What to look for in a waterproof jacket for running
Running demands a lot from a waterproof jacket, including great fit, useful features, low weight…
A good waterproof jacket will make all the difference to running in wet, windy weather – here are our top tips for choosing the best one for you.
When it comes to waterproof jackets, it’s likely that no one style will suit all of your requirements all of the time. That’s why outdoor shops are filled with every conceivable weight, fabric and design of jacket fitted with features and benefits for every possible scenario. To make your choice simpler we’ve split them down into three main categories that fit with most runners’ main activities. In reality, most people will get by with one or two jackets – perhaps a heavier one for walking and a lighter one for running, but when you’re parting with this much cash it’s important to get it right and there are some key things you need to look for. So if you’re looking for the perfect waterproof(s) for all your running needs then read on:
1.The Everyday/Run Commuter Jacket:
If you’re after one jacket for everything: run-commuting, stashing in a rucksack, rainy Sunday afternoon strolls and general running then this is it. Perhaps a little warm and heavy to run in for anything longer than your warm-up and definitely too bulky for mountain marathons, but a good, comfortable, well-performing all-rounder. This is an everyday jacket so it needs to be light, packable and tough enough to stand up to a lot of use, including being worn under a rucksack. If you’re wearing it for commuting or road running visible colours and reflective details are important, along with a couple of zip pockets for things like train tickets and keys. It doesn’t have to have a hood, and it’s often better not to have one, especially if you use it on a bike as well. Comfy fabric that doesn’t rustle when you run is important, and look for vents that will improve breathability. A good jacket in this category will probably set you back in the region of £100 to £200.
Some of our top picks are the Jack Wolfskin Exhalation Texapore XT (RRP £140, 290g, men’s medium, 265g, women’s medium), which is comfortable, tough, well cut and ethically-produced with bluesign accreditation. A step up in price, but beautifully-made and also a bluesign product is the Haglofs LIM III (RRP £200, 240g, men’s medium, 205g, women’s medium). The Saucony Razor Jacket (RRP £140, 204g, men’s medium, 165g, women’s medium) is light, with soft, comfortable fabric, lots of vents down the back and great reflective detail. It doesn’t have a hood, but for winter road-running it’s a great piece of kit.
2. The Super-light Race Jacket:
Many races, especially those that venture into exposed or weather-affected areas, or those over longer distances or multi-day, require that you carry a waterproof jacket. Most will need it to have taped seams and a hood, and the lighter it is the easier it will be for you to carry. Athletic cut is essential so it doesn’t hinder your running, as is weatherproofness to offer you protection in the horrible weather that will inevitably be a feature of the race. We’d recommend going minimalist as you are likely to have a bag or race vest anyway, so pockets are optional, although a zip pocket for a key or whistle might come in handy. This is likely to be the least durable of your jackets, and a lightweight waterproof that’s designed specifically for racing probably won’t last that long in normal use. The best of these jackets tend to be around the £150 to £200 mark: a reasonable outlay for a jacket you’re only going to use for certain races, but well worth the investment if your racing calendar is packed with epic ultras and mountain marathons.
We recently tested lightweight waterproof running jackets for Trail Running Magazine and the Inov-8 Race Elite Stormshell (RRP £150, 150g, men’s medium, 140g, women’s medium) got best in test. It’s lightweight, simple, really good to run in and has an excellent hood. The OMM Kamleika Race Jacket II (RRP £160, 280g, men’s medium, 240, women’s medium) has been tried, tested and developed over many years as the perfect mountain marathon wear and strikes a great balance between weight, comfort and weather protection. We also really liked the astonishingly-light Berghaus VapourLight Hyper Smock (RRP £100, 75g, men’s medium, 65g, women’s medium) but it’s definitely a race-only piece of kit.
3. The All Mountain Jacket:
This is a jacket is for extreme weather running: perhaps an epic race like the Dragons Back or the Spine Race, or simply for moving fast in the mountains in poor weather. Its main function is to offer maximum protection against the weather, so expect extra weight but better durability. A couple of companies make a running-specific jacket in this category, but it’s also worth looking at lighter-weight alpine mountaineering styles designed for high energy active use. Mountain jackets tend to use GoreTex or Event or other branded and established waterproof membranes and are usually more expensive; the flip side of this is if you walk, climb or ski then it will be great for that too. These jackets are often on the steep side of £200 and can be well over £300, but they will last and perform well so can still be good value per wear in the end.
The Berghaus Vapour Storm (£270, 329g, men’s medium, 301g, women’s medium) jacket is a full-spec mountain jacket designed specifically for running. It uses GoreTex Active fabric and is very well-vented, creating one of the most breathable jackets we’ve ever run in. The Jottnar Hymir smock (£230, 330g, men’s medium) is a technical mountaineering smock made from Polartec NeoShell. Its active cut and stripped-down design translate very well to a running jacket; this would definitely be our pick if you were after one jacket for multiple winter sports. Sadly they don’t yet do a women’s version but hopefully this is something they’re planning for the future. Slightly lighter in weight but still offering fantastic weather protection and comfort is the Arc’teryx Norvan jacket (RRP £270 215g, men’s medium, 195g, women’s medium). Designed for fast-moving activity in wet and windy weather this jacket could tick all the boxes for the perfect all-round waterproof – and has a price tag to match. A great option on a smaller budget is the Rab Spark Jacket (£140, 315g, men’s medium, 270g, women’s medium). This is designed for climbing and adventure racing, it’s nice to run in and uses Pertex Shield fabric which is soft and rustle-free, although it may be less durable than the more expensive jackets.
What to look for…
Once you’ve decided on the type of jacket you are after you need to try a few on. We’ve found the cut and sizing varies quite a lot between brands and even between models within a brand; you need to try a jacket on over running kit and even go for a little run around the shop in it. Regardless of the type of jacket and your budget you need to consider the following points:
To keep your waterproofs performing as well as they can they will need regular washing (but not after every run) and this can be done easily at home in your washing machine. Follow the care instructions on the label and use a specific washing product like Fibertec, Nikwax or Grangers, and don’t ever use a biological detergent or fabric softener. I reviewed Fibertec in a recent blog and included the whole washing process, you can read it here.
A good waterproof can make running in extreme conditions a lot of fun – enjoy!
We always welcome any comments or suggestions, so if there are any jackets we should look at, please let us know.