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.
REI Co-op Sahara Long-Sleeve - Women's Review
Cons: Wrinkles relatively easily, sleeve tab extremely high
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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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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?
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.
— Maggie Brandenburg