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 and Wind River Range, Arizona’s Aravaipa Canyon and a section of the Arizona Trail, the High Uintas Wilderness and Ruby Crest Trail, Idaho’s Sawtooths, and many 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 even longer 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.
Two Most Breathable
Himali Riverstone Eclipse Sun Hoodie
$80, 4 oz./113.4g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL
Nothing like honest-to-goodness New England humidity to test base layers. I sweated hard into the Riverstone Eclipse Sun Hoodie hiking up steep, rocky trails on a two-day, 21-mile hut trek in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range, with about 6,000 cumulative feet of elevation gain and loss each day, and this shirt dried quickly and remained comfortable once we reached the breezy mountain tops. I also wore it on trail runs up to 10 miles in my local foothills on sunny days in the high 70s F; on a nearly eight-mile dayhike to Lake Agnes and the Plain of the Six Glaciers in Canada’s Banff National Park on a hot, sunny afternoon; and under a fleece layer for several hours of spring backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, with temps from around freezing to the mid-30s and a hot sun reflecting off snow; after getting damp with sweat skinning uphill, the light, the wicking fabric dried quickly under a breathable shell jacket when skiing downhill.
The hood’s ideal depth provides good face shading without drooping over my eyes; it fits over a billed cap, never blew off my head, and kept me cooler in hot sun. The UPF 20 rating, while lower than that of heavier sun shirts, still means the fabric blocks 95 percent of UV light. The enveloping pocket, with an overlapping-flap closure, is good for a key or other small, light item, but a phone doesn’t fit and would be too heavy and bounce around.
Best For: The uber-light, fast-drying Himali Riverstone Eclipse Sun 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 this affiliate link to purchase a Riverstone Eclipse Sun Hoodie at himali.com. Readers of The Big Outside get an exclusive 10 percent off their Himali purchase by using the discount code THEBIGOUTSIDE.
Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie
$75, 4.5 oz./127.6g (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 one of the coolest and fastest-drying sun shirts 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 ultralight, 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./155.9g (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, plus kayaking the whitewater of Idaho’s Payette River under a hot August sun, 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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Soft and Affordable
Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody
$65, 6 oz./170.1g (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 ($49) 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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Warm-to-Cool Weather Option
Arc’teryx Motus AR Hoody
$99, 6.5 oz./184.3g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL
While designed for moderate to cool temps, the Arc’teryx Motus AR Hoody remained surprisingly comfortable in the heat, considering its weight and dense fabric: Wearing it backpacking for three days on a section of the Arizona Trail along the Gila River in the first days of April, with little breeze and virtually no respite from the intense sunshine and daytime temps from the 50s to mid-70s Fahrenheit, I was able to hike much of the time with the hood up and the sleeves not pulled up, without the Motus getting more than just damp from sweat in predictable areas (back, underarms).
The Phasic AR II polyester stretch fabric—rated UPF 50+, the highest sun-protection rating—wicks moisture well and feels soft against skin. The athletic fit allows for a light T-shirt underneath and moves with your body, making it ideal for a range of activities from high-exertion sports like running and spring skiing in cool temps and sunshine to hiking and climbing in moderate to cool temps. The under-the-helmet hood finds a nice fit balance: close enough to move with your head when turning it side to side and avoid getting blown off by wind without feeling tight. The sleeves have thumb loops for covering the backs of your hands.
Best For: While surprisingly fine on warm days, the Arc’teryx Motus AR Hoody is best suited to moderate to cool temps and low- to moderate-exertion activities, like climbing and fishing, in conditions when you want a little warmth from a sun shirt (which explains the black color option).
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 an Arc’teryx Motus AR Hoody at featheredfriends.com.
Two Super Versatile Sun Hoodies
Beyond Clothing Geo-T Hooded L.S. Shirt
$80, 7 oz./198.4g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s and women’s S-XXL
Almost by definition, a sun hoodie is something you will probably wear in a big range of temperatures. Beyond’s Geo-T Hooded L.S. Shirt kept me just about perfectly comfortable as my only top layer throughout a sunny, early-July day of hiking and rock climbing in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, when the temps went from the low 50s Fahrenheit in the morning to the 70s, under a nuclear sun, by late afternoon. That included hiking with my climbing pack, with the hood up for a touch of extra warmth in the morning and for protection from the hot sun and 70s heat in late afternoon; and while climbing in the cool shade of morning as well as in the hot afternoon sun with the hood up under my helmet.
Similarly, it was my only top layer for much of an 18-mile, 7,300-foot, 13-hour, partly off-trail, four-summit dayhike with my 23-year-old son in the Wasatch Range in early October, with a warm alpine sun. I also wore it trail running under a hot July sun in my local foothills, in temps that rose from around 60 to over 70, remaining comfortable even with the hood up; and throughout three days backpacking the Nigel, Cataract, and Cline Passes Route in the White Goat Wilderness in the Canadian Rockies in early August, where this hoodie only felt a little too hot when afternoon temps pushed above 70 under a hot sun and a backpack. The hood, while not as deep as some other hoodies, gives good coverage and fits closely enough to turn with my head and not get blown off, partly because the fabric grips hair or a running cap. The shirt’s UPF 50+ rating means it delivers maximum sun protection.
This shirt feels lighter than its weight suggests. The soft, breathable Honeycomb knit polyester fabric did not irritate nipples while running and wicks and dries quickly after I stop running and do a little stretching in the parking lot. The four-way stretch in both the fabric and the seams improves durability and helps the trim fit feel casual but not baggy. Thumb loops inside the cuffs bring the sleeves over the backs of your hands and antimicrobial treatment combats odors.
