Reviewing 10 of the Best Waterproof Running Jackets
Review of the Best Waterproof Running Jackets
Are Waterproof Jackets Good for Running?
That’s a good question. For years I avoided bringing waterproof running jackets into our shops. Too often waterproof jackets were heavy, didn’t breathe well enough, or were awkwardly loud. I’d put one on only to end up sweating buckets inside the shell fifteen minutes later. Or, I ended up feeling like I was running in a schwooshing parachute. The alternative was to go with a water resistant “hard shell” or a softer, stretchier “soft shell”. The “resistant” function offered some water and wind proofing treatment, splitting the difference, but forgoing runs in heavy rain. It was a slippery slope from ineffective waterproof running jackets, to not wearing a jacket at all. That seemed to work for awhile, but there were a couple specific runs which recently challenged me to reconsider.
Eating My Words
In late 2019 I was in a line showing with Janji, a great apparel company based out of Boston. Within the pre-production line was their RainRunner Pack Jacket. I relayed my feelings on the shortcomings, and questioned necessity of waterproof running jackets. Not a week later, I set off for a longer run under light rain with temps in the low 40’s. I’d figured my Scott packable wind and water resistant shell would be enough. The rain got heavier and, quickly drenched and cold, the run quickly turned miserable. What should have been a long mileage day was reduced to a few miles and packing it in. Sometimes, having a water proof option may not only keep you on track to get the miles in, but also be necessary for safety.
Bailing From the Ridge
This past October, my wife and I, in a rare child-free opportunity, set off over the ADK’s Dix Range. The fall foliage was prime, and although the summits appeared mired in clouds, I was excited for the adventure. Our plan was to cover five or six peaks on a loop format, over the next eight hours. A decent amount of needed rain that week left the creeks flowing, and any foliage still remaining on tress pretty saturated. It was near impossible to avoid water and mud holes. Brushing against any foliage quickly saturated any non proof fabric. By the time we passed over our first summit (Dix), visibility was 30 feet, snow was mixing into steady light rain, and winds were light but consistent.
I had the benefit of wearing an Inov-8 StormShell. So long as I was moving, I was both dry and comfortable. My wife was wearing a Patagonia Houdini Air, a beautiful, but not waterproof jacket. She was pretty wet and getting increasingly cold. Much of our ascending on the day was behind us, and the ridgeline was still beautiful despite the limited visibility. It would have been great to start picking off summits. For her however the prospect of remaining on the ridge to do just that quickly lost appeal. Further, doing so may have proved an unsafe choice. So we made the decision to descend instead, dropping back off the ridge.
We covered the same distance and time out, but nabbing one summit instead of six. Had she been wearing a waterproof running jacket for the effort, we probably would have stuck to the plan. So what goes into a great waterproof jacket for running which may have changed the course of our day?
Finding a Waterproof Jacket (actually good) for Running
Thankfully waterproof jackets have continued to improve. Fabrics such as Pertex and FutureLight, are being used to create waterproof jackets actually good for running. But how do you tease out or compare the jackets out there?
A common breathability and waterproof testing mechanism called Hydrostatic Head testing, or HH. Its value can be used to quantify and compare, and is expressed in mm. For that test, fabrics are placed beneath tubs. Levels of water or air are forced through under pressure, with the break points establishing the HH rating. The higher the rating, the greater the water proofing or breathability. In my experience that classification is useful. Jackets with comparable ratings, and those reviewed in our lineup of jackets, seem to offer a baseline of 10,000mm HH. Often that is both waterproofing and breathability. For a more casual effort, or for someone who doesn’t run hot, or are only running in light rain, that baseline of 10,000 may be just fine. Others running at higher intensities or for longer durations, may need a rating of 15,000 to 20,000.
Not all companies release their proofing data however, including Gore-Tex and North Face. Others like Saucony provide metrics, but which don’t have much meaning to a laymen like myself. For some of those that do release the fabric metrics, not all fit and features are equally solid or useful. So, how can you know what actually works? Well, it’s a good thing we’re doing some of that legwork in running them for you.
Are the More Expensive Waterproof Running Jackets Necessarily Better?
