Health

2023 SELF Activewear Awards: The Best Sweatshirts and Layers

Available in sizes XXS to 2XL (22). 

The Best Zip-Up Sweatshirt: Beyond Yoga Spacedye Everyday Hoodie

Beyond Yoga’s signature soft and stretchy Spacedye fabric is making its debut in zip-up form in 2023 with this light sweatshirt, which is well-suited for movement and activity. “It’s lovely in every way,” one tester said. “It’s stretchy, soft, and kept me warm on crisp days.” While it’s certainly not cheap, a tester asserted that “the quality and functionality is worth the price point.” This style runs true to size—if you’d like a skintight fit, we recommend sizing down. 

Available in sizes XS to 4X. 

The Best Quarter-Zip: Under Armour Women’s Armour Fleece ¼ Zip

Our testers wore this quarter-zip on outdoor runs, dog walks, commutes to the climbing gym, and while doing “strenuous household chores,” perhaps the most universal form of exercise. “This is exactly the type of midlayer I dream of wearing,” one tester said. “It has a slightly boxy—but not bulky—fit through the body, the sleeves reached my wrists, and the quarter-zip neckline didn’t choke me when fully zipped up. The fleece lining feels very high-quality—fuzzy and cozy but low-profile.” Take note: This fleece does get warm, so it’s best for chillier days.

Available in sizes XS to XXL. Additional sizes up to 3X available in a similar style here. 

The Best Cold-Weather Hoodie: Under Armour Men’s UA Essential Fleece Full-Zip Hoodie

Under Armour’s no-frills zip-up hoodie is like the vanilla ice cream of activewear: It’s excellent to have in your stash and is sure to please just about everyone. (Which is why we also think it’s an excellent gift, if you’re not shopping for yourself.) Both of our testers noted how soft the fleece lining was—so while the item was breathable enough to withstand several runs and strength-training workouts, it was also pleasant and cozy, a balance that’s not always easy to nail. 

Available in sizes XS to 3XL. 

The Best Thermal Base Layer: Smartwool Women’s Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Crew 

You might know Smartwool for their excellent Merino wool socks, a dependable favorite of hikers and outdoor adventurers. Well, the brand makes excellent technical apparel too—so you can stay comfortable from head to toe. This base layer crew neck shirt is made of 100% Merino wool, which regulates body temperature, helping you feel cooler when you’re hot and warmer when you’re cold, as SELF previously reported. One of our testers wore this shirt on a four-mile hike through snowy mountains in 32-degree weather. “I like that the body of the shirt was fitted but the sleeves were slightly loose,” she said. “That offered the mobility I need when hiking and scrambling. The material was very soft, not itchy at all, and comfortable.” In fact, she said it was so comfortable, she’d sleep in it during a backpacking trip too. 

Available in sizes XS to 3X. 

The Best Nursing Sweatshirt: Kindred Bravely Bamboo Nursing & Maternity Crew Pullover

Kindred Bravely won SELF Activewear Awards for its excellent maternity gear last year—and it’s back again in 2023 with a sweatshirt our pregnant and nursing testers couldn’t get enough of. The smart design features two subtle zippers—one for each breast—and super-stretchy material so you can whip the whole thing off in a moment’s notice. “The zippers make it so that you don’t have to leave both boobs hanging out while nursing, which is so much more comfortable, especially in public,” one tester said. A tester also praised the versatile style: “It is very easily interchangeable between loungewear and activewear because of the material. Light and not bulky, but warm!” If changing from your pajamas into activewear is one less thing nursing parents have to worry about, we’ll take it. 

Available in sizes XS to XXL. Additional sizes up to 3X available in a similar style here. 

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