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Throughout the last 6 years, our team of experts has tested over 20 of the best running jackets. In this update, we purchased 9 of today's top models for our latest head-to-head analysis. From rainy slogs around the neighborhood to windy, exposed trail runs, we put each jacket through its paces across a variety of weather conditions and terrain to push its design features to the limit. Whether you need a comfortable, breathable layer for casual training runs or a lightweight, protective barrier for rugged mountain adventures, we'll show you what to look for to help you find the best jacket for your needs.
If you're looking for a lightweight, high-performing running jacket with the right amount of features but without a bunch of extras to weigh you down, the Arc'teryx Incendo Hoody is one of our favorites. The Incendo continues to impress our team of testers due to its solid weather resistance, comfortable form-fitting design, and large side mesh panels that provide excellent breathability. All of this comes in a lightweight package that compresses down into its own pocket — and with a surprisingly reasonable price tag.
There are only a few circumstances in which we might forego the Incendo as our go-to running jacket. While every runner has a different tolerance for cold weather, when the mercury drops below freezing, we would opt for something warmer with a bit more insulation, like a softshell jacket. Similarly, when there's going to be a significant amount of precipitation, we would look to a fully waterproof jacket rather than the water-resistant treatment on this jacket. But for the majority of runs across varying terrain and conditions, nothing matches the lightweight versatility of the Arc'teryx Incendo.
The Brooks Canopy made major improvements in its most recent revision, dropping some weight and two pockets while adding some truly innovative features. It remains one of the most comfortable jackets we've tried and now competes as one of the lightest and least expensive. It's a natural choice for our best value, but with a few more improvements, it could challenge for the top spot overall.
The foundation of the Canopy's stellar performance is its DriLayer Seal fabric that is both softer and more flexible than most other jacket materials while still providing an ideal blend of warmth, weather resistance, and breathability. It also sports one of the most interesting and fast stuff sacks we've seen, converting the entire jacket into a mini backpack in a matter of seconds. The cut is loose and comfortable without feeling billowy and can fully unzip without flapping in the breeze, thanks to two front snap closures.
The only real complaint about the Canopy is that it's the least protective of the jackets we tried. Although the soft Drilayer Seal material is quite capable of keeping out the elements, it's not as weather-resistant as some other nylon materials or those with fully waterproof fabric barriers, and its high breathability means it lets through a lot of wind. The lack of adjustability on the hood also reduces its effectiveness when you're on the move. Overall, however, the Canopy is a versatile, comfortable, and well-priced jacket worthy of consideration.
The North Face Flight Futurelight has a tough-as-nails build and weather protection that is on par with mountaineering jackets costing twice as much. This jacket is made for layering when the weather turns extremely sour. Most waterproof running jackets fit so tight to the skin that you can't effectively layer with them. This means your choice of jacket often becomes a choice of staying warm or staying dry. The Flight Futurelight bucks this trend, offering layering room and fantastic water protection while still remaining breathable enough where the jacket doesn't become a sauna. In fact, the Futurelight material is among the most breathable materials we've tested, performing just as admirably in hot lowland rains as it did in mountain storms. And at under 9 ounces, it's light enough that combined even with a mid-layer, it's lighter than many insulated jackets.
The Flight Futurelight isn't an everyday jacket, to be sure, with its heavier weight and slightly baggier fit. But if you need to get that training run in even through hail and sleet, or if you might find yourself bunkered down on the side of a mountain as a storm passes, then this is the jacket for you.
The Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody offers superb all-around weather protection in an extremely lightweight package. The secret to its performance is its Gore-tex Shakedry material, which provides reliable wind and water protection in a lightweight single-layer construction. With reasonable breathability for such a protective material, the Norvan SL makes a great choice for high output activities in unforgiving conditions. At a measured weight of 4.6 ounces for a men's size medium, including its nylon stuff sack, there's no better choice for minimalist wet weather protection.
If you're on the hunt for the lightest wet weather jacket that money can buy, this indeed might be it. But the high-end performance of the Norvan SL comes with a high-end price tag that could turn away many runners. If you're simply on the market for a capable running layer to get you out the door during cooler weather or a light drizzle, this is probably overkill. For the price, you could buy two or three of most other jackets in this review, some of which will include more features and better versatility. That being said, we are astounded by the performance of this jacket for its intended purpose, making it an undeniable top choice when performance is paramount.
Our OutdoorGearLab testing team of Nick Bruckbauer and Walt Handloser combined to tackle this review. Nick is a former NCAA Division I track and cross country athlete who turned his attention to hiking, trail running, and backcountry skiing throughout the last decade. He still laces up the running shoes several days a week and keeps in touch with his running roots by volunteering as a track and cross country coach at his local high school. Walt is an extreme-distance mountain runner, with races from 10k to 300 miles under his belt. He's raced all over the US, from the wet cold of winter on Mount Constitution on Orcas Island to the humid tropics of Florida and from the Anza Borrego desert in southern California to the cold forests of Maine. In the years he's been racing, he's researched, bought, and destroyed literally dozens of jackets.
