Throughout the last 6 years, our team of experts has tested over 20 of the best running jackets. In this 2020 update, we purchased 10 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.Related: The Best Women's Running Jackets of 2020
The Best Running Jackets for Men of 2020
Best Overall Running Jacket
Arc'teryx Incendo Hoody
If you're looking for a lightweight, high-performing running jacket with just the right amount of features without a bunch of extras to weigh you down, the Arc'teryx Incendo is our top pick and retains its Editors' Choice Award. The Incendo continues to impress our team of testers with its solid weather resistance, comfortable form-fitting design, and large side mesh panels that provide excellent breathability. All of this comes in a lightweight package that compresses down into its own pocket, and with a surprisingly reasonable price tag.
There are only a few circumstances in which we would stray away from the Incendo as our go-to running jacket. While every runner has a different tolerance for cold weather, when the mercury drops below the freezing point, we would opt for something warmer with a bit more insulation, like a softshell jacket. Similarly, when there's going to be a significant amount of precipitation, we would look for a fully waterproof jacket rather than this one with a water-resistant treatment. But for the majority of runs across varying terrain and conditions, nothing beats the lightweight versatility of our Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Incendo.
Read review: Arc'teryx Incendo Hoody
The Brooks Canopy runs away with our Best Buy Award thanks to its comfortable design, solid all-around performance, and affordable price. The foundation of the Canopy's stellar performance is its DriLayer Seal polyester fabric that is much softer, quieter, and more flexible than most other nylon fabrics, while still providing good weather resistance and excellent breathability. It also comes with a hidden zippered chest pocket with a headphone port, zippered hand pockets, and internal stuff pockets. On top of that, it can be compressed into a built-in stuff sack in one of the hand pockets, with an elastic armband for easy carrying.
One minor drawback of the Canopy is that it is slightly heavier than many of the other ultralight jackets in our lineup. We're only talking about two or three ounces in total, but we know that every ounce matters to some runners. And although the soft Drilayer Seal material is quite capable of keeping out the elements, it's not as weather-resistant as some other nylon materials or those with fully waterproof fabric barriers. The lack of adjustability to tighten the hood also reduces its effectiveness when you're on the move. Overall, however, the Canopy is a versatile, comfortable, and well-priced jacket worthy of our Best Buy Award.
Read review: Brooks Canopy
Best Value for an Ultralight Model
Patagonia Houdini Full-Zip
Once again, the Patagonia Houdini continues to impress with capable performance in a ridiculously lightweight package at a surprisingly affordable price, earning our Best Value Award for an Ultralight Model. While other competitors continue to introduce new fabrics or updated designs, the Houdini maintains its classic style that offers great wind protection in any situation, good warmth, and decent weather protection with a water-resistant coating. All of this performance packs down into its own chest pocket and somehow tips the scales at only 3.7 ounces.
While the nylon material offers competent protection from the wind, it lacks breathability compared to other jackets with different materials, built-in vents, or mesh panels. The only way to gain some ventilation with the Houdini is to unzip the main zipper, which can catch the wind like a parachute and make running awkward. We also found that the nylon material can be noisy, which could be a turnoff to some runners. Overall, we feel these are minor drawbacks for such an ultralight, surprisingly warm jacket that provides tremendous value and earns one of our Best Buy Awards.
Read review: Patagonia Houdini Full-Zip
Best for Winter Running
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 simply heading out around the neighborhood 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 you regulate your temp.
Read review: Arc'teryx Trino
Best for Minimalist Wet Weather Protection
Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody
The Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody offers superb all-around weather protection in an extremely lightweight package. The secret to its performance is its Gore-tex Shakedry material, which offers waterproof, windproof protection in a lightweight single-layer construction. With reasonable breathability for such a protective material, the Norvan SL makes a great choice for high output activities in unforgiving wet or windy conditions. At a measured weight of 4.6 ounces in a men's size medium, including its nylon stuff sack, there's no better choice for minimalist wet weather protection.
If you're on the hunt for the lightest wet weather protection that money can buy, this indeed might be it. But the high-end performance of the Norvan SL comes with an extremely high-end price tag that might turn away many runners. If you're simply on the market for a capable running layer to get you out the door during cooler weather or light drizzle, this is probably overkill. For the price, you could buy two or three of most other jackets in this review, some of which will include more features and better versatility. That being said, we are astounded by the performance of this jacket for its intended purpose, awarding it one of our Top Picks.
