The Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody sets the bar for minimalist wet weather protection while running, which is why we awarded it a Top Pick for Weather Resistance. This is one of the only running jackets we tested to carry the GORE-TEX stamp — most others have a proprietary DWR treatment applied to a synthetic material. Typically jackets with this level of weather resistance sacrifice a significant amount of breathability. The Norvan, however, retains ample breathability while keeping the bulk of precipitation from getting through. This jacket is ideal for anyone looking to boost their weather protection without weighing down their running pack. The excellently windproof material coupled with water resistance and a minimalist design also increases the versatility of this jacket, making it fantastic for alpine climbing or some extra protection while out on your bike.
Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Very water resistant, lightweight, small packed size
Cons: Not as breathable as a softshell, very expensive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
At this point, we are certain that there are no other running layers that offer such a high level of weather resistance while remaining ultralight. While the Norvan isn't a raincoat, it performed better in the wet than any ultralight jacket we have tested over the years, absolutely blowing away the typical DWR coated polyester models.
What the Norvan SL doesn't have in added ventilation panels, it makes up for with a highly breathable single layer fabric. Through the process of testing running jackets, our testers have spent many hours inside clammy running shells. Many just aren't breathable enough to shed perspiration and heat quickly enough to maintain a decent level of comfort inside. Despite the omission of underarm vents, we rarely experienced the miserable clammy/sticky feeling you get with less breathable fabrics. Only when pinning our heart rate on intervals did we feel trapped inside a clammy grave, which is why we typically have minimal layers on for intervals even when it's pretty cold.
No doubt, there is a tradeoff for the high level of weather resistance we experienced with the Norvan SL. The omission of underarm mesh panels makes a noticeable difference in the overall ventilation of this jacket. The most important thing to note is that the weather resistance far outweighs the small hit in breathability.
The bulk of running jackets we tested all have synthetic layers with some type of DWR treatment applied to give a boost in weather resistance. Our experience with these jackets has shown the DWR works for very light precipitation or for keeping dew from rubbing off and soaking into layers on chilly mornings. The Norvan SL, on the other hand, is made from GORE-TEX Active waterproof/breathable laminate that far exceeds the performance of the typical DWR-treated jacket. While we wouldn't say it's totally waterproof, it IS on another level.
Even during a jog around Liberty Park in a rain/snow mix with a long sleeve polyester base layer and the Norvan SL over, we remained almost completely dry after two hours. This is contrary to some of the reviews we read online, which state the jacket leaks after ten minutes. It's possible that having a long sleeve polyester layer underneath keeps the jacket away from the skin, which, in turn, helps maintain the water-resistant qualities. The only notable weakness in the Norvan's GORE-TEX armor is the zipper, which does let a bit of moisture through. This level of protection is a significant boost compared to past jackets we have tested, making it well suited for days when the weather is uncertain and wearing an actual rain jacket would be too bulky and cumbersome.
Despite the fantastic weather resistance of this shell, unless you are a real ultralight geek and are willing to experience some discomfort in a downpour, the Norvan isn't a replacement for a rain jacket. The main difference between light rain jackets and the Norvan is the zipper being a regular YKK style zip. Rain jackets are equipped with YKK Waterguard zippers that have a recognizable polyurethane tape on the outside, which keeps water from reaching the teeth of the zipper. However, if you're dead set on using an ultralight jacket as a rain layer in the backcountry, the Norvan SL is far superior to other running jacket options.
Comfort and Mobility
Arc'teryx jackets tend to run a little small, so we knew to size up from our norm. Our main tester usually straddles a medium and large, with medium typically being the best. If you ride the line between sizes like this, our advice is to size up. Our 5'11", 175lb gear tester felt the size large was perfect and allowed for a thin long sleeve polyester layer underneath without any discomfort.
True to the Arc'teryx reputation, the Norvan SL offers a great range of motion and sleeves that are long enough to stay put even when performing activities that require a lot of movement. We found the Norvan SL to be superior when used as a biking layer as the sleeves don't ride up when reaching for the handlebars. Running with poles, which adds a significant amount of motion to ones arms, proved just as comfortable as without. Nearly the entire jacket is put together with taped seams as opposed to sewn. This gives the inside an incredibly smooth feel and eliminates the rubbing experienced while wearing jackets with chunky sewn seams.
At 4.6 ounces and able to pack into a pouch the size of a medium-sized apple, the Norvan SL is incredibly portable. What is most impressive about the lightweight and small packed size is the amount of weather protection the Norvan can dish out. While it's among the lightest jackets we tested, it is also significantly higher performing in inclement weather than any other contender. Weather protection like this typically comes with a significant weight penalty.
While many running jackets have a pocket that doubles as a stuff sack, the Norvan SL has no pockets. Instead, it comes with a small detached pouch. It's just the right size to allow easy packing without leaving extra space, making it a tidy package for stowing in a running pack. The major downside of having a standalone stuff pouch is how easy it is to misplace it. If you're the type of person who excels at losing small objects, the stuff pouch is as good as gone.
Despite rumors to the contrary, the Norvan SL has reflective tape along both wrists as well as the hem around the bottom of the jacket. The chest logo and GORE-TEX lettering are also reflective. Even being black as night, the Norvan SL offers great nighttime visibility.
Daytime visibility might be the lowest-performing category for the Norvan SL, but that's ok, we can't all be perfect at everything. This jacket is currently only available in dark colors, but the saving grace is how shiny the black GORE-TEX laminate is. On the spectrum of matte finish to glossy, the Novan SL is almost 100% in the glossy camp giving it enough shine to stand out during the day.
The retail price might be more shocking than the fact that Epstein didn't kill himself. Yes, it is a lot of money, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet. The Norvan SL is the most water-resistant running jacket we have tested. The laminate GORE-TEX material is lightweight, and nearly the entire jacket is put together with taped seams making it extremely comfortable and watertight (except for the zipper). If you have some benjamins burning a hole in your pocket or perhaps a generous grandparent, we highly recommend the Norvan SL.
The best weather resistance we have experienced in a running jacket coupled with lightweight and fantastic comfort, no wonder the Norvan SL is our Top Pick for Weather Resistance. It's hard to say much bad about this stellar jacket. Our biggest gripes are the detached and easily misplaced stuff pouch and the standard YKK zipper which, in our opinion, makes the jacket water resistant, not waterproof as it is marketed. While not perfect for every situation, the high level of weather resistance does make the Norvan a great companion when skies are grey and you're itching to move.
— Brian Martin