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On the hunt for a new sun shirt? For this update, we researched over 90 models and purchased 16 of the best women's sun shirts for side-by-side testing. We spent months wearing these tops for all sorts of activities, from running through high alpine meadows, to snorkeling in equatorial waters, to back-yard gardening through the heat of the summer. Our in-depth review highlights sun hoodies and button-down shirts and examines key aspects like comfort and fit, breathability, durability, and of course, sun protection. If you're anything like us, putting sunscreen on every 90 minutes all summer just isn't happening. No matter what's pulling you outdoors, we've identified the perfect sun shirt for you.
Whether you're hitting the trail for a hike, or paddling out on your new SUP, sun protection is paramount. A high-quality sun shirt is a great way to keep your skin covered. But our gear experts also have you covered with our picks for the best sunglasses on the market, as well as in-depth reviews covering the the best sun hats.
Editor's Note: We updated this review on May 31, 2023, after retesting updated shirts from Outdoor Research, Mountain Hardwear, REI, Patagonia, and NRS.
Sun Protection Level: UPF 50+ | Coverage: Long sleeve, hood, thumbholes
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Can't keep heavy things in the pocket
We love this superbly comfortable top from Mountain Hardwear. The Crater Lake Hoody has almost everything you can want in a sun shirt. Features include 50+ UPF fabric, a lightweight hood that fits under a helmet, and thumbholes that work even for longer-armed folks. Made of a soft, silky polyester and elastane blend, the Crater Lake Hoody is ridiculously stretchy and insanely comfortable. It's thin enough that it's both absurdly lightweight and shockingly breathable without being see-through. It's one of the few shirts we happily wore under the blazing sun without rolling up the sleeves — and that's saying something. This excellent shirt also features a zippered hip pocket and the option to cinch the bottom closed, which comes in handy for inverted activities like climbing and yoga. It's no wonder this stellar piece wins our top award yet again.
In our experience, the Crater Lake Hoody runs a bit large. Our main tester is 5'4" and 120 lb and rocked the extra small with plenty of room to spare — even considering her self-described "ape arms." And while we love the super stretchy nature of this shirt, it means the hip pocket isn't great for heavy items like a cell phone. As with any hooded shirt with thumb holes, this top offers a fairly specific look that might not fly in the workplace unless it's Casual Friday. However, we love this sun shirt, and it quickly became one of our go-to pieces for everything from yoga to biking to gardening.
Sun Protection Level: UPF 50 | Coverage: Long sleeve, collar, scooped cuffs
REASONS TO BUY
Large back vents
Good for many activities
REASONS TO AVOID
Sleeve tab is very high
The REI Sahara is astoundingly well-rounded for a button-up sun shirt. It's stylish, comfortable, and quite breathable. It features pockets large enough to hold a smaller iPhone and sleeves cut with a scoop to cover the backs of the hands. The stretchy underarm panels provide ventilation and comfort while preventing underarm rub during paddle sports. This shirt is versatile enough to handle a full day on the trail that runs straight into a dinner date with girlfriends.
However, the sleeve tabs are a bit too high to be overly functional. That said, we didn't mind so much once we discovered that the sleeves stay rolled pretty well without using the sleeve tabs. Our only other complaint is how easily this shirt wrinkles after living in a suitcase for a few days of travel. But overall, we are big fans of this shirt and feel it's more versatile than any other button-up sun shirt we tested. The Sahara Long-Sleeve is an excellent choice for outdoor activities and can also double for Mondays at the office.
Sun Protection Level: UPF 50+ | Coverage: Long sleeve, crew neck
REASONS TO BUY
Soft silky fabric
Tons of colors
REASONS TO AVOID
Holds body odor easily
Sleeves a bit short
The Baleaf UPF 50 Crew is a simple sun shirt that works as advertised and doesn't break the bank. It's an athletic cut shirt made of a silky smooth fabric that's comfortable to wear and fits easily. The crew-cut neck provides great coverage without being so tight it chokes you. This shirt comes in a wide variety of bright colors, and, for its price, you could pick up three or four of them for the cost of some of the other sun shirts in this review.