Yes, and No. The low end is a bit risky as to whether the fabric will actually do the job for running. $150 may be a sweet deal on price. If the fabric just doesn’t breathe, you’ll be generating buckets on the inside and it’ll have been $150 wasted. The top end by contrast is a bit fuzzy in worth. Those higher end waterproof running jackets may use fabrics with outstanding proofing or breathability. However, the extra feature sets don’t always make sense for most runners. As we’ll get into below, a 3.7 oz shell may be ridiculously light and breath well, but if the low weight means a sub-par hood, a crux feature for some people is lost. If a fabric such as Shake-Dry does just that, but has an awkward fit in the arms or cut across the back, the function of the fabric doesn’t much matter.
Our Review of 10 of the Best Waterproof Running Jackets
To help you sift through what’s out there with an eye for those considerations, we put some miles into ten of the best waterproof running jackets currently on the market. We’ll also make mention of others to consider that we just didn’t have on hand to test. We’ll go through the ten in alphabetical order. To close we’ll give you our votes for best overall, and in a few categories. Alright, let’s dig in.
Waterproof / Breathability Rating: 20,000 HH and taped seams
Weight: 6.2 oz / 175 g
Material: 100% Polyamide with PU membrane
Features: welded front zip, corded hood, pocket with cord pass-through, upper zip snap, thumb-loops
Rich: I like the slide-through thumbs and the highly adjustable hood but the jacket fit me very poorly. It was baggy throughout and seemed to bunch up around my waist. Perhaps some of this would be mitigated by a smaller size though. It has a nice, lightweight material but the material didn’t seem to repel water as well as the other jackets that I tried.
Ian: I really like this jacket. It has a thin really light softshell feel. The inner fabric doesn’t feel as laminated as the RaidLight or Salomon’s, and the fit is solid for my body. The 20k rating I can feel vs 10k’s and I didn’t get the inner clammy feel. I like the thumb loops and the hood when synched down, ends up with the tightest fit of the lineup. The aesthetic is clean and I’d wear it casually as well as well as in technical surroundings.
Inov-8 Ultrashell Pro Full Zip
Waterproof / Breathability Rating: 20k / 40k
Weight: 3.7 oz / 106 g
Material: Pertex (100% Polyamide with Polyurethane Membrane, 100% Polyester reverse)
Features: Lighty elastic hood, zippered pocket on left arm, spot elastic at hem
Ian: At only 3.7 oz, I knew it was there, it was tough to actually feel the jacket at all. Especially given how ridiculously light the shell is, the waterproofing and breathability was pretty exceptional. The hood was just so-so in fit / function which is a crux piece for me. Sleeves at the wrist and waist, both lightly elasticized were decent in fit and th look is simple and clean. The high price-tag and so-so hood would be deal-breakers for me given the number of other good options. For someone however looking for a functional shell, where low weight is a number one priority, this would be tough to beat.
Janji RainRunner Pack Jacket
Waterproof / Breathability Rating: 10k / 10k
Weight: 8 oz / 229 g
Material: 100% polyester with “C0” water repellency (PFC-free)
Features: 360 degree panel venting, two zippered hand pockets, elasticized hood, internal chest pocket
Rich: Caution – I might be ranking the Janji slightly too high since I’m a big fan of the brand. I found the Rainrunner to be an interesting change of style from the other jackets with the front and back vents, which seemed to aid in breathability, and the overall style/cut of the jacket was more aesthetically pleasing to me than the Salomon and Inov-8. The material wasn’t bad and seemed to repel the rain pretty well. I like the internal pocket (vs. external). There was no way to adjust the hood, which is disappointing and would likely prove annoying if you had to wear it for a length of time.
Ian: The Rainrunner is a nice shell. It offers a clean design, not looking too techy, and making it work for casual use as well as in the tech / race community. The 360 degree vent paneling is a pretty nice design. The fabric itself isn’t the most breathable in our lineup but the vents do balance out the breathability. The hood has a decent fit without the need for additional cords, and the wrists lay pretty smooth on top of the hand.
North Face Flight FutureLight
WP / Breathability Rating: NF does not release performance metric / rating
Weight: 8.9 oz / 254 g
Material: 20D 90 G/M2 3L Futurelight – 88% Recycled Nylon, 12% Elastane Woven with DWR
Features: lower back center zip pocket, corded hood w/ cord vent
Rich: A bit on the heavier side but it feels like it would be the most durable of the jackets since it isn’t ultra-thin. The slightly heavier material also provided more protection from the cold and wind, and I could imagine using this jacket on bitter cold days in the snow. I really liked the streamlined fit of the jacket with no front pockets and a pretty form fitting body. The back pocket is a decent feature although I’m not sure how much use I would get out of it. The hood locked down well and was comfortable.
