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The Best Running Jackets of 2020

By Brian Martin ⋅ Review Editor
Wednesday February 26, 2020
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For the past six years, we've bought and tested 19 running jackets. In this current 2020 update, we purchased the best nine models for thorough side-by-side testing. To measure the nuances of each one, we put them through a variety of weather conditions and terrain, pushing the design features to the limit. During the process, we scored and ranked each model based on key qualities such as performance, comfort, breathability, and quality weather resistance. Whether you need a jacket for casual training runs or for longer mountain adventures, we've offered an in-depth report on which products we think have it all.

Related: The Best Women's Running Jackets


Top 9 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 9
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Best Overall Running Jacket


Arc'teryx Incendo Hoody


83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Breathability - 30% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Comfort and Mobility - 20% 9
  • Portability - 15% 9
  • Visibility - 15% 9
Weight: 4.8 oz | Number of pockets: 1
Minimal weight
Can pack into its pocket
Good low light visibility/reflectors
DWR wears off over time

If you're looking for a running jacket with a high level of performance across the board of necessary attributes, the Arc'teryx Incendo is our choice. The Incendo performed quite well throughout our tests, and while the previous model had adequate ventilation, the side mesh panels on this newest version have almost doubled in size, giving superior breathability. The meticulously designed form-fitting jacket and flat sewn seams offer a high level of comfort even when wearing a running pack over the top.

There are only a few reasons why we would stray away from the Incendo as our go-to running jacket. If it's super cold out, you may need something with a bit more warmth and regulatory power like a softshell. Additionally, if you know there's going to be a significant amount of precipitation, you might want to look for a jacket with Gore-Tex instead of DWR treatment.

Read review: Arc'teryx Incendo Hoody

Best Buy


Patagonia Houdini Full-Zip


Best Buy Award

$68.99
(30% off)
at Backcountry
See It

74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Breathability - 30% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 8
  • Comfort and Mobility - 20% 7
  • Portability - 15% 9
  • Visibility - 15% 6
Weight: 3.7 oz | Number of pockets: 1
Minimal weight
Can pack into its pocket
Carabiner clip-in loop
Versatile
Noisy
Visibility in low light isn't great

Year after year, the Patagonia Houdini holds up against the hot new advances in jacket technology. At this point, it's like an old Civil War ship that's paddle wheeling its way into combat. We love almost everything about this jacket. It's extremely versatile, offering great wind protection in any situation, good warmth, and decent weather protection with a DWR coating. Not only is the Houdini affordable, a clear choice for our coveted Best Buy award, but it's also on the low end of the weight spectrum for all of the jackets tested this year.

Our biggest complaint regarding the Houdini is a bit of a double-edged sword. It offers competent protection from the wind but is outmatched in the breathability department by more specialized designs. That's not to say the Houdini isn't quick-drying and breathable, because it is. The point is that heading out to run hill intervals will be much more comfortable in a jacket with huge mesh panels specifically meant to help regulate temperature and moisture.

Read review: Patagonia Houdini Full-Zip

Best for Minimalist Wet Weather Protection


Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Breathability - 30% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 9
  • Comfort and Mobility - 20% 9
  • Portability - 15% 8
  • Visibility - 15% 8
Weight: 4.6 oz | Number of pockets: 0
Minimal weight
Packs into a tiny stuff sack
Unbelievable weather resistance for a running jacket
The price, my god, the price

The Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody represents the next level in weather protection offered by a single layer running jacket. We typically start with the caveat that a running jacket isn't a rain jacket, but the Norvan is getting darn close. We wore the Norvan in rainstorms, winter fat biking in the snow, and everything in-between. Maybe it's not a rain jacket, but it is in a league of its own when compared to the rest of the field, especially considering the fact it only weighs 4.3 ounces for a size large.

If you're on the hunt for the lightest weather protection money can buy, this might be it. However, if you're just in the market for a capable running layer to get you on the trails during cooler weather or light drizzle, this is serious overkill. For the price, you could buy three of most other jackets in this review! That said, we are astounded by the performance of this jacket.

