All right, ya’ll! I’ve been sitting on this post for quite a bit and now that I’ve collected all my data, its time to report my findings. Also, I find this to be a fitting post as Cali has had like 12 days of amazeballz weather. High of 78? Yes. But El Nino please come back because we still need a TON of water and Spot need carrots. And of course….
I’ve always been a sleeveless polo/polo shirt wearer when I ride and I’ve always slathered on sunblock. However, I had a little bit of a scare with a mole appearing on the back of my arm a bit ago and sun shirts sounded like a solid investment. I wanted to be able to get another layer of protection along with my normal sunblock routine.
As you all know, sun shirts have been/become one of the new must have items for equestrians, style-wise and also health-wise. Because honestly, nobody wants sunburns and skin cancer, but everyone wants to look fabulous.
With so many brands on the market, I wasn’t sure which ones I would like or which ones to start with, but over the last few months I’ve accumulated several different brands after finding them on sale or used.
The ones I have are:
1. Equi In Style (EIS): ~$85-90
2. Ovation Cool Rider: ~$35
3. Kastel Denmark: ~$75
4. Bette & Court Cool Elements: ~$75
5. Irideon CoolDown IceFil: ~$85
I thought reviewing these shirts side by side would help give people an idea of what shirt they might like to get if a sun shirt is in your shopping future. All of these sun shirts have the mesh inserts under the arms and a half zip high collar. I will say though, on really hot 98deg + days just about anything you wear is going to be hot when riding. Even though these sun shirts are suppose to cool you down 5 degrees, you’re not going to feel cool as a cucumber. On those sort of days, its a dry fit tank top + sunblock slather, not a long sleeve, but that being said, when its not hot as Hades I’ll be wearing a sun shirt fo sho.
Anyways, lets begin! 1st up:
Equi In Style (EIS)
The material is a slightly textured tech fabric, thicker than say the Kastel fabric which makes it feel a bit more rugged, but feels nice against the skin. The mesh under the arms is quite fine and doesn’t catch or feel scratchy. When riding, I don’t feel my arms frying and the shirt wicks the sweat away so when a breeze rolls by it feels great. The EIS shirt has UPF 50 so good sun protection. They’re easy to wash and really don’t hold any weird smells as some technical fabrics can. I haven’t noticed any snagging of the mesh or fabric from either washing or at the barn.
Fit-wise, I typically wear a size Medium in most tops, but I found these ones to run a little small so I sized up to a Large as I have broad shoulders and a stockier build. One annoying thing is that there is this bib like extra fabric underneath the half zipper. I feel like it makes the shirt lay a little off kilter sometimes and made me feel more warm. The EIS has a fitted cuff, which I prefer over an un-fitted, and helps keep the shirt from messing with your gloves. These shirts come in several different colors so you can be as matchy-matchy as you like . 🙂
Pros: Good selection of colors, wicks well, doesn’t hold gross smells, has UPF 50
Cons: Expensive at ~$90 a pop, thicker fabric, extra zipper fabric
Ovation Cool Rider
The material for the Cool Rider is definitely thicker and not as silky feeling as the EIS, Kastel, and B&C sun shirts. The fabric is also a bit shinier than the other shirts and the mesh isn’t as fine but doesn’t feel scratchy or uncomfortable. Riding-wise, the shirt didn’t wick away sweat that well and I definitely felt a lot warmer and much sweatier since I was in long sleeves. Also, the Cool Rider isn’t listed with any UPF protection. It washed well, didn’t hold any strange smells after a long day at the barn and has held up pretty well.
For fit, this shirt runs quite short and it didn’t seem like I had enough to tuck into my breeches. Also, the fit of the Cool Rider is more on the boxy side so for more of a fitted look, I’d size down. I stayed with my normal medium sizing for this shirt. This shirt has a little less extra zipper fabric than the EIS, but didn’t have fitted cuffs so the sleeve opening gapes and gets in the way. I also collected a lot of hay in these wider sleeve cuffs and they got pretty dirty after a day at the barn. These shirts come in lots of different colors as well and at their price point of ~$30 you can get 3 for the price of 1 EIS.
