Patagonia Sun Stretch shirt review

DSC01351As I mentioned last week, there are some, stifling hot, occasions when even the lightest knit baselayers aren’t up to the task.  The latest light (100 grams/meter or less) poly baselayers dry fast, but there’s something about the wicking process upon which modern poly shirts depend that just doesn’t get the job done in serious heat.  Too much moisture is left against the skin, while at the same time the fabric minimizes any benefit you might get from evaporative cooling.  I’ve used poly/cotton dress shirts for quite some time, with a fair degree of success, but after a few days they get nasty and chafe.  More seriously, they are one trick critters.  In anything other than darn hot weather they’ll be in your pack, which during an extended summer rain interlude can mead you’re hauling around a damp ball of slime until the solar gets cranking again.

Patagonia’s Sun Stretch shirt is a, and perhaps for the moment the, solution to this problem.  Made from a 52%/48% nylon/poly woven, the Sun Stretch takes the traditional trekking/fishing/safari shirt and builds it from truly light fabric, namely 76 grams/meter.  This light a fabric just can’t absorb much water, which has been a big knock against 100% nylon wovens. The poly percentage also helps with breathability and a pleasant and fairly non-synthetic against the skin feel, the other reason why until now woven shirts have never graced my baselayer closet.  Because it’s a woven and not a knit, the fabric doesn’t actively seek to suck moisture off your skin, which paradoxically helps in very hot weather by letting evaporative cooling do its thing. The Sun Stretch is not the ideal tool for cold weather, but when moisture transport and overall mitigation is a major concern, it isn’t too much of a liability, either.

Limitations are few. First, it comes in Patagonia’s “relaxed” fit, which means that to get good sleeve length you’ll need to put up with a overly voluminous torso. I’m fortunate in that I can fit into a small, with only the littlest hint of shoulder tightness, and could thus find one on sale. I can tolerate the slightly short sleeves. My vote would be for more conventional sizing. The second limitation is that the stink factor, while far from terrible, is not what we’ve come to expect in the age of Polygiene. With blazing fast dry times it’d still be a good travel shirt, but it would need frequent sink washings to maintain a good margin of social acceptability, especially in the first world.


Detailing and construction quality is typical Patagonia, which is to say quite good. The chest pockets are capacious, the zippers both smooth running and small enough in coil to be unobtrusive. The buttons are sewn on, but plenty thick and feel well attached. Little details, like shoulder articulation and buttons to hold up the sleeves, are all present.  I wouldn’t mind a stiffer collar that would stand up for sun protection, but that’s a small issue.

Fit and nitpicks aside I could happily have this and the Sitka Core hoody as my only next to skin layers, year round.  The Sun Stretch is particularly nice in that it can work backpacking or mountain biking, and transfer to a rural burger joint without too thoroughly screaming; I’m a “technical” yuppie goon.  Taken together the Sun Stretch and Core hoody over 200 dollars worth of shirt, but if you’re going for quality and longevity over quantity, they’d be my suggestion.




20 responses to “Patagonia Sun Stretch shirt review”

  1. Yeah it’s a nice shirt. I’m taking one – along with 1 short sleeve poly – on a thru hike of the rockies this summer. I like how it feels classy too.

  2. I’m going to give the MH air tech stripe shirt a try next week for similar application. In hand it felt like it’d be a decent bit more breathable than the paty and is even lighter.

    Where I have a feeling the sun stretch might have the edge is next to skin feel after 10 hours of hiking, which can be pretty bad with this particular shirt genre.

  3. I was surprised to find that Patagonia does not make a casual, hot weather shirt that also has polygiene treatment. It seems like a no-brainer for the non-dirtbag thru hiking set, which there seem to be a lot of these days. And with significant crossover into the hostels-and-trains obackpacking demographic. For sun protection, stink resistance and burger joint appeal, I’ve been looking at the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite. Unfortunately they don’t publish much detail on their fabric, but it does look interesting:

  4. I like it, but am wondering whether I should save that slot for something w/ built in bug treatment… thoughts?

    1. No personal experience with Permethrin. Read wildly varying reports on its efficacy.

    2. I have an ex-officio shirt with the built in Permethrin treatment that I got from Sierra Trading Post for a deal…it worked really well last summer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan…black flies would land, but not stay on me.

