The trail running jacket is so highly valued by trail runners. But it's a hard piece of gear to perfect. Get it right and your jacket is a much-loved friend that’ll be invited to every outing. A wrong-un will end up wrapped around your waist after five minutes and relegated to the back of the cupboard forever after that overheated run.
This is because a jacket must cope with so many demands. Cold and rain, it must tick those boxes; but then there’s also wind, mild weather, cool conditions, fog, showers, even hot days. They must also have room for a phone, compass, whistle, water bottle if possible and just about anything and everything else you can think. Oh, and it helps if they look good for a pub visit afterwards.
The best trail running jackets
1. Montane VIA Minimus Stretch Ultra Jacket
Best in Test
Pros: It offers everything in a performance package
Cons: Potentially the cost, but
In a tight-fought battle, it’s the fine detail that really makes the difference. This jacket is light, amazingly breathable yet the finish quality is such that if you wish to venture onto an exposed ridge in howling wind and rain, having cruised through temperate conditions to get there, well then, this beauty is what you’re looking for.
Montane as a business specialises in creating kit for the top of the mountain at the same time understanding what us everyday types require. Packable, able to withstand anything our lovely weather wishes to throw as us, yet if you so desire it’ll work perfectly around the park, although shame on you if that’s the only location you take this jacket.
2. Inov8 Raceshell Pro Full Zip
Pros: A great and we mean great, racing jacket
Cons: The price
No jacket test is complete without highlighting racing requirements and its specialist needs; by that we mean, light and packable but capable of handling nasty conditions. So much depends on what looks at first glance like a flimsy piece of kit but is actually rammed with tech, hence the slightly high price.
Allow the numbers to do the talking: exceptional breathability, with a rating of 70,000 B-1, and a superb waterproofing rating of 20,000 HH (Hydrostatic Head), which is on par with many hiking jackets. Plus, of course there are fully taped seams to ensure you pass mandatory race kit requirements. Race ready? You bet.
3. Rab Kinetic Ultra Jacket
Pros: Fabulous waterproofing
Cons: Perhaps the fit isn’t to everyone’s taste
Let’s start with the tech spec: it’s made with proflex three-layer recycled polyester stretch knit fabric and a polyurethane membrane, which weighs in around 270g. In other words, it’s waterproof and breathable! It has a 10,000 HH/mm rating making it UTMB compliant (always a useful guide even if that’s not on your radar) and that in turn means it can cope with both extreme effort and extreme weather. Soft to the touch, nice to wear and it fits well. And, for something as high tech as this, the price is magnificent.
4. Adidas Terrex Agravic Windweave Pro Wind Jacket
Pros: Great price point, great tech
Cons: Too light for really nasty conditions. Don’t
This jacket is all about fit. Adidas use body mapping to vary their Windweave material’s thickness depending on the performance required. That means it’s well insulated where you need it, but ultra-breathable where you don’t.
It's a slim fit and features a half-zip. It's practically unnoticeable to wear, meanwhile the PFC-free water-repellent finish helps keep you protected from the elements.
5. Berghaus Hyper 100
Pros: Highly waterproof, yet breathable
Cons: A bit too good for everyday use
The Hyper 100 is an impressive performer for the level of weather protection it provides. Despite having the same waterproofing level as mid-range hiking jackets, it's also very light (circa 160g) and breathable.
Given the price, it is quite an investment but certainly a good option for PB runs and races. Though, you'll probably want another trail running jacket to use day-today.
6. Arc'Teryx Norvan LT Hoodie
Pros: Great fit, proper four-season jacket
Cons: Seriously expensive
The Norvan marries Gore-Tex Active fabric with a beautiful cut, to create an excellent jacket. It's clean looking, with underarm vents, subtle reflective details and an inside zipped pocket. The materials, cut, finish and build-quality may justify the price, but it is expensive. To make it perfect the hood could adjust, to offer more protection. A pricey but very high-quality four-season running jacket.
7. New Balance Printed Impact Run Light Pack Jacket
Pros: Excellent lightweight, summer jacket, doesn't feel like a jacket
Cons: Not well
This is an ideal jacket for those summer runs when you think the UK weather might greet you with a sudden shower. It's ultra-lightweight and can cope with light rain or wind, and also folds in to its own pocket, which includes an elastic belt for easy carrying around the waist. Fit-wise, this jacket actually feels more like a long sleeve top and certainly doesn't restrict movement.