Running jackets are a special breed. These ultra lightweight, yet supremely breathable pieces are designed to keep you moving when the foul weather arrives. Of the dozens of jackets researched, four were chosen to move forward in our testing battery. This included input from multiple testers in a range of activities, not just running. These jackets were used on trail runs, fast-packing trips, mountain ascents, bike tours, multipitch climbs, rainy race days, and more. After months of using the jackets, we get a better idea of the successes or downfalls of each piece. Running wear is no exception to the ever-improving outdoor gear industry: these jackets are made with the latest-and-greatest fabric technologies and bring clothing performance to a new level.
Montane’s Minimus 777 is the best all-rounder for waterproof running shells we’ve seen. While slightly less breathable and a few grams heavier than others, the Minimus impressed our testers with its great weather resistance and versatile fit. Choose the Minimus 777 and you might just stay dry on your next rainy ultra.
Though The North Face’s HyperAir GTX is fractions of an ounce heavier than its direct competitors, it also offered better weather-shedding ability than jackets of similar construction. The HyperAir does not include a stuff sack or self-storage pocket, but featured several shockcords for adjustment on the go.
Road and trail runners alike will enjoy the simplicity of this feather-light shell. Unlike its counterparts, this piece features no pockets. The Norvan SL Hoody is supremely breathable for its level of water protection, but let more precipitation in through the front zipper compared to others in this test.
The Gore One was the lightest jacket in our testing lineup at 4.1 ounces. It tied for first in the breathability category, and packed into its own chest pocket beautifully. Unfortunately, its leaky front zipper dampened the One’s weather-shedding ability.
The highest performers in the Fit/Comfort category were the Montane Minimus 777 Pull-On and Arc’teryx Norvan SL. These products just slightly outperformed their counterparts by being soft against the skin, articulated for a variety of movement and accommodating a range of athletic body shapes.
The products that proved to be the most water-tight were the Montane Minimus 777 Pull-On and TNF HyperAir GTX. These jackets not only performed well outdoors in stormy conditions, but also kept water out during five minutes under a high pressure shower head. Important components that made these jackets so weather-resistant included sealed seams and YKK AquaGaurd zippers. The Gore One Jacket and Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody had similar shower test performance, both leaking from the front zipper.
The top picks for packability went to GORE’s One Jacket, with the Montane Minimus and Arc’teryx Norvan not far behind. These products were exceptionally compressible and lightweight, and the two stuffed into their own pocket for convenient storage. GORE’s One Jacket was the lightest weight piece at 4.1 ounces, while the heaviest jacket was The North Face’s HyperAir GTX at 4.8 ounces.
A three-way tie with little discernible breathability went to TNF’s HyperAir, GORE’s One, and the Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody. Coincidentally, these shells all implemented the same waterproof-breathable membrane, Gore-Tex Active with Shakedry technology. Not far behind was the Minimus 777 from Montane, whose Pertex laminate did not breathe quite as well as the Gore-Tex entries.
The top performer in the Function category was Montane’s Minimus 777 Pull-On. With its helmet-compatible hood, long sleeves and snug elastic cuffs and waist, this shell offered versatility in use for a range of different activities.
Every review is a chance to enhance our knowledge of how outdoor gear is used and performs; the waterproof running jacket tests were a perfect example of this principle. Our testers put these products through the ringer to see what worked and what didn’t.
In this test, we became acquainted with new technologies recently made available to consumers. For example, the new Gore-Tex Active membrane with Shakedry technology is rapidly becoming the industry’s standard for foul-weather active wear. This new technology reduces the weight and bulk of waterproof, breathable fabrics by bonding an extremely thin liner directly to the membrane, which acts as the face fabric itself. The result of these processes yield mind-blowing lightness, breathability, and compressibility of fully waterproof jackets.
The shower test served as a reminder that a shell’s weather-shedding ability is only as watertight as its zippers and seams. A user cannot expect a jacket to keep water out if the seams are not sealed and zippers are not highly water-resistant. Unfortunately, two jackets in our fully waterproof test using new Gore-Tex technology, the GORE One and Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody, fell short of their waterproof expectations. Our testers observed the most common leak was at the zipper, despite both claiming to have a high level of water-resistance. Moving forward, our testers would like to see more products with this new species of Gore-Tex paired with better sealing zippers in order to combine the best of both worlds.
On the topic of zippers, it wasn’t by accident that Montane’s Minimus 777 Pull-On earned the Best In Class award. This jacket used a YKK AquaGaurd zipper for both the front half-zipper and pocket. Smart design allowed the product to perform well in the shower test too: a half-length front zipper means half the chance of water penetrating the surface. The YKK AquaGaurd is the same zipper used on the TNF HyperAir, which received an equal grade for it’s nearly identical weather-shedding ability.
Take a good look at your desired performance characteristics using our mini-rating criteria scores and descriptions before making a gear investment. Different products made with a range materials vary in performance depending on the conditions. Use our in-depth reviews to inform your decision, and go with the running shell that will suit you best.
Athletes demand clothing that moves with them: sleeves long enough for a wide range of movement, a waist band that doesn’t ride up, and a hood that stays put in windy conditions, are all part of a complete package. In addition, the fabric against the skin should be comfortable to avoid chaffing and pockets should be placed strategically to minimize jostling of items.
An outer layer’s ability to resist weather is not only a matter of comfort and performance, but also a matter of safety. Outdoors folks need shells they can trust when the weather turns for the worst, which is why we test our line up in a range of conditions. In addition to field testing, our lineup is subjected to the shower test, which is exactly what it sounds like. Five minutes of exposure to a high-pressure, cold water shower allows our testers to simulate downpour conditions and make notes of when and where any intrusion occurs.
An item’s packability not only refers to its packed size, but also the ease of storage, compressibility, and net weight. A simple scale allows us to verify the actual weight of the product compared to the manufacturers listing. By testing these products in a range of activities, testers develop a sense for how small they pack down to stow in a running vest pocket or small pack. Our testers preferred products that have a stuff sack built in, usually by reversing a pocket with a dual-sided zipper. While separate stuff sacks are one more thing to keep track of, one of the most common fail points on self-stowing jackets is the dual-sided zipper.
Given that running is a sweaty endeavor for most people, breathability in a running shell is paramount. Instead of using cup methods to measure air permeability, which can poorly simulate real-life use, our testers use products in a wide variety of environmental conditions and energy outputs to represent the gear use of outdoor athletes. Our testers charge uphill on rainy trails, cruise the streets on early morning outings, and sweat buckets on warm days to make observations about what range of outputs and weather are suited to each piece.
The functionality of a running shell might include features like pockets, elasticized waist bands, zippered vents, and how they all work together. The ingenuity of outdoor gear manufacturers shines in this category. We look for innovative approaches to the running jackets that really work, and point out the ones that still need modifications.