It runs a bit small, particularly in the sleeve length. If you often find yourself between sizes or craving a looser fit, we'd recommend sizing up. Although it's a great choice for casual everyday wear, it's not quite breathable enough for running on a hot day. Also, you'll quickly find it easily holds onto body odors. The Baleaf UPF 50 Crew isn't the most "bombproof" shirt we tested, but it's a great value for everyday sun protection.
Sun Protection Level: UPF 15-20 | Coverage: Long sleeve, hood, thumbholes
REASONS TO BUY
Hood doesn't have pull strings
Horizontal thumbholes are more comfortable
Ponytail hole through the hood
REASONS TO AVOID
Fabric isn't smooth
Light colors are see-through
The Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie has some unique features that make it an excellent addition for any activewear junkie. First, this lightweight sun top has horizontally-aligned thumbholes that are comfortable to wear, even when moving. Secondly, the Echo Hoodie has a hole in its hood for your ponytail. Though this isn't the most stylish look, its functionality is undeniable. Beyond these two unique features, this hoody is absurdly lightweight and impressively breathable. It is one of only a couple of shirts we tested that we could comfortably wear in the hot sun without pushing up the sleeves — precisely why it's great for days when you're pushing hard or for hotter climates.
For all its other utilities, the Echo Hoodie lacks pockets and has the lowest UPF value of any sun shirt we tested; just 20 for dark colors and only 15 for light colors. Most others are 35-50+, so this is underwhelming. And while we adore the breathability of this thin, quick-drying fabric, it's not particularly smooth, and we've had repeated issues with snagging in past versions. Though the more recent versions haven't snagged during our testing, they're made of the same thin fabric, which isn't one we'd feel comfortable trimming the rose bushes while wearing. Still, the supreme breathability of the Echo Hoodie is unbeatable, and we love that it comes in more colors now than ever before.
Sun Protection Level: UPF 50+ | Coverage: Long sleeve
REASONS TO BUY
Stays in place
Excellent sun protection
REASONS TO AVOID
Skintight fit is unforgiving
If you're looking for sun protection for spending a whole day in the water, the O'Neill Basic Skins is the shirt for you. It's tight enough to stay put when you're swimming laps, surfing, kayaking, or jet skiing. The seams are sewn conveniently to ensure this top won't rub even during the most active adventures. And with a high UPF rating, you can be sure you won't burn! The material is thick enough to provide some protection against cold water without being too warm to wear in warmer climates.
As a skintight layer, this isn't the most versatile all-around sun shirt. It's not a great option for most land-based activities, as the tight fit is less breathable and tends to simply pool sweat. However, if you're looking for a shirt you can rock all day in the water and look stylish without ever feeling uncomfortable, look no further than this fantastic option from O'Neill.
The market for sun shirts continues to grow every year. We spend a significant amount of time researching the latest and most promising UV-blocking tops before purchasing them to wear and adventure in side by side through several months of testing and laundering. We wore our chosen shirts for casual, everyday activities like gardening, walking the dog, and grabbing coffee with a friend. We tested the limits of these shirts by wearing them on all kinds of adventures, including mountaintop snowshoe races, snorkeling at the equator, kayaking over a mile above sea level, and running trails through the desert. We sweated in them, crammed them in backpacks and suitcases, did yoga on the beach, and laundered them all repeatedly. Some of them we've been wearing regularly for years now, and some we love to sleep in. Whether you want a button-up with a collar, a hoody with thumbholes, or a protective rashguard, we've tested and identified the ideal options to fill that hole in your wardrobe.
Our testing of women's sun shirts is divided across five rating metrics:
Comfort and Fit tests (30% of overall score weighting)
Sun Protection tests (25% weighting)
Breathability tests (20% weighting)
Versatility tests (15% weighting)
Durability tests (10% weighting)
We've taken these sun shirts across the world to test them in all kinds of environments where harsh sunlight can cause damage to your body.