Read review: Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody
Why You Should Trust Us
Our OutdoorGearLab testing team of Nick Bruckbauer and Brian Martin combined to tackle this review. Nick is a former NCAA Division I track and cross country athlete who has turned his attention to hiking, trail running, and backcountry skiing throughout the last decade. He still laces up the running shoes several days per week and keeps in touch with his running roots by volunteering as a track and cross country coach at his local high school. 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. 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.
This review began with extensive market research, sifting through over 60 of the best running jackets on the market. We then selected the most promising 10 models to purchase for our head-to-head testing. Our 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. What came out of this is a comprehensive review that will set you on the right track in your search for a great jacket.
Related: How We Tested Running Jackets
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 temperatures, or biting wind. Finding the right equipment for your specific needs can be the difference between being able to get yourself out the door in the morning or staying in bed for just a few more minutes. The running jackets we tested span a large spectrum of designs, capabilities, and 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.
Related: Buying Advice for Running Jackets
We compared all the jackets head-to-head based on five separate rating metrics: Breathability and Venting, Weather Resistance, Comfort and Mobility, Portability, and Special Features. Our testing included multiple runs in each jacket through rain, cold, and wind, both in urban environments and on the trails, on the flats and up some serious inclines. We purposefully bought some very highly-rated jackets which claim both weather-resistance and breathability to determine which ones deliver on their claims and which ones might fall short. We were pleasantly surprised by several of the new contenders but ultimately found the Arc'teryx Incendo to be worthy of our highest honor.
The 10 jackets in this review span across a surprisingly massive price range. Some of the most expensive models cost over three times as much as some of the more affordable options. While there is definitely a huge range of prices, finding the best value isn't as simple as looking for the lowest upfront cost. We painstakingly analyze each model's performance to help you understand what additional value you might get by spending more money, or what performance features you may be sacrificing to save a few bucks.
For example, if you're looking for the absolute most capable and protective jacket for wet weather that's also lightweight, shelling out hundreds of dollars for our Top Pick Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody might make sense for you and will actually provide pretty good value for your specific use. But if you just need occasional wet weather resistance, and you're willing to sacrifice the higher-end material and waterproof protection, the Patagonia Houdini is a versatile, ultralight jacket that offers capable performance at a fraction of the price, and earns our Best Value Award for an Ultralight Model. The Brooks Canopy, our other Best Buy winner, is another contender that masterfully balances price and performance.
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 will also help vent out the excess heat and moisture. Jackets that don't offer adequate breathability end up feeling like a plastic trash bag, while models with breathable materials, zippered vents, or mesh panel inserts stand out in this metric.
One of our top-ranked models in this metric is our Top Pick for Winter Running, the Arc'teryx Trino, with its Gore-Windstopper body material and strategically placed air-permeable panels under the arms and across the back. Additional standouts are the Editors' Choice Incendo Hoody with its large mesh panels under the arms, and the Cotopaxi Palmas with its lightweight material and sewn-in back vents. The Best Buy Award-winning Brooks Canopy also boasts lightweight breathable material, but no built-in vents or mesh panels.
Some type of breathable mesh panel system is essential for providing the necessary air movement and breathability for high output activities. Otherwise stellar jackets like the Ultralight Best Value Patagonia Houdini boasts lightweight fabric that isn't as breathable as others, and lacks any type of built-in ventilation system. Similarly, waterproof jackets like the Patagonia Storm Racer and the Top Pick Arc'teryx Norvan SL provide excellent protection from the elements but lack any kind of ventilation system except for unzipping the zippers.
While all of the jackets we tested claim some level of wind and water resistance, two models stand out for being more fully waterproof. The Arc'teryx Norvan SL has a lightweight, single-layer waterproof Gore-Tex Shakedry material, and the Patagonia Storm Racer is constructed from Patagonia's 3-layer H2No waterproof material.
