As one of only two insulated jackets in this entire review, the Arc'teryx Gaea is a bit of a wild card. We were honestly surprised by how heavy it was, but since Arc'teryx markets it as a running layer, we thought we'd give it a try. What we found was an incredibly comfortable, breathable, insulated layer that is a great choice for winter running. This jacket has some awesome features purposefully designed with runners in mind, and we're excited to announce it as our Top Pick for Winter Workouts.
Arc'teryx Gaea ReviewPrice: $189 List Pros: Insulated, very comfortable, breathable
Cons: Expensive, less rain resistance
Bottom line: The Gaea is an incredibly comfortable jacket built for cold temperatures.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This super cozy jacket was among our favorites, but buyer beware, it is very warm, and as a running layer is only appropriate in truly freezing temperatures.
Even if the coldest of weather, running is a high-intensity sport and one that basically requires sweating. Because of this, we need our running jackets to be breathable, and our testing team found a few ways to measure this. We ran uphill and downhill, in hot weather and cold, to evaluate each jacket's ability to let air flow. We looked at venting, materials, and build to come up with a direct comparison of all twelve running layers.
The Gaea is heavy, but we were surprised with how much breathability we felt regardless. This jacket has a lot going on, and one of the first things we noticed was that the insulation is located only on the front, tops of the arms, and upper back and shoulders. The rest of the piece is constructed with a polyester/elastane blend. Having the low back and underarms constructed with a lighter, more breathable material really did the trick, and we think Arc'teryx nailed it with this one.
No, this jacket is not as breathable as the Patagonia Airshed, but they weren't meant for the same activity. For its weight and purpose, the Gaea does a great job of maintaining airflow without sacrificing warmth.
Here at OutdoorGearLab, we know there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad attitudes. So we need a jacket that can handle whatever Mother Nature throws our way. There are a few different types of weather that can make layering for running a bit more challenging, and we wanted to know how each jacket performed in all of them.
The first weather dilemma we wanted to test for was cold. The vast majority of jackets in this review are lightweight wind shells, so it was nice to find some winter running layers as well. The Gaea is alongside the Icebreaker Rush as one of two insulated jackets that we tested, and it is definitely the warmer one. So warm, in fact, that we can only recommend it for truly freezing conditions. This jacket would be overkill for chilly spring or fall mornings, and for that, we'd recommend the lighter Brooks Canopy.
As a wind layer, the Gaea also provides ample protection. We wore this jacket regularly during our winter in southern Argentina, one of the windiest places on earth, and we were pleased. Though more air can get through the back and underarms, the front and top insulation sections are solidly wind resistant.
While the Gaea sheds water well and could easily keep out light rain, this product is not a rain jacket and would not be our first choice for running in a rainstorm.
Comfort can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, and you may be wondering how we evaluated this for our review. We know that fit and feel seriously affect running performance, so we asked our friends and colleagues to try out every product and give their feedback. We judged each jacket's materials, fit, and mobility and our testing team came up with a consensus with relative ease.
The Gaea is an extremely comfortable jacket and one of the highest scorers in this category of any jacket we tested. There are a variety of materials used in this product, and all of them are soft and cozy. The insulated sections of this layer are smooth and soft on the inside, and the non-insulated parts are even cozier. With a fleece-like feel, this jacket felt great on our skin. Out of all the fabrics we tested, only two come close to the luxuriousness of this jacket, the Airshed's lightweight nylon and the Rush's excellent merino wool.
One of our favorite things about this jacket is the stretch. Elasticity was hard to come by in this review, and we loved the way it enhanced our running experience. The insulated sections (the front and tops of arms) didn't have much stretch, but the sides, backs, and cuffs did, which is where it really matters.
Inside the sleeve cuffs are hidden thumb loops, and this material, the same as the back panel, is super cozy and a remarkable thing to have around your hands. Our testing team really liked that the jacket had a somewhat fitted, feminine cut, but with the stretch maintained great mobility. Five stars.
With two different elements to this metric, we were trying to answer one question: how easy is it to bring this jacket with me? No matter the adventure, weight, and ease of transport matter, so we looked at weight and packability to come up with one comparative score.
The Gaea was, without a doubt, one of the least portable jackets that we tested. Weighing in at 10.7 ounces, this product was among the heaviest we tested. While this product had its strengths, weight was just not one of them. Our testers would be hard pressed to drag this product along for long runs or races where speed makes the difference.
Adding to the Gaea's low score in this area was its inability to pack down small. Compared to many of its competitors whose lightweight frames fit easily into their own pockets, the Gaea is much too big. This means less room in our packs for the many other essential items we like to bring along. At the end of the day, while the Gaea may be very comfortable, this factor really limits its usefulness for running specifically.
Many of the jackets in this review can honestly be used for a variety of activities, from hiking and backpacking to climbing or cycling. What we wanted to know in this category was how well they were suited for running specifically. We evaluated each jacket's small details to find out how they appealed directly to runners and awarded high points for visibility and unique storage solutions.
The Gaea has a ton of impressive features and is one of the things that helped spring it forward as a prestigious award winner. Up first is the visibility. The Gaea has a reflective logo on the front and two stripes on the lower back. While we might have liked to see more reflectivity, like the long stripes on the Brooks LSD and Canopy, we're glad that the striping that was included was thoughtfully placed.
As mentioned above, we loved the thumb loops. These keep us warm and comfortable when running in cold weather, and the soft material makes them a breeze to use. They also retract easily to not get in our way when we don't need them.
One of our favorite details of this jacket is the rear stow pockets. In addition to the two front zippered pockets, the rear pockets are smaller, angled slightly, and without closure. They're very easily reached, and we thought this was a great place to store small snacks, gloves, or other small accessories that we want easy access to.
Last but not least is the media pocket. Similar to the one found on the Canopy, the Gaea's right front pocket has an inner pocket and secret hole. This tiny hole allows headphone cables to pass through to the inside of the jacket. We can't express enough how much we appreciate not having our headphones bouncing around in front of us getting caught on things when we're running. This might seem small, but our enjoyment is enormous. It's obvious to us that Arc'teryx thought about running-specific details with this jacket, and its score shows.
The features and comfort of this jacket made it one of our favorites to wear around, even when we weren't running! If you are going to run in this jacket, we suggest saving it for frigid days when insulation is necessary. It also serves well for other high-output winter activities like cross-country skiing.
With little surprise, this Arc'teryx product is at the top of the price charts. Retailing for $190, the Gaea is expensive, but we do think it offers a lot of value. If you live in a place with freezing winters and are committed to your cardio activities, this could be a solid investment piece, as we have every reason to believe it'll last you a long time.
The Arc'teryx Gaea stands out in this review amongst a whole host of lightweight shells. Weight and portability are major concerns here, but the combination of breathability and warmth are unparalleled. If winter running is your jam, you may have finally met your match.
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: August 8, 2018
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