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How motivated you are to step out into a shower—and how long you’re willing to train in the rain once you’re there—often comes down to how well your jacket performs against the elements. Rain jackets for runners come in a range of options, from lightweight shells to heavy-duty outerwear, and with a variety of features, such as hoods that cinch, pockets to pack into, and reflective trimming. There’s also the fabric’s water-resistance and breathability to consider. Read on for tips on how to buy a rain jacket that fits your running style, followed by our reviews of the best after extensive testing.
Waterproof: A fully waterproof jacket, like the Showers Pass Cloudburst Jacket, uses material and construction that make it much more resistant to moisture, even during long runs and heavy downpours. Sometimes you’ll see a jacket’s waterproofness represented in units: 10K/10K, 15K/15K, or 20K/20K. Using 10K/10K as an example, the first number means that, in testing, the jacket withstood up to 10,000mm of water pressing on one square inch of the fabric before it started to leak. The second 10K indicates the 10,000 grams of water vapor per square meter that the jacket can release from the inside. A 10K/10K jacket is best for mild rain, whereas a 20K/20K rating means the garment will protect you from Niagara Falls-like downpours (sort of).
Water-repellent: When a garment’s material is treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating—like the fabric in Tracksmith’s Off Roads Packable Jacket is, for example—water beads up on the surface and can’t easily penetrate. A factor to consider: Like a running shoe’s midsole, a jacket’s DWR finish won’t last forever. How long depends on frequency of usage and exposure to water (typically 20 “washes”). Check to see if water droplets roll off the surface; if they stick and absorb into the fabric, the coating likely isn’t working anymore. But that doesn’t mean it has to be relegated to dry days only. Twenty minutes in the dryer on low heat or a spray-on application, such as Grangers Performance Repel Plus ($14), can restore your jacket’s DWR finish.
Water-resistant: A shell, like Cotopaxi’s Teca Light Half-Zip Windbreaker, provides a thin, water-resistant layer between you and the elements, but also allows water to sometimes soak through during extended exposure to the rain.
A waterproof jacket is great for staying dry, but it can be a hotbed for swampy heat midrun. In a controlled, indoor setting, we performed a fabric-permeability test to measure how much water vapor passes through the material. We cut—yes, cut—patches from several jackets, banded them over Styrofoam cups filled with 50 grams of desiccant beads (porous beads made of silica gel), and weighed them. Then we put the cups on a perforated tray and sealed them over a bain-marie (a type of heated bath). After two hours, we went back to the cups, removed them from the bain-marie, and weighed them again, recording the difference in weight pre-sauna. This test was to assess each jacket’s breathability, the warm vapors from the bain-marie representing the sweat and heat our body generates during a run.
Know that, since this experiment was performed in a controlled environment, certain variables like movement and wind will cause different results. Another thing to factor in is that this test focuses on only the fabric’s breathability, excluding perforations, mesh, and vents that help circulate airflow.
Results: The Brooks Canopy was made with no mesh, vents, or perforations—and no wonder. According to our permeability test, the Canopy’s thin, lightweight polyester was proven to be the most permeable out of all our jacket samples. Old Navy’s Go-H2O Water-Resistant Utility Jacket weighed in as the “least” permeable, yet it was also the only jacket we tested with an interior mesh lining. In a natural setting (say, worn outside running in windy, drizzly conditions), however, the jacket, which has a relaxed, flowy fit, proved to be breathable and not stifling.
How We Chose the Best Rain Jackets
Besides putting them through lab testing, we seeded these jackets to more than 50 local wear-testers for vetting. Our team logged several runs, using their own observations to evaluate wind- and rain-resistance and breathability, as well as comfort and fit. We’ve included some of their comments below.
Fourlaps Men’s Adapt Run Jacket
Permeability: 51.2 g
The Adapt is the only jacket on this list without a DWR finish. But it blocks wind efficiently with its recycled nylon material and facilitates airflow with perforations on the front, sides, and back. These perforations, along with the relaxed fit, made the jacket a win for our tester, who liked how it was unrestrictive and added a range of motion in contrast to those with a more tailored fit. “The freedom of movement this jacket afforded was shocking,” he said.
Brooks Canopy Jacket
Permeability: 51.7 g
According to our permeability test, this jacket is extremely breathable; its cup weighed the heaviest post-bain marie sauna. The Canopy has a stowable hood so it won’t flop behind your head as you run, and front pockets with a snug compartment to slide your phone into. Its lightweight and packability make it the ideal for unpredictable weather when you may have to stash or zip up.
Tester Feedback: “This jacket has a bunch of unique features that I sort of geeked out about. I mean, why has it taken so long for someone to think of putting snaps on the front so you can completely unzip while you’re running without the awkward coat cape or committing to taking it off and needing to stash it mid-run? And why hasn’t anyone ever thought of adding a built-in bag with draw cords that double as straps so you can wear it on your back when the temperature jumps.”
