Rash Guards vs T-Shirts [Which Should You Wear]

Packing to go to the beach, swimming pool or water park can be a bit of a hassle and the issue is often just how much stuff do you really need to take with you for the day.

One of the big questions while planning for a day of fun in the sun is whether a rash guard is as good or better than a regular T-shirt for spending the day in.

A rash guard differs from a T-shirt. While they both cover the torso a rash guard is tighter fitting, covers the arms and comes up higher on the neck which offers significant more protection from the sun's harsh UV rays.

T-shirts soak up a lot of water making them heavy and difficult to swim in while rash guards are made of lightweight fast drying materials and are designed for swimming ease.

Let's take a closer look at the differences between a rash guard and a regular T-shirt and the benefits they offer to better help you stay safe and pack lighter and easier for a full day of sun filled activities.

Benefits of a Rash Guard over a Regular T-Shirt

There are a few major benefits of a rash guard over a regular t-shirt

Protection From Harmful UV Rays

A rash guard offer a range of benefits over a regular t-shirt if you are planning for a long day in the sun. Made from lightweight and fast drying material a rash guard is designed to absorb UV light and stop it from reaching and burning your skin.

A rash guard is better than a swimsuit at protecting your body from UV exposure. This is mainly due to the fact that more of your body is covered in a rash guard than a swimsuit.

Sunburn can have a long term detrimental effect on the skin and can also be very painful and uncomfortable.

No one wants to have to endure the pain and unsightly discomfort of peeling skin from too much sun exposure.

Taking care of your skin is extremely important and requires some forward thinking and careful planning before heading out for the day.

While you might think a t-shirt provides the same UV protect as a rash guard this isn't necessarily true.

Rash guards are designed from materials that effectively block UV rays. While some t-shirts have this feature not all of them do. Below you can see a table showing how much UV protection you can expect from a t-shirt compared to a rash guard.

UPF RatingType of GarmentUV Transmission
5Regular T-shirt (not rated for UV protection)20%
15Garments Rated ‘Minimal’ UV Protection6.67%
30Garments Rates ‘Good’ UV Protection3.33%
50Rash Guards (‘Excellent’ UV Protection)2%

A Lightweight Alternative

Rash guards are an excellent way to travel light and enjoy swimming and playing around down at the beach or around the pool. They come in a wide range of colors and fashionable styles and are becoming increasingly common attire for people who are planning on spending the day splashing around.

They tend to weight less than regular t-shirts (especially when wet) and they dry much faster too.

For lightweight hikes or flights a rash guard could be a good option.

Long Sleeves Without Making You Hot

Rash guards often have long sleeves and cover the torso and shoulders. However, they are made from thin, breathable fabrics that don't make you hot.

See rash guards are not designed to keep you warm. Instead they are designed to wick air quickly which can help you stay cool while also protecting you from UV rays.

A long sleeve rash guards offer the additional benefit of covering and protecting your entire arms as well.

Rash guards have a higher neckline than a T-shirt which stop the upper chest and the back of the neck from getting burned.

Easier To Move and Have Fun In

Rash shirts are easy to move around in and don't chafe and rub against your skin the same way a wet t-shirt does.

It is much easier to swim and take part in beach activities such as swimming, running and volleyball while wearing a rash shirt rather than a regular t-shirt.

A t-shirt tends to absorb and hold onto a lot more water which will both drag you down when swimming (making it hard for you to swim) but also stretch the fabric.

You can swim in rash guards rather easily because they don't absorb too much water and thus aren't too heavy.

Offers Protection Against Stingers

Jellyfish, blue bottles and other stingers can be extremely dangerous and painful and present a real risk to people swimming in the ocean, divers and surfers.

A rash guard will help protect the skin from many stingers and also help to keep biting insects such as mosquitos and sand flies at bay.

In some areas full length rash suits are common place. The rash suits which are normally worn by snorkelers cover the entire body including the hands and feet.

Some of these suits even come with a hood for covering the head leaving only a small part of the the face exposed.