For the last several years, Senior Review Editor Maggie Nichols has been leading the sun shirt charge, recruiting friends and family to help her test during all kinds of outdoor adventures. Maggie has been an outdoor junkie since the early '90s, spending every possible moment outside. While she started by chasing frogs and watching cicadas hatch, Maggie has been working in the outdoors for over 15 years, taking on everything from being a camp counselor in the Midwest to leading kayakers in the Caribbean and guiding backcountry trips across the US. She currently lives and works in some seriously high-UV environments, from the high deserts of northern Nevada to baking mountaintops in the Sierra Nevadas. With a family history of skin cancer, Maggie doesn't take chances when it comes to staying protected from the sun.
Analysis and Test Results
To find the best sun shirt for every application, our team of female testers wore these shirts extensively, assessing them across a wide range of climates and conditions. Across tropical islands and on exposed ridgelines, we tested the performance of every shirt in five mutually exclusive, exhaustive metrics. We examined, scrutinized, and pushed them to their limits to learn everything about their comfort and fit, sun protection, breathability, versatility, and durability. By weighting each of these five metrics according to their relative importance to the overall experience of wearing any given sun shirt, we arrived at an easily comparable master score from 1-100 for every model. In what follows, we dive into the details, breaking down which shirts stand out from the rest in their specifics.
Only after scoring each shirt's performance do we consider their price. High-scoring garments with low prices are easy to recognize as high-value items. And in this widely variable realm of sun-protective garments, price and performance are clearly not correlated.
The Baleaf Crew is a high-value shirt. It's not quite as high scoring but offers solid, basic protection at an unbeatable price point. The REI Sahara Shade Hoodie is another highly valuable option. It's soft and smooth, with great protective features and a generous fit through the torso, and costs a lot less than many others in our lineup. Even our favorite shirt of the bunch, the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hoody isn't the most expensive, despite beating out the competition for multiple years in a row now.
Comfort and Fit
We asked a variety of different-shaped women to test the comfort of each model. We assessed shape and fit and checked how well each one moves with the body, evaluating both fit and stretch. We judged the feel of the fabric and seams against the skin and considered available features that add to the wearer's experience.
The impressively soft and stretchy Crater Lake Hoody stands out for being exceptionally comfortable to wear no matter what shape you are or the activity you are getting after. It's silky smooth, with seams in all the right places, and provides an almost ridiculous amount of stretch, allowing it to stay comfortable all day long outside or in. The bottom can cinch shut if you need to flip upside down, and the sleeves are actually long enough (and elastic enough) for long-armed women to feel comfortable. It also features a buttery soft hood that protects without impeding vision or movement or feeling like it's smashing your ponytail. For straight-up comfort that you can paddle, hike, get groceries, and fall asleep in, the Crater Lake Hoody has been and remains our favorite for years.
We also like soft and comfy OR Echo Hoodie. It's not nearly as stretchy as the Crater Lake Hoody, but it still provides exceptional comfort for everyday wear or heading out for a run or a hike. The Echo Hoodie's thumbholes are unique in that they're horizontal rather than vertical, allowing them to be closer to the end of the sleeve, creating less pull when you're moving. The cut is also significantly more comfortable and less awkward when you need to push up your sleeves.
If you still have a favorite hoody living somewhere in your closet, you'll love the sweatshirt-like fit and comfort of the Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody. With a wide hem, cuffs that hold it in place without being tight, and no seams in the armpits for comfort while moving, we confess we even enjoy sleeping in this cozy garment. The NRS Silkweight Hoodie is also superbly soft and has a pleasant, comfortable weight. With drawstrings on its hood, a relaxed fit, and seams removed from the armpits, we love lounging in this sun shirt. It does lose a few points here, though, as the sleeves aren't long enough to use the thumbholes comfortably and for a scratchy liner protecting the inside of the thumbholes.
The REI Sahara Long Sleeve is our favorite among collared options. The fabric may seem a bit crinkly at first but feels almost cool against the skin, and the shoulders have an impressive amount of stretch to keep even our broad-shouldered testers mobile. If oversized t-shirts are one of your favorite fits, the Sahara Shade Hoodie will be right up your alley. It has an oversized, drapey fit made of smooth, silky fabric and long cuffs with thumbholes.
