REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie Review
Cons: Lack of pockets, no front zipper
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie
$49.95 at REI
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|Pros||Incredibly comfortably, stretchy fabric, top-notch hood with hidden cinch strap, reinforced thumb loops||Off-trail style, dobbyweave fabric wears well, ideal length, good overall sun protection||Great value, lightweight, very breathable, looks good off-trail, excellent comfort||Inexpensive, bombproof, great coverage and sun protection||Comfortable, good sun coverage, versatile, water-ready, lightweight|
|Cons||Lack of pockets, no front zipper||Tight in the yoke, expensive, not as breathable as some competitors||Only UPF 40, doesn't pack as well as others, difficult sleeve-capture tabs||Durability comes at the cost of breathability, heavier than other hooded sunshirts||Not as durable as some options, too minimal for some|
|Bottom Line||An excellent hooded sunshirt with a great balance of sun protection, breathability, and features||Comfortable with a great balance of features and functionality, this shirt is great on and off-trail||Good-looking and a decent price, this shirt floats around the torso and has a smart selection of features||A great journeyman sun shirt, packing value that anyone can easily justify||Comfortable and an ideal every-day summer wardrobe choice, this is a versatile and cooling hoody|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op Sahara Sh...||Mountain Hardwear C...||Columbia Silver Rid...||Baleaf UPF 50 Hoody||Patagonia Capilene...|
|Comfort and Fit (30%)|
|Sun Protection (25%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op Sahara Sh...||Mountain Hardwear C...||Columbia Silver Rid...||Baleaf UPF 50 Hoody||Patagonia Capilene...|
|Sun Protection Level (UPF)||50||50||40||50+||34|
|Coverage||Long sleeve, hood||Long sleeve, collar||Long sleeve, collar||Long sleeve, hood||Long sleeve, hood|
|Features||Thumb loops, anit-microbial treated fabric||Roll-up sleeves, zip pockets||Roll-up sleeves, anit-microbial treated fabric||Large hood for added protection||Large hood for added protection|
|Material||92% polyester, 8% spandex||Polyester dobby fabric||Omni-Wick Ripstop 100% polyester||100% Polyester||100% polyester|
|Odor Control?||Antimicrobial treatment||No||Antimicrobial treatment||No||Polygiene|
|Available SIzes||S - XXXL||S-XXL||S-XXL||S-3XL||XS - XXXL|
Our Analysis and Test Results
As soon as you discover the hidden cinch strap on the Sahara Shade that keeps the hood from blowing off, any other hooded sun shirt available seems to be missing an absolutely critical feature. But the Sahara delivers this and so much more. We can't (we won't!) stop talking about just how soft and stretchy the UPF 50+ rated fabric is. The excellent fabric and hood, loose fit, long sleeves, and well-designed thumb loops kept us covered up and well protected. This is also one of the lighter sun shirts in our arsenal, helped by the absence of pockets or a front zipper.
Comfort and Fit
The superpower of the Sahara Shade may be just how thin, soft, and stretchy the 50 UPF+ fabric is. The fabric is a similar polyester material to the majority of sun shirts we've tested, but it feels much dreamier. You'll find the Sahara's fit to be on the looser side, which allows air to easily circulate throughout the shirt rather than be trapped inside, keeping you cool while still keeping you covered.
We believe that the 8% spandex blend added to the polyester is responsible for just how stretchable you'll find this shirt. This boils down to an upper with no tight pinch points that moves with your body rather than trying to fight it. The generous 27.25" center back length on the men's large allows the shirt to cover your lower back, whether you're bending down to grab something from your pack on the ground or reaching up for a distant handhold. The hood is also exceptionally accommodating to all sizes of heads, helmeted or not, and the hidden cinch strap lets you keep the hood in its place, no matter how much the wind picks up.
Hallmarks that we love seeing when it comes to sun protection are found in abundance on the REI Sahara Shade, starting with the foundational UPF 50+ fabric that will block ~98% of the sun's potentially harmful rays from even reaching your skin.
One of the best hood designs we've tested, the generous hood rises up close to the chin and can also be cinched down over your forehead and ears. Comfortable thumb loops make it easy to keep the long sleeves covering your arms up to your knuckles.