Read review: Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody

Best for Winter Running


Arc'teryx Trino


Top Pick Award

$149.99
(33% off)
at Amazon
See It

76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Breathability - 30% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Comfort and Mobility - 20% 9
  • Portability - 15% 2
  • Visibility - 15% 9
Weight: 16.2 oz | Number of pockets: 4
Unmatched temperature regulation
Comfortable
Weather resistance
Pricey
Heavy

The Arc'teryx Trino offers unmatched temperature regulation during high-output activities in cold weather. The multi-layer Gore-Windstopper material on the chest feels like a shield when the wind is blasting, while highly breathable materials placed in key areas make overheating almost impossible. While many jackets may perform perfectly in a narrow temperature window, the zone of optimal performance for the Trino is massive. After months of testing, this became our go-to winter training jacket despite its huge weight penalty.

If you're getting out for some serious winter training, running intervals on hills, or skinning up mountains, the Trino is amazing. If you're getting out in the foothills during cool mornings, it may be a bit overkill, though the temperature regulation is stunning. If you want to avoid the need to shed layers or put more layers on mid-activity, the Trino will go a long way to helping keep you feeling regulated.

Read review: Arc'teryx Trino


As the only single layer jacket with Gore-Tex  the Norvan is in a field of its own with weather resistance. This is the closest a running jacket has come to being waterproof.
As the only single layer jacket with Gore-Tex, the Norvan is in a field of its own with weather resistance. This is the closest a running jacket has come to being waterproof.

Why You Should Trust Us


OutdoorGearLab contributor Brian Martin takes the lead on this review. 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. 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 extensive market research. We then kept the best models from previous rounds of testing and brought on promising newcomers. Testing took place over many months, with runs lasting a minimum of five miles. Due to the duration of our testing period, we experienced many different weather conditions, from winter storms and high winds to unpredictable spring rainstorms. 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

The Houdini could benefit from having extra reflective markings on each arm giving a greater degree of nighttime visibility. That being said  the overall visibility isn't too bad.
The Palmas is at home on city streets and performs well enough to get in your daily miles with a little extra comfort.

Analysis and Test Results


Mother Nature can be a real son-of-a-gun. Without the right equipment, it's easy to be sidelined by inclement weather, cold temps, or lightness of duty. Finding the right equipment for your specific needs can be the difference between being able to get out the door quickly or giving up and heading to the pastry shop to drown your sorrows with sugar and gluten. The running jackets we tested span a large spectrum of capabilities and levels of environmental protection. We spent some serious time in the pain cave to help you figure out which will work the best for you.

Related: Buying Advice for Running Jackets

The only way to test gear is to push it beyond its intended uses. By thrashing gear  we get a pretty good idea of where it's limits are in different situations.
The only way to test gear is to push it beyond its intended uses. By thrashing gear, we get a pretty good idea of where it's limits are in different situations.

We compared all our jackets 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 claim both weather resistance and breathability to determine which can deliver on their claims and which fall short. We designed our tests around the shared attributes of the collection of jackets and graded each model from one to ten in every category. We were pleasantly surprised by several of the new contenders but ultimately found the Arc'teryx Incendo to be worthy, once again, of our highest honor, as it best exemplifies all of the desired attributes we look for in a top-notch running jacket.

Related: The Best Windbreaker Jackets

Value


The jackets in this review span a massive difference in price. The cheapest costs about the same as taking your partner out for dinner, and the most expensive feels more like a month's rent! While there is a huge spread in price, value is a bit more difficult to nail down.

For example, if you're looking for the most capable jacket for wet weather, shelling out hundreds of dollars for the Norvan SL Hoody might actually be a pretty good value. If you're looking to get the most bang for your buck, the Patagonia Houdini is an amazingly versatile jacket that offers capable performance at a fraction of the price.


Breathability


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.


It's difficult to say that one attribute is the most important, but breathability certainly feels like it is, at least most of the time. Jackets that don't offer adequate breathability end up feeling like a plastic trash bag sweat lodge. Not pleasant. Our favorite model for this metric is the Incendo Hoody with its large mesh panels under the arms. Next in line for best performance is the Cotopaxi Palmas and Arc'teryx Trino.