Oiselle Women’s April Showers Anorak
Permeability: 50.9 g
The April Showers Anorak packs down into the front zipper pocket and has a hood that rolls up and stays put via a strap on the collar. Our tester praised its fit—not too tight, nor too loose—and was impressed with how it cuts through the wind during a 10-mile sub-freezing run. For such a lightweight jacket though, the price may be a little steep for some.
Old Navy Women’s Go-H20 Water-Resistant Hooded Utility Jacket
Permeability: 50.4 g
Old Navy’s jacket warrants attention for two stats: the sub-$50 price and that it comes in sizes extra small to extra-extra large. The capability is there as well. Our tester stood under her showerhead to test the Go-H2O’s water-resistance and was satisfied. And it’s windproof, too. “I ran on a windy day and didn’t once feel the wind break through the jacket,” she said. “I liked the collar as it came up and protected my neck.” The hem and hood have adjustable metal drawcords, but the fit is slightly boxy.
Tester Feedback: “I liked that I could cinch the bottom. [During the water-resistance test] in the shower, it repelled the water, and I would feel confident wearing this in rain or snow.”
Cotopaxi Teca Light Half-Zip Windbreaker
Permeability: 50.9 g
Cotopaxi’s Teca line is made of repurposed and recycled materials, which are DWR-treated rip-stop nylon and polyester taffeta. Each vibrant, ultra-lightweight, unisex Half-Zip Windbreaker is basically a limited edition since no colorway combination is exactly the same. You can tuck your hands into the kangaroo pocket in the front and store the small necessities—like keys you don’t want plopping down a sewer—into the zippered drop pocket. Testers liked the protective high neckline and appreciated how the hem hit just below the hips.
Janji Zephyr Runner Jacket
Permeability: 51.1 g
Like Brooks’s Canopy, the Zephyr Runner has a chest snap, which allows you to unzip the jacket while running with minimal flappage. In fact, every detail was added with running in mind: Vents in the back allow even more airflow, the entire shell can be stuffed into the front zipper chest pocket, and reflective logos on the back and front provide some visibility in low light. The water-repellent finish is also PFC-free, making it eco-friendly (PFCs are man-made chemicals that break down very slowly once released into the environment).
Tester Feedback: “I think for a packable shell, this is a really great option. It’s lightweight and won’t burden you if you have to take it off, but I also didn’t overheat as the back panels were plenty breathable. For the upcoming spring, this is something you are going to want to have in your closet for the rainy, windy unpredictable Northeast weather.”
Tracksmith Off Roads Packable Jacket
Permeability: 50.9 g
The Off Roads Packable is woven with Swiss fabric that’s treated with a Nanosphere DWR finish, which gives it a thin water- and dirt-repellent layer. Our testers were impressed with the workmanship that went into this incredibly featherlight shell. The upper back has a mesh vent for air flow, a zipper garage prevents neck chafing, and the cuffs have smooth, elastic stitching. The jacket packs down into a zippered pocket, and you can carry it easily in your hand with help from an elastic band.
Tester Feedback: “The pockets are actually really amazing. I ran one day with a carabiner on my keys, and it was like it was barely there. I like that the pockets run deep to the zipper with a slight downward angle into the pocket. I ran with keys and my iPhone 8 Plus and it wasn’t terrible. You can absolutely pack this down to almost nothing as a lightweight emergency layer.”
Hoka One One Gore-Tex Shakedry Run Jacket
Permeability: 51.5 g
The Shakedry is a boon to ultrarunners in for a wet forecast as they attack triple-digit mileage. The jacket is fully waterproof and makes drinkable water easily accessible on the go. Front zippers serve to both provide ventilation and allow access to soft bottles or flasks stored in the strap pockets of a vest or pack. (The jacket is expandable, fitting up to an eight-liter pack underneath). Its true-to-fit sizing allows full range of movement.
Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Jacket
Permeability: 51.3 g
The Stretch Ozonic is made of soft fabric that’s waterproof and abrasion-resistant. It kept testers dry in the Stretch Ozonic, but they found themselves becoming sweaty later in their run due to little ventilation. Zippered underarm vents provide some airflow, however unzipping them results in “a lot of exposure to rain,” said a tester. Other perks include Velcro tabs for securing the cuffs around your wrists or upper arm. And the jacket packs down into a zippered pocket for portability (though likely for packing into a suitcase or duffel, since it’s too bulky to carry on your run).
Showers Pass Cloudburst Jacket
Permeability: 50.6 g
Showers Pass makes the Cloudburst with EliteAir, a three-layer polyester fabric that has a whopping 43K/10.2K breathability-waterproof rating. Reflective trimming on the zipper, pockets, shoulders, and cuffs enhances visibility against the ivory or orange colorway. The Jacket has a tailored fit yet is roomy enough for layering, making it a great option in the rain and snow.
Tester Feedback: “This running jacket has a solid mix of quality, usefulness, look, and feel. What I liked most about the jacket was the material, specifically, the waterproofing. The stretchy material is very thin and comfortable to run in. It is quiet and breathable but still kept me warm and blocked out a lot of the wind. This is one of the more impressive running jackets I’ve run in.”
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