My go-to cold morning running outfit is a wool shirt and a shell with a light pair of gloves. The wool keeps me warm, the shell protects me from any wind, a little rain, and helps take the bite out of the air. Here I compare shells with similar prices and features from some of the major manufacturers.
Note on sizes: I wore a large for each jacket. I’m 6’2″ and 170lbs with an exceptionally long torso and longer than average arms. I’ve done my best to show how the jackets fit for length, arm length, and how they hang while standing and while running.
Sam’s opinion: Sam’s my wife, and she has opinions. I’ve included her thoughts about each jacket.
And finally, please forgive the “model.” I tried to take real life pics that showed what a normal runner looks like and how each jacket fits. Turns out I’m a bit more comfortable behind the mic and lens.
Salomon Fast Wing Jacket
It’s bright and slick and fits on the smaller side. The “Advanced Skin Shield” material (feels like soft plastic, pretty cool) does an excellent job of blocking wind and a pretty good job at keeping me dry in sprinkling rain. Has a unique button closure on chest that allowed me to unzip the jacket, but keep it “on” my shoulders. Very cool feature.
“Whoa, that’s really bright.”
4 5/8 oz
One chest/stash pocket
Longer cut in rear
More info here
Stio Second Light Jacket
I really like the feel and fit of this: light and unobtrusive. Small, sticky patches on bottom hem that prevents jacket from flying around. Even though it’s the smallest/shortest, it doesn’t feel strange. I wasn’t familiar with the company, but I think I’ll look at their catalog now.
“I like the matte coral color a lot. It’s cute and it fits you well.”
Longer cut in rear
One stash pocket on right hip, plus one chest pocket.
More info here (affiliate link)
TheNorthFace Apex Light Jacket
I love that it’s got zippered pockets and two large internal pockets (great for gloves, hat, etc.) This jacket performs better than most at keeping me warm and dry. Large rear vents are a big bonus. The guy on the “fit” video online is wearing a medium, and though we’re both the same size/height, a large fits me better. This is the only non “stuffable” jacket in the list.
“I like the back a lot.”
Two zippered hand pockets on outside, plus large drop pockets on inside
Made with FlashDry material. Not sure what it is technically, but it keeps me warm and it dries out quickly.
Back vents help in preventing overheating
Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid
Hood has great “visor” in it that is tight and doesn’t billow up with wind. Doesn’t get too steamy in cold weather. I wore this jacket every day in Texas during the cold snap (mid 20s) and was never cold. Very well made.
“It looks like a nice running jacket.” (emphasis hers.)
Water-resistant panels on front top, shoulders, and hood.
Hood has moldable visor as well as drawstring on back of head
One chest stash pocket
More info here (and it looks like it’s on sale for $87)
Brooks LSD Lite Jacket IV $90
Feels like it fits very large on me. I like how the hood tucks away completely in a zippered pouch. The material feels very thin and light and slick.
“It doesn’t look big on you, and I like the style a lot.”
One small zippered stash pocket on rear hip.
Small rear vents.
3.75 oz (lightest of the group)
Ripcord string at waist
UVU Air Jacket
This is a bespoke team model, but I like the stuff so much I included it. Rather than a simple finger hole in the sleeve, this jacket has an integrated mitten that tucks away under the cuff. Absolutely awesome. Good job with wind and light sprinkle protection, but I wish I could secure the hood when not in use.
“I like the color and the mitten thing is rad.”
One chest stash pocket
Hood fits nice and tight and comes up to chin
Vented pits (light and meshy material, not open)
Price and availability TBD
Important to me: Overall Length and Arm Length:
All of these jackets performed great for what I expected. They kept me safe from cold wind, kept me warm and they gave me the opportunity to shed a layer once my body was acclimated to the weather. Each one has something I really liked (ORs hood visor, UVU’s mittens, TNF’s back vents, etc), but hopefully from this comprehensive comparison, you have enough knowledge to identify what’s important to you and make the best purchase.