The Best Running Jackets for Wind

Fall has arrived, and with it comes the cooler weather. Be it for an alpine ultra or a Sunday long run, you’ll need a lightweight shell to keep the chill off. We sought out the best wind-resistant shells available, and put six through our testing battery. After months of use in a wide variety of conditions and activities, testers gave feedback on which jackets were designed best for each purpose. The running shells chosen for this test are supremely breathable, lightweight and packable. Each piece uses subtle differences in order to serve the user best. This guide offers strengths and weaknesses for each jacket, plus suggested applications. We’ll elaborate on the five test criteria used to score the jackets and how they were tested. Read on to discover which shell best suits your needs.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie W
92
Best in Class
2016
Weatherproofness 7
Breathability 9
Function 9
Fit/Comfort 7
Packability 10

Lightest weight of all

Great wind protection

Fantastic hood design for warmth and dryness

Many ventilation options

Excellent, athletic fit

Less water resistant

Paper-thin fabric vulnerable to snags

MSRP
$110.00
BEST DEAL
$67.23
Outdoor Research Tantrum Hooded Jacket
90
Weatherproofness 8
Breathability 6
Function 9
Fit/Comfort 9
Packability 8

Really nice, high-quality fabric

Innovative carrying system

Roomy fit permits full range of motion

Good water beading

On the heavy side for this category

No venting

MSRP
$110.00
BEST DEAL
$66.27
Patagonia Houdini Full-Zip Jacket Men’s
89
Best in Class
2016
Weather-shedding 6
Breathability 7
Function 8
Fit/Comfort 9
Packability 9

Ultralight

Excellent fit

Stylish

Less water-resistant

Non-reflective

MSRP
$99.00
BEST DEAL
$99.00
Salomon Fast-Wing Hoodie
88
Weather-shedding 4
Breathability 9
Function 8
Fit/Comfort 8
Packability 9

Lightest jacket in Test

Comfortable hood band

Less water resistant

Less adjustability

MSRP
$110.00
BEST DEAL
$67.23
Lululemon Surge Jacket
87
Weather-shedding 8
Breathability 8
Function 9
Fit/Comfort 6
Packability 6

Highly water-resistant

Stylish

Vented pit zippers

Bulky collar

Heaviest jacket in test

MSRP
$128.00
BEST DEAL
$124.99
Outdoor Research Tantrum Jacket
87
Weather-shedding 5
Breathability 8
Function 9
Fit/Comfort 8
Packability 7

Waist belt storage system

Stretch fabric

Low reflectivity

Less water resistant

MSRP
$88.00
BEST DEAL
$66.27
Pearl Izumi Barrier LT Hoody
86
Weatherproofness 9
Breathability 8
Function 6
Fit/Comfort 5
Packability 8

Terrific wind and water resistance

Back venting boosts breathability

Stylish design; athletic fit

Well-designed hood stays in place

Fit a little snug through the chest

Sleeves ride up in high wind

Rear pocket could use some tweaks

MSRP
$95.00
BEST DEAL
$65.99
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Jacket
86
Weather-shedding 7
Breathability 6
Function 7
Fit/Comfort 7
Packability 9

Hood storage system

Highly weather resistant

Ultralight

Less breathable

No hood closure

MSRP
$100.00
BEST DEAL
$56.95
Saucony Exo Jacket
85
Weather-shedding 9
Breathability 6
Function 7
Fit/Comfort 6
Packability 7

Waterproof

Reflective & visible

Poor fit

No self-storage pocket

MSRP
$140.00
BEST DEAL
$75.07
Stio Women’s Second Light Jacket
84
Weatherproofness 4
Breathability 5
Function 7
Fit/Comfort 10
Packability 8

High-quality, comfortable stretch fabric

Solid wind protection

Stylish fit with nice drop hem

Subtle, well-designed thumbholes

Fabric wets out very quickly

No venting

In light rain, sleeves get clingy and cold

MSRP
$109.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Brooks LSD Jacket
78
Weatherproofness 10
Breathability 3
Function 4
Fit/Comfort 4
Packability 7

Windproof and water resistant

Creative design with good range of motion

Ultralight and packable

Armband carry system impractical

Sleeves ride up in high wind

Tries too hard to look “feminine”

MSRP
$98.00
BEST DEAL
$49.99
Swix Cyclon Packable Wind Jacket
75
Weatherproofness 4
Breathability 8
Function 3
Fit/Comfort 5
Packability 5

Terrific wind protection in dry weather

Excellent venting and breathability

Packs into its own pocket

Does not perform well in rain

Sleeves ride up in high wind

Heavier than comparable jackets

Side pocket design flaw

MSRP
$100.00
BEST DEAL
$100.00
Patagonia Houdini Full-Zip Jacket Men’s

This impressive piece from Patagonia blocked a surprising amount of wind and offered one of the most comfortable fits in its category. The Houdini’s limited DWR finish means you’ll get wet in anything heavier than a light misting.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Backcountry.com

Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie W

Salomon created yet another fantastic, high-end product for mountain runners that stands heads and shoulders above the competition. At a scant 2.55 ounces, the Fast Wing W offers exceptionally light, packable weather protection, with a number of thoughtful, innovative design touches that really take this jacket to the next level. A few areas wetted out more quickly in heavier rain.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at CampSaver.com

