- The Ridge Merino Solstice is a merino sun hoodie designed for breathability, temperature regulation, and sun protection during hikes and other outdoor adventures.
- I tested the Solstice during a month of bikepacking and two shorter backpacking trips.
- Among merino sun hoodies the Solstice stands out for its durable fabric, large hood, and affordable price. Its biggest weakness is hot weather.
Merino sun hoodies are exploding in popularity lately, and it’s easy to see why. If I’m going to wear one shirt for weeks on end while hiking or biking, I want some serious functional benefits: sun protection, temperature regulation, and that all-important stink-resistance merino is famous for. Merino wool is never cheap and it’s often not very durable, but for many of us who spend long days outdoors its benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
In my quest to find the perfect merino hoodie I’ve been testing the Solstice from Ridge Merino (women’s / men’s). I put it through the wringer on a month-long bikepacking trip in Idaho, Utah, and Arizona last fall. It saw scorching hot afternoons, plenty of chilly mornings and evenings (no surprise at 10,000 feet in October), very little shade, and only occasional showers and laundromats. More recently I wore it for two shorter backpacking trips in the Pacific Northwest in late September, with weather spanning from sunny afternoons to cold drizzle and freezing nights.
Overall I’ve been impressed with the Solstice Hoody. Lightweight merino wool is a challenging fabric to get right and Ridge Merino has done a great job minimizing its downsides. But the Solstice is not a perfect choice for all conditions, and the design choices will appeal to some folks more than others. Read on for my long-term review of the Ridge Merino Solstice to learn whether it’s right for you.
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Ridge Merino Solstice Lightweight Wool Hoodie
Weight: 7.5 ounces
Fabric: (m)Force™ Merino: 87% Merino Wool 13% Nylon
Fabric weight: 145 g/m
Origin: Designed and tested in California, sewn in Thailand
My rating: 4.3 / 5 stars, good value that performs well
My conclusion: The Ridge Merino Solstice stands out as an affordable all-around merino sun hoody. Though the fabric feels a little heavy for the hottest days, it does everything else really well: sun protection, durability, comfort, and no-see-through looks especially. The larger hood is a matter of personal preference, but overall the design is thoughtful and the fit is forgiving.
Solstice Hoodie Pros:
- Fabric is very durable for lightweight merino
- Sleeves are plenty long; thumb loops help with sun protection
- Stink-resistant even on multi-week outdoor adventures
- UPF 30 sun protection does its job well
- Large adjustable hood fits over helmets and offers good sun coverage
- Affordable for a merino hoody
- Made from sustainably sourced merino wool
Solstice Hoodie Cons:
- Fabric is too heavy for hot weather (around 75+ F in my experience)
- Large hood and drawstrings sometimes get in the way
My Experience with the Solstice Hoodie
I put the Solstice Hoodie through the wringer during a monthlong bikepacking trip on the Western Wildlands Route. The ride spanned southern Idaho, the high plateaus of Utah, and northern Arizona during September and October. In other words, the climate was varied! There were freezing nights up at 10,000 feet and scorching afternoons down low in the desert. Aside from a spare t-shirt packed away for occasional town days, the Ridge Solstice hoody was my one and only base layer shirt for the whole month.
I also chose the Solstice for a couple late-September backpacking trips on the Timberline Trail and Loowit Trail in the Pacific Northwest. Both involved cool days, some sunny weather, and some stormy weather.
My Solstice hoody is a women’s size small, and I hope this women’s review will be especially useful to female readers. Ridge Merino makes a men’s version of the Solstice with exactly the same specs, just a different fit and slightly different color choices, so hopefully men find my review useful too.
Throughout this review I’ll be making comparisons to the Smartwool Ultralight Sport Hoodie and the Wuru Nuyarn Lightweight Hoodie, two other merino sun hoodies I’ve tested long-term. Both are more minimalist in their features and fabric weight, with the Smartwool Ultralight in particular being pretty much the opposite of the Ridge.
Merino wool is known for its impressively flexible thermoregulation: adding warmth when it’s cool and helping to cool when it’s hot. The Solstice performs well in this regard, but its comfort range is best suited for moderate-to-cool temps in my experience.
