Cold temperatures are no reason to stop running outside, and having the best insulated jacket in your closet can keep you heading out the door in the coldest of temperatures. While plenty of runners get out in frigid climates where heavy jackets are needed to stay warm, we’ve focused this guide on jackets that will work for the winter conditions that runners not living at extremely high elevations or latitudes experience.
This guide is for you if you’re running in weather anywhere from 20 degrees Fahrenheit and up. Our testers, based around the western U. S., including in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, the Colorado mountains, and the high desert of the Colorado Plateau in Utah, took out nearly 20 insulated jackets to see which ones kept them warm through speed workouts that involved sweating, multi-day fastpacking trips, and recovery jogs through the neighborhood. The iRunFar team has decades of experience running in cold weather and understands the importance of wearing a warm, insulated jacket when things get really chilly.
Our team, ready to run in all temperatures, turned to The North Face Thermoball Eco Hoodie 2.0 for the freezing days when we still wanted to get outside. For days that were only just chilly, we regularly turned to the Dahlie Jacket Run and the Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket.
Best Insulated Jackets for Running
- Overall Best Insulated Jacket for Running: The North Face Thermoball Eco Hoodie 2.0
- Best Lightweight Insulated Jacket for Running: Dahlie Jacket Run
- Best Medium-Weight Insulated Running Jacket: Outdoor Vitals Vario Jacket
- Best Hybrid Insulated Jacket for Running: Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket
- Best Hybrid Insulated Jacket for Running – Runner-Up: Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody
- Best Mountain Running Insulated Jacket: La Sportiva Koro Jkt
- Best Budget Insulated Jacket for Running: Decathlon Forclaz Insulated Trek 100
- Best Insulated Jacket for Fastpacking: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoody
Overall Best Insulated Jacket for Running: The North Face Thermoball Eco Hoodie 2.0 ($240)
- Warm for the size
- Too warm for all but cold runs
Made with 100%-recycled materials and a perfluorinated-compound (PFC)-free durable water repellent (DWR) coating, The North Face Thermoball Eco Hoodie 2.0 is a lightweight and warm synthetic jacket that has been a favorite amongst the iRunFar crew for a long time. Light and small, it’s packable as a just-in-case jacket if you’re headed into the mountains for a remote and committing run and an excellent option for multi-day fastpacking trips where you’ll encounter wet weather. The synthetic insulation stays warm even when damp, and the relatively slim fit works well under a rain shell.
You can use the two two zip hand pockets to warm your hands or store small items. The entire jacket also stuffs into these pockets for easy storage when you’re not using it. The secure chest pocket will hold any small running essentials ranging from chapstick to nutrition.
The women’s version of this jacket is cut relatively slim compared to other similar jackets, but it comes in plus sizing options.
Shell material: 20-denier 38 gram/meter² 100%-recycled nylon with a non-PFC DWR finish | Insulation material: 11 gram/foot² ThermoBall™ Eco 100% post-consumer recycled polyester
Best Lightweight Insulated Jacket for Running: Dahlie Jacket Run ($100)
- Highly vented and breathable
- Visor on hood
- Shoulders not a traditional running jacket cut
The Nordic skiers have it dialed when creating clothing designed for use during high-intensity activities in the cold. The Dahlie Jacket Run comes from a Norwegian brand primarily known for its offerings to the cross-country skiing world. Its features are well thought out, and you can tell a lot of testing has gone into creating it. We found this lightweight insulated jacket the perfect choice for chilly runs during the winter months. Highly breathable, the microfiber material doesn’t hold onto moisture and keeps you dry. For additional ventilation on the back, there is a mesh panel near the top designed to dump excess heat. There is also a little extra insulation on the back of the arms, an area that frequently gets cold for runners.
The hood is insulated and provides extra protection during the coldest runs. Unlike many insulated jacket hoods, it has a visor, a small and thoughtful detail designed to give the face extra protection. The only storage is a small chest pocket.
Our only complaint with this jacket is that the cut around the shoulders was a little nordic-skier-ish. We’d venture to guess that for the performance this jacket provides, this isn’t going to be a major issue for most people.
