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We've researched over 60 different sun shirts to find the top 14 for in-depth, hands-on testing in this review. Then, to determine the best, we wore them for months in all kinds of climates and terrain. Protection from the sun is critical during long adventures, so we knew shirts made with added UPF protection had to be a key requirement. Other optimal characteristics we looked for included synthetic materials, ample coverage, and breathability. We tested a range of designs, such as the hooded pullover and the baggy button-down. Whatever activity you may be doing, we've ranked an incredible selection of high-performance shirts for you to choose from.
Most companies produce both women's and men's versions of the same model shirt, but we find they don't always perform the same for both. To address this, our female reviewers conduct in-depth testing on women's sun shirts and compare the results. But don't stop there — we've also tested a variety of the best sunglasses and wide-brimmed sun hats to ensure your noggin is as protected as your torso while adventuring under the sun.
Sun Protection Level: 50+ | Coverage: Long sleeve, hood, thumb loops
REASONS TO BUY
Incredibly comfortable, stretchy fabric
Best in class hood, with hidden cinch strap
Reinforced thumb loops
REASONS TO AVOID
Lack of front zipper
The REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie is a king of comfortable sun shirts, and that's the main reason it has won our top award. However, that only starts to describe what we found so attractive. The thin, light and stretchy fabric also packs a UPF 50+ sun protection rating punch, the excellent hood with cinch strap is one of the best we've ever tested, and reinforced thumb loops keep the sleeves covering your arms and hands up to your knuckles. All this attention to detail proves to us that this hoodie is an expert at keeping you covered up.
A few features you won't find on this hoodie are a front zipper or any pockets. That said, we didn't find these omissions too wanting. The loose fit allows for easy air circulation and more than made up for the lack of a zipper, and we appreciate the lightweight more than we were missing pockets. From thru-hiking to trail building, the Sahara Shade Hoodie will keep you protected while looking and feeling great.
Sun Protection Level: 50 | Coverage: Long-sleeve, collar
REASONS TO BUY
Attractive fit, style, and colors
Ideal balance of breathability, durability, and versatility
Lightweight and packable
REASONS TO AVOID
A little pricey
Slimmer fit may not work for everyone
As the sun peaks over the horizon for yet another day of adventure, the Mountain Hardwear Canyon Long Sleeve is the shirt we love to grab. Whether you're planning to work in the yard, commute on your bike, or run on a beautiful trail and then grab some beers and tacos with friends, this shirt has you covered. It's versatile enough to excel at all these mini-missions while still looking stylish, keeping you cool, and — most importantly — keeping you protected from the sun. Durability is also top-notch, making the Canyon a true all-around winner.
The Canyon pulls off this brilliant equilibrium using a few tactics. It has a looser fit than a regular shirt and employs a tough dobby weave fabric with a UPF 50 rating that's still light enough to be attractive and comfortable. It also has many features you'll find useful: buttons, pockets, and sleeves that can easily roll up and stay in place with the help of discreet tabs. Add your favorite wide-brim hat, and you're ready for wandering all over on your own canyon adventure.
Sun Protection Level: 50+ | Coverage: Long sleeve, hood
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavier than other options
Lacks some accessories you may find useful
No anti-microbial treatment
Proper protection from the sun shouldn't be the last thing you remember to do before setting off on your next adventure, but often, it is. If your budget is already stretched to the breaking point, the Baleaf UPF 50 Hoody has (literally) got you covered. With a price tag that's well below most others, the basics are covered: 50+ UPF-rated fabric, a generous hood to protect your neck and head, and thumb loops to let the extra-long sleeves rest over your hands up to your knuckles. Sure, it's not the most fashionable accessory — the fit is quite relaxed — but knowing that you're avoiding a sunburn while out on the water or on top of a mountain is a great feeling indeed.
There are a few details about the Baleaf we wish were more thoughtful. The hood tends to fly off in a slight breeze, and the fabric is thicker than most any other shirt we've tested, making it a little less breathable. There's no anti-microbial treatment either, so you'll want to wash this shirt regularly, but don't worry: it's made of tough enough material to survive regular washings. When it comes down to value, this one is hard to beat, and we think you'll be pleased.