The Patagonia Tropic Comfort Natural Hoody is notable for its great comfort with its buttery soft fabric and long, slim fit. Its thumbholes are a touch small, though, and not all of our testers love the extra elastic loops that go over your index and middle fingers to hold the cuffs against the backs of your hands. The Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody is another pretty comfortable option due to its athletic cut and exceptionally smooth, soft fabric. It tends to run a bit snug, though, and shorter through the torso and sleeves than most others.
The O'Neill Basic Skins is our favorite rash guard if water sports and beaches are your jam. It's absurdly comfortable and easy to wear and stays put, whether you're floating alongside a sea turtle or paddling out into the surf on your board. It has flat seams and is meant to fit quite tightly — perhaps not the most fashionable, but this fit ensures you'll be comfortable moving through the water without flowing fabric to drag you down.
Much more goes into sun protection than just the UPF rating, though that's the bare minimum we require to be considered for addition to our lineup. Not all hoods, collars, or long sleeves provide equal protection. And it's one thing to be covered while standing unmoving in your yard and a whole other beast to cover up while you bike to work, push the kids on the swings, or boulder up a sunny route. We put the sun protection, coverage, and our willingness to wear these shirts during any given activity to the test to see how they stack up.
The Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hoody offers top-notch protection. It has a hood that stays on decently even without ties, maintaining airflow while protecting your ears and neck. Its large thumbholes have plenty of fabric below them that fully covers your hands and even your knuckles from the sun. The Crater Lake Hoody is a great option for dynamic movement, as its ability to stretch farther than you'd think possible makes it an excellent companion to stay covered no matter how you move. A drawstring around the bottom also lets you secure it in place during yoga in the park or a particularly tricky climb.
The OR Echo Hoodie offers some solid hand protection with unique, horizontally-oriented thumbholes. The sleeves are long and stretchy to keep them from pulling on your hand webbing as you move, making it more likely you'll keep using the thumbholes even when it's hot. The hood features a ponytail hole, which doesn't earn any style points but massively improves your ability to keep that hood firmly protecting your neck and ears. While the UPF rating on this hoody is lower than most, the impressive suite of sun-protection features helps make up for it.
The hood on the REI Sahara Shade Hoodie has a cross-front top – adding neck protection to its arsenal of already great sun-protection features – and has a drawstring hidden inside for keeping your hood on no matter how windy it may get. It also has longer-than-average sleeves, making it easy and comfortable to use the thumb holes.
The NRS Silkweight Hoodie doesn't have that cross-front design but does have drawstrings that can be pulled very tight for windy paddling days and gusty ridgetops. Its thumbholes are well-placed, located to the side of the sleeve seam, and angled to match your hand's shape. The Sahara Long Sleeve may not have the protection of a hood and thumbholes, but its collar and scooped cuffs add protection, and drop hems in both the front and back help keep you covered as you bend.
A Note on Patagonia's Recent UPF Recalls
We've tested several versions of the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody. Recently, Patagonia recalled some of their sun shirts, including this one, for inconsistent UPF ratings during their testing. While Patagonia has assured us that this fabric still has UPF properties, it's unclear exactly how much protection it provides. It's currently listed without a UPF rating for this reason, though it will still provide more sun protection than exposing bare skin to UV rays.
If you appreciate extra hood security, the VOORMI River Run and Patagonia Tropic Comfort Natural Hoody both have a single button that is perfectly placed for keeping your hood up when you need it most. The Tropic Comfort Hoody also offers additional protection options, with small thumbholes and an elastic loop at the end of each cuff. By looping this band over your index and middle fingers, the cuff stays pulled down even while you move. The sleeves aren't as long as the knuckle-protecting Crater Lake Hoody and Echo Hoodie, but the extra loops help — even if the feeling of wearing them takes some getting used to.
Among rash guards, the Basic Skins provides excellent coverage by staying put while you swim and play in the waves. The Carve Designs Cruz Rashguard adds a little extra with its collar, half-zip fit, and extendable scrunching sides to find your perfect length. If fishing is more your gig, check out the Columbia PFG Tidal Tee. This button-down provides serious coverage in all the right ways, making it a perfect fishing companion. It features a large hood with a wide neck that keeps the neck protected from the sun without stopping the breeze off the water from cooling you down. The Tidal Tee also has the longest sleeves of any shirt we tested and easily covers the hands past the knuckles when using the thumbholes, even on our most ape-armed testers.
