Lost in the search for the perfect running jacket? Our expert review team researched fifty of the top women's models on the market and carefully selected twelve for hands-on testing. We then spent months running, hiking, climbing, and traveling in these layers, evaluating each product side-by-side to its competitors. Our testers worked up a sweat to investigate breathability, ran through rain, wind, and cold to evaluate weather resistance, and awarded higher scores to the most comfortable models. We loved products with increased portability and visibility, and our all-time favorites were those who excelled across the board. Whether you're on the search for an ultra-lightweight adventure partner or a comfortable workout companion, we've got you covered.
The Best Women's Running Jackets of 2018
In the spring of 2018, we dedicated ourselves to the pursuit for the best running jacket. We ran all over California to test these twelve products on breathability, weather resistance, comfort, portability, and features. Our top scorer was the Patagonia Airshed, a lightweight, comfortable layer best suited for windy days where portability is key. Next up was our Best Buy, the Brooks LSD, which brings some awesome features and portability to the table. We awarded three Top Pick winners, all for different weather conditions: rain, cool temperatures, and winter conditions. No matter where you live or what kind of running you do, we've got all the info you need.
Best Overall Running Jacket
Patagonia Airshed - Women's
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 only 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
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
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
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 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
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 awesome 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
If you've ever gotten caught out in the rain during a Sunday long run, you know the importance of having a weather resistance layer. And if you've ever been distracted by chafing during an important race, you know that comfort is essential to performance. Because we wanted to find the best jacket out there, we reviewed our twelve favorite products on five factors: 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.
Our parents told us to never discuss money, but here's the part of the review where we get into the nitty-gritty of value. Generally speaking, value is the intersection of a product's overall score and its retail price. And while it should be that simple, we know that it isn't.
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 absolutely essential to the type of 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 $189 Arc'teryx Gaea. We urge you to really 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.
We know as well as anybody that one great way to enjoy the outdoors is slowly and peacefully. But that's not what this review is about. 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 and permeable 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 enhance airflow to our sweatiest areas, typically the underarms and back.
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 jacket will be of the utmost importance to you.
If we had it our way, we'd only ever have to run under perfectly 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 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 the 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 an elongated downpour.
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 great exceptions. The first of these is the Canopy, whose warmer 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.
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. Comfort matters, and we were determined to find out what makes a jacket the most user-friendly.
The first thing we started evaluating on each jacket was the materials. Most of the jackets we tested were either nylon or polyester, 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.
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.
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 definitely more important than ounces. After months of testing these twelve running jackets, however, we came to a different conclusion: ounces matter.
When we're running, we're asking our body to work a bit harder, and we notice our gear holding us back more than we do during some other, slower activities. We scrutinized weight in this review, and we awarded light jackets much more heavily than their heavy counterparts. The range was surprisingly large: our lightest jackets came in under three ounces, while our heaviest ones weighed nearly eleven ounces.
There's one other factor that significantly affects portability, and that's what we call "packability." Our testing team wanted to know how easy it was to stow these jackets when we didn't need them since we're so susceptible to changing conditions and temperatures when out for a run. While many of the jackets we tested fold away into one of their own pockets, five out of twelve did not, and their scores reflected this.
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.
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.
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. Our testers really enjoyed the Gaea and its combination of zippered front pockets and open rear pockets. The Canopy's front pockets have a media port to slip your headphones through, which was one of our favorite details.
Thumb loops were a great thing to find a running jacket, and we loved the stretchy and retractable ones on the Gaea and Canopy. Whether or not a hood is important is up to you, and this review was nearly 50/50 on hood inclusion. We did like how easily the Canopy's hood folded away for days when head protection is unnecessary.
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.
— Lauren DeLaunay
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.