Shell material: 100% polyester | Insulation Material: 93% polyester, 7% elastane
Best Medium-Weight Insulated Running Jacket: Outdoor Vitals Vario Jacket ($210)
- Made of recycled materials
- Stretchy insulation
- It is too warm for all but the coldest runs
When outside temperatures get cold and you’re looking for a medium-weight insulated jacket that will keep you toasty warm, the Outdoor Vitals Vario Jacket is a great option. Its ability to handle variability, its namesake, makes it stand out from other similar options, and it has many features that make it a good companion for really cold runs. The 50%-recycled 3DeFX insulation stretches with movement and provides high mobility. It is also very warm for its weight. A 20-denier nylon shell has a DWR coating and is water-resistant. The entire jacket is fairly compressible and goes down to about the size of a large grapefruit.
The insulated hood is warm, and under-arm perforations dump heat and prevent sweat buildup. By placing the insulation strategically around the torso to avoid hot spots, Outdoor Vitals has made a jacket that makes temperature regulation during cold runs easier. The elastic cuffs further seal in heat, and there are two hand pockets for storing items and keeping the fingers warm when you’re stopped.
This jacket comes in an athletic cut and is slimmer than other options in this guide. It’s a good idea to check the sizing chart when ordering this jacket if you cannot try it on first. Tall sizing is also available with a longer torso and sleeves.
Shell material: 20-denier ripstop nylon | Insulation material: 50%-recycled 3DeFX insulation
Best Hybrid Insulated Jacket for Running: Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket ($170)
- Ideal for cool-weather runs
- Strategically placed insulation
- Lack of reflectivity
Hybrid jackets are perfect for those shoulder-season runs when it’s not warm enough to head out without a jacket but you don’t want to sweat through a fully insulated one. The Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket has an insulating front panel with a wind-blocking shell that is perfect for keeping your core warm without causing overheating. To release excess heat, the non-insulated part of the jacket is made of a light and stretchy, highly breathable material. If an unexpected shower rolls through, a DWR finish provides more resistance to the elements. The hem has a draw cord to cinch down for increased warmth or improved fit, and the elastic cuffs also trap heat. Our testers loved this jacket for cold and blustery runs, finding that it blocked the wind and trapped heat effectively without causing them to get too hot when working hard.
You can carry small essentials in the internal zip pocket; two hand pockets provide additional storage or a place to put chilly fingers.
Shell material: 100% polyester ripstop with DWR finish, Spandex | Insulation material: 100% polyester
Best Hybrid Insulated Jacket for Running – Runner-Up: Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody ($299)
- Great breathability
- High price
The Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody is a top choice for high-effort running in cold weather and lower-intensity jogs when it’s just chilly out. Hybrid insulated jackets are designed to maintain a comfortable internal climate by trapping warmth and releasing excess heat and moisture when required to keep you warm and comfortable. The synthetic insulation is located strategically throughout the jacket to provide protection where it’s needed and venting where it’s not. The polyester shell is highly breathable, and the synthetic insulation keeps you warm even if it gets damp from sweat or a drizzle. The non-insulated parts of the jacket are made of Patagonia’s R1 knit paneling, which is highly breathable and quick-drying. Since there isn’t insulation on the back of this jacket, it is more comfortable to wear a running vest without worrying about sweat buildup. The hood is easy to deploy and remove, and the jacket has two zip hand pockets.
Patagonia remains committed to being a company that supports environmental causes. The shell is made from 100%-recycled polyester, and a PFC-free DWR coating helps it shed water. The insulation is also made up of 93%-recycled polyester. This jacket is made in a Fair Trade Certified factory, and the company is part of the 1% for the Planet program, donating a portion of its profits to organizations working with environmental conservation.
Shell material: 100% recycled polyester ripstop with a PFC-free DWR finish | Insulation material: 93% recycled 40-gram FullRange polyester
Best Mountain Running Insulated Jacket: La Sportiva Koro Jkt ($139)
- Reasonably price point
- High breathability
- Boxy fit
If your runs take you high in the mountains in the shoulder seasons or get out consistently during the winter months, you understand the importance of having a warm jacket on hand. The La Sportiva Koro Jkt, a hybrid insulated jacket, sets itself apart from others with its balance of warmth and breathability. The jacket’s materials come entirely from recycled materials, including the insulation, which is a blend of Primaloft Thermoplume and polyester. The front insulated portion of the jacket blocks wind and traps warmth exactly where you need it to. Stretchy fabric makes up the rest of the jacket, including the hood, which increases breathability to stay dry during hard efforts. The PFC-free DWR coating provides water resistance if you get caught in a shower. Two hand pockets and two internal pockets are perfect for holding smaller items you might need on your run.
