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Packable Lightweight Running Jackets for Unpredictable Weather

Be prepared when the clouds are looming and the wind picks up during your workout.

best lightweight running jackets
Staff, Courtesy of Tracksmith

More fashionable than a poncho but not as heavy-duty as a raincoat, a lightweight jacket is an essential item to have in your arsenal of outerwear—even after traditional jacket season has come to an end. A water-resistant and windproof shell will make running tolerable during unpredictable spring and fall weather—or in my case, the (comparatively balmy) dead of winter in Austin, Texas. To find the best lightweight jackets, we put piles of lightweight, packable jackets to the test to see which combined the best fit, breathability, and resistance to wind and rain.

The Expert: I’ve been a distance runner for about 15 years while living in four different regions: the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, the Northeast, and central Texas. This range of climates and conditions has given me better insight into the layering strategy needed to stay warm and dry on a run without choking in a sauna-like haze of sweat once I hit my stride. I also have a great deal of experience putting running gear through the paces, after nearly 10 years of reviewing and writing for Runner’s World and Bicycling magazines. Here’s what I looked for when evaluating these jackets.

9 Best Lightweight Running Jackets

    What to Look for in a Lightweight Running Jacket

    Lightweight and Weather-Resistant Fabrics

    When the forecast calls for changing conditions, the best move is to layer up with a lightweight jacket that can be peeled off and carried by hand once freezing rain gives way to 50-degree sunshine. A thin, windproof layer will likely be your lightest option for cold, dry mornings; however, a shell with a DWR- or other water-resistant finish will keep you drier if it starts to drizzle. Ripstop nylon tends to be the best fabric to provide weather-resistance without adding weight, which is why you’ll find that it comprises so many of our favorite jackets here. However, it’s not fully waterproof on its own. It’s simply water-resistant. If you’re looking for a jacket to keep you dry in a deluge, you might have to seek out one with taped seams and some added weather protection, like Mountain Hardwear’s Stretch Ozonic, which is made from elastane and nylon, or GoreWear’s Shakedry jacket, which uses hydrophobic polyamide over a waterproof membrane.

    Breathability

    Weather-resistance and breathability tend to work against each other, so the search for a jacket that can resist mid-run swampiness but also protect you from wind and rain is akin to a unicorn quest. If breathability is your top priority, lightweight wind jackets tend to provide the best release of sweat vapors. For water-resistant jackets, look for strategic vents and perforations in the fabric that can help contribute to overall airflow.

    Packability

    What makes these jackets so indispensable is their ability to pack down when you no longer need them. Each of them can be stowed into a zipper pocket or stuffed into the tiniest corners of your gym bag or running backpack. Some can even be worn around your wrist or as a mini-backpack mid-run. This way, you don’t have to magically predict the weather before your long run or race—you can bring a lightweight jacket along in case the sky starts to open up at mile 5, and strip it off and stow it again when the clouds clear at mile 12.

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    jacket round up
    Lakota Gambill // Some lightweight jackets, like the Brooks Canopy, pack down to be worn like a backpack.

    How We Evaluated

    To build this list of lightweight jackets, I used my own hands-on experience, as well as the experience of Runner’s World Test Editor Amanda Furrer, who laid the groundwork for this roundup. I also relied on the feedback of the magazine’s wear-testers, a group of more than 50 dedicated runners who helped evaluate the jackets on fit, breathability, weather resistance, packability, quality, and value. Here are the ones we found to be standouts.

    Ultra-Breathable
    Brooks Canopy Jacket
    Brooks

    • Breathable
    • Semi-fitted
    • Easy-to-stow hood

    • Online users have reported zipper issues

    Key Specs

    • Fabric: DriLayer Seal 100% ripstop polyester
    • Temp Range: 20 to 40 degrees
    • Weather: Windproof and waterproof against light rain
    • Sizes: XS to XXL
    • Weight: 4.3 to 5.5 oz.

    This jacket’s superpower is that it’s extremely breathable—when we conducted a fabric-permeability test using a hot sauna, the Canopy released more vapors than any other waterproof running jacket in our lineup. Its light weight and packability make it the perfect layer for unpredictable weather when you may have to stash or zip up. A longtime favorite from Brooks, the jacket also has a stowable hood so it won’t flop behind your head as you run, and front pockets with a snug compartment to slide your phone into.

