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, backcountry skiing in spring, and on backpacking trips from trails around Idaho to Zion, the Teton Crest Trail, the Grand Canyon, and other places where the sun sometimes gets too hot. My experience includes over three decades of hiking, backpacking, climbing, and backcountry skiing, and more than a quarter-century of testing and reviewing outdoors gear and apparel as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine for 10 years and many years running this blog.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside, which has made several top outdoors blog lists. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip. Please follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.


 

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 a 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
Testing the Outdoor Research Echo Hoody in the Grand Canyon.

Lightest Sun Shirt

Lightest Sun Shirt
Outdoor Research Echo Hoody
$65, 4.5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XXS-XL
backcountry.com

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 tightens with drawstrings to fit snugly around your head (and under a helmet). The flat-seam construction feels smooth under pack shoulder straps, the cuffs fold over to convert to mitts—of dubious value for a hot-weather piece, but perhaps occasionally useful—and the fabric is treated to prevent odors.

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 by clicking any of these 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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The Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Long Sleeve Hoody.
Testing the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Long Sleeve Hoody in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve.

Light, Comfortable Sun Shirt

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
backcountry.com

As the June sun beat down on us while rock climbing and hiking with heavy climbing packs in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park, I stayed cool and comfortable even with the hood of the Crater Lake Hoody up much of the time.

The second-lightest hoody on this list, its polyester and elastane fabric feels smooth and soft against skin and 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 the deepest hood 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 and ultimate sun protection, 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 by clicking this link to purchase a men’s or women’s Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Long-Sleeve Hoody at backcountry.com.

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The Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody.
Testing the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody in the Grand Canyon.

Most Comfortable Sun Shirt

Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody
$55, 6 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s and women’s XS-XXL
backcountry.com

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 non-adjustable 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 by clicking any of these 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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The Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie.
Testing the Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve.

Super Versatility

Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie
$70, 7 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

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 by clicking any of these 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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The Black Diamond Long-Sleeve Alpenglow Hoody.
Testing the Black Diamond Long-Sleeve Alpenglow Hoody on the Teton Crest Trail.

Most Protective Sun Shirt

Black Diamond Long Sleeve Alpenglow Hoody
$85, 7.5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

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 by clicking any of these links to purchase a men’s or women’s Black Diamond Long Sleeve Alpenglow Hoody at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or blackdiamondequipment.com.

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