Lululemon Surge Jacket

While the Surge was the heaviest jacket in our test at 263g, it is fully loaded with features and style. Zippered vents at the armpit make this jacket breathable, while hood storage in the collar gives users the option to go hoodless.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Outdoor Research Tantrum Jacket

The Tantrum Jacket from Outdoor Research provides users with a hip belt to carry the jacket when packed, had good breathability, but was less water-resistant than others in its category.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Saucony Exo Jacket

Saucony’s Exo Jacket is a light, bright, and weatherproof jacket. While the fit of the jacket is not as comfortable as others in this test, the Exo’s phenomenal water-shedding place it at the front of the testing line-up but comes at a cost.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Jacket

Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Lite Jacket uses the same shell fabric as the renowned Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket, and is one of the lightest minimalist running shells available. It’s wind and water resistant qualities outperformed many jackets in its category, making it an ideal cold weather or emergency shell for gram-counting athletes.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at LeftLane Sports

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Review Results

Fit/Comfort

The highest performer in the Fit/Comfort category was the Patagonia Houdini. This product outperformed its counterparts by being soft against the skin, articulated for a range of movement and accommodating a variety of athletic body shapes. Salomon’s Fast Wing and Outdoor Research’s Tantrum also earned good marks in this category, while the Saucony Exo performed poorly. The Exo’s fit felt boxy to our testers, plus the laminated fabric was less comfortable against bare skin compared to other materials.

Weather-shedding

The product that proved to be the most water-tight was the Saucony Exo. This jacket not only performed well outdoors in rainy conditions, but also kept the majority of water out during five minutes under a high-pressure shower head. The Exo was the only shell in this test which featured a laminate construction and sealed seams, alluding to its shower test performance. Lululemon’s Surge Jacket performed second best in this test, with leaks occurring around the zippers and seams. The Outdoor Research Tantrum Jacket was the worst performer in the shower test, allowing water through its fabric almost immediately.

Packability

The top picks for packability were the Patagonia Houdini, Salomon Fast Wing, and Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite. These products were exceptionally compressible and lightweight, and all stuffed into their own pocket for convenient storage. Testers preferred the packed size of the Fast Wing and Houdini because they had the smallest volume, perfect for stuffing into the running vest. The Exo Jacket from Saucony and the Surge Jacket from Lululemon were the heaviest products in the test, and because they featured no self-storage pocket or stuff sack, did not pack well.

Breathability

The most breathable piece in this test was easily Salomon’s Fast Wing Hoodie. Testers praised the built in venting at the armpit and innovative chest-snap that allowed zipper-down running. Second best breathability was awarded to Patagonia’s Houdini Jacket, despite its lack of vents. Saucony’s Exo and Lululemon’s Surge Jacket offered the least breathable construction in the test.

Function

The most functional jackets in this test were the Outdoor Research Tantrum and Lululemon’s Surge. The Tantrum featured an innovative waist-belt carry option, while the Surge had an adjustable waist and cuffs, zippered pit vents and multiple pockets. The Exo Jacket from Saucony and Ghost Lite Jacket from Mountain Hardwear offered the least functionality of the testing lineup.

The Tantrum features an innovative elastic belt for a convenient carry option when not in use.

Review Conclusion

In this test, we saw an example of how a well-balanced product, the Patagonia Houdini, can make for a GI best-in-class rating. Our testers gravitated towards this piece for its ultimate versatility. Jack of all trades, master of none: this product performed well, but not necessarily best, in every category. While specialized athletes should look for a piece suited directly for their needs, the Houdini will serve the rest of us well. The Houdini scored particularly well in the fit and comfort category, which became an important aspect when scoring the jackets. Details like pocket placement, hood shape, and cuff diameter affected the product’s user interaction, and thus the grading of each and every piece.

The shower test shows that a shell’s weather-readiness is only as good as its zippers and seams. We saw several shells in this test with highly water-resistant fabric, but we cannot expect a jacket to keep water out if the seams are not fully sealed and zippers not watertight. A good example is Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Lite Jacket. The 15 denier Z-Grav face fabric on the Ghost is incredibly wind- and water-resistant, however, without taped seams, water entered through the seams and zippers under pressure. Even in the case of the Exo from Saucony, a seam-sealed piece does not always guarantee dry garments beneath, as some leakage did occur. Our testers observed the most common leak in the testing was at the zipper, while the second most common was through the shoulder seams.

Our mini-rating criteria scores and descriptions give you in-depth information about the performance of each product before you make the investment. Different products are best used for certain activities, and the large range of materials used can perform optimally depending on the conditions. Use our analyses to aid your choice, and invest in the product that will suit you best.

Side by side comparisons allow additional insight to the strengths and weaknesses of each product.

Test Methods

Fit/Comfort

Athletes demand clothing that move 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.

Weather-shedding

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 lineup 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 shower allows our testers to simulate downpour conditions and make notes of when and where any intrusions occur.

Packability

An item’s packability not only refers to the item’s 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 manufacturer’s 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.

Breathability

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.

Function

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.