Are you sick of carrying and reapplying sunscreen when you’re adventuring outside? It’s time to invest in a sun shirt.
What is a sun shirt?
A sun shirt is a long-sleeve (typically hooded), breathable outdoor pullover with a UPF rating. Although they provide full coverage, sun shirts are light, cool, and comfortable even in the summer. Sun shirts are ideal for outdoor activities like fishing, skiing, climbing, paddle boarding, and anything else that exposes you to the sun’s harmful rays.
What are UPF ratings?
UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, and it measures how much UV radiation your skin is exposed to through a fabric. UPF measures both UVB and UVA rays, while SPF only protects against UVB. The Skin Cancer Foundation gives a clear example of UPF rating: “For example, a UPF 50 fabric blocks 98 percent of the sun’s rays and allows two percent (1/50th) to penetrate, thus reducing your exposure risk significantly.”
The Skin Cancer Foundation only gives its Seal of Recommendation to fabrics with a UPF of 30 or higher. The best sun shirts have a UPF 50 rating.
What should you look for in a sun shirt?
The below features are what we utilize to determine a sun shirt’s effectiveness. Sun shirts that check all of these boxes, and also fit you well will do great.
As discussed above, UPF ratings distinguish a fabric’s ability to shield your skin from UVB and UVA rays. The higher the rating the fewer rays you are exposed to. While apparel can be rated as low as 15, you should look for products with a UPF of 30 or higher. UPF 30 and above qualifies for the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation.
Breathability makes a long sleeve shirt cool, bearable, and protective in the summer heat. Look for fabrics made from thin synthetics rather than wool products or heavier and thicker fabrics that trap heat. Vents are a bonus!
To hood or not to hood? There is no question. If you can purchase a sun shirt with a hood, do it. A hood offers extra protection for your scalp, ears, and neck that often are forgotten. All of the sun shirts on this list offer different kinds of hoods. If you’re a climber or utilizing a helmet for activity, then be aware of companies that utilize helmet-compatible hoods like Black Diamond and NWAlpine.
If you’re purchasing a sun shirt, there is a high chance you will frequently wear it in sweat-inducing circumstances. Find a sun shirt constructed with odor-resistant technology, like Outdoor Research’s Active Fresh or Rab’s Stay Fresh.
The Best Sun Shirts of 2023
Best Overall Sun Shirt: Northwest Alpine Sun Hoody
Price: 74 USD
Weight: 7 oz (198g)
Pros: Helmet-compatible hood, made in the USA, durable, breathable
Cons: Stains easily, not rated UPF 50+
Northwest Alpine is an Oregon-based company made by and for climbers. And what is one of the most important pieces of apparel for climbers? Sun shirts. The Northwest Alpine Sun Hoody has a UPF 40+ rating. This hoody protects from 97.5 percent of the sun’s rays. One of the standout features of this piece is the large hood that can fit over a helmet or hat to protect your ears. Did you know seven percent of head and neck melanomas are in the ears? The durable and protective fabric is also a worthwhile piece above treeline, on snow, and near bug-infested waters.
UPF Rating: 50+
Price: 65 USD
Weight: 5.6 oz (159g)
Pros: 50+ UPF, lightweight, fabric, stretch
Cons: Durability, breathability, drawstring (women’s)
The Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Long-sleeve Hoody feels like a cloud on an unbearably hot summer day. This piece is lightweight at 5.6 ounces and comfortable on the hottest days. The Earth is heating up at an alarming rate, you know. Its thumb loops, unique color options, helmet-compatible hood, and stretchy fit make it our sun shirt runner-up. This piece is ideal for scorchers out in the sun, whether you’re backpacking, ultrarunning, or working outside.
Best Budget Sun Shirt: Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody
UPF Rating:17- 45
Price: 59 USD
Weight: 6.3 oz (179g)
Pros: Breathable, affordable, UPF rating
Cons: Durability, no thumb holes, fit
Patagonia is not the first company you may think of being the most affordable, but the price and high quality of the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody make it the best budget sun shirt on the market. Patagonia reviewers rave about it:
“I bought this shirt because I wanted to finally make it through a summer without having a dark red neck! I can’t say enough good about this shirt. It doesn’t get hot and I don’t get burned! I wear it for everything and everywhere, I basically live in these now. From work to everything else. After the first one, I bought 2 more!”
This sun shirt is ideal for casual pursuits, fieldwork, fishing, hiking, and running.
Best Sun Shirt for Climbing: Black Diamond Alpenglow Pro Hoody
UPF Rating: 50+
Price: 120 USD
Weight: 6.7 oz (190g)
Pros: Durability, side vents, pocket
Cons: Expensive, overdone features
The Black Diamond Alpenglow Pro Hoody is the best sun shirt for climbing or other technical pursuits from the desert to the high alpine. Although its one of the most expensive pieces on the market, you are paying for high-quality features like the UPF 50+ fabric, water-repellant technology, HeiQ Pure underarm mesh panels for temperature control, thumb loops, a chest pocket for quick access, and helmet-compatible hood.
