To find the best running jackets, we thoughtfully analyzed over 60 top contenders and picked 12 to test side-by-side over the course of one year. With a seemingly infinite selection of companies and jackets to choose from, it is easy to get stuck with something that doesn't suit your needs. Through extensive testing in a cornucopia of weather conditions and varied terrain, we sorted through our fleet, rating each one on a variety of metrics. In the end, there could only be one winner, though several rose to the top. We took these jackets beyond their limits to determine which boasts high breathability, ample venting, quality weather resistance, and easy portability. No matter whether you're on the hunt for the most breathable, comfortable, affordable, or a combination of all three, we've got something for you.
Best Running Jackets for Men
This spring, a number of our favorite jackets were discontinued. Sigh. However, we still have many great models in the lineup, as we put five new jackets through our rigorous testing process, which you'll find in our comparison table and in the metrics below. The Outdoor Research Tantrum II is the new winner of our Editors' Choice Award, while the Ultimate Direction Breeze, Arc'teryx Incendo, The North Face Crew Run Wind Anorak, and Montane Featherlight 7 secure Top Pick Awards. Last but not least, the Ultimate Direction also takes home the Best Buy Award.
Best Overall Running Jacket
Outdoor Research Tantrum II
Past Outdoor Research running jackets have been impressive in their own right. The Outdoor Research Tantrum II combines award-winning attributes from several past running layers to make an extremely versatile and effective running layer. The Tantrum II has everything you could want in a running jacket, as it's at home on cold city streets or windswept plains and craggy mountains. The Tantrum walks the incredibly thin line of being portable, lightweight, weather resistant, and comfortable. Scoring high in all of these metrics is a tall order, but the Tantrum II is proof that it can be done.
Not only is this jacket balanced in the attributes that make it so effective, but it is also reasonably priced. We just can't say enough good things about this jacket. Head on over to the individual review to see how it performed in each of our metrics.
Read review: Outdoor Research Tantrum II
Best Buy and Top Pick for Breathability and Ventilation
Ultimate Direction Breeze
We are always on the search for the next best running jacket, which means getting uncomfortably sweaty in jackets that may not adequately breathe; this was not the case while testing the Ultimate Direction Breeze. Two massive vents on the back allowed for ample airflow, which kept our temperature regulated. While the back openings offered fantastic breathability, they also created vulnerable spots in the jacket's armor.
Wind could howl through when you were hit with a gust, and some of the versatility was lost. Long, sustained downhill bike rides, for example, became chilly with the added airflow through the jacket. Most importantly, the bottom line is that this jacket was made for running, and it does a superb job of keeping our temperature just right - no matter how hard we are pushing.
Read review: Ultimate Direction Breeze
Top Pick for Versatility
Arc'teryx Incendo Hoody
If you're venturing far from home and there is the slightest chance that inclement weather could dampen your outing, the Arc'teryx Incendo is a fantastic solution. While offering the same weather protection the "emergency" jackets provided, the Incendo retains its ability to vent and breathe. This is rare in running jackets and boosted the Arc'teryx into the top of our standings. The Incendo also earned high marks for its portability and light weight.
This model is expensive, but that's no surprise in exchange for such a high-quality jacket. It may be a touch lightweight for some when worn as their everyday jacket. Don't fear; we have high scoring, burlier options below. The Incendo was crowned our Editors' Choice winner for three years and was just barely bested by the Outdoor Research Tantrum II for 2018 testing.
Read review: Arc'teryx Incendo
Top Pick Portability
Montane Featherlite 7
The magicians at Montane have made one of the most incredible running jackets we have seen. The Montane Featherlite 7's modest name might not clue you into the fact that it weighs only 1.6oz. It's close to half the weight of the next lightest jacket we tested, which at 2.8 ounces is pretty dang light. While being the most portable jacket we laid our hands on, the Featherlite 7 also provides excellent weather resistance, adequate breathing, and ventilation. It's so light that you won't notice it in your pocket.
The Featherlight is not the most durable jacket and does not have any pockets, which is often the price you pay for super minimalism. If you are okay with that trade-off, you will love this jacket, as the portability of the Featherlite 7 is truly unparalleled.
Read review: Montane Featherlite 7
Top Pick for Weather Resistance
The North Face Crew Run Wind Anorak
The North Face Crew Run Wind Anorak is a beefcake when compared to the rest of the jackets we tested. While having a heavy, thick running jacket might not sound that pleasant, think about those shoulder season runs when the weather is changing from crisp to spitting snow. The Anorak allowed us to keep on keeping on when the weather threatened to shut us down. While it might be a bit much for warmer temperatures, it was our go-to when bike commuting to work with slush on the roads.
