Backcountry Tahoe Sun Hoodie Review

Check out Katie’s review of the women’s version of the Backcountry Tahoe Sun Hoodie here.

When I started backpacking as a teenager, I used an external frame backpack, carried a slingshot, and wore mostly cotton layers.  I was young, the oblivious owner of rubber knees, and had a lot to learn. Fast forward to the present day.  I have the same rubber knees, but all of my other gear has changed.  And when it comes to the clothes I wear, I am much more discerning.

I used to think that using long sleeve shirts for backpacking was purely for nerds. You know the type: collared shirt, hat with one of those neck-sun-things, zip-off pants.  Still, in the name of sun protection, I embraced my inner nerd for my PCT thru-hike in 2015 and started hiking north from the border in a crisp, white button-down.  I loved that shirt to destruction and have worn long sleeves in the backcountry ever since.

Nerd. Cool hat, though. Circa 2015.

Enter the Backcountry Tahoe Sun Hoodie.  This functional active layer provides even more sun protection than my nerd shirt and looks better doing it.  It helps me keep it casual while protecting my skin during fun in the sun.  Being tan is overrated.

Backcountry Tahoe Sun Hoodie At-a-Glance

Not much natural sun protection above treeline on Mount Hood. The Tahoe Sun Hoodie let me bring my own. Photo via SpiceRack

MSRP:  $69.95
Type:  Lightweight sun hoodie
Material:  78% nylon, 14% spandex, 8% polyester
UPF Rating:  30+
Weight:  9 ounces (men’s small, measured)

Intended Use

The Tahoe Sun Hoodie thrives in warm weather pursuits when sun protection is a priority.  For me that mostly means backpacking, but it also includes running, beach lounging, and walking the dog.  I reach for this hoodie pretty much anytime I am applying sunscreen.  It also does a decent job ( by itself or as part of a layering system) of fighting off a chill once the sun goes down.

Circumstances of Review

The Tahoe Sun Hoodie has been my go-to active layer all summer. Over the past few months, I’ve used it for several hundred miles of running, hiking, and backpacking.  I’ve seen a handful of dreary days, but mostly I’ve used this shirt as intended: to protect my delicate skin from the sun’s harsh rays.

Plenty of those at 12,000 feet in Colorado or on a sunny traverse of Mount Hood’s Timberline Trail.

And to the chagrin of my partner, I maintained a strong commitment to testing the odor resisting properties of the Tahoe Sun Hoodie.  Mine went unwashed for its first month and is still given ample time to ripen between spin cycles.

Backcountry Tahoe Sun Hoodie Features

The hood and thumb loops provide plenty of sun protection on bright days. Photo via aeigenbrot

Hood:  The close-fitting hood keeps the sun off your neck when it’s bright and traps warmth when it’s not.  This is my favorite feature of this shirt and the one I appreciate most above treeline.  This hood does a good job of staying on in the wind, though it does require readjustments in gusty conditions.

Sun Protection:  With a UPF 30+ rating, this shirt blocks over 97% of UV rays (including UVA, which is not factored into sunscreen SPF ratings).  It’s not the highest rating (UPF 50+), but it’s certainly adequate, and way better than cotton (UPF 5).  This is awesome for reducing dependence on consumable and chemically questionable sunblocking goo.

Thumb Loops:  A thumb loop keeps each sleeve secure when reaching overhead or pulling on a jacket.  Most importantly, the loops allow the sleeves to function as sun gloves by keeping them pulled over the back of the hand.

Lightweight, Stretchy Fabric:  The 14% spandex blend is really noticeable in this hoodie.  The fit is already a little loose, and the high-stretch blend of materials ensures unrestricted movement.  The fabric is lightly textured and lightweight, which helps it feel breezy on hot days, yet it’s heavy enough to not stick like saran wrap when it gets sweaty.

Better Than Sunscreen

The long sleeves and thumb loops allow me to protect the back of my hands from sun and cold. No more forgetting to apply sunscreen.

