Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Running Jackets

Tuesday October 25, 2022

In order to help you find the running jacket that's right for you, we put each of the products in our lineup through the wringer across countless miles and in all kinds of conditions. We ran through early morning fog, light rain and drizzle, windy downpours, fresh snow, and even warm, sunny weather to truly test the breathability and protection of each jacket. Back home in the lab, we thoroughly inspected the materials and construction quality and personally weighed each model. The testing metrics we settled on below reflect the most critical qualities that will impact the comfort and performance of your next run.

running jacket - we tested each jacket through a wide variety of terrain, weather...
We tested each jacket through a wide variety of terrain, weather conditions, and workout intensities.
Credit: Sam Schild


To test the breathability of each jacket, we laced up our shoes and hit the roads and trails. We ran with each jacket at a variety of intensities and through a variety of weather conditions and paid attention to how our bodies reacted. We also ran the same 1/2-mile hill with every jacket on the same 60-degree day to really get a solid side-by-side analysis. Some models felt comfortable and seemed to breathe well in cool or breezy weather but got pretty steamy when the wind dropped or when the temperature rose. Other models felt comfortable in benign conditions but turned into a trash bag-style rain poncho when the skies opened up. In each circumstance, we took note of how the jackets' features helped us adapt to changing conditions. We noted overall material breathability, what active venting measures the jacket had (such as integrated mesh panels and adjustable zippers and vents, and we paid close attention to how well each of these features could help us dissipate heat and moisture once things started getting steamy.

running jacket - we paid close attention to material breathability, built-in mesh...
We paid close attention to material breathability, built-in mesh panels, zippered vents, and other breathability features.
Credit: Sam Schild

Weather Resistance

We spent upwards of 100 hours in these jackets, often roaming around through wind, rain, and even snow. When things cleared up, we got out the garden hose and jumped in the shower to really put each jacket to the test. We analyzed how well each jacket resists a biting wind and how well each model stands up to moisture and precipitation. In addition to the weather resistance of the jacket materials, we took special note of things like sleeve cuffs, zipper guards, and hood quality and adjustability, each of which contributes to a comfortable and effective barrier from the elements. During our testing, we found that there is often a tradeoff between weather resistance and breathability: in general, the harder the weather barrier, the harder it is for sweat and heat to wick out.

running jacket - testing out the water resistance of these jackets sometimes meant...
Testing out the water resistance of these jackets sometimes meant spending time in the shower in the arid west.
Credit: Sam Schild

Comfort and Mobility

In order to test comfort and mobility, we paid close attention to how we felt as we ran with each jacket at a variety of intensities and across a variety of terrain. We even took some of them cycling or on rock climbs. Throughout our testing, we paid especially close attention to the materials and fit of each product. Our most comfortable models weren't always the most tailored or fitted, but some manufacturers definitely emerged as consistently making comfortable, highly mobile garments. We also examined each product thoroughly back home in the lab and found that taped or flat seams, elastic shell materials, and adequate arm length contribute to a comfortable fit.

running jacket - we examined the fit and mobility of each jacket in a variety of body...
We examined the fit and mobility of each jacket in a variety of body positions.
Credit: sam schild


As many of us are multi-sport animals, we packed up these jackets and took them on a host of adventures besides just running. The most portable jackets are those that can pack up in a snug pocket or stuff sack and are equipped with a loop to clip onto a climbing harness or backpack. We repeatedly timed ourselves packing and unpacking each model at home and out in the field to test the efficiency of each carry system, and we weighed each model ourselves to check manufacturer-claimed weights.

running jacket - we weighed each jacket and assess how easy it is to pack away in its...
We weighed each jacket and assess how easy it is to pack away in its own pocket.
Credit: Sam Schild


After closely examining each jacket's features at home, we took to the field to determine which features provide value and which don't. First, we examined the visibility of each garment with a nighttime crosswalk test and a trusted friend driving by in their car. Overall, jackets with 360-degree reflectors perform the best, and those with reflectors on the arms are also acceptable. We also tested the usefulness of things like pockets, hood adjustment straps, and zippered vents. We more closely analyze the features found on each jacket in each individual product review to help you determine what is most important to you.

running jacket - sometimes a simple, lightweight jacket is better than a ton of...
Sometimes a simple, lightweight jacket is better than a ton of features, sometimes it's not, though.
Credit: Sam Schild

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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

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