At 145 g/m weight, the Solstice is considered lightweight merino but not ultralight. Thus it suffers from the same limitations as most merino shirts of similar weight: it’s not quite light enough for comfort in humid or truly hot weather. I have a few 150-weight merino t-shirts that I can tolerate in such conditions. But the added coverage of long sleeves and the substantial hood, either on my head or resting on my back, made the Solstice noticeably too heavy when temps topped around 75 F. I managed fine — it’s still a very breathable fabric — but I wished for a more airy-feeling shirt.
On the flip side, the Solstice is just heavy enough to add meaningful warmth in cooler temps. At 10,000 feet in early October you can bet we had some chilly days. I was able wear the Solstice alone at awkward in-between temperatures when I would have otherwise needed to add a second (and less breathable) layer. I especially appreciated the hood in cooler temps; popping it up at camp or while riding on a windy ridgeline improved my comfort significantly. It’s just a thin layer of merino, but it adds noticeable warmth especially with the drawstring cinched.
To summarize, the Solstice is a great merino sun hoody for adventures in cool or moderate temperatures: spring, fall, and high-alpine summer conditions all come to mind. It’s fine for the occasional hot and dry day in the 80’s or 90’s. It would not be my top choice, however, for humid conditions or sustained hot weather. For hot conditions I would recommend the cooler Wuru Nuyarn Lightweight Merino Hoodie or the lighter and more minimalist Smartwool Ultralight Sport Hoodie.
The Solstice Hoodie is made from Ridge’s (m)Force™ Merino, a blend of 87% merino wool and 13% nylon. This combination is designed to blend the natural thermoregulation and stink-resistance of merino wool with improved durability and shape retention. The technology seems to work well, as I’ll describe in other parts of this review.
Some merino fabrics can be a little scratchy, but the Solstice feels smooth and soft against my skin. I wore it as a base layer day and night (I often didn’t change for sleeping – don’t judge) for weeks on end and nothing about the fabric or fit ever bothered me.
Ladies: I’m happy to report that the Ridge Merino Solstice is not see-through and not clingy. By comparison, my Smartwool Ultralight hoody showed the outline of my sports bra more than I was comfortable with while bikepacking in conservative Central Asia. Granted my Ridge Solstice is a darker color, but the fabric is noticeably different and I would expect a lighter color Solstice to still perform well in this regard.
The Ridge Merino Solstice is UPF 30+ certified. I wore it while biking for a month straight in mostly shadeless environments: open plains, high plateaus, and barren deserts. With other shirts I’ve sometimes noticed increasing tan or even sunburn on my back from sunlight coming through the shirt, but I didn’t notice this with the Solstice. By comparison it protected my skin much better than the ultralight Smartwool Sport.
The Solstice has the largest hood of any sun hoodie I’ve tested, which will be a pro for some people and a con for others. It covers my neck well and is large enough to shade my face from certain angles, even when I’m wearing a ponytail. It fits easily over my bike helmet for share and also layers well underneath it for warmth. The drawstring allows it to be cinched tightly for warmth or coverage, or draped more loosely.
That said, the large hood also has drawbacks for me. When it’s not on my head it sometimes feels annoyingly bulky. It feels hot on my back, blows around in strong wind, needs to be adjusted when putting on my backpack, and sometimes flops over my shoulder when I bend forward. When backpacking I’m more likely to be wearing the hood, so it bothers me less. When bikepacking I often ride without it (it gets warm quickly when combined with a helmet) and that’s when it tends to bug me.
I have mixed feelings about the drawstring. I don’t use it often, but have to admit it’s helpful since the hood is so large. In my experience it works better for backpackers than bikepackers; it sometimes flops annoyingly against my chest while pedaling.
Putting all that together, I think the Solstice’s hood works better for hikers than bikers and is better for cooler weather than hot. I personally would prefer a more minimalist hood like the one on the Wuru Nuyarn Hoodie. That said, if you want a big hood that fits over any kind of helmet, the Solstice has you covered (literally, hehe).
Fit and Design
The women’s Ridge Merino Solstice runs true to size as long as you’re expecting a loose fit. I’m 5’5″ and weigh 120 pounds and my chest is an A cup. I usually wear a women’s small, and a small in the Solstice fit me nicely if a bit loosely. I didn’t notice any significant shrinkage when washing and drying, even in the not-so-gentle machines at public laundromats.
