Ultimate Direction Breeze Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Breeze was this year's Top Pick for Breathability and Urban Running (for the top shelf level of reflection and visibility) and Best Buy Winner. The Breeze offers up massive back vents and large reflective badges around the entire jacket to keep you visible in low light conditions. Not only was the Breeze a top performer in breathability, but it also serves up a quality helping of comfort and protection from wind and drizzle.
The previous "most breathable" running jacket, the Outdoor Research Boost had a great vulnerability in that the breathable panels on the back welcomed in precipitation. The Breeze has done a fantastic job of creating a jacket with superior breathability and venting - all while maintaining weather resistance. The Breeze is unparalleled in maintaining body warmth while venting excess heat and moisture.
Breathability and Venting
This metric is what the Breeze excels in. Enormous vents on the back allow air to flow in and out, carrying excess heat and moisture along with it. We didn't find the 20D Ripstop Nylon that comprises the entire jacket to be any more breathable than other similar jackets in this review such as the Editors' Choice Outdoor Research Tantrum II; however, the added vents on the Breeze gave it a significant edge in the venting metric.
All this venting comes at a cost. When we would arrive at the top of a climb, if there was any wind, we would inevitably get a shot of cold air through the massive back vents. While temporarily uncomfortable, it isn't a deal breaker when you consider how much comfort the jacket offers throughout your run. All in all, this is one of the most breathable and generously vented models we have tested to date.
As it is with all things, the fantastic venting of the Breeze comes at a cost. The PU coating just doesn't offer the same weather protection as the tried and true DWR coatings of jackets like the Outdoor Research Tantrum II or The North Face Crew Anorak.
The Breeze did resist light drizzle and dew, but anything greater than a light drizzle permeated the jacket almost immediately. As for wind resistance, the Breeze performed well. We ran all of the jackets through a downhill bike test to simulate high winds. The only chink in the wind protection armor is the lack of a hood, and if you get hit with a strong tail wind, the large back vents act as a jacket inflation system, making you look like a fluffy blue marshmallow.
If you live in a climate where even light rain showers are likely during your run, consider checking out one of the more water resistant jackets in the lineup. The Outdoor Research Tantrum II and The North Face Crew Anorak both offer decent protection from the elements.
Comfort and Mobility
While the Breeze has an "athletic trim" fit, the shoulders, arm length, and waist are cut to offer a large free range of motion. Though this jacket isn't ideal for rock climbing or sports where your arms might be overhead, we still put it through a day of climbing just to stretch the range of motion to the limit.
The waist and sleeves are cut long, so it doesn't ride up as you are running. Our 5'11" gear tester incredibly long arms (longer than he is tall) and was able to have his hands completely covered by the sleeves without stretching the jacket material.
At no point during our testing was the jacket put in a position where it couldn't accommodate a specific movement; this bodes well for those who plan on getting off the roads and running on trails, or venturing into the mountains where hand lightweight activities would be restricted by some of the competition in this review. The North Face Crew Anorak for instance, was moderately restrictive and not as generously cut in the shoulders, waist, and arm lengths. While the Breeze is pretty dang comfortable, it can't compete with the Outdoor Research Tantrum II, as it has a moderately stretchy material giving it an edge on comfort.
While the Breeze can't compete with the likes of the Montane Featherlite 7 when it comes to portability, it is a decently lightweight and portable running jacket.
For comparison, the Featherlite 7 rings in at a wizardly 1.5 ounces and stuffs down to the size of a pack of cards. The Breeze weighs in at 3.6 ounces and packs into a pocket the size of two cans of La Croix.
While these do seem like a dramatic difference in size and weight, the Breeze is still incredibly portable and light weight. It is also important to note that the stuff pouch, when packed, is loosely packed. For someone motivated to stuff the jacket down in a pack, the size in the photo could be reduced by at least half. The loosely packed stuff pouch is adequate and the jacket packs in and out of it in a snap.
The Breeze is best suited for longer urban runs in cooler environments. It dumps excess heat and moisture and remains comfortable for hours. The limitations begin to show themselves when you take this jacket out of the city and into the mountains. The large vents let wind from the back blast through the jacket, potentially leaving you in a frigid state. The generous reflective logos are sure to catch the eye of drivers in dim light, and the available color schemes offer decent daytime visibility as well.
Day and Night Visibility
We are incredibly pleased with the low light performance of this running jacket. Full arm length logos made with extra large lettering and reflective material may look like a giant advertisement, but in reality, it's a safety feature that every running jacket should have. The bright colors offered also give decent daytime visibility as well. When we subjected this jacket to our distracted driver/low light testing, it stood out as the top performer out of every jacket tested. Ultimate Direction obviously wants to keep their customers… alive.
At $80 retail, the Breeze is near the more affordable end of the spectrum when compared to the other models in our fleet. While it is low on features, it performs like a dedicated running jacket. All in all, this is an affordable, highly breathable, and well-ventilated jacket that is appropriate for a multitude of settings.
While the Ultimate Direction Breeze isn't the most weatherproof, windproof, packable, or even the most versatile, it's an incredible running layer. It offers up a good balance of weight, warmth, and added visibility for those who venture out on daily runs in the city.
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