This review began with extensive market research, sifting through over 60 of the best running jackets on the market. We then selected nine of the most promising models to purchase for our head-to-head testing. This testing took place over the course of several months, through many different weather conditions, from winter storms and high winds to unpredictable spring rainstorms. In addition to the field tests, we measured each jacket's weight and water resistance in controlled environments. The result of this rigorous testing is a comprehensive review that will set you on the right track in your search for the perfect jacket.
Analysis and Test Results
Mother Nature can be a real son-of-a-gun. Without the right equipment, it's easy to get sidelined by inclement weather, cold temperatures, or biting wind. Having the right equipment can be the difference between being able to get yourself out the door in the morning or staying in bed for a few more minutes. The running jackets we tested span a large spectrum of designs, with varying levels of protection from the elements. We logged some serious miles on the roads and trails to help you figure out which model will work the best for you.
We compared all the jackets head-to-head based on five separate rating metrics: Breathability and Venting, Weather Resistance, Comfort and Mobility, Portability, and Special Features. Our testing included multiple runs in each jacket through rain, cold, and wind, in urban environments and on the trails, on the flats, and up some serious inclines. We purposefully bought some highly-rated jackets that claim both weather resistance and breathability to determine which ones deliver on their claims and which ones fall short. We were pleasantly surprised by several of the new contenders but ultimately found the Arc'teryx Incendo to be worthy of our highest honor.
The nine jackets in this review span a surprisingly wide price range. Some of the most expensive models cost nearly three times as much as the more affordable options. Although there is a huge range of prices, finding an outstanding value isn't as simple as looking for the lowest upfront cost. We painstakingly analyzed each model's performance to help you understand what extra value you might get by spending more money or what performance features you might sacrifice to save a few bucks.
For example, if you're looking for the absolute most capable and protective lightweight jacket for wet weather, shelling out hundreds of dollars for our top choice Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody might make sense and could actually provide pretty good value for this specific use. But if you just need occasional wet weather resistance, and you're willing to sacrifice the higher-end material, and waterproof protection, both the Brooks Canopy and the Arc'teryx Incendo offer warmth and mild weather protection in a similar weight but for a fraction of the price. It's important to keep your needs and goals in mind when selecting the right jacket.
It doesn't matter if you're fresh off the couch or a seasoned professional; you're going to sweat while running. Ideally, a running jacket will not only shield you from the elements but also help shed excess heat and moisture. Jackets that don't offer adequate breathability can end up feeling like a plastic trash bag, while models with breathable materials, zippered vents, or mesh panels wick moisture away effortlessly.
Some type of breathable mesh panel system like that found in the Editors' favorite Arc'teryx Incendo Hoody seems to be essential for providing the necessary air movement and breathability for high output activities. The amazing Brooks Canopy achieves its breathability via gauze-thin arm and body panels that are mesh in all but name. Unfortunately, sometimes even a good vent can rescue the breathability of a bad design, as was the case with the Nike Trail Windrunner.
Breathability is generally harder for waterproof models, which is why the performance of the The North Face Flight Futurelight stood out: it's among the most breathable waterproof jackets we've tried and remained comfortable even during sprints and stairs. Other waterproof jackets like the vented Salomon Bonatti WP just couldn't keep up. Some waterproof models like the Patagonia Storm Racer and the otherwise-stellar Arc'teryx Norvan SL provide excellent protection from the elements but lack any kind of ventilation system except for unzipping the main zippers.
Although all of the jackets we tested claim some level of wind and water resistance, four models are rated as fully waterproof. The Arc'teryx Norvan SL has a lightweight, single-layer waterproof Gore-Tex Shakedry material, the Patagonia Storm Racer is constructed from Patagonia's 3-layer H2No waterproof fabric, The North Face Flight Futurelight is constructed from TNF's in-house Futurelight 3-Layer waterproof fabric, and the Salomon Bonatti WP uses Solomon's 2.5-layer AdvancedSkin Dry fabric.
Most other models in our lineup are constructed from a nylon or polyester material that comes treated with a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating to repel water from the surface of the jacket. While this certainly offers suitable protection from light drizzle or dew as you brush past trailside plants, these DWR coatings tend to wear off quickly, and any heavy rain will likely permeate these layers rapidly.
Although most of the jackets that we tested aren't fully waterproof, many have an impressive ability to shield you from the wind. The Arc'teryx Incendo is a real standout in this class, being one of the few jackets in the lineup to intelligently blend harder, less breathable panels where wind is most likely to hit. The Nike Trail Windrunner, as its name suggests, was also a stellar wind-blocker, but its other features held it back too much to recommend.
Comfort and mobility are of paramount importance to a running jacket because these garments are designed to be worn during prolonged aerobic activity. A restrictive jacket can physically hinder your movement, while a poorly-fitted, baggy one can weigh you down or bunch up uncomfortably. Both issues can impact your mental performance as well, forcing you to focus on the discomfort of the garment instead of the workout in front of you. To evaluate this metric, we tested how each garment moves with the runner and considered the materials and construction.
