By Michael Lanza
Whether backpacking, dayhiking, climbing, trail running, fishing, paddling, or active outdoors in myriad other ways, sun protection becomes critical not only for preventing skin cancer, but also because the hot sun can wear you down and exacerbate the effects of heat, elevation, and dehydration—especially in the mountains and desert.
While there are a variety of styles of sun shirts, for active pursuits in warm to hot temperatures, nothing really beats a lightweight, breathable hoody for maximum protection and keeping you cool—while adding minimal weight and bulk to your kit. This review spotlights the best sun shirt hoodies.
I’ve tested these hoodies dayhiking, trail running, rock climbing, paddling rivers, backcountry skiing in spring, and on backpacking trips from trails around Idaho to Zion, the Teton Crest Trail, the Grand Canyon, Wind River Range, High Uintas Wilderness, Ruby Crest Trail, and other places where the sun sometimes gets too hot. While they are designed to keep you cool under hot sun, the hoods can provide just the right amount of added warmth when moving in cool temps and wind, too.
My experience includes over three decades of hiking, backpacking, climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing, and more than a quarter-century of testing and reviewing outdoors gear and apparel as a past lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine for 10 years and many years running this blog.
Whatever your modes of play outdoors, I think you’ll find one of these sun hoodies ideal for you—plus you’ll find some at good prices now and links to online retailers below. The reviews are arranged from lightest to heaviest. Purchasing one of these hoodies through any affiliate link below supports my work on this blog (without costing you more). Thanks for that.
If you have a question for me or a comment on this review, please make it in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments.
Outdoor Research Echo Hoody
$65, 4.5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XXS-XL
While there’s no better sun protection than covering your skin, some sun shirts get too warm when you’re exerting in hot temps. Enter OR’s Echo Hoody. I’ve worn it while backpacking in sweltering heat in the Grand Canyon, in warm sunshine dayhiking in Zion National Park, rock climbing under a hot sun in Idaho’s City of Rocks, on trails runs in intense sunshine—and on a 21-mile, 11,000-vertical-foot, one-day, rim-to-rim run-hike across the Grand Canyon.
It’s the coolest and fastest-drying sun shirt I’ve used, thanks to the super light, fast-wicking AirVent fabric. The hood fits snugly around your head (and under a helmet). The flat-seam construction feels smooth under pack shoulder straps and thumb holes hold the cuffs over your hands for added sun protection. Plus, the fabric is treated to prevent odors. (The collar drawstrings shown in the above photo have been eliminated from the hoody’s latest version.)
Bummer: The UPF 15 rating isn’t as protective as some thicker sun shirts. But those other sun shirts are also too warm for high exertion in hot sun and temps.
Best For: The uber-light, fast-drying Outdoor Research Echo Hoody is best for high-exertion activities like trail running and hiking in hot temps.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a men’s or women’s Outdoor Research Echo Hoody at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or outdoorresearch.com.
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Light and Comfortable
Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Long-Sleeve Hoody
$65 (women’s $60), 5.5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
Wearing it under a hot sun from rock climbing and hiking with heavy climbing packs in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and City of Rocks National Reserve to backpacking Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness, Nevada’s Ruby Crest Trail, and the 96-mile Wind River High Route, the Crater Lake Hoody became my go-to sun shirt and kept me cool and comfortable even with the hood up much of the time.
Among the lightest hoodies on this list, its polyester and elastane fabric feels lighter than all but the OR Echo Hoody and smooth and soft against skin. It also wicks moisture quickly: Hiking with a pack loaded with climbing gear under a hot sun, I sweated but the shirt never got very wet. With very stretchy fabric, this shirt fits closely and yet easily pulls over a short-sleeve base layer, and one of the deepest hoods on this list stays put even in strong wind—and helps this sun shirt protect me from annoying mosquitoes, as it did on a buggy, six-day backpacking trip in Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness in mid-July. A UPF 50+ rating translates to maximum sun protection—impressive for this light fabric.
Arm gussets and dropped shoulders allow for maximum range of motion when reaching high while climbing. The men’s version has thumbholes at the cuffs and the women’s has drawcord ties at the hem.
Best For: Light, quick to dry, with great fit and comfort, ultimate sun protection, and a deep hood, the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Long-Sleeve Hoody offers great versatility for almost any activity in warm to hot temps.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a men’s or women’s Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Long-Sleeve Hoody at backcountry.com.
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Arc’teryx Remige Hoody
$89, 5.8 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
Picking a best overall sun hoody admittedly seems a little dubious, given how similar they are in design, but there’s much to recommend the Remige for that title. I wore it from early morning to sunset—for over 12 hours every day while exposed to direct sunshine—on a six-day rafting and kayaking trip on the Green River through Desolation and Gray canyons in southern Utah, in hot June desert temps and sun, and felt cool and comfortable the entire time.
Designed for hiking, climbing, and other active pursuits but also suitable for paddling or fishing in hot weather, it has a lightweight, breathable, wicking, stretchy polyester fabric that’s marginally heavier than Hardwear’s Crater Lake Hoody—good for a wide range of temps—and rated UPF 50+ for maximum sun protection. The hood’s secure fit and depth is matched only by the Crater Lake Hoody, extending out over the forehead to help keep sun off your face; it stayed in place even while paddling through hours of strong headwinds on the Green River. The hood also delivered a just-enough boost of warmth wearing it over other base layers for much of a rainy, cool, windy, three-day backpacking trip in the Wind River Range. Thumb loops hold the sleeves in place over the back of your hands and the low-profile seams and fairly loose, regular fit render high comfort for hours a day.