Many clothing items from La Sportiva have a European cut, so be sure to check the sizing chart. If you want to have the option of wearing extra layers underneath or are simply after a slightly roomier fit, you may want to size up.
Shell material: Polyamide and elastane | Insulation material: Primaloft ThermoPlume; 100% recycled polyester
Best Budget Insulated Jacket for Running: Decathlon Forclaz Synthetic Mountain Trekking Hooded Padded Jacket – MT100 ($70)
- Too warm for all but very cold runs
Insulated jackets can carry quite a price tag, but the Decathlon Forclaz Synthetic Mountain Trekking Hooded Padded Jacket – MT100 is a quality jacket at a very reasonable cost. A relatively warm insulated jacket ideal for running in sub-freezing temperatures, it can also double as an everyday-wear option. The insulation is recycled polyester, and the shell is made of a 20-denier polyamide and treated with a water-repellent finish.
The insulated hood provides warmth, and the draw cord on the hem adjusts the fit and allows you to seal in warmth when it’s cold. Two hand pockets provide storage, and the jacket easily stuffs away into one of them so that you can easily carry it in your pack when not in use.
This jacket tends to run a bit smaller than others, so it’s worth considering sizing up, especially if you plan on wearing more than one layer underneath it. This is definitely one to check the sizing chart on before purchasing.
Shell material: 20-denier polyamide | Insulation material: Recycled polyester
Best Insulated Jacket for Fastpacking: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoody ($360)
- Very light for its warmth
- Down insulation isn’t warm when wet
Down jackets are generally avoided as running jackets due to their inability to maintain their insulative properties when wet, but their light weight and compressibility give them a place in the fastpacking world. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoody is a very warm jacket for its weight and it compresses down incredibly small in a pack. Multiple iRunFar testers choose this jacket for fastpacking trips, even those with rain in the forecast. While you do have to be more careful to keep from sweating through a down layer and protect it from moisture if it starts to rain, the extra attention can save you weight and bulk in your pack.
This jacket has an outer shell of 10-denier ripstop nylon with a DWR finish for water resistance. The 800-fill down insulation is Responsibly Sourced Down (RDS)-certified. The jacket packs down into one of the two hand pockets for storage, and zippers on them can keep small items secure.
The hood liner and the cuffs are elastic for improved fit and heat retention. The final baffles on each wrist, an area that often sees higher levels of sweat, are filled with synthetic insulation instead of down so that they stay warm even if they get damp.
While some will argue that synthetic jackets are a better option for running, the specific needs of gram-counting fastpackers also make it worth considering down.
Shell material: 10-denier ripstop nylon with a DWR finish | Insulation material: 800-fill RDS-certified down insulation
Comparing the Best Insulated Jackets for Running
|The North Face Thermoball Eco Hoodie 2.0
|20-denier 38 gram/meter² 100%-recycled nylon with a non-PFC DWR finish
|11 gram/foot² ThermoBall™ Eco 100% post-consumer recycled polyester
|Dahlie Jacket Run
|93% polyester, 7% elastane
|Outdoor Vitals Vario Jacket
|20-denier ripstop nylon
|50%-recycled 3DeFX insulation
|Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket
|100% polyester ripstop with DWR finish, Spandex
|Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody
|100% recycled polyester ripstop with a PFC-free DWR finish
|93% recycled 40-gram FullRange polyester
|La Sportiva Koro Jkt
|Polyamide and elastane
|Primaloft ThermoPlume; 100% recycled polyester
|Decathlon Forclaz Synthetic Mountain Trekking Hooded Padded Jacket – MT100
|Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoody
|10-denier ripstop nylon with a DWR finish
|800-fill RDS-certified down insulation
Choosing an Insulated Jacket for Running
Some of the best insulated jackets for running, like one of our favorites, the Outdoor Vitals Vario Jacket, are generally reserved for some of the coldest of winter runs and often end up being multi-purpose garments for people who wear them not only for running but also for hanging out at trailheads, camping, and as an everyday jacket during the winter. Choosing the right jacket for your specific needs is important since they tend to be on the pricier side of running apparel. There are several jacket features to consider when selecting the best insulated jacket for running for you.
