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The Best Women's Running Jackets of 2018

The LSD's visibility makes it a great choice when the sun goes down.
By Lauren DeLaunay ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Friday December 7, 2018
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Is the search for the perfect running layer running you into the ground? If so, you've come to the right place. Our expert team of gear testers researched 50 of the most popular women's models on the market today, and then carefully picked 12 for months of hands-on testing. We ran, hiked, climbed, and skied in these jackets in order to evaluate them side-by-side in a range of conditions and for a variety of purposes. Our team looked at breathability first and foremost to see which jackets could keep up with us, no matter how much we turned up the heat. We braved wind and rain to see how each product held up. We also judged each product on its weight, packability, and all-around comfort. We ranked each jacket by comparing it to its competitors and establishing the best use for each product. Whether you're looking for an ultralight wind shell or an insulated winter layer, we've got the jacket for you.


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Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $119.00 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$60.99 at MooseJaw
Compare at 3 sellers
$75.73 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$120 List$59.99 at MooseJaw
Compare at 3 sellers
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Pros Lightweight, affordable, comfortableLightweight, easily packable, affordableComfortable, breathable, good weather resistanceGreat features, packable, affordableLightweight, affordable
Cons Not as resistant to rain, fewer featuresNot as breathable, fewer featuresFewer featuresHeavyLess breathability, no features
Bottom Line The Airshed is light, breathable, and comfy; the perfect summer adventure layer.The LSD is an impressively affordable, super packable jacket.The Tantrum II is a comfortable, affordable jacket that finds a nice balance between breathability and wind resistance.The Canopy is a packable, affordable jacket riddled with awesome features.The Ghost Lite is an awesome wind layer but lacks the features to be a true running piece.
Rating Categories Airshed Brooks LSD - Women's Tantrum II Canopy Ghost Lite
Breathability (25%)
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Specs Airshed Brooks LSD - Women's Tantrum II Canopy Ghost Lite
OGL Weight (ounces) 3.10 oz 2.95 oz 3.50 oz 6.10 oz 2.70 oz
Material 100% nylon ripstop Nylon Nylon Polyester Nylon
Packable? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Updated December 2018
New for this year is the updated Arc'teryx Gaea! We thought we loved this jacket before, but it's even better now; our Top Pick for Winter dropped an ounce of weight while maintaining the same warmth and breathability. It's comfortable and full of features, including bigger rear pockets and great new colors. We still fully endorse the rest of our award winners, including the Patagonia Airshed, Brooks LSD, and Brooks Canopy, all of which have fresh new colorways for this year but remain otherwise unchanged.

Best Overall Running Jacket


Patagonia Airshed - Women's


Super breathable
Lightweight and packable
Comfortable
Less resistant to rain

The Patagonia Airshed is an awesome all-around running jacket perfect for runners who need a little protection from the elements. Our testing team adored its comfortable fit and lightweight materials. We found it to be incredibly breathable and great for cranking up the heat. It is both wind resistant and extremely packable, making for an awesome choice on windy or cool days.

The major drawbacks to this jacket were its lack of hood, small amount of fancy features, and lack of warmth. The pullover style isn't for everyone, and our testing team was split. The zipper does extend far enough down the torso to allow for more airflow, however, and we thought the cut was a nice blend of style and performance. If you're looking for an affordable, lightweight jacket that is high on comfort and breathability, look no further than the Airshed.

Read review: Patagonia Airshed - Women's

Best Buy on a Budget


Brooks LSD - Women's


Best Buy Award

$60.99
(28% off)
at MooseJaw
See It

Very affordable
Lightweight
Great features
Less breathable

Brooks makes a lot of our favorite shoes, but what about their jackets? As it turns out, they make some of our favorite clothing, too. The LSD is lightweight, uber packable, comfortable, and only $85. We try to hide price information from our testers during hands-on testing to promote objectivity, and the LSD was still one of our all-time favorites. The cut was cute, the material soft, and the weight incredible. This jacket also included two of our favorite features: a long reflective stripe on the back and an armband for easy transport.

We would have liked to see some venting for better breathability, and the weather resistance was above-average but not the best. That being said, when compared to other jackets in its weight category, the LSD is pretty impressive. The features are carefully designed for runners, and at such a bargain price, we don't think you'll be disappointed.

Read review: Brooks LSD - Women's

Top Pick for Cool Weather Cruising


Brooks Canopy - Women's


Top Pick Award

$120 List
List Price
See It

Great features
Breathable and comfortable
Heavier

Coming in hot is the Brooks Canopy, a warm, comfortable jacket full of the best features a runner could ask for. We found it to be the perfect companion for cool spring mornings due to its practical fit and cozy materials. Like the LSD, this jacket has excellent visibility, a neat packable hood, and an armband for easy transport. The media port is an cool bonus that continues to add to this jacket's user-friendliness.