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    Hidden Chest Snap
    Janji Zephyr Running Jacket
    Janji

    • Vented for airflow
    • Ultra-packable
    • Water-repellent

    • Limited size range
    • Stock issues

    Key Specs

    • Fabric: 100 percent ripstop nylon with PFC-free DWR
    • Temp Range: 20 to 40 degrees
    • Weather: Wind- and water-repellent
    • Sizes: S to XL
    • Weight: Not listed

    Like Brooks’s Canopy, the Zephyr Runner has a chest snap, which allows you to unzip the jacket while running with minimal flappage. In fact, every detail was added with running in mind: Vents in the back allow even more airflow, the entire shell can be stuffed into the front zipper chest pocket, and reflective logos on the back and front provide some visibility in low light. The water-repellent finish is also PFC-free, making it eco-friendly (PFCs are man-made chemicals that break down very slowly once released into the environment).

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    Easiest to Carry
    Tracksmith Off Roads Packable Jacket
    Tracksmith

    • Elastic band to hold it around your hand
    • Stylish
    • Water-repellent

    • Pricey

    Key Specs

    • Fabric: 93 percent nylon, 7 percent elastane with a DWR finish
    • Temp Range: 20 to 40 degrees
    • Weather: Water-repellent
    • Sizes: S to XL
    • Weight: Not listed

    The Off Roads Packable Jacket is woven with Swiss fabric that’s treated with a Nanosphere DWR finish, which gives it a thin water- and dirt-repellent layer. Our testers were impressed with the workmanship that went into this incredibly featherlight shell. The upper back has a mesh vent for airflow, a zipper garage prevents neck chafing, and the cuffs have smooth, elastic stitching. The jacket packs down into a zippered pocket and can be worn around your hand with an elastic band.

    Fully Waterproof
    Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Jacket
    Mountain Hardwear

    • Waterproof fabric
    • Zippered vents

    • Not as well-ventilated as other jackets
    • Heavier than other models listed

    Key Specs

    • Fabric: Elastane and nylon
    • Temp Range: 15 to 30 degrees
    • Weather: Windproof and waterproof
    • Sizes: S to XXL
    • Weight: 11.4 oz.

    The Stretch Ozonic is made of soft fabric that’s waterproof and abrasion-resistant. You can secure the cuffs around your wrists or upper arm by adjusting the Velcro tabs. The jacket packs down into a zippered pocket for portability (though more likely for packing into a suitcase or duffel, since it’s too bulky to carry on your run). Testers were kept dry running in the Stretch Ozonic but found themselves becoming sweaty later in their run due to little ventilation. Zippered underarm vents provide more airflow; however, unzipping them results in “a lot of exposure to rain,” said a tester.

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    Waterproof Yet Breathable
    GoreWear Shakedry Jacket
    GoreWear

    • Fully waterproof with taped seams
    • Breathable for a waterproof jacket
    • Ultra-lightweight

    • Pricey

    Key Specs

    • Fabric: Polyamide with Gore-Tex
    • Temp Range: 20 to 35 degrees
    • Weather: Waterproof and windproof
    • Sizes: XS to XL
    • Weight: 6.2 oz.

    Fully waterproof yet very thin and breathable, the Shakedry is a feat of engineering magic. The jacket’s fabric is so lightweight and easy to pack down that mine was hiding for months in the back of a trail-running hydration pack I use all the time, all but forgotten, until the day I underestimated the forecast and remembered I could bust it out. The jacket has a narrow fit, hood, and two small front zipper pockets for stowing cards and a house key. Zippered ventilation panels in the armpits let you get a little air at the expense of letting water in.

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    See-Through Weather Shield
    Marmot Bantamweight Jacket
    Marmot

    • Taped seams
    • Stretchy
    • Packable
    • Perforations for breathability
    • Two zipper pockets

    Key Specs

    • Fabric: Ripstop nylon
    • Temp Range: 20 to 45 degrees
    • Weather: Waterproof and windproof
    • Sizes: XS to XL
    • Weight: 4.9 oz.

    Marmot had to whip out one of the more obscure boxing weight class names (a “bantamweight” fighter is just below “featherweight”) to accurately portray how ridiculously light this hooded jacket is—because my usual go-to descriptor, “ultra-lightweight,” doesn’t begin to capture it. The jacket’s ripstop nylon is thin enough to be semi-see-through, but it has an integrated waterproof Pertex shield and taped seams to provide full weatherproof protection. I wore it during a windy, 45-degree run and felt slightly too toasty after two miles; then the cold drizzle began and I was happy I didn’t strip down a layer, as hundreds of beads of water bounced off the Bantamweight’s hydrophobic surface like the little balls in Pong. This jacket sets a high bar for lightweight, waterproof protection.

