I have always been a pretty heavy sweater when exercising (or when slathering foods with hot sauce). Nothing clinical here: No matter the temperature, I just break a sweat pretty easily once my heart rate is up, and then tend to take a long time to cool down, too. Still, warmer temperatures will of course make my already sweaty workouts even … more moist … for obvious reasons.
Over the past few years, I’ve written about many different technical garments: cooling shirts that reflect sunlight, moisture-wicking socks, lightweight running shorts. Many of those things promise to be sweat-minimizing and breathable, but when you try as much gear as I do, you learn some brands are truer to their word than others. Below, I’ve zeroed in on the seven pieces that I not only find reliable and comfortable, but also to be the best at wicking moisture, drying quickly, and stabilizing my body temperature so that I can keep exercising — or sampling hot sauce — (relatively) comfortably, even in the sweatiest of circumstances. To help all potential shoppers, I’ve also included the women’s version of any product on this list that offers one.
The short-sleeved shirt
This is the shirt I wore as I slogged through a 40 kilometer trail run across the border from Switzerland into France, and it’s also the one I wore to the regular HIIT Orange Theory Fitness classes (perhaps the sweatiest classes I’ve ever done) before I had to give them up due to social distancing. Yes, I have written about it before, and no doubt I’ll write about it again after this. It’s my proverbial “desert island” workout shirt, and not just because that proverbial desert island would, almost certainly, get a lot of sun.
The Titan Ultra II is so lightweight you almost forget you’re wearing it at first. But once the sweating begins, you’ll definitely remember that it’s there. The interior of the shirt features Columbia’s proprietary “omni-freeze zero” cooling system, which is basically a matrix of dark dots that, once dampened by your sweat, help enhance your body’s natural evaporative-cooling process, releasing excess heat and helping you stay cooler even as the shirt helps you stay drier. Mesh venting releases that excess heat, while the shirt’s polyester fabric wicks away sweat better than any other shirt I’ve ever used — while others will be soaked through by the time I finish a workout, this one will only have that inevitable wet-neck patch, which I see as sort of a badge of honor that reminds me my workout is working.
The long-sleeved shirt
While heavy sweating is more commonly associated with warm-weather exercise, minimizing sweat is in fact much more important in the cold than in the heat. When I’m running in cold weather, for instance, I rely on base layers to keep me warm and dry, because any sweat left touching my skin is going to create a serious chill as soon as I stop moving. This snug-fitting shirt wicks well and dries quickly; although the way it sort of adheres to my arms and torso makes it kind of like a second skin, the shirt’s highly elastic four-way stretch fabric doesn’t limit my motion at all and never chafes the way a slightly looser garment might. The close fit, crucially, also ensures that all droplets of sweat are quickly pulled away from my body.
To be clear, this is a cold-weather running (or hiking, cycling, or other medium-to-high intensity) workout shirt. It’s for warmth and dryness, not wicking sweat in warm weather (for that, I point you to the shirt that leads this list).