Best Sun Shirts of 2023
It’s no secret that too much sun exposure is bad for your skin, but no one likes lathering up in greasy sunscreen before hitting the trail. A sun shirt provides better coverage than lotion, stays effective the whole time you’re out, and won’t add any extra weight to your pack.
There’s a lot of technical data and acronyms to decipher when you start the hunt for your perfect sun shirt, so it can be difficult to find the right one. We’ve put the best sun shirts on the market to the test to help you decide which one will suit your needs.
Check out this quick list of our favorite sun shirts if you’re in a hurry, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
- Best sun shirt overall: Outdoor Research Echo Men’s / Women’s
- Best button-down sun shirt: Columbia Silver Ridge Lite Men’s / Women’s
- Best budget sun shirt: Baleaf Triumph Men’s / Women’s
- Unique hooded button-down with tons of style: Jolly Gear Triple Crown Button Down
- Affordable sun hoodie for cooler weather: REI Sahara Shade Men’s / Women’s
- Stylish button-down sun shirt: Mountain Hardwear Canyon Men’s / Women’s
- Best sun shirt for travel: prAna Lost Sol Hoodie (men’s) / Sol Searcher (women’s)
- Best sun shirt for cold weather: Voormi River Run Hoodie Men’s / Women’s
What’s Most Important to You in a Sun Shirt?
PRICE – We think it’s worth it to spend a bit more on high-quality clothing that will get a ton of use. Comfort, durability, and a well-designed fit usually trump cost in our books, but we recommend quality options at a variety of price points in our top picks below.
- Best value sun shirts: Outdoor Research Echo (men’s / women’s) & Jolly Gear Triple Crown Button Down
- Best budget sun shirts: Columbia Silver Ridge Lite (men’s / women’s), Baleaf Triumph (men’s / women’s) & REI Sahara Shade (men’s / women’s)
- Best high-end sun shirt: Voormi River Run Hoodie (men’s / women’s)
WEIGHT – We tend to go for lightweight clothing that breathes well and dries quickly for most of our hikes. But a heavier sun shirt may be the better choice for long term durability or cooler weather.
- Best ultralight sun shirt: Outdoor Research Echo (men’s / women’s)
- Best lightweight sun shirts: Columbia Silver Ridge Lite (men’s / women’s) & Voormi River Run Hoodie (men’s / women’s)
- Best heavy-duty sun shirts: Jolly Gear Triple Crown Button Down & prAna Lost Sol Hoodie (men’s) / Sol Searcher (women’s)
STYLE/COVERAGE – Style mostly comes down to personal preference, but there are some factors to consider when deciding on a sun shirt. It can be easier to regulate your body temperature with a button-down, and this style transitions nicely from trail to town. But button-downs leave sensitive areas like your head, neck, and hands exposed. Sun hoodies are often made with more breathable fabric and provide ample coverage for your head and hands (if it has thumbholes).
- Best button down sun shirts: Columbia Silver Ridge Lite (men’s / women’s) & Mountain Hardwear Canyon (men’s / women’s)
- Best hooded sun shirts: Outdoor Research Echo (men’s / women’s), Baleaf Triumph (men’s / women’s) & REI Sahara Shade (men’s / women’s)
- Best hooded button down shirt: Jolly Gear Triple Crown Button Down
UPF RATING – At the bottom of this list, you’ll find more detail about what various UPF ratings mean. But the following shirts have the highest UPF rating (50/50+) and let the least amount of UV rays through.
INCLUSIVE SIZING – Everyone should have high performance options that make them feel great and look great. After all, the outdoors is for everyone!
Best Sun Shirts of 2023
BEST SUN SHIRT OVERALL
WEIGHT: 5.2 oz.
UPF RATING: 15
CONS: Not as durable, holds odor, lower UPF rating than others
BOTTOM LINE: The Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie (men’s / women’s) has been our go-to sun shirt for years since it’s ultralight, highly breathable, and incredibly comfortable. The hood and thumbholes provide ample coverage, while the fabric – quite frankly – feels like you’re wearing nothing at all. The light fabric sacrifices a bit of durability to remain cool and breathable, so you’ll want to treat it with care to make sure it lasts for years. That said, we’ve worn ours extensively without issues and think it’s an awesome choice for those who prioritize comfort above all else.
BEST BUTTON DOWN SUN SHIRT
WEIGHT: 6.5 oz.
