Running is a fantastic pastime that we just don't want to quit. But all too often, cold British weather can make us disinclined to squeeze in the miles. A waterproof and windproof running jacket will help you beat the weather, and we're hoping to help you find the right one.
It isn’t just that running in the rain unprepared is unpleasant and uncomfortable, it also isn’t particularly good for you. Water-logged clothing can sap your body temperature, which makes you susceptible to colds and exhaustion. Wind, too, plays a big part in rapidly cooling exposed bodies.
How are waterproof running jackets designed?
Non-waterproof running attire and sporting clothing are designed to be breathable. The fabric is effectively open and allows perspiration to quickly and easily move away from the body. But the trade-off is that water and wind penetrate instantly.
Waterproof clothing works by using fabrics such as Gore-Tex to rectify this issue. Waterproof fabrics have a layered system: an inner lining, a membrane, and an outer layer. This layered system allows perspiration to still move out away from the body but does not let the larger water particles in.
Waterproof fabrics follow the same design principles but vary a lot. On an alpine hiking jacket, for example, high waterproofing, durability, lightness, and breathability are all key, but the first two are prioritised. Whereas on a waterproof running jacket, the latter two are put first. Thus, a hiking jacket will not be as breathable or light as a running jacket but instead favour high waterproofing and durability. The waterproof running jacket will be more about lightness and breathability.
But that said, some brands are better at waterproof fabrics than others. Gore-Tex reigns supreme in this field. Its fabrics can achieve three out of the four key aspects. But you don’t tend to get the magic quartet of breathability, lightness, high waterproofing, and durability. You usually get two or three out of four, depending on the quality of the fabric and job the waterproof fabric is intended.
Gore-Tex is the best but brands such as Patagonia, Berghaus, Marmot, La Sportiva, and The North Face, for example, make their own high-performance waterproof fabrics. Though sometimes, brands such as these will still use Gore-Tex on their top-end gear. At the other end of the scale, cheap waterproof fabrics will keep the rain out but also the sweat in, and are as breathable as a plastic bag.
Waterproof ratings explained
Like fill power with down insulation, waterproof ratings are very simple but widely misunderstood – or not known at all. All waterproof fabrics use a hydrostatic head as a means of showing how waterproof the fabric is. It is the industry standard of measurement for waterproof clothing, tents and so on.
The figure given (for example, 10,000mm), indicates how high a column of water sitting on the fabric would need to be before water begins seeping through. It’s perhaps a slightly odd thing, but it’s an effective means of measurement. It’s all to do with pressure. Obviously, testing labs don’t actually use such volumes of water, they use machines that apply downward pressure. Thus, a tent with a hydrostatic head rating of 10,000mm can withstand a ten-metre column of water before it leaks through. Sounds like a lot, but see below for our guide to waterproof ratings:
1000mm: Will keep out light precipitation – more water-resistant than waterproof
2000mm: Will keep out light rain.
5000mm: Will withstand fairly heavy rain.
10,000mm+: What you should expect in hiking and ski jackets. They have to deal with rain and snow but also the extra pressure applied by backpack straps and so on.
For jackets, a minimum of 5000mm is what you want. And when considering a jacket, don’t forget that to take into account the extra pressure of backpacks pressing down on it. If buying a jacket for use with a pack, a waterproof rating of at least 10,000mm is more suitable.
Before we dive into the jackets, we wanted to mention the importance of hydration. If you’re embarking on a run of anything more than five or six miles, or if you’re doing any length of trail running, you need to have onboard hydration.
This area has made leaps and bounds over the last few years. Obviously one can’t make water any lighter, but you certainly can do so with the vessel.
Running packs and vests are first class these days. Super light, very breathable, very comfortable. Below are a couple of our top-rated hydration running packs:
Camelbak Octane Dart
The Octane Dart has been around for a while but has been upgraded over time. It has a hydration capacity of 1.5 litres and comes with Camelbaku2019s new Crux reservoir. The pack itself weighs about 200 grams and has very breathable mesh straps. Tip for hydration bladders: store them in the freezer, empty, when not in use to avoid bacteria buildup in the reservoir or tube.
Camelbak Nano Running Vest
The vest is a lighter, more comfortable option than a pack and is ideal for long-distance and trail runners. It weighs about 140 grams and has a brace of 500ml flasks. The Nano also has up to two litres of storage space for gear, such as your phone and snacks. Like the Octane Dart, the Nano vest has very comfortable and breathable straps.
The best waterproof running jackets in detail:
Patagonia Storm Racer Running Jacket
Patagoniau2019s Storm Racer jacket is all about the design. It is not a fashion statement. If that is what you want, look elsewhere. At 200g it is very light for a fully waterproof jacket and the ripstop fabric adds significantly to the durability. The Storm Racer tries its absolute best to achieve all four key factors of a waterproof jacket.
The zip design is very intriguing and works very well. Many jackets have a single two-way zip but this has two zips – on each side of the torso. The idea is to have the jacket over a pack or vest for protection, but allows the wearer easy access to them. It’s a brilliant design – just unzip the front as little or as much as you need.
|Sustainability||100% recycled nylon ripstop face; Fair Trade sewn|
Salomon Bonatti WP Running Jacket
The Salomon Bonatti running jacket is a bit more conventional than the Patagonia Storm Racer. It will likely appeal to those who are after something a bit more visually appealing but still very good. When you need to pack it away, it scrunches into the chest pocket.
