There are two approaches to dealing with the heat: lather on the sunscreen and bare it all, or cover up with lightweight layers, like a sun shirt or sun hoodie. In the West, the bare it all approach reigns supreme. The hotter the temp, the fewer the clothes. On the other hand, in places known for high heat and sweltering sun, like Central America and Southeast Asia, many employ the opposite approach. As temperatures rise, people cover up to deflect the sun's powerful UV rays.
It might seem counterintuitive to wear a long sleeve shirt or hoodie in high temps, but with the right materials, walking around in your own cooling shade will convert even the most diehard "suns out buns out" devotee.
In recent years many outdoor brands have rolled out lightweight hoodies, long sleeve sun shirts, short sleeve t-shirts, and even button-downs that are breathable, moisture wicking, and feature built-in protection against UV rays, making them ideal for long days in the sun or on the water.
In this guide you'll find the best sun protective clothing for any season, plus a breakdown of why it's worth trusting.
What is a UPF rating?
When shopping for a sun shirt or sun hoodie, you'll often come across UPF ratings in the product specs. They tend to appear along with a number, as in "UPF 50" or "30+ UPF sun protection." UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, and it's a standard that measures the effective sun protection of a fabric. It's similar to SPF, but that rating is specific to sunscreen. In simplified terms, the higher the UPF number, the more protected your covered skin will be.
Read on for a full rundown of our top picks for the best sun shirt and sun hoodies for staying cool in the heat.
The 11 Best Sun Hoodies and UPF Sun Shirts of 2023
Best Sun Hoodie for Alpinists: Black Diamond Alpenglow Pro Hoodie
Alpinists spend a lot of time getting closer to the sun than the rest of living nearer to sea-level elevations, so a dependable sun hoodie is an essential piece of gear for them. Black Diamond’s UPF 50 features a quarter-zip to help regulate airflow while a small chest pocket stores small valuables, aka snacks. Layer this one with a lightweight merino base layer, and you’ve got a solid foundation for bagging peaks.
Best Button-Down Sun Shirt: Patagonia Long-Sleeved Self-Guided Hike Shirt
While losing the added coverage of a hood, Patagonia’s UPF 40 sun shirt adds the casual style of a buttoned shirt, plus its ability to adjust airflow–a trait that few hooded sun shirts can match. Completely recycled woven polyester ripstop creates a stretchy material that’s supremely durable. Back venting and buttoned roll-up sleeves add customize airflow and do their part to aid with odor control; the Kryptonite of most polyester and spandex garments.
Best Sun Hoody for Fly Fishing: Free Fly Bamboo Lightweight Hoody
Plenty of fishing brands offer their take on the protective long sleeve hoodie, but so few of them pack any style that suits our astute tastes. Bamboo fabric-focused brand Free Fly’s hoodies combine style and functionality, protecting anglers against sunburn while keeping them looking good in solids and custom camo prints. The bamboo-based fabric of the Lightweight Hoody is ultralight and breathable, dries quickly, and provides 20 UPF with thumb holes and a crossover hood to ensure maximum coverage. For improved protection, check out their 50 UPF Bamboo Shade Hoodie as well as the heavier-weight, raglan-sleeved Bamboo Flex Hoodie for cooler days on the water. And, if you’re looking for the utmost sun protection, protect your face from sunburn with a breathable Sun Mask, a warm-weather gaiter with 50 UPF.
Best Stretchy Sun Shirt: Coalatree Suray Sun Shirt
Coalatree excels at making ridiculously comfortable, versatile, and environmentally friendly gear. Their flagship Trailhead Pants have yet to meet the activity they couldn’t handle with ease. So when they Kickstarted a sun hoodie, it was clear it would be a contender among the best, and it doesn't disappoint. The Suray Sun Shirt is sustainably made with a non-chemical coat for UPF 50+ sun protection and features four-way stretch, raglan sleeves, and a zippered side pocket for your goods.
Best Midweight Option: Topo Designs River Hoodie
As per usual, Topo killed it with the fun style of their River Hoodie. But it didn't skimp on the little things, like a zippered chest pocket, unique neck toggle, discreet thumb loops, and a PackFast band for easy travel. It might be a little heavier than other offerings on this list, but this pullover hoodie is a better option for cool summer mornings and nights, cloudy days, or high alpine zones in which sun protection and quick-drying properties are still preferred.
Best for Backpacking: Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hoodie
The Crater Lake from Mountain Hardwear is a form-fitting polyester and elastane hoodie rated to UPF 50. Thumb loops and a full coverage hood provide warmth under a jacket on a cold morning on the trailhead and shift readily to sun protection as the day heats up. Pack this on multi-day trips in the mountains or on rivers and it will take up little space while excelling when the going gets sunny. We recently tested one while rock climbing in Prescott, Arizona, and found that it was supremely comfortable in the desert heat and its performance fit prevented snags while working through chimneys and off-widths.
The Daily Driver: Western Rise Session Sun Hoodie
Like a good session IPA, the Session Sun Hoodie from Western Rise is a perfect blend of punch and performance. The super fine mesh construction makes it incredibly breathable and the odor resistance allows you to work up a sweat. The style-forward design that is slim but not form-fitting—sizes run up to XXL—also means you can wear it on your bike and even to work. The Session Sun Hoodie knows no bounds.
Most High-Tech Sun Hoodie: Bight Solstice Graphene Hoody
The issue with many sun hoodies we come across is the icky feel of the synthetics they use to provide the protective properties we crave. Founded by climbers and guides, Bight put their thinking hats on to create their Gen7 Graphene fabric, a Graphene nanomaterial defined by its exceptional heat transfer properties, odor control capabilities, and a high rating of 55 UPF. Rolling all of those tech specs into a loose fit hoodie, Bight comes to the table with one impressive sun hoodie.
Softest Sun Shirt: Vuori Long Sleeve Strato Tech Tee
For those of us that prefer a hoodless option, California brand Vuori has crafted perhaps the softest long sleeve sun tee shirt out there. The Long-Sleeve Strato Tech will still provide coverage and UPF 30, while also doubling as a delightful casual layer for lounging. You’ll want to sleep in this thing, and if it happens to be a cat nap in the sun, no problem.
Best Value Sun Hoodie: REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie
Time after time, the outdoor retailer’s in-house line provides a budget-friendly option to suit lovers of the outdoors on a budget. We found the Sahara Shade Hoodie to feature a loose fit compared to the modeled photos, but we know how hard it can be to show garment’s fit accurately. Get some extra mileage out of this one by working it into one of our favorite, lightest layering combo with a base layer underneath and a wind shell overtop.
Tee With Performance Chops: Foehn Cortes Polartec Long Sleeve Tee
There is that old adage that if a restaurant serves only a few dishes they are probably really good. We're not sure if it applies to apparel, but Foehn makes only a few things, and they all tend to be really good. The Cortes Polartec Tee is no exception, offering UPF 50 sun protection, superb breathability, and considerable ability to shred in rising temps. Bring the Cortes to the desert, or rock it when your city block begins to feel like one.
More Great Sun Shirts & Hoodies
We also like Patagonia's Long-Sleeved Capilene Cool Trail Shirt ($49) because it's affordable and effective, Backcountry's Tahoe 2 Sun Hoodie ($69) as a great women's option, and Orvis’ Pro Sun Hoodie ($98) as another option for anglers fueled by Polartec Grid fabric. Additionally, we like to compliment any sun shirt with one of Outdoor Research's effective sun hats.