Pros: Lots of colors, low price point, no excess zipper fabric, washes well
Cons: Thicker fabric, doesn’t seem to wick super well, no UPF, no fitted cuffs, boxy fit
Kastel’s material is really light and silky feeling to the touch and has the thinnest material out of all of the sun shirts I have. The underarm mesh is fine and like the rest of the shirt doesn’t feel scratchy or rough. When riding, the fabric shines and really wicks my sweat away from body, making for a less steamy rider. I think the thinness of the fabric really helps the wicking properties. I wore this shirt on a super hot day (97 degree +) and though it was still hot, whenever a breeze rolled by it was marvelous. The UPF 30 provides some good protection from the sun too. These also wash up well and the fabric doesn’t lock in any rank smells. I accidentally left my sweaty shirt in my bag for a night (or 3) and it washed with no problems and no leftover stinkiness. But, like the EIS this one has a weird bib of fabric on the inside underneath the zipper.
In terms of fit, I feel this shirt definitely runs small as well so I sized up to a Large since the Medium was tight…definitely highlighted some of my lumps and bumps which I don’t care to highlight. 😛 I feel that the Kastel is probably the most fitted of all the shirts so size up if you like a looser fit. This shirt has a fitted cuff so your shirt sleeves stay in place. These shirts come in lots and lots of colors with some having a rhinestone bling design on the back so you can be as flashy or subdued as you like. The Kastels are priced at $75 which isn’t cheap, but not outrageous.
Pros: Lots of colors, silky fabric, fitted cuff, wicks really well, washes well
Cons: A little pricey, runs small and tight, only has UPF 30
Bette & Court Cool Elements
I have heard that EIS is actually just an offshoot of B&C, and after comparing both shirts I would have to agree. The texture of the B&C fabric is very much like the EIS, abet, maybe a little thinner. The mesh underarms, like all the other shirts is fine, with no scratchy edges or seams and hasn’t caught on anything. The B&C wicks well, and I would say a little bit better than the EIS because of the seemingly thinner fabric. I wore this when I had my jump lesson and I felt quite comfortable in it even though it was warm and my arms didn’t feel like they were roasting. This sun shirt has UPF 30 which is pretty solid.
Washing wise, this shirt did ok and didn’t hold any gross sweaty smells. However, I think maybe because of the color I got (pastel yellow), the color got a little dingy and wasn’t as bright as it use to be. For fit, I got my normal medium and it fit well. The B&C are a little less form fitting in comparison to EIS and Kastel, but not completely without shape, so this shirt would be a good pick for someone who wants something more relaxed without needing to size up. My one big pet peeve about this shirt though is that it does not have fitted cuffs. The sleeve cuff hangs down and gets stretched out since I’ve been rolling up the bottom of the sleeve to get it out of the way. Also, with unfitted cuffs I’ve noticed they get more dirty around that area. The B&C comes in a plethora of different colors and patterns that the other shirt brands don’t have. The Bette & Court Cool Elements is priced around $75 but you can usually find them a little bit cheaper.
Pros: Basically just like EIS, lots of color choices, wicks great, more true to size
Cons: No fitted sleeves, UPF is lower than EIS, potential color fading
Irideon CoolDown IceFill
Last but not least, we have the Irideon CoolDown long sleeve shirt.
This shirt is the same as the others in that it has mesh under the sleeves with a 1/4 zip in front and collar. The fabric to me feels like an in between of the EIS and the Kastel to be honest. Same kind of slightly waffled texture like the EIS, but a bit thinner like the Kastels. It has UPF 50, which is pretty awesome and a slightly rounded back hem which makes it easier to keep tucked into your breeches. The sleeves are also fitted like the EIS and Kastel shirts. Also, there is a size pocket where you can put your cell phone, but its pretty small so probably won’t fit a smart phone. I use it for keeping treats handy. I like the silhouette of this shirt as it lays nicely and is contoured without being super clingy.
