Four of the sun shirts in this review had similar style - collared, button-up shirts. And yet we found striking differences between all four. If you're trying to figure out which one is right for you, read on!
Ranked the most versatile shirt we tested, we felt that the REI Sahara is hike/paddle/office ready!
Comfort & Fit
Our reviewers found the fabric of the Sahara to be much softer and more comfortable than the thick, stiff material of the Columbia Bahama, though not quite as soft and flexible as the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite. One feature that we did not find on any of the other button-up models we tested was the underarm panel which helped vent our armpits and eliminated underarm seams that often cause uncomfortable rubbing during paddle sports. We also found this shirt to have a relaxed, yet classically feminine cut that our reviewers liked.
Compared to the Bahama, the Sahara's features are more understated, with less obtrusive chest pockets and unsightly water drainage holes on the inside of the shirt instead. 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 the REI Sahara, size XS.
At 35, we weren't blown away by the UPF rating of this shirt. While more than the UPF 30 of the Columbia Bahama, this was one of only a few shirts included in this review with a UPF under 50. Our reviewers also felt the buttons just below the neck of this shirt could have been more helpfully placed. We felt that while leaving them unbuttoned was attractive and comfortable, to protect our chests by buttoning up the shirt completely was too tight around our necks.
However, we were very impressed with the sleeves, which were not only long enough for even our self-described "ape-armed" reviewers but also boasted a curved sleeve that did a great job protecting the backs of our hands from those harmful UV rays.
While we love the curved cuff that protected more of our hands, we weren't stoked about how high the sleeve tab was!
The thickness of the fabric of the Sahara we found to be more breathable than the Bahama, or certainly the half-flannel, Marmot Bridget, but slightly less than the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite.
However, our reviewers loved the vented back panel. Unlike the Columbia models we tested, the Sahara has no inner mesh layer. Instead, it vents directly to the skin, via six small slits that connect across the back with reinforced stitching. We also found that this shirt wicks moisture well and dries quickly. This shirt is well deserving of its breathability rating of 9 out of 10.
With no mesh underlayer, the Sahara is thin and breathable. Each of these small back vents opens directly to your skin to help keep you cool.
We found no reasons to complain about the durability of this shirt.
REI gave it double-stitched hems and made this shirt from a 95% nylon, 5% spandex blend, giving it stability while being flexible to allow for a full 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.
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!
We really liked the classy, feminine cut and versatile design of this shirt.
We felt it outcompeted the boxy Bahama and loose Silver Ridge in style, and was much more versatile as a sun shirt than the Bridget. 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 award for Most Versatile Sun Shirt.
See how the Sahara compares to the other three button up shirts we tested on our 5'4", 115lb reviewer. From left to right: the Columbia PFG Bahama (size XS), Marmot Bridget Flannel (size XS), REI Sahara (size XS), Columbia Silver Ridge Lite (size S).
The Sahara has several understated features that we feel makes 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 was the only button up shirt whose chest pockets were able to snap shut around an iPhone 6, though we don't know why you'd want to put it there...
This shirt is well-suited for a vast array of outdoor activities, from hiking and backpacking to paddling to gardening or a backyard barbeque, our reviewers 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!
Retailing for just under $60 from REI, this shirt isn't cheap. 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?
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 loved this versatile shirt from REI!