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Over the last 7 years, our team of experts has tested close to 30 of the best running jackets. In this update, we purchased 9 of today's top models for our latest head-to-head analysis. From rainy slogs around the neighborhood to windy, exposed trail runs, we put each jacket through its paces across a variety of weather conditions and terrain to push its design features to the limit. Whether you need a comfortable, breathable layer for casual training runs or a lightweight, protective barrier for rugged mountain adventures, we'll show you what to look for to help you find the best jacket for your needs.
If you're looking for a lightweight, comfortable, high-performing running jacket that has the features you need without all the extras, the Patagonia Houdini Air is one of our favorites. This jacket continues to impress our team of testers due to its stretchy wind-resistant material, extreme comfort, breathability, and overall good looks. This jacket is one of the most versatile we tested — it's the only one we felt looked good enough to wear out to dinner or drinks without looking like a runner, but it performs the best of all the running jackets on the trail. The fabric on this jacket is soft, has just the right amount of stretch, and isn't swishy at all. All of this comes in a super lightweight package that compresses down into its own pocket.
There are only a few circumstances where we might forgo the Houdini Air as our go-to running jacket. While every runner has a different tolerance for cold weather, when the mercury drops below freezing, we would opt for something warmer with a bit more insulation, like a softshell jacket. Similarly, when there's a chance of a significant amount of precip, we would look to a fully waterproof jacket rather than the water-resistant treatment on this jacket. But for the majority of runs across varying terrain and conditions, nothing matches the lightweight versatility of this jacket.
The Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralite Hoodie is one of the most unique jackets we tested. The main standout feature of this jacket is the hood. There is a piece of soft wool fabric lining both sides of the hood. This wool is where your neck and ears would otherwise make contact with the swishy windbreaker material. This makes the hood one of the most comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. We found this hood to be almost as comfortable as a soft beanie and slightly warmer, too. It also has the same wool fabric sewn into the armpits. These patches of wool, along with vented shoulders, make this running jacket one of the most breathable we tested. This is also one of the few running jackets we tested that has hand-warmer pockets, which is another great feature for cold-weather running. It weighs just over 5 ounces and packs into its own pocket. This jacket is a great option to throw on when the temperatures drop.
Even though the Merino Sport Ultralite Hoodie has one of the most comfortable hoods we tested, this hood isn't very adjustable. In fact, it only has a single piece of non-adjustable elastic sewn into the back of the hood. While this hood fit our heads very well, we could see it not fitting everyone's head perfectly. However, we comfortably wore this hood while running for hours without issue, with and without a running hat underneath. And, it never once blew off. So even though this hood isn't adjustable, we still think this is a great jacket overall.
The Brooks Canopy made major improvements in its most recent revision, dropping some weight and pockets while adding some truly innovative features. It remains one of the most comfortable jackets we've tried and now competes as one of the lightest and least expensive. It's a natural choice for our best value. With a few more improvements, it could even challenge for the top spot overall.
The foundation of the Canopy's stellar performance is its fabric. This fabric is softer and more flexible than most other jacket materials while still providing an ideal blend of warmth, weather resistance, and breathability. It also sports one of the most interesting and fast stuff sacks we've seen, converting the entire jacket into a mini sling bag in a matter of seconds. The cut is loose and comfortable without feeling billowy. You can also fully unzip this jacket without it flapping in the breeze thanks to snap closures along the zipper.
The only real complaint we have about the Canopy is that it's not very protective in rain. Although the soft material's DWR coating is capable of protecting you in a light drizzle, it's not as weather-resistant as some other jackets we tested. Also, since this jacket is so breathable, it does let through a lot of wind. This wouldn't be our first choice for cold and wet conditions, but for chilly runs where you need a little extra protection, the Canopy is worth considering.