Insulated jackets keep you warm by trapping air in the insulation. These air pockets reduce energy transfer between your body and the surrounding air. Having a jacket that’s too big can lead to big gaps between your body and the jacket, allowing cold outside air to move between the jacket and your body, whisking away heat before it has a chance to get trapped, completely defeating the thermodynamic principles that are trying to keep you warm. Insulated jackets, especially if you’re not wearing many layers underneath, should fit snugly but not tightly. A jacket like the The North Face Thermoball Eco Hoodie 2.0 has a slimmer cut, which can be useful for retaining warmth.
Be sure to think about the type of layering system you use for winter runs before choosing a jacket that may be too small. A jacket that fits too tightly will not only be uncomfortable and limit your range of motion, but it will also compress the insulation and can make it less effective at keeping you warm.
An insulated jacket should allow you to have a full range of motion with your arms and not move around on your body through the various stages of arm swing. It should also be long enough that when you reach your arms to the sky or bend over to pick something up, it doesn’t leave your mid-section exposed.
As with all pieces of running gear, weight is important. Since even the best insulated jackets for running tend to be one of the heavier pieces of clothing used for running, it’s worth looking at the gram scale when choosing one.
Synthetic insulation is heavier and less compressible than down insulation, so opting for a down jacket instead of one with synthetic insulation may be tempting. We recommend against this in most situations as down loses its insulation properties as it gets damp and clumps together. As runners who often partake in vigorous exercise, we sweat, and this moisture can turn a down jacket into dead weight if you sweat through it. That said, several iRunFar team members choose to take down jackets, like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoody, on fastpacking trips to save weight and are careful about removing them before they start to sweat.
The two main types of insulation used in jackets are down and synthetic. For running, synthetic fill is generally the smarter, albeit heavier and bulkier choice. Synthetic fill is generally made of polyester which mimics the heat-trapping properties of down. And while plastic doesn’t do nearly as efficiently of a job at catching heat as nature-created feathers, it has its advantages, including not being an animal product. Synthetic insulation can be made more environmentally friendly by coming from recycled products. Most of the best insulated jackets for running, including many in this guide, are made with recycled insulation.
Down comes from goose feathers. If purchasing a down jacket, it’s important to ensure that it’s Responsible Down Standard-certified so that it comes from animals treated as humanely as possible. The only down jacket in this guide is the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoody, which we recommend more for fastpacking applications than traditional running ones.
Most insulated jackets have a polyester or nylon shell treated with a DWR coating to make it moisture-resistant. Even with a DWR coating, insulated jackets generally falter in heavy precipitation and soak through easily. Synthetic insulation stays warmer than down when wet, but it still loses some of its insulative properties. There are insulated jackets that are fully waterproof, but they tend to be heavy and too much jacket for most running situations.
In hybrid insulated jackets, the insulated area of the jacket may be covered in one material while the rest is made of a completely different material. For example, the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody has a polyester shell over the insulated part while the rest of the jacket is made from Patagonia’s R1 knit fabric.
A jacket’s breathability depends on its insulation and shell and becomes an increasingly important factor to consider as temperatures drop—the best insulated jackets for running need to breathe well. The La Sportiva Koro Jkt was notable for the breathability of its materials, while a jacket like the Dahlie Jacket Run has built-in vents to get rid of extra heat, and the Outdoor Vitals Vario Jacket has under-arm vents as well. While sweating through a shirt on a pleasant day out probably doesn’t have many negative consequences, sweating through your insulative layers on a cold day can result in disaster. Many runners have found themselves in an uncomfortable situation in a wet base layer or jacket when the sun dips behind the horizon and temperatures drop. Because insulated jackets are inherently warm, it’s important to pay close attention to temperature regulation when wearing them. If you start to sweat, either slow your effort, unzip the jacket to dump heat or take it off completely to keep your base layer as dry as possible.
Sustainability has become an increasingly important factor to consider when purchasing clothing. Many companies have moved towards using recycled materials in both their jacket shells and insulation. They use RDS-certified down for down jackets to ensure that the ducks and geese the feathers come from are treated humanely.
One of the big advancements in jacket technology has been eliminating the use of perfluorinated compounds (PFC) in DWR coatings. Older DWR coatings used these compounds containing fluorine, an environmentally harmful material that does an excellent job repelling water due to its hydrophobicity. While the compounds used in traditional DWR coatings weren’t shown to be harmful to humans, the byproducts of the manufacturing process, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), are highly toxic and difficult to dispose of safely. Luckily, technological advances have found equally effective ways to make a material water-resistant without PFCs. The Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoodie and La Sportiva Koro Jkt use PFC-free DWR finishes.
