You’ll Need One of These Lightweight Running Jackets for Unpredictable Weather
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A lightweight running jacket is one of the more versatile staples a runner can have in their closet. It’s arguably the most important piece for long runs since it can be stuffed in a hydration vest or handheld pack if it warms up outside during your run, or if you need warmth for warm-ups and cooldowns, but plan to hit your intervals hard.
This essential apparel can help you get through miles in the dreaded “shoulder season” where it’s too warm for a heavy jacket, but if you skip the wind protection, you end up shivering through your miles. A water-resistant and windproof shell can even be a winter basic since it can handle even below-freezing temps if you choose your layers properly.
Here are the best lightweight running jackets you can buy now that combine fit, breathability, and resistance to wind and rain—with bonus points for style.
The Expert: I’m no stranger to gear reviews, having written for Bicycling, Runner’s World, and other outdoor publications for nearly as long as I’ve been a runner. And I’ve been running for 15 years—though the first chunk of that was as a triathlete. Even in those dark days, the lightweight running jacket has always been a staple.
I’ve run long miles in gloomy Belgian and Irish winters, and survived years of running on the East Coast where temperatures can flip on a dime during shoulder season. Now I spend most of my time in Ontario, Canada, where even in the dead of summer, having a lightweight jacket in your pack is an absolute must.
I know how important the perfect lightweight running jacket is for your arsenal: Nothing is quite as useful for those runs that start chilly and end steamy.
Best Lightweight Running Jackets
What to Look for in a Lightweight Running Jacket
When the forecast calls for changing conditions, the best move is to layer up with a lightweight jacket that can be peeled off and carried by hand once freezing rain gives way to 50-degree sunshine. A thin, windproof layer will likely be your lightest option for cold, dry mornings; however, a shell with a DWR- or other water-resistant finish will keep you drier if it starts to drizzle.
Ripstop nylon tends to be the best fabric offering weather-resistance without adding weight, which is why you’ll find that it comprises the build of so many of our favorite jackets here. However, it’s not fully waterproof on its own. It’s simply water-resistant.
If you’re looking for a jacket to keep you dry in a deluge, you might have to seek out one with taped seams and some added weather protection, like Mountain Hardwear’s Stretch Ozonic, which is made from elastane and nylon, or GoreWear’s Shakedry jacket, which uses hydrophobic polyamide over a waterproof membrane.
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Weather-resistance and breathability tend to work against each other, so the search for a jacket that can resist mid-run swampiness but also protect you from wind and rain is akin to a unicorn quest. If breathability is your top priority, lightweight wind jackets tend to provide the best release of sweat vapors. For water-resistant jackets, look for strategic vents and perforations in the fabric that help contribute to overall airflow.
What makes these jackets so indispensable is their ability to pack down when you no longer need them. Each of them can be stowed into a zipper pocket or stuffed into the tiniest corners of your gym bag or running backpack. Some lightweight jackets can even be worn around your wrist or as a mini-backpack mid-run. This way, you don’t have to magically predict the weather before your long run or race—you can bring a lightweight jacket along in case the sky starts to open up at mile 5, and strip it off and stow it again when the clouds clear at mile 9.
How We Evaluated Lightweight Running Jackets
To choose my recommendations for lightweight running jackets, I used my own hands-on experience during the past six months running in New Jersey, North Carolina, and Ontario, Canada, as winter finally finished up.
I also looked to the experience of Runner’s World Test Editor Amanda Furrer and freelance writer Caitlin Giddings, who laid the groundwork for this roundup. I further relied on the feedback of the magazine’s wear-testers, a group of more than 50 dedicated runners who helped evaluate the jackets on fit, breathability, weather resistance, packability, quality, and value.
R7 Shakedry Hooded Jacket
This lightweight rain shell is in almost every jacket roundup of ours because, well, most of us have been using it for years. There’s nothing fancy about it. It’s basic black, has a simple hood, a single zipped pocket, and the fit is tight-but-not-too-tight. Yes, it’s as basic as it gets, but it also will last you for years.