I also sized up in this brand and the Large fits basically just like my EIS shirts; not too baggy, and not too tight. They come in a limited amount of colors, but the color combinations are well done. I’m really eyeballing the Coral and White combo from RW but keeping white white makes me shudder. The color I own is a very pretty vibrant blue with black mesh under the sleeves. Price wise at around ~$85 is a bit steep, but I seem to be able to find them on sale.
Pros: Nice in between Kastel and EIS fabric, fitted cuffs, UPF 50, treat/cell phone pocket
Cons: Expensive, not as many color combos, runs a touch small
If I were to rank these shirts from 1-10, with 1 being Hell No and 10 being Hell Yes and Take My Money it would go like this:
1. EIS: 7.5/10
Though quite a nice shirt, the heavier fabric and high price point are dings against it. At around $90 its pretty expensive and hard to justify buying several of them. That being said, it had good wicking though not as good as the Kastel, performed well at the barn, and comes in lots of colors. Plus, these shirts are a show circuit must-have so if you’re into being in the know fashion/style wise these are your shirt.
2. Ovation Cool Rider: 4.0/10
The Cool Rider is the most budget friendly of the sun shirts and has the detailing of the other sun shirts, like the mesh underarm inserts and half zip collar. However, I feel that the fabric and construction doesn’t compare to the EIS, Kastel, or B&C shirts. I didn’t feel the wicking qualities with this shirt as I did with the other brands and I definitely felt hotter when I was riding. Also, this shirt doesn’t list any UPF in its fabric, so no go for me.
3. Kastel Denmark: 8.0/10
I really like the Kastel shirts and I it is my top pick out of the sun shirts I’ve tried. It has lightweight material, wicks extremely well, large color choices, and has an acceptable price point. It does run a bit small and clings, which isn’t my favorite, but its not too bad. Dropping $75 is still a substantial amount to spend on a shirt, but if you had to buy one I would say invest your money in this one. The UPF 30 will help protect your skin and the wicking affects will make up for the fact that you’re wearing long sleeves in the summer. Pair this with a cooling vest and you’ll stay cool as a cucumber!
4. Bette & Court Cool Elements: 7.0/10
The B&C Cool Elements was a hard one to rank…it has pretty much the same construction as the EIS with the B&C maybe having slightly thinner fabric, but at a much more affordable price point at ~$75. I think EIS and B&C are almost tied since EIS has a fitted cuff but is $$$ and the B&C has no fitted cuff but is cheaper. I also feel like the B&C has a slight edge on EIS as they have a ton more color choices along with different patterns and are easier to find as they are golf shirts. Also, B&C has a more relaxed fit without needing to size up so this sun shirt might be more friendly to those looking for something not as fitted.
5. Irideon CoolDown IceFil: 7.8 /10
I definitely like this shirt and I think it is right on par with the EIS shirts. I honestly think I like this shirt a little better than the EIS. The fabric is soft but feels substantial and does a great job of wicking away sweat. The fit is nice as it is contoured but not super tight or clingy and I feel the Irideon runs a bit smaller as well. However, going up a size still made for a well fitted, contoured shirt. The UPF 50 is awesome so that combined with the slightly thinner fabric makes for good sun protection and staying cool. I wish there were more color combinations in this shirt and that it wasn’t as expensive at $85, but I have seen these shirts on sale for around $50. If you can get one of these shirts on sale I think its a great buy!
So final ranking would be:
Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner: Kastel Denmark
Silver Medal: Irideon CoolDown IceFil
Bronze Medal: Equi in Style
4th Place: Bette & Court Cool Elements
5th Place: Ovation Cool Rider
I hope that this review will be helpful and give some insight to anyone looking at buying a sun shirt or two!