      However, Philip Werner (Section Hiker) has an article on soaking your clothes in Permethrin…I’d get the shirt you want and then just soak it yourself.

  5. Wore this today in upper 80’s with high humidity for about 3.5 hours/8 miles. When you really get sweaty it’s got a pretty different feel from the standard light baselayer I’m used to. Like you said the thin fabric can only soak up so much water, and once it does it left me with a weird (but not unpleasant) feeling of having a layer of water around me…hard to describe, but nice in that you don’t feel like you have a wet sponge on you either.

    Either way though, even with long sleeves it was very comfortable for the hike. Very pleased with it. Definitely will be the go to summer shirt.

  6. Seems like an interesting alternative…really light weight fabric: 2oz/58grams per yard. Intro price is nice

  7. I just picked up 2 of these on sale at Patagonia, both size medium. One is for me, the other for my son… I am starting to have some concern about the one for my son though… he is 5’11” (ish… he is a hair taller than me, but reminds me of it often…lol!) and about 150 lbs. He’s 15 and plays football, so he has an slim, cut, athletic build… I am wondering if I should have went with a size small for him instead of the medium… I see you went with a small… if you don’t mind me asking, what height, weight and build are you?

    On another note, I am quite excited to be getting these… We plan to hike the JMT next summer and these seem to check off several boxes for what I wanted. Until they arrive in the mail though, thanks for the review. Enjoyed reading it, and it reinforced my expectations of it!


    1. 5’11”, 160ish. I like the torso fit of the small, but the shoulders are a wee bit tight.

      1. Thanks. I am thinking about just ordering a small and then returning/selling the one he doesn’t use… Another question, do you think it would be more comfortable or cooler if it were a little larger though?

        1. Probably. I’m looking for a long sleeve in medium.

        2. After replying to you this morning I went ahead and picked up another one of these in a size small… I am going to let him try on both and see which he prefers… if he chooses the small (which I kind of think he may) I will need to return the medium. If you would like I would be happy to give it to you for what I paid ($70) rather than go through the return process with Patagonia. The one in medium is the color “Pelagic: Bend Blue”. They should be here next week.

        3. Just to follow up, we received all the shirts in today. My son tried on the small and the medium, and while the small is likely the better overall fit, he too said that he would go with the medium because the shoulder area felt a little tight when he moved his arms around. So, I am sending the small back! As for the shirt, it is pretty nice initially. It does feel nice net to skin (better than my REI Sahara L/S nylon shirt) and it is light! I can’t wait to get it out on the trail now! Thanks for all the help!

        4. I’d like a less casual fit, but overall both the long and short sleeved versions have been constant companions this summer. Good for almost anything, and even moderately bug proof.

        5. That’s food to hear. As to it being “bug proof” would you say that bugs can bite through the material? I plan to treat ours with permethrin to help deter some of them a bit.

        6. Skeeters can bite through it, but only with a bit of effort. Quite a bit better than capilene and the like in this respect, but not what I’d take as a bug shirt to the Boundary Waters in June either.

  8. Just a followup after having used this some more. I still love it…for hot weather, it’s the best thing I’ve found. Appreciate the full sun coverage, and yet not feeling hotter than a T-shirt. The sleeves, with the buttons to keep them up are nice. And the chest pockets come in handy, although anything in them will get wet from sweat. As Dave noted, it’s good at resisting bugs too.

    HOWEVER, having just worn it for 14 miles with a SO frame pack, I have a part of it that is pretty messed up on the lower back…turned to complete fuzz and bunched permanently in a weird way. Something about the belt or frame must have pinched and rubbed it the wrong way. Any other time I’ve worn it has been on day hikes, and what with it being summer and all, the packs had minimal belts.

    1. Odd. The three I have have all seen dozens of miles under big packs, and no such issues. Maybe subtle variations in fabric.

      1. Yeah, I don’t know. I just put the shirt on and the pack again. It was hard to see where the rubbed spot is with the pack on, and I couldn’t really feel it that well either. Maybe it’s just a combination of my love handles and lats that did it to me. Or I do recall pulling the shirt down (because I felt it bunched up under the belt after putting it on), and maybe I did it then, but the fuzzing would make it seem like it was a friction issue. I don’t think I can post pictures here, but I emailed them to you (not that you really care).

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s