The cut is fairly long (even on my long torso) and not too boxy; I like the way it fits me. I wore it as a base layer but it would have easily fit over a t-shirt underneath. Though it was a loose fit on me, I still had no problems layering over it. Sometimes I wore as many as four layers over the Solstice on chilly fall days at high elevation.
The large and low-cut armholes are very comfy and never cause that unpleasant feeling of bunched fabric in the armpit, even under backpack straps. Though it does have seams at the top of the shoulders, they aren’t a problem for me when wearing a backpack.
My arms are long for my height, and the Solstice’s sleeves are plenty long enough for me to comfortably use the thumb loops. I often went without the thumb loops when wearing cycling gloves and there was no awkward gap between the sleeve and glove. I appreciate the thumb loops for sun coverage when off the bike or occasionally riding without gloves. They also make it easier to add layers on top without the sleeves riding up.
Overall the Solstice was a good fit for my body and felt comfortable to move around in. Though I’ve yet to find a sun hoody that’s truly flattering, I didn’t feel too frumpy in it either.
Merino wool’s natural stink-resistance is the main reason I live in it for backpacking, bikepacking, and travel. I’ve never found a synthetic garment that stays as fresh as merino over days or weeks without a proper shower or laundry.
I’m happy to report that the Ridge Merino Solstice was as stink-resistant as I’ve come to expect from merino. Though showers were scarce and temps were sometimes hot, funk levels remained manageable throughout the trip.
Durability tends to be an issue with lightweight merino shirts, but my Ridge Merino Solstice has excelled here. Usually after a month of nonstop use I would expect persistent dirt stains and a small hole or two. It seems Ridge’s (m)Force™ technology — a blend of merino and nylon designed to improve durability — does its job quite well.
My Solstice, a middle-dark “Frosty Spruce” color, has zero holes and only faint darkening around the cuffs and neck. The fabric is in great shape even after several wash and dry cycles in the not-so-gentle machines at public laundromats.
Dirt stains seem to wash out of the Solstice better than many other merino shirts I’ve tested, even in comparably dark colors. My light-colored Smartwool Ultralight Sport Hoody, by contrast, is almost unusably grubby-looking after a month of nonstop wear. It’s now relegated to yard work and solo backcountry trips, while my Solstice still looks spiffy enough for travel.
Price and Value
Merino clothing tends to be expensive, but at $80 the Solstice Hoodie is on the affordable side of the merino sun hoody range. Comparing to a few other popular merino sun hoodies: the Smartwool Ultralight Sport matches the $80 price tag, the Voormi River Run sells for $129, and the Ibex Indie costs a whopping $170!
I think the Ridge Merino Solstice is a great value, especially when you factor in its durability. Unlike some merino shirts that wear out after a couple months of use, you’ll really get your money’s worth out of the Solstice.
If budget is an issue you can find synthetic sun hoodies, like the Patagonia Capilene Daily Hoodie and REI Sahara Shade Hoodie, for lower prices. Some are better than others at approaching the stink-resistance and excellent thermal range of merino. If I were buying a sun hoody for single-day use (in other words, it’s being washed regularly) I would go with synthetic for its better balance of cost and durability. But for long remote trips the stink-resistance of merino is worth the extra cost to me.
The Ridge Merino Solstice stands out as an affordable all-around merino sun hoody. Though the fabric isn’t quite light enough for the hottest days in my experience, it does everything else really well: sun protection, durability, comfort, and no-see-through looks especially. The larger hood is a matter of personal preference, but overall the design is thoughtful and the fit is forgiving.
My Solstice is still in great shape and has a solid place in my adventure clothing rotation. I’ll happily wear it again on a future trip, as long as conditions won’t be too toasty.
More Outdoor Resources
If you liked this review, you might also like these other articles:
- Lightweight Backpacking Tips for Every Level Hiker
- Thru Hiking the Arizona Trail: Essential Q&A
- A Woman’s Guide to Peeing in the Great Outdoors
Or, visit the Exploring Wild hiking resources center for LOTS more!
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