Massive underarm ventilation panels give the Incendo a huge leg up on the competition. The breathability of this jacket far exceeds any other single layer shell-type jacket. To find greater breathability you have to dig into the softshell jacket offerings.
Massive underarm ventilation panels give the Incendo a huge leg up on the competition. The breathability of this jacket far exceeds any other single layer shell-type jacket. To find greater breathability you have to dig into the softshell jacket offerings.

Large breathable mesh panels seem to be essential to providing the necessary air movement for high output activities. Jackets such as the Houdini, while they boast breathable quick-drying fabric, feel lacking at the very top end of aerobic exercise. The most recent remodel of the Incendo has mesh paneling running from the wrist, underarm, and down each flank. These huge mesh panels offer adequate breathability even for the hardest hill climbs.

Weather Resistance


All of the jackets we tested except for one come with labels that claim wind and water resistance. The Arc'teryx Norvan SL is the only jacket that boasts waterPROOF Gore-Tex material. The advent of this new single-layer waterproof material is a massive leap forward in minimalist weather protection. While we did manage to get moisture to permeate the zipper of the Norvan, it is dang near waterproof, which is impressive considering no other running jacket comes close to this level of performance.


In the hierarchy of weather protection, the Norvan stands alone with its wind and waterproof Gore-Tex material. DWR coated fabrics utilized by the rest of the field do seem to offer protection from very light drizzle or dew as you brush past trailside plants. However, the DWR coatings wear off rather quickly, and any real rain permeates these layers rapidly.

The massive boost in weather resistance offered by the Norvan over other jackets was a pleasant surprise. Yes some moisture can get through the zipper but damn  this thing is impressive.
The massive boost in weather resistance offered by the Norvan over other jackets was a pleasant surprise. Yes some moisture can get through the zipper but damn, this thing is impressive.

Maybe equally as impressive as the ability of the Norvan SL to shed water is the ability of the Patagonia Houdini to shield you from the wind. As the Editors' Choice of the Windbreaker review, the Houdini is certainly impressive, especially when considering its cost is less than a third of the Norvan!

The Houdini is an incredible layer for windy outings and the price point is beyond fair.
The Houdini is an incredible layer for windy outings and the price point is beyond fair.

Comfort and Mobility


Comfort and mobility are paramount in a running jacket, as 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 mental performance as well, forcing you to focus on the discomfort of the garment instead of the task in front of you. To test this metric, we evaluated how each piece moves with the runner. We also examined the materials to see if stretchy material was utilized and if the stitching was executed in a way that reduced chafing.


Comfort is subjective, but some attributes make such a noticeable difference that certain things become apparent. Seam type is one of these attributes. Taped seams make a huge difference in comfort while raised exposed thread seams are annoying and aggravating.

Taped seams are the cream of the crop. The Norvan's insides are absolutely flawless and quite comfortable.
Taped seams are the cream of the crop. The Norvan's insides are absolutely flawless and quite comfortable.

Arc'teryx seems to have a corner on the market for comfortable jackets with the three models we tested all leading the pack. The Incendo, Norvan, and Trino all topped the charts in this category. The Editors' Choice Incendo also feels perfectly sized, the body mapping panels never too baggy or tight. Arc'teryx also knows the value of tapered cuffs in aiding mobility as these allow the arms full range of motion without causing the sleeves to ride up.

Arc'Teryx seems to be the most attentive to detail of all activewear companies  at least if you were judging this solely from our running jacket roundup. The tapered cuffs on the Trino ensured comfort and wrap around coverage even when we had our arms outstretched.
Arc'Teryx seems to be the most attentive to detail of all activewear companies, at least if you were judging this solely from our running jacket roundup. The tapered cuffs on the Trino ensured comfort and wrap around coverage even when we had our arms outstretched.

Portability


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, but this is not the case.


A critical component to consider is if a jacket lacks packability/portability, does it have ample attributes to justify keeping on throughout an activity? We find that softshell jackets, generally, can shed so much excess heat and moisture that you don't need to remove and pack them unless the sun is really blasting.

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.

Factors we examined in establishing the overall portability of a jacket were how easily it fit into a storage pouch (if one was included) and if that pouch was adequately sized to fit everything without too much or too little space. Additionally, we threw the jackets onto our kitchen scale to get an accurate weight. Overall, it's safe to assume softshell jackets are less portable and heavier, while single-layer shells are lightweight and much more packable.