Ian: It’s not the lightest or most packable in the lineup of waterproof running jackets, but it’s my choice for top fabric in feel and function. It feels like a thin softshell vs a traditional laminated waterproof jacket. It felt most comfortable next to my skin and, speaking to both waterproofing and breathability, was one of the only jackets in the mix to leave me without water beads on the inside of the fabric and on my arms. The hood design wasn’t the best of the bunch, but it was pretty solid. The pocket in the rear removes the possibility of a front protrusion on the chest being a point for water collection or seam porousness. It has clean lines and would be one I’d be apt to wear casually as on the run.
Raidlight Extreme MP+
Waterproof / Breathability Rating: 15k / 15k
Weight: 7.8 oz / 220 g
Material: 100% polyamide, membrane: 100% polyurethane
Features: Two zippered side hand pockets, corded hood, thumb loops, watch window
Rich: Super comfortable. It is lightweight and flexible, which would be particularly nice if doing workouts or long races in rainy conditions. For a waterproof jacket, the Raidlight is “breathable.” And it does an excellent job repelling the rain. It’s most nifty feature is a clear, plastic panel on the left wrist so you can check your watch without pulling up your sleeve on nasty days. That’s proven to be more handy and I’ve used it more than I expected. I appreciate that it lays flat at the waist rather than having elastic or drawstrings, which I find to be annoying in a running jacket. The jacket’s fabric is incredibly thin so I’d worry slightly about durability. It has the general annoyances of a waterproof jacket—i.e. it’s noisy when you have the hood up.
Ian: I really appreciate the feature considerations in this jacket. The watch panel is definitely a functional piece with thumb loops just below on the wrist to keep the cuffs in place and improve the fit on the backside of the hand. There pit fabric panels are more breathable and there’s reflective hits throughout. It has a slim fit, cool euro technical design, and with reflective hits on front and back. The fabric feels really light, but it does have a laminated feel on the inside. It also has a traditional shell audible crunch or whoosh which takes it down a bit in my lineup. Breathability is okay, but not the best of the bunch.
Salomon Bonatti Pro WP Jacket
Waterproof / Breathability Rating: 20,000 HH
Weight: 6.8 oz / 194 g
Material: 100% Polyamide, “Pertex Shield” (higher breathability, 3 layer construction)
Features: elastic (“Smart”) hood, pocket with cord pass-through, reflective hits, pack expansion on back, upper zip snap (“Smart vent”)
Ian: The 20k rated Pertex Shield fabric works quite well. The water beaded off with no noticeable trace of permeation to the inside. It seemed to breathe pretty well though without noticeable sweat on my arms, or coating the inside of the shell. The expansion panel on the back, designed to throw over and accommodate a vest remained fitted unlike the S/Lab Motionfit jacket. The overall fit felt greater in volume than the Bonatti regular. The sleeves at wrist laid flat and the lightly elasticized waist draped smooth. The snap vent on the chest works well for sporadic venting, such as when climbing, and the reflective hits can cross over to some road mile application. The hood fit was okay but not as good as some of the others in the lineup. Its elastic fit set down well over my head but with a headwind tended to kick up and back a bit, without a point of adjustment to synch it down.
Salomon Bonatti WP Jacket
Waterproof / Breathability Rating: 10,000 HH “Advanced Skin Dry” (10kmm waterproofness, 10k g/m2/2h breathability)
Weight: 7.1 oz / 200 g
Material: 100% Polyamide
Features: elastic (“Smart”) hood, pocket with cord pass-through, reflective hits, rear vents, upper zip snap (“Smart Vent”)
Ian: I was pretty curious as to how different the Bonatti would feel and function versus the Bonatti Pro. Many of the features are similar including fit, snap-vent, elasticized hood, wrist cuffs, and pocket. A first differentiation is that the Pro has an expansion panel in the back to accommodate hydration vests versus the regular’s micro-vents. The second is the fabric. The regular uses Polyamide giving it 10k waterproofing / breathability, whereas the Pro uses Pertex, with the added layers offering 20k waterproofing / breathability. Initially I considered a possible placebo angle in feeling the difference between 10k / 20k, and given both are comprised of Polyamide. But, in running several shells, I do notice a real difference between the 10k and 20k levels. The cost of the regular at $180 is definitely more of a bargain buy. My feel, in running them both back to back however is, that if you’re going to drop that much, that the additional $40 to get the 20k of the Pro version is worth it.
