We've researched over 60 different sun shirts in order to find the top 13 for in-depth, hands-on testing in this 2021 review. Then, to determine the best, we wore them for months in all manner of climates and terrain. Protection from the sun is critical during long adventures, so we knew shirts made with added UPF protection had to be a key requirement. Other optimal characteristics we looked for included synthetic materials, ample coverage, and breathability. We tested a range of designs, such as the hooded pullover and the baggy button-down. Whatever activity you may be doing, we've ranked an incredible selection of high-performance shirts for you to choose from.Related: Best Sun Protection Shirts for Women of 2021
Best Sun Protection Shirts for Men of 2021
|Price||Check Price at REI|
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|$79 List||$66.71 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Off-trail style, dobbyweave fabric wears well, ideal length, good overall sun protection||Very stretchy, comfortable, minimal, versatile||Great value, lightweight, very breathable, looks good off-trail, excellent comfort||Well-designed, durable, versatile||Helpful zippers, has a pocket and can pack into it, thoughtful details|
|Cons||Tight in the yoke, expensive, not as breathable as some competitors||Lacks thumb loops, under the neck button/zipper, and pockets||Only UPF 40, doesn't pack as well as others, difficult sleeve-capture tabs||Fabric is on the thick side||Prone to wrinkling when packed up, fabric noticeably shows sweat|
|Bottom Line||Comfortable with a great balance of features and functionality, this shirt is great on and off-trail||A lightweight, stretchy, and simple hooded sun shirt that will fit in with most any activity||Good-looking and a great value, this shirt floats around the torso and has a smart selection of features||A great-looking hooded sun shirt that’s as durable as it is handsome with well-thought-out design choices||A well-designed hooded sun shirt made with light and stretchy material and featuring a zippered chest pocket and half-zip front|
|Rating Categories||Mountain Hardwear C...||Black Diamond Alpen...||Columbia Silver Rid...||Patagonia Sunshade...||Outdoor Research As...|
|Comfort And Fit (30%)|
|Sun Protection (25%)|
|Specs||Mountain Hardwear C...||Black Diamond Alpen...||Columbia Silver Rid...||Patagonia Sunshade...||Outdoor Research As...|
|Sun Protection Level (UPF)||50||50+||40||50+||50|
|Coverage||Long sleeve, collar||Long sleeve, hood||Long sleeve, collar||Long sleeve, hood||Long sleeve, hood|
|Features||Roll-up sleeves, zip pockets||Stretchy, under-helmet hood||Roll-up sleeves, anit-microbial treated fabric||Thumb loops, chest pocket||1/4 zip, zippered chest pocket|
|Fit||Regular||Technical fit||Regular||Regular fit||Regular fit|
|Material||Polyester dobby fabric||Polyester Stretch Textured Knit (87% Polyester 13% Elastane)||Omni-Wick Ripstop 100% polyester||100% polyester (60% recycled)||85% nylon, 15% spandex|
|Odor Control?||No||Polygiene||Antimicrobial treatment||Polygiene coating||No|
|Available SIzes||S-XXL||S - XL||S-XXL||XS - 3XL||S - XXL|
Best Overall Sun Shirt
Mountain Hardwear Canyon Long Sleeve
As the sun peaks over the horizon for yet another day of adventure, the Mountain Hardwear Canyon is the shirt we love to grab. Whether you're planning to work in the yard, commute on your bike, or run on a beautiful trail and then grab some beers and tacos with friends, this shirt has you covered. It's versatile enough to excel at all these mini-missions while still looking stylish, keeping you cool, and — most importantly — keeping you protected from the sun. Durability is also top-notch, making the Canyon a true all-around winner.
The Canyon pulls off this brilliant equilibrium using a few tactics. It has a looser fit than a regular shirt and employs a tough dobby weave fabric with a UPF 50 rating that's still light enough to be attractive and comfortable. It also has many features you'll find useful: buttons, pockets, and sleeves that can easily roll up and stay in place with the help of discreet tabs. Add your favorite wide-brim hat, and you're ready for wandering all over on your own canyon adventure.
