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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. They’re also excellent for insect protection when treated with Sawyer Permethrin.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product.

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  1. I have Palm Free Sunwear gloves that have served me well for about five years. I like that they are palm free for a better feel of what I am holding. UPF 50, cover knuckles and wrists, durable. As you mentioned, I have to make sure my gloves are in a dedicated shirt pocket. when I take them off, although if you leave one behind, you can turn them inside out to match the lost hand (assuming you do it more than once). $25 / pair.

  2. so, the OR gloves aren’t actually excellent for insect protection, it’s the Sawyer permethrin that is providing the excellent insect protection. Having the entire line of OR activeice products, I am not sold on activeice as an effective cooling feature. I’m also a bit amused that you have naked arms while wearing UPF gloves with permethtrin treatment in two of the three photos. Seems better to use OR’s activeice sleaves that would provide the protection of your arms and cover most of your hands since they have thumb loops that pull the sleeve over most of your hand.

  3. I see then need for finger use if you’re fishing and for other activities but for hiking, I don’t. Is it not better to have full glove covering to protect the skin from the sun and abrasions if walking through thickets? Thanks for any responses.

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