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. When it gets hot out therre, people tend to take off all (or most) of their clothes. On other hand, in places known for sweltering heat like Southeast Asia, many employ the opposite approach in action. As temperatures rise, people cover up—all the better to deflect the sun's powerful rays.
It might seem counterintuitive to wear a long sleeve shirt or hoodie in high temps, but once you try walking around in your own cooling shade, you might become a convert as well.
In recent years many outdoor brands have rolled out lightweight hoodies, long sleeve sun shirts, short sleeve t-shirts, and 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.
But first, 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 Best Sun Shirts of 2022
Most Relaxed Fit: Bearded Goat Inland UV Hoodie
The Inland UV Hoodie from Bearded Goat is loose and ready sun hoodie for a range of activities. The relaxed fit adds to the cooling factor, as you won’t get as sticky, but makes it less ideal for hard-charging activities in which it could get snagged on a passing branch. With 30 UPF, thumb loops, and a locker loop to hang dry, the Inland UV Hoodie is a great bet for sipping brews in the sun or paddleboarding on the water.
Best for the Planet: Wellen Seawool Hoodie
Iconic surf brand Wellen took recycled plastic bottles and upcycled oyster shells to create the Seawool fabric that comprises this hooded sun shirt. Seawool, it turns out, is quick-drying, antimicrobial, and has natural UV protection (it also features some spandex for nice stretch). While lacking in performance details, this is the sun hoodie to throw on when heading out to a beach bonfire.
Stretchiest Design: 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 By the Water: Free Fly Bamboo Lightweight Hoody
At this point Free Fly is practically synonymous with water adventures, and their best-selling Bamboo Lightweight Hoody is a perfect example of why. Its bamboo fabric is ultralight and breathable, dries quickly, and provides 20 UPF. With thumb holes and a crossover hood to ensure maximum coverage, the Lightweight Hoody is ideal for boats, beaches, and riverbanks.
Best Midweight Option: Topo Designs River Hoodie
As per usual, Topo killed it with the hipster-crunchy look of the River Hoodie. But it didn't skimp on the little things, like a zippered chest pocket, a unique neck toggle, and a PackFast band for easy travel. A little heavier than other offerings on this list, this hooded sun shirt 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. It has thumb cuffs and a full coverage hood, so it can 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, even in the desert heat.
Best for Travel: Proof 72-Hour Merino Ultralight Hoodie
Proof’s 72-Hour Merino Ultralight Hoodie is so-named because it can be worn for an entire weekend without generating a stink thanks to the antimicrobial properties of merino wool. While a little warm for lengthy outings in direct sun, this will serve in a variety of conditions since wool is also a natural thermoregulator. From the plane to the playa, the Ultralight will have you covered.
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.
Softest Tee: 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.
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, Columbia's Silver Ridge Lite ($55) as a classic button-down option, and Black Diamond's Alpenglow Hoody ($95) for active endeavors like trail running. Additionally, we like to compliment any sun shirt with one of Outdoor Research's effective sun hats.