Read review: Mountain Hardwear Canyon Long Sleeve
Great Value for a Button-Up
Columbia Silver Ridge Lite
The Columbia Silver Ridge Lite, with its Omni-Shade and Omni-Wick fabric treatments, feels great to the touch and floats around the torso. Columbia calls it "a more modern take" on a classic design, and we agree. This shirt looks as good as it functions, protecting against burns without making you look like a safari guide. The sleeves offer ample length below the wrists when needed, and the hem does the same, laying flat under backpacks and, in general, staying in place when it's supposed to. As a travel shirt, the Silver Ridge packs a bit larger than others in our review but makes up for it in comfort. The pocket design is also smart; roomy without being bulky, and supportive enough to hold a passport or minimalist wallet with ease.
Shoppers will find the Silver Ridge has a couple of slight drawbacks, such as the annoying sleeve capture tabs being difficult to fasten with one hand and the fact that, without the collar button attached, the suprasternal notch is open to sun exposure. However, this means that the collar doesn't feel restricting when buttoned up, allowing easy and natural movement. Yes, this shirt is a bit big in fit, but that's a natural byproduct of its design to beat back the sun. If you're looking for a lot of shirt for not a lot of bucks, this is definitely worth a gander.
Read review: Columbia Silver Ridge Lite
Best Bang for Your Buck
Baleaf UPF 50 Hoody
Proper protection from the sun shouldn't be the last thing you remember to do before setting off on your next adventure, but often, it is. If your budget is already stretched to the breaking point, the Baleaf UPF 50 Hoody has (literally) got you covered. With a price tag that's well below most others, the basics are covered: 50+ UPF rated fabric, a generous hood to protect your neck and head, and thumb loops to let the extra-long sleeves rest over your hands up to your knuckles. Sure, it's not the most fashionable accessory — the fit is quite relaxed — but knowing that you're avoiding a sunburn while out on the water or on top of a mountain is a great feeling indeed.
There are a few details about the Baleaf we wish were more thoughtful. The hood tends to fly off in a slight breeze, and the fabric is thicker than most any other shirt we've tested, making it a little less breathable. There's no anti-microbial treatment either, so you'll want to wash this shirt regularly, but don't worry: it's made of tough enough material to survive regular washings. When it comes down to value, this one is hard to beat, and we think you'll be pleased.
Read review: Baleaf UPF 50 Hoody
Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody
It sounds cliché, but you really do need to try on the Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody to understand just what sets this hooded sun shirt apart from other options. In one word: it's the fabric! Stretchy beyond imagination, the polyester/elastane stretch textured knit covers and breathes well while also continuing to look as new as the day it was purchased — not an easy hat trick to pull off.
The Alpenglow Hoody may not have all the features found on other hooded sun shirts, but we had to ask ourselves: does it even need them? The hood stays on without an extra button, the shirt is breathable enough without needing a zipper, sleeves are long enough to reach well past the ends of our fingers if we need them to. And, on top of it all, this is a handsome-looking hoody, with minimal logos and good colorways. Grab this layer if minimalistic gear speaks your language.
Read review: Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody
Best In The Surf
Patagonia R0 Hoody
If you're looking for sun protection on the beach or in the water — especially if you're going swimming or surfing — you're looking for the Patagonia R0 Hoody. Unlike the other tops we tested, the R0 is adapted first and foremost to aquatic life. The skintight and stretchy fabric hugs your entire upper body, and the cinch-able hood with a built-in brim will get you halfway prepared to shred with the dolphins during the next break.
The other side of the coin to extreme specificity is a lack of versatility, so be aware that the R0 will look and feel a little out of place once away from the waves. Wearing it while on a coffee shop date or the local group trail run made us feel a little goofy, although we enjoyed the humourous takes by our buddies on our porpoise-like appearance. Nevertheless, Patagonia knows what they're doing when it comes to functional surfwear, and the R0 is no exception. Once suited up and on our SUP, we blended right into the colorful local cacophony.
