We look for a variety of factors in a winter jacket. Waterproofing is of course important, but it doesn’t rain every day, so we also look for warmth, breathability, ventilation, visibility and all-important storage.
Above all, jackets in this category must be able to handle miserable conditions, which to be fair they all can do to an amazing degree.
Manufacturers really have got to grips in this department and have constructed some pretty amazing pieces of clothing that will cope with conditions you hopefully will never have to face. Best be prepared though!
What to look for in performance winter jacket
Budget: Naturally, budget has a lot to do with our choices and that is fine. With some research and expert advice, there's a good chance a suitable jacket is available in your price range. However, don't be fully constrained by budget because ultimately, you want a jacket that will serve the purpose you intend for it.
Breathability: Waterproof jackets can feel clammy and sweat-inducing, so breathable fabrics are designed to keep the rain out but simultaneously allow sweat to escape. Aim for a 20,000g/m²/24hr breathability rating – a measure of how quickly moisture is wicked away from the body and released through the fabric.
Construction: Jackets are generally categorised as 2, 2.5 or 3-layer, depending on how the waterproof layer is attached to other layers. Three-layer jackets are the most durable, with the waterproof layer sandwiched between a face fabric and inner scrim. Check the fabric’s denier for an indication of its durability too.
Cuffs: Adjustable cuffs sealed with Velcro or sometimes toggles or clips are important because they enable a tight, fine-tuned fit around the wrist to prevent rain ingress. Elasticised, non-adjustable cuffs are less ideal. If it’s not raining, cuffs can be opened wide to aid ventilation.
Hood: A good hood should fit snugly and comfortably, but also move easily with the head for premium visibility. Volume adjustment enables a fine-tuned fit and ideally, you want a stiffened brim and wired peak to keep the rain off your face.
Movement: Ideally you want a jacket that moves and flexes with you, providing unhindered freedom of movement for running. And you don’t want it to ride upwards at the waist, slide around at the arms or hinder your flexibility in any way.
Pockets: Big pockets are great for storing OS maps, gloves, gels and whatever else you intend to put in them. Mesh-lined pockets aid overall ventilation, but sealed pockets are more waterproof. It’s worth checking the pockets aren’t obscured by your rucksack waistbelt too.
Ventilation: It’s easy to over-heat wearing a waterproof hard shell, so good ventilation is key. A two-way front zip can be opened from the bottom for improved airflow, while some jackets have underarm zips (also known as pit zips) that allow heat and sweat to escape.
Waterproofing: For an indication of how waterproof a jacket really is, check its hydrostatic head (HH) rating – the technical measurement of waterproofing. Premium-end gear has a 20,000mm HH or higher, which means a 20m column of water can stand on the fabric before water penetrates it. The minimum you would want for a winter jacket is 10,000mm HH.
Zips: Zips can be a point of weakness liable to water ingress. For maximum waterproofing, choose a jacket with a water-resistant zip protected by a sturdy storm flap, either behind or in front of the zip, or both. A zip garage – a little waterproof flap to house the closed zip – also helps keep water out.
The best winter jackets for trail running
Rich in mountain heritage, CimAlp knows how to make a breathable, warm jacket that allows you to
- Promotes high speed movement in the winter. It’s really warm, but loves performance
- Probably not waterproof enough for our really bad weather
Designed for all-weather trail running, the Alpine GTX Jacket features Dynafit’s unique ZipOver
- Great price for what is on offer here
- If you’re looking for complete protection, there are other options
They don’t do bulky at Black Diamond. This super-technical jacket weighs in at just 98g in the
- Flexible, responsive
- Too light for miserable February nights
Weighing in at around 130g, the Bonatti Waterproof is a great mid-point between the lightweight
- Good weather protection, men's and women's fit
- Other jackets have better breathability