As the name says, the Shakedry jacket truly does shake dry, making it easy to stuff back into your pack when the storm has passed. It’s saved me on more than one run, and it’s handled a wash/dry cycle more often than it probably should.
If you’re a cyclist in addition to being a runner, here’s good news: It has the best on-bike fit out of all of the jackets that we have recommended here.
The only downside is the high price tag, but also its limited availability since it can be hard to find. If you snag one, you won’t regret it.
This jacket’s superpower is that it’s extremely breathable—when we conducted a fabric-permeability test using a hot sauna, the Canopy released more vapors than any other waterproof running jacket in our lineup.
Its combined light weight and packability make the Canopy the perfect layer for unpredictable weather when you may have to stash or zip up. A longtime favorite from Brooks, the jacket also has a stowable hood so it won’t flop behind your head as you run. The front pockets feature a snug compartment—your phone slides right in.
We’ve been raving about this lightweight rain shell for at least a decade. In that time the jacket has only gotten better in terms of design and style, thanks to some new patterned options.
The Houdini is made from recycled ripstop nylon with a DWR finish that keeps the wind and rain out without adding weight, though this comes at the expense of some breathability. It’s loaded with practical but simple features like a drawcord hem and sleeves, a zipper chest pocket, and a hood that can cinch down so it won’t flap around in the wind.
A carabiner loop on the zipper chest pocket makes the jacket easy to stuff into a ball and tote if it becomes too toasty to wear.
The ON Zero is lightweight—so much so that the undyed version is thin enough to be see-through. It’s a good jacket to stash in a pack so that it’s always on hand, and it takes up almost no space.
This option will keep you comfortable on chilly mornings (or looking cool at the coffeeshop post-run. The cobalt dye on the sleeves turns this simple jacket into a fashion statement).
Because it’s so thin and only water-resistant—not waterproof—it’s only cut out for wear in a light drizzle. This is not the jacket for a full-on downpour. Note: If you find hoods more annoying than helpful this is a great choice. The reasonably high neck helps keep your core warm without the worries of a hood flapping around.
Reflective Convertible Jacket
If you run in the early morning or late at night, visibility is as important as warmth. With its woven-in fluorescence, high contrast, and 3M Scotchlite Carbon Black Stretch reflectivity, the Brooks Reflective Convertible Jacket will make you nearly impossible to miss on the roads.
For early risers who run until the sun is up and the heat starts rising, there’s an added benefit to this jacket: It stows as a pack that you can wear as a vest—and even the vest is covered with reflective accents. In addition to being highly visible, this convertible has all the standard bells and whistles of a regular running jacket including a water-resistant DWR treatment and a hood that can be stowed if you don’t need it.
Rainrunner Pack Jacket
Finding a raincoat that doesn’t feel like one of those early Nineties sauna suits is tricky, which makes rainwear options for those medium-temperature days difficult for runners.
For those spring showers, the Janji Rainrunner Pack Jacket is a must-have. It’s fully waterproof with taped seams and DWR coating, but the fabric is lightweight and still feels breathable thanks to 360-degrees of venting around the core.
The fit is slightly loose but still ergonomic—and for those who want a jacket that can work over one or two layers, the generous space is welcome. My favorite little extra? The jacket folds up into one of its pockets, and there’s a built-in elastic carry strap so you can easily hold it in your hand to finish your run if temps warm up.
Bonatti Aero Wind
The Bonatti Aero Wind lightweight jacket is the easiest to tuck into a pocket or a pack once you’ve folded it up into its own chest pocket. Every effort has been made to shed weight in this jacket, including laser cut holes on back and underarms to improve airflow and save a milligram or two. In fact, it’s a great jacket to keep stashed in your regular run pack for emergencies.
