Are All Running Jackets Waterproof: What You Need To Know

The more I got into running, the more I found myself running in all sorts of weather conditions. The worst of it being when it was cold and wet.

In the beginning I had a crappy thick jacket that not only made me sweat like I was wearing a bin bag, but it also leaked like crazy so I ended up being sweaty, wet, and cold in many instances.

I knew that if I was going to take my running seriously I would have to invest in a running jacket suitable for how I was planning to run.

One thing I did know was that I a jacket that was going to be lightweight and waterproof but I was unsure if I could just buy any running jacket on the market.

Because of this I decided I needed to do some research and understand if all running jackets were waterproof. This is what I found out.

Not all running jackets are waterproof, actually, far from it. There are jackets designed to be windproof, showerproof, and also waterproof. A good waterproof jacket will have taped seams, be breathable, and also be lightweight.

There are many reasons that a waterproof jacket needs to be part of your essential kit list if you are serious about running. They are especially important if you plan to run any trail or ultramarathons as they are normally part of the mandatory kit list.

How Do You Measure How Waterproof A Jacket Is?

It’s often very easy to make the mistake of thinking a particular jacket is waterproof. As you will see below, it isn’t always as clear cut as it might first appear. There are levels of how waterproof a jacket might be.

A rating is given to a material after a hydro-static head test is performed.

Hydrostatic Head is the measure of how water resistant your jacket material is. It measures how tall a column of water the fabric can hold before water starts to seep through the weave. A Hydrostatic Head of 5000mm means that a jacket fabric could hold a column of water that is 5000mm tall.

Lets look at this in the table form below.

RatingResistanceBest For
0 – 1500 mmWater ResistantLight Rain
1500 – 5000 mmWaterproofLight to Average Rain
5000 mmVery WaterproofModerate to Heavy Rain
10000 mmHigh WaterproofHeavy Rain

As you can see, a jacket that is anywhere between 0 and 1500mm is generally going to be your everyday jacket that can cope with light showers.

This type of jacket is quite breathable and is ideal for a training run where you want to run light but there may be the chance of a shower or two. They generally help as a wind break as well.

I also would typically trust anything in the 1500 to 5000mm range to be great beyond a heavy shower or two either. I currently have a jacket that is supposed to be 5000mm but after being on in steady rain for half an hour or so, I tend to find that I am getting wet patches on my clothes underneath. This might also be because it is a fairly cheap jacket at $50.

What Is A Good Waterproof Running Jacket?

When it comes to a great running jacket, nothing much can beat the OMM Kamleika race jacket. With a hydrostatic head of 20,000mm it is an amazing jacket.

The photo above is my jacket and I’ve owned it for 3 years now. It has never let me down and meets all the requirements of mandatory kit for trail and ultramarathons.

Not only is it a fantastically waterproof jacket but it’s also very breathable too. Believe me, you will want you jacket to be breathable or you will end up with a lot of moisture build up inside and on a cold day that’s a recipe for disaster.

Currently, you pick the OMM Kamleika jacket up at a very reasonable price on Amazon right nowOpens in a new tab.. To think that this jacket has lasted me 3 years so far, it was an absolute bargain and has never let me down, and I use it a lot.

The photo below shows me wearing it at the end of an 86 mile Ultramarathon in which it poured down with rain for the last 3 hours of my 22-hour race. I was exhausted, but at least I was dry.

What Features Should I Look For In A Running Jacket

When choosing the right jacket for you, there are a few decisions you need to make. For instance, what do you want the jacket to accomplish for you?

Are you just a casual runner that only needs something thats shower proof on shorter runs? If so, do go breaking the bank on an expensive jacket that will do more than you ever need.

However, if you are getting serious about you running then it’s worth doing your research into a better jacket, especially if you are planning to sign up for a few races along the way.

Lets take a look at some of the key features to look for.

Needs To Be Fully Waterproof

If the jacket says water-resistant or water-repellent then there is a good chance that the jacket isn’t fully waterproof.

This is all well and good but consider this before purchasing. If you are out on a long run or a race and your jacket lets the water through then you are going to find yourself very wet, maybe very cold and uncomfortable. 

Look out for taped seams – this is what you want your jacket to have. Any areas such as zips and joins should be taped to keep the water out.

If you are entering Ultra Marathons, a lot will state on the kit list that you must have a waterproof jacket with taped seams.

Waterproof garments are given a waterproof rating that is determined by a hydrostatic head test.

As discussed earlier in the post, I would aim for something that is 10,000mm or above to cover all the bases.

Breathability

There is a fine balance between how waterproof a jacket is to how breathable it will be in a lot of cases.

Whilst the ability to be waterproof is essential, we also want the material to breathe.

The idea is that if you begin to sweat, we want the moisture to be taken away from the body. If it’s a warm day you will overheat and in the cold, you may start to get colder.

Always check that the jacket has good breathability.

Weight

Most jackets are fairly lightweight nowadays, but that doesn’t mean they won’t hold water. 

Try to avoid jackets that hold water whilst remaining waterproof as the weight difference will be not only noticeable but also very annoying.

Fit

Yes, the fit of the jacket is really important. You should find a jacket that fits closely to the body whilst still feeling comfortable.

Purchase a baggy jacket and run on a windy day! Might as well be wearing a parachute with all the drag you will encounter – it’s no fun at all.

Compact

Not essential, but I do like a jacket that packs away in a small bundle. It just makes it so much easier when you are out on very long days and you may be a little tight for space.

This can be especially helpful when you are running an ultramarathon due to the amount of other kit you have to carry as well. Having something that stuffs away into a small ball is worth having.

Price

A good running waterproof jacket can be costly and of course, not everyone’s budget can stretch to some of the prices.

But consider this. Buying a low cost jacket for say $100 may be a bargain buy, or it may be something that wears quite quickly, or rips due to lower quality materials etc.

Or, you spend $200 on a jacket that lasts for a few years. Eventually the $200 will probably be the cheaper option.

Of course, that’s not to say that all expensive jackets will last for years. I spent a lot of time checking out many jackets and the reviews from serious runners. That’s why I ended up with the OMM Kamleika, and it was worth every penny.

In Summary…

Hopefully this article has helped you understand that not all running jackets are waterproof and in fact, not all waterproof jackets will protect you during more severe weather.

If you plan to run casually and won’t be racing then by all means get yourself something at a budget price to do the job it needs to do for you.

If racing is your plan then I would advise purchasing something like the OMM Kamleika with a hydrostatic head of 20,000mm – that way you are covered for nearly all eventualities and will have no issues with mandatory kit for Trail and Ultra marathons.

Whatever you decide to choose, I wish you well with your next waterproof jacket.

Mark

Hey! Mark here. Welcome to my blog. At the age of 47 I was a 212lb unhealthy mess. At the age of 50, I had run an 86 mile trail ultramarathon and converted to a Plant-Based Diet. I had turned my life around in 3 years. This blog is set up for those of you who want to make that change and I'm here to help.

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