Spending time in the sun with a long-sleeved shirt on isn't always the easiest feat. The breathability of your sun shirt goes a long way toward your ability to stand wearing it on hot, sunny days. We checked out the thickness and weight of fabrics, venting options, and drying speed and wore each shirt during high-output activities to see how they function when things get sweaty.
Again, the exceptionally thin, lightweight OR Echo Hoodie and Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hoody stand out in this category for being breathable. The Crater Lake Hoody is loose and flowy, in addition to being very thin. It also comes in mostly light colors, which helps it to reflect more sun than it absorbs. Though the Echo Hoodie is a bit tighter-fitting, it dries incredibly quickly, helping you to cool down faster through the cooling powers of evaporation. It is both thin and very lightweight and easily lets cool breezes cut right through to keep you moving in comfort.
The REI Sahara Long Sleeve is also quite breathable, with buttons that allow you to open up the collar as much as you need and wide, well-placed back vents that aid in letting off steam. If you've remembered to bring sunscreen for your forearms, tabs in the sleeves will hold them up above your elbows. The Columbia Silver Ridge Lite is another great breathable option. With quick-drying thin, light-colored fabric, a looser fit to facilitate airflow, and some large, strategically-placed vents, this shirt is very wearable even on hot days. Both these shirts can easily have their sleeves comfortably rolled up (and sunscreen applied to your hands and forearms!) if you'd rather wear them that way.
Though it's a 52% wool shirt, the VOORMI River Run Hoody is still quite thin and impressively breathable. It's easy to feel a slight breeze blow through the fabric, and the thumb loops help you keep the sleeves secured without trapping your hands inside the sleeves. The Vapor Apparel Solar Long Sleeve is also a superbly breathable shirt with a fairly basic, open design and fit. You may lose out on a little bit of coverage with this relatively featureless option, but, for the most part, it will keep you cool during a run or when out doing yard work.
Interestingly, the Sahara Shade Hoodie is made of thicker fabric than most others we tested, yet it is surprisingly breathable because of the loose, flowy fit, designed to catch even the slightest breeze. It has a long drop hem on the front and back, with high-cut sides that leave plenty of space for air to pass through without exposing you to the blazing sun. Wearing this shirt in your normal size may produce a tunic-like fit — plenty baggy enough that gentle winds or even just the buffeting air caused by walking around manage to find its way inside for ventilation.
The BD Alpenglow Hoody has higher cuffs and a shorter hem than most other tops we tested, but it still has a breathable fabric that keeps air moving through fairly effectively. The Tropic Comfort Natural Hoody takes a different approach, leaving more space around your torso, with longer drop hems in the front and back and shorter sides to allow air to move inside the shirt. The Capilene Cool Daily Hoody is thin, lightweight, and reasonably breathable, but also has a more snug fit that doesn't allow for as much airflow inside the shirt.
Versatility encompasses many things, including the activities you can functionally accomplish in each top and their relative style. Style is, of course, very subjective. And clearly, the biggest reason to wear a sun shirt has little to do with looks. However, we think it's a bonus if a shirt can be both useful and make you look like a million bucks. We carefully considered each subject's overall shape and versatility and what colors and patterns it's available in. And, of course, our barrage of testers gave their input as to how much they liked or disliked every shirt during various activities and in diverse social settings.
A clear winner in this metric is the REI Sahara Long Sleeve. As a button-up, collared shirt, it fits better in more environments, settings, and activities. It's as easily worn on the trail or the water as it is in the office or a cafe. It's a fairly flattering shirt across many body types and comes in colors we think are flattering without being too in-your-face. Even testers that normally aren't fans of collared shirts appreciated the style of the Sahara shirt and the ability to wear it in multiple settings all within the same day, eliminating the need to keep a spare shirt in your car to change into between hiking and meeting the gals for a cocktail.