The Anorak is one most durable running models we tested. The combination of thick material and chunky zippers held up well to months of testing and abuse. An important note is that this jacket is what we'd define as being designed for urban use. It isn't incredibly packable when compared to some of the models that magically disappear in your pack. It is, however, incredibly durable and reflective - both necessary attributes for city running and commuting.
Read review: The North Face Run Wind Anorak
Analysis and Test Results
Having a running jacket that is suited to your needs as a runner can mean the difference between successfully logging your early morning training run or being sidelined by Mother Nature. We tested these jackets in a plethora of environments and conditions to determine which is best suited for running.
We compared them side by side based on five separate criteria: Breathability and Venting, Weather Resistance, Comfort and Mobility, Portability, and Visibility. Our testing included multiple runs in each jacket through rain, cold, and wind both in urban environments and on trails. We purposefully gathered highly rated jackets that claimed both weather resistance, and breathability to sort through which could deliver on their claims. We designed our tests around the shared attributes of the collection of jackets and graded each model from one to ten in every category.
For 2018, we returned to put another host of jackets to the test with the hopes of finding the best running layer available. We painstakingly sorted through the discontinued and new top-shelf running jackets available in 2018 until we had a collection of highly rated models to put through our testing regimen. We were pleasantly surprised by several of the new contenders.
As you can see in the chart below, the Tantrum II is easily the best value. It scores the highest of all models in the fleet and is only marginally more expensive than the lowest price options, which did not perform as well. What is not captured in this chart is just how versatile the Tantrum II is: it performs well for hiking, backpacking, biking, and just about anything else you can think of.
Our primary focus for this review is the aerobic nature of running. It is a high output activity, and thus we wanted a jacket that could manage the excess of heat and moisture produced during prolonged aerobic activity. We hoped to find a contender that would keep our temperature regulated with proper venting and breathability over several hours of aerobic activity. We found that models with inadequate breathability, venting, or both made all other attributes superfluous.
For example, if you are drenched with sweat inside the jacket, any rain protection the jacket provides is moot. In the end, our Editors' Choice award is given to the jacket that best balances all of the necessary attributes to make a running jacket that doesn't just specialize in one testing metric.
To test each jacket's breathability, we went out on many runs, logging almost 250 miles for the entire testing period. This time was spread out over the eleven jackets over the course of one year. We emphasized long, steep uphill sections that would increase our heart rate and get the sweat rolling. The Ultimate Direction Breeze and the Outdoor Research Tantrum II have a supernatural ability to regulate our temperature; the Tantrum regulates through highly breathable fabric, the Breeze via massive vents on the back. Most impressively, the Tantrum II didn't sacrifice on other metrics to attain a highly breathable jacket.
The Smartwoold PhD Ultra Light Sport Hoody and Arc'teryx Incendo also performed remarkably well in the breathability oriented tests we executed. Both jackets have underarm mesh vents. They are a fantastic feature and did their job as intended while limiting the amount of material vulnerable to the elements. The least breathable jackets we tested were the Salomon Agile and Brooks LSD jackets, both constructed of 100% nylon; both lacked proper venting to dissipate excess heat and moisture.
Most of the jackets in the review offered an acceptable amount of breathability, decent heat and moisture dissipation on the flats and downhills, yet inadequate breathability on the calf-burning uphills. The Arc'teryx Incendo is an incredibly breathable all-around jacket; the generous underarm vents kept us comfortable and dry except for running the most strenuous sections of our runs.
All of the jackets we tested come with labels that claim wind and water resistance. The word resistant is a very 'fluid' term, pardon the pun. We designed several tests to give you an idea of what kind of protection you can reasonably expect from each of these eleven weather resistant jackets.
We wore each jacket on a 5+ mile run in the rain; lucky for us, or maybe unlucky for us and lucky for you, Salt Lake City had an extremely rainy spring. We were able to run in each of these models during moderate rainfall, ranking each one comparatively. We meticulously tested each model with a DWR treatment test by measuring how long each jacket would hold two cups of water. This involved using an embroidery hoop to capture a piece of fabric from each jacket, making a container, then pouring in the two cups of water and starting a timer.
Each model contained the water for over ten minutes in their original condition. Post training, a regular gentle washing revealed which jackets retained their DWR treatment the best when we retested their water retention. The Arc'teryx Incendo was our past top performer in the weather resistance category, now outperformed by The North Face Anorak. The Anorak displayed the highest water resistance and excellent wind resistance in a multitude of situations. If you need a high-performing running jacket specifically for rainy/drizzly situations, we recommend The North Face Anorak, Outdoor Research Tantrum II, and Montane Ultralight 7. Keep an eye on other attributes of a jacket to make sure it matches the style of running you take part in, as well as your environmental needs.
