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, Idaho’s Sawtooths, 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 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.
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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Soft and Affordable
Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody
$59, 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 ($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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Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie
$80, 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, moosejaw.com, or backcountry.com, or other Life Active Solen tops at moosejaw.com.
Planning your next big adventure? See “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips”
and “The 25 Best National Park Dayhikes.”
Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoodie
$89, 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
$95, 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.
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22 thoughts on “The Best Sun Shirts of 2023”
I could be wrong, but Patagonia does not currently claim nor advertise UPF rating for Capilene Cool Daily and Tropic Comfort lines, since their ongoing voluntary 2021 recall of Capilene Cool Daily and Tropic Comfort lines, which did not meet the UPF 50+ rating claim. Their testing ranged 17-45 UPF, so I think writing that the hoody is UPF 50 is incorrect, especially since Patagonia no longer markets with UPF claim in their product description for those lines.
The unfortunate thing about many of these is that they snag and run too easily. The OR ActiveIce Spectrum titanium grey and navy blue seem to snag and run easier than the fatigue heather for some reason. Also interestingly, the fatigue heather weighs less than the both. I have in all three colors, and the fatigue heather weighs the least, followed by titanium grey, then navy blue. Pretty odd. I would opt for the fatigue heather in any of the OR ActiveIce Spectrum line (hoody, t-shirt, LS) since it weighs less and seems to snag/run less than the navy blue and titanium grey.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with these tops, Timbo.
Thanks for this great write up. It was really helpfull.
Arc’teryx came out with the Cormac Hoody, maybe you have any info on that one, too?
Grettings from Germany!
Hi and greetings to Germany, Steve. We have friends in Germany.
I have requested but not yet received the new Arc’teryx Cormac Hoodie. I’m eager to try it out and I expect that I’ll review it because it does look good: lightweight, very, breathable, good sun protection. Watch this review for an update.
What a killer write-up, thank you! I’m an avid trail runner based in Denver, CO, and I’m considering moving to a sun hoodie, especially for multi-hour, higher-altitude routes with more sun exposure. I’ve been eyeing the OR Echo and ActiveIce. In your opinion, which do you think will do a better job at a. breathing/ not over-heating in sunny/warm weather, and b. hood staying on your head while running or as wind kicks up?
The Echo and ActiveIce Spectrum hoodies are both great pieces. As you read in my reviews, I happened to test both in the Grand Canyon, where the sun and heat get intense. One big difference between them is that the Echo is quite light—the best choice for hot temps but it doesn’t offer much warmth. You could, of course, layer it. The ActiveIce is thick enough to provide some warmth but also remained comfortable as the temp rose and the sun got intense. For the Colorado Rockies, where you’ll likely hit a range of temperatures and have intense alpine sun, I’d lean toward the ActiveIce for its better range.
I hope that helps. Good luck.
Thanks for the reviews and list of sun hoodies. Great resource.
Q? How durable are these sun hoodies in the long term, particularly around the shoulders with a backpack?
Thanks for the compliment, I’m glad you find my blog helpful. The simple answer is that these sun shirts, like most outdoor apparel, will vary in durability largely proportionate to their weight; heavier fabric often lasts longer.
While I’ve owned and worn these models for varying amounts of time, I’ve generally seen little to no wear and tear on them and I only consider the OR Echo Hoody so light that long-term wear from backpack straps would affect the fabric. But the Echo is really made primarily for high exertion in sunny, hot conditions, like running or dayhiking; and the packs used for those sports are light enough to not likely affect that shirt much. For backpacking, I’d get one of the other models.
Thanks for the question.
The Best Sun Shirts of 2022. Best one for bugs mosquitoes?
They’re all basically the same: None repel insects but their coverage of your torso, arms, and head provide a lot of protection. Arguably, the heavier and thicker sun shirts are better than the lighter, thinner ones.
You need to look at Rayward Apparel.