Salomon S/Lab Motionfit Shake-Dry Waterproof Jacket
Waterproof and Breathability Rating: Gore doesn’t release the numbers.
Weight: 5.8 oz / 165g
Material: Gore-Tex Shakedry
Features: Shake-dry fabric literally shakes dry, elasticized hood, pack expansion on back, “Smart Vent” upper chest zip snap, elasticized waist fabric to tuck / roll jacket into
Rich: Get outta here! I can’t imagine paying $400 for a high-tech trash bag. The material repelled water incredibly well but it felt plastic bag-ish and the jacket was bunching / billowing around my midsection. Also, I can’t imagine that I’d have much use for the roll-up feature unless I used it as a improvised hoagie holder.
Ian: The fabric is pretty cool in how light it is and with the combination of proofing and breathability. The elasticized hood drops on and stays on well, and I do like the Smart Vent tab. The waist packing feature I don’t find that useful in design, and it seems kinda frumpy when rolled up and tucked in. I appreciate the expansion panel on the back to throw it on over a vest, but it seems too large and billows out when running. The arm volume, with fabric cut with elbow articulations, seems too tight, and ends up feeling a bit restricted. Maybe there’s some out there needing a shell that dries uber quickly, but I think there’s better feeling fabrics with nice overall designs at a fraction of the $399 price tag.
Waterproof / Breathability Rating: <1 gm @ 600mm @ 2 min (we’re not sure how to compare this to others, maybe someone smarter can in the comments)
Weight: 8.4 oz / 238 g
Material: 100% recycled polyester, waterproof membrane composition not listed
Features: elasticized hood, two front zip hand pockets
Rich: I’ve ranked the Fo’ Drizzle number four mainly because of its lower price. Nothing about the jacket “wow’ed” me but it is serviceable and you can save some money. In a way, it seemed like a cheaper version of the Northface as it has a similar material and weight but the fit isn’t quite as streamlined and it’s not quite as flexible.
Ian: The Fo’Drizzle ranks in last in my lineup. It’s definitely a functional waterproof softshell at the lowest price point. Given the state of the economic realities for many individuals and families, I appreciate the importance of a lower priced shell. It fits and functions at that price point versus the others in our lineup. For me the cut of the jacket just doesn’t seem quite there, a bit too tight across the chest which then pulls at the armpits. The hood is decent but the wrist design, being fully elasticized, I’m not a fan of. The fabric does feel softer on the inside, and I prefer that to laminated inner treatments, but it seemed to also hang onto the inner moisture that built up inside. A nice price point option but for sure not the go to jacket in fit and features.
Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V1
MSRP: $180 (?…it was a long time ago)
Waterproof / Breathability Rating: 12k / 22k
Weight: 6.3 oz / 179g
Material: 100% Nylon with what feels / looks like PU lamination (too old to find the original specs including materials)
Features: Brimmed and elasticized hood with synch cords on sides and back, pit vents, flip mitts, interior chest pocket, synch cord at waist.
Ian: The jackets in this lineup are current models with the exception of this first generation ultra jacket. When it first released, now years ago, it was pretty fresh. It was light, well considered in features, and the brand had great penetration and support within the trail and ultra community. Although we sold some, it unfortunately soured me to the function of waterproof running jackets. Even though the waterproof and breathability specs were solid, it felt anything but. The material seemed to get overwhelmed, weighed down, and saturated in feel. It didn’t feel like it breathed at all, and in short order I couldn’t tell whether the water was getting in, or whether I was just sweating up a storm. The hood was frumpy, and I just felt like a wet dog wearing the thing. I tried to put all of that aside and give it a fresh go in this testing round. Unfortunately, I still feel all of those negatives with the jacket.
UD did release a V2 a couple years ago, and the specs upped the ante in waterproofing and breathability. Reports are that the update was solid. Unfortunately I’m too burned by my experiences with the V1 to invest in the V2. So, for all who want to weigh in the comments, let me and others know if you think the V2 was a big upgrade in function, and we’ll reconsider for the next round.