The Bonatti weighs about the same as the Storm Racer and has a waterproof rating of 10,000mm, giving you the confidence of staying dry even in persistent rain. Yet, it is still breathable to keep runners in the UK from getting clammy and has venting. Certainly best for the winter months and early spring.
|Sustainability||No specifics – read about Salmon’s Play Minded program|
Women's Berghaus Hyper 140 Waterproof Jacket
Best for heavy rain
The Hyper 140 from Berghaus has double the waterproof rating of the Salomon Bonatti jacket. It is therefore exceptional in downpours. The inevitable trade-off is that it isnu2019t as breathable.
We recommend this jacket to those who are doggedly determined to run in the depths of winter, or who want a super light jacket for fast hiking. You will probably want to get yourself another, more breathable running jacket to use for runs in slightly milder weather.
Patagonia Thermal Airshed Jacket
Most versatile option
u2026and this may well be an answer to that. At 235 g, the Thermal Airshed Jacket is exceptionally breathable and lightweight, making it suitable for intense runs, treks or casual use. Not only is it fully waterproof, but it has a 3-layer laminate technology for extra protection.
If it is a fully waterproof running jacket you need, consider one of the three above. This is a wind-resistant layer with some water repellency. Therefore, you can also use it as a mid-layer for hiking or skiing too.
|Waterproof rating||DWR finish|
|Sustainability||PFC-free, Fair Trade Certified, contains recycled polyester|
Adidas Terrex Parley Agravic WIND.RDY Windbreaker
Best budget running jacket
This is the best running jacket in the lower price bracket. Like the Patagonia Airshed Pro, it is wind resistant and water repellent rather than waterproof, making it suitable for use in light drizzle instead of rain. But it is very breathable and comes in some cool Adidas patterns. The Terrex jacket packs into a pocket.
|Waterproof rating||DWR finish|
|Sustainability||100% recycled Primeblue – partly from Parley Ocean Plastic|
All of these running jackets have been hand-selected by What's The Best shopping experts. Our team has spent hours investigating and researching running jackets, so you can choose the best one. Plus, we'd never recommend a product we don't believe in. Find out why you should trust us here.
Waterproof running jacket buying advice
A good running jacket should offer the solution to many issues incurred by poorer weather. In addition to waterproofing, which we've already covered, here’s a quick run-down of what features to look for in your jacket:
Taped or sealed seams
This is a feature found on many high quality showerproof and waterproof jackets. While the material is waterproofed, when the garment is sewn together this feature is compromised – the needle holes will now let water easily slip through. Taped seams are when a manufacturer glues a waterproof membrane onto the inside of a garment’s seam to ensure its water-resistant credentials. Typically, this will incur a little extra on the retail price, but it’s worth it for the protection.
Venting is effectively the inclusion of holes in the clothing to promote airflow. This can be a permanent feature, as is the case with many back vents which have holes protected by material flaps. Other vents may be adjustable, such as zip vents which can be closed or opened as required. These are often found under arms and along the front of jackets. Vents are essential for reducing condensation and heat management.
An inner mesh is found in many sports jackets as a barrier between the skin and outer material. This helps prevent the skin from sticking to material and becoming uncomfortable – this is essential for jackets that are fully waterproof as they tend to condensate and become uncomfortable after prolonged use. Mesh will also add to the weight and bulk of the jacket, so many lightweight solutions do not have inner mesh.
Lightweight and stowable
A jacket needs to be lightweight so as not to hinder your run and be able to be stored in a pocket, running belt or backpack as required.
Whenever exercising outdoors, remember: Be safe, be seen. Running in the autumn, winter and during poor weather massively reduces visibility and puts you at an increased risk. With a little planning and the right high visibility clothing, you can easily be attired correctly for the conditions. Bright colours and reflective panels all accomplish this and need to be offered in large fields, rather than just thin seams, to be truly effective. Some running and cycling clothing has photo-luminescent strips, which will glow up to an hour after being exposed to light.
If your running jacket of choice doesn’t have a high visibility option, other high visibility clothing can be worn, such as hats, bands, or sashes and vests. Head-torches are also a good idea, as they will not only increase your visibility, but you'll have a clear view of your path - we've got a rundown of the best.
In conditions where visibility is severely reduced, it will be better to not run outdoors at all. Waiting a day for clearer conditions will not reduce your fitness.
How to care for waterproof clothing
Caring for waterproof gear is very simple and actually quite similar to normal clothing.
Naturally, follow the care instructions on the garment's label. For waterproof gear, this is usually a cold or warm wash (about 30 degrees). But you should use a special wash such as Granger's Performance Wash - this still cleans the fabric of grime but maintains the water repellent coating that waterproof fabrics have. Regular detergent doesn't do this.
After the wash cycle, you can either air dry or pop it into the drier. It is a bit of a fallacy that you can't put waterproof garments in the drier. On the contrary, it is actually good for them to maintain the water their water repellency. As with washing, follow the guidelines on the label.
If you have noticed that over time water does not bead on the fabric like it did when it was new, it's time to restore the durable water repellent (DWR) coating. Once your waterproof garment has been through the wash, spray it with Granger's Performance Repel before it dries. Wipe off the excess after a couple of minutes then follow the drying advice on the label.
Avoid fabric softener and the dry cleaner!
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William Lobley is a Senior Commercial Content Writer and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in technology, gaming and outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.
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