Gear Review: Sun Hoodies

Background

Since I have been 15 years old I have had a condition (vitiligo) that, while it gives me unique white skin, hair and eyebrows, it makes me very suseptible to sun burns. This results in skin damage and can lead to skin cancer. As a result I try to be very careful with sun protection, opting for physical protection (hats, shirts) as much as possible.

Current Gear

I’ve been wearing a button up sun shirt for years – sun shirts have been a staple in my hiking wardrobe.

This strategy has worked fairly well for me. My current sun shirt is a simple MEC one, with no frills, mesh or accessories.

Wearing my sun shirt, trying on some new sun hat options at MEC Calgary while waiting for the Greyhound to go to Pincher Creek

Underneath it I wear a running shirt. Previously I have worn a running shirt I bought on clearance somewhere (the branding has worn off) that has a normal athletic shirt weave on the front and a coarse jersey mesh on the back.

For the GDT I replaced this with a lighter sleeveless Patagonia running shirt mostly due to concerns with gear weight.

In addition to the sun shirt I wear an outdoor research sun hat with brim all the way around.

Finally on the GDT I wore sun gloves to protect my hands from the sun.

How it Performs

The coarse mesh in the back of my old running shirt is great for ventilation and made a significant improvement on keeping my back cool and dry. I still sweat on my back, despite my pack being suspended off my back, so the mesh helps a lot but it isn’t perfect.

The Patagonia shirt I replaced it with was outstanding and even outperformed my old running shirt while being much lighter and more compact. This shirt dries very fast; it really surprised me at how well it performs.

The MEC sun shirt dries quickly and does a great job of keeping the sun off me. I sometimes pop the collar to get better coverage on my neck. However the back still can get wet from sweat and I sometimes need to take it off at lunch to dry off.

Being able to unbutton the shirt on the front and cuffs is nice, as that can let me dial in the ventilation. Simply unbuttoning the cuffs gets a lot of airflow up my arms without compromising sun coverage.

The sun shirt is fairly slim fitting, not baggy, but it still is loose enough that it does not feel restricting. I also find I do not notice when the shirt is dirty or sweaty as it doesn’t cling to me. This has been very nice on long hikes as I tend to only wash my socks and underwear on the trail.

Sun Hoodie

During the GDT it was painfully obvious to me that I just had a lot of items for sun protection, and generally a lot of shirts. In an effort to reduce the number of shirts and items I carry I looked for sun hoodies. I had looked before we went on the GDT but did not find anything and after a half hearted effort I gave up. During the hike we saw a number of people who wore sun hoodies and decided to make a more serious effort when we got home. After the GDT Natasha and I found a number of local options within a day and had each tried them on and selected one each. So I guess it was easier to find them than I originally thought.

My Hoodie

After trying a few on, I selected the Phasic Sun Hoodie from Arc’teryx. Arc’teryx is a local company, so it’s nice to support them (and we get fully stocked storefronts available to us, so it’s convenient).

I liked how the hoodie design had no seams and no pockets, and the front of the hood covered my neck and seemed to have a nicely constructed brim on the hood.

I bought a lightweight baseball cap from Ciele to replace my full brim sun hat. It is a soft trucker hat and didn’t itch or scratch my head, and the mesh is breathable.

How I like it

I like it a lot.

In fact I haven’t worn my other sun shirt since I bought the hoodie. I have worn the hoodie showshoeing all winter as well.

The material is light enough not to make me hot in the trips I’ve worn it so far, but I haven’t worn it much on hot days since we bought it in the fall. The fabric breathes a little more than my sun shirt so I am hoping I will not need as much as much ventilation as I used to. Not to mention the sun hoodie is just one layer vs my old setup of two layers.

So from what I can tell, the fabric seems to breathe well and is very comfortable. I can later on top of it without any discomfort.

The seams are well thought out. The seams on the shoulder are not noticeable and are placed such that they do not become pressure points or irritating below pack shoulder straps.

There are no pockets, no frills or unnecessary features. It’s a shirt with a hood. No zips or buttons. Again nothing to interfere with pack shoulder straps or hip belts.

The hood has good coverage but I am still a little concerned that the side of my face is a bit exposed. Through the winter I have turned my hat to follow the sun but I will need to keep an eye on this and make sure I do get enough protection from the sun.

Final notes

I really like the hoodie so far, and it certainly is better than my sun shirt on shorter trips in cool weather.

I am concerned that I may lose some sun protection on my side of my face so I need to keep an eye on that to make sure I have a solution.

I’m curious to find out if this sun hoodie will continue to feel clean after a week or if it will feel more dirty than my current setup. I do know that I haven’t cleaned it after every day hike and it’s felt fine, do the real test will be multiple days this summer in the heat and sun.