The Houdini and Incendo remain two of our favorite jackets in the portability department as their included stuff pockets are perfectly sized, and double-sided zipper pulls make the job of packing and unpacking painless. Most impressively, with the Houdini and Incendo, is how much protection is offered in such tiny and portable packages. These jackets, in particular, proved to be absolute lifesavers on several long outings in the mountains. They're so light its easy to forget they're in your running pack until the wind kicks up and the temps drop.

This 4.8 oz package contains a whole lot of functionality. For such a tiny amount of volume and mass  the Incendo offers a significant amount of warmth and weather protection.
This 4.8 oz package contains a whole lot of functionality. For such a tiny amount of volume and mass, the Incendo offers a significant amount of warmth and weather protection.

Visibility


During a recent bike commute to work, our main jacket tester noticed something shocking. The view from a bike seat gives you a look into many drivers' front seat. While most drivers are distracted with their phones on some level, one driver had his phone propped up over the instruments with the Kardashians playing on the screen. Don't ask how he was able to recognize the Kardashians, the important component of this story is the absolute horror we should all be feeling as pedestrians crossing any street. While it certainly isn't the responsibility of jacket manufacturers to make ultra visible jackets, having some extra reflective markings doesn't hurt.


We used each jacket in low light conditions with a watchful friend in an automobile to give us a sense of how visible they were. The most visible jackets, like the Incendo and the Trino, have reflective markings on each arm to show movement easily. The least visible jackets have only one reflector on the chest pocket, which can only be seen head-on.

When running in urban environments, it's important to consider risk just as you consider the risks of running alone in the mountains. We may all be a bit frightened of the ultra-low probability of a mountain lion attack and have no sense of the real danger of being run down by a millennial making a tic-tocstagram Facebook post.

Black may not be the best choice for visibility though 360-degree reflective markings go a long way towards keeping you visible.
Black may not be the best choice for visibility though 360-degree reflective markings go a long way towards keeping you visible.

Arc'teryx seems to have a pretty solid understanding that visibility is incredibly important for running jackets. The Incendo, Trino, and Norvan all have impressive visibility with the key components being reflective markings on wrists or forearms. Yes, these three jackets all come in black which is definitely not the most vibrant of colors but they are consistent in the low light and nighttime reflective qualities which is the most dangerous time.

Ultimately your safety is in your own hands, but consider looking into obtaining the brightest most reflective jacket you can find. The Incendo, while being a fantastic running jacket, also comes in colors that offer a high level of daytime visibility and is equipped with ample 360-degree reflective tape that will help drivers notice you at the crosswalk.

Softshell Vs. Single Layer Ultralight


Our review spans two distinct types of jackets. One type being heavier softshells and the other being ultra-light single layer running jackets. While these two types provide very different levels of performance, we believe they can both be competent and sometimes necessary in their own right. Softshells, like the Trino, offer unparalleled temperature regulation during hard aerobic workouts in the cold, likely why you see cardio beasts skate ski uphill in these things at blistering speeds. On the flip side, single layer jackets offer protection in a tiny package, often weighing in at four ounces or less and able to disappear into the corner of a running pack. While these single-layer jackets have a narrower optimal temperature range, they go a long way to protect users from wind, which can significantly increase your comfort level.

Conclusion


There is no way around it; running is an intense activity ranging from pretty aerobic to heart explosion aerobic. Having a jacket that is capable of regulating warmth and keeping moisture moving is essential. Arc'teryx clearly knows the value of keeping breathability as a quintessential component of their activewear with the Trino and Incendo being prime examples. These jackets represent the highest level of breathability in jackets that still retain protective qualities for inclement weather. If ultra-high breathability isn't your number one concern and you are looking for something a bit more versatile and protective from wind, the Houdini is an excellent budget choice. Be sure to consider what style of running you prefer, weather and training patterns, as well as features that are most important to you when trying to make your final decision.

Happy running!

The shiny black material of the ultralight Norvan SL worked well to absorb sunlight when available and did an amazing job shielding us from wind and weather.
The shiny black material of the ultralight Norvan SL worked well to absorb sunlight when available and did an amazing job shielding us from wind and weather.


Brian Martin