Top Six Running Jackets



On a cold, rainy or snowy day it’s tempting to skip that daily run. But if you’re prepared, and committed, you can cozy up in one of these jackets and still head out. The benefits of exercise are plentiful and proven. Your body and mind will thank you as being outside especially exercising outside is good for your brain.

Don’t let a bit of precipitation or wind stop you from that run. Nobody wants to feel chilled to the bone or damp when the skies burst partway through your run.  It happens, so it’s good to be prepared with a proper outer layer. On a cold day, your main concern will be protection from wind and breathability. You won’t really need the insulation as your body heats up a lot during running.

A running specific layer will ensure you stay dry, warm but not sweaty and more comfortable during your run.

To choose a running jacket we look at 5 criteria:

  1. Breathability
  2. Wind resistance
  3. Water resistance
  4. Weight
  5. Other features such as pockets and hoods.

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Breathability

It’s no surprise that breathability is the number one criteria for a running jacket. Running is a highly aerobic activity, and no matter the distance you run, you will sweat.  Water resistance is the great trade off here. If the jacket is very water resistant but doesn’t breathe well, you’ll sweat heavily and be wet on the inside, making you cold, clammy and uncomfortable. Often jackets that are water resistant don’t breathe well, making them suitable only for the coldest of days when you won’t get so sweaty.  The coldest feeling in the world is when you are soaked in your own sweat.  The wind feels like it’s blowing right through you.

The measure of breathability is related to both the type of fabric used and the design and orientation of the vents.

Water resistance

Most jackets have a durable water repellant finish (DWR). it’s a chemical coating applied to the fabric to give it some water repellence. This method works well to give fabrics some dryness retention.  The DWR coating causes the water just to roll off the jacket, giving a great performance to the jacket and a better overall run.  The only issue is that the DWR finish tends to wear off after awhile, causing the jacket to soak up the rain. However, you can re-treat your shell to bring the DWR coating back to life, restoring the water repellence of your jacket. These treatments work very well and your jacket will feel as if new. We use the Nikwax Tech Wash.

Wind resistance

When it’s warm out and you’re hot, the wind will feel amazing. But in the winter, or in cooler spring or fall weather, the wind can chill you to the bone.  Most of these jackets will perform well with a mild breeze or light wind, but you really start to feel the difference between them during strong gusts of wind.

We notice a huge improvement in wind protection in general when a jacket has a windflap for the zipper. A significant wind will find it’s way through the thinnest openings.

Weight

Weight is important for many reasons, the main reason being, for many runners, the ‘feel’ of the jacket. You’ll also notice it the longer you run. so for long distances and times, you really want to concentrate on getting the lightest jacket. If you’re running races, shedding a few ounces will make a difference in your performance level and you should see it in your time.

Lighter jackets will feel more comfortable than heavier ones because you’re less likely to even notice that they are there. One thing you may want to think about it how restrictive it is in fit. Many lighter jackets will be restrictive, but some will have a good range of motion despite being ultra light. It all really depends on the length of your run. If you are a long distance runner, you’ll really appreciate the lightest jacket out there. If you’re just heading out for a quick one, a slightly heavier jacket will be sufficient and it’s unlikely that you’ll even notice the slight extra weight.

Features

Jacket features are like little extra surprises that make or break your jacket experience. You’ll love some features and won’t want to do without them, and some will just get on your nerves. One thing we find inconvenient is many companies skimp on putting reflective tape on their jackets, likely to save weight. it’s too bad as this extra safety feature is very convenient for runners running at dusk or dawn. It saves an extra step of having to bring a reflective light with you.

Pockets are another major consideration. They are a benefit but are kind of a tradeoff, since more pockets equal more weight.  You’ll find jackets with as many as five pockets, which you’ll find are too much unless you carry lots of stuff with you on your run.  More pockets will mean a much heavier jacket, so you’ll want to be careful with how many you really need. If your runs are longer and you bring lots of gear with you, such as a smart phone, keys, or your wallet, you might like having all these pockets. But remember you’re sacrificing weight for the sake of storage space, so make sure that you really need it.

If you live in a windy area, you’ll love a jacket with a drawstring waist. Unless it has an elastic band that fits perfectly around your waist, the non-cinched waist will allow wind to creep through, giving you chills.

Our favourite running jackets

Here is a list of our favourites for the cold in 2016.

Brooks Bolt Estimated Retail: $140

The Books Bolt Running jacket. Image from Brooks.com

The Books Bolt Running jacket. Image from Brooks.com

This jacket is thicker and more insulating, hence heavier and a little more stiff with movement.  It’s suited for cold weather running.  It also features a media pouch and and a cinch at the hem of the jacket.

Arc’teryx Incendo Estimated Retail: $119

The Arc'teryx Incendo jacket is one of our favourites. It's available from Backcountry.com and many other retailers.

The Arc’teryx Incendo jacket is one of our favourites. It’s available from Backcountry.com and many other retailers.

This jacket is lightweight and it has impressive compressibility: it packs right into your jacket. It’s also one of the best for breathability, thanks to two large mesh panels.  The jacket is also very wind and water resistant, drawstring waist to keep out the wind, and a media pocket for your smartphone. The jacket is very lightweight at only 5 ounces, particularly impressive when you consider it’s wind and water resistant qualities.

Saucony Sonic Reflex Estimated Retail: $135

The Saucony Sonic Reflex jacket

The Saucony Sonic Reflex jacket features great reflective design. Image from Backcountry.com

This jacket has a great reflective ‘trickle down’ pattern design on the torso which is awesome for dawn, dusk or evening runs, making you super visible.  The fabric has a nice, soft feel, a zipper that’s snag proof and good breathability with stretchy mesh underarm panels.  We recommend this jacket for a moderate climate, neither cold nor warm, but somewhere in between.

Sugoi Zap Run Estimated Retail: $160

The Sugoi Zap run jacket in the mens version.

The Sugoi Zap run jacket in the mens version, image from Moosejaw.

This jacket is great for those gusty windy days.  It’s not particularly breathable compared to the other jackets in this group, but it has tons of features which make it heavier.  It has velcro wrist cuffs, a drawstring waist and zippered pockets on the waist.  Use it in stormy weather.

Adidas Supernova Storm Estimated Retail: $75

The Supernova Storm jacket in the womens version. Image from Holabird Sports.

The Supernova Storm jacket in the womens version. Image from Holabird Sports.

This jacket is quite a bit cheaper than the others listed here, and has good features.  The thin, stretchy back panel eliminates excess heat. The soft shell nylon front panel blocks out the cold wind.  The jacket has reflective graphics on the sleeves and shoulders that illuminate when hit with light, but are practically invisible otherwise.

Marmot DriClime Windshirt Estimated Retail $95

The Marmot DriClime jacket in orange haze. Image from Paragon Sports.

The Marmot DriClime jacket in orange haze. Image from Paragon Sports.

This jacket is both warm and breathable with good wind resistance. It’s the perfect pick for cold days, keeping you dry while you run thanks to the large surface area of the inner lining, which dissipates excess heat. It’s quite heavy and the lack of reflective material are a concern, but if the wind picks up, you won’t even notice.  The mesh panels add to breathability. Overall this jacket is a great choice for cold weather runs.

Where to Buy

These jackets are available at a variety of retailers, check our outdoor gear price checker for sales.

Alicja

Alicja

Alicja is an economist, enjoys climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, cycling and gets out into the backcountry as much as possible. See all of Alicja's Blog Posts
Alicja
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