This photo shows the author wearing the L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt while standup paddle boarding during the testing and review process.

L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt Review

- Field-tested -

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The L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt is a lightweight sun-blocking fishing shirt that’s just as good for fishing as it is for all-around water play on beach days.

To get us a closer look, L.L.Bean sent us a review unit. After stand-up paddle boarding and fly fishing in the Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt, this is what we learned:

You Need a Sun-Blocking Shirt Now

This review is, in a lot of ways, my own sort of gear testimonial and public service recommendation: You need to get a sun shirt. Or sun-blocking fishing shirt. Or a sun protection shirt. Or a long-sleeve swim shirt. Or maybe even a rash guard.

Why?

Instead of needing to slather on sunscreen and reapplying, a good sun shirt will protect you from the sun’s rays — and might even keep you a bit cooler. Sun shirts are super easy and deliver great peace-of-mind.

This photo shows Chris Maxcer wearing the L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt while on a SUP at a beach during the review and testing process.
A lightwieght sun-blocking shirt like the L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt is easier than sunscreen.

For early season swimming, I used to wear a thick rash guard, but I didn’t take sun-blocking shirts seriously until last summer when I tested Under Armour UA Iso-Chill Shorebreak Shirts during super-hot days. The UA fishing shirts are great, but they don’t have one killer feature that L.L.Bean does: Tall Size options.

 

One drawback to finding the right sun-blocking fishing shirt is getting the right size. If you’re average in size, you’ll have no problems. But if you’re a bit tall with long arms, it’s a lot harder. L.L.Bean is one of the few high-quality outdoor apparel brands that take sizing options seriously — and I appreciate that a lot.

Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt Review

L.L.Bean offers its Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt in multiple colors in Regular and Tall options. For reference, I’m about 6’3″ and 225 pounds. I have broad shoulders and long arms a reasonably trim torso. In order to get the shoulder space and sleeve length I need, that usually means I wear size XL shirts and jackets. And regular XL tops are usually just a bit big on me and looser around the torso than I want.

If you want a trimmer sun shirt fit, choose a ‘Tall’ L.L.Bean TropicWear Knit Shirt and size down.

With the L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt, however, I can wear a Large Tall and get a better, trimmer fit. So good.

Shop L.L.Bean’s colorful TropicWear shirt options and get FREE Shipping on orders over $50!

Fabric, Features & Performance

This photo shows a side view of the L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt.
L.L.Bean adds meshy side panels under the arms for extra ventilation.

The L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt provides UPF 50+ sun protection rating that blocks 97.5% of the sun’s UV rays. L.L.Bean says that its Tropicwear shirts provide about 10x more protection than a white cotton tee.

The fabric is 100% polyester, which is consistent with other competitive sun-blocking shirts. It’s soft on bare skin and feels great.

L.L.Bean also adds in an undisclosed anti-microbial odor blocking technology but doesn’t disclose what it is. So far, after several sweaty and wet test sessions, it hasn’t developed any odor.

L.L.Bean changes up the construction with mesh side panels underneath your arms. These panels have some small openings for increased ventilation, and they seem to help out a bit on hot days.

Finally, L.L.Bean adds a thumb loop that extends the sleeve down the back of your hand for extra coverage. (The thumb loop is also nice if you’re doing something like fly fishing where the casting motion can make your sleeves slide toward your elbows.)

 

L.L.Bean Tropicwear vs Swift River Rash Guard

This photo shows the L.L.Bean Swift River Cooling Rash Guard.
If you plan to swim quite a lot, a rash guard like the Swift River Cooling Rash Guard includes spandex for a tighter fit and better shape retention when wet.

If you’re considering the L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt, you might also be interested in the L.L.Bean Swift River Cooling Rash Guard. How is it different? Rash guards are usually meant to be worn while swimming or surfing or in watersports where you’re going to get wet often and swim a lot. They’re usually a bit thicker in material and are designed to fit more snugly to make them better for swimming.

The Swift River Cooling Rash Guard provides the same sun protection as the Tropicwear Knit shirts, but it includes 12% spandex to provide better stretch and recovery. Basically, it’ll be tighter on your body and hold its shape when wet.

One drawback to the Swift River Cooling Rash Guard is that L.L.Bean doesn’t offer it in Tall size options.

For lots of swimming, I’d recommend a tighter-fitting rash guard like the Swift River Rash Guard over the L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt — but that doesn’t stop me from swimming in a sun-blocking fishing shirt. The L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt can get wet and it dries fast. It’s great for fishing, paddle boarding, the beach, and river tubing. (I have an NRS Rashguard in my quiver for more serious swim or snorkeling days.)

Shop L.L.Bean’s colorful TropicWear shirt options and get FREE Shipping on orders over $50!

When to Wear a Sun Shirt

This photo shows the men's and women's L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Hoodie options side-by-side.
L.L.Bean also makes hoodie versions for both men (left) and women (right).

I like to wear a sun protection fishing shirt anytime on the water when the sun’s rays not only beat down on you but also reflect off the water and come up at you, too. I wear sun protection shirts for stand-up paddleboading, rafting, fly fishing and sometimes when I’m camping, hiking and backpacking.

If you’re outside in the sun a lot, sun protection shirts are must-have outdoor gear. They’re also a great investment — you’ll spend less on sunscreen and you won’t have trouble trying to get sunscreen on your back!

Want even more sun protection? Check out our review of the awesome water-ready Shelta Sun Hat!

Competitive Alternatives & Options

While there are a lot of different kinds of rash guards, swim shirts, and sun-blocking fishing shirts, let’s get back to more upright sun protection shirts that are designed for fishing and playing outside:

Under Armour UA Iso-Chill Shorebreak — The UA Iso-Chill Shorebreak shirt’s claim to fame is its ‘Iso-Chill’ fabric, which uses flattened polyester fibers coated with titanium dioxide. The result is designed to pull heat from your skin and into the fibers, which keeps you cool longer. In my personal testing, it seems to work but it’s very hard to quantify. And once the temperature rises above 100º Fahrenheit, which is hotter than your body temperature, I can’t tell at all — other than that any lightweight polyester shirt seems to provide similar protection and feel.

Simms SolarVent Crew — Simms offers the SolarVent Crew in some light solids as well as camo patterns, and for Simms fishing fans, there’s no reason to stray. You get UPF 50+ sun protection, great quality, and very competitive pricing.

Orvis PRO Sun Crew — The benefits of the Orvis PRO Sun Crew include Polygiene odor control, integrated thumb holes, and a hidden seam pocket. The drawback is the price. The Orvis PRO Sun Crew costs quite a bit more than the L.L.Bean Tropicwear shirts.

Huk ICON X Series Shirts — Compared to the lightweight fishing shirt competition, Huk still makes the most color and pattern options. The biggest drawback to Huk fishing shirts is that most of the Huk shirts have a lot of branding. For example, you might see “Huk Performance Fishing” on the chest or “Huk Fishing” on the sleeves. Of course, if you’re into lifestyle branding as thing you appreciate, it’s also a benefit.

The Bottom Line

All-in-all, the L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt is an excellent UPF 50+ sun-blocking fishing and beach shirt. Its biggest benefit over most of the sun shirt competition is the increased size options, including tall options, that help you dial in the best fit. The L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt fits well, feels great, looks good, and does its job outside in the hot sun. Very highly recommended.

Get the Gear:

L.L.Bean Tropicwear Knit Crew Shirt
Benefits
Drawbacks
4.7

 

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