The running jacket category is a bit of wonky one, a category in which we look at a wide array of characteristics, from weight to comfort to fancy runner-friendly features. We spent months getting to know each product in this review, but one stood out to us immediately for being outrageously lightweight: The North Face Flight RKT. This layer is the lightest of any we tested, at two and a half ounces, and we were also impressed with its comfortable, breathable fit. While it doesn't feature many of the cool features of some of its competitors, it does offer basic weather resistance for runs where the weather turns south.
The North Face Flight RKT - Women's Review
Cons: Not as breathable, expensive
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Flight RKT scored highly in this review overall thanks to its superior portability and above-average comfort, though it didn't quite make our leaderboard.
Unlike some of the outdoor activities we love, running always makes us work up a sweat, which is why breathability is so incredibly important. No matter how cold, or how windy and rainy, running requires top-notch breathability. Which is why we made it the very first metric that we reviewed. There are a multitude of ways to test this category, and we looked at venting and fabric breathability to do the trick.
The Flight, we're sad to say, has a bit of the "trash bag effect." When we were really getting our sweat on, we could feel the jacket starting to cling to us, not letting much room for air to flow and keep us cool. Compared to the Patagonia Airshed, for instance, the 100% nylon fabric of the Flight just doesn't breathe as well.
One thing we would have loved to see with this jacket was venting. Back and armpit vents could have helped alleviate this layer's fabric woes, but it's instead created with just one material. No matter how bad the weather, we found ourselves shedding this jacket the moment we started to heat up. All that being said, it was still a better performer than some of the heavier models we tested, like the Under Armour Outrun the Storm jacket.
Weather resistance comes in a variety of flavors, from a cool breeze to a torrential downpour. None of the jackets we tested are solid rain jackets, but some of them provide a bit more coverage than others for when temperatures dip or a rainstorm hits suddenly.
The Flight has pretty decent weather resistance, but it really impressed us with how well it protected us for its weight. We found solid wind coverage in this jacket, whether we were scrambling on an alpine ridge or running through Yosemite Valley.
The rain protection is adequate, and while we wouldn't head out into heavy rain in the Flight, our testing team did think it was sufficient for a lightweight emergency shell. On our long alpine trail runs, we like to be prepared even if there's a great weather forecast. The Flight is an excellent companion for those missions, though it wouldn't be our first pick for use in a storm. This goes for cold weather as well, as the mega-light Flight doesn't do much to keep us insulated from super cold temperatures.
We realize that comfort is a bit subjective. We reached a unanimous decision about each jacket by asking our colleagues, friends, and fellow running addicts their opinions of each product in this review, and we're happy with the results.
The Flight is relatively neutral on comfort: it certainly doesn't overwhelm us with its luxuriousness, but it doesn't hinder or constrict us either. The nylon material feels nice and smooth on our skin (until we get too sweaty), and the fit finds a nice blend of loose and form-fitting that is both flattering and practical.
While the material has no stretch, similar to the other lightweight jackets we tested, like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite, the fit does allow for a full range of motion, and we never felt like it was holding us back. Our only real negative feedback was that it does have that "swish-swish" sound when we move a bit, which annoyed a few of our testers but didn't bother some others.
We try not to be overly obsessed with weight here at OutdoorGearLab, but when we're trying to move fast, we know that ounces do matter. Our expert review team wanted to know how easy or difficult it was to bring each of these products along with us on our next adventure, so we looked both at weight and packability to help us rank these products' portability.
The Flight RKT was the lightest jacket we tested, bar none. At 2.45 ounces, this jacket is basically just air. Two other competitors also rang in under three ounces and a few that weren't far behind, but we have to give credit where credit is due. With this weight, there's no excuse to not throw the Flight into your pack on any adventure.
While its weight locked in the Flight for a high score in this category, its packability definitely didn't hurt. This layer packs away simply and easily into its own pocket; one of the crucial factors we looked for in this metric. Complete with a clip loop for easy attachment to a pack or harness, the only jacket that beat out the Flight for "portability" was the Brooks LSD. At 2.95 ounces, the one feature that set the LSD apart was the armband. Instead of a loop, Brooks included an elastic band specifically designed for runners without packs.
For many of the jackets in this review, the thing that sets them apart from your run-of-the-mill wind shell or rain jacket is their features. From reflective markings to secret headphone pockets, we scanned these products from top to bottom to see what they offered runners.
The Flight is a bit behind in this category. There are three reflective logos on this layer: one on the back shoulder, one on the bicep, and one on the chest. We would have liked to see a bit more visibility, like on the Altra Performance Half-Zip or the Brooks LSD.
This jacket has one pocket on the arm, which we thought was a nicer location than the chest because there was less bumping around. However, this pocket was much smaller than some others, like the one on the Patagonia Airshed, and does not fit a large phone.
The best time to use the Flight RKT is when you don't want to bring it. The best feature of this jacket is its ample weather resistance combined with its ridiculously lightweight design. The comfort is fine, and the features are minimal - two things that make this a great choice for light and fast missions where you need a just-in-case layer.
For $160, we have a bit of a harder time recommending this product. Its scores were nearly identical to the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite, which is only $100, and the Brooks LSD was even more runner-friendly for a surprisingly cheap $85. We don't think you'll be disappointed if you're looking to count ounces, but we also think you could be just as happy with something a bit less expensive.
The Flight RKT from The North Face is a lightweight jacket that finds a nice balance between weather resistance and comfort. While not as cozy as some of its competitors and without the runner-specific features we adored, this jacket missed the mark to take home an award. We do think it has its perfect uses, however, so if portability is your number-one priority, this might just be the one.
— Lauren DeLaunay