Overall rankings: Ian
- North Face Flight Futurelight
- Inov-8 Stormshell (tie)
- Salomon Bonatti Pro (tie) (In the TC Shop: Men’s / Women’s)
- Raidlight Extreme MP+ (In the TC Shop: Men’s / Women’s)
- Janji Rainrunner (In the TC Shop: Men’s / Women’s)
- Salomon Bonatti
- Inov-8 Ultrashell Pro FZ
- Ultimate Direction Ultimate V1
- S/Lab Shakedry
- Saucony (“Fo”) Drizzle (In the TC Shop: Men’s / Women’s)
Overall rankings: Rich
- North Face Flight Futurelight
- Raidlight Extreme MP+ (In the TC Shop: Men’s / Women’s)
- Janji Rainrunner (In the TC Shop: Men’s / Women’s)
- Saucony Drizzle (In the TC Shop: Men’s / Women’s)
- Inov-8 Stormshell
- Salomon S/Lab
- Note: Rich did not have the opportunity to test the Salomon Bonatti’s or Inov-8 Ultrashell Pro. Ian’s guessing the Bonatti Pro would have ranked 2nd or 3rd in his lineup.
Best Overall Waterproof Run Jacket
North Face Flight Futurelight – Although we felt features were marginal, we both thought the FutureLight fabric performed the best. We’ll look forward to the North Face updating and improving feature sets and bettering the FutureLight lineup.
Overall Runner Ups
Inov-8 Stormshell – Ian’s tie for #2. The combination of lightweight fabric, a softer feel next to skin, and dialed features make it a great package.
Salomon Bonatti Pro – Ian’s tie for #2. The 20k Pertex breathes better than the 10k option, fit is good, and over-vest feature option is useful.
Best in Features
Janji Rainrunner – The venting improves the baseline 10k fabric breathability in this price / fabric tier. The clean and non-techy looking style improves the value set in making it fit in equally as well in casual situations.
Inov-8 UltraShell Pro Full Zip – For some, shaving ounces wherever possible really matters. The combination of high level proofing and breathability in such an extremely lightweight package is pretty remarkable.
Baseline and Budget
Saucony Fo’Drizzle – For some, the need for a fully waterproof running jacket just isn’t a funding priority. The Drizzle may suffice for those individuals. This is one you’d want to try on first though. Those who tend to run hot or long, may want to consider spending a bit more to achieve solid function.
Others to Consider
There are a number of other excellent looking waterproof running jackets. Some have uniquely considered feature sets. Some are using great fabrics at a lower price. Most we would have liked to have tested, but weren’t in the loop of, or able to get included. We’ll introduce you to five.
Rating: Gore-Tex (meaning values not released)
Weight: 4.2 oz / 120 g
Material: Gore-Tex ShakeDry
Features: Elasticized hood with cord, elastic in wrists and at hem
The potential: Arc Teryx has traditionally made really slick products, with the caveat that you’re going to pay quite a bit for the brand. We question whether it could provide the benefit to the ShakeDry fabric if accompanied by a better fit and design in lightweight package.
Waterproof / Breathability Rating: 15k / 15k
Weight: 4 oz / 115 g
Material: 2.5 layer including Aqua Pro Lite paired with PU lamination on the proofing end.
Features: Elasticized hood, cuffs and hem, reflective hits
The Potential: This also offers the package of being extremely lightweight, with solid proofing and breathability, at a really low price. Unfortunately this brand may not have distribution in the US just yet.
Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket
Waterproof / Breathability Rating: Questionable. Some reference 15k
Weight: 6.4 oz / 180 g
Material: Pertex Shield, 100% nylon
Features: adjustable hood, zip chest and internal pocket, reflective hits, elasticized hood, hem and cuffs
The Potential: Also excellent fabric and price. There a good number of reviews however which indicate it doesn’t hold up in heavier or prolonged rain. COVID may have thrown question into timelines, but maybe an updated v3 will release early 2021.
Rating: Don’t have the value
Weight: 7 oz / 198 g
Material: H2No Performance Standard 100% recycled nylon face with tricot backer
Features: Double zipped entry for easier layering or donning over vest and access to nutrition, one pull hood adjustment, elastic cuffs
The potential: It may be a fashion outlier in design, but we really like the feature set. This is also we’d want to try first though as we’re unsure of the breathability of H2No fabric with higher intensity use.
Waterproof / Breathability Rating: Not listed
Weight: 3 oz / 90 g
Material: 7D Pertex Shield
Features: Elasticized hood, hem and cuffs
The Potential: This is an exceptional price for such an amazingly lightweight jacket which uses Pertex. If it breathes as well as the other Pertex jackets we tried, it could be one of the best in the lineup.