A quality run jacket makes running in cold weather easy and, dare we say, even enjoyable. But there is a lot to choose from, with waterproof running jackets, lightweight running jackets, and windproof running rain jackets all vying for your attention.
And if, like many runners, you warm up quickly, it’s possible that you’ve been put off running jackets in the past, having had the unpleasant ‘boil-in-the-bag' experience.
Or perhaps you like the idea of a running jacket that packs into a pocket but you’re not convinced by how much difference it would make.
Thankfully, advances in fabric technologies mean that whatever kind of runner you are and whatever the weather holds in store, there’s a running jacket that will protect you from the elements in comfort.
We’ve created this guide to help you to understand the range of running jackets available so that you can find the perfect one for you.
What run jacket features do you need?
Depending on the kind of running you do, you’ll have different demands and expectations from your kit.
For example, if you run long distances off-road you might need carrying capacity for food whilst road runners doing shorter distances can get away with something a bit lighter.
Here are a few common features to take into consideration.
A lightweight running jacket that can pack down into the corner of a gym bag or pocket is perfect to have on hand in case the weather takes a turn. Most are water-resistant, which means they'll withstand a bit of drizzle but will eventually soak through.
Packable jackets that are fully waterproof and breathable used to be pretty hard to find but GORE has found the magic formula with their Shakedry fabric.
Whilst some runners prefer looser styles and others prefer a more streamlined fit, the key here is to wear something you can move in. When you try it on, do you have your full range of arm movement?
If you'll be scrambling up and down inclines or incorporating some mobility drills into your workout, look for jackets that incorporate stretch panels and flatlock seams that won't irritate.
If you want a close-fitting jacket, make sure that it does up easily without feeling restrictive when you're taking deep breaths.
Modern running jackets are made to be breathable. If the skin can't breathe, you end up feeling clammy which can have a chilling effect.
For higher-intensity activity, look for jackets that have armpit vents which allow body heat to escape without letting the cold and rain in.
What kind of weather will you be running in and for how long? If you're running shorter distances in urban areas you might be able to get away with a more lightweight water-and-wind-resistant jacket.
If you're battling the elements for a prolonged period of time, it's worth investing in something that will offer protection. As well as water-and-wind-proof fabrics, look for:
- Taped seams so your jacket doesn't leak.
- Adjustable cuffs so you can seal warmth in and keep the rain out.
- A peaked hood that won't blow down.
- Mesh lining to keep moisture away from the skin, or fleece lining for added warmth.
If it's jacket-weather, it's likely to be during the darker months. Hi-viz colours will make you stand out during daylight hours - they work by reflecting what little light there may be around and can appear up to 200 times brighter than conventional colours.
If there's no daylight, hi-viz colours become a lot less effective so make sure your jacket also incorporates some reflective elements. Retro-reflectives bounce light back in the direction it came from which means they glow under headlights and street lights.
Think about how far you'll be running and what you'll be carrying. Pockets add bulk and complexity which can push the price up. If you run shorter distances, you might be able to get away with no pockets at all. If you normally go far enough to need energy top-ups, you may want capacity for snacks.
Music lovers should look for media-specific pockets which normally have cable-routing to keep headphone cables out of the way.