Best For: Comfortable in a wide range of temperatures and from cool shade to blazing sun, the Beyond Clothing Geo-T Hooded L.S. Shirt offers excellent comfort and a nicely fitted hood for dayhiking, backpacking, trail running, climbing, and other moderate-exertion activities.
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 Beyond Clothing Geo-T Hooded L.S. Shirt at beyondclothing.com, a women’s Beyond Clothing Geo-T Hooded L.S. Shirt at beyondclothing.com, a men’s Beyond Clothing Geo-T Crew L.S. Shirt at beyondclothing.com, a women’s Beyond Clothing Geo-T Crew L.S. Shirt at beyondclothing.com.
Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie
$75, 7 oz./198.4g (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 or moosejaw.com, a women’s Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie at hellyhansen.com, or other Life Active Solen tops at moosejaw.com.
Planning your next big adventure? See “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips”
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Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoodie
$89, 7.2 oz./204.1g (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 backpacking the three-day, 22-mile Boulder Mail Trail-Death Hollow Loop in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in early October and on several days of rock climbing and hiking around Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park in June, as well as 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 Option
Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody
$95, 7.5 oz./212.6g (men’s medium)
Black Diamond Alpenglow Pro Hoody
$120, 8.5 oz./241g (men’s medium)
Sizes (both): men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
From three full 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), the Alpenglow Hoody surprised me with how cool it feels for its weight, in temps as warm as the 60s Fahrenheit backpacking and the 70s hiking in the canyon. BD says the 87 percent polyester fabric reflects 71 percent of near-infrared rays and actually cools your skin.
The Alpenglow Pro kept me comfortable on various outings, including a seven-day, nearly 70-mile, mostly sunny backpacking trip in Glacier National Park; three days of backpacking the Skyline Trail in Canada’s Jasper National Park; dayhiking in Banff National Park, even under a hot sun hiking a steep 3,400 feet uphill on the Cory Pass-Edith Pass loop in Banff; and a weekend of rock climbing in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, with moderate early-fall temps and warm sunshine.
On trail runs up to two hours in my local foothills on days when the temp climbed from the mid-50s in early morning into the 70s by the time I finished, with a blazing sun and virtually no shade, I liked opening the front quarter-zip to vent, although the light bouncing and wind generated by running is enough to push the hood off my head when the zipper is down because it leaves the collar wide open (not usually a problem when hiking). The hood stays up with the shirt zipped up. The 92 percent nylon stretch fabric never felt too warm for those temps even as I sweated heavily and is soft enough that I didn’t get any nipple irritation.
Both hoodies have a UPF 50+ rating for sun protection, a fit and sleeves that allow full range of motion for climbing, and odor-minimizing treatments. The Alpenglow’s loose-fitting hood fits under a helmet comfortably, while the Alpenglow Pro has an elasticized hood that fits over a helmet. Besides the quarter-zip, the Pro also adds underarm mesh panels, a concealed chest pocket, thumb loops, and an Empel environmentally friendly PFC-free water-repellant finish.
Best For: The BD Alpenglow Hoody and Alpenglow Pro Hoody are best suited to moderate- to high-exertion activities like trail running, hiking, and climbing in a range of temps from cool to warm but not excessive heat.
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 Alpenglow Hoody or Alpenglow Pro Hoody at backcountry.com or blackdiamondequipment.com.
Don’t Forget Anything Important! See “An Essentials-Only Backpacking Gear Checklist.”
Cool and Comfortable Fit
The North Face Belay Sun Hoodie
$90, 7.7 oz./218.3g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XXL
You’d expect the heaviest sun hoodie in this review to feel too warm—not so. The Belay Sun Hoodie kept me cooler than some of the lighter hoodies in this review, giving me all-day comfort on a three-day backpacking trip in the first week of April in Arizona’s Aravaipa Canyon, with constant hot sunshine (though with patches of shade) and daytime temps into the mid-70s Fahrenheit; as well as while hiking and rock climbing in hot June sunshine and temps in the 60s at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park. It also kept the hot sun off me while kayaking the whitewater of Idaho’s Payette River under a hot August sun. TNF’s lightweight, grid-knit, 100 percent recycled, very breathable and moisture-wicking FlashDry-XD fabric surprised me with how cool and comfortable it feels, considering its weight—I hiked constantly in hot sun and temps into the 70s Fahrenheit in Aravaipa and hardly broke a sweat. I like the slightly relaxed fit and softness of it.
The fabric carries a UPF 40+ rating for sun protection and has an extended collar. The hoodie’s taped shoulder seams kept it comfortable under a full backpack for hours a day and the hem extends well below the waist and any pack or climbing harness belt. The flat-sewn, elasticized cuffs slide up over elbows easily when desired and have thumb loops to stretch the sun coverage over your hands.
One caveat: Some people will find the under-the-helmet hood too deep. I have a large head and very short hair and the hood sometimes slips down over my eyes unless I wear a billed cap with the hood pulled up over it; but that’s not a problem for me because I always wear a billed cap with a sun hoody in hot sun and temps. The fabric also clings just enough to hair to prevent it from slipping over your eyes.
Best For: With a light, cool, comfortable feel and fast-drying fabric, The North Face Belay Sun Hoodie is best suited to moderate-exertion activities like backpacking, dayhiking, climbing, fishing, or paddling 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 The North Face Belay Sun Hoodie at backcountry.com or a women’s The North Face Belay Sun Hoodie at backcountry.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.