Sun protective clothing is my preferred alternative to slathering on sunscreen—or forgetting to.  It protects my skin better because it’s always there and doesn’t lose effectiveness with time or sweat.  I still use sunscreen on my face because my beard doesn’t cover the whole thing, unfortunately.

But the longer I’m in the backcountry (i.e., the dirtier I get), the more I appreciate the benefits of minimizing its use.  I don’t have to carry as much of the stuff, I reduce that nasty feeling of layering dirt and sunscreen for multiple days in a row, my gear is exposed to less of a performance damaging substance, and my LNT practice improves by minimizing the nasty chemicals I release into the environment when taking a dip in pristine mountain water.

Comfort

The Tahoe Sun Hoodie is a comfortable shirt.  The fabric does a great job of providing sun protection while remaining light and breezy.  It breathes well and dries quickly when it gets sweaty with that oh-so-pleasant evaporative cooling effect.

Fit and Sizing

At least for the men’s version, this shirt is a loose fit.  I’m not a big dude, but the size small still blows in the breeze.  I like that for warm weather because it allows air to circulate between my skin and shirt.  The torso and sleeves are cut long and maintain coverage even when I stretch to my vertical limit.  This, combined with the stretchy fabric, makes the Tahoe Sun Hoodie a garment of maximal mobility.  The hood moves with the head and is cut to maintain peripheral vision.

Stink

This shirt resists developing a nasty funk for about a week.  Granted, my thru-hike-trained nose is difficult to offend and my partner definitely disagrees with me on this point.  At the very least, it has average odor resistance, similar to other synthetic shirts that I’ve used.  A regular wash cycle fully restores freshness.

Pros

Another pro: cool dogs like people in cool shirts.

Thumb Loops: They keep my hands covered, providing both sun protection and warmth.  No more hand tans: this is an elegant and effective solution to an issue that’s easy to overlook.

Hood: It stays on in light wind and doesn’t restrict head motion.  It adds great sun protection and a moderate warmth boost in cooler conditions.

Keeps Me Cool: On a bright day with direct sunlight, covering my skin keeps me cooler.  I scoffed at that notion at first, but it’s true.  Sunscreen hassle aside, I’d rather wear long sleeves over short sleeves on a sunny day.  The same goes for neck coverage.  This shirt casts shade and is light enough to let out the heat.

Durability: Aside from permanent discoloration where I grip my dirty trekking poles, this shirt still looks great after roughly 300 miles of use.  The incredible stretch makes it difficult to puncture.

That discoloration is permanent. Meh.

Cons

Extra-Long Sleeves: The sleeves on this shirt are ridiculously long.  Even when I’m using the thumb loops, there’s a bunch of excess material scrunched at my wrists.  This might be a plus for Michael Phelps, but not for me.  With the incredible stretch of the fabric, I don’t see the need for such a generous cut.  Better too long than too short, though.

Non-Recycled Material: Humans have created enough plastic.  No need to use virgin materials when recycling is an option.

Availability: At the time of writing, the men’s version of this shirt is sold out for the season.  Look for its return in 2021.  In the meantime, Backcountry’s Pentapitch Hooded Pullover serves a similar purpose.

Overall Value

Between my mask and Tahoe Sun Hoodie, I really don’t need much sunscreen these days. Photo via SpiceRack

The Tahoe Sun Hoodie’s price is middle-of-the-road relative to the competition.  The sun shirt clothing category may seem simple, but there are a number of small features that distinguish one shirt from another.  The hood and thumb loops are must-haves for me, and I appreciate that the Tahoe Sun Hoodie stops there.  Zippers and pockets are nice additions, but they add complexity to a layer that doesn’t necessarily need them.  The Backcountry team has created a great shirt that I will continue to wear just about every time I reach for my sunscreen.

Shop the Tahoe Sun Hoodie at Backcountry

Shop the Pentapitch Hooded Pullover at Backcountry

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