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Gear Guy

What's the best jacket for winter running?

I looking for a cold weather running jacket that is extremely breathable and wind-resistant (waterproofness is not a necessity). I've been using Lowe Alpine's Adrenaline jacket, which is great for hiking but stes up quickly when I running hard. I usually buy The North Face and Patagonia products but I not sure that they make the best stuff for running. What do you think? Nick Kogevinas Washington, D.C.

A: Running jackets are difficult things to come up with. Most are flat out too warm, as you found with the Adrenaline ($99), an admirably and well priced waterproof-breathable but one that has a propensity for clamminess. Really, just about any jacket that sports true waterproofness is going to be a bit much. In my running days, before some knee problems led me to give up that activity on my doctor's advice, I preferred just dealing with the temperature issue through various layers of light long underwear tops such as Patagonia's Capilene Zip-T ($34).

Still, jackets can be useful. If you intend to run when it's truly raining hard, then I think you're just going to have to deal with some steaminess. But if you're concerned more about a good shell that also repels a light to moderate rain, then the field is a lot more open. One really great choice is the Pearl Izumi Zehpyrr-2 ($60), a very light shell that has excellent windproofness with good water-repellency. It's made of polyester microfiber, which breathes well, dries fast, and is naturally water-repellent. It's also treated to shed a fair amount of liquid before wetting through. And if you can find one, buy a jacket made with the late, lamented Gore Activent. This was, in my mind, the nonpareil performance fabric of the last decade. Alas, it was mis-marketed and too expensive, so it went away. Gore says their non-fleeced Windstopper fabrics are very similar if not identical, but I don't completely believe them. Activent closeouts still pop up occasionally; Sport Chalet ( has the wonderful Moonstone full-zip Activent jacket for $79. I may have to buy one myself—for the past year I've been stockpiling closeout Activent whenever I find it.

One other intriguing fabric is Entrant, a coated waterproof-breathable fabric that is used by Hind. Entrant changes its properties as it warms up, allowing more water vapor out when you're working hard. I used a fabric with similar properties —- Marmot's MemBrain -— and thought it worked pretty well. Hind puts Entrant in a nice-looking running jacket called the CRS for $150.

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