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7 best men’s winter running jackets: Lightweight and waterproof windbreakers

Keep your fitness regime in full swing during the chilly months with reliable insulation and visibility

Charlie Allenby
Friday 12 November 2021 16:46 GMT
<p>If you’ve got the right kit, then a brisk jog on a crisp morning can be just as – if not more – rewarding than a summer session</p>

If you’ve got the right kit, then a brisk jog on a crisp morning can be just as – if not more – rewarding than a summer session

To the uninitiated, running in winter doesn’t sound that appealing. It’s often cold, any wind brings with it a gust of chilly air, and there’s a good chance you might get caught in a shower. But if you’ve got the right kit to keep you warm and dry, it’ll help you retain the running momentum that you’ve built up throughout the year – even in the depths of winter.

Like gloves and running tights, a winter running jacket is essential for anyone who plans on running all year round – and much more than a glorified long-sleeved top. An extra layer to be worn over a T-shirt, a running jacket’s main job is to keep you warm on colder days when the heat generated from running alone isn’t enough to keep the chill off.

Most jackets offer some sort of water and wind resistance, while others include reflective detailing – handy when running after dark. A good winter running jacket’s most important characteristic, however, is its breathability; get this wrong and the build-up of sweat on the jacket’s inside will soon leave you cold and damp, and worse off than not wearing one at all.

How we tested

For this article, we tested a variety of men’s winter running jackets to find the best you can currently buy online – whether you’re looking for something for commuting, for tackling changeable conditions, or an all-out trail-specific top layer. We tested the jackets throughout autumn as the seasons changed from the mild end of summer to the cold start of winter, and took any opportunity to put them through their paces in windy and wet conditions.

To be considered, the jacket had to do what it claimed it could do, and keep us comfortable and dry throughout our sweat sessions.

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The best men’s winter running jackets for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Montane spine waterproof jacket: £250,
  • Best for sub-zero temperatures – New Balance reflective impact run winter jacket: £120,
  • Best for commuting – Proviz classic men’s active running jacket: £99.99,
  • Best for changeable conditions – On Running weather jacket: £190,
  • Best for trail running – Salomon bonatti 2.5L: £150,
  • Best for Gore-Tex protection – Arc’Teryx norvan LT hoody: £350,
  • Best lightweight jacket – Columbia FKT II windbreaker: £90,

Montane spine waterproof jacket

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Unless you’re a masochist or an all-weather commuter, the chances are that the varying temperature is the main challenge you’ll face when running from autumn through to spring. Rather than having multiple jackets, it’s best to buy something that can keep you warm on those sub-zero starts, but that also won’t cause you to overheat after you’re warmed up.

The spine waterproof jacket from Montane is the ideal running partner from September through to late spring. Its Gore-Tex active shell construction gives you peace of mind if there’s rain (or worse) forecast, but it’s the breathability that’s second to none. The fabric helps to prevent typical hot spots (under the arms and the back) and, if it’s mild, you can manage your temperature courtesy of two mesh-lined pockets and two popper buttons on the full-length front zip, which enables you to get the full benefit of a breeze without the jacket flapping around you. Its £250 price tag might put some people off, but the lifetime guarantee means you’re making a sound investment.

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New Balance reflective impact run winter jacket

Best: For sub-zero temperatures

Rating: 9/10

This deep-winter jacket from New Balance is great for keeping the cold at bay when not even interval training is enough to get you breaking a sweat. Its wind-resistant outer stops the chill in its tracks and a heat grid lining provides a warming layer, without leaving you too toasty. An athletic fit leaves you with the freedom to swing your arms, too – we liked the jacket’s neat touches, such as the handy drop pockets for keys and a feature at the end of the left sleeve that allows you to check your running watch without having to expose your arm to the elements. It comes into its own after dark though, as its all-over reflective print transforms you into an unmissable beacon.

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Proviz classic men’s active running jacket

Best: For commuting

Rating: 7/10

If you’re running to work, you want something that can handle an array of conditions (whether that’s wind, rain or just the cold). Proviz is renowned for its uber-visible reflect360 jacket, but its new active running jacket is an ideal commuting companion if you don’t want something too flashy. Breathable and waterproof, it kept us comfortable throughout – even when running with a bag – and its low-profile hood protected us from the odd shower. Its reflective detailing keeps you visible and its positioning means it won’t get blocked by a rucksack. Two side pockets enabled us to store essentials on the go, while its oversized zip pullers were easy enough to operate while wearing gloves.

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On Running weather jacket

Best: For changeable conditions

Rating: 8/10

Dressing for running in autumn and spring can be a quandary. The forecast might call for a belt-and-braces approach to your kit choice, but mild temperatures can soon leave you drenched. Historically, this has meant having to bunch up your jacket, tie it around your waist or just suffer through the sweat-fest. The weather jacket by Swiss brand On Running solves this issue and has a handy trick up its sleeve (well, in its pocket). The lightweight wind and water-resistant shell can be packed away into its chest pocket, while an integrated strap provides a simple and comfortable way to carry it on the move.

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Salomon bonatti 2.5L

Best: For trail running

Rating: 8/10

When heading out on the trails, you want a running jacket that can keep you protected in poor conditions, is easily stored in a bag when breaking into a sweat on the ascents, and can be seamlessly whipped back out again to keep you warm on exposed ground. We found the Salomon bonatti 2.5L to be just that jacket. It held its own during the heaviest autumn shower, ensuring that our top half stayed bone dry, and could be packed into its own chest pocket, which allowed us to compactly stuff it into a hydration vest before we started overheating on technical terrain.

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Arc’Teryx norvan LT hoody

Best: For Gore-Tex protection

Rating: 9/10

Gore-Tex is synonymous with waterproofing: the American fabric is seen as the gold standard when it comes to protecting you from the worst of the elements, and any jacket that is constructed from its high-tech materials is worthy of your attention. The norvan LT hoody by Canadian brand Arc’Teryx uses Gore-Tex’s innovative C-Knit backer technology, which basically gives you all the protection of a standard three-layer design, but in a lighter package. The result was a jacket where rain simply beads on the surface while we remain comfortable on the inside thanks to its breathability.

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Columbia FKT II windbreaker

Best: Lightweight jacket

Rating: 8/10

A lot of winter running jackets claim to be lightweight, but nothing comes close to Columbia’s FKT II windbreaker. At just 81g (in size medium), it offers coverage against the wind and rain in a package that weighs less than an easy peeler. Its 100 per cent nylon construction uses the brand’s water-repellent technology to keep the elements at bay, and in practice we were impressed by how good it was considering its small stature. A lack of a hood is where it was marked down, but that’s not necessarily a priority if your focus is solely on weight, or you’re the kind to wear a waterproof cap.

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The verdict: Men’s winter running jackets

The Montane spine waterproof jacket’s breathability means it has become a firm favourite in our winter running wardrobe, whether we’re heading out for a short blast or longer endurance session. The On Running weather jacket is an ideal companion for milder days, while the New Balance reflective impact run winter jacket comes into its own on those frosty, freezing runs in the depths of December.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on running shoes and other sports essentials, try the link below:

You’ve got the jacket and the shoes – now check out our review of the best running belts for carrying phones, water bottles and keys

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