Sun Protection Level: 50+ | Coverage: Long sleeve, hood, thumb loops, gaiter, mask
REASONS TO BUY
Uncompromising sun coverage and protection
Unique built-in gaiter/face mask
Tough yet comfortable fabric
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the best shirt beyond the boardwalk
If a well-loved Coolibar Andros Fishing Hoodie could speak, it would tell you tall tales of all-day sunny summer days outside. Uncompromisingly designed to the last thread to help you sans sunburn, no other sun shirt we've reviewed has so many features to help you keep covered, starting with the soft, four-way stretch 50+ UPF rated fabric. Like many other shirts in this review, it also sports a hoodie to cover your head but continues with a built-in gaiter/face mask to cover your head up almost completely. The extra-long sleeves end with enough cloth to cover your entire hand past your knuckle, helped out by a small loop for your middle finger. The extra-long center back length complements everything we've listed, keeping your lower back always covered while you bend down or reach up.
The Andros Fishing Hoodie isn't without its quirks. Being so focused on sun coverage and protection, it won't be the most versatile shirt in your closet. If you venture farther than outside the marina, prepare to look and feel like a fish out of water. The soft and stretchy fabric will also take a beating while in an unforecasted Nor'easter but won't breathe well if you're going for the local FKT hill climb. Stick to the simple, sunny pleasures of life, and this shirt will do you right.
Our testing process began with extensive research on the hundreds of sun shirts currently available on the market. We then hand-picked the strongest candidates and purchased them at full retail cost. From there, we spent weeks wearing these shirts for every imaginable activity. We ran, hiked, biked, climbed, scrambled, wandered, slacklined, and napped — all under the eyes of the glorious sun. We even took our sun shirt picks on job sites and lumberyards to see how well they worked while we worked. We noted each shirt's strengths and weaknesses in different scenarios and, with that data, came up with some great advice to help you pick the best product for your needs and budget.
Our testing of sun shirts is divided across five different metrics:
Comfort and Fit (30% of total score weighting)
Sun Protection (25% weighting)
Breathability (20% weighting)
Versatility (15% weighting)
Durability (10% weighting)
Justin Simoni is a Boulder, CO-based athlete, adventurer, and backpacking guide. He specializes in ultra long distance, self-powered, and self-supported challenges in the mountains of the American West. Simoni has put these shirts to their limits while wandering all along the Front Range of Colorado on long bike rides, trail runs, outdoor workdays, and at the crag. He has been working closely with outdoor gear for over a decade, bringing his experience and expertise to the table.
Analysis and Test Results
The primary job for all these seemingly simple shirts is to protect the wearer from excess exposure to the sun, be durable enough to make it through life's adventures, and offer enough breathability that it's realistic to wear in the hottest of situations. Versatility is also of importance — if one shirt can fulfill multiple roles, it's one less piece of gear that you need to pack, which delights pack-weight-conscious folks. This is also important when you're trying to pack a suitcase with everything you'll need for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We made sure to use each of the shirts in this review as thoroughly as our testing period would allow — read on to learn about what we discovered.
We believe value to be of great importance and something we pay mind to when testing. Ultimately, we want to make sure you're investing in your gear wisely. But since it's a subjective factor, it doesn't factor into our performance evaluations of each shirt. With some gear, the more you pay, the more you get — but that's not always true for sun shirts. Sometimes you're just paying for features that aren't really necessary. So, which shirts showed great value?
The Baleaf UPF 50 is sold at a hard-to-beat price and bestows upon you a durable shirt that will last for many of your future adventures. While it doesn't quite compete with the more technical and feature-rich options from the big brand names, it's still a solid choice, especially if you're shopping on a budget.
The Columbia Silver Ridge Lite and REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie cost more but also offer better overall quality and performance. The Silver Ridge is a traditional button-up, and the Sahara Shade excels at almost all our metrics except absolute durability. The Mountain Hardwear Canyon is just a bit more expensive but also provides some of the best performance in our lineup.
Comfort and Fit
Probably the most critical facet of any sun shirt is how it feels when it's on. After all, UPF protection won't mean much if the article of clothing it covers doesn't feel good to wear. The shirts we selected for our test largely all did well in this category.