I remember going to The Great Barrier Reef and wearing a full body rash suit (completely with hood so I looked like a giant teletubbie) to protect my body from stingers.

No Need To Constantly Re-Apply Sunscreen

“Kids have you put your sunscreen on?!!!”

This is something you'll hear me chanting regularly throughout summer. I still remember one day that started as cloudy but ended up being sunny.

We didn't plan on being in the water long, didn't wear our rashies and and completely forgot to reapply sunscreen. My youngest got to burned on his shoulder he got BLISTERS!

Talk about me feeling like a terrible Dad!

Rash guards provide an safe and easy alternative to applying sunscreen all over your body. You don't need to harass your kids to get out of the water so you can put more sunscreen on them. They can run wild and free

Always remember to apply sunscreen to your face and other exposed areas of your body especially if you are going to be spending a lot of time out in the sun. Plus always wear a hat and sunglasses.

One area to pay particular attention to is the back of your hands and the top of your feet. These areas are very sensitive and can be very painful if they get sunburned. Ouch!

Check The UV Index To See What Clothing To Wear

Most good weather apps will provide a UV index for the day so take the time to check the UV index for the day. Sun protection such as a wide brimmed hat and adequate clothing is always needed when the UV index reaches three and above.

The UV index gives a reading of how much radiation from the sun is reaching earth and when the UV index reaches three people with fair skin are in danger of getting burnt.

Firms, Flattens and Covers Up

Everyone's has parts of their body they may like to accentuate or perhaps even disguise a little bit.

Some people of course are happy baking out in the sun in a micro bikini while others prefer to seek the sanctuary of the shade and wear clothing which provides them with a little more modesty.

Rash shirts are an excellent way to cover up more of your body from the sun and can be helpful in providing a higher degree of modesty.

A Stylish T-Shirt v a Rash Guard

There is a lot to be said for the sense of style a regular T-shirt can bring to your day.

You can wear it down the beach and then continue wearing it into the evening at a casual dinner event or a party without the need to get changed into other clothes.

Generally speaking you should not wear a rash guard as a regular t-shirt and this isn't what it's designed for. At the beach yes, but shopping in the mall? Probably not.

Traditionally made of cotton t-shirts are light to wear, breath well and are cool against the skin.

A t-shirt is more suitable if your are looking to get a bit of a tan especially on you arms.

They are also good to slip on quickly over a bikini or swimsuit for a bit of added modesty when you want to go for a stroll along the beach or head to the shop for an ice-cream or a drink.

Wet Heavy and Scratchy

The problem with wearing a t-shirt to the beach or pool is that it is not going to offer you much protection from the sun especially once it gets wet.

A cotton t-shirt will soak up a lot of water and stretch out of shape quite quickly once it gets wet. Because of the nature of the lightweight cotton material it will sag at the neckline exposing more skin to the sun's harsh rays.

A wet t-shirt will also collect more sand which will embed into the fiber of the cotton weave and rub against your skin causing chafing and irritation.

A wet t-shirt can actually be quite dangerous while swimming as it will become quite heavy and has the potential to drag your down under the water.

Takes Too Long To Dry

A cotton t-shirt will stay wet for a lot longer than a rash guard. No one really wants to spend all day in a wet and sandy t-shirt as they can be cold and extremely uncomfortable once the wind picks up.

A t-shirt will not keep you warmer than a rash guard.

T-Shirts Become See-Through

Wet t-shirts also provides much less coverage and modesty as they tend to become see through. They will also gape around the neckline after you have been in the water, exposing your neck and the upper back to the potential of sunburn.

Rash Guards Offer More Protect Than A Regular T-Shirt

Rash guard will offer you all day protection from the sun. They are stylish, well designed to keep out the sun's harsh UV rays and help prevent you from getting sunburnt.

They are also easy to move around in while swimming and playing beach games and are becoming increasingly popular for singles and families to wear at the beach and around the pool.

If you are packing to spend a day out in the sun the best idea would probably be to roll up a t-shirt and pack it in the bottom of your beach bag to give you some variety of clothing and something to wear if the day turns into night and you want to party on into the evening.