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We've tested more than 25 different sun shirts over the past 4 years, and our current review features 16 of the best sun shirts on the market. We wore all these shirts for months, subjecting them to hands-on testing in various climates and through all sorts of adventures. Sun protection is critical during long days outdoors, so all of these shirts feature fabric with a UPF rating. We also compared fabrics, design, coverage, and features on sun hoodies and more conventional button-down shirts. Our team of experts examined breathability, durability, and versatility through extensive field and laboratory testing. Whatever your activity, if you plan to be out in the sun for hours, you want to invest in a high-quality sun shirt. Our in-depth review compares the best options on the market side-by-side to help you choose the perfect one for you.
Many companies produce women's and men's versions of the same shirts, but those shirts don't always perform the same. To address this, our female reviewers conduct in-depth testing on women's sun shirts, and we compare the results. But why stop at sun shirts? We've also tested a variety of the best sunglasses and wide-brimmed sun hats to ensure you're protected from the sun with the ideal gear.
Sun Protection Level: UPF 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: UPF 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 Mountain Hardwear Canyon Long Sleeve 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 got you covered (literally). 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.
There are a few details about the Baleaf Hoody we wish were more thoughtful. The hood tends to fly off in a slight breeze, and the fabric is thicker than most other shirts 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: UPF 50+ | Coverage: Long sleeve, hood, thumb loops
REASONS TO BUY
Stretchy, breathable, and high UPF-rated fabric
Front chest pocket and front half zip
Underarm mesh paneling to enhance breathability
REASONS TO AVOID
It's hard not to love all the high-octane horsepower of the Black Diamond Alpenglow Pro Hoody. The front half zip and lighter, more air-permeable mesh panels on the sides help solve the seemingly impossible paradox between breathability and sun protection. And this shirt is surprisingly breathable for how much sun protection the UPF 50+ rated fabric provides. All the usual sun hoody features abound in the Alpenglow Pro, including thumb loops, an oversized hood, a drop hem, and an extra long and loose cut in the torso. This all adds up to one high-performance race car of a sun shirt.
But like any highly tuned gear, it comes with some sticker shock. The Black Diamond Alpenglow Pro is far more expensive than other similar options. You'll have to weigh the shirt's cost with its features to judge if the expected performance is worth the admission price. In our opinion, it's absolutely worth it if top-notch sun protection is at the top of your priorities.
Sun Protection Level: UPF 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 UPF 50+-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.
Sun Protection Level: UPF 20 | Coverage: Long sleeve, hood, thumb loops
REASONS TO BUY
Ultralight, ultra-breathable fabric
Incredibly fast dry times
REASONS TO AVOID
Low UPF rating
Long-term durability concerns
The Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie is the sun shirt to grab when you're gearing up to move fast and light. What makes it compelling is this shirt's stripped-down, no-nonsense nature – zippers, pockets, and heavy fabric are out. Features are replaced with a thin, lightweight, highly breathable fabric that provides adequate sun protection and a hood and thumb loops to help keep you covered. The Echo air dries quickly and is lightweight and packable enough to fit into any backpack. You'll be able to wear it every day, wash it each night, and have it ready for the next morning's adventure.
But the Echo Hoodie lacks top-notch sun protection. The ultralight fabric just isn't rated high compared to all the other shirts in this category – we verified its lowly UPF 20 rating in our tests. Whether or not this compromise is worth it depends on the application. If you don't need the breathability of the Echo fabric, or you plan to spend many hours mostly stationary (like when fishing), there may be a better sun shirt for you.
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 into 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 worked closely with outdoor gear companies 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 important — if one shirt can fulfill multiple roles, it's one less piece of gear 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 shirt in this review as thoroughly as our testing period would allow — read on to learn about what we discovered.
Value is of great importance and something we pay mind to when testing. Ultimately, we want to ensure 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 paying for features that aren't necessary. So, which shirts showed great value?
The Baleaf UPF 50 Hoody 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. We've had ours for multiple years, and through all the adventures, the only wear and tear we've noticed is a slight fade of the yellow dye used.
The award-winning Mountain Hardwear Canyon Long Sleeve and REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie cost more but offer better overall quality and performance. The Canyon is a traditional button-up that provides some of the best performance in our lineup. The Sahara Shade excels at almost all our metrics except absolute durability.
Comfort and Fit
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 did well in this category.
Our top-scoring hoodie, the REI Sahara Shade Hoodie, is an absolute winner. 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 NRS Silkweight Hoodie's smooth fabric feels luxurious in hand and on the body, but its standout feature is the generous cut for your shoulders and arms. The appreciable amount of elastane in the fabric's blend also makes this one of the stretchiest shirts in our review. If you're aiming for a sunny day out paddling, rowing, or casting, you'll appreciate this frictionless mobility.
We were impressed by the Mountain Hardwear Canyon Long Sleeve and the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite — two button-up shirts featuring an updated classic cut. Generally, this means the cut is slightly more fitted than the almost smock-like options that flood the market. Both felt great while wearing them, which made us want to wear them for everything.
