK.

      • Thanks! I’ll put in an order today for a late mothers day gift.

      • I could never get my wife to use any sort of hiking poles even though she falls quite often. On a day hike in a state park last year, she hiked with me to the end of a trail in which I had to help her through many difficult and tricky sections. At the end of the trail, I told her I wanted her to use the Pacerpoles on the way back to the trailhead. She used them and didn’t require my assistance at all on the way back. Since then, she’s used Pacerpoles on hikes. Fortunately, I have an extra pair since I recently bought the CF ones for myself.

  2. Third on the Pacerpoles. I’ve been using them for two years now and haven’t touched my other poles since. Fantastic customer service too. Back to the subject, I have these gloves too and like them very much.

    • Another happy user of Pacerpoles here. The grips are quite comfortable, and I find that I actually use the poles in most terrains. With standard-grip poles, I used them mostly when navigating steep terrain.

    • I bought a pair of these OR Active Ice gloves last summer after spending a few days on a roof working on a volunteer project. I haven’t gotten to use the gloves yet but the Texas summer is coming!

      Now, back to Pacerpoles and winter use. Pacerpole offers pogies that really help in cold weather. With my Reynaud’s syndrome, I have to be very careful to keep my fingers warm. The pogies keep my hands just fine down near freezing and I only need a light pair of gloves to hike in the 20s F. I feel they are well worth the expense. Also, they keep you from dropping your poles.

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