The Asics Fujitrail offers superb breathability, comfort, and protection in an extremely lightweight package. It has reflective stripes on the biceps and on the lower back. It comes in bright colors, too. So, you'll be seen by cars as you run through the city. The hood is adjustable on the sides and back of the head, and there's a small bill on the hood as well. This is one of the most breathable jackets we tested. It has soft and breathable mesh material in the armpits and back of the neck. Also, it has laser-cut ventilation holes on the back. At just over 4 ounces, this jacket is light enough to carry in a running belt on those chilly days when you might need a jacket. And it's breathable enough that we actually want to wear it during high-output activities.
While the Fujitrail will protect you enough in a light drizzle, it's not the most water-resistant jacket. The breathable mesh panels built into this jacket aren't waterproof at all, and the laser-cut holes definitely aren't stopping any water. However, we did run through some misty weather in this jacket and it protected us enough. We wouldn't take this out in a cold rainstorm, but we'd trust this to keep us comfortable running in light rain.
The Arc'teryx Norvan LT Hoodie is the jacket we choose when the weather gets bad. This is a true three-layer Gore-Tex jacket that weighs under 7 ounces. It's remarkably breathable while still being extremely waterproof. When testing jackets for breathability, this one performed as well as some of the windbreaker-style running jackets we tested. It's also very comfortable. The fabric feels soft and not crinkly. It definitely has that stiff waterproof feel to it, but much less than many waterproof jackets we've tested over the years. This jacket fits well, too. The cut allows for layering underneath, yet it's not so billowy that it feels like you're wearing a sail. We were able to layer a fleece mid-layer and a puffy jacket under this jacket and still had room to move around.
The Norvan] only has one tiny pocket. It's in an odd place, too — on the left hip. We were a little surprised by this pocket placement initially. But after trying it out, we much prefer to run with our phone on our hip than in a chest pocket. Also, this jacket barely stuffs into that pocket. But if you're running in through hail and sleet in preparation for your next race. Or if you're serious about mountain running, then this is the jacket for you.
We've been testing running jackets for 7 years and have looked at over 200 jackets in that time. For this review, we began with extensive market research, sifting through over 60 of the best running jackets on the market. We then selected 9 of the most promising models to purchase for our head-to-head testing. This testing took place over the course of several months, through many different weather conditions, from winter storms and high winds to unpredictable spring rainstorms. In addition to the field tests, we measured each jacket's weight and water resistance in controlled environments. The result of this rigorous testing is a comprehensive review that will set you on the right track in your search for the perfect jacket.
Our testing of running jackets is divided across five performance metrics:
Breathability (30% of overall score weighting))
Weather Resistance (20% weighting)
Comfort and Mobility (20% weighting)
Portability (15% weighting)
Features and Visibility (15% weighting)
GearLab testers Sam Schild , Nick Bruckbauer, and Walt Handloser joined forces to tackle this review. Sam is a long-time endurance athlete. He started running in middle school to improve his cardio fitness for soccer and has run regularly ever since. In the past decade, he became an avid trail runner when he realized that local trails are much more fun at a running pace. He has run a few races but finds the most joy in self-supported fast-packing pursuits. Nick is a former NCAA Division I track and cross country athlete who turned his attention to hiking, trail running, and backcountry skiing throughout the last decade. He still laces up the running shoes several days a week and keeps in touch with his running roots by volunteering as a track and cross country coach at his local high school. Walt is an extreme-distance mountain runner, with races from 10k to 300 miles under his belt. He's raced all over the US, from the wet cold of winter on Mount Constitution on Orcas Island to the humid tropics of Florida and from the Anza Borrego desert in southern California to the cold forests of Maine. In the years he's been racing, he's researched, bought, and destroyed literally dozens of jackets.
Analysis and Test Results
Mother Nature can be extremely fickle. Without the right equipment, it's easy to get sidelined by inclement weather, cold temperatures, or biting wind. Having the right gear might be the difference between getting yourself out the door in the morning or staying in bed for a few more minutes. The running jackets we tested span a large spectrum of designs, with varying levels of protection from the elements. We logged some serious miles on the roads and trails to help you figure out which model will work the best for you.
