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 and John Muir 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 Hoodie
$69, 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 Hoodie. 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 100 percent recycled mesh polyester fabric with AirVent moisture management. 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.)
While the UPF 15 rating isn’t nearly as protective as some thicker sun shirts, 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 Hoodie 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, a a five-day, late-summer hike in the Wind River Range, and on August hike on the 96-mile Wind River High Route, the Crater Lake Hoody 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 most 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 either of these affiliate links to purchase a men’s or women’s Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Long-Sleeve Hoody at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com.
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Excellent Fit and Hood
Arc’teryx Remige Hoody
$89, 5.8 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
A nice balance of fit, comfort, lightweight fabric, and sun protection rank the Remige among the best in this review. I wore it nearly every hour on the trail throughout a four-day, roughly 50-mile, late-September backpacking trip in Yosemite, when we had mild to hot daytime temps and the Sierra alpine sun remained intense; and 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 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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Soft and Affordable
Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody
$55, 6 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-3XL, 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.
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. Patagonia originally rated the Cool Daily Hoody UPF 50+ but has since reported that testing confirmed a UPF range of 17 to 45, averaging 34 UPF, and announced a recall of specific products. The sun shirt still blocks UV rays: A garment rated UPF 17 blocks 92 percent of UV.
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
$75, 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 blocks cool wind a little better than lighter models and has proved itself on days of spring skiing under a warm sun in Utah’s Wasatch Range.
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, 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 Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie at hellyhansen.com, backcountry.com, or moosejaw.com, a women’s Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie at hellyhansen.com, or other Life Active Solen tops at moosejaw.com.
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Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoodie
$79, 7.2 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
Picking a best overall sun hoody admittedly seems dubious, given how similar they are. But I lived in this sun hoodie day after day on two trips that would prove or disprove the value of hot-weather layers like few environments can: for six sunny and hot days backpacking in the Grand Canyon in early April, in temps ranging from the 50s to the 80s F and rare shade, and backpacking nine days and over 120 miles, mostly on the John Muir Trail, under the wilting afternoon sun of the High Sierra in August. I also wore it under hot desert sun on several days of rock climbing and hiking around Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park in June and on other hot outings.
Although heavier than most, it’s one of the coolest and most comfortable. Carrying a backpack uphill under a blazing sun and temps in the 80s, I found the ActiveIce Hoodie comfortable enough to keep the hood up. The natural performance of the breathable, wicking, fast-drying, and stretchy 94 percent polyester fabric is amplified by the ActiveIce treatment, a USDA-certified biobased, vegetable oil-derived polymer that absorbs heat energy, producing a cooling sensation that continues as long as your body generates perspiration. OR reports the fabric cools by up to 5.4° F/3° C.
It’s rated UPF 50+—but just as critically, the shirt provides great coverage, with its deep hood that shades your face and long sleeves that don’t ride up when reaching overhead, plus thumb holes. The fit is comfortably loose and flat seams feel good under pack straps. Lastly, the heavier weight will likely prove more durable—especially for abusive activities like climbing.
Best For: Cool, comfortable, fast-drying and durable, with a nice hood, the Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoodie is ideal for dayhiking, backpacking, climbing, fishing, or paddling.
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 ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoodie at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or outdoorresearch.com and other ActiveIce apparel pieces at outdoorresearch.com.
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Warm-to-Cool Weather Favorite
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.
BD’s Alpenglow Pro Hoody ($120, 6.7 oz.) also has the UPF 50+ rating but adds an Empel environmentally friendly PFC-free water-repellant finish, a front quarter-zip, underarm mesh panels, a concealed chest pocket, thumb loops, and an over-the-helmet hood—and it’s lighter.
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, or the men’s or women’s Alpenglow Pro 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.
And don’t miss my picks for “The Best Backpacking Gear” of the year.