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.
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 (www.sportchalet.com) has the wonderful Moonstone full-zip Activent jacket for $79. I may have to buy one myselffor 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.