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    Coziest Wind Protection
    Tracksmith NDO Wind-Block Downeaster
    Tracksmith

    • Wicks moisture
    • Wind panels
    • Feels amazing against skin

    • No pockets
    • No rain protection

    Key Specs

    • Fabric: 60 percent merino wool, 40 percent polypropylene
    • Temp Range: 15 to 35 degrees (over a base layer)
    • Weather: Wind-resistant
    • Sizes: XS to L
    • Weight: Not listed

    This cozy mid-layer falls somewhere between running shirt and jacket—it’s made from the same soft, Merino wool of the brand’s Downeaster hoodie, but it has integrated wind panels that span the front and upper back to give it a wind-vest effect. It also has a wind-paneled mock collar with a long zipper that allows you to regulate your warmth and airflow a little. We don’t get a lot of below-freezing days in Texas, but on a rare crisp but sunny morning, I set out in this jacket and immediately loved its sweater-like warmth, wind shield, and classic New England style. At 5-foot-8, I initially feared I’d find the jacket too short in the torso, but once I started moving, the boxy, just-below-waist fit was perfect—neither too tight nor too baggy. It’s by far my most comfortable running layer for cold and windy days when there’s little chance of precipitation.

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    Fun Patterns
    Oiselle April Showers Anorak
    Oiselle

    • Stylish as heck
    • Ideal fit
    • Windproof
    • Breathable

    • Pricey

    Key Specs

    • Fabric: Polyester
    • Temp Range: 20 to 40 degrees
    • Weather: Windproof, water-resistant
    • Sizes: XS to XL
    • Weight: Not listed

    The April Showers Anorak packs down into the front zipper pocket and has a stowable hood with a collar closure. Our tester praised its fit—not too tight, not too loose—and was impressed with how it cuts through the wind during a 10-mile subfreezing run. For such a lightweight jacket, the price may be a little steep for some.

    Most Features
    Patagonia Houdini Jacket
    Patagonia

    • Lots of sizes
    • Made from recycled fabric
    • Easy to carry when not in use

    • Could be more breathable

    Key Specs

    • Fabric: Recycled ripstop nylon
    • Temp Range: 20 to 40 degrees
    • Weather: Water and wind-repellent
    • Sizes: XS to XXXL
    • Weight: 3.4 to 3.7 oz.

    We’ve been raving about this lightweight rain shell for at least a decade, and in that time the jacket has only gotten better designed and more stylish, thanks to some new patterned options. The Houdini is made from recycled ripstop nylon with a DWR finish that keeps the wind and rain out without adding weight, though our only complaint is that this comes at the expense of some breathability. It’s loaded with practical but simple features like a drawcord hem and sleeves, a zipper chest pocket, and a hood that can cinch down so it won’t flap around in the wind. A carabiner loop on the zipper chest pocket makes the jacket easy to stuff into a ball and tote if it becomes too toasty to wear.

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    Our Expert, Caitlin Giddings, on Jacket Maintenance, Waterproofing, and Why PFC-Free Should Matter to You
    rain jacket roundup
    Lakota Gambill // Special detergents help to maintain your jacket's water-resistant finish with each washing.

    Q: How do you wash a waterproof jacket?

    A: Most jackets will come with washing instructions, but you can generally wash them in your machine (alone or with other waterproof clothing) on a gentle cycle in cold water, with all of the zippers closed. Jacket makers will also recommend you use a detergent specifically designed for waterproof fabric, such as Nikwax Tech Wash, if you want to get the most life from your rain gear. Hang your jacket up to dry or tumble-dry on low. It should dry quickly and be ready to roll again soon.

    Q: What does PFC-free mean?

    A: You probably noticed that some of the jackets here are touted as PFC-free. PFCs, or perfluorinated chemicals, are used in outdoor gear to increase water-resistance. But the chemicals are equally resistant to being broken down by the environment, and tend to seep into water systems, eventually finding their way into the food chain where they can cause global harm. That’s why PFCs are on most restricted substances lists.

    Q: What are taped seams?

    A: Taped seams are a way to make outdoor apparel more waterproof. By heating and fusing tape to a jacket’s stitches, clothing makers can prevent moisture from seeping in at those gaps in the waterproof fabric. You’ll usually find them along the edge of a hood or zipper pockets. Without them, it’s almost impossible to guarantee full waterproofing.

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