Most other models in our lineup are constructed from a nylon or polyester material and are treated with a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating that repels water from the surface of the jacket. While this certainly offers suitable protection from light drizzle or dew as you brush past trailside plants, the DWR coatings tend to wear off rather quickly, and any heavier rain will likely permeate these layers rapidly.
Although most of the jackets that we tested aren't fully waterproof, many have an impressive capability to shield you from the wind. The Patagonia Houdini, our Best Value for Ultralight Models, provides noticeable wind protection at an absurdly light weight of 3.7 ounces. As also one of the consistently top-ranked models in our windbreaker jacket review, the Houdini is certainly impressive, especially when considering its price is less than a third of the waterproof Arc'teryx Norvan.
Related: The Best Windbreaker Jackets
Comfort and Mobility
Comfort and mobility are of paramount importance in a running jacket, as these garments are designed to be worn during prolonged aerobic activity. A restrictive jacket can physically hinder your movement, while a poorly-fitted, baggy one can weigh you down or uncomfortably bunch up. 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 test this metric, we evaluated how each piece moves with the runner and examined the materials and construction of each garment.
While comfort is certainly a subjective metric, 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 widely appreciated, while flat, taped seams are much more comfortable than raised, exposed seams that can be uncomfortable and annoying.
Standing out in this metric is the Patagonia Airshed Pro with its soft, lightweight material and snug performance fit, and the Brooks Canopy with its soft, flexible material. Arc'teryx also seems to have a corner on the market for comfortable jackets with the three models we tested all scoring well. The Incendo, Norvan, and Trino all stand out for designs that feel perfectly sized, body mapping panels that are never too baggy or tight, and tapered cuffs allow the arms a full range of motion without causing the sleeves to ride up.
This review is all about efficient aerobic movement. We want to make sure that the contenders we recommend don't impede movement, but rather aid in performance. This means that the garment is easy to unpack, throw on, remove, and re-pack, and is lightweight on your body or in your backpack.
Factors we examine when establishing the overall portability of a jacket include how easily it fits into its storage pouch (if one was included), and if that pouch is adequately sized to fit everything without too much difficulty. Additionally, we threw each of 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 Patagonia Houdini, Arc'teryx Incendo, and Patagonia Airshed Pro all top the charts in this category with sub-5-ounce weights and easy to use stuff pockets. The Airshed packs into a convenient stuff pocket on the back of the hood, while the Houdini and the Incendo stuff pockets are perfectly sized, and double-sided zipper pulls make the job of packing and unpacking painless. Most impressively with these three models is how much performance and protection is offered in such tiny and portable packages. These jackets are so light that it's easy to forget they're in your running pack until the wind kicks up and the temps drop.
Most of the jackets in our lineup are similarly lightweight and have some type of convenient carry system. We were very analytical when scoring this metric and adjusted scores for very slight differences in weight, packed size, or the convenience of packing.
While the main purpose of these garments is to comfortably protect you from wind, rain, and cold, each model has different built-in features that can add to the comfort, performance, and convenience of your running experience. Seemingly little things like pockets, reflective trim, and hood adjustments can go a long way.
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. 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. The least visible jackets have only one reflector on the chest pocket or no reflective trim at all.
Another important feature that we found was noticeably absent on a number of 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, having an adjustable cinch strap helps keep it snug against your head, which is especially critical when running at faster speeds. The Patagonia Houdini stands out for its excellent hood adjustment.
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. While most jackets in our lineup have a pocket or two, the Best Buy Brooks Canopy has five pockets: one chest pocket, two hand pockets, and two internal stuff pockets.
Softshell Vs. Single Layer Ultralight
Our review spans two distinct types of jackets, including heavier softshells and ultralight single layer running jackets. While these two types provide very different levels of performance, we believe they can both be useful and sometimes necessary in their own right. Softshells, like the Arc'teryx Trino, offer unparalleled warmth and temperature regulation during hard aerobic workouts in the cold. On the flip side, single layer jackets, like the Editors' Choice Incendo, offer competent 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 in a wide range of conditions.
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 windproof layers to warm and breathable softshells to completely waterproof shells. Once you've determined the type of weather in which you'll be running, your training environment and terrain, as well as the features that are most important to you, use this guide to find the best jacket for your needs.
— Nick Bruckbauer & Brian Martin