On the other hand, the Canopy had room for improvement. Its weight was a concern for some of our testers, and there were some contenders with improved breathability. If you stick to cool weather in this layer, however, we think you'll find a nice balance between warmth and airflow. At a very reasonable price, this $120 garment can't be beaten.

Read review: Brooks Canopy

Top Pick for Winter Workouts


Arc'teryx Gaea


Top Pick Award

$199.00
at Amazon
See It

Insulated
Very comfortable
Breathable
Expensive
Heavy and does not pack down

The Arc'teryx Gaea is a bit of a black sheep in this review as the only truly insulated jacket that we tested. We were immediately concerned that it would be just too warm for running, but what we found was a highly breathable winter layer that we couldn't get enough of. With awesome features like large rear stash pockets, a media port, and exceptional comfort, this jacket is one of a kind.

However, there are some drawbacks to this layer too. While the warmth-to-breathability ratio is stellar, this jacket requires seriously cold temperatures. It's heavy and lacking in the ability to easily pack down. To happily use this jacket, you'd need to be fairly committed to keeping it on for the duration of your workout, which is pretty feasible given its above-average breathability. If you're searching for a winter layer to keep you warm during your coldest workouts, this is the one.

Read review: Arc'teryx Gaea

Top Pick for Racing in the Rain


Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2


ultimate direction ultra jacket
Top Pick Award

$189.95
at Amazon
See It

Great weather resistance
Lots of cool features
Not as breathable
Expensive

Sometimes, in the battle between weather resistance and breathability, weather wins. If that's the case, look no further than the Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2. This layer provides incredible protection from the elements for days when you'd much rather stay inside. The burly hood cinches down tight and features a sturdy brim to keep water away from your face. With built-in hand shells, you can keep your hands dry and protected without needing another accessory.

While not as comfortable or as breathable as some of the others jackets in this review, the Ultra is the clear choice for when a storm rolls in. Other than the lack of airflow, the next biggest downside to this product is the price. $190 is a lot to pay for a running jacket, but if big adventure races or long distance missions are your thing, you'll be happy you invested in such a bombproof garment.

Read review: Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2 - Women's


Analysis and Test Results


It only takes one big rainstorm on your running parade to realize the importance of layers for every occasion. If you're like us, you're not going to let a little weather get in the way of your workout, so having the right piece for a variety of climates is crucial. That being said, we also know that comfort is essential to running performance, so we need our jackets to be not only bombproof but also cozy, breathable, and chock-full of features to make our lives easier. To find the best running jacket out there, we identified five features to use as scoring metrics: breathability, weather resistance, comfort, portability, and features.

Our testing plan included multiple runs in a range of climates, from steep, uphill runs in Yosemite's hot sun to longer jaunts through the windy pampas of Argentine Patagonia. We designed our tests to judge each product in direct comparison to the others and then award a numerical score based on that performance. After months of hands-on testing, we've identified our favorite jackets and are excited to share the results.

Value


In the early stages of our product testing, we do our best to ignore the price tag and focus on the performance. We want to know which jackets are truly the best, regardless of how much they might break the bank. But we know that price is important to nearly every buyer, so in this category, we discuss value. Value, as far as we're concerned, describes how much bang we get for the buck. We often find jackets that are lighter or warmer than others but for similar price points. Other times we're able to find a piece with exceptional performance with a cost to match. In this section, we'll describe how well each jacket performs in direct relation to how much it costs to help you make the right decision for your wallet.


We were easily blown away by the Brooks LSD. It is the least expensive jacket in this review but without a doubt one of our favorites. Its features make it perfectly runner-friendly, and we think this is an excellent choice for runners on a budget (or even those who aren't). Our Editors' Choice Award always goes to our top-scorer, regardless of price, but with this review, we were happy to find that this year's winner is very affordable. The Patagonia Airshed at $119, is below the average price in this review, and we believe it is an incredible value for this reason.

Sometimes, a certain product trait is essential to the running you do. If, for example, you're constantly in rainy conditions, the $190 price tag of the Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket might be totally worth it. If you live in a cold climate, you may not be able to resist the $199 Arc'teryx Gaea. We urge you to consider which of the scoring metrics we tested for are the most important to you and the location where you run to determine if a jacket is worth your investment.

Breathability


Whether you're a seasoned ultramarathon runner or just getting into the game, running is going to make you work up a sweat, which is why this category is so incredibly important.