Our testing included multiple runs in each jacket through rain, cold, and wind, in urban environments and on the trails, on the flats, and up some serious inclines. We purposefully bought some highly-rated jackets that claim both weather resistance and breathability to determine which ones deliver on their claims and which ones fall short. We were pleasantly surprised by several of the new contenders but ultimately found the Patagonia Houdini Air to be worthy of our highest honor.
The jackets in this review span a surprisingly wide price range. Some of the most expensive models cost nearly three times as much as the more affordable options. Although there is a huge range of prices, finding an outstanding value isn't as simple as looking for the lowest upfront cost. We painstakingly analyzed each model's performance to help you understand what extra value you might get by spending more money or what performance features you might sacrifice to save a few bucks.
For example, if you're looking for the absolute most capable and protective lightweight jacket for wet weather, shelling out hundreds of dollars for the high-performing Arc'teryx Norvan LT might make sense and could actually provide pretty good value for this specific use. But if you just need occasional wet weather resistance, and you're willing to sacrifice the higher-end material and waterproof protection, both the Brooks Canopy and the Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralite Hoodie offer warmth and mild weather protection in a lighter weight package but for a fraction of the price. It's important to keep your needs and goals in mind when selecting the right jacket.
It doesn't matter if you're fresh off the couch or a seasoned professional; you're going to sweat while running. Ideally, a running jacket will not only shield you from the elements but also help shed excess heat and moisture. Jackets that don't offer adequate breathability can end up feeling like a swampy, plastic trash bag. On the other hand, models with breathable materials, zippered vents, or mesh panels wick moisture away effortlessly.
Some kind of breathable mesh panels, like that found in the Asics Fujitrail and Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralite Hoodie, seem to be essential for providing the necessary air movement and breathability for high-output activities. The amazing Patagonia Houdini Air and Brooks Canopy achieve their breathability via extremely breathable jacket material, with no other ventilation.
Breathability is generally harder for waterproof models, which is why the performance of the Arc'teryx Norvan LT stood out. This is one of the most breathable waterproof jackets we've tried, remaining comfortable even during long uphills, sprints, and stairs. Other waterproof jackets like the vented Salomon Bonatti Waterproof just couldn't keep up. Some waterproof models like the Patagonia Storm Racer provide excellent protection from the elements but lack any kind of ventilation system except for unzipping the main zippers.
Although all of the jackets we tested claim some level of wind and water resistance, four models are rated as fully waterproof. The Arc'teryx Norvan LT Hoodie is made with a lightweight Gore-Tex material, the Patagonia Storm Racer is constructed from Patagonia's 3-layer H2No waterproof fabric, and the Salomon Bonatti Waterproof uses Solomon's 10K/10K waterproof fabric.
Most other models in our lineup are constructed from a nylon or polyester material that comes treated with a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating to repel water from the surface of the jacket. While this certainly offers suitable protection from light drizzle or dew as you brush past trailside plants, these DWR coatings tend to wear off quickly, and any heavy rain will likely permeate these layers rapidly.
Although most of the jackets that we tested aren't fully waterproof, many have an impressive ability to shield you from the wind. The Asics Fujitrail and Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralite Hoodie are standouts in this class with breathable panels built in where your body produces the most heat. The Patagonia Houdini Air, the Nike Windrunner Dye Jacket, and the Brooks Canopy are also stellar wind-blockers.
Comfort and mobility are of paramount importance to a running jacket because these garments are designed to be worn during prolonged aerobic activity where you'll be moving around a lot. A restrictive jacket can physically hinder your movement, while a poorly-fitted, baggy one can weigh you down or bunch up uncomfortably. Both issues can impact your mental performance as well, forcing you to focus on the discomfort of the garment instead of the workout in front of you. To evaluate this metric, we tested how each garment moves with the runner and considered the materials and construction.
Comfort is certainly a subjective metric, but we found that certain attributes impact a jacket's comfort regardless of the shape, size, or preferences of the user. Lightweight materials and an athletic performance fit (not too loose, not too tight) are very important for a good fit. Also, flat, taped seams are much more comfortable than raised, exposed seams, which are often uncomfortable and annoying.
