Top 6 Women’s Sun Shirts for Hiking and Backpacking

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When you’re hitting the trails for a day hike or a weekend backpacking trip, it’s important to protect your skin from the sun.

While sunscreen is great, let’s face it, how often does anyone actually reapply it when hiking? And let’s not forget how sticky and icky it gets when mixed with bug spray and sweat.

This is where a sun shirt comes in. While you should still apply sunscreen to any exposed skin like your hands and face, you can easily protect your neck, chest, and arms with a good quality sun shirt. It’s an essential piece of hiking and backpacking gear.

But it has to be comfortable. 

Since I hate hiking with anything covering my arms, I thought I’d be a great person to test out how comfortable these shirts are. 

On a completely random note: I have no idea why some shirts are Hoodies and other are Hoodys. Each shirt is spelled just like the manufacturer intended.

Woman wearing peach long-sleeve sun shirt and grey pants with a blue day pack walking through woods with red and brown leaves on the ground.

A Few Notes About Sun Shirts

Sun shirts prevent you from becoming too hot by wicking moisture away from your skin and moving it to the outer layer where it evaporates.

Well, here in the southeastern US, we have relative humidity around 70-85% in the summer (sometimes higher). So, nothing is going to evaporate. You’re going to have to test the limits of where you’re comfortable in a long-sleeve shirt, regardless of the technology.

I found most shirts were comfortable up to around 70% relative humidity in 75 degree weather. Hotter temperature and I had to remove it, higher humidity, even at 66 degrees and it had to come off.

Because the shirts work by wicking moisture, you want to wear it against your skin. Don’t layer it with a tank or T-shirt if you’re in conditions where you’ll sweat a lot, the shirt will just get soaked.

Read the manufacturer instructions for washing your shirt and adhere to it.

Always pack sunscreen. You never know if you may not want to wear the shirt, or it rips, or disappears.

The Top 6 Sun Shirts for Hiking and Backpacking

Columbia Summit Valley Hoodie

Woman wearing green camouflage long-sleeve sun shirt.

Columbia knows sun protection and the Summit Valley Hoodie was hands-down, my favorite sun shirt. There’s something about the fabric. It’s so light and smooth, you hardly notice you’re wearing it, but you’re still getting UPF 50 protection.

While it lacks a lot of the features of the Summit Valley, I found myself reaching for the Summit Valley every time I headed out. This was the one shirt I was able to push the limits on temperature and humidity.

At first I wasn’t sure about the camouflage pattern, but I wound up loving it. That design goes with everything.

Pros: Lightweight, comfortable fabric. Flattering fit and pattern.

Cons: No odor blocking technology.

👉 Click Here for Pricing on Summit Valley Hoodie 👈

Columbia PFG Solar Stream Elite Hoodie

Woman wearing dark peach long-sleeve sun shirt with small white logo on top left that says "Columbia".

Columbia’s PFG line has been protecting anglers for years before going mainstream. Now, you can’t go a day in the summer without seeing the PFG logo on someone.

The Solar Stream Elite takes things to a new level while still offering UPF 50 protection. You probably won’t find a ponytail slit in the hood, crossover neck protection, interior thumb loops, and a built in eyeglass cleaner on other sun shirts.

The peach and white colors are also pretty while helping to deflect the sun.

Pros: Well designed features. Good fit.  

Cons: Not as breathable as other shirts. No odor blocking technology.

👉 Click Here for Pricing on Solar Stream Elite Hoodie 👈

Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie

Grey long-sleeve, hooded sun shirt with OR logo in black at the bottom right.

This is a favorite in the Rockies and Pacific North west. I’ve also seen it on the trail in the Southeast in cooler weather. The Echo is lightweight, coming in at a mere 5.2 ounces. That’s not even a half a pound!

While the shirt is comfortable, and has anti-odor technology, it only offers UPF 15 protection making it the least sun protective shirt on this list. I would recommend it for shorter day hikes, unless you want to layer up the sunscreen underneath.

Pros: Light weight, comfortable

Cons: Low UPF protection

👉 Click Here for Pricing on Echo Hoodie 👈

REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie

Periwinkle long sleeve sun shirt with hood.

The REI Sahar Shade Hoodie provides UPF 50 protection in what fits like a T-shirt merged with your favorite sweatshirt. REI describes it as a long-sleeved T-shirt, but I have to say it’s looser than a T-shirt, but tighter than a sweatshirt with a lot of sweatshirt features.

Overall, I found the fit on this one not quite right for my 5’3” frame, and the lack of pockets was frustrating. The front and back panels are long, so there are severe slits on the sides. While this does offer a little more air circulation, the back panel kept riding up and bunching in my backpack strap.

Pros: Drawstring on the hood to keep it tight. The product meets Bluesign criteria.

Cons: Odd cut won’t work for every sport. No odor blocking technology.

👉 Click Here for Pricing on REI Sahara Shade Hoodie 👈

Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hoody

Teal and light purple tied dyed long-sleeve sun shirt with hood. The hood has light purple fabric lining the inside. There is a drawstring at the waist tied in a bow.

The Crater Lake Hoody is silky soft and offers UPF 50 protection. It also has a nice fit. I could see myself wearing this while exploring beach towns.

A few reviewers on the REI site mentioned stitching coming loose and fraying. I didn’t have the one I was testing long enough to determine how it will hold up long term.

While there isn’t any odor blocking technology in this shirt, I found it wasn’t quite as smelly as the others after a day hike. I’m still not sure I would take it on a hot backpacking trip. There’s also a drawstring at the waist which may be an issue when it comes to comfort backpacking (ahem – going to the bathroom).

Pros: Great fabric feel and fit. Flattering design and comfortable on the trail.

Cons: No odor blocking technology. Odd drawstring at the waist that just seems to be in the way.

👉 Click Here for Pricing on Crater Lake Hoody 👈

Black Diamond Alpenglow Pro Hoody

Steel grey long sleeve sun shirt with hood. The underarm panels are a white mesh. There is a three-quarter zipper down the front.

If you’re a hiker, you need to understand that Black Diamond specializes in rock climbing. This is good news because climbers need solid sun protection since they’re on rock cliffs all day.

This is one of two shirts on this list with odor control technology. For a splurge, you can get the Pro version with has a bit of DWR for weather resistance, and a three-quarter zip to help you regulate your temperature. The Pro version also has mesh fabric lining the underarms for even greater breathability.

The shirt is super stretchy which is great when rock scrambling, reaching for your water bottle, and other things that require movement. However, the price you pay is the weight. It has a heavier feel than other shirts and may be too much in the southeastern heat.

Pros: Soft fabric, good fit. Has odor control.

Cons: Expensive. Felt heavy and hot.

👉 Click Here for Pricing on Alpenglow Pro Hoody 👈

Wrap-Up: The Top 6 Sun Shirts for Women

Woman sitting on the ground wearing a long-sleeve sun shirt with hood in a camoflauge fabric. She is holding a granola bar and talking to someone that is out of camera range.

Investing in a quality sun shirt can make your hiking or backpacking adventure a little less sticky. Look for the features that mean the most where you hike. Do you need moisture wicking, strong sun protection, or the ability to move freely?

Also, keep in mind that you may not be able to wear the shirt all summer, depending on your climate. However, for those days where it’s a good option, you’ll find your hike a lot more fun.

Stay cool, comfortable, and protected on the trail with these premium sun shirts from trusted outdoor brands.

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