Product Review: The Sun Shirt Showdown

I never did like tan lines, and I especially don’t like tan lines now that I’m trying to fool everyone in my building that I’m a serious young professional. So when “sun shirts”, or lightweight vented shirts (sometimes) with SPF protection, became trendy and affordable, I threw myself onto the bandwagon with gusto. With every paycheck I try to add to my collection, and now that I have a few brands I wanted to share just how well each shirt holds up.

For comparison purposes, all of the photos were taken on the same day, with the same breeches (Kerrits Flex Tight II) on. All shirts are size Small.

CHP, October 2014 - Sun shirt in action

CHP, October 2014 – Ariat sun shirt in action

Ariat Sunstopper Shirt ($49.95)ariat

This was my first sun shirt purchase back when I decided to add another color to my eventing scheme (tricolor pony, tricolor human). Immediately I fell in love with the vented under-arms and light weight material. The collar looks high professional though the poppers (rather than a zipper) keep the shirt from being something I would ride down centerline in an actual dressage show. The fit is figure flattering as well- working with my curves rather than hiding them under a bag-like structure, although it still minimizes any muffin-topiness that might happen when folding over the fence. I only have two complaints about the Ariat Sunstopper- the first is the available colors. At the moment I have only seen them in four versions- white, navy, navy with dots, and medium blue. White being impractical for daily (or any real) work around horses, and the navy does seem to warm up a bit faster if you are sitting in the sun. The second biff is that where the vented underarms meets the cloth of the shirt, the elastic is starting to break down in the wash after about 10-15 washes.

No, I haven't decided to go French, that's the elastic breaking down at the seam of this shirt

No, I haven’t decided to go French, that’s the elastic breaking down at the seam of this shirt

Overall, the shirt is affordable so I would buy another, but hope Ariat steps up the color game in the meantime. The Ariat Sunstopper gets a B+ from me!

Ovation EverCool Rider Zip Shirt ($35.95)

Clearly this girl knows how to model a shirt

Clearly this girl knows how to model a shirt

I bought this shirt hoping to save a few dollars on a new sun shirt. And while the price may be pretty good, it is not as breathable as its Ariat counterpart. I find that if I am going out in the evening (low 90s temp with humidity) this shirt is still a good (though not best) choice, but wouldn’t wear it in the heat of the day. I chose the light grey option, which I found out very quickly is not a good option when dealing with a snuggly-alfalfa-mash-eater like Foster. Armed with Shout though the shirt washes out nicely. The only part of the shirt that has gotten rather dingy looking are the sleeve-ends, which are thicker than the rest of the shirt and wider than the Ariat and Riding Sport models, and so seem to collect all the dirt and nastiness that summer riding brings. B- for this pretty cool counterpart.

Tuffrider Ventilated Technical Shirt ($39.95)tuffriderDespairing once again for my wallet, I decided to try again with this affordable shirt by Tuffrider. Once again I had a hard time choosing a color that I thought would not be too hot (black sun shirts? why, just why?) but wouldn’t stain too easily. So, going against years of UNC prejudice, I bought the baby blue option. Like the Ovation shirt, the thicker sleeve-ends have also become dingy in just a few rides. And as you can see, this shirt is the least fitted of the bunch, which while it will hide the many Cheese-Its eaten at the show, is somewhat less than flattering in my mind. The real kicker to this shirt though is the fabric, which is easily the thickest sunshirt I’ve seen. After a few rides in it, I really don’t consider this shirt to be a great summer option if temperatures in the mid-90s are the norm. Rather, this shirt would be reasonable in late spring/early fall when the sun is still strong but you won’t die from overheating. Therefore the Tuffrider Ventilated Shirt gets a C- from this Wolfpack fan.

Dover Riding Sport CoolBlast Shirt ($59.99)ridingsport
Hearing good things about these shirts, I picked up two of them on sale at the local store. Even still, the price tag hurt a bit at $50 a pop. However, this shirt definitely makes the cut as a credible summer riding option. It’s lightweight, and although just a hair less breathable than the Ariat Sunstopper, the very thin mesh definitely allows for air circulation and comfort. The shirt has a fitted look, and with the thin material won’t hide lumps and bumps as easily as the dark material of the Ariat, but the colors available are also part of this shirt’s charm. Besides the lilac color (yes I swear it’s Lilac!) I’m wearing in the photo, I also bought the green option pictured. That means that these shirts also became best friends with Shout, but is worth taking the extra minute to launder them. The Riding Sport CoolBlast shirt gets an A- in my mind, with price being the main reason I don’t have 5 more in my collection.


31 thoughts on “Product Review: The Sun Shirt Showdown

  1. I haven’t tried any of these options. Once I got my first Kastel at a show I was screwed in terms of feeling how thick most of the other shirts felt compared. However I didn’t feel a large portion of the ones on your list so thank you for the review! A lot of shirts have hit the market!

  2. Love this! I’ve tried the Kerrits ventilator and the EIS. Ventilators are cheaper but haven’t held up very well. The EIS was AWESOME and sadly was cut off me in the ER, boo. EIS is super pricey (I won mine in a giveaway) but I certainly plan on buying some because it was that great.

    • Oh wow! I wasn’t familiar with EIS before so that’s good to know! There’s a couple people in the comments recommending the Kastels- they are a few dollars cheaper than the EIS and might also be worth a try 🙂

  3. interesting comparison! so far the only sunshirts i’ve tried are SmartPak’s version (of which i bought 2 on super sale), and i’ve been… not as impressed as i’d hoped. they’re just not quite as cool as i wanted, tho they don’t have the underarm vents which perhaps make a difference? perhaps will try out the dover shirt – or maybe one day a kastel?

    • The Tuffrider Shirt has actual under arm (pit 😛 ) vents, which I feel like would be a neat option if the rest of it wasn’t so gosh darn thick!

  4. If you want to save money, don’t buy something for the UPF factor… it’s just a marketing gimmick. I’ve been saying it for years to my friends: your normal tight knit shirt is going to provide almost the same UPF rating as these products. Woven fabrics will be even higher.

    Most textiles are light blocking anyway; really, the machines that calculate UPF of a material are just looking at how much light passes through the object.

    Just FYI 🙂 Now, cooling and wicking treatments, whole other story.. but consider some other garments that don’t necessarily advertise themselves as sun shirts!

  5. It’s too bad you had that problem with the Ariat shirt. I have that one in the blue polk-a-dots and I love it. I wear it at least once a week and I haven’t had any problems with the stitching or elastic wearing. I also have three of the dover ones. I like those a lot.

  6. Pingback: Product Review – SMTT Sun Shirt Showdown | She Moved to Texas

  7. Great review! I’ve had the same ‘vent meets fabric’ issue but on my EIS shirts.
    I wonder if it’s some challenge in the construction. I’ve stopped putting mine in the dryer to try and extend their life.

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