The Marmot Air Lite was a strong contender in this year's running jacket roundup. The only reason it didn't win any awards was the lack of any standout features. With decent performance in almost every category, this isn't a model to be overlooked. The bottom line is that this is a strong performing, durably made, albeit slightly uncomfortable running layer.
Marmot Air Lite Review
Cons: Breathability, comfort
Our Analysis and Test Results
The trouble with having such a large field of jackets to test is that the overachievers overshadow many strong performing jackets. The Marmot Air Lite was a strong contender to win many different categories but fell just short in each. If there was an award for best runner-up jacket, this piece would handily take it.
Breathability and Venting
While most attributes of the Air Lite were quite good, the breathability and venting did suffer. The lack of any vents and a durable 100% nylon ripstop fabric made for some sweaty ascents, which seems to be the trade-off for creating a truly weather resistant running jacket.
If you run in an environment where weather protection is more desirable than breathability, this jacket could be an excellent choice. Environments such as rainy, flat, urban running where the lack of hills lets you control your heart rate could be an ideal situation for the Air Lite. If you're looking for similar protection but desire a bit more breathability, the thin stretch material of the Outdoor Research Tantrum II is a wonderful solution.
The Air Lite can hang with the best when it comes to weather resistance. The thicker 20 denier fabric cut through both wind and light weather just as well as our Editors' Choice winner this year.
While the jacket did become saturated after a particularly heavy rainstorm, it dried quickly and became saturated noticeably slower than many others in the field of competition. The hood also went a long way to boost our comfort in less than ideal conditions. The weather protection of the Air Lite increased its versatility, making it a viable option for bike commuting and climbing when having a lightweight, portable, and weather resistant piece could come in handy.
Comfort and Mobility
Unfortunately, this model has one big Achilles Heel, as the inner seams are abrasive. If you're throwing this jacket on for a jog around the block, this is a non-issue. If you're going on a multi-hour adventure or heading into the mountains, these abrasive seams become quite uncomfortable.
This seemingly small detail drove a massive separation between this jacket and the similar Outdoor Research Tantrum II. Not only did the award-winning Tantrum have lightly stretching material, but it also had soft-to-the-touch seams that never became uncomfortable.
Another notable performance from the Air Lite is its highly portable design. The stuff pouch is adequately sized, and is not too big or small, allowing it to be packed and unpacked easily and efficiently even while moving. This is a huge bonus when needing to layer while in a hurry.
Once in its storage pouch, there is a one size fits all elastic band so you can loop it over your bicep. We found this loop to be a bit too tight and annoying but on the plus side, it gave us an attachment point to clip the jacket to when we decided to take it out on a climbing adventure.
When stuffed into its pocket, the jacket is a bit larger than the standard iPhone 6 and about as thick as a can of soda.
Day and Night Visibility
Our gear tester found the overall visibility of the Air Lite to be adequate but not great. The Marmot logo on the front left chest and small circle logo in the middle of the back are both reflective but didn't offer the safety delivering reflectivity that we want from a running jacket. Check out the Ultimate Direction Breeze for the ultimate example of reflectivity during low light situations. We tested the Sienna Red version of the Air Lite which seems to be the brightest of the color options and at times felt that it didn't stand out against certain urban backgrounds such as brick.
This jacket really is an all-arounder; in fact, there weren't many situations where we weren't happy to have this piece. Sometimes, during extremely high output activities such as running uphill or biking a technical uphill section of trail, we felt that the breathability was lacking, but in all honesty, this jacket is as at home alpine climbing as it is running in an urban environment.
If weather resistance matched with portability is your top priority, this jacket is a decent deal. If you demand a high level of breathability out of your running jacket, look elsewhere, as the same $100 can deliver extremely comfortable and breathable layers.
The Marmot Air Lite is a strong buffer against the elements and is incredibly portable. These attributes allow the Air Lite to present itself as a versatile and functional jacket. It might not be the "best" running jacket out of our fleet, but if you want something you can use for multiple activities, i.e., climbing, biking, running, this is an ideal choice.
— Brian Martin