The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

REI Co-op Sahara Long-Sleeve - Women's Review

Comfortable and stylish, this sun shirt is great for both in and outdoor use.
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Price:  $60 List | $59.95 at REI
Pros:  Flex fabric/vent in armpit, attractive cut and style, good for diverse activities
Cons:  Wrinkles relatively easily, sleeve tab extremely high
Manufacturer:   REI
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 28, 2019
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 11
  • Comfort & Fit - 30% 8
  • Sun Protection - 25% 6
  • Breathability - 20% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8
  • Style - 15% 8

Our Verdict

This shirt is our top choice for the most versatile sun shirt in the fleet. With a classy, feminine cut, this shirt looks just as good out in nature as it does in the front country. The armpit is designed comfortably so you could just as easily paddle in this shirt as hike. The only things we don't like about this shirt is how high the sleeve tabs are and how easily it wrinkles.

For a collared, button-up shirt, we think this one is top notch. But if you're open to a sun top with a hood and thumb holes, consider our Editors' Choice award winner, the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hoody.


Our Analysis and Test Results

The REI Sahara is a button-up shirt with a collar, made of 95% nylon and 5% spandex. It has a 35 UPF rating and features two snap chest pockets, tab sleeves, a back vent, active-style underarm, and a sunglasses loop.

Performance Comparison


Ranked the most versatile shirt we tested  we feel that this shirt is hike/paddle/office ready!
Ranked the most versatile shirt we tested, we feel that this shirt is hike/paddle/office ready!

Comfort & Fit


We think the fabric of the Sahara is much softer and more comfortable than the thick, stiff material of The North Face Boreaz, though not quite as soft and flexible as the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite. One feature that we do not find on any of the other button-up models we tested is the underarm panel which helps vent our armpits and eliminated those underarm seams that often cause uncomfortable rubbing during paddle sports. This shirt also has a relaxed, yet classically feminine cut that we like.


The Sahara's features are understated and blend into the design of the shirt better than the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite. It has less obtrusive chest pockets with snaps rather than velcro. Our most significant complaints about the Sahara are how easily it wrinkles inside our suitcases when we travel, and how high the sleeve tabs are - they practically make this a short sleeved t-shirt!

Two of our 5'4" reviewers wearing a size XS.
Two of our 5'4" reviewers wearing a size XS.

Sun Protection


At 35, we aren't blown away by the UPF rating of this shirt. While more than the UPF 15 of the Outdoor Research Echo Hoody, this is one of only a few shirts included in this review with a UPF under 50. We also feel that the buttons just below the neck of this shirt could be more helpfully placed. While leaving them unbuttoned is attractive and comfortable, to protect our chests by buttoning up the shirt completely is too tight around our necks.


However, we are very impressed with the sleeves, which are long enough for even our self-described "ape-armed" testers. They also boast a curved cuff that does a great job protecting the backs of our hands from those harmful UV rays.

While we love the curved cuff that protects more of our hands  we aren't stoked about how high the sleeve tab is!
While we love the curved cuff that protects more of our hands, we aren't stoked about how high the sleeve tab is!

Breathability


The thickness of the fabric of the Sahara is more breathable than the Boreaz, but slightly less than the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite.


However, our reviewers love the vented back panel. Unlike the other button up shirts we tested, the Sahara has no inner mesh layer. Instead, it vents directly to your skin, via six small slits that connect across the back with reinforced stitching. It also wicks moisture well and dries quickly.

With no mesh underlayer  this model is thin and breathable. Each of these small back vents opens directly to your skin to help keep you cool.
With no mesh underlayer, this model is thin and breathable. Each of these small back vents opens directly to your skin to help keep you cool.

Durability


REI makes the Sahara with double-stitched hems stitched into a 95% nylon, 5% spandex blend. This gives it good stability while still being flexible enough to allow for a good range of motion. The underarm panels are also treated to be odor resistant, which is a nice touch during your thru-hike or extended camping trip.


Though it's not as thick and beefy as The North Face Boreaz, we had no issues with the durability of this shirt during our several months of testing.

This stretchy  breathable underarm panel had our reviewers feeling comfortable during a wide variety of daily adventures  from the trail to the office to the lake!
This stretchy, breathable underarm panel had our reviewers feeling comfortable during a wide variety of daily adventures, from the trail to the office to the lake!

Style


We really like the classy, feminine cut and versatile design of this shirt.


We feel it outcompetes the boxy Boreaz and loose Silver Ridge in style, and is much more versatile as both a sun shirt and just a nice indoor option. Though it is available in only a few colors, this was one of only a few shirts in this review that we felt could make a smooth transition from the trail to the office, earning it our Top Pick for Most Versatile Sun Shirt.

The REI Sahara (left) in size XS and the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite (right) in size S on our 5'4"  117 pound main tester.
The REI Sahara (left) in size XS and the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite (right) in size S on our 5'4", 117 pound main tester.

Features


The Sahara has several understated features that we feel make it useful and classy. The two chest pockets snap closed and are large enough to fit an iPhone 6 while closed! This shirt also has high sleeve tabs, a vented back, a movement/smell friendly underarm panels, and a sunglasses loop.

This is the only button up shirt we tested whose chest pockets are able to snap shut around an iPhone 6  though we don't know why you'd want to put it there...
This is the only button up shirt we tested whose chest pockets are able to snap shut around an iPhone 6, though we don't know why you'd want to put it there...

Best Applications


This shirt is well-suited for a vast array of outdoor activities, from hiking and backpacking to paddling to gardening or a backyard barbeque, we think this shirt can do it all! We even wore it to the office and out to dinner and felt adequately dressed. If you're looking for a highly versatile shirt, you've found it.

Value


Retailing for $60 from REI, this shirt isn't cheap, but is about the middle of the pack for price. However, for the number of activities, places, and scenarios you can appropriately wear this shirt, we feel it is well worth the price tag. You might even love it so much you end up buying two - have you used your REI dividend yet?

Conclusion


Overall, this Sahara sun shirt from REI is a well-rounded sun shirt for so many different activities. Though it may not have the coverage of some of the other shirts in this review, we think it's a highly versatile shirt that even the anti-button-up shirt-wearers among us have a hard time disliking.

We love this versatile shirt from REI!
We love this versatile shirt from REI!


Maggie Brandenburg