To isolate windy conditions, we wore each jacket on a 30-35mph downhill bike ride in Emigration Canyon; this testing arena allowed us to control the wind speed and pick and choose the temperatures. Since it was strictly downhill riding, with a car shuttle back to the top, we were able to measure the level each model shielded us from the wind without having to worry about our perspiration or climbing effort throwing off our results. Most of the jackets tested offered satisfactory wind protection, with the Outdoor Research Tantrum II and The North Face Anorak coming out on top.
Despite what this test might suggest, we weren't looking for a purely windproof layer; we simply wanted to test each jacket to its limits. (If you are looking for a wind jacket, check out our wind jacket review, where the admirable wind resistance of the Tantrum II is merely average).
It is important to note that while several of these jackets kept us dry during our rainy morning runs, none kept us completely dry after the three-mile mark (in light to moderate rain). After five miles, every contender had let in a significant amount of moisture during heavy rain. The top performers in our fleet performed well in light rain and intermittent showers and dried out quickly when they did manage to take on moisture. If weather resistance is your top priority or you live in a rainy climate, we'd recommend the Outdoor Research Tantrum II, The North Face Anorak, or the Arc'teryx Incendo, as they proved to be workhorses when the weather was closing in.
Comfort and Mobility
Comfort and mobility are paramount in a running jacket, and these garments are designed to be worn during prolonged aerobic activity. A restrictive jacket will not only physically hinder your movement, but it can damage your psychological performance as well, forcing you to focus on the discomfort of the garment. To test comfort and mobility, we evaluated how each piece moved with the runner. We also examined the materials, if stretchy material was utilized, and if the stitching was crafted in a way that reduced chafing. The Outdoor Research Tantrum II once again came out ahead of the pack.
The movement mirroring material that comprises the body of the Tantrum II is exceptionally comfortable and allows for a full range of motion while never feeling restrictive or baggy. On the flip side, the Salomon Agile was restrictive; it was very tight in the armpits and had seams that were incredibly abrasive. The Agile's flaws were noticeable when we first donned this garment and only became worse as the miles piled on. Eventually, restrictive garments start to feel like an ever-tightening straight jacket, especially when they become wet.
Comfort was given a lower percentage of the model's final score, as it leans toward a more subjective side of the metrics we use in our testing. However, there is a significant difference in the materials and styles used; overall, the jackets that had forgiving material, sewing where the stitches weren't visible, and cleverly designed closure systems offered superior comfort.
The Salomon Agile and the Outdoor Research Tantrum II represent the two ends of the spectrum. The Agile had panels joined together with abrasive, chunky sewing that scraped our arms as we struggled our way into the jacket whereas the OR Tantrum II was supple, forgiving, and felt like it was accepting us into its family with open arms. Other notably comfortable jackets included the Arc'teryx Incendo, and the new Patagonia Airshed.
This review is all about aerobic movement. We want to make sure that the contenders we recommend don't impede movement, but rather aid in performance. For portability, this means that the garment is easy to unpack, throw on, remove, and re-pack. Upon first viewing, one might think that two jackets, both said to pack into their own pockets, would be equal for portability, though this was not always the case.
For portability, we considered how easily we could unpack each jacket and put it on while we were moving, weeding out jackets that are difficult to pack and unpack. In other words, we wanted to identify which models required we stop and award them our full attention. The contenders that were equipped with single-sided zippers on their stuff pouches proved to be challenging to use while moving; nobody can rise to the top with that type of egocentric design, right? On the other side of the coin, we wanted to make sure we could remove the garment and pack it away while moving.
These factors, combined with the jacket's weight and system used to actually contain the jacket, produced its overall portability score. Montane solved a tricky problem when they designed the Featherlite 7. Typically a zipper is used, but the Featherlite 7 tucks into a hidden flap in the collar and stays in place when the pocket is turned inside out. When compared to the containment systems of jackets such as the Arc'teryx Incendo, there is a significant weight loss and a noticeable gain in how easily the Montane can be packed and unpacked.
While the past season of seemed to emphasize having a storage pouch that packed jackets into the smallest size space possible, the new host of jackets leaned a bit more toward how easily the garment could be packed into its carrying pouch. This resulted in models that packed easily and quickly but took up slightly more space in a pack. It should be noted that these loosely packed jackets could actually be compressed down further. While we initially thought this would only take up extra space in our running vest, we were pleasantly surprised at how simple it was to zip the new jackets into their pouches and stuff them down into our pack.