Thanks for the suggestion. Rayward’s sun hoodie is over 10 ounces, which may be quite warm for being active; it looks more intended for leisure wear sun protection. It’s also nearly 50 percent cotton, which may make it more comfortable, but it would hold sweat.
which of those hoodies has the best odors control?
I have some good experiences with clothes that are treated with Polygiene (Millet t-shirts). It works after a 5 years.
Also, I bought Montane Dart long sleeve t-shirt treated with Polygiene, it worked for a while but after a few washes the Polygiene washed away and shirt stinks after one use.
Thanks and best regards!
These reviews and the complete reviews indicate which have some kind of odor control but I can tell you that I’ve used all of them numerous days and through numerous launderings and none have developed an odor yet. In my experience, higher-quality base layers are generally made to resist odor buildup these days.
Thanks for the info. Which is the best SPF protection hoodie you recommend when you are in the Florida hot summer days!
Well, five of the six reviewed here (all but the OR Echo Hoody) have a UPF rating of 50 or higher, so those all provide good sun protection. For high heat, I think you’d want one of the lighter ones, like the Mountain Hardwear or the Arc’teryx.
I’m a Boy Scout heading to Philmont soon and I’m in need of sun hoodies. Just read your review and loved the detail that you went into, other reviewers neglected to include some valuable information.
The temperatures at Philmont, northern New Mexico, can easily reach above 90 degrees. I recently purchased the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoodie and found it way too hot. It was extremely comfortable material wise but super hot. I am based on the East coast and used it in 85-degree weather. In the shade it was fine, but in the sun it was unbearable and I couldn’t imagine wearing it in the 90+-degree weather of New Mexico.
Do you have any recommendations for a sun hoody that would provide ample protection for the hot New Mexico sun but still stay cool enough for 90+-degree heat?
Thanks for writing and your question. I can see the Patagonia being warm for some people in hot temps. You should get one of the lightest-weight sun shirts in my review. The OR Echo Hoody is the lightest but also doesn’t have as high a UPF rating as the others—it’s best for aerobic activity like trail running.
I think you might prefer either the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Long-Sleeve Hoody or Arc’teryx Remige Hoody.
Thank you for your advice! I just purchased the Mountain Hardwear Crater
Lake, the Remige hoodie seemed a little warm. Really looking forward to wearing it.
Great choice, William. Have fun at Philmont.
Hey I did Philmont when I was younger it was awesome! I really like my NRS sunshirt and it’s lighter than my mountain hardwear. Also consider short sleeve and sunscreen if you tend to get hot. When I did Philmont the majority of us just used cotton scout shirts and they were fine. Really I’d recommend taking a light short sleeve shirt a hooded sun shirt, and definitely a change of clothes for when you get back after your first shower. Also a nice set of warm tights (, long johns) cause you can use them on cold nights in your bag and use them under your pants too if it gets chilly. Also look into a sleeping bag liner it’s awesome to travel with and keeps your sleeping bag from getting super funky/dirty. Make sure to wear those boots in too (or hiking shoes, I prefer boots) and if you can’t for some reason take some inner thin slippery stocks to keep from blistering. I messed up and took a super high capacity bag so while everyone else in the troop filled up their 45-70 liter bags I was filled up over 90 and I was a little dude .. anyways it went fast besides the pot I mostly had food. Good luck you’ll have a great time if you haven’t already.
Thanks, Baryn. I’ve looked at the sun shirts offered by NRS. I’m not sure which one you’re saying is lighter than a Mountain Hardwear model. I prefer a hoody to keep sun on your head, and the only NRS hoody is the Varial Hoodie, but it’s 12 ounces, much too warm for hiking; it’s described as best for fishing. The NRS Baja Shirt is only slightly lighter, at 11 ounces, too warm for hiking, lacks a hood, and is also probably best for fishing.
If you want a sun shirt for being active, I think any of the models in this review are much better choices.
I hope that’s helpful.