Breathability describes a garment's ability to allow air to flow freely through it. When we start working up a sweat, our body's main cooling mechanism is evaporation. For that to happen, we need air. If you've ever seen anyone exercise in a trash bag, you know that the less air is allowed to your skin, the more you'll sweat. And we don't want to run in a trash bag. We want our skin to stay cool and dry, which requires unique materials.

In this review, we found a range of breathability scores. At the top of the list were lightweight products made of inherently breathable materials, like the Patagonia Airshed and Brooks Canopy. The other way a jacket could enhance its breathability is through venting. Jackets like the Arc'teryx Gaea used a mix of different materials to improve airflow to our sweatiest areas, typically the underarms and back.

The Airshed was the most breathable jacket we tested.
The Airshed was the most breathable jacket we tested.

Among the products listed above, other high scorers in this category were the Icebreaker Cool-Lite Rush, whose merino interior is naturally breathable, and the Outdoor Research Tantrum II. If you live in a place that's both warm and prone to bad weather, this metric will be of the utmost importance to you.

Weather Resistance


If we had it our way, we'd only ever have to run under clear skies in cool temperatures. But even though we live in California, we have to put up with less than ideal conditions sometimes. Whether that's wind, rain, snow, or cold temps, jackets are meant to protect us from these elements.


As you might imagine, a fabric that can block wind is typically not as good at letting air out, which means that we're often compromising between wind and rain resistance and breathability. A few of our most wind-resistant layers, like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite and The North Face Flight RKT, did indeed struggle to find this balance. The Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2, as well, was one of our most weather resistant jackets, but its breathability was subpar. The Brooks Canopy struck a balance a bit better than these, which is one of the reasons it won our Top Pick for Cool Weather Cruising.

On top of wind we also have precipitation and the many forms it can present itself in. None of the jackets we tested in this review are real rain jackets, and all eventually let some moisture through. That being said, the Ultra Jacket is the winner of our Top Pick for Racing in the Rain due to its top-notch water resistance. If you're looking for a jacket to bring "just in case" of rain, most of these jackets will do the trick, though none will keep you totally dry in a downpour.

The Ultra's hand covers are a bit odd  but pretty effective!
The Ultra's hand covers are a bit odd, but pretty effective!

The final category we test for in this metric is cold temperatures. While the vast majority of the jackets we tested provide little to no insulation, there were a few significant exceptions. The first of these is the Canopy, whose heavier materials make for a great addition to cool weather. A bit warmer than this is the Icebreaker Cool-Lite Rush, whose merino wool interior is both breathable and insulation. At the top of the charts is the unique Arc'teryx Gaea. The only jacket we reviewed with real insulation, this jacket is the go-to choice for winter aerobic activities. All three of these jackets had a surprising amount of breathability alongside their warmth, making them all excellent investments for cooler weather.

Comfort


We know what you're thinking: why is comfort given such a prominent place in a review targeted to running performance? But hear us out. During countless months of testing jackets, women's running shirts, and even hydration packs for running, we've come to learn a few things about comfort. First and foremost, ill-fitting or poorly designed clothing can cause chafing and sore spots that are guaranteed to ruin your workout and slow you down on race day. Secondly, we realize how much comfort increases our enthusiasm for running, thereby helping us get out the door and get our runs done.


The first thing we started evaluating for each jacket was the materials. Most of the jackets we tested were either nylon or polyester, even though they had a wide range of textures. The highest-ranking models based on materials alone included the Patagonia Airshed, whose lightweight fabric was super soft to the touch, and the Icebreaker Rush, whose merino wool interior was unbeatable.

The Rush has a secret: a luxurious merino wool lining!
The Rush has a secret: a luxurious merino wool lining!

Because most of the jackets in this review lacked any stretch, fit made a huge difference in levels of comfort, and our ideal jacket found the middle ground between form-fitting but not constricting. We loved the way the Brooks LSD gave us room in the shoulders without seeming too big. The Gaea was the stretchiest jacket we tested, and its fit was definitely one of our favorites.

Portability


Here at OutdoorGearLab, we're known for getting a little weight crazy. We put everything we test on the scale and debate every single ounce. But let's be real: each ounce doesn't always matter that much. Out for a day hike? Pick the comfort of a pack over its weight. Looking for a warm winter coat? Insulation is typically more important than ounces. After months of testing these twelve running jackets, however, we came to a different conclusion: ounces matter.


