Best Overall Running Jacket
Outdoor Research Tantrum II
: 4.2 oz | Number of pockets
Can pack into its pocket
Great weather resistance
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 is the whole package. This thing was an amalgamation of comfort, weather resistance, portability, and was relatively affordable. We wouldn't hesitate to take the Tantrum on any adventure, from city streets to climbing to ultra distance runs.
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.
Read review: Outdoor Research Tantrum II
Best Buy and Top Pick for Breathability and Ventilation
Ultimate Direction Breeze
: 3.6 oz | Number of pockets
Can pack into its pocket
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, though, 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
: 4.2 oz | Number of pockets
Can pack into its pocket
Weather resistance is second to none
If you're venturing far from home and there is the slightest chance that inclement weather could dampen your jog, the Arc'teryx Incendo is a fantastic solution. We fell in love with this jacket in 2017 and renewed our vows with the 2019 hooded version. This new version retained all of the attributes that attracted us in the beginning and added some new ones such as a brimmed hood and larger mesh vent panels. While offering the same weather protection the "emergency" jackets provided, the Incendo retained 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 (though it did gain about .6 of an oz since 2017, but we still love it anyway).
If we had one complaint about this jacket, it would be the expense. You do truly get what you pay for as the new Incendo is versatile, comfortable, weather resistant, and lightweight. The Incendo was crowned our Editors' Choice winner for three years and it has only improved since then. This thing is like a fine wine. You're going to pay a premium, but its fine aged goodness will make your mouth water.
Read review: Arc'teryx Incendo
Top Pick Portability
Montane Featherlite 7
: 1.6 oz | Number of pockets
High level of water resistance
Breathability could be better
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 1.6 ounces. 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 Montane Featherlite 7 might not be for everyone, but if portability is a top concern, this thing is like magic. Our tester was fairly certain the fabric was woven from unicorn hair. However, this jacket quite fragile compared to others in our review, as the material was incredibly thin, and it offered less warmth compared to other even slightly thicker fabrics.
Read review: Montane Featherlite 7
Top Pick for Weather Resistance
The North Face Crew Run Wind Anorak
: 7.5 oz | Number of pockets
Thick, durable fabric
Ideal for cold, wet weather running
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. When stacked up against the rest of the jackets in the testing field, it was obvious that the Anorak was focussed more on urban running and commuting where packability and weight aren't such a focus.
Read review: The North Face Run Wind Anorak
Testing running jackets side-by-side in a controlled water resistance test
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is crafted by OutdoorGearLab contributor Brian Martin. Brian is a multi-discipline mountain athlete who can be found doing anything from rock climbing to alpine ski touring to long-distance trail running, to name a few. His most recent obsession is multi-day bikepack racing which requires both fitness and knowledge of outdoor equipment. Brian is also a former member of Yosemite Search and Rescue, where he was tasked with all aspects of maintenance and acquisition of SAR equipment. He brings to this review an eye for detail and a wealth of related experience.
This review began with selecting jackets from the market, which entailed both keeping the best models from former reviews in the race, and searching for promising newcomers that we had not yet tested. What we ended up with is the 12 models that are discussed here. Testing took place over a year, with each item worn at least once per week, with runs lasting a minimum of 5 miles. Due to the duration of the test, we got a year's worth of weather conditions to run in, from winter storms to high winds and rain in the springtime. In addition to field tests, we measured weight and water resistance in controlled environments. What came out of this is a comprehensive review that will set you on the right track in your search for a great running jacket.
Related: How We Tested Running Jackets
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. The right piece of gear is akin to having a talisman that wards off evil spirits. The right piece at the right time can give you an edge when the specter of the environment is looming. We tested these jackets in a plethora of environments and conditions to determine which is best suited for running and in what situations.
Related: Buying Advice for Running Jackets
We tried incredibly hard to find a situation that challenged the Tantrum II. This was a difficult task as Outdoor Research seems bent on raising standards in outdoor equipment.
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.
This year, 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 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.
Just like sand through the hour glass, these are the jackets of 2019… Once again we return with a new crop of aspiring running jackets that need to be run through the gear lab meat grinder to see if a new Top Pick, Best Buy, or even Editors' Choice can be crowned.
Related: The Best Windbreaker Jackets of 2019
It doesn't matter if you're Joe "Off The Couch" Shmoe or Jared Campbell, you're going to sweat while running. After all, the very nature of running is aerobic and gets your heart rate fired up. Ideally a running jacket can help shield you from the discomfort of the elements while also helping vent out the excess heat and moisture. We found that models with inadequate breathability, venting, or both made all other attributes superfluous.
For example, it doesn't matter if its uncomfortable outside the jacket if you're drenched with sweat on the inside of the jacket. We have all experienced the discomfort of throwing on an old windbreaker one cold morning, going out for a jog, and becoming drenched on the first uphill. Then you take the jacket off and you instantly freeze to death right there on the trail. This metric was designed to help us find a jacket that would take the edge off the morning chill and keep us relatively dry and regulated inside the jacket.
The Breeze was one of the best performers when it came to breathability and venting. The massive back vents worked wonders at helping us stay comfortable while pushing hard in cold breezy weather.
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.
