To find the best running jackets, we looked at 60 top contenders and picked seven to test side-by-side for over three months. 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.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated March 2018
This spring a number of our favorite jackets were discontinued. Sigh. However, we have many great jackets still in the lineup. You can read reviews of some of the older models here (but you probably can no longer buy them).
Arc'teryx Incendo Jacket
If you're venturing far from home and there is the slightest chance 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 breath as well. 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 lightweight.
Can pack into its pocket
Weather resistance is second to none
This jacket is expensive, but that's no surprise for getting the best. It also may be a little lightweight for some people as their everyday jacket. We have high scoring burlier options below. The Incendo has now been the Editors' Choice for three years: it's an excellent jacket with staying power in our rankings.
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 2.8oz is pretty dang light). While being the most portable jacket we laid our hands on, the Montane Featherlite 7 also provides excellent weather resistance, adequate breathing, and ventilation. It's so light that you won't notice it in your pocket.
High level of water resistance
Breathability could be better
This is not the most durable jacket and has no pockets. That's the price you pay for super minimalism. If you are ok with that tradeoff, you will love this jacket.
Read review: Montane Featherlite 7
Best Bang for your Buck
This is an efficient and utilitarian running jacket that also works great for hiking and biking. It's the Swiss Army Knife of shells. The Patagonia Houdini was our choice for the best buy award. We loved everything about this lighter version of the Houdini, from its portability to weather resistance to its retro design.
Simple and offers superb water resistance protection
Good pocket location
Had it performed even slightly better, the Houdini would have been in the running for our Editors' Choice award, and at its list price, the Houdini is a great value. It also won Best Buy in our Men's Windbreaker Review. This jacket is a timeless classic.
Read review: Patagonia Houdini
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. See more discussion on how to find the right option for you.
As you can see in the chart above, the Houdini is easily the best value. It scores at the top and is only marginally more expensive than the lowest price options. Those lower-priced options score low. What is not captured in this chart is just how versatile the Houdini is: it works great for hiking, backpacking and biking. It's also been around for so long that we feel confident in it's durability which further adds to its long term value.
Our primary focus for this review was 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. Our hope was to find a jacket that could keep our temperature regulated with proper venting and breathability over several hours of aerobic activity. We found that jackets with inadequate breathability, venting, or both made all other attributes superfluous. For example, if you are drenched with your own sweat inside the jacket, any rain protection the jacket provides is moot. In the end our editors choice award would be 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 on many runs. Almost 130 miles total for the entire testing period, spread out over the 9 jackets evenly and several months. We emphasized long steep uphill sections that would get our heart rates up and the sweat rolling. We found the Outdoor Research Boost jacket to have a supernatural ability to regulate our temperature through its strategically placed breathable panels. We were surprised to see that the OR Boost was the only jacket to incorporate these breathable panels, as they were incredibly effective. Probably the most impressive part of the Boost was that it retained weather resistance while offering such amazing breathability.
While it wasn't the most breathable jacket we tested the Arc'teryx Incendo did remarkably well in the battery of breathability oriented tests we did. The underarm mesh vents did a great job 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 and lacked proper venting to dissipate excess heat and moisture. Underarm vents may be the ticket. Most of the jackets in the review offered a acceptable amount of breathability, decent heat and moisture dissipation on the flats and downhills but inadequate on the calf burning uphills. The Arc'teryx Incendo also proved to be a contender as a breathable all-around jacket. The generous underarm vents kept us comfortable and dry except for the most extremely strenuous sections of our runs.
All of the jackets we tested came with labels that read wind and water resistant. 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 9 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 jackets during moderate rainfall and see how they performed. We meticulously tested each jacket with a DWR treatment test by seeing how long each jacket would contain two cups of water. This involved using a 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.
All jackets contained the water for over ten minutes in their original condition. Post training, and regular gentle washing revealed which jackets retain their DWR treatment the best when we retested their water retention. The Arc'teryx Incendo was a top performer in the weather resistance category. It displayed the highest water resistance and excellent wind resistance in a multitude of situations. If you need a running jacket specifically for rainy/drizzly situations check out the Patagonia Houdini and the Montane Ultralight 7 as they both provide excellent weather protection.
To isolate windy conditions we wore each jacket on a 30-35mph downhill bike ride in Emigration Canyon. This let us 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 how shielded we were from the wind without having to worry about our own perspiration or climbing effort throwing off our results. The Arc'teryx Incendo, last year's editors choice, was the leader in weather resistance. It proved worthy against a steady rainfall and shielded us from the fierce wind riding down Emigration Canyon. Despite what this test might suggest, we weren't looking for a purely wind-proof layer. We simply wanted to test each jacket to its limits. If you are looking for a wind-jacket check out our newly compiled wind jacket review.
