The early mornings of December 2012 in Portland, Oregon were especially dark, wet, and rainy.  That winter my running group met regularly for Thursday 5:30am runs along the Portland Waterfront. I remember getting hammered by rain repeatedly, being soaked to the bone, and then shivering the entire 25-minute drive home.  Afterward, I would be cold for hours and just couldn’t warm up. I had several running jackets, and while they were perfectly adequate for a little drizzle or sprinkle, they just couldn’t stand up to steady rain. I was sick of being cold. Thus began my quest to find the perfect running jacket for rain.

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Running in The North Face Hyper Air GTX jacket. Photo by Nate Cooper

I began asking around about great running jackets for rain. The Mountain Hardwear Hooded Effusion jacket came up a few times, but alas, it was no longer in stock, and the new version just wasn’t the same. I settled on the Columbia Flyin’ Dry jacket, and while it did a great job of keeping me dry from the rain, I would come home soaked in sweat unless it was really chilly outside even though it claims to be ultra breathable. (So much for the goal of coming home dry.) I couldn’t find a waterproof, breathable jacket that would keep me dry inside and out; a jacket that could stand up to 30-60 minutes of steady rain. Some jackets would perform pretty well for a couple runs, but after getting really soaked, their water repellant properties were practically nil.

Fast forward to October 2016, a month that shattered previous Oregon rainfall records. Normally we get three inches of rain in October, this year we got more than eight. After one particularly soggy, soaked-to-the-bone run, I geeked out on Google searches, reviews, and blogs much of the day, trying to find the ultimate waterproof breathable jacket for running. I was so sick of getting soaked. I read about several jackets, but one in particular caught my attention. The North Face Hyper Air GTX jacket was made from a brand new Gore-Tex® Active® material that claimed to be super lightweight, breathable, and have a permanent beading waterproof surface.

Luckily, I found the jacket at REI marked down because the new version was coming out shortly. I figured if I bought it at REI, there was no risk since if it wasn’t actually waterproof and breathable, I could always return it.

Out of the box, I was impressed with how light and thin the jacket is. I tried it on and found the fit to be tailored and flattering, definitely a well-constructed jacket. The hood fits perfectly, there are two deep zip-pockets at the front, the sleeves are nice and long, and there’s adequate room through the shoulders. I like that it dips slightly longer in the back.

My first run in the jacket was nine miles in steady rain (probably 70-75 minutes) in the mid-50’s. I layered a thin wool running t-shirt underneath. The hood was comfortable and stayed on without a problem. I felt damp through my forearms where my arms were bare under the jacket, but I was still comfortable. All the way to the end of the run, water was still beading on the surface of the jacket. After the run, I took it off and was shocked that much of my shirt was still dry. I was a little wet through the center of my chest, but I hadn’t zipped the jacket up entirely for the whole run, so I figured some water had leaked in down my neck. I wasn’t overly sweaty either, just the normal amounts from running (it’s actually breathable!). I was tentatively quite excited that I might have found “the one”.

Since that run, I’ve worn it in two more very rainy runs, both in the low to mid-50’s. One run was 90 minutes with rain coming down so hard in parts I might as well have been standing under a rain gutter. When I got home, my shirt was visibly damp through the chest and shoulders (I think from rain coming down my neck again – I need to see if wearing a hat with a bill eliminates this problem), but there were parts of my shirt that were still visibly dry and the hair on top of my head was completely dry from wearing the hood. I couldn’t believe it! Even more, rather than rushing to the shower right after the run, I took my time stretching, doing core, eating breakfast, and I wasn’t freezing.

I have washed the jacket in the washing machine (on cold, hang dry), and it hasn’t affected the waterproof performance at all. The waterproof properties come from the material itself, not from a coating that can wear off. The jacket really lives up to its claims of being waterproof and breathable.

I love this jacket so much I’ve bought another one just in case this one gets lost or ruined. No longer do I dread the sound of rain early in the morning when my alarm goes off.

Do you have a favorite running jacket or piece of running gear? Please share! It just might be the next running item I geek-out on.