How to choose a running jacket ?
Don’t want the wind, snow or rain to keep you from getting out for a run? As soon as the temperature drops or the weather deteriorates, you’re going to need a running jacket to keep you dry and protect you from the cold. Here’s some advice on how to choose the right one.
What to look for in a running jacket.
The main purpose of a running jacket, like any outer layer, is to protect you from the elements while maintaining breathability. Learn more about the 3-layer system.
Levels of protection
Running jackets provide three levels of protection:
- Protection from the wind: wind makes you feel cold, especially when you are sweating. This is widely known as the windchill effect. A windproof running jacket will protect you from cold air, which indirectly makes you warmer.
- Water repellency: in light rain or snow, a water-repellant treatment keeps moisture from entering the garment.
- Waterproofing: thanks to a Gore-Tex type membrane, protection against moisture is further increased. Waterproof jackets might be more expensive, but they provide the best protection against bad weather. The Schmerber scale measures how waterproof a membrane is, and we consider a result of 10,000mm or higher to be waterproof.
The breathability of a running jacket is its ability to release perspiration. This is really important for staying dry during physical exertion. In fact, if a jacket isn’t breathable the water vapor produced by your body while you are moving stays inside the garment and condenses. This means you get wet from the inside of the jacket!
The breathability of a fabric is measured in MVTR (Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate). We consider membranes with readings starting at 10,000 MVTR to be sufficiently breathable for running.
Running jackets without a membrane are generally considered to be breathable enough for active use.
Features to look for in your jacket
Here are some of the features and finishes you should look for when choosing a high-quality jacket:
- Waterproof seams are achieved by gluing a band of waterproof membrane to the inside of the jacket’s seams.
- Waterproof zips, or a waterproof flap over the zips, are also critical for keeping a jacket fully waterproof.
- An ergonomic hood preferably with a small integrated visor that keeps water from running down your hood onto your face.
- An adjustment cord at the bottom of the jacket to help regulate ventilation.
- Specific-use pockets for example, pockets that are specifically designed to hold your telephone, credit card, or keys)
- Reflective bands allow you to be more visible when running in low light conditions.
Choose your jacket according to the weather conditions:
I often run in dry conditions but the wind makes me cold.
Choose a windbreaker that provides effective protection when you are moving in cool or cold weather.
Because there is no membrane, windbreakers are very breathable and allow perspiration to escape while you are active.
Windbreakers are thin and compressible, which makes them useful all year round. Stuff one into your backpack when you’re trail running and, to keep from getting cold, slip it on over your t-shirt as soon as you begin to feel chilly.
Although they don’t have a waterproof membrane, windbreakers do have a water repellent treatment that’s enough to protect you from a light rain and they are very affordable. It’s the first jacket to think about buying if you want to run year round.
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I sometimes run in light rain or light snowfall.
Complete your running outfit with a water repellent jacket. This type of running jacket features a treatment that prevents raindrops from penetrating the garment. The water beads on the outside of the fabric and slides off without getting the jacket wet.
A water repellent jacket that doesn’t have a membrane is very breathable and allows sweat to escape more efficiently. It also provides adequate protection against a downpour or light rain when you’re out for less than an hour.
I’m not afraid to go for long runs in the rain.
Invest in a high-quality, waterproof running jacket and it will become one of your favorite pieces of gear on your most epic runs.
When we talk about a waterproof jacket like Gore-Tex or Pertex jacket we’re talking about a fabric with a membrane. Alongside the water repellent treatment, the role of the membrane is to prevent moisture from penetrating the garment while also providing as much breathability as possible.
The quality and price of a waterproof jacket depends significantly on the performance of the membrane. You can evaluate a membrane by looking at its waterproofing (Schmerber) and breathability (MVTR) ratings.
To learn more, read our article about Gore-Tex membranes. As a reminder, we consider a garment with a 10,000mm Schmerber rating to be waterproof, and a garment is sufficiently breathable starting at 10,000 MVTR (Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate). The higher these ratings, the more waterproof and breathable the membrane. Entry-level waterproof jackets usually feature membranes that are rated at 10k/10k. We then jump to 20k/20k which are most popular with regular athletes, followed by 30k/30k at the high end of the range.
In summary, your running jacket options are:
- A windbreaker, which is an essential piece of gear.
- A water repellent jacket for runs of less than an hour in slightly wet conditions.
- A jacket with a waterproof/breathable membrane for long runs in the rain or snow.
“There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!”
So, based on our advice and newly equipped with a good running jacket you’ll no longer be able to blame the weather for not going out for a run… ;-)