Our top-scoring hoodie, the REI Sahara Shade, is an absolute winner here. With soft, thin, and stretchy fabric and a loose-but-not-too-loose fit, this shirt feels good on the skin and lets air circulate. There are no tight spots, and the hood is highly versatile size-wise with an excellent cinch strap.
The VOORMI River Run Hoody won us over from first blush with its wool/polyester blended fabric, but we weren't bowled over by the rest of its performance — especially the durability of the fabric itself. Given how expensive the shirt is — by far the most expensive shirt in our lineup — it would be a shame to ruin such a stylish piece of gear just by getting lost on a trail and having to find a "shortcut" through some brush. We'd only suggest the River Run as a casual lifestyle piece or for high-altitude adventures where having a little bit of extra warmth from wool is ideal.
We were more impressed by both the Canyon and the Silver Ridge Lite — two button-up shirts that feature an updated cut of a classic idea. Generally, this means that the cut is a little more fitted than the almost smock-like options that usually flood the market. Both these felt great while wearing them, which just made us want to wear them for everything.
When it comes to hooded sun shirts, it's really hard to beat the extremely stretchy and accomodating Alpenglow Hoody when it comes to comfort. The aforementioned Astroman Sun Hoodie does come close, though.
UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor, is a rating system specific to apparel's ability to block ultraviolet radiation. The rating runs from zero to 50, and each number indicates a percentage of the sun's rays allowed through. Thus: UPF 25 = 1/25th, or 4%, of the sun's radiation can pass through the fabric. It's one important factor, but it's certainly not the only one.
Fabric type is another key to sun protection. Synthetics perform the best, while more natural garments, like something made out of bleached cotton, have a natural UPF rating of around 5. Polyester has been rated as the top option, with a few shirts in our lineup using nylon and one shirt using wool. We're noticing a recent trend where companies are releasing more shirts that utilize stretchy fabrics, care of blending a spandex or elastane type of material into the polyester/nylon. Even with this blend, UPF ratings of 50 or higher are generally maintained, but be aware that the stretchy, elastic blend will need to be more closely cared for.
The cut and fit of a sun shirt also play a big role in making sure you're protected. Many of the button-up shirts we've tested feature generous sleeve and seam lengths, as well as collars that can be popped up. The hooded sun shirts very obviously feature a hood to keep your head covered, and most have thumb loops to keep the sleeves over your hands.
Beyond a doubt, the Coolibar Andros Fishing Hoodie is the most sun-protective shirt we've had the pleasure to review. Sporting not only a hood but an integrated neck gaiter/face mask and exceptionally long sleeves that cover up and over your knuckles, this is an impressive shirt. If maximum sun protection is your main concern, look at this sun shirt very seriously.
For button-ups, check out the Silver Ridge Lite, which rates high in this metric. The fabric is tough but just slightly more breathable than some of the other button-ups we've tested. If you're hanging around casually in the sun for hours on end, it's the shirt you want — as long as you pair it with a floppy hat. It's not a great shirt for active users, as it will probably cause you to overheat. It was designed for all-day fishing missions, where the sun reflects off the water, and you may be thigh deep in a freezing creek.
For more active pursuits, consider the button-up Canyon, which boasts a high 50 UPF rating, but features a thinner, more breathable fabric and most of the bells and whistles you'll need and want.
A shirt won't be much fun to wear in the sun if it feels like you're wearing a wet blanket 30 minutes into your hike. And, on top of that, some fabrics become less protective when wet. Thankfully, polyester, which almost all of the shirts in this review are made from, isn't one of them.
Most of the shirts in our test dried equally well when left to the sun after a soaking. We were amazed to see the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody go from soaking wet after a dip in the local creek to completely dry after a quick bike ride down the hill and back into town. This is thanks to the light and thin fabric. A fabric's breathability also helps it resist odor by letting air pass through, and specialized treatments, such as the Polygiene permanent odor control used on the Capilene performed well in our campfire smoke test.
The Kuhl Engineered Hoody is a great pick for more active pursuits. It employs panels of looser knit fabric in strategic locations (arms and from the neck upward), allowing air to pass through more easily, keeping you cooler. Do note that the UPF ratings: UPF 20+ to UPF 25+, blocking around 96% of the sun's UV rays are lower than most other shirts in our review.
