Baleaf UPF 50 Crew - Women's Review
Cons: Stinks easily, unimpressive durability, sleeves are short
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Baleaf Crew is a 100% polyester shirt with a UPF 50+ rating and a relaxed fit. It features offset, flat shoulder seams and comes in sized S-2XL.
Comfort and Fit
The Baleaf is made of silky smooth polyester that feels pleasant against the skin. It has raglan sleeves, much like a baseball t-shirt, keeping seams off the tops of the shoulders. Those relocated seams, on the fronts and backs of the shoulders, are stitched flat for comfort. Its crew-neck provides coverage from the sun without being so tight it feels like it's choking you. A relaxed fit helps this shirt be comfortable without being so loose you feel like you're swimming in it or so clingy you feel exposed.
While we at first thought it odd that the sizes of the Baleaf Crew don't include any XS options, we quickly realized it's because this shirt runs a bit on the small side. Its trim, athletic fit is best sized up for optimal fit on curvier women. It's also much less stretchy than many other sun shirts we tested. We particularly noticed this on the forearms. Our main tester is a slim, lanky 5'4", 120 lb woman, and she reports that the size small sleeves are just the right capacity for her thin arms, but pushing the sleeves up even just a few inches makes them quite tight. Additionally, they're a bit on the short side for longer-armed women. And while Baleaf advertises this shirt as having "flatlock seams," this only applies to the shoulder seams — the ones running down the torso and underside of the arms are regular seams. Overall, we like the silky feel of this shirt, but we think it runs a bit small for most women.
Rated as UPF 50+ with UVA and UVB protection, the material of the Baleaf is right up there with the majority of other sun shirts available. It has a slight hem drop, offering a small amount of protection as you bend over. Long sleeves and just the right amount of crew neck help protect the arms and chest from the damaging rays of the sun. Of course, compared to many others we tested, with thumb holes to keep the sleeves over your hands and hoods to protect your neck and ears, this simple crew neck isn't quite as protective. But for what it is, it does a decent job.
There are several ways in which we think the Baleaf falls slightly short of the mark, though. We've already mentioned that the sleeves are a bit short for full coverage. This is expounded by the lack of exceptional stretch of the shirt. The fabric is slightly stretchy, but it pales in comparison to so many others in this review. It particularly lacks stretchiness across the shoulders, meaning that as you move your arms, your wrists are likely to be exposed. In general, this shirt isn't a great choice for being overly active, as your movements are likely to uncover your skin. But for sitting back with a good book and a glass of lemonade, it works well.
Very few things can make it comfortable to wear a long-sleeved shirt under the blazing sun, and the breathability of the Baleaf isn't astounding. Its bright colors do a solid job of not contributing to the problem, and the thickness of this shirt is on par with many other, similar construction shirts we tested. It's advertised as a wicking shirt meant for high output activities, but we aren't in love with it for running and biking. Its polyester weave holds onto water longer than so many of the very thin sun shirts we tested, keeping your sweaty pits sweaty as you slog up that hill.
If you compare running in the Baleaf to running in an old cotton long sleeve, sure, it's more breathable and wicking. But compared to some seriously impressive competitors, it's just shy of average. Ordering a slightly larger size with a looser fit can help aid in breathability and drying time by letting more air circulate around the body and on both sides of the fabric. We went on 8 mile runs several times in this shirt and think it's a great choice for mild temperatures, but we weren'ts comfortable running in it on a sunny day above about 75-80°F. However, we do think it works well above those temperatures for less intensive activities like some mild gardening or hanging out chatting with friends.
We appreciate that the shape of this shirt is just a very mild "feminine cut" with flaring sides. It's just enough to help accommodate the natural widening of the human shape around the bottom, without assuming your specific figure. However, if you're after something stylish and cute, you may not love this basic, relaxed fit shirt. We think this lack of a commitment to one specific style helps it be useful for a larger range of activities and everyday uses. It's easy to wear and works, though it doesn't stand out in any particular way.
It's worth noting, once more, that the lowered levels of stretchiness on the Baleaf does take away somewhat from its versatility of fit. Its trim shape may not be ideal for curvier women who crave a wider waistline. Though this makes it not the most fashion-forward fit, the plethora of available colors adds greatly to its appeal in various settings. You're more likely to be able to get this shirt in your favorite color than just about any other shirt we tested — score!
On its own, the Baleaf is about average in terms of durability. It may not be ripstop material, but not many of the sun shirts we tested are. Its slightly thicker polyester fabric is held together by solid, sometimes doubled, seams. By relocating the shoulder seams from the tops of the shoulders to the front and back of your shoulders and making those seams flat, this garment is better suited to last through daily use.
We read numerous online complaints of Baleaf shirts having poor stitching, but we found no evidence of manufacturer error or indications that the seams might fail in the model we tested. Our only real complaint about the Baleaf is that it easily collects body odor, making it a single-wear shirt if you sweat in it at all. This repeated washing may eventually create some wear, but in our several months of testing, it doesn't seem to have made a difference. While we're not about to go hugging some wild cacti or run through a stand of gnarled bushes in this shirt, we have reasonable confidence in its durability.
Unlike many other sun shirts with hoods, pockets, and/or thumb holes, the Baleaf is minimal and simple. Its only feature of note is the flat stitched seams attaching the sleeves to the shirt.
This is one of the cheapest sun shirts we tested. While it's not a great solution for high octane activities, it's a solid choice for everyday wear, making it a high-value item in our books.
The Baleaf Crew is a solid sun shirt for everyday wear. It's soft, comfortable, and comes in a rainbow of colors. And considering the impressively low price tag of this shirt, you can get it in three or four colors for the price of some others we tested. It's a no-brainer choice for our Best Buy Award, and we think a great addition to just about any woman's wardrobe.
— Maggie Brandenburg