Standing out in this metric is the Patagonia Houdini Air, which has a soft, almost cottony against-the-skin feel. Other highly comfortable jackets were the Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover with its soft material and snug performance fit, the Brooks Canopy with its flexible material, the Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralite Hoodie with soft merino wool-lined hood and armpits, and the Asics Fujitrail that is so light we often forgot we were wearing it. The Arc'teryx Norvan LT Hoodie was also particularly comfortable when compared with other fully waterproof jackets.
This review is all about efficient aerobic movement. We want to make sure that the contenders we recommend don't impede your actions but rather aid in performance. This means that the garment should be easy to unpack, put on, remove, and re-pack while remaining lightweight on your body or in your pack.
Factors we examine when establishing the overall portability of a jacket include how easily it fits into its storage pouch (if one is included) and if that pouch is adequately sized to fit everything without too much difficulty. Additionally, we weighed each of these jackets with our scale to get an accurate weight. Overall, it's safe to assume soft-shell jackets are less portable and heavier, while single-layer shells are more lightweight and packable.
Weight and packability, like all other aspects of a jacket, are a balancing act. Heavier jackets can usually handle the weather better and may also last longer due to sturdier fabrics, but they will weigh you down more and take up more room in your pack. Going for the lighter jacket may buy a few ounces and a few ccs in the short term, but all that weight savings is useless if the jacket isn't good enough to stand up to the weather you'll be facing.
The Patagonia Houdini Air, Asics Fujitrail, and Patagonia Airshed Pro all top the charts in portability with ultralight weights and easy-to-use stuff pockets. The Airshed packs into a convenient stuff pocket on the back of the hood. The Houdini and Fujitrail pack into their own chest pockets with ease. The Brooks Canopy has an innovative stuff sack that converts to a sling pack and was one of the fastest-packing jackets we tested. Most impressively with these models is how much performance and protection is offered in such lightweight and portable packages. These jackets are so light that it's easy to forget they're in your running pack until the temps drop and the wind kicks up.
Features and Visibility
While the main purpose of these garments is to protect you from wind, rain, and cold, each model has its own built-in features to enhance the comfort, performance, and convenience of your running experience. Seemingly little things like pockets, reflective trim, and hood adjustments can go a long way in making a jacket enjoyable and safer to use.
We used each jacket in low light conditions with a watchful friend in an automobile to give us a sense of their visibility. Some of the most visible jackets we tested were the Salomon Bonatti Waterproof, the Asics Fujitrail, Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralite Hoodie, and the Brooks Canopy. Most of these jackets had reflective accents on the arms, chest, and back. The Brooks Canopy has no reflective material, but the jacket itself comes in very bright colors, which almost stand out better in low-light scenarios.
Another important feature that we found noticeably absent on several contenders is a hood adjustment. We found this out the hard way while running into the wind in the rain. No matter how well-fitted a hood is, an adjustable cinch mechanism can help keep it snug against your head, which is especially critical when running at faster speeds. The Asics Fujitrail stands out in particular with a hood that is adjustable on the sides and back of the head.
Although the main purpose of these jackets is lightweight protection from the elements, having a pocket or two for your phone, a snack, or some cash is a nice bonus. Most jackets in our lineup have a pocket or two, but the Brooks Canopy and Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralite Hoodie have three pockets: one chest pocket and two hand pockets. The Canopy has a fourth pocket if you count the internal mesh key pocket hidden away on the right-hand side. All of these pockets are zippered and mesh, adding a level of security and acting as vents when zipped open.
There is no way around it; running is an intense activity. Having a jacket that is capable of regulating warmth and keeping moisture moving while still protecting you from the elements is essential. Our lineup provides a range of options, from ultralight wind layers to completely waterproof models. Once you've determined the type of weather you'll be running in, your training environment and terrain, as well as the features that are most important to you, use this guide to identify the best jacket.
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.