The Patagonia 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. From the Best Trail-to-Town Shirt, Mountain Hardwear's Canyon, to the Editors' Choice, Capilene Cool Daily Hoody, 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 bike packing.
The spring sun of Pismo Beach, CA.
Comfort & Fit
Even though the center back length is slightly less than the Silver Ridge Lite, the Sol Patrol "feels" bigger. Maybe it's the extra couple of ounces, or the relaxed fit, or the multiple pockets, but there's no denying that it tends to drape more than its chief competitor. It's without a doubt comfortable and easy to wear and lets 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. The shirt felt good through the shoulders and torso, providing enough space for cooler air to enter.
This is a shirt for naps and trail breaks under trees. There's a hint of stretch in the 2.6 oz. weight polyester, whereas the Outdoor Research Astroman has flex for days. If you like your active apparel to move with you, the OR is your best option. 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.
Longer and looser, the standard fit protocol of most men's sun shirts. It helps breathability and in most cases, promotes comfort.
On the Canyon, the sleeve tab button is 8.5'' from the shoulder. On the Silver Ridge Lite, it's 9''. On the Sol Patrol II, the button sits 4.5'' from the shoulder seam, meaning the bunch sleeve 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.
There's a 50+ UPF coating on the Sol Patrol, and a 40 rating on the Silver Ridge Lite, accounting for a two-point advantage in this category for the former. (2 points/10 percent of UV rays blocked). The collar height, sleeve length, long cuffs, and hem reach all contribute to a person's ability to save money on sunscreen this 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 excels in keeping a person cool but remains a couple of points below the tarp-like PFG Terminal Tackle from Columbia, which scored a 10/10 in this category.
A long hemline helps keep a shirt in place under a backpack. The Sol Patrol II by Patagonia, while ideal for fishing, makes for a solid hiking sun shirt.
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, it wasn't to any severe degree more than other tested shirts, and it dried as quickly as all others when pulled from the washing machine and left outside. The Eddie Bauer Atlas Exploration scored last here, needing another 20 minutes or so to be worn.
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.
Buyers should look for UPF rating, fit, and fabric when choosing a sun shirt. A nice selection of features and packability are benefits, too.
No issues came to light with the Sol Patrol II, as it ate up every bit of pain fed to it. It was treated as a shirt of this caliber should be. We rolled up the shirts, packed them in tight spaces, washed and dried them numerous times, made them smell, and put them on stair repeats to prepare for summer hiking. Buyers would be wise to gauge the toughness of the left breast pocket side-entry zipper, the seams and edges of the back vents, and how the internal mesh holds up over time. Overall though, this is a well-built shirt with polyester ripstop and a durable, double-layer collar.
In a world where pants can be purchased "pre-stained" to appear seasoned and mark their buyers as credible outdoors-people, one would think to wear a shirt straight out of a fly-fishing documentary would merit style points. Not so much.
A small looped tab of webbing helps keep cool things in place. Note the micro-cord zipper pull on the inside of the left breast pocket.
The Sol Patrol II 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 frontcountry. Rest assured, you can rely on its $79.00 price tag to justify its brand and craftsmanship, but it might not get you a date. The relaxed fit, excessive buttons, and large pockets are dead-giveaways that you can go two weeks without a shower; but like cilantro, that kind of style only goes well with certain things.
While hurting the Sol Patrol's style rating, its features 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. Granted, it doesn't have to be used. 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 left zippered mesh pocket behind the main left breast pocket and the loop of webbing for securing sunglasses.
The Sol Patrol was the only other shirt to have a sunglasses holder. In this instance, a small loop of nylon webbing is stitched just right of the placket. On the Mountain Hardwear Canyon, it was a slit on the left pocket flap. Both do their job admirably, even while active.
Rear vents, lined with mesh, help air move around the body but will suffer at times under a heavier pack.
The Patagonia Sol Patrol II is ready for wherever you want to take it. This is a tough, comfortable shirt that can work well for days in humid conditions, as well as keep travel documents and smartphones at the ready. Go from train to trail without the worry of excess-odor or losing something. Patagonia and Columbia clashed hard in this test, and the latter came out the ultimate winner. As is the case with a lot of this company's products, though, you probably can't be faulted for wanting to own it.
You need to know going in that feature-rich shirts with specialized fabrics will often cost closer to $100 than zero. The Sol Patrol II is $79 on most online stores. The PFG Terminal Tackle, the best sun-blocker in the group, can be had for around $30 while the overall winner, the Silver Ridge Lite, is found in the $40 range. Nevertheless, Yvon Chouinard is a billionaire for a reason. This shirt is well worth its steep price tag, but it isn't the best men's sun-shirt money can buy, that goes to other Patagonia piece in this test, the Daily Hoody.
Comfortable, cooling, and practical for several applications, we loved the dorky but highly technical Sol Patrol II. It's great for hiking and rafting and looks good 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.
This shirt has ample venting across the back and yoke.