Though a solidly athletic-looking shirt, the Echo Hoodie scores high marks for versatility across the sheer number of activities, environments, and temperatures in which we're happy to wear it. The Capilene Cool Daily Hoody is also impressively versatile. Not only do we love wearing it for a wide range of activities, but we also find its lack of thumbholes, pockets, drawstrings, and other "techy" add-ons to be much more aesthetically pleasing. It comes in slightly muted colors that our testers think are cute and hide dirt and sweat pretty well. The Baleaf Crew is a fairly versatile option. It lacks just about any athletic-specific features, has raglan sleeves, and comes in a wide variety of colors that offer something for just about everyone.
Two more athletic-looking garments, the BD Alpenglow Hoody and NRS Silkweight Hoodie, earn above-average scores for versatility because they feel like an old familiar sweatshirt (except lightweight and breathable) in all the right ways. We confess we happily slept in both of these tops after wearing them all day. The Columbia Silver Ridge Lite is another reasonably versatile collared shirt appropriate in many settings — active or casual. However, as it tends to run a bit large and be much flowier, we think it's slightly less universally flattering across a majority of body types. It comes in a number of different colors, helping to find the right shade for your personality that much easier.
We beat these shirts up during our testing to see if they could take it. From scrambling up rocks and scraping through twisted bushes to hauling landscaping bricks and washing them near-daily, we went beyond their "normal" scope of use. We also combed the internet to learn what failed for other people to see if it failed for us too.
Both the Sahara Long Sleeve and the Silver Ridge Lite are constructed of sturdy material that withstood a lot of abuse from our testers. The Silver Ridge Lite is even sewn with ripstop nylon to help put your mind at ease. Both of these shirts are well-made with reinforced seams and thoughtful features to help them last the years. They showed nearly no wear, stains, or snags throughout our intensive testing process.
The O'Neill Basic Skins rash guard performed very well against the odds. Though it's not made for pressing through dense undergrowth, we found it excellent for water activities. Rubbing against sand, sliding along the edge of a life jacket for hours of paddling, and repeated saltwater adventures all left no marks on this impressive shirt. The NRS Silkweight Hoodie also has flat seams perfectly placed for paddling and is similarly built to last (without being so tight). Behind its thumbholes, it also has a durable material to stop them from ripping or fraying. While this scratchy layer isn't particularly comfortable to wear, it effectively makes the thumbholes more durable.
The Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody and Tropic Comfort Natural Hoody, and the REI Sahara Shade Hoodie are soft and smooth, with mostly flat-sewn seams (except for the sides). All three tops proved to be relatively durable during our testing.
Both the BD Alpenglow and OR Echo Hoodieseem fairly durable, with visually similar textures of fabric and flat-sewn seams. However, the Alpenglow Hoody and two older versions of the Echo Hoodie picked up a couple of tiny snags during our testing. While the latest 2 versions of the Echo haven't snagged over our months or years of testing, they're made of the same fabric, not exactly exciting us about sliding past rough rocks or squeezing through thick undergrowth.
The Carve Designs Cruz Rashguard feels solid enough at first but ripped the first time we tried to undo the side ties to make the torso longer. The seam holding the two sides of the ties split right down the middle. The shirt is still wearable with minor holes, but we're rather disappointed at how quickly it came apart with just regular use. We also found that the side ties tend to get caught in the tops of pants and swimsuit bottoms.
Several of the shirts we tested come with a claim of odor treatment by either blocking the odor itself or blocking bacterial growth that leads to odor. We tested every claim by going for a 6+ mile run in the midday sun and heat, then leaving the shirt in a pile on the bathroom floor to smell the next morning. Only the Alpenglow Hoody and Tropic Comfort Natural Hoody seemed to have any noticeable resistance to odor. We're unsure if this effect will be able to last through years of laundering, but we appreciate it while it's working.
There's a lot to look for in finding the right sun shirt for your preferred activities and lifestyle. While we can't read your mind, we hope our intense, comparative testing process helps you identify the sun shirt that can (quite literally) help save your skin.
Looking for more ways to protect yourself? Staying safe from the sun is no easy feat. We've collected and tested a wide array of sun protection gear to help you get out there without suffering UV damage. From top-ranked sun hats to our favorite sport sunglasses, we want to help you keep your skin safe. We've also tested an array of the best sun shirts for men.
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