No OutdoorGearLab review is complete without busting out the scale and weighing things, and you'll find no exceptions here. We ran all of the jackets through the dryer together, to ensure they were completely dry and put them through a series of tests on our scale. Most manufacturers estimate the weight of their products, and we found their estimations were typically spot on.
Leave it to the plucky Brits to design the most portable jacket of the testing fleet. The Montane Featherlite 7 is not only ultralight but it also has the most clever storage system we have seen in this type of jacket. The storage consists of a pouch hidden in the collar which you tuck the jacket into and a flap that closes over the top. It is perfectly compact and secure with a pouch that isn't too big or small. Unfortunately, there were a few jackets that opted single sided zippers to seal their stuff pouches. To cap off our portability study, we've provided images of each model in the fleet compared next to an iPhone 6 (this is a regular iPhone 6, not the giant 'iPhone 6 Plus').
While the portability rating doesn't have much to do with how each model performed while we were wearing them, it can make a big difference in overall satisfaction. If you're on a run and the rain clouds appear and wind kicks up, you don't want to have to struggle with a poorly designed zipper while trying to access your jacket. Finally, our overall score of portability should give you an idea of how much of a burden each one would be to pack along with you. The higher the score, the lower the burden as the score is an all-encompassing rating of how easy it is to pack, wear, take off, and repack.
Day and Night Visibility
Running in the half-light of the morning or evening can prove to be a hazardous situation, not to mention drivers these days are more distracted than ever. With telephones, GPS units, food, and beverage, it seems as though people have less attention to spare looking for humans running along the roadway. We wanted to figure out which of these jackets offered the most overall visibility on the roads and trails, as both situations demand high visibility for optimal safety.
The contenders we tested range from near camouflage levels of visual distortion to "caution cone" brightness and reflectivity. Our tests consisted of polling a group of five individuals judging each jacket in the day and night, providing a score of one to ten and then averaging the scores. Next, we administered the "Spicer Test" wherein we parked our Honda Element at the T intersection at the end of our street during the day and later at night, put a driver behind the wheel, and ran out from behind the bushes. The driver gave their scores of visibility during this test in daylight and at night with the headlights on. We also set up a low light situation with a camera and set the level of light to get a real, standardized look at how reflective each jacket is.
The past award winners Outdoor Research Boost and the Arc'teryx Incendo both offered 360-degree visibility both day and night. This was a high mark for the 2018 round of testing. The Ultimate Direction Breeze bested our expectations which were set from previous visibility award winners. Huge reflective logos down the arm gave optimal visibility. Other jackets such as the Marmot DriClime neglected reflective material making subjects challenging to see in low light conditions.
All kidding aside, visibility is an important issue. As we made our way through testing each contender, even those that are objectively incredibly bright could be difficult to see at times. Dusk and dawn seemed to be where most of the issues arose. We dug into some research on vision and discovered that the transitional periods where everything is cast in shadow, neither our rods or cones (the photoreceptors in your eye) are functioning at full capacity; rods are in full force in low light and cones in bright light. We, like many, find that running at dusk and dawn are the most convenient times, and thus a highly visible jacket is necessary. Luckily some of the exceptionally bright models we tested in this review are incredibly functional and are stylish too. The Outdoor Research Tantrum II and Arc'teryx Incendo are both vibrant and provided added safety by offering excellent color and reflectivity in all light situations.
Although our review was weighted in favor of the jackets that proved to have the best performance around breathability, venting, and weather resistance, one should also make visibility a priority when they are shopping for a running jacket. All of the contenders we tested have several color schemes; if you're able to stand sporting a bright color, we prefer to do so. If you want extra credit in the safety category, get a jacket that has reflective material on the arms and wrists like the Ultimate Direction Breeze, Arc'teryx Incendo, or the OR Tantrum II.
It goes without saying that running is an aerobic exercise. Sometimes it's going to rain, and sometimes it will be windy, but it will always be a high output aerobic excursion. Whilst testing, we kept in mind that we always want breathability and venting to be a priority. Many jackets in our review are adequate for what most of us will use them for, and by the same token, there will probably be some that aren't suited to what you need. The two jackets that are true "all-arounders" are the Outdoor Research Tantrum II and the Arc'teryx Incendo, as these jackets embody everything that we want out of an outer running layer. They can handle the excess moisture and heat produced when we set the bar high, as well as repel the cold and weather encroaching from the temperatures we experience outdoors. For a more in-depth examination of each model, check out each contender's individual review.
— Brian Martin
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.