The Outdoor Research Astroman button-up also rates high for comfort and fit, no doubt due to the very stretchy nylon/spandex blend of its fabric. This shirt works really well where mobility is tantamount. Gymnastic climbing moves at the crag are a place where this shirt excels. You can also find this same stretchy fabric used in the Astroman Sun Hoodie.
Regarding hooded sun shirts, it's really hard to beat the extremely stretchy and accommodating Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody when it comes to comfort. The aforementioned Outdoor Research 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 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. We're noticing a recent trend where companies are releasing more shirts that utilize stretchy fabrics, blending a spandex or elastane material into the polyester or nylon weave. Even with this blend, UPF ratings of 50 or higher are generally maintained. But be aware that the stretchy, elastic blend may need gentler washing/drying care.
The cut and fit of a sun shirt also play a big role in ensuring you're protected. Many of the button-up shirts we've tested feature generous sleeve and seam lengths and collars that can be popped up. The hooded sun shirts (obviously) feature a hood to keep your head covered, and most have thumb loops to keep the sleeves partially over your hands.
Almost every shirt in this review does a great job in sun protection, and it's been difficult to say which is the absolute best. But beyond a doubt, the Coolibar Andros Fishing Hoodie is the most sun-protective shirt we've had the pleasure of reviewing. Sporting a hood, an integrated neck gaiter/face mask, and exceptionally long sleeves to cover up and over your knuckles, this is an impressive shirt. If maximum sun protection is your ultimate concern, seriously consider this sun shirt's capabilities. If the Coolibar's outrageous water-ninja look is too much, the more conventional NRS Silkweight is also genetically engineered for the water.
Check out the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite for button-ups, which rates high in this metric. The fabric is tough but slightly more breathable than 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 Mountain Hardwear Canyon Long Sleeve, which boasts a high UPF 50 rating but features a thinner, more breathable fabric and most of the bells and whistles you'll need and want. Although we will drown the Outdoor Research Echo with accolades, one we cannot bestow upon it is absolute sun protection. The standout fabric used only has a UPF 20 rating.
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 quickly when left to the sun after a soaking. But one standout, the Outdoor Research Echo, dried far more rapidly thanks to its very thin, lightweight fabric and minimalist design. The UPF 20-rated fabric is one of the lowest in terms of sun protection, so it's not what you want to rely on solely if you're going to be in the sun for long periods.
In our real-world tests, 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, thanks to its own lissom fabric. A fabric's air permeability also helps it resist odor by letting air easily pass through. 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 another 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.
The Black Diamond Alpenglow Pro Hoody is made with a much thicker and, thus, more protective fabric, but it still has some interesting tricks up its sleeves. The most obvious is the half zip on the front. The sides of the chest and inner arms also feature a more ventilating mesh material to help dump excess heat. The stretchy fabric of the shirt also makes rolling up your sleeves over your elbows to catch the breeze simply a breeze.
If you don't need so many bells and whistles, the non-Pro Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody drops the bells and whistles but keeps the super-stretchy material to help keep you cool and comfortable. It does lack thumb loops, so if that's a dealbreaker, the comparable Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hoody is what you want to grab.
Taken as a whole, almost all the shirts we've tested did a little above average in breathability, except one outlier: the Columbia PFG Super Tamiami, which fared much worse. It's no wonder, as both of these shirts are made for serious fishing and 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 changing your top? Can you backpack for six days and then check out the next mountain town in the morning without having to pack two shirts? Can you travel cross country, make the regional board meeting, then take off on a trail run? Those are the scenarios we're thinking up when we write 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. Many of the top performers in this category are button-ups, which can pass undetected as regular shirts by casual observers.
The Mountain Hardwear Canyon Long Sleeve 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 Columbia 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 Outdoor Research Astroman Sun Hoodie may have been designed for long days of multi-pitch climbing first. Still, a shirt that's good for climbing usually works admirably for almost any all-day outdoor adventure, as well as looking good back at the campsite, brewpub, or Sprinter party while swapping stories. With a quick rinse, then left to dry out while taking a nap, you could take this shirt on a cross-country backpacking trip and still feel 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 well in many applications. It's hard to doubt that this shirt is nothing but a wise investment in the goal of avoiding sunburn.
A sleeper shirt in this category, the Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie looks great. 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 regarding 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.
If you're looking for a button-up with similar durability, the Columbia PFG Super Tamiami shares many of the same characteristics to the Baleaf UPF 50 Hoody, durability is one of them. Utilizing a burly, thicker, and less breathable fabric than other options, it's firmly in the "traditional" camp of shirts we've tested.
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. Fishing shirts excel at durability, and the NRS Silkweight also uses a heavier fabric that'll take some abuse from its wearer. The material is also soft, ultra stretchy, and comfortable for being one of the heavier shirts we've reviewed (against its nomenclature).
The Outdoor Research 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? Well, there's a wide variety to choose from, so you can find the perfect 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 lead you to your perfect new layer.
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.