Comfort is certainly a subjective metric, but we found that certain attributes impact a jacket's comfort regardless of the shape, size, or preferences of the user. Lightweight materials and an athletic performance fit (not too loose, not too tight) are widely appreciated, while flat, taped seams are much more comfortable than raised, exposed seams that can be uncomfortable and annoying.
Standing out in this metric are the Patagonia Airshed Pro with its soft, lightweight material and snug performance fit, and the Brooks Canopy with its soft, flexible material. Arc'teryx also seems to have a good handle on the market for comfortable jackets, with both of their models scoring well. The Incendo and Norvan impressed due to their tailored fit and body-mapped panels, but their use of non-stretch materials means that those with a less traditional running build may find their slim cut restrictive.
This review is all about efficient aerobic movement. We want to make sure that the contenders we recommend don't impede your actions but rather aid in performance. This means that the garment should be easy to unpack, put on, remove, and re-pack while remaining lightweight on your body or in your backpack.
Factors we examine when establishing the overall portability of a jacket include how easily it fits into its storage pouch (if one is included) and if that pouch is adequately sized to fit everything without too much difficulty. Additionally, we threw each of the jackets onto our scale to get an accurate weight. Overall, it's safe to assume softshell jackets are less portable and heavier, while single-layer shells are more lightweight and packable.
Weight and packability, like all other aspects of a jacket, are a balancing act. Heavier jackets can usually handle the weather better and may also last longer due to sturdier fabrics, but they will weigh you down more and take up more room in your pack. Going for the lighter jacket may buy a few ounces and a few ccs in the short term, but all that weight savings is useless if the jacket isn't good enough to stand up to the weather you'll be facing.
The Arc'teryx Incendo, Brooks Canopy, and Patagonia Airshed Pro all top the charts in portability with weights within an ounce of one another and easy-to-use stuff pockets. The Airshed packs into a convenient stuff pocket on the back of the hood, and the Incendo's stuff pocket is perfectly sized, with double-sided zipper pulls to make the job of packing and unpacking painless. The Canopy not only has a ridiculously innovative stuff sack that converts to a backpack, but it's also the fastest-packing jacket we've tested. Most impressively with these three models is how much performance and protection is offered in such tiny and portable packages. These jackets are so light that it's easy to forget they're in your running pack until the temps drop and the wind kicks up.
Features and Visibility
While the main purpose of these garments is to protect you from wind, rain, and cold, each model has its own built-in features to enhance the comfort, performance, and convenience of your running experience. Seemingly little things like pockets, reflective trim, and hood adjustments can go a long way in making a jacket enjoyable to use.
We used each jacket in low light conditions with a watchful friend in an automobile to give us a sense of their visibility. Our most visible jacket --by far-- was The North Face Flight Futurelight, with its wrap-around line of reflectivity that runs across the back, down the arm on two sides, and across the chest into the hood. It's an example of great, distinctive 360-degree reflectivity that we wish more companies would emulate. Arc'teryx also seems to have a pretty solid understanding that visibility is incredibly important for running jackets. The Incendo and Norvan both provide impressive visibility with the key areas on the wrist and forearms sporting reflective markings. The least visible jackets, in contrast, have only one reflector on the chest pocket or no reflective trim at all.
Another important feature that we found noticeably absent on several contenders is a hood adjustment. We found this out the hard way while running into the wind in the rain. No matter how well-fitted a hood is, an adjustable cinch mechanism can help keep it snug against your head, which is especially critical when running at faster speeds. The Salomon Bonatti WP stands out in particular with a hood that combines well-placed elastic with an optional forehead wind gasket that could probably keep the hood on through a hurricane.
Although the main purpose of these jackets is lightweight protection from the elements, having a pocket or two for your phone, a snack, or some cash is a nice bonus. Most jackets in our lineup have a pocket or two, but the Brooks Canopy has three pockets: one chest pocket, two hand pockets, and a fourth if you count the internal mesh key pocket hidden away on the right-hand side. All of these pockets are zippered and mesh, adding a level of security and acting as vents when zipped open.
Types of Running Jackets
Our review takes on two distinct types of running jackets: waterproof and non-waterproof. While these two types provide very different performance levels, we believe they can both prove useful and sometimes necessary in their own right. Non-waterproof jackets fill a niche as an ultralight and ultra-versatile single layer. The best of them will be extremely breathable and will pack away unobtrusively when you or the weather get too warm. Often weighing less than six ounces, they aren't the thing you'd take into a winter storm, but they're perfect for a cool fall run or a cold early race start.
Waterproof jackets also need to be light but also need to be fully seam-taped and sealed against a downpour. Though they're often warmer than non-waterproof jackets, their goal is less warmth and more weather protection. Like their non-waterproof counterparts, they need to be light and packable, but because they need to keep out rain, they'll also tend to be less breathable and just that much heavier.
There is no way around it; running is an intense activity. Having a jacket that is capable of regulating warmth and keeping moisture moving while still protecting you from the elements is essential. Our lineup provides a range of options from ultralight wind layers to completely waterproof models. Once you've determined the type of weather you'll be running in, your training environment and terrain, as well as the features that are most important to you, use this guide to identify the best jacket.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.