UPF RATING: 40
CONS: Not as much coverage as others (no hood or thumbholes)
BOTTOM LINE: The Columbia Silver Ridge Lite (men’s / women’s) is our favorite button-down sun shirt because it’s comfortable, affordable, and the fabric keeps you cool. The lightweight polyester breathes well when you’re working hard on the trail, and it wicks moisture effectively if you work up a sweat. This shirt looks stylish and resists wrinkles as well to keep you feeling your best both on and off the trail. The Silver Ridge Lite is one of the lightest and most affordable shirts on our list, so it’s a great value for hikers who prefer the button-down style.
BEST BUDGET SUN SHIRT
WEIGHT: 7.7 oz.
UPF RATING: 50+
PROS: Affordable, full coverage, zipper pocket, breathable
CONS: Thin underarm material (less durable)
BOTTOM LINE: The awesomely affordable Baleaf Triumph Hoodie (men’s / women’s) was an instant win for us. Its thumbholes, well-fitted hood, and built-in face mask/neck gaiter provide a ton of coverage on exposed trails. The main material is a bit heavier than some, but this shirt is still plenty breathable in hot conditions thanks to the venting fabric on the sides and underarms. It really was a toss-up for us between this shirt and our top pick, the OR Echo Hoodie (men’s / women’s). If you want maximum protection, go with the Baleaf. For those who value low weight and breathability the most, go with the Echo Hoodie.
UNIQUE HOODED BUTTON DOWN SUN SHIRT WITH TONS OF STYLE
WEIGHT: 8.5 oz.
UPF RATING: 50
PROS: Great value, fun colors & patterns, style & temperature regulation of a button-down with the protection of a hoodie, full coverage, durable
CONS: A bit expensive, thumb holes are a bit tight
BOTTOM LINE: Ever wished you could rock the casual and cooling style of a button down shirt but still have the full protection of a sun hoodie? Enter the Triple Crown Button Down from Jolly Gear. This hoodie has a great mix of everything – breathability, protection, durability, and style. This young company is barely off their first run of shirts, but they’re already making a big splash in the thru-hiking world and beyond thanks to their fun patterns and unique design. You can’t help but feel happy when you wear the Triple Crown Button Down, and we highly recommend it for anyone gearing up to log some serious miles in the sun.
AFFORDABLE SUN HOODIE FOR COOLER WEATHER
WEIGHT: 8.1 oz.
UPF RATING: 50
CONS: Not as breathable, seams are a bit thick
BOTTOM LINE: The affordable Sahara Shade Hoodie (men’s / women’s) from REI has a buttery soft feel and provides excellent coverage. The hood can be cinched to get a perfect fit, and the thumbholes give you some nice coverage on your hands. We found the women’s version to be a bit less breathable than some of the lighter options on our list. But overall, the Sahara Shade Hoodie is a great choice for hikers on a budget who don’t mind trading a bit of added weight for dollars saved. We think this hoodie is especially appealing for those who live in mild climates and need a little bit of extra warmth for their adventures.
STYLISH BUTTON DOWN SUN SHIRT
WEIGHT: 7.4 oz.
UPF RATING: 50+
PROS: Stylish, button downs make it easy to regulate temperature
CONS: Less coverage (no hood or thumbholes), fabric isn’t as breathable
BOTTOM LINE: The Mountain Hardwear Canyon (men’s / women’s) is equally at home in the backcountry and on the patio of your favorite brewery. Button downs make it easy to keep cool on hot days, since you can unsnap the front and secure the sleeves at half length with the button tab. This shirt doesn’t provide head, neck, or hand coverage, so it’s not our first choice for long hikes with a lot of sun exposure. But if you prefer a classic look that transitions well from trail to town, the Canyon button down is a stylish option.
BEST SUN SHIRT FOR TRAVEL
WEIGHT: 9.9 oz.
UPF RATING: 50+
PROS: Stylish, very comfortable, durable, full coverage
CONS: More of a fashion shirt than a hiking shirt, a bit heavy & warm
BOTTOM LINE: The style-forward prAna Lost Sol Hoodie (men’s) / Sol Searcher (women’s) are ready to do the work on your next sunny vacation. The incredibly soft fabric is comfortable enough that you’ll never want to take it off and durable enough to withstand repeated stints of multi-day wear. Sorry guys, the women’s Sol Searcher is a little better with its ¼ length button-down front and kangaroo pocket. But the men’s version still has the same flattering and comfy relaxed fit. We feel the Lost Sol/Searcher shirts are better suited to casual use since the fabric is a bit heavy and warm for high-output activities. But we wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to strut your stuff on the trail in it.
BEST SUN SHIRT FOR COLD WEATHER
WEIGHT: 7 oz.
