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REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie - Women's Review

A loose-fitting shirt with great coverage that makes the most of the breeze but keeps your hood up when you need it
REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie - Women's
Photo: REI Co-op
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Price:  $50 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Loose fit is breezy, high cut sides for ventilation, soft fabric, drawstring on hood, comfortable thumbholes
Cons:  Very baggy, no pockets, thicker fabric
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 11, 2021
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 15
  • Comfort and Fit - 30% 6
  • Sun Protection - 25% 8
  • Breathability - 20% 7
  • Versatility - 15% 5
  • Durability - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The REI Sahara Shade Hoodie is a smooth shirt with a loose fit that takes advantage of the slightest breeze. Made of thicker material that's a tad less breathable and takes a smidge longer to dry, it relies on its cut to keep you cool. Low drop hems in front and back with high-cut sides facilitate ventilation, and a relaxed fit provides plenty of room for you to breathe without exposure to damaging UV rays. A hidden drawstring inside the hood helps keep it in place, even on a blustery hilltop. Extra-long, stretchy sleeves make the thumbholes comfortable to use. Though perhaps not the lightest or most stylish option, this cozy top is great for sunny, windy days.

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Pros Loose fit is breezy, high cut sides for ventilation, soft fabric, drawstring on hood, comfortable thumbholesIncredibly lightweight, very breathable, great coverage, super stretchySuper lightweight, built in hand covers, extremely breathable, ponytail hole in hoodVery comfortable, good construction, hides dirt well, impressively soft, cute natural colorsVersatile cut, soft, solid coverage, tons of colors, inexpensive
Cons Very baggy, no pockets, thicker fabricGets dirty easily, too stretchy to keep heavy items in the pocketSnags easily, very low UPFFew color choices, small hood, sleeves a bit shortStinks 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 itA really useful sun shirt that's a great choice for just about any sunny activityA super breathable shirt with handy functions that keeps you both warm AND coolA great everyday hooded sun shirt that's perfect for anyone who doesn't want thumbholesAn 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%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
Sun Protection (25%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
4.0
Breathability (20%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
5.0
Versatility (15%)
5.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
Specs REI Co-op Sahara Sh... Mountain Hardwear C... Outdoor Research Ec... Patagonia Capilene... Baleaf UPF 50 Crew...
Sun Protection Level (UPF) 50+ 50+ 15 50+ 50+
Coverage Long sleeve, hood, thumb holes Long sleeve, hood, thumb holes Long sleeve, hood, hand cuffs Long sleeve, hood Long sleeve, crew neck
Features Drawstring on hood, shaped hem Extra large hood, draw string at waist, hip pocket (zipper) Fold-over mitt cuffs, ponytail hole in hood None Flat shoulder seams
Fit Relaxed fit Standard fit Trim fit Regular fit Relaxed fit
Material 92% polyester/8% spandex 88% polyester 12% elastane 100% polyester 100% polyester (50% recycled) 100% polyester
Odor Control? No No Yes Yes No
Available Sizes XS - XL XS - XL XXS - XL 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.

Performance Comparison


We weren't sure about the baggy fit of the REI Sahara Shade Hoodie...
We weren't sure about the baggy fit of the REI Sahara Shade Hoodie at first, but it really grew on us during our several month testing period.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

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.

The crossed neck in front isn't as bothersome as we feared it might...
The crossed neck in front isn't as bothersome as we feared it might be and offers some extra sun protection we came to appreciate.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Sun Protection


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.

This shirt has long sleeves (which we love), wide cuffs (which we...
This shirt has long sleeves (which we love), wide cuffs (which we love), and comfortable thumb holes (which we love).
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Breathability


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.

While a unique look, stepping into the barest breeze quickly proved...
While a unique look, stepping into the barest breeze quickly proved the value of these high cut sides combined with the very loose overall fit of the Sahara Shade Hoodie.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Versatility


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.

The REI Sahara Shade Hoody has high-cut sides and a very loose fit...
The REI Sahara Shade Hoody has high-cut sides and a very loose fit that facilitate airflow inside the shirt, keeping you cool and protected, even if it sacrifices a couple of subjective style points.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


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.

The fabric and seams both proved up to the task of everything we...
The fabric and seams both proved up to the task of everything we threw their way - sometimes literally.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Features


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 crossed neck helps the hood stay in place, but if that's not...
The crossed neck helps the hood stay in place, but if that's not quite enough, there's also a drawstring inside.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

From sunny trail runs to bright walks in the park, the Sahara Hoodie...
From sunny trail runs to bright walks in the park, the Sahara Hoodie is comfortable and protective, even if it's not the most stylish.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg