The best lightweight running jackets are so incredibly sylphlike these days that you no longer have to weigh up the possibility of rain coming on against the extra weight that packing a jacket will incur. Now you can just chuck one in your running pack in case the weather changes for the worst, and if not, no harm done. With many of them under 100g (lighter than an energy bar, or about the same as a couple of running gels) you won’t even notice you’re carrying it, but if you need to use it you’ll never regret packing it.
The best lightweight running jackets also great for trail and fell races, which often stipulate a mandatory kit requirement of, “Full-body waterproof cover with taped seams and a hood,” so most of the jackets in this test have been designed with this in mind.
Sometimes, even with the best lightweight running jackets, you lose out on the kind of features you’ll find on heavier waterproof jackets because they add weight and bulk: pockets, storm flaps behind the main zip and adjustments cords at the hood, cuffs and hem. However, some brands do manage to incorporate these elements, so it’s not always the case that you have to compromise on fit and protection.
It’s worth remembering that no waterproof is truly “breathable” enough for a runner (for more on this subject see what are the most breathable fabrics?). If you’re running at pace on anything but a freezing cold day, you will get hot and wet from sweating inside the jacket. The best thing to do is only to wear your waterproof when absolutely necessary, to protect yourself from wind, rain and cold. Just don’t leave it so late to put it on that your hands are too cold to do the zip up...
How we test the best lightweight running jackets
At Advnture we endeavor to test every product we feature extensively in the field. That means one of our team of reviewers and writers – all experienced outdoor specialists active across the US, UK, Europe and Australasia – taking it out into the terrain and climatic conditions that it’s designed for. If, for any reason, this isn’t possible, we’ll say so in our buying guides and reviews.
These jackets were worn during trail and road runs in the reliably rainy conditions of England’s midlands in early spring.
Best breathable lightweight running jackets
Two leading outdoor brands – one specializing in running, the other in mountaineering – have collaborated on a jacket that uses the latest Gore-Tex Active technology
RRP: $316 (US) / £240 (UK) | Weight (Men’s size M): 180g / 6.3oz | Hydrostatic head: 27,000mm | Breathability: 27,000 g/m2 | Colors: Black | Compatibility: Light, packable and waterproof for serious mountain use
The Tech Gore-Tex ShakeDry jacket is an outstanding collaboration from two leading outdoor brands: running specialists Ronhill and Mountain Equipment, experts in hiking and mountaineering. This happy union has bred a near-perfect waterproof jacket for fast and light activities.
Employing ShakeDry technology, this is one of the most breathable lightweight running jackets that you can currently buy, thanks to this innovative new fabric. Gore have taken away the protective face fabric that usually goes on top of the waterproof membrane, removing the need for a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment to the face fabric, increasing breathability and reducing weight.
Fit-wise, the jacket allows you to run unrestricted: it’s relaxed around the hips with elastic each side rather than an adjustment cord. The arms are plenty long enough to accommodate the small thumb loops and the partly-elasticated cuffs make for a good fit. The main zip has a storm flap behind, a chest popper/press stud for easy venting and a long pull cord that you can easily use even when you’re wearing running gloves.
The chest pocket has a water-resistant zip too (and a note written inside saying it’s not fully waterproof to warn those tempted to put an unwrapped smartphone inside). There is no peak to the hood, which is one of the few drawbacks, but it does fit well round a ponytail and adjusts with a clip at the back.
The only other downside is that this fabric is only available in bin-bag black, which doesn’t make you the most visible runner on dark roads, but there is reflective detailing to help with this. The jacket meets all FRA and ultra distance race requirements.
A light jacket with the most advanced Gore-Tex Active fabric yet for extreme waterproofness and breathability while keeping the weight right down
RRP: $366 (US) / £280 (UK) | Weight (Men’s size M): 180g / 6.3oz | Hydrostatic head: 27,000mm | Breathability: 27,000 g/m2 | Colors: Black | Compatibility: Light, packable and waterproof, room for a small running pack underneath
There are three unique features that stand out with this innovative, highly waterproof lightweight running jacket. Firstly, the extra fabric on the back of the jacket means you can wear it over a small running pack or race vest, which is super useful and means you don’t have to take your running pack on and off on days when the weather can’t make up its mind.
The second neat feature is the elasticated waistband which means you can unzip the jacket, take it off and then roll it into this stretchy section (which is secured by three poppers / press studs) to stow it around your waist quickly and easily mid-run or race.
Finally, there’s the innovative elastic inside the hood, designed to fit snugly on your head. Salomon call this “Skin Fit”, but we’re leaning towards “Hood Bra”, as it sort of makes sure your head is cupped securely by the overhead fabric.
We must also mention the new Gore-Tex ShakeDry fabric is one of the lightest waterproof materials on the market right now – with the membrane on the outside, water just beads up and runs off this jacket. A popper/press stud at the chest for anti-flap main-zip venting and a good fit with the half-elasticated cuffs round off a highly innovative running jacket for those who have the cash. The jacket meets all FRA and ultra distance race requirements.
The best lightweight race jackets
A super-light jacket with minimal features, designed for going fast and light with ease
RRP: $183 (US) / £140 (UK) | Weight (Men’s size M): 105g / 3.7oz | Hydrostatic head: 10,000mm | Breathability: 10,000 g/m2 | Colors: Men’s: Grey / Green & Grey / Blue & Grey; Women’s: Grey / Pink & Grey / Navy & Grey | Compatibility: Super light, packable and waterproof for use just in case it rains
The OMM Halo Jacket is one of the lightest of the best lightweight running jackets test (105g/3.7oz) and a firm favorite of many for its tiny, tiny pack size – no bigger than a tennis ball.
It’s incredibly well thought out, with only the essential features present so you can be sure you’ll be warm and dry when that sudden rain shower hits. It uses Point Zero H2O two-layered waterproof fabric and slimline tape behind the seams to provide a 10,000 mm hydrostatic head, which works well for heavy rain. The hood, while not adjustable, fits very well with elasticated sides and a peaked front to keep the rain from your face. In high winds this can bend as it’s not reinforced, but that feature would add weight.
The one main YKK AquaGuard zip is water resistant with a small storm flap behind the zip; this could be larger to prevent eventual rain ingress but again, we’re saving weight here.
The elongated, articulated arms are long enough for the thumb loops to be very comfortable, and the drop tail is a nice touch for extra protection at the rear. In a strong piece of design the adjustable hem runs partly across and above this drop tail so when tightened rain water runs off without running straight down your behind. The jacket meets all FRA and ultra distance race requirements. Fantastic.
An ultralight smock jacket with stripped-back features that you won’t notice in your pack or held in your hand while racing hard
RRP: $170 (US) / £130 (UK) | Weight (Men’s size M): 100g / 3.5oz | Hydrostatic head: 15,000mm | Breathability: 15,000 g/m2 | Colors: Grey / Blue | Compatibility: Super light, packable and waterproof, great for racing hard
The ultralight Inov-8 Raceshell smock packs down into an incredibly small package, which you can then secure with the provided elastic cord – a nice, neat design touch, which means you can simply hold it in your hand if you’re really running fast and light.
It’s a smock design with a long. water-resistant half zip, and two glove-compatible zip cords so you can ventilate the jacket from the center if needed. The comfy 2.5 layer waterproof fabric with taped seams is polyester with a PU lining and gives 15,000 mm hydrostatic head and has a breathability rating of 15,000g/m2. This material is also nearly transparent in both the grey and blue colorways so that you can see a race number underneath (the jacket meets all FRA and ultra distance race requirements).
The hood, cuffs and hem are elasticated without adjusters to save on weight, and in a similar vein there is no pocket. As with all smocks, it’s a unisex design so ladies just be sure to get a large enough size if you are ample in the hip department, and everyone be aware that most people will need a smock to be a little on the larger size for ease of getting it on and off. This style is great for guaranteed weather protection without having to do up any tricky zippers with cold hands.
A super-light smock with minimal features to pack just in case, or to wear in anger for heavy rainstorms
RRP: $157 (US) / £120 (UK) | Weight (Men’s size M): 100g / 3.5oz | Hydrostatic head: 15,000mm | Breathability: 15,000 g/m2 | Colors: Grey | Compatibility: Super light, packable and waterproof for use just in case it rains
The Montane Podium Pull-On is a firm favorite to stow in your running pack for soggy emergencies. The size of an apple or orange, and tipping the scales at just 100g / 3.5oz, it manages to provide excellent waterproof protection through the Aqua Pro Lite fabric with 15,000 mm hydrostatic head and 15,000g/m2 breathability, plus taped seams to seal the deal.