UPF RATING: 30
PROS: Comfortable fit, wicks moisture effectively, full coverage, doubles as insulating layer
CONS: Expensive, thin material needs to be treated with care, not as breathable as some
BOTTOM LINE: The Voormi River Run Hoodie (men’s / women’s) is made with a unique wool/polyester blend, so you get the natural comfort and moisture wicking of wool plus the UV protective and quick drying properties of polyester. This fabric is a bit less breathable and a touch on the warm side, so we think the River Run Hoodie works best in cooler spring/fall weather and for active winter days. It has a comfy loose fit, and the buttonable hood and thumb loops allow you to adapt the coverage to the conditions. While the River Run Hoodie is pretty spendy, we think the impeccable quality and the fact that it can insulate and protect is worth the cost if you’re in the market for a nice looking sun shirt to wear in cooler weather.
Critical Sun Shirt Considerations
HOW DO SUN SHIRTS WORK? – The sun’s rays can get through the little micro holes between the threads of most shirts, leaving you vulnerable to UV exposure. Sun shirts are made with UV resistant fabrics that are tightly woven to prevent gaps so light can’t get through.
UVA VS. UVB – The sun emits two types of skin damaging UV rays – UVB and UVA. UVB rays are what cause sunburns on the top layers of your skin, and they’re a main cause of skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, and can cause cancer, wrinkles, and other early signs of aging.
WHAT UPF RATINGS ACTUALLY MEAN – First things first, UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. This differs slightly from SPF, which measures the UVA protection of sunscreen. UPF measures how much light – both UVA and UVB – can penetrate fabric. The higher the UPF, the less UV rays the fabric lets through. The difference between a UPF 15 shirt and a UPF 50 shirt, however, is relatively small. This is how it breaks down:
- UPF 15-24: Blocks 93.3-95.9% of UV rays
- UPF 25-39: Blocks 96-97.4% of UV rays
- UPF 40-50+: Blocks 97.5-98+% of UV rays
SUNSCREEN – Sun protective clothing is better at protecting your skin than sunscreen since it blocks both types of harmful UV rays, and you can be sure that you’re completely covered. With sunscreen, missed spots can lead to sunburns and skin damage, and you have to reapply it fairly frequently to be effective. We still usually apply a facial sunscreen when we’ll be out for long periods, but we generally avoid the smelly, greasy mess on the rest of our bodies.
OTHER SUN PROTECTIVE CLOTHING
Technical Fabric Care
MAINTENANCE- Repairing minor tears and holes or maintaining a bug repellent treatment on your sun shirt is easy and affordable to do on your own.
- Water – We don’t recommend adding a water repellent treatment to your sun protective clothing because it can affect the breathability of the fabric. Most sun shirts dry very quickly on their own.
- Bugs – To maintain or add bug repellency on your clothing we recommend Sawyer Permethrin Pump Spray. This treatment will repel and kill ticks, mosquitoes, mites, and chiggers. It lasts about 6 weeks or 6 washings before you need to reapply it.
- Tears/holes – To patch holes and tears, we recommend using Noso Patches. They don’t require any sewing or ironing, they can withstand repeated machine washes, and they’re UV protective and waterproof.
GENERAL CARE – Technical fabrics require some special care to keep them performing their best for years. You should always follow the washing directions on the tags carefully, but here are some general tips to follow:
- Use a front loading washer – The agitator in a top loading washer can be hard on seams and can snag zippers or drawstrings. Make sure you zip all the zippers and tie the drawstrings before washing to prevent wear and tear.
- Use a technical fabric wash – We recommend a gentle detergent, like Woolite, for washing technical fabrics.
- Only wash when you really need to – A lot of technical fabrics are designed to be antimicrobial and shouldn’t hold odors. Hiking clothing doesn’t necessarily need to be washed after every trip. We recommend giving your shirt time to air out thoroughly before giving it the smell test.
- Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets – Fabric softener and dryer sheets can deposit residue on the fabric and affect the overall performance.
- Hang dry when possible – Heat and agitation in the dryer can damage technical fabrics.
Need More Gear Advice?
If you liked this list, you’ll love the CleverHiker Gear Guide where we test and recommend tons of outdoor adventure gear from a variety of categories. here are some links to popular articles:
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We fully understand how tough it is to find trustworthy gear advice, and that’s one of the main reasons we built CleverHiker. We live for outdoor adventure, and we take these guides very seriously. Here are some of the reasons you can trust us:
- Our choices are completely independent and based on personal experience.
- We’ve logged over 10,000 trail miles and test outdoor gear for a living.
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