Great sun protection sometimes comes at the cost of breathability, but we found the Sahara Shade Hoodie to have a good compromise between the two. The fabric's tight-knit is one of the keys to its sun protection, but the fabric itself is lightweight when compared to other shirts we've tested.
Although the shirt does not come with a front zipper, we didn't find ourselves wanting this feature. The loose cut keeps the air flowing around your body and allows heat to escape from underneath the shirt — and with it, excess heat.
Although subjective, we found the dusty colorways really appealing and feel this shirt wouldn't seem out of place either on or off the trail, while eating lunch at home, or grabbing a beer after work. The fabric does change in tone when wet, so if you're an enthusiastic sweater, it may be more apparent than with other shirts. Thankfully, the thin fabric dries quickly, so any sweat not trapped by something like a backpack should evaporate away easily with even a slight breeze.
A lack of pockets may be a deal-breaker if you absolutely need a place to keep keys, a passport, or other valuables. As a strict travel shirt, we found the super soft fabric super comfy and something we could dream of seeing ourselves in while catching a few zzz's at the airport awaiting our flight.
This wouldn't be the shirt we'd reach for with just any activity — something especially strenuous may exceed absolute comfort as there isn't a front zip to get rid of heat quickly. But for most activities, including a long thru-hike, the Sahara does hit that sweet spot of not looking too technical while still giving you those sun protection benefits. We found the advertised antimicrobial treatment did its job — perhaps good enough for you to wait a few days to hit up a laundromat on your off day. Ultralight aficionados will be happy with the 229-gram weigh-in for a men's size large.
We need to applaud one last detail: branding is kept to the tiniest of tags on the side of the shirt. We don't necessarily want to be a billboard for the brands we purchase from, and some brands definitley make us feel that way.
Our harsh durability test may have revealed the only real weakness we can find with the Sahara. The thin, stretchy fabric didn't take to the abuse we gave it as well as we hoped. Because of this, we wouldn't suggest this shirt for the harshest of uses. If you're on the lookout for something to wear while off-width climbing in Vedauwoo or canyoneering in southern Utah, you may want to consider other options.
In real-world tests, including volunteering at trail building days, we found the Sahara Shade proved more than tough enough. Day-to-day wear from hiking, warehouse working, cycling, and washing was kept to a minimum, which we're pleased to see. All stitching survived our day-to-day adventures. Since the fabric contains spandex, it's suggested you air dry the shirt to keep the stretch nature of the fabric in tact.
Many of the most important sun-protecting features we've come to expect from the apogee of shirts we've tested are also found in the Sahara Shade Hoodie. First and most important is the UPF 50+ fabric used throughout. UPF 50+ is as high as the rating goes, and we're confident this rating reflects what you'll find when using this in the real world. Couple this fabric with a generous hood with cinch and reinforced thumb loops, and the Sahara will help keep you from getting burned.
The hood's cinch straps need an extra nod, as it's absolutely the standout feature when it comes to this shirt. Being absolutely sure your hood stays on while covering your head no matter how windy it may get allows you to focus on other more important things like the beautiful scenery in front of you or that big catch on the other end of your line.
What you won't find on the Sahara are any pockets or zippers. If being able to open up your sun shirt to quickly regulate body heat is of vital importance, consider choosing a different shirt. We didn't find this too much of a problem — the loose fit and the fabric's stretchiness worked well to keep us ventilated without the need for a front zipper.
The Sahara Shade Hoodie packs a ton of the features we love to see in a shirt made to protect you from getting too much sun exposure. Because it does that job exceedingly well, this hoodie is a great asset to your skin's health and thus a great value for what you get.
The REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie, featuring a light, thin, extremely stretchy, and highly protective 50+ UPF rated fabric, just kept getting better the closer we looked at it. An outstanding hood with an out-of-the-way cinch and reinforced thumb loops keeps you covered up, while the loose fit keeps you cool. Minimal branding allows you to match this shirt with a myriad of activities, and the antimicrobial treatment helps you jump right from one to another. Bravo, REI.
— Justin Simoni
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