REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie - Women's Review
Cons: Very baggy, no pockets, thicker fabric
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie - Women's
$49.95 at REI
|$59.99 at Backcountry|
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|$51.70 at Amazon|
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|$55.00 at REI|
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$18.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Loose fit is breezy, high cut sides for ventilation, soft fabric, drawstring on hood, comfortable thumbholes||Incredibly lightweight, very breathable, great coverage, super stretchy||Super lightweight, extremely breathable, easy-to-wear thumbholes, ponytail slot in hood||Very comfortable, good construction, hides dirt well, impressively soft, cute natural colors||Versatile cut, soft, solid coverage, tons of colors, inexpensive|
|Cons||Very baggy, no pockets, thicker fabric||Gets dirty easily, too stretchy to keep heavy items in the pocket||Low relative UPF, limited hand protection, snags easily||Few color choices, small hood, sleeves a bit short||Stinks easily, unimpressive durability, sleeves are short|
|Bottom Line||A loose-fitting shirt with great coverage that makes the most of the breeze but keeps your hood up when you need it||A really useful sun shirt that's a great choice for just about any sunny activity||A ridiculously breathable, lightweight shirt with uniquely horizontal thumbholes and a handy ponytail exit point in the hood||A great everyday hooded sun shirt that's perfect for anyone who doesn't want thumbholes||An inexpensive but solid option for casual activity|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op Sahara Sh...||Mountain Hardwear C...||Outdoor Research Ec...||Patagonia Capilene...||Baleaf UPF 50 Crew...|
|Comfort and Fit (30%)|
|Sun Protection (25%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op Sahara Sh...||Mountain Hardwear C...||Outdoor Research Ec...||Patagonia Capilene...||Baleaf UPF 50 Crew...|
|Sun Protection Level (UPF)||50+||50+||20 (dark colors)
15 (light colors)
|Coverage||Long sleeve, hood, thumb holes||Long sleeve, hood, thumb holes||Long sleeve, hood, thumb holes||Long sleeve, hood||Long sleeve, crew neck|
|Features||Drawstring on hood, shaped hem||Extra large hood, draw string at waist, hip pocket (zipper)||Ponytail hole in hood, flat-seams, reflective logo||None||Flat shoulder seams|
|Fit||Relaxed fit||Standard fit||Slim fit||Regular fit||Relaxed fit|
|Material||92% polyester / 8% spandex||88% polyester 12% elastane||100% recycled polyester||100% polyester (50% recycled)||100% polyester|
|Available Sizes||XS - XL||XS - XL||XXS - XXXL||XXS - XL||S - 2XL|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sahara Shade Hoodie is a stretchy sun shirt with a very relaxed, loose fit featuring low drop hems (front and back) with high-cut sides. It's made of Bluesign approved 98% polyester and 8% spandex and has thumb holes as well as a drawstring inside the hood.
Comfort and Fit
The Sahara Shade is comfortable in the same way an oversized, baggy t-shirt is comfortable. It runs large by design, sacrificing style for functionality. Soft, smooth fabric that's stretchy in all the right ways adds to its comfort. While at first, the long drop hems in front and back paired with surprisingly high cut side slits seemed like an odd choice, the slightest breeze proves their worth on a hot day. If you want something your friends and family will think is cute, this relaxed top is unlikely to be the best option. But if you want a soft shirt that's easy to wear for days in a row, with sleeves that are long enough to actually use the thumb holes, the Sahara Hoodie is a pretty comfy choice.
It seems that most sun shirts anymore advertise a UPF of 50 or 50+, and the Sahara Hoodie is one of them (UPF 50+). By crossing the fabric in front of the neck, REI has added a little extra coverage to a spot often overlooked when applying sunscreen. The hood itself has a drawstring, helping you keep it on and/or closed in pretty much any situation. It lacks a toggle but pretty easily stays put when you pull it — or it can be overhand knotted in a pinch. This top also has long enough sleeves with comfortable enough thumbholes to not just boast back-of-hand protection but actually be something we're willing to wear for long periods of time.
The Sahara Shade is made of a thicker, heavier fabric than most sun shirts we've tested. However, it's so smooth that it feels slightly cool against the skin. Rather than phenomenally breathable fabric (though we want to stress that this fabric isn't not breathable), the Sahara relies on its unique, almost extreme cut and fit to introduce a breeze and help make up for what the fabric lacks. Even in just the gentlest wind, we found this method exceptionally well-designed to mitigate a slightly thicker fabric and keep us cool. It's not the shirt we enjoy using for midday runs, but it works well enough for hiking and light outdoor activity.
On the style side of things, the baggy fit and oddly shaped hem fall solidly into the realm of "athletic" or "comfy" rather than something our panel of testers would describe as "cute" or "flattering." Across activities, though, we found a lot of use for this top in more casual to moderate uses, including day hikes, gardening, and taking the dog out for a long mid-afternoon walk.
Upon close scrutiny, the fabric and seams of this sun shirt appear well-executed. We had no issues wearing it for months of testing, adventuring, meandering, running, exploring, laundering, and hanging out without it looking any worse for the wear. Though one of the listed features of the Sahara Shade is an antimicrobial treatment meant to hinder the growth of odor-causing bacteria, it doesn't stand out as particularly odor resistant. We put all our sun shirts through the run-seven-miles-then-leave-it-on-the-floor-overnight test, and while some impressed us with their lack of stench the next day, this one smelled exactly like we hoped it wouldn't.
In addition to thumbholes and a front-crossed hood, the Sahara Shade also has a hidden drawstring inside the hood to keep it up even as you pound out the miles. It lacks any pockets, but with such a baggy fit, we wouldn't want one anyway.
The Sahara is on the less expensive end of sun shirts we've tested, though we wouldn't call it "cheap." If you love baggy clothes and don't want to give that up just for the sake of athletic performance, we think you'll love this sun shirt and find it well worth its price.
The REI Sahara Shade Hoodie is a smooth-feeling but thicker sun shirt. It trades ultra-breathable fabric for a baggy fit with high-cut sides that invite breezes in to keep you cool while the shirt keeps you covered. It has long sleeves with comfortable thumbholes and a secret drawstring to keep the hood on tight. Though it might not be the most stylish piece of performance gear, it offers a unique cooling solution in a comfortable and protective package.
— Maggie Nichols
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