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.
Top Pick Award
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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  ⋅  Oct 7, 2019
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 9
  • Comfort & Fit - 30% 8
  • Sun Protection - 25% 6
  • Breathability - 20% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8
  • Style - 15% 8

Our Verdict

With a classy, feminine cut, this shirt looks just as good out in nature as it does in the front country. Its underarm panel and seams are designed comfortably so you can just as easily paddle in this shirt as you can hike. The only things we don't like about this shirt is how high the sleeve tabs are and how easily it wrinkles.


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Pros Flex fabric/vent in armpit, attractive cut and style, good for diverse activitiesIncredibly lightweight, very breathable, great coverage, super stretchySuper lightweight, built in hand covers, extremely breathable, ponytail hole in hoodSoft, comfortable fit, stretchy, ripstop material, classy design for versatile useComfortable cuffs, breathable fabric, hood fits comfortably under helmet
Cons Wrinkles relatively easily, sleeve tab extremely highGets dirty easily, too stretchy to keep heavy items in the pocketSnags easily, very low UPF, hand covers could be designed betterLarge fit; tricky to size, dark colorsOdd seam in middle of neck, tight band at bottom of torso
Bottom Line Comfortable and stylish, this sun shirt is great for both in and outdoor use.A really useful sun shirt that's a great choice for just about any sunny activity.A super breathable shirt with handy functions that keeps you both warm AND cool.From spending the day hiking to meeting friends for dinner, this soft shirt from Columbia is sure to keep you protected and stylish!If you want a hooded breathable shirt for hot days without the hassle of thumb holes, this shirt is for you!
Rating Categories Co-op Sahara Long-Sleeve Crater Lake Long Sleeve Hoody Echo Hoody Silver Ridge Lite Long Sleeve Alpenglow Hoody
Comfort & Fit (30%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
7
Sun Protection (25%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
Breathability (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
Durability (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
4
10
0
8
10
0
7
Style (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
5
Totals (%)
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
Specs Co-op Sahara... Crater Lake Long... Echo Hoody Silver Ridge Lite... Alpenglow Hoody
Sun Protection Level 35 50+ 15 40 50
Coverage Long sleeve, collar Long sleeve, hood, thumb holes Long sleeve, hood, hand cuffs Long sleeve, collar Long sleeve, hood
Features Chest pockets (snap), tab sleeves, back vent, vented underarm, sunglasses loop Extra large hood, draw string at waist, hip pocket (zipper) Fold-over mitt cuffs, ponytail hole in hood Chest pockets (velcro), back panel, tab sleeves, hip pocket (zipper) Hood

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 quite soft and comfortable to wear. It's not the softest or thinnest collared shirt we tested, but clever features and overall flexibility help to make it a great option for staying comfortable and happy, no matter what shape you are. 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 so many other similar shirts with gaudy pockets, tabs, snaps, and zippers sticking out everywhere. It has less obtrusive chest pockets with small snaps rather than hard-to-use 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 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 certainly substantially more protective than sunscreen, 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 about the middle of the road for collared shirts we tested. It's not so thick you feel stifled in it, but also isn't as thin as some others that almost feel as though you're not even wearing a shirt.


Additionally, 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's very helpful for keeping you cool, though it can get a bit trapped shut under a close-fitting backpack. 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 some others, we had no issues with the durability of this shirt during the multiple rounds of several months of testing we subjected it to.

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 many boxy or loose shirts out there for 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, we like that the options are a blend of colors that won't break your eyeballs or make you feel like you're 12 again. Additionally, this is one of only a few shirts in this review that we feel can 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...

Value


This shirt isn't cheap but is about the middle of the pack when it comes to price. However, for the number of activities, places, and scenarios you can appropriately wear this shirt, we feel it is well worth what you'll pay. 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