There’s also the opportunity to vent the jacket via the water-resistant YKK AquaGuard half zip – open it up all the way and use the popper / press-stud halfway up to secure each side and prevent annoying flapping. The large storm flap behind the zip provides even more security from a downpour.
Because it’s a smock design you can be certain that it will provide you with shelter from heavy rain; simply haul it over your head and pull the glove-compatible zip cord up to the top for ultimate weather protection. The elasticated hood, cuffs and hem fit well, and even though this is a unisex item it fits okay over wider hips for the ladies.
There is no pocket to keep the weight down, so simplicity is the name of the game with this lightweight number. This jacket meets all FRA and ultra distance race requirements, and your race number is visible through the fabric.
Most versatile lightweight running jackets
A nice, light and comfortable waterproof jacket with plenty of pockets, for running and hiking
RRP: $250 (US) / £190 (UK) | Weight (Men’s size M): 138g / 4.8oz | Hydrostatic head: 20,000mm | Breathability: 60,000g/m2 | Colors: Men’s: Blue / Grey; Women’s: Light Blue / Pink | Compatibility: Very light, packable and waterproof for hill-running and hiking
The Berghaus Hyper 140 is a seriously good waterproof jacket at a nice, light weight, and with a lot of good, useful features. You can throw it in your pack and not notice it’s there, then pull it out when the rain starts safe in the knowledge that the 2.5 layer Hydroshell Elite will protect you wonderfully well.
The hood, while only elasticated not adjustable, benefits from a slightly stiffened peak, and the zip pulls on the water-resistant YKK AquaGuard main zip and two side pocket zips are long and large enough to be used easily when wearing gloves. A storm flap behind the main zip also helps prevent water getting inside on long days with heavy rain, and the inside pocket is useful for storing smaller items.
The cuffs and hem are elasticated but fit-wise this jacket has plenty of room for movement while running in both the men’s fit and the women’s version. Berghaus say that the lightweight fabric doesn’t compromise on durability but we would still be careful with this jacket when running through brambles and sharp vegetation (as with all of the jackets here).
Overall it’s a winning combination of light weight, comfort and rain protection. The jacket meets all FRA and ultra distance race requirements.
Best budget lightweight running jackets
A budget waterproof jacket with plenty of great features and a compact design despite a slightly heavier weight
RRP: $92 (US) / £70 (UK) | Weight (Men’s size L): 210g / 7.4oz | Hydrostatic head: 10,000mm | Breathability: 10,000 g/m2 | Colors: Men’s: Black; Women’s: Yellow | Compatibility: Budget waterproof for use in low-level hills not high, remote mountains
Wow, what a bargain! The Evadict (aka, the brand formerly known as Kalenji) from Decathlon is only a tiny bit heavier and a little less well-featured than the other best lightweight running jackets here, but if you don’t mind that, and you’re on a budget, here’s your perfect match.
So why such a low price tag? What are you missing compared to the others that cost twice the price and more in this group test? Among the main points to consider are the lack of a full storm flap behind the water-resistant zip. This zip will keep out light rain and drizzle for a good while, but faced with an oncoming heavy downpour high in the mountains, there’s a reason the more expensive jackets here provide the increased weather protection of a storm flap.
This one stops around the collarbone area which can catch on the jacket when you want to zip it right the way up; only a tiny thing, but it’s amazing what can get to you when you’re tired and your hands are frozen-fumbling in the cold.
Finally the main zip and two side pocket zippers are very short – it’s best to have a pull cord on them so you can use them easily with gloves on. If you don’t mind these drawbacks, then this is an amazing-value jacket.
Best lightweight waterproof jacket with mitts
Ultimate Direction Ultra waterproof Jacket
An innovative jacket with the best hood on test and fantastic fold-out hand covers
RRP: $190 (US) / £145 (UK) | Weight (Men’s size M): 186g / 6.6oz | Hydrostatic head: 30,000mm | Breathability: 30,000 g/m2 | Colors: Blue | Compatibility: Light, well ventilated, best for warmer climates
Along with the best hood on test, the Ultimate Direction Ultra has one awesome feature that no other jacket boasts: “Flip Mitts” at the cuff, made from the same waterproof fabric as the jacket, so you can pop them over your hands or gloves to keep them dry and warm. It’s a genius idea for cold, wet days.