Best Sun Shirt for Fishing: Howler Bros Loggerhead Sun Protection Hoody
UPF Rating: 35+
Price: 69 USD
Weight: 8.1 oz (230g)
Pros: Comfortable, fun designs, sunglasses pocket
Cons: Heavy, warm
Why is the Howler Brows Loggerhead Sun Protection Hoody the best for fishing? Its UPF 35+ rating and draw-string hood allow for a reprieve from the sun and wind in exposed areas. Other features that anglers will love are the fish-inspired designs, loose fit, thumb holes, kangaroo pocket for gear, and the microfiber cloth-lined stash pocket.
Best Sun Shirt for the Winter: Arc’teryx Motus AR Hoody
UPF Rating: 50
Price: 100 USD
Weight: 5.3 oz (150g)
Pros: Low-profile hood, versatile
Cons: Heavier, warmer, expensive, fit
The Arc’teryx Motus AR Hoody is the ideal piece for hiking above treeline on cool mornings, running in the fall, or layering to ice climb in the winter. As a warmer piece, it’s still relatively lightweight, comfortable, and wicking. Arc’teryx utilizes Phasic™ AR II to help manage moisture buildup on the body. Although the fit is trim and slim, it is designed to lie close to the body and eliminate bulk to fit under a mid-layer or insulated jacket. A high-functioning winter layer is worth the price.
Most Breathable Sun Shirt: Outdoor Research Echo Hoody
UPF Rating: 15
Price: 75 USD
Weight: 3.95 oz (111g)
Pros: Weight, breathability, wicking properties, inclusive sizing
Cons: Durability, comfortability
“Your favorite ultralight, breathable, odor-blocking hoody is now better than ever,” according to Outdoor Research. “Get trusted ultralight performance, now with new upgrades to enhance comfort, movement, fit, and feel.”
The Echod Hoody by Outdoor Research is a garment that offers stretch, comfort, and longevity. It’s constructed with AirVent™ and ActiveFresh™ technology. AirVent™ helps reduce sweat and maintain temperature control even on the warmest days. ActiveFresh™ repels odors and keeps the garment fresher for longer. The Echo Hoody comes in sizes up to 4X too.
Best Sun Shirt for All Sizes: Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoody
UPF Rating: 50+
Price: 89 USD
Weight: 7.2 oz (203g)
Pros: Fabric, features, inclusive sizing
A step above the Echo Hoody in price and technology, the ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoody is another high-quality option from Outdoor Research. The garment is not only constructed with a UPF rating of 50+ but also ActiveIce™ technology. ActiveIce™ allows you to cool faster as your body temperature increases in the garment through “a special additive [that] drives this cooling process via phase changes.” This ensures your sun shirt is quick-drying, breathable, and moisture-wicking at all times.
Just like with other Outdoor Research products, the ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoody fits comfortably and loose with an inclusive size spectrum for everyone who wants to get outside and stay protected from the sun.
Best of the Rest
Western Rise Session Sun Hoody
UPF Rating: 50+
Price: 88 USD
Weight: NA – But lightweight
Pros: Super comfortable, great look
Cons: Expensive when not on sale
Western Rise makes incredibly high quality men’s clothing. This would be on the top of our list if they made clothes for women as well, but this has become one of our go to sun hoodies due to the light weight, great comfort, great breathability, and good looks. It’s holding up really well to getting heavily used on the trails. We love the fit and breathability for this one on the hotter days.
Buy On: Western Rise
UPF Rating: 30+
Price: 75 USD
Weight: 5.8 oz (164g)
Pros: Durability, quick to dry
Cons: Slim fit
Although Rab chooses not to rate their sun protection products, the company distinguishes the Rab Force Hooded Shirt as UPF rate, which means it is at least UPF 30+ and a reliable option for fluctuating weather in the summer. It offers a close-fitting hood and high collar for those areas that are hard to reach with SPF. Another draw of this product is the twisted side and dropper shoulder seams for comfort against running vests and packs. Rab’s Stay Fresh technology also ensures freshness and anti-odor through multiple uses in the mountains.
UPF Rating: 50+
Price: 49.95 USD
Weight: 7.7 oz (218g)
Pros: Hood cinch, affordable
Cons: Technical performance
The REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoody is ideal for casual pursuits outside. It’s extremely comfortable, affordable, UPF-rated 50+, and Bluesign approved. Why is it, not the best budget option? Compared to Patagonia’s slightly more expensive Capilene Cool Daily Hoody, the Sahara Shade Hoody is heavier, retains more moisture, and dries slowly. Avoid wearing the apparel on hot days and near water.
Buy Women’s On: REI
Buy Men’s On: REI
At hikingandfishing.com, we take great pride in providing our readers with honest and reliable product comparisons and recommendations. Our team of dedicated writers and outdoor enthusiasts conducts thorough research to identify and highlight the best products in various categories. What sets us apart is our commitment to accuracy and transparency. Each review is carefully crafted based on our firsthand experiences, deep understanding of the products, insights from other expert reviews, and a comprehensive knowledge of reputable brands. We value the trust our readers place in us and ensure that every recommendation we make is based on unbiased assessments and genuine expertise. You can count on us to deliver trustworthy insights that will help you make informed decisions for your adventures.
Madeleine is a freelance writer and social media manager in the outdoor, gear, and travel space. She loves being buried in the snow, running single-track, and eating gummies next to high alpine lakes. When she’s not writing or traveling, you can find Madeleine in Telluride, Colorado romping around in the San Juans.