Read review: Patagonia R0 Hoody
Why You Should Trust Us
Justin Simoni is a Boulder, CO-based athlete, adventurer, and backpacking guide. He specializes in ultra-long distance, self-powered, and self-supported challenges in the mountains of the American West. Simoni has put these shirts to their limits while wandering all along the Front Range of Colorado on long bike rides, trail runs, outdoor workdays, and at the crag. He has been working closely with outdoor gear for over a decade, bringing his experience and expertise to the table.
Our testing process began with extensive research on the hundreds of sun shirts currently available on the market. We then hand-picked the strongest candidates and purchased them at full retail. From there, we spent weeks wearing these shirts for every imaginable activity. We ran, hiked, biked, climbed, scrambled, wandered, slacklined, and napped — all under the eyes of the glorious sun. We even took our sun shirt picks on job sites and lumberyards to see how well they worked while we worked. We noted each shirt's strengths and weaknesses in different scenarios and, with that data, came up with some great advice to help you pick the best product for your needs and budget.
Related: How We Tested Sun Protection Shirts
Analysis and Test Results
The primary job for all these seemingly simple shirts is to protect the wearer from excess exposure to the sun, be durable enough to make it through life's adventures, and offer enough breathability that it's realistic to wear in the hottest of situations. Versatility is also of importance — if one shirt can fulfill multiple roles, it's one less piece of gear that you need to pack, which delights pack-weight-conscious folks. This is also important when you're trying to pack a suitcase with everything you'll need for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We made sure to use each of the shirts in this review as thoroughly as our testing period would allow — read on to learn about what we discovered.
We believe value to be of great importance and something we pay mind to when testing. Ultimately, we want to make sure you're investing in your gear wisely. But since it's a subjective factor, it doesn't factor into our performance evaluations of each shirt. With some gear, the more you pay, the more you get — but that's not always true for sun shirts. Sometimes you're just paying for features that aren't really necessary. So, which shirts showed a great value?
The Baleaf UPF 50 is sold at a hard-to-beat price and bestows upon you a durable shirt that will last for many of your future adventures. While it doesn't quite compete with the more technical and feature-rich options from the big brand names, it's still a solid choice, especially if you're shopping on a budget.
The Columbia Silver Ridge Lite and Patagonia Tropic Comfort II Hoody cost more but also offer better overall quality and performance. The Silver Ridge is a traditional button-up, and the Tropic Comfort is a thin, smooth, and comfortable hoody. The Mountain Hardwear Canyon is just a bit more expensive but provides the best performance in our lineup.
Patagonia recalled their Tropic Comfort line in 2021 due to a manufacturing oversight in their UPF ratings. The shirts, which are supposed to feature a UPF of 50, were discovered to have UPFs ranging from 17-45. Patagonia has pulled these shirts from production until the issue is fixed. If you own one of these shirts and would like a refund, you can get more information on Patagonia's website.
Comfort and Fit
Probably the most critical facet of any sun shirt is how it feels when it's on. After all, UPF protection won't mean much if the article of clothing it covers doesn't feel good to wear. The shirts we selected for our test largely all did well in this category.
The VOORMI River Run Hoody won us over from first blush with its wool/polyester blended fabric, but we weren't bowled over by the rest of its performance — especially the durability of the fabric itself. Given how expensive the shirt is — by far the most expensive shirt in our lineup — it would be a shame to ruin such a stylish piece of gear just by getting lost on a trail and having to find a "shortcut" through some brush. We'd only suggest the River Run as a casual lifestyle piece or for high-altitude adventures where having a little bit of extra warmth from wool is ideal.
We were more impressed by both the Canyon and the Silver Ridge Lite — two button-up shirts that feature an updated cut of a classic idea. Generally, this means that the cut is a little more fitted than the almost smock-like options that usually flood the market. Both these felt great while wearing them, which just made us want to wear them for everything.