Why Trust Us
The team at iRunFar doesn’t slow down when winter arrives, and we’ve taken the time to search the market for the best insulated jackets available. We looked for jackets with high-quality insulation that would keep us warm even if we got sweaty, breathe well, and stand up to the test of time. The jackets in this guide consist of time-tested team favorites, some of which have been in our closets and packs for years, and some new jackets that push the limits of the warmth-to-weight ratio.
Our team evaluated each jacket on various factors, including fit, durability, style, warmth, and breathability. We understand the importance of having a warm and trusted jacket, whether running in your neighborhood or on a remote mountain ridgeline in the winter, so we took the jackets through as many conditions, from cool to downright frigid, to see how they would perform.
Please note that product models are routinely discontinued in the running world, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we here at iRunFar often use our top picks in our daily running … they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes, that continued use results in uncovering product failures. With all this — product discontinuations, product introductions, and product failures — in mind, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing and research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. When we update any buyer’s guide, most products will likely remain the same. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear you’ll use for a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions about Insulated Jackets for Running
What are the differences between synthetic insulation and down?
Down insulation is made out of the feathers of geese and ducks. This is the more traditional option for creating insulating layers and has a very high warmth-to-weight ratio, higher than synthetic insulation options. The feathers create air gaps between them that trap heat and prevent energy exchange between your warm body and the cold outside air. Down also compresses smaller than synthetic options and has a longer lifespan if properly cared for. Unfortunately, down doesn’t play well with moisture, and when the feathers get wet and clump up, it loses most of its insulating properties. You can tell the warmth of a down jacket by its fill power and fill weight. The higher the fill weight, the better the quality of the down in terms of its warmth-to-weight ratio. Fill weight will tell you how much down is in the jacket. Higher numbers of both will indicate a warmer jacket. If purchasing a down jacket, you’ll want to ensure you get one with Responsible Down Standard (RDS)-certified down.
Synthetic insulation, generally made from polyester that mimics the same heat-capturing properties of down feathers, tends to be bulkier with a lower warmth-to-weight ratio. What makes it a superior option for running jackets is that it’ll stay warm even if it’s wet. While synthetic insulation isn’t made of animal products, which is important to many people, it is made of plastic. Companies have been reducing the environmental impact of their synthetic insulated jackets by using recycled materials, and nearly every jacket in this guide, including the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody, La Sportiva Koro Jkt, The North Face Thermoball Eco Hoodie 2.0, and the Outdoor Vitals Vario Jacket are made using some recycled materials.
Is synthetic insulation or down better for running?
Since running is generally aerobic, runners tend to sweat when partaking in it. Unless you’re careful not to sweat into a down jacket, a synthetic insulated jacket is a better option as it’ll maintain its insulating properties even if damp. It’ll also provide more warmth if you get caught out in an unexpected rainstorm. After extensive testing of insulated jackets of all weights and styles, the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody was our top choice for the best insulated jacket for running.
How should I layer while running with an insulated jacket?
Insulated jackets are generally only used for runs in fairly cold temperatures. The outside temperature, the type of running you’re doing, and how hot your body naturally runs all factor into the layering system underneath a down jacket.
Having layers on underneath a jacket makes it easier to control body temperature. You can add and remove layers as effort levels and temperatures vary throughout a run. A hybrid insulated jacket like the Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket allows flexible layering options.
A good starting point for layering is a quality base layer that breathes well and won’t get clammy and wet. Any additional layers on top of that are a matter of personal preference. You can learn more about choosing gear for cold-weather running at the iRunFar Best Cold Weather Running Gear guide.
Are there warmth ratings for jackets?
Down jacket warmth is measured in both fill weight and fill power. The fill power is a measure of the quality of the down. Higher fill power means the down will have more loft and a higher warmth-to-weight ratio. Fill weight is the amount of down that is put into a jacket. A higher fill weight also leads to a warmer jacket. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoody is an 800-fill power jacket with down that is on the higher end of the quality spectrum.
The warmth of synthetic insulation is measured in grams per square meter (gsm). As with down insulation measurements, the higher the number, the warmer the jacket will be.
Call for Comments
- Do you frequently run in weather that requires an insulated jacket?
- Do you have a favorite insulated jacket that didn’t make our list?