If you're not looking for such specificity, the Montbell Cool Hoodie scores well here too. It features a dual-sided fabric that's thinner than other shirts in our reviews; just be aware that durability may suffer slightly. We're noticing that more hooded sun shirts are coming out with half zips to help dump hot air quickly, and this is one of them.
The Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody lacks such a half zip, but we've found that the simply incredible stretchiness of the fabric helps with keeping things comfortable. There's no part of the shirt that will feel restrictive on your body, even when you're moving. The Alpenglow's fabric also does a great job of being both sun protectant and breathable, which is a hard balance to achieve properly.
Taken as a whole, most all the shirts we've tested did a little above average in breathability, except two outliers: the Columbia PFG Terminal Deflector Zero Hoodie and PFG Super Tamiami, which fared much worse. It's no wonder, as both of these shirts are made to do some serious fishing in, and they both promote sun protection and durability at the cost of breathability. You won't be running the 800-meter sprint in one of these, though that's not what they're designed for. The lower breathability scores may not matter as much in more sedentary applications.
Can you wear the same shirt to the crag and the dinner table? Can you go to work in the morning, then go fishing in the evening without having to change your top? Can you backpack for six days and then check out the town for a day without having to pack two shirts? Can you go traveling cross country, make the regional board meeting, then take a trail run? That's what we're talking about when we talk about versatility. This doesn't weigh in as much as other metrics we use; it's too personal of an opinion. But it's still an important facet to consider. People who perspire easily may not find any of these shirts too versatile and will always opt for a specific shirt for high-octane activities.
The Canyon scored highest in this category, thanks to its unique dobby polyester, which looks and feels great, especially in the neutral, sleek color option we tested. The Silver Ridge Lite also looks good, feels good, and has just enough features to make it useful on and off the trail, without looking too weighed down with accessories no one needs.
The Astroman Sun Hoodie may have been designed for long days of multi-pitch climbing first, but a shirt that's good for climbing usually works admirably for most any all-day outdoor adventure, as well as looking good back at the campsite/brewpub/Sprinter party swapping stories. With a quick rinse, then left to dry out while taking a nap, you could reasonably take this shirt on a cross-country backpack trip and still feel pretty comfortable on the flight back home.
Patagonia's Capilene Cool Daily Hoody is also worth mentioning here. It simply looks great, in our opinion, and we wouldn't feel strange wearing it off-trail to casual events or just when hanging out around the house all day. The REI Sahara Shade Hoodie carefully balances great sun protection, style, features, breathability, and value, making it work really well in so many different applications. It's hard to doubt that this shirt is nothing but a wise investment in the goal of avoiding a sunburn.
A sleeper shirt in this category, the Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie looks great, and its baked-in, unique anti-odor and cooling technology can help you go from trail to table without anyone getting a whiff of you and losing their appetite for Hors d'oeuvres.
Fabric integrity matters in a sun shirt because worn and loose material exposes the skin to a greater risk of UV radiation. Thankfully, testing revealed most of our shirts could hold up to what was thrown at them with no problems.
The Baleaf UPF 50+ Hoody is a knockout in regards to durability. It's what the cockroaches will be wearing after the apocalypse. Durability and sun protection often go hand in hand when the material used is thick, and that's the case with the Baleaf.
For an extremely feature-rich hooded sun shirt with exceptional durability, the Coolibar Andros Fishing Hoodie is something to look closely at. The tough fabric is made to last through long seasons of choppy seas. The fabric is a little thicker than other shirts we've tested, which helps with its sun protection qualities, and almost every panel of fabric is stitched with reinforcing flatlock seams.
The Astroman Sun Hoodie also scores well with us in durability — it's made to survive abrasive surfaces like the cliff face of your current climbing project and the prickly pear-choked hike into the crag.
What's wonderful about sun shirts? There's a wide variety to choose from, so you can find the perfect piece of wearable gear for your favorite sunny weather activities, from blousy button-ups to super comfy sun hoodies and everything in between. We hope our rigorous selection process and months of testing help lead you to your perfect new layer.
A solid base layer is at the core of keeping you warm...
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.