Patagonia Sol Patrol II Review
Cons: Too technical for daily wear, pricey
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sol Patrol II is likely no stranger to fly shop shelves and raft guide camps and has probably been tucked into more dingy, wet, sandy boat hulls than any shirt in this test. There's no doubt its credibility is intact within the audience that looks for apparel in this milieu. That's why we chose to test it — to find out if it holds up to its reputation. We found that overall it does, but that some other options on the market are worth considering as well. The market is flush with enough high-quality multi-purpose, UPF-impregnated men's shirts to give the Sol Patrol II a reason to worry. Personification aside, its quality is well-earned. This is a comfortable, sun-blocking smock, as great for plane rides as it is for bikepacking.
Comfort and Fit
The center back length for a size large is a generous 30", the longest we measured for the button-up shirts in this review, adding to the blousy feel of the garment and making the shirt feel quite large when worn. The extra couple of ounces, relaxed fit, and the multiple pockets amount to a shirt that tends to drape more than others we've tested.
The Sol Patrol is fairly comfortable and easy to wear, letting a person move well within it. There's nothing bothersome about the seams or cuff design; it's not a shirt you'll notice much until one of its many features becomes useful. It feels good through the shoulders and torso, providing enough space for cooler air to enter. Strangely, the sleeves seem to be more constrictive that other button-ups we've tested, and were a touch tighter than we would have liked when rolled up.
This is a shirt for naps and trail breaks under trees. There's only a hint of stretch in the 2.6 oz weight polyester. The cuffs are just broad enough to protect the back of the hand, and the collar isn't at all noticeable when buttoned to the top. The collar points can be latched in place by a couple of surreptitious buttons underneath, and help maintain a clean look.
The sleeve tab button sits 4.5'' from the shoulder seam, meaning the sleeve bunches and gets tight around the bicep unless diligently folded. The intent may be to reduce any sort of restriction at the elbow, but it backfires by capturing so much fabric above the elbow. We found the fit to be a bit tighter than other shirts we've tested — especially in the arms — so if you're the type to humblebrag on your bench press numbers, consider sizing up.
The durable fabric found on the Sol Patrol II rates at 50+ UPF sun protection — the highest realistically measured and reported. The collar height, sleeve length, long cuffs, and hem all contribute to a person's ability to save money on sunscreen during the summer. The collar stays in place around the back of the neck, even without being buttoned up-front, and the fit of the shirt and placket design minimize exposure for the suprasternal, or jugular, notch. This shirt won't be the coolest shirt you can wear, either stylishly, or temperature-wise, but anything covered by this shirt will be protected as good as anything else possible.
With ample room around the midsection and large mesh vents across the back and yoke, the Sol Patrol II kept us comfortable in some serious California sun. At times it seemed as if the shirt was capturing the breeze, as opposed to simply letting it pass through to cool the body. Sweat stuck around a bit, though, especially after an extensive period of uphill work with a weighted pack.
That said, this shirt isn't severely less breathable than other tested shirts, and it dries as quickly as all others when pulled from the washing machine and left outside. Body odor specifically never became an issue, but campfire smoke lingered for a couple of wash cycles, as to be expected, given the similar performance of the others in the analysis.
The Sol Patrol will look right at home on a commercial fishing pier or in the gear warehouse of a backpacking outfitter, but it's going to stick out a little in the front country. Our testing sample's fabric was imbued with an abstract plant pattern so embarrassingly garish, it seemed to clash with everything, no matter if worn in the natural or concrete jungle.
One of our testers tends to perspire easily, and this shirt barely works simply as a shirt. Hot to simply walk in, they looked at ways to escape the clutches of the shirt by unbuttoning it, rolling up the sleeves, or simply taking it off, which then defeats the purpose of wearing the shirt altogether. If one does not perspire easily, the versatile collar is a standout, as it's double-height helps protect the back of the neck without the need for other accessories. Still, like all button-up sun shirts, to be fully protected, you may want to utilize a wide-brimmed hat, neck gaiter, and sun gloves.
The Sol Patrol rated the highest for all the shirts we tested when it comes to durability. If you had the choice of just one shirt to wear on a trip and you needed it to last the entire time, this is the shirt for you. The tough, tightly woven, ripstop polyester material would be a perfect match for activities like traveling off-trail through thick brush to a secret fishing hole, hiking through the beaches and rooted trails of the Pacific Northwest, or exploring the canyons in Zion National Park. The fit is also a little slimmer than some other products that rated closely, and many of the little features and details don't present themselves too easily to catch on hazards such as thickets, branches, or barbed wire.
The buttons found on the shirt are bog-standard and can be easily replaced. The shirt itself comes with two extra buttons if one does find its way to a new life without you. Stitching throughout the shirt is excellent, and most seams are double-stitch reinforced. The one small zipper you'll find on the Sol Patrol is located hidden behind a chest pocket. For its size, it is beefier than it needs to be, with no chance of catching on itself.
The tradeoff to all this robustness comes in the form of breathability and fit. Compared to Patagonia's own hooded sun shirts which use airy, stretchable materials, the tightly woven polyester of the Sol Patrol won't budge one bit. If you are prone to easily perspiring or will be taking part in high-intensity activities, you may find yourself overheating quickly. Even while you're waiting in your canoe for the big one to bite, you may find yourself baked like a potato underneath the bombproof material.
While hurting the style rating, the features of the Sol Patrol elevate its overall usefulness. The deep, side-entry breast pocket can easily swallow a passport, wallet, snack-bars, and even a flask. The external pockets, button-cinched, are also roomy and versatile. The 50+ UPF rating helps in its core mission of keeping your Vitamin D intake on notice, and the extra collar height and collar-point design go a long way in that effort as well.
The shirt's sleeve-tab and its requisite button seem high and annoyed us by collecting fabric on the upper arm, constricting our arms at the bicep, which may limit its real-world use. However, testers commented on the two-button cuffs allowing for added adjustability when it didn't need to be extended over the back of the hand — a simple, useful addition.
The Sol Patrol is one of the only shirts that we tested that has a sunglasses holder: a small loop of nylon webbing is stitched just right of the placket. It does its job admirably, even when active. Finally, rear vents, lined with mesh, help air move around the body but will suffer at times under a heavier pack.
The Sol Patrol II is not an inexpensive piece of gear. That said, for the amount of features it packs, including the thick, durable, protective fabric, it's not a bad value — if a traditional sun shirt is what you're looking for. Compared to other feature-rich shirts, this one is priced competitively. What you can be certain of is that this shirt will last many years to come. In that perspective, the price tag for the shirt is worth the value it offers.
Comfortable, cooling, and practical for several applications, the uncool but highly technical Patagonia Sol Patrol II could be a good match for you if you first and foremost need some of the best sun protection that can be found. It's great for hiking and rafting and looks at home when dirty. The features are stacked on this shirt, and each contributes something to the reason why the shirt was made. It keeps the sun off the skin, the air flowing, and people moving down the trail. The cost may deter some, but you're sure to get a piece of clothing that will last and feel good each time you put it on.
— Justin Simoni & Craig Rowe