No matter who you are, running requires a bit of work, especially compared to some of the other activities we test for here at OutdoorGearLab. Because of this, we find ourselves noticing the weight of our garments more during a run than we would during, say, an evening stroll. We scrutinized the weight of each jacket for this review because we know that you might be using these pieces in races and during events where time really matters. The range of jackets for this review was surprising. Our lightest jackets came in under three ounces, while our heaviest ones weighed nearly eleven ounces.

During any given run, we might face a range of temperatures and weather patterns, especially as we warm up. We might start in a jacket, and then warm up and take it off, only to have the wind pick up and for us to need the jacket once again. With all the possible variations in conditions, we wanted a jacket that could stow away easily when we didn't need it. About half of the jackets we tested for into their own pockets for easy storage, a feature that we appreciate.

The ultra-packable Brooks armband  featured on the LSD and Canopy  was one of our favorite features.
The ultra-packable Brooks armband, featured on the LSD and Canopy, was one of our favorite features.

As a combined score of weight and packability, no jacket impressed us more in this category than the Brooks LSD. At just 2.95 ounces, the LSD also had one crucial feature: the armband. While most of the packable jackets we tested had a clip loop for easy attachment to a pack or harness, the LSD had a uniquely running-specific feature. Its elastic armband means runners can simply strap their layers to them without the need for a backpack or running vest. Genius. (To be fair, the Brooks Canopy includes this feature as well but is quite a bit heavier.)

After the LSD, we'd like to give a shout-out to the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite, Patagonia Airshed, and The North Face Flight RKT for knocking our socks off with their impressive weights and ability to stow away easily.

Features


Months ago, when we were making our picks for which jackets we'd test hands-on, we found a lot of products that claimed to be made for running. But what about them set them apart from the myriad of women's wind breaker jackets on the market? What about women's rain jackets or women's insulated jackets? What we learned is that true running jackets feature a few critical features that are designed specifically for running. We used this scoring category to rate each jacket on how well designed the small details were.


One of the most important features we identified in a running jacket was visibility. For night running through town, reflective stripes or logos are crucial to keeping us safe. They allow drivers to see us, something that's especially important when we can't see them. For that reason, we gave high scores to jackets with ample reflectivity, especially on the back. The most visible jackets we tested were the Altra Performance, Brooks LSD, and Brooks Canopy. To compare, the Arc'teryx Gaea has reflective logoing on the arms and front, but none of the back, which is especially problematic on a black jacket.

Another detail we were looking for in these products was unique storage solutions. Running may seem like a carefree sport, but we often need to bring along quite a few things with us to make our workouts enjoyable. We preferred chest pockets to side pockets to minimize bounce, and zippers were crucial in making sure we don't drop or lose anything. Our testers really enjoyed the Gaea and its combination of zippered front pockets and open rear pockets, especially since Arc'teryx increased the size of these rear stash pockets in the 2018-19 version of this jacket. Being able to throw your glove, hat, and snacks in easy-to-reach pockets that hold things in place without bouncing around was a great asset.

The Gaea and Canopy both have front pockets with a media port. This little hole in the pocket lets you slip your headphone cable into the inside of the jacket. This might seem like overkill, but for every time we've accidentally caught our arm on our cord and abruptly pulled the headphones out of our ears, we're incredibly thankful for this small but awesome feature.

With the Canopy's sleek media port  we never have to go without our favorite tunes.
With the Canopy's sleek media port, we never have to go without our favorite tunes.

Thumb loops were a great feature to find a running jacket, and we loved the stretchy and retractable ones on the Gaea and Canopy. You may be ambivalent about hood including, but we have quite a few thoughts about hoods on running jackets. We did like how easily the Canopy's hood folded away for days when head protection is unnecessary. On the other hand, many of our reviewers felt that a hood was impractical, both for comfort and heat management. Our team generally preferred a hood-less layer in combination with a hat. That being said, if it's actively raining or snowing, a strong brim like the ones on the Canopy and Ultra Jacket did a great job at keeping the rain out of our eyes.

Conclusion


Running is hard, but these twelve jackets are here to make it a bit easier. Over the course of three months, our expert testing team pushed each product to its limit to find out which made the best companions in a variety of weather patterns. We evaluated breathability and airflow to determine which jackets could keep up with our quick paces. We scrutinized each product on weather resistance, from wind to rain to cold temperatures. Comfort was of high importance, and each jacket was judged for its materials, fit, and mobility. All twelve jackets were weighed and scored on their packability. Finally, we looked at all the small details that make a jacket a running jacket. In the end, we're happy to bring you the most comprehensive women's running jacket review available. We feel confident that no matter what you're looking for, you'll find all the information you need right here at OutdoorGearLab.

It's all fun and games with the Brooks LSD!
It's all fun and games with the Brooks LSD!


Lauren DeLaunay