The jacket is coated with a PFC-free durable water repellent so it can stand up to light showers, and it’s fully windproof. Because it’s meant to be ultralight, consider sizing up if you know you’ll occasionally double up on layers underneath: it does have a slimmer fit than most windbreakers.
The ON Weather Jacket is fun and stylish, yet all business when it comes to performance. The polyamide fabric is treated with DWR to render it water-repellent, but the fabric maintains serious stretchiness. While the stretchy aspect may not seem immediately important, it makes a huge difference when you add an extra layer underneath.
There are plenty of other adjustable elements that we love for dialing in the fit: the hood has a drawcord for when the weather gets bad, there’s another drawcord at the waist so you can opt to tighten it up or let it flow. The hidden chest snap lets you increase air flow when temperatures begin to rise.
Stretch Ozonic Jacket
The Stretch Ozonic is made of soft fabric that’s waterproof and abrasion-resistant. You can secure the cuffs around your wrists or upper arm by adjusting the Velcro tabs. The jacket packs down into a zippered pocket for portability (though more likely for packing into a suitcase or duffel, since it’s too bulky to easily carry on a run).
Testers were kept dry running in the Stretch Ozonic but found themselves becoming sweaty later in their run due to little ventilation. Zippered underarm vents provide more airflow; however, unzipping them results in “a lot of exposure to rain,” said a tester.
NDO Wind-Block Mockneck
This cozy mid-layer falls somewhere between running shirt and jacket—it’s made from the same soft, Merino wool of the brand’s Downeaster hoodie, but it has integrated wind panels that span the front and upper back to give it a wind-vest effect. It also has a wind-paneled mock collar to keep you cozy.
When Caitlin Giddings tested this out on a crisp but sunny morning in Texas, she immediately loved its sweater-like warmth, wind shield, and classic New England style. Once she started moving, the boxy, just-below-waist fit was perfect—neither too tight nor too baggy. She considers it her most comfortable running layer for cold and windy days when there’s little chance of precipitation.
Hood or No Hood? Expert Molly Hurford Tells You! Plus, The Answer to How Many Layers You Need Underneath Your Lightweight Running Jacket!
Should a lightweight running jacket ideally work for three seasons?
Definitely. A good lightweight jacket should take you from temperatures hovering below freezing up to the mid-50s with a bit of chilly rain. For runners in southern parts of the United States, a lightweight jacket should get you through the winter entirely.
For runners in cooler climates, it’s all about the layering. (And yes, every runner needs one of these types of jackets). Even if you live in sunny Florida, if you’re a trail runner who often ventures out on solo missions, a jacket like this is great to have tucked in your pack for emergencies.
How many layers should I be able to comfortably wear underneath a lightweight jacket?
Ideally, two layers should fit under your lightweight jacket—a base layer and a slightly heavier top, though if you prefer a snug fit, one layer underneath will suffice. Room for two layers allows you to use the lightweight coat for almost any temperature.
If you wear a base layer or heavy long-sleeve top to run, the jacket should allow for a full range of motion in your arms. Otherwise, if it’s too tight in the shoulders and arms, you may notice that you end up with numb hands after a few miles.
Should my lightweight running jacket have a hood?
Hood or no hood, that is the question. This is a personal choice, but arguably, secret option C is the winner here: A removable hood or a really well-thought-out hood stowage situation elevates a jacket.
Hoods are great for long slogs in torrential downpours, but reality is that 99.9 percent of the time, they’re just flopping around and annoying. When debating a jacket with or without a hood, think about what you do for headgear.
If you’re often using a cap or a hat, you probably don’t need to stress about a hood, but if you’re usually bare-headed, a hood can be a convenient addition.
If you’re planning on using this lightweight running jacket as your primary raincoat, then a hood might be a necessity. Typically, for a lightweight jacket of this nature, skip the hood, or look for a jacket that has the stowing option or a way to fasten down the hood.
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