We’ve updated this buying guide with new selections for 2016. Our picks from previous years can still be found on the next page.
If we had it our way, every run would start and finish in perfect weather. But Mother Nature’s idea of perfect isn’t always warm sun and a cool breeze. For those of us not living in a Nike commercial, sometimes the long mileage day may start with a thunderstorm or a few inches of snow. Instead of rolling over and heading back to sleep, grab a good running jacket and start pounding out those miles. Whether you’re just heading around the block a few times, working on your interval training or putting in a marathon, these running jackets are made for soldiering through the tough stuff.
Montbell’s Tachyon jacket is one of the most packable that we’ve used. When you don’t need it, simply squeeze it down into the stow pocket, which is the size of a candy bar, and stash it in your fanny pack or key pocket. The Tachyon also features mesh under arm vents to keep you ventilated where you need it most.
Patagonia Houdini Pullover
The pullover design of Patagonia’s Houdini keeps it ultralight and provides fewer potential places for wind to penetrate the jacket. It also features a DWR finish that repels water if you get caught in an afternoon shower. The Houdini runs slim, so if you like your jacket to fit looser, size up.
If your runs take you off the beaten path, the Incendo has you covered. While it weighs a bit more than your typical running jacket, it has a few added touches that make it a great trail running jacket like cinches at the waist, a rear pocket for your phone and a DWR finish to keep you dry.
Montane Featherlite 7
Montane’s new Featherlite 7 packs down to the size of an apple, and as its name implies, it weighs almost nothing. The 48-gram jacket packs into its own collar, as opposed to a pocket, which eliminates the need for a zipper other than the main one on the front. As a safety feature, the jacket also has reflective touches to keep you visible at night.
Salomon S-Lab Hybrid
Salomon’s S-Lab Hybrid jacket, as its name implies, is a hybrid zip-up pullover. It zips three quarters of the way down and features a stretchy waistband that holds the bottom of the jacket in place. The waistband also acts as a stuff sack for the jacket when it isn’t in use. It also comes with an articulated hood that provides protection while still offering ample field of view.
La Sportiva Hail
Editor’s Pick: Apparel technology is improving every year. Increasingly, jackets no longer have to compromise between breathability and warmth. The Hail’s combination of light weight, flexibility and good ventilation makes it ideal for a wide range of conditions. What sets it apart is its weather resistance and packability, which make the Hail jacket a great outer layer for everything from running in freezing rain to ski touring in heavy snow.
Brooks LSD Jacket
Best for Running on a Budget: Brooks’ latest update to its LSD line of waterproof running jackets is lighter than ever, coming in at under four ounces. With back vents, a reflective strip and the ability to pack into its own pocket, it’s perfect for distance runners. It also boasts a cinch hood. A list price of $98 gives this fully featured jacket unbeatable value, especially considering that the the weight of gear is usually inversely proportional to its cost.
North Face Animagi
Best for Very Cold Weather: Runners in very cold climates need a jacket with insulation as well as protection from the elements. The Animagi pairs a windproof exterior with a FlashDry core to keep runners warm on January mornings. Features include reflector strips, a media pocket, and a high collar to keep the wind out. It’s essentially a winter coat designed for runners who refuse to be intimidated by what their thermometer tells them.
Westcomb Switch LT
Best for Extreme Weather: The Westcomb Switch LT’s minimalist design is designed to be bombproof first and foremost. Everything from its cinch cord to its fully taped seams is meant to keep heat inside and the elements out. It’s meant for alpinists, but its flexibility and comfort makes it the best choice for runners determined to go out in the worst winter has to offer. Features like media and bicep pockets and smartly placed ventilation will serve mountaineers and hardcore winter runners alike. It also breathes surprisingly well for such a heavy shell. For those determined to run outside every day, forecast be damned, the Switch LT will be invaluable — just remember that a snazzy jacket is no substitute for good judgement.
Nike Shieldrunner Flash Jacket
Best for Urban Running: If you’re more of an urban adventurer, the Nike Shieldrunner jacket has all the features you need to not only brave the weather but some of the obstacles you’ll encounter on a run through dark city streets. With storm flaps and bonded seams, it keeps water out with the best of them. An adjustable hood allows you to tailor it to the conditions. The Flash was designed with visibility in mind: the entire upper jacket is reflective, perfect for low-light running in a city.
Asics Men’s Performance Run Lightweight Jacket
Best for Ultra-Distance Runners: This lightweight Asics jacket has plenty of wind and rain protection for when you need it and packs down into an unobtrusive ball for when you don’t. And with a neck designed to prevent chafing, it’s perfect for ultra runners.
Smartwool PhD Run Divide
Best for Layering: You don’t need a doctorate to know a merino wool running jacket will be warm — but windproof? The Run Divide is both. It has all the features one would expect in a running jacket, like a chest pocket and reflector strips, but what’s really great about this jacket is the SmartWool insulation and the athletic yet comfortable fit. This jacket does a great job regulating moisture and body temperature, so a rain jacket or heavy shell can be placed over the Divide without sacrificing too much comfort, making it an ideal outer layer on cold days as well as a middle layer in bad weather.
Janji Men’s Windbreaker
Best Windbreaker: Build quality and stylish design aren’t normally something that one would associate with a windbreaker, but Janji’s offering is an exception. Its wind resistance rivals any jacket, and since it’s made of laminated jersey material, it’s perfectly comfortable for running and daily use. Its versatility is matched by truly eye-catching design. If only all running apparel was this good-looking. Plus, every Janji windbreaker purchased funds three years of drinking water for one person in Tanzania.