Reviews You Can Rely On

Baleaf UPF 50 Crew - Women's Review

An inexpensive but solid, basic crew option for casual activity and with a rainbow of available colors
gearlab tested logo
Baleaf UPF 50 Crew - Women's Review (Stay protected without breaking the bank, with this inexpensive shirt from Baleaf.)
Stay protected without breaking the bank, with this inexpensive shirt from Baleaf.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg
Price:  $20 List
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Manufacturer:   Baleaf
By Maggie Nichols ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 24, 2024
52
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#16 of 19
  • Comfort and Fit - 30% 5.0
  • Sun Protection - 25% 4.5
  • Breathability - 20% 5.5
  • Versatility - 15% 6.5
  • Durability - 10% 4.5

Our Verdict

The Baleaf Crew is a basic sun shirt that provides pretty good sun protection for an impressively low cost, making it an easy choice for blocking UV rays on a budget. It's silky soft, and its relaxed slim fit is easy to wear on a casual summer's day. We wouldn't recommend it for a lot of high-output activities without laundering it frequently, as the polyester fabric easily collects odors. It's also not as stretchy as we'd like, particularly on the sleeves — which we'd also prefer to be a little longer. But for a Saturday afternoon of gardening, it's pretty much perfect. It also comes in a rainbow of colors, and for this price, you could pick up all your favorite shades. Check out our article on the best women's sun protection shirt to see how it ranks versus competitors.
REASONS TO BUY
Versatile cut
Soft
Solid coverage
Tons of colors
Inexpensive
REASONS TO AVOID
Stinks easily
Unimpressive durability
Sleeves are short
Editor's Note: We updated this article with new comparisons from our latest testing on January 24, 2024, and made sure we still stand behind our recommendations.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $20.00 List
Check Price at Amazon
$22.75 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$37.48 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$45.49 at Backcountry$50 List
$34.93 at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
52
85
81
80
70
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Bottom Line A decent shirt for casual wear that won't break the bankA high-performing, versatile hoody that's hard to beatIncredibly breathable, lightweight, and easy activewear with helpful featuresThis straightforward, brightly colored top performed well across the board, proving itself to be versatile and comfortableA very relaxed shirt with excellent coverage that capitalizes on breezes while still keeping your hood in place
Rating Categories Baleaf UPF 50 Crew... Mountain Hardwear C... Outdoor Research Ec... Mountain Hardwear C... REI Co-op Sahara Sh...
Comfort and Fit (30%)
5.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
6.5
Sun Protection (25%)
4.5
9.0
8.0
8.5
8.0
Breathability (20%)
5.5
9.0
9.5
8.5
7.0
Versatility (15%)
6.5
7.5
8.0
7.5
6.0
Durability (10%)
4.5
6.5
6.0
6.5
7.0
Specs Baleaf UPF 50 Crew... Mountain Hardwear C... Outdoor Research Ec... Mountain Hardwear C... REI Co-op Sahara Sh...
Sun Protection Level (UPF) 50+ 50+ 15 50 50+
Coverage Long sleeve, crew neck Long sleeve, hood, thumb holes Long sleeve, hood, thumb holes Long sleeve, hood, thumb holes Long sleeve, hood, thumb holes
Features Flat shoulder seams Extra large hood, draw string at waist, hip pocket (zippered) Ponytail hole in hood, flat-seams, reflective logo Scuba-style hood Drawstring on hood, shaped hem
Fit Relaxed fit Slim fit Slim fit Trim fit Relaxed fit
Material 100% polyester 88% polyester, 12% elastane 100% recycled polyester (bluesign approved) 88% polyester, 12% elastane 92% polyester, 8% spandex
Odor Control? No No Yes No No
Available Sizes S - 2XL XS - XL 2XS - 4XL XS - XL XS - XL

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.

Performance Comparison


baleaf upf 50 crew for women - the baleaf is a pleasant, easy to wear sun shirt that's also less...
The Baleaf is a pleasant, easy to wear sun shirt that's also less expensive!
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

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.

baleaf upf 50 crew for women - the raglan sleeves and silky smooth fabric of the baleaf are...
The raglan sleeves and silky smooth fabric of the Baleaf are pleasant to wear - though we wish the sleeves were longer.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Sun Protection


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.

baleaf upf 50 crew for women - we appreciate the compromise this crew neck has achieved between...
We appreciate the compromise this crew neck has achieved between protection and comfort.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Breathability


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't 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.

baleaf upf 50 crew for women - it's slightly on the thick side for truly hot days, but works well...
It's slightly on the thick side for truly hot days, but works well on milder sunny days and at high elevation.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Versatility


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.

baleaf upf 50 crew for women - we'd prefer slightly longer sleeves on this shirt to better...
We'd prefer slightly longer sleeves on this shirt to better accommodate our movements.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


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.

baleaf upf 50 crew for women - not the most durable shirt, but also not the least impressive. it...
Not the most durable shirt, but also not the least impressive. It handily survived our regular rose bush trimming.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Features


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.

baleaf upf 50 crew for women - a simple design, the baleaf comes in a rainbow of colors.
A simple design, the Baleaf comes in a rainbow of colors.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Should You Buy the Baleaf Crew?


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. If all you need is some basic protection for casual days in the sun, this shirt will do the trick.

What Other Women's Sun Shirts Should You Consider?


To further cut down on the amount of sunscreen you still need, we recommend a shirt like the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake — its long sleeves with functional thumbholes, easy-to-wear hood, and extreme stretchiness and breathability make it a great option for full coverage on a hot day. The button-up REI Sahara is another great choice for a little extra neck and hand coverage, and is fairly reasonably priced.

Maggie Nichols