The Best Running Jackets Review
Which running jacket is the best? To find out, we picked out six of the top rated and most popular models and tested them side-by-side. We wore these pieces on runs through rain, snow, and freezing temperatures, paying special attention to each one's performance. Some kept us warm on snowy trail runs and others left us soaked in sweat on short jogs out the front door. Then, we ranked every product in categories ranging from breathability to wind resistance. If you're going to brave the elements for a run, let us help you choose which layer you should have in your runner's wardrobe. Read on to learn more!
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Running Jacket
Arc'teryx Incendo Jacket
Best Bang for the Buck
Top Pick for Cold Weather Running
Marmot DriClime Windshirt
Analysis and Test Results
Why would you ever want or need a running jacket? It's entirely optional to leave the comfort of your home to go for a jog in nasty weather, but here at OutdoorGearLab, we're determined not to let a little precipitation stop us from going on that daily five-mile run. But, we're also determined to be prepared nobody wants to get soaked to the bone, or feel gusts of wind piercing through their outer layers. If you're planning on doing some long distance running or a lengthy trail run, the last thing you want is to get halfway through your run only to find the sky opening up and dumping on you. A running-specific outer layer offers protection from the elements and can help you have a more pleasant run.
To help you find the piece that will meet your needs and keep you dry we chose five performance metrics: breathability, water resistance, wind resistance, features, and weight. After months of testing, we discovered that our Editors' Choice winner, the Arc'teryx Incendo Jacket, breathed remarkably well and did an excellent job of repelling water. Meanwhile other pieces, like our Best Buy Award winner, the Saucony Sonic earned top marks for nifty features like a rechargeable LED light and copious amounts of pockets. All the pieces we tested in this review are non-hooded, although some do come in hooded versions. For more discussion on whether you should opt for this extra feature, check out our Buying Advice guide: How to Choose the Best Running Jacket, or to see how each of these unique products compare in our head-to-head tests, read on!
Criteria for Evaluation
It's no surprise that breathability is one of the most important qualities of a good jacket. Running is a highly aerobic activity, and whether you're cruising ten miles down a trail, trying to run a five minute mile, or training for a marathon, you're going to sweat. And no matter how water resistant the piece may be on the outside, if it doesn't breathe well, you'll be sweaty inside, which is just as bad as having no protection from the rain at all. It's important to find a model that has adequate breathability because it'll keep you drier and more comfortable longer. The last thing you want is to feel soaked in your own sweat. Plus, if you're sweaty and it's freezing outside, you might just find out what it means to be so cold it hurts.
We found through our testing that breathability is related to both the type of fabric that's used and the design of the vents. The fabric used in the Marmot DriClime Windshirt (our Top Pick for Cold Weather Running) wicked away moisture while its mesh pit vents allowed moisture to escape through the vents. The Arc'Teryx Incendo also scored highly in breathability; it has two large mesh panels, which worked incredibly well at circulating air and regulating our body temperature. On the other hand, the material on the Montane Featherlite Marathon locked in moisture, and the vents were too small to really offer any significant amount of air circulation.
Every piece in this review has a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. This is a chemical coating manufacturers apply to the outer material to repel water. By and large, this method of water resistance works well. When we ran in the rain, the DWR coating caused rain water to roll right off us, which made for an overall better running experience. One challenge with DWR is that the coating will start to come off over time and your shell may begin to soak up the rain. But, you can always purchase after-market products that reapply the DWR to your gear, so never fear!
Of all the pieces we tested, the Sugoi HydroLite had the best water resistance. The HydroLite's material may look like a shower curtain, but it actually has large woven mesh incorporated into the material, allowing water to evenly disperse over the surface area and thus decreasing drying time. Unfortunately, we found in our testing that the HydroLite sacrificed breathability for its water resistance, which is a common problem with waterproof gear. Not ready to give up breathability and still want standout water resistance? Consider the Saucony Sonic.
Wind is sometimes a welcome relief in warm weather, but when the temperature drops below forty degrees, you really begin to take notice of how a strong wind can chill you to your bones. How well the wind penetrates your running jacket can ultimately determine whether you are going to be freezing or comfortable on your next run. Every piece we tested boasts that it is wind resistant, and indeed, in a light breeze, we seldom felt the wind penetrate through these products; however, when the wind really started to gust, we began to notice a bigger difference between each model's performance.
With its thick inner layer, the Marmot DriClime Windshirt was the best model for keeping the wind out. This piece holds in warmth well, while never letting the wind penetrate fully through the insulating fibers. Another important feature to look for if wind resistance is a priority is a wind flap behind the zipper. All the contenders in this review had one except for the Sugoi HydroLite and we noticed a huge difference in wind protection.
When a high-performing product comes loaded with features well, that's just icing on the cake. Some features, like reflective material, are almost a necessity on a running jacket. We found it really unfortunate that some companies skimped on this feature, since it can be so critical for safety. Without built-in reflectivity, urban runners may have to buy a separate reflective vest or clip-on light if they want to run during dusk or at dawn. Though it's not necessary, drawstrings around the waist are also a plus, especially if you live in an area known for its wind. The drawstrings will help prevent wind from entering the bottom of the piece, which will keep you warm and comfortable on those cold days when the wind is at its worst.
Other features like pockets are more of a tradeoff than a sole benefit. You can find models that have as many as five pockets, though you are going to sacrifice weight for the sake of more storage space. But if you carry a lot of items with you, like keys, media devices, or your wallet, the added weight may be worthwhile. Most of the products in this review have at least one pocket, though the Montane Featherlite and Sugoi HydroLite have none. The Brooks Infiniti Jacket has a plethora of pockets, and the most features overall, including a specially designed water-resistant media pocket, drawstrings, and reflective material. Our Best Buy winner, the Saucony Sonic also comes loaded with features, including an LED strobe light.
Weight is significant for two real reasons: long distance running and times. You don't want to wear a heavy layer that will, after your first ten miles, begin to feel like you're wearing a weight vest. Likewise, if you are trying to best your times or win a 10k, shedding a few ounces may make the difference, and so the lighter the model, the better. Lightweight layers may also be more comfortable than heavier ones, especially since you're less likely to notice they're even there. However, body type and jacket fit will also determine how comfortable you are in a particular piece. When we tested the Featherlite, which weighs five ounces, we found that it had very restrictive construction, as opposed to our Editors' Choice winner, the Arc'teryx Incendo, which weighs the same, but offered greater range of motion.
If you need a model that is so light you won't even notice that you are wearing it, the Arc'Teryx Incendo is the piece for you. However, if you're just stepping out of your door for a short jog, more than likely, you won't notice the extra weight of a layer like the Brooks Infiniti IV.
The weather can be unpredictable at times. If you are one to enjoy long runs on the trails or simply don't want a bit of rain from stop you from your daily run, the products in this review might be just what you are looking for. We hope that our analyses have helped you to find the perfect jacket for your running needs. Head over to our Buying Advice article for more detailed advice on why you might need a jacket for running, and what to consider before making your purchase.
— Jared Dean
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