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REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie Review

An excellent hooded sunshirt with a great balance of sun protection, breathability, and features
rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review
Credit: REI Co-op
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $50 List | $49.95 at REI
Pros:  Incredibly comfortably, stretchy fabric, top-notch hood with hidden cinch strap, reinforced thumb loops
Cons:  Lack of pockets, no front zipper
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Justin Simoni ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 19, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 14
  • Comfort and Fit - 30% 9.0
  • Sun Protection - 25% 8.0
  • Breathability - 20% 7.0
  • Versatility - 15% 8.0
  • Durability - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

Fabric as soft as your favorite lived-in t-shirt is not a trick so easily pulled off by a technical piece of gear –- the REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie must then be magic. We were impressed from the first time we wore this shirt at just how comfy it is and delighted by the fabric’s superbly high UPF 50+ sun protection rating. The antimicrobial treatment helps keep you smelling fresh, and breathability is astounding, not the least because of the lightweight and stretchy fabric. Standout details of this hoodie include a hidden cinch strap that keeps the hood on in even super high winds and reinforced thumb loops to keep your arms protected up to your knuckles. This could be the perfect hooded sun shirt for any but the most extreme environments.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $50 List
$49.95 at REI
$41.24 at Amazon
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Pros Incredibly comfortably, stretchy fabric, top-notch hood with hidden cinch strap, reinforced thumb loopsOff-trail style, dobbyweave fabric wears well, ideal length, good overall sun protectionGreat value, lightweight, very breathable, looks good off-trail, excellent comfortInexpensive, bombproof, great coverage and sun protectionComfortable, good sun coverage, versatile, water-ready, lightweight
Cons Lack of pockets, no front zipperTight in the yoke, expensive, not as breathable as some competitorsOnly UPF 40, doesn't pack as well as others, difficult sleeve-capture tabsDurability comes at the cost of breathability, heavier than other hooded sunshirtsNot as durable as some options, too minimal for some
Bottom Line An excellent hooded sunshirt with a great balance of sun protection, breathability, and featuresComfortable with a great balance of features and functionality, this shirt is great on and off-trailGood-looking and a decent price, this shirt floats around the torso and has a smart selection of featuresA great journeyman sun shirt, packing value that anyone can easily justifyComfortable 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%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Sun Protection (25%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
Breathability (20%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
Versatility (15%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Durability (10%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
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
Fit Relaxed Regular Regular Relaxed Relaxed
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.

Performance Comparison


rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - the sahara shade's well thought out design, features, and fabric...
The Sahara Shade's well thought out design, features, and fabric choice make it a great choice for a variety of jobs.
Credit: Tagg Jefferson

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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - the loose fit allows your body to move freely within the shirt and...
The loose fit allows your body to move freely within the shirt and facilitates air circulation.
Credit: Justin Simoni

Sun Protection


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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - the hood's hidden cinch strap does an excellent job keeping it as...
The hood's hidden cinch strap does an excellent job keeping it as tight as you prefer around your head.
Credit: Justin Simoni

Breathability


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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - the sahara shade's tight knit fabric is responsible for much of the...
The Sahara Shade's tight knit fabric is responsible for much of the awesome UPF 50+ protection rating.
Credit: Justin Simoni

Versatility


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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - when wet, the shirt will change in tone fairly drastically, but we...
When wet, the shirt will change in tone fairly drastically, but we found it also dries out quickly in normal conditions.
Credit: Justin Simoni

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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - breathability is really good, but high output activities like trail...
Breathability is really good, but high output activities like trail running in the middle of the afternoon may stretch what's comfortable.
Credit: Justin Simoni

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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - branding is kept to an absolute minimum: a small tag on the bottom...
Branding is kept to an absolute minimum: a small tag on the bottom left seam.
Credit: Justin Simoni

Durability


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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - real world tests, including tough trail building, gave us a lot of...
Real world tests, including tough trail building, gave us a lot of confidence that this shirt is tough enough for many applications.
Credit: Lorin Achey

Features


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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - sun coverage is, of course, the most important considerations of any...
Sun coverage is, of course, the most important considerations of any sun shirt.
Credit: Justin Simoni

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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - the cinch strap on the sahara is of the best features of the shirt.
The cinch strap on the Sahara is of the best features of the shirt.
Credit: Justin Simoni

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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - reinforced thumb loops help keep the extra long sleeves up over your...
Reinforced thumb loops help keep the extra long sleeves up over your hands.
Credit: Justin Simoni

Value


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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - for such a well thought-out shirt, we found the price of the sahara...
For such a well thought-out shirt, we found the price of the Sahara a great value.
Credit: Justin Simoni

Conclusion


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.

rei co-op sahara shade hoodie sun shirt review - make sure to keep well covered and protected on your next day out!
Make sure to keep well covered and protected on your next day out!
Credit: Justin Simoni

Justin Simoni
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