The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Running Jackets

Tuesday May 12, 2020

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 rain 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.

We tested each jacket through a wide variety of terrain  weather conditions  and workout intensities.
We tested each jacket through a wide variety of terrain, weather conditions, and workout intensities.

Breathability


To test the breathability of each jacket, we simply 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. 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 similarly comfortable in benign conditions but then felt like a trashbag-style rain poncho when the skies opened up. During each circumstance, we took note of how each jacket's features helped us adapt to changing conditions. We took note of overall material breathability, 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.

We paid close attention to material breathability  built-in mesh panels  and zippered vents.
We paid close attention to material breathability, built-in mesh panels, and zippered vents.

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 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, where it is difficult for a product to excel in both metrics.

Yes  we're testing running jackets. But what better way to find the cream of the crop than by pushing way past the limits of reason?
Yes, we're testing running jackets. But what better way to find the cream of the crop than by pushing way past the limits of reason?

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. We found that well-fitted, performance-oriented models provide better mobility than larger, baggier models and that softer, more breathable materials offer greater flexibility and comfort than comparatively harder nylon materials. We also examined each product thoroughly back home in the lab and found that taped or flat seams and adequate arm length contribute to a comfortable fit.

We examined the fit and mobility of each jacket in a variety of body positions.
We examined the fit and mobility of each jacket in a variety of body positions.

Portability


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 packed and unpacked each model at home and out in the field to test the efficiency of each carry system, and weighed each model ourselves to determine the most ultralight picks.

The Houdini  like its namesake implies  packs up perfectly into the storage pouch. The carabiner loop is sturdy and the pocket size allows for easy storage and deployment.
The Houdini, like its namesake implies, packs up perfectly into the storage pouch. The carabiner loop is sturdy and the pocket size allows for easy storage and deployment.

Features


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 ideal. 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.

The Canopy  with five built-in pockets  has an impressive feature list for such an affordable jacket.
The Canopy, with five built-in pockets, has an impressive feature list for such an affordable jacket.