Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Highly breathable, great fit, great hood design
Cons: Limited to a narrow range of activities, expensive
Best Uses: Running in 20-50 degree dry weather or a light drizzle
The Better Than Naked Jacket excels at running in cool temperatures. We loved it on runs in 40-50° temperatures in dry conditions or light fog. It can be worn with or without a thin base layer underneath.
In some sense it is a little unfair to compare this jacket to the others in our Wind Breaker Jacket Review. This is less a true wind jacket than a super advanced base layer. But it also does not quite belong in the Performance Shirt Review. It is really in its own category of highly breathable running jackets.
It has a very specific use: running in cool conditions. If that is what you will only use it for it might be a great running jacket. However, for the same price there were many other options that were far more versatile. The Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody blocks wind, rain, and sun. It also works over a big variety of activities from cycling to back country skiing. The same goes for the Patagonia Houdini, which is even lighter and more compact and doubles as a nice sun protection layer for warmer temps.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Update - March 2015
The North Face has discontinued the hoody, though the jacket version is available. Below you can see a side-by-side comparison of the hoody, pictured on the left (now discontinued), and the jacket, pictured on the right. The jacket uses FlashDry Technology (knit panels on the cuffs, forearms, and down the back) and has stitch-free critical seams. For more running jackets, check out our Running Jacket Review.
This is a great running jacket. It has a great fit, is very breatheable, a great hood, and plenty of little reflective details. It gives great range of motion due to its combination of stretchy fabric on the core and even more stretchy and breatheable fabric on the back and arms.
This jacket is almost in its own category. It's not a crinkly rain jacket or just a standard base layer. Think of it as an ultralight soft shell jacket. Where most soft shells are ideal for sub freezing temps, this is ideal for warmer temps.
Unlike most base layers, which will get soggy in even a light rain, the Better Than Naked Jacket repels light rain around the core thanks to its DWR coating. It stays relatively warm even when from the inside. By contrast, other wind jackets, once they accumulated sweat on the inside, felt very clammy.
The hood uses mesh on the sides, which makes it the most comfortable hood to run in. It also means you can hear a little better. You feel less cut off from your surroundings than you do with a typical hood.
This is one of the few wind jackets with a UPF rating and this jacket has the highest: UPF 50. We assume that other wind jackets also do a good job of sun protection but, since they don't give a rating, you can't be sure.
The main dislike is the price for its limited range of utility. It does not block strong winds or light rain like the other wind shirts in this review. It does not double as an emergency rain jacket. It has a narrow focus: excel at running in cool, mildly damp conditions.
Minor dislike: because the chest pocket fabric is so stretchy, our iPhone bounced around when hiking more than with other jackets. Don't plan on putting much weight in there.
There is a whole Better Than Naked series:
— Chris McNamara
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 12, 2015
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