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The Best Sun Protection Shirts of 2024: Stay Safe Under the Sun

CEO Tinh Phung
In recent years, sun protection clothing has gained immense popularity among outdoor enthusiasts. Sun shirts have become the unofficial uniform for climbers, mountain bikers, backpackers, and more. While sun exposure is essential for our well-being,...

In recent years, sun protection clothing has gained immense popularity among outdoor enthusiasts. Sun shirts have become the unofficial uniform for climbers, mountain bikers, backpackers, and more. While sun exposure is essential for our well-being, excessive exposure can have detrimental effects on our skin. That's why investing in a good sun shirt is crucial for self-care.

UV rays can damage the skin's immune functions and increase the risk of skin cancer. They can also lead to wrinkles, sun spots, and other visible signs of aging. A high-quality sun shirt not only provides extensive skin coverage but also protects against a broad spectrum of UV light without compromising comfort.

To help you find the perfect sun shirt for your needs, we have researched and tested over 25 different shirts. We evaluated their quality, performance, and suitability for various activities and conditions. Our recommendations are divided into different categories, making it easier for you to find the best option.

Sun Shirt Testing Testing out a sun shirt while crossing the Virgin River; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)

The Best Sun Protection Shirts of 2024

  • Best Overall Sun Shirt: KUIU Gila Pro LS Hoodie
  • Best Budget Sun Shirt: REI Sahara Shade Hoodie
  • Runner-Up: Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hoodie
  • Best Button-Up Sun Shirt: KUIU Mesa Vented LS Snap Shirt
  • Best Sun Shirt for Fishing: Howler Bros Loggerhead Shield Hoodie
  • Most Comfortable Sun Shirt: Free Fly Bamboo Lightweight Shore Hoodie
  • Best Sun Shirt for Climbing: Black Diamond Alpenglow Pro Hoody

Sun Protection Shirts Comparison Comparison table of sun protection shirts

How We Tested Sun Protection Shirts

Our list of recommended sun protection shirts is the result of extensive testing in real-world conditions. We collected a wide range of shirts from different brands and rigorously assessed their quality and performance.

We evaluated factors such as breathability, durability, and overall comfort. We wore these shirts while engaging in activities they were designed for, including hiking, fishing, climbing, hunting, and biking. We tested the protective ability of hoods with and without helmets and assessed the length of hems and sleeves for sufficient coverage during active use.

We also considered the comfort and breathability of the material by wearing these shirts as base layers directly against the skin. To ensure accuracy, we communicated directly with brands regarding UPF ratings, materials, and anti-odor treatments. Furthermore, we weighed each shirt and conducted independent research to gather comprehensive information.

REI Sahara Shade Sun Protection Hoody Out for a hike in the REI Sahara Shade Sun Hoodie; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Sun Shirt

With the increasing popularity of sun shirts, there are more options available than ever before. To help you make an informed decision, our buyer's guide covers every relevant topic under the sun.

Types of Sun Shirts: Button-Up vs. Hooded Pullover

There are two main types of sun shirts on the market: button-up and hooded pullover. Each has its own set of features, pros, and cons.

Hooded Pullover: Preferred by climbers, trail runners, and mountain bikers, hooded pullover sun shirts are typically made from polyester and elastane or spandex. A well-fitted hood provides protection for the neck, ears, and forehead. Some sun shirts in this style also feature thumb loops and high-cut collars for added protection. It's worth noting that these shirts can be a bit tricky to remove and may develop odors over time.

Baggy Button-Up: Ideal for activities like fishing, hunting, and bird watching, baggy button-up sun shirts usually have collars instead of hoods. They offer a more traditional look and are easy to put on and take off. Many button-up sun shirts come with convenient pockets and vented panels for increased airflow in warm conditions.

UPF Rating Explained

UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is a rating system that measures a fabric's effectiveness at blocking UVA and UVB rays. A fabric with a UPF rating of 30 allows only 1/30th or around 3% of UV to pass through. All the sun shirts on our list have UPF ratings of 30 or higher, ensuring adequate protection from harmful UV radiation.

Materials

Polyester is the most common base material for sun shirts as it offers excellent UPF protection and quick-drying properties. Some sun shirts also incorporate elastane or spandex for increased airflow and mobility. However, synthetic fibers can develop odors more quickly than natural fibers. If odor resistance is a priority for you, consider sun shirts made from bamboo-derived fibers or those treated with odor-resistant technology.

Breathability

Sun shirts should be comfortable to wear in warm conditions. Breathability is crucial for minimizing drying time and reducing odor. While a looser weave and increased breathability may slightly lower the UPF rating, all the sun shirts on our list strike a balance between breathability, comfort, and performance.

The most comfortable sun shirt of 2022 Cruising around town in the Freefly Bamboo Lightweight Shore Hoody; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)

Odor Resistance

Due to their synthetic materials, sun shirts can develop unpleasant odors after intense physical activity. To minimize odor, we recommend choosing sun shirts with a lower elastane or spandex content and those made from natural fibers. Some shirts on our list are also treated with odor-resistant technology, such as the Black Diamond Alpenglow Pro.

Hood

For maximum sun protection, opt for a sun shirt with a well-fitted hood. The hood should stay in place even during active use. If your activity requires a helmet, choose a sun shirt with a stretchy hood that can comfortably fit over it. The Outdoor Research ActiveIce Hoody is a great example of a helmet-compatible sun shirt with excellent protection.

Thumb Loops

Thumb loops are small openings on the sleeves of sun shirts that protect the back of the hands. They are particularly useful for activities that involve prolonged sun exposure. Most pullover hooded sun shirts on our list come with thumb loops.

Fit

A sun shirt's fit is crucial for performance. It is recommended to choose a semi-loose-fitting shirt for better breathability and unrestricted movement. If you typically wear a medium size, consider sizing up to a large for a more comfortable fit. Sizing up is especially important for proper thumb loop coverage.

The Best Sun Shirts for Fishing Testing out sun shirts with a Colorado cutthroat on the line; (photo/Austin Beck-Doss)

FAQs

For additional information and answers to frequently asked questions about sun shirts, refer to our comprehensive FAQ section.

With our guide and recommendations, you can confidently choose the best sun protection shirt for your outdoor adventures in 2024. Stay safe under the sun and enjoy your time outdoors!

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