Best For: Light, quick-drying, with great fit and comfort, an excellent hood, and maximum sun protection, the Arc’teryx Remige Hoody is a top pick for almost any activity in a wide range of temps.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a men’s or women’s Arc’teryx Remige Hoody at backcountry.com.
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Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody
$55, 6 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s and women’s XS-XXL
On back-to-back, 21-mile and 23.5-mile, rim-to-rim dayhikes across the Grand Canyon over two days in October, and on a six-day backpacking trip elsewhere in the Grand Canyon, the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody protected me from the relentlessly oppressive sun and kept me cool in temps into the 70s Fahrenheit.
Rated UPF 50, the 100 percent recycled, loose-fitting, stretchy polyester fabric moved with my body, got damp but never wet with sweat, and stayed cool with the hood up when I hiked under a hot sun in the Grand Canyon. The hood shades your face and has a loose fit that causes it to get pulled off your head in moderate wind. But it doesn’t, of course, get blown off when under a climbing helmet or any kind of hat.
The minimal seams reduce rubbing and chafing and the Polygiene odor control keeps the stink at bay. While it got a bit too warm when I was hiking uphill in temps in the 70s, especially with the hood up, it’s good for hiking in mild temps, and certainly for climbing, fishing, and paddling.
Best For: A super all-around sun shirt, the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody and Patagonia Long-Sleeved Capilene Cool Daily Shirt ($45) have the versatility and comfort for everything from dayhiking and backpacking to climbing and fishing.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a Patagonia men’s or women’s Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody at backcountry.com or patagonia.com, or a men’s or women’s Patagonia Long-Sleeved Capilene Cool Daily Shirt at backcountry.com or patagonia.com.
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Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie
$70, 7 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
Wearing the Solen Hoodie on local hikes and rock climbing at Idaho’s Castle Rocks State Park under a hot spring sun, I immediately loved the athletic yet free-moving fit—especially the hood, which may have the best, closest fit of them all, moving with my turning head and staying in place even in wind, although that also prevents moving air from cooling your head.
The Solen’s stretch Lifa fabric wicks moisture away, dries very quickly, and feels comfortable alone or over a short-sleeve T-shirt in a wide range of temps, from mild with wind to the 70s; I only found it too warm when the thermometer bumped into the upper 70s. Conversely, because it’s a little heavier than many other sun shirts, it shields you from hot sun and blocks cool wind a little better than lighter models.
With a UPF 50+ rating, it delivers maximum sun protection. The fabric also resists building up a stink after multiple uses and launderings.
Best For: Slightly heavier and more durable than most sun shirts, and yet cool and comfortable in heat, the Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie offers superior comfort and a close-fitting hood for dayhiking, backpacking, climbing and other moderate-exertion activities in a wide range of temperatures.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a men’s or women’s Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com.
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Cool Fabric, Nice Hood
The North Face North Dome Sun Hoodie
$89, 7 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XL, women’s XS-XL
On dayhikes of 11 to 12 miles with 1,500 feet to 2,500 feet of up and down in my local Boise Foothills, on August days in temps that began warm and got hot with virtually no shade, the North Dome Sun Hoodie’s wicking and quick-drying, grid-knit FlashDry-XD fabric felt lighter and cooler than its weight suggests—only growing warm when the temp climbed into the 80s Fahrenheit. It felt cool with the hood over my head most of the time; and the pre-tensioned, under-the-helmet hood has a subtle brim for better shading and doesn’t blow off your head.
I also wore it under a short-sleeve dry top and PFD, with the hood up under my helmet, for about three hours of whitewater kayaking a section of Idaho’s Payette River under a hot sun on an afternoon when the temp topped 90.
Details like bonded seams, taped shoulder seams, underarm gussets, and no side seams enhance comfort wearing a pack or climbing harness. The UPF 30 rating is lower than similar sun shirts but still a high level of sun protection, while the high collar improves coverage.
Best For: Durable yet fast-drying and cool, with a nicely fitted hood, The North Face North Dome Hoodie covers you comfortably whether dayhiking, backpacking, climbing, fishing, paddling, or working in your yard.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking this affiliate link to purchase a men’s or women’s The North Face North Dome Sun Hoodie at backcountry.com. For lower-exertion level activities like fishing, get The North Face’s Wander Sun Hoodie ($50), with UPF 50 rating, but weighing over 10 ounces, at backcountry.com.
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Black Diamond Long Sleeve Alpenglow Hoody
$85, 7.5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
From three long days backpacking a 36-mile traverse of the Teton Crest Trail in late August, to backcountry skiing in under a hot spring sun reflected off the snow, and a 21-mile, 11,000-vertical-foot, one-day, rim-to-rim run-hike across the Grand Canyon (in temps that never got oppressively hot), this sun shirt surprised me with how cool it feels for its density and weight, in temps as warm as the 60s backpacking and the 70s hiking (mostly downhill) in the canyon.
While heavy enough to earn a UPF 50+ rating for sun protection, the fabric proved impressively cool enough that I wore it comfortably for hours in the Grand Canyon and for three straight days of alpine sun and moderate temps on the Teton Crest Trail. BD says the fabric reflects 71 percent of near-infrared rays and actually cools your skin. The loose-fitting hood fits under a helmet comfortably, the sleeves allow for excellent range of motion for climbing, and Polygiene treatment minimizes odors.
Best For: Given its weight, the BD Long Sleeve Alpenglow Hoody is best suited to moderate-exertion activities like climbing and hiking in warm to cool temps.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a men’s or women’s Black Diamond Long Sleeve Alpenglow Hoody at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or blackdiamondequipment.com.
See my picks for “The Best Ultralight Hiking and Running Jackets,” “The Best Running Hydration Vests,” “The 10 Best Hiking Daypacks” and all of my reviews of hiking gear and backpacking gear at The Big Outside.
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