Whether you’re an all-seasons hiker, rainy-day runner, or make the frequent walk from your home or car to a workout class, you know how your outerwear can make or break your workout of choice. A cozy fleece layer can keep the cold out, a breathable jacket can come in handy during your cool down, and a weather-proof shell can keep you blessedly dry through an unexpected drizzle.
On the other hand, a jacket or coat that doesn’t stand up to the conditions outside can leave you feeling cold, damp, and unmotivated. That’s why, for the 2023 SELF Activewear Awards, we’ve sought out the very best new outerwear to add to your athletic wardrobe, so you can keep moving through unpleasant weather and chilly temps.
What to Look for When Shopping for Outerwear
For starters, the fabric should be technical: moisture-wicking and breathable. That way, you can trust that the jacket will keep you dry if things get sweaty or rainy. By that same token, our panel of experts recommend steering clear of cotton, which will just absorb moisture and make you damp over time. Those who regularly exercise in rainy or snowy conditions should keep an eye out for jackets made with wind-, water-, or weather-resistant materials. Just keep in mind that waterproof items won’t feel as breathable, if at all, as ones made of cotton.
After fabric comes fit: Outerwear should fit more loosely than, say, tees or tanks, so you have the option to wear additional layers underneath. If you’re deciding between jackets, try each one on with your go-to athletic layers to get a better idea of how they’ll feel as part of your whole outfit. And always try moving around in a jacket before committing to it: If it feels like it’s restricting your movements, try sizing up. If it feels bulky or like it’s getting in the way, try sizing down.
Design features like pockets, zippers, and a hood can affect your final purchase too. Pockets are key for keeping essentials on-hand while you’re out, and strategically placed zippered openings and panels can provide crucial ventilation. A hood is only going to be useful if it actually fits your hair and head—or can adjust to fit them—and doesn’t fall into your eyes. Think about how you’d like to feel during your workouts and how these details can add to your comfort.
Overall, whatever materials and other bells and whistles your jacket has, it should be lightweight. If you have to pack away or layer your jacket, this is especially important.
How We Picked the Best Outerwear
The outerwear considered for the 2023 SELF Activewear Awards had to meet our submission guidelines, which you can read more about here. After brands submitted almost 500 items, a group of 45 testers (consisting of SELF staffers, fitness professionals, and exercise enthusiasts) got to work testing. Testers had two months to wear an item several times and in a number of ways, judging its performance against the standards set in SELF’s Activewear Buying Guide (a summary of which you can read above!). The outerwear that came out on top are listed below.