In a world inundated with lightweight wind shells, the Icebreaker Cool-Lite Rush stands out. This was the black sheep of this review, and its fit and feel were quite different than the ultra-portable jackets we tested. While the outer layer is a similar nylon material, the inside is lined with a cozy merino wool that greatly enhances both comfort, warmth, and breathability. This jacket is missing some of the cool running features found in some of its competitors, if comfort is your highest priority, this could be an excellent purchase.
Icebreaker Cool-Lite Rush Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Comfortable, weather resistant
Cons: Expensive, few features
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This unique jacket is high on comfort and breathability but low on features that would enhance its standing as a running-specific layer.
Hot or cold, windy or calm, track workout or long-slow run, running is a sweaty activity. We need a layer that can keep up with us, and breathability is one of the biggest limiting factors. Our testing team evaluated each jacket's material construction and venting strategies to come up with comparative scores.
The Rush is a much more complex jacket than some of its brethren, like the simple Brooks LSD. The inner material is a highly breathable, lightweight merino wool. Separated from this is an outer layer of wind-breaking nylon that is full of small holes. This separation and venting make for excellent airflow.
While there are no vents in this jacket, similar to the Patagonia Airshed, it doesn't seem to need them. The merino wool is so effective as allowing air to move through the jacket that it doesn't seem necessary to create vents under the arms or back. However, breathability could always be improved, and this might be one way to do it.
As we found time and time again in the testing process for this review, weather resistance and breathability often go head-to-head. It's hard to find a combination of materials and construction that can simultaneously keep out wind but also allow for air to flow. The Rush somehow does both.
This jacket has a one-of-a-kind layout. With two separate layers that are detached from one another except at the seams, air can easily escape the wool layer and work its way out of the nylon. At the same time, the nylon stops the wind from coming in. It's genius, really. This jacket performs incredibly well in windy conditions, up there with any of the lightweight wind shells we tested.
As far as protection from precipitation, the Rush provides a decent amount of resistance, but it certainly isn't a rain jacket. During light rain, the Rush can wick away moisture quickly enough, but we wouldn't recommend this jacket for active rain.
The third weather factor we might need to mitigate is the cold. While most of the jackets we tested are lightweight, non-insulated layers, the Rush is an interesting middle ground. While not nearly as warm as the insulated Arc'teryx Gaea, we did find this jacket to be a significant middle ground for cool mornings and evenings.
During months of hands-on testing for a variety of running-related products, including women's running shirts and hydration packs for running, we quickly learned that comfort is a performance factor. Beyond chafing and sore spots, comfort affects our level of enthusiasm, so for this review, we looked at the overall fit and feel of each jacket and compared them side-by-side.
The Cool-Lite Rush is hands-down one of the most comfortable jackets we reviewed. The inner merino wool layer is outrageously soft and luxurious. We'd easily put this jacket on par with the other two highest scores in this category, the Gaea and Airshed. Compared to the trash bag-like lightweight wind jackets we tried, like the Flight RKT, we never wanted to take this jacket off and often found ourselves wearing it long after our workout had ended.
The fit is a both loose enough for activewear and form-fitting enough to earn us style points. The merino interior has a bit of stretch that makes for a wonderful fit in our shoulders and back, unlike the tighter fit of the Altra Performance. One of the only things we didn't like about this jacket was its noisy finish.
Here at OutdoorGearLab, we're a little bit weight crazy. We're known for counting ounces, putting everything we test on a scale, and debating weight versus performance. Running is a unique sport, however, in that it's much more about speed than some of the other activities we love. And because we're trying to move fast, weight and portability are even more important than normal. We don't want our gear to hold us back, which is why we looked at two similar qualities for this metric.
In the first of these, weight, we're afraid that the Cool-Lite Rush is behind many of its competitors. There were some heavier jackets in this review, too, but the majority of our favorite layers were a fraction of the weight of the Rush. At 8.2 ounces, we felt this jacket had a nice weight for everyday use but was a bit heavy for running.
While the Rush does pack down into its own pocket, something that helped boost its score in this category, it was definitely much bigger than some of its competitors, like The North Face Flight RKT. The clip loop is large and easy to use, but this jacket took up some seemingly unnecessary space in our packs.
During the testing process for this review, we found that there were a lot of jackets that you could wear for running. So what, we wondered, makes something a running jacket? After a few months of wear and tear, we came up with a list of ideal features that are particularly suited to meet the needs of the runner, as opposed to the climber or hiker. The Rush has a few of these, though is not one of the highest scorers in this category.
One of the first things we look for in a running jacket is visibility. Having reflective markings helps keep us safe from vehicles, though if you're strictly a trail runner, this may not be as important to you. The Rush has reflective markings in the front, along the zipper, but nothing on the back. We found that the back was a better place for these markings to warn cars who are coming up behind us.
This jacket has two front zippered pockets. While useful, we would have preferred a chest pocket, where things bounce less, or a media port, like the one found on the Brooks Canopy. Though not necessary, those were some of our favorite little details on some of the other contenders. Additionally, the Rush does not have a hood, which we think is more comfortable but less versatile.
The Rush's supreme comfort and awesome breathability make it an impressive choice for slightly chillier weather. It beat out for our Top Pick for Cool Weather Cruising award by the Canopy, this was mostly due to the weight and features. If shedding ounces and having the coolest technology isn't as important to you as ultimate comfort, this could make an excellent purchase.
At $170, the Cool-Lite Rush is one of the most expensive jackets in this review. We assume that this is due to the luxurious merino wool interior, a material that is often associated with more expensive clothing. That being said, this jacket is super comfy and breathable, and we never wanted to take it off. If the price is a bit disconcerting, we'd recommend the Canopy for a less expensive $120.
The Icebreaker Cool-Lite Rush is a uniquely comfortable and breathable layer. Though lacking in some of the fancy features of our award-winning items, this jacket could easily suit the needs of any trail runner who cares more about comfort than ounces.
— Lauren DeLaunay