The Outdoor Research Astroman button-up also rates high for comfort and fit, no doubt due to the very stretchy nylon/spandex blend of its fabric. This shirt works really well where mobility is tantamount. Gymnastic climbing moves at the crag are a place where this shirt excels. You can now also find this same stretchy fabric used in the Astroman Sun Hoodie.
When it comes to hooded sun shirts, it's really hard to beat the extremely stretchy and accomodating Alpenglow Hoody when it comes to comfort. The aforementioned Astroman Sun Hoodie does come close, though.
UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor, is a rating system specific to apparel's ability to block ultraviolet radiation. The rating runs from zero to 50, and each number indicates a percentage of the sun's rays allowed through. Thus: UPF 25 = 1/25th, or 4%, of the sun's radiation can pass through the fabric. It's one important factor, but it's certainly not the only one.
Fabric type is another key to sun protection. Synthetics perform the best, while more natural garments, like something made out of bleached cotton, have a natural UPF rating of around 5. Polyester has been rated as the top option, with a few shirts in our lineup using nylon and one shirt using wool. We're noticing a recent trend where companies are releasing more shirts that utilize stretchy fabrics, care of blending a spandex or elastane type of material into the polyester/nylon. Even with this blend, UPF ratings of 50 or higher are generally maintained, but be aware that the stretchy, elastic blend will need to be more closely cared for.
The cut and fit of a sun shirt also play a big role in making sure you're protected. Many of the button-up shirts we've tested feature generous sleeve and seam lengths, as well as collars that can be popped up. The hooded sun shirts very obviously feature a hood to keep your head covered, and most have thumb loops to keep the sleeves over your hands.
Of all the shirts we've tested, holistically, the Columbia PFG Terminal Deflector Zero Hoodie comes out on top for sun protection. The fabric is absolutely outrageous looking and features an array of small, opaque plastic dots covering the fabric itself. These dots reflect the sun's rays and stop them from penetrating into the fabric. But the real standout feature is a built-in neck gaiter to cover your lower face up to your nose. Long sleeves and shirt length, as well as thumb loops, round out the shirt.
Not to be outdone, the Patagonia R0 Hoody is a rashguard shirt from a completely different planet. The secret to its sun protection is its UPF 50+ rated fabric that covers the skin tightly from the waist all the way to the top of the head. The hood especially compresses around the head and can be cinched in place, leaving only your eyes and nose poking out — and even these are partially shaded via the attached brim.
For button-ups, check out the Silver Ridge Lite, which rates high in this metric. The fabric is tough but just slightly more breathable than some of the other button-ups we've tested. If you're hanging around casually in the sun for hours on end, it's the shirt you want — as long as you pair it with a floppy hat. It's not a great shirt for active users, as it will probably cause you to overheat. It was designed for all-day fishing missions, where the sun reflects off the water, and you may be thigh deep in a freezing creek.
For more active pursuits, consider the button-up Canyon, which boasts a high 50 UPF rating, but features a thinner, more breathable fabric and most of the bells and whistles you'll need and want.
A shirt won't be much fun to wear in the sun if it feels like you're wearing a wet blanket 30 minutes into your hike. And, on top of that, some fabrics become less protective when wet. Thankfully, polyester, which most all of the shirts in this review are made of, isn't one of them.
Most of the shirts in our test dried equally well when left to the sun after a soaking. A fabric's breathability also helps it resist odor by letting air pass through, and specialized treatments, such as the Polygiene permanent odor control of the Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hoody, performed well in our campfire smoke test.
The most breathable shirt in our lineup is the Patagonia R0 Hoody, which is custom-made to be worn as a second skin while swimming in the water.
If you're not looking for such specificity, the Montbell Cool Hoodie scores well here too. It features a dual-sided fabric that's thinner than other shirts in our reviews; just be aware that durability may suffer slightly. We're noticing that more hooded sun shirts are coming out with half zips to help dump hot air quickly, and this is one of them.
The Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody lacks such a half zip, but we've found that the simply incredible stretchiness of the fabric helps with keeping things comfortable. There's no part of the shirt that will feel restrictive on your body, even when you're moving. The Alpenglow's fabric also does a great job of being both sun protectant and breathable, which is a hard balance to achieve properly.
Taken as a whole, most all the shirts we've tested did a little above average in breathability, except two outliers: the Columbia PFG Terminal Deflector Zero Hoodie and PFG Super Tamiami, which fared much worse. It's no wonder, as both of these shirts are made to do some serious fishing in, and they both promote sun protection and durability at the cost of breathability. You won't be running the 800-meter sprint in one of these, though that's not what they're designed for. The lower breathability scores may not matter as much in more sedentary applications.
Can you wear the same shirt to the crag and the dinner table? Can you go to work in the morning, then go fishing in the evening without having to change your top? Can you backpack for six days and then check out the town for a day without having to pack two shirts? Can you go traveling cross country, make the regional board meeting, then take a trail run? That's what we're talking about when we talk about versatility. This doesn't weigh in as much as other metrics we use; it's too personal of an opinion. But it's still an important facet to consider. People who perspire easily may not find any of these shirts too versatile and will always opt for a specific shirt for high-octane activities.
The Canyon scored highest in this category, thanks to its unique dobby polyester, which looks and feels great, especially in the neutral, sleek color option we tested. The Silver Ridge Lite also looks good, feels good, and has just enough features to make it useful on and off the trail, without looking too weighed down with accessories no one needs.
The Astroman Sun Hoodie may have been designed for long days of multi-pitch climbing first, but a shirt that's good for climbing usually works admirably for most any all-day outdoor adventure, as well as looking good back at the campsite/brewpub/Sprinter party swapping stories. With a quick rinse, then left to dry out while taking a nap, you could reasonably take this shirt on a cross-country backpack trip and still feel pretty comfortable on the flight back home.
Both Patagonia's Tropic Comfort Hoody II and Sunshade Technical Hoody are also worth mentioning here. They simply look great, in our opinion, and we wouldn't feel strange wearing them off-trail to casual events or just when hanging out around the house all day.
Fabric integrity matters in a sun shirt because worn and loose material exposes the skin to a greater risk of UV radiation. Thankfully, testing revealed most of our shirts could hold up to what was thrown at them with no problems.
The Baleaf UPF 50+ Hoody is a knockout in regards to durability. It's what the cockroaches will be wearing after the apocalypse. Durability and sun protection often go hand in hand when the material used is thick, and that's the case with the Baleaf.
If you're looking for a button-up that has similar durability, the Columbia PFG Super Tamiami shares many of the same characteristics to the Baleaf, durability being one of them. Utilizing a burly, thicker, and less breathable fabric than some other options, it's firmly in the "traditional" camp of shirts we've tested.
For a more feature-rich hooded sun shirt with great durability, the Terminal Deflector Zero may be what you're after. The tough fabric is custom-made for fishing outings, with enough stretch to be comfortable the entire time. The tight array of small plastic dots embedded into the exterior helps reflect the sun's rays while also protecting the fabric itself from abrasion.
If the Deflector seems too space-age, the soft, heathered-patterned fabric of the Patagonia Sunshade Technical contradicts its appellation and reminds us more of a casual piece. But don't be fooled: the fabric is tough and will serve the wearer well when bushwacking to the summit of a mountain or to your secret fishing hole. The Astroman Sun Hoodie also scores well with us in durability — it's made to survive abrasive surfaces like the cliff face of your current climbing project as well as the prickly pear-choked hike into the crag.
What's wonderful about sun shirts? There's a wide variety to choose from, so you can find the perfect piece of wearable gear for your favorite sunny weather activities, from blousy button-ups to super comfy sun hoodies and everything in between. We hope our rigorous selection process and months of testing helps lead you to your perfect new layer.
— Justin Simoni
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