The only slight drawback to this is that people with longer arms will find that they want a bit of extra elbow room when wearing the Flip Mitts, so a longer arm length from the jacket would be useful in future incarnations.
The other great thing is that the hood is fully adjustable, unlike the lighter weight jackets here. The peak is wide, wired and stiffened, and you can pull the toggles in to create a perfect fit even over a ponytail.
Disappointingly, though, the jacket does not seem to be as waterproof as the super high 30,000mm hydrostatic head measurement seems to suggest. Rain does bead up and roll off, but after a while the water wriggles its sneaky way inside. This is most probably down to the lack of storm flap behind the main zip, and also the wide open underarm vents; plenty of opportunity for a heavy downpour to find its way in there in the wind.
The jacket meets all UTMB race requirements.
What to look for when buying the best lightweight running jackets
The best lightweight running jackets are fairly expensive – before you invest, consider these vital factors to make sure you get the right product for you.
Of course, weight is the biggest factor in this test. The lightest jackets will be around 100g for a men’s size M and 85g for a women’s size M, but make sure it has all the features you need. Remember, though – lighter-weight materials are less durable so be gentle with these jackets, try not to snag them on brambles and maybe save them for race day. Heavier duty models can be found in our guide to the best running jackets.
Whether the breathability specs boast 10,000g/m2 or 20,000g/m2, you’re going to get wet from sweat inside your jacket if you’re running hard, unless it’s arctic outside. So the key is to vent your jacket well using the zips and/or only wear it if you are cold or know you’re about to get cold (coming up to a summit, a stop, the wind picks up, the rain starts). Even in drizzle on a warm summer’s day think twice; if you are warm enough running with your quick-drying top on, don’t add a waterproof layer unless you start to get cold or plan to stop. You’ll get just as wet from the sweat and be too hot.
While the best lightweight running jackets are unlikely to keep the rain off as much a waterproof jacket for hiking, you do want them to keep you dry – that's why you're buying them, after all. That's where the Hydrostatic Head (HH) rating comes in. Supplied by the manufacturer, the figure gives a guide to the level of waterproofing provided by each jacket. Our guide to Hydrostatic Head explains how ratings are calculated.
A lot of the best lightweight running jackets cut down the weight in part by stripping back features like pockets, hood, cuff and hem adjustments which can make them less comfortable in truly horrendous rain and freezing conditions. So choose your jacket with your location and weather/climate in mind. If you know it’s going to howl with rain all day, you’re safer in a heavier, more robust jacket where you can really batten down the hatches. If it’s forecast to be beautiful with maybe a short wet spell, pop one of the lightest jackets in just in case.
Many races specify something like, “Full-body, taped-seams waterproof cover including hood” on the mandatory kit list, which simply means a fully waterproof jacket and trousers to keep you safe in all weathers. Outdoor brands are helpfully answering that call by making the lightest weight waterproofs they possibly can that still meet these requirements.
All waterproofs have taped seams because when you sew the waterproof material together that creates tiny holes that raindrops can get through. Sometimes it can be confusing with the words water-resistant to describe some jackets, which are highly rain repellent but not completely waterproof, because of their lack of taped seams. Look inside the jacket to check; if there is some tape over the seams, you’re looking at a fully waterproof jacket.
Zips & zip pulls
Look for good quality YKK water-resistant zips plus a storm flap behind which is simply a piece of extra fabric to protect against eventual water ingress from the zip in heavy, driving rain. Also make sure the zip-pull cords are glove-compatible, by which we mean longish and dangly with a grippy tab at the end.
The importance of this depends on how much road running you do, but we think it’s always useful to have reflective logos and details on waterproof jackets – you’ll mostly be using them in horrible weather with grey skies and reduced visibility, so it makes sense to be safe and seen.
The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine, Claire now runs the YouTube channel Wild Ginger Running, creating films packed with trail- and ultra-running content. An award-winning journalist, writing for outdoor and adventure sports magazines and websites, her first book The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running 5k to 50k is out in January 2021. Claire also speaks and presents at events and races.
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