When it comes to sun masks, why must we choose between protection, practicality and comfort? That is the question from which the Riff Mask was born. Sun masks are nothing new, of course; over the last few years we have seen a steady procession of sun protective garments hitting shelves as the dangers of UV exposure has increased in the public consciousness. But where was the sun mask that we were excited to put on in the morning, the sun mask that we didn’t take off in the heat of the day, the one that we forgot we were even wearing? In short, where was the sun mask that didn’t just cover you up, but made your time in the sun better?
With over 25 years of personal experience as a fishing guide in Montana and Florida, Captain Austin Lowder has spent thousands of days exposed to a diverse range of elements, not only stifling heat and damaging UV rays, but mosquitoes, mountain smoke and pelting rain as well. But like many in our industry, years of exposure to the sun and elements took a toll on his skin and health. A long day guiding would leave him sunburnt, dehydrated and exhausted. Frequent trips to the dermatologist became a costly and time-consuming but necessary part of life. It became apparent that, if he were going to continue doing the job he loved, he had to protect himself from the extreme conditions that went along with it.
He began the search for a product which he could wear out in the extreme conditions of the Florida backcountry and Montana rivers for eight-hour days. Trying all the conventional forms of sun protection available, Austin soon realized that these products were all full of compromises. In various combinations, his face and neck were still exposed to the sun, a problem compounded by generally impractical and uncomfortable designs that made the prospect of preparing for work each day less than desirable.
When it was clear that a well-designed sun mask capable of combating harmful sun exposure in a functional and comfortable manner did not exist, Austin set out to make one himself. From a simple hand-sewn prototype in 2018, the Riff Mask has quickly evolved into the most technical sun protective hood available.
The Riff Mask
Starting Riff Masks, our goal has always been to give outdoor professionals and enthusiasts the tool they need to protect themselves from the sun, free of compromises. With a unique design and functions informed by lifelong experiences in every sort of condition, the Riff Mask is intended to blend seamlessly with your life in the sun, a perfect fit for any outdoor pursuit.
The Riff Mask is built of custom double-layered poly fabric, perfect for blocking harmful UV rays without weighing you down or heating up in direct sunlight. The full-coverage design completely covers the face and neck, reducing dehydration and heat fatigue throughout the day. The Riff Mask has a 50+ UPF rating, so you can enjoy your day without reapplying sticky sunscreen or finishing off your trip with a peeling sunburn.
The novelty begins in the design. We knew from the beginning that we wanted a full-coverage mask that did not sit close to the face or feel claustrophobic. On hot days, a tight-fitting mask not only blocks the sun, but also fresh air or a cool breeze, leading to unnecessary heat. Enter the Riff Masks’ air ventilation system, a series of pockets along the Face Shield. These vents allow fresh air to pass through the mask, preventing overheating without losing sun protection. The vents are given shape by moldable wire alloy, so by simply bending the vents you can allow more air through in low wind conditions or less air in high winds or while traveling at speed. Thanks to these vents and the overhead design of the Riff, the mask sits off the face and gives you room to breathe.
With the Face Shield secured, you can benefit from complete sun protection of your face. When it’s time for a break, a snack, a drink or a photo, the Face Shield can be conveniently tucked back, converting you sun mask into a sun hood. Securing and removing the Face Shield can be easily done one-handed, but thanks to two rare earth magnet clasps, it won’t be blown open or fall down by itself. Paired with the tightening bungee system found in the sides of the Riff Mask, there’s no need to readjust your mask throughout the day, even when driving at speed.
The feature which we have seen the most excitement over is the Glare Guard. The Glare Guard is built into the top of the Face Shield, where it bends comfortably over the nose and sits across the cheeks. The Glare Guard is worn under the edge of your sunglasses, where it cuts surface glare from water, improving vision and ensuring your cheeks don’t get burned by refracted light as with other sun protective garments.
This alone makes the Glare Guard a huge benefit for sight fishing and protecting your vision, but the Glare Guard serves a second purpose: it also creates a barrier between your sunglasses and your rising breath, effectively eliminating the problem of fogging sunglasses while wearing your Riff.
Other features found on the Riff Mask includes two D-Rings along the lapel for easy access to your tools, a unisex ponytail holder for wearing long hair comfortably outside the mask, and a rigid brim which allows the Riff to be worn with or without a hat.