Our series of steep uphill runs exposed some breathability issues with several jackets. The AirShed (pictured) performed quite well.
The Smartwoold PhD Ultra Light Sport Hoody and updated 2019 Arc'teryx Incendo Hoody 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.
The designers at Arc'teryx graced the new Incendo with larger underarm vents for 2019, basically doubling their size and offering top-notch breathability. This addition boosted the Incendo to the top in this category and made it one of our favorite running jackets to date.
The limes (future margaritas) indicate where the mesh panels start and stop on the 2019 (green) Incendo and the 2017 (orange) version. Not only are the mesh panels wider on the new version, but they're about twice as long, running from the forearms to the waist.
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.
The Incendo had excellent ventilation while retaining a high level of weather resistance.
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 let you know what kind of protection you could reasonably expect knowing that none of these jackets, with their ultra thin denier fabrics, would keep you dry in a deluge.
Over the course of three years, we have taken running jackets out into uncomfortable conditions, sometimes inappropriately so, in order to test the limits of these pieces. 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. Using these jackets over a long period of time also gave us insight into the limits of DWR treatments and what you should expect from thin polymer fabrics coated with this magic chemical.
The burly Wind Wall fabric of the Anorak did a great job beading water and keeping us relatively dry inside. This was much appreciated on our cold early morning commute with snowmelt spraying on our back.
During the water containment DWR test, each model contained the water for over ten minutes in their original condition without leakage (Pretty impressive). 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. We especially enjoyed this test as it really felt like we were able to isolate the conditions of a strong headwind and feel where air was blasting through the jackets. The newest version of the Arc'teryx Incendo Hoody was an excellent example of how these jackets should perform. As it isn't strictly a wind layer, it did let significant air through the underarm vents (as it should) and kept us comfortable elsewhere.
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. When compared to other windbreaker jackets, 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 temporarily 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. Just know that even these top performers are a far cry from a rain layer and shouldn't be expected to perform as such. These are permeable fabrics which have been coated with a DWR treatment that fades and needs periodic reapplication to perform at its best.
From left to right - Ultimate Direction Breeze, Patagonia Airshed, The North Face Anorak, Marmot Air Lite, Outdoor Research Tantrum II. All jackets tested offered decent water resistance. Dig into the review to see which ones gave the best protection.
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.
Able to jump logs in a single bound. Like the tunic of a kung fu master, the Tantrum II allows for full unimpeded range of motion.
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 Arc'teryx Incendo made the testing easy. This was a comfortable, breathable, and water resistant jacket.
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 Hoody, and the new Patagonia Airshed. Each of these jackets had unique features. The Airshed had the most stretch of any fabrics used in the jackets represented in this test and the Incendo Hoody had a handy mid-chest snap that would allow tons of ventilation without having the jacket flap uncontrollably. These features are seemingly small details that make a substantial difference.
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 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.
At 4.2 oz, the Incendo is on the lighter end of the scale.
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. Not to pick on the Incendo however, it had a perfectly sized storage pouch with a double sided zipper making its packing and deployment painless and quick.
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 utilize your equipment even once or twice per week, having a zipper that catches or a stuff pouch that isn't properly sized will get frustrating. Some of the more frustrating stuff pouches we tested back in 2017 would have gotten even the Dali Llama cursing as he tried to cram the jacket into its cocoon, and he's a patient guy.
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 brighter and more reflective your jacket, the less likely a driver will be to turn you into a human speed bump after hitting the (I'm not driving) button on their iPhone.
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. We also decided it might be a good (albeit not uber scientific) test to dash across the road in front of another tester sitting in a car with the lights on. This allowed us to see if the reflective blazes on the jackets along with their color helped catch the drivers eye. It ended up being an interesting test and did indeed illuminate some standouts among the jackets we tested.
A look at the reflective qualities of the jackets in our test. The TNF Anorak and Ultimate Direction Breeze had the strongest low-light visibility, with the other three having fairly comparable levels of reflectivity. Pictured left to right Ultimate Direction Breeze, the Anorak (2 pictures), Outdoor Research Tantrum II, Marmot Air Lite, and the Airshed from Patagonia.
The past award winners Outdoor Research Boost and the Arc'teryx Incendo offered 360-degree visibility both day and night. This was a high mark for this year's 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 joking aside, features which make you more visible to motorists should be a top priority of a running jacket. When do we typically have time to get out for a run? Dawn and dusk. These are also the most difficult times for our eyes to detect movement and much of the world is obscured in shadows. Drivers are distracted even when they aren't watching someones live broadcast on Instagram. Having a running vest with reflective markings and bright colors isn't a fashion statement; it's for safety.
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.
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 nearly as well. What is not captured is just how versatile the Tantrum II is: it performs well for hiking, backpacking, biking, and just about anything else you can think of. Other jackets performed at an almost indistinguishable level as the Tantrum. The Arc'teryx Incendo, for example, was an incredible jacket by any measure and is one of our new favorites set apart only by the expense.
It goes without saying that running is aerobic. Maybe even the aerobic exercise. Sometimes it's going to rain, and sometimes it will be windy, sometimes cars will try to turn you into a speedbump, 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 have the full package of attributes we need in a 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.