It is important to note that while several of these jackets kept us dry during our rainy morning runs, none of the jackets kept us completely dry after about the 3 mile mark during light to moderate rain. After 5 miles, every jacket had let in a significant amount of moisture during heavy rain. The top performers in this review did well in light rain and intermittent showers and dried out quickly when they did take on moisture. If weather resistance is your top priority or you live in a rainy climate see the Patagonia Houdini or the Arc'teryx Incendo as they proved to be the workhorses when the weather was closing in.
Comfort and Mobility
Comfort and mobility are paramount in a running jacket. These garments are designed to be worn during prolonged aerobic activity. A restrictive jacket will not only physically hinder your movement, it can damage your psychological performance as well, forcing you to focus on the discomfort of the garment instead of focusing on your performance. To test comfort and mobility we evaluated how each garment moved with the runner. We also examined the materials, if stretch material was utilized, and if the stitching was done in a way that reduced chafing. The Outdoor Research Boost was again at the head of the pack.
The stretchy nylon and relaxed fit made for pleasant outings. The Boost also incorporated thumb and middle finger loops to keep sleeves in a comfortable position. On the flip side the Nike Impossibly Light and Salomon Agile were both restrictive in their own unique ways. The Nike was tight on the forearms and we found ourselves constantly tugging them back into place. As for the Salomon it was very tight in the armpits and had seams that were incredibly abrasive, it was even noticeable when we first donned this garment and only got worse and the miles piled on.
Comfort was given a lower percentage of the final score because we realized that to a point comfort is on the more subjective side of the metrics we test against. However, There is a large difference in the materials and styles used in the making of these jackets and 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 OR Boost 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 Boost 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 ever popular Patagonia Houdini.
As we stated previously, this review is all about aerobic movement. We wanted to make sure that whatever garment(s) we recommended didn't impede but aid in movement. For portability this means that the garment is easy to unpack, throw on, remove, and pack. Upon first viewing one might think that two jackets, both said to pack into their own pockets would be equals for portability. This was not the case.
For portability, we considered how easily we could unpack each jacket and put it on while we were moving. This doesn't mean while we were running necessarily but we wanted to weed out jackets that were so difficult to pack that they demanded we stop and give them our full attention. The jackets that were equipped with single-sided zippers on their stuff pouches proved to be very difficult to function. Nobody can rise to the top with that type of egocentric design, right? On the other side of the same coin we wanted to make sure we could remove the garment and pack it away while moving as well. 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 Montane 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 and Patagonia Houdini there is a significant weight loss and noticible gain in how easily the Montane is packed and unpacked.
No OGL 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 all completely dry, and ran them through a series of tests on our scale. Most manufacturers estimate the weight of their products and we found their estimations to be pretty close to the actual weights.
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 into these running jackets we have provided images of each 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 the jackets actually 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 for 5 minutes with a poorly designed zipper just to access your jacket. Finally, our overall score of portability should give you an idea of how much of a burden the jacket 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 very dangerous situation. Not to mention drivers these days are more distracted than ever. With telephones, GPS units, food and beverage, who has the time to look for humans running along the roadway? We wanted to figure out which of these jackets offered the most overall visibility both on the roads and on trails as both situations demand high visibility for optimal safety.
The jackets we tested ranged 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 at night and providing a score of one to ten and then averaging the scores for each jacket. 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 we 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. These ideas seem to have been taken into consideration while several of the jackets we tested were being designed. The Outdoor Research Boost and the Arc'teryx Incendo both offer 360 degree visibility both day and night. Other jackets such as the Marmot DriClime neglected reflective material making subjects difficult to see in low light conditions. Not surprising from a running company, Nike made a very bright reflective jacket for low light use, though its black color does detract from its daytime visibility.
All kidding aside visibility is a big issue. As we made our way through the jackets, even those that are objectively very 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 excellently bright jackets we tested in this review are actually very functional and look good too. The OR Boost 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 make visibility a priority when they are shopping for a running jacket. All of the jackets we tested have several color schemes and at a minimum, do your best to find the brightest colors they offer in the jacket you want. If you want extra credit in the safety category, get a jacket that has reflective material on the arms and wrists like the Arc'teryx Incendo, OR Boost, or Nike Impossibly Light.
It goes without saying that running is an aerobic exercise. Sometimes it's going to rain, sometimes it will be windy, but it will always be a high output aerobic excursion. We tested, keeping in mind that we always want breathability and venting to be a priority. There are many jackets in our review that 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 Boost and the Arc'teryx Incendo. These jackets embody everything that we want out of an outer running layer. They can handle the excess moisture and heat produced when we really go for it, as well as repel the cold and weather encroaching from outside. Check out the individual jacket reviews to see a more in-depth look at each jacket!
— Brian Martin
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.