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November 17, 2015 Comments (3) Featured, Gear Reviews

Lightweight Jacket Review

If you can’t already tell, some of us here at TAUR are real gear nerds!! In fact, we couldn’t have been happier to have found some of the lightest jackets on the market to give the go around with. This time you will hear straight from the testers. We spent a full month working these bad boys in all sorts of weather, to give you our honest feedback and help you make an educated decision for your next purchase. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. We promise to get back to you.

(All scales are based on a 1 to 5)

 


 

 

Black Diamond

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody

“I’ve used this jacket in a number of scenarios including 2 overnight runs. I find the material to be a tad heavier than my existing jackets. However because of that, it insulates more. In the wind and with colder temps, the BD is overall better the other light weight options. I did not have an issue with breathability. The fit was really nice and I liked the chest pocket. I prefer a jacket with hand pockets as well and this jacket did not have those but that’s only a personal preference issue. I liked the adjustable hood; that becomes very important in more extreme conditions. In the end, I have kept the BD and given up my other jackets because of its versatility. Overall, I’d give this jacket a 4 overall.”

“This proved to be a very light weight jacket that still blocked out quite a bit of wind and cold. I was pleased with the forming shape and snug fit around the wrists to help keep in body heat. The hood was adjustable and good for keeping rain off. However, I have a small head so even with the adjustment strings I would have liked it to be even smaller. It should be noted the hood is designed to fit over a helmet. I was unable to get the snug fit I wanted around my head even with the adjustable strings with the bouncing up and down on a run. This jacket faired well in a light rain. Great jacket for a Fall day run and nice fit for a slimmer runner.”

Ratings from our TAUR Testers

Durability  4.5
Weight 4.5
Fit 4.5
Packability  4.5
Performance in the cold 4
Performance in the wet  3.5
Weight  202g/7.1 oz
Fabric 

Schoeller® stretch-woven with NanoSphere® Technology

Price $149

 

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Patagonia.svgPatagonia Houdini

 

“The Houdini is a Super lightweight, very packable jacket. Which means you have no reason to be unprepared. Throw it in a pack when there is a threat of precipitation or cold temps. The fit is good, with no extra fabric to bounce around. I would love to see a way to tuck the hood away when not needed as it does bounce around some when not on, but putting the jacket on with the hood down inside the jacket solves that. It’s been a really good temperature control piece, never too hot or sticky, but enough to take the bite out of a cold night or morning.
The Houdini is very water resistant, not water proof. I Wore it for 4 hours in a light drizzle and it kept me comfortably dry. There was a slightly noticeable condensation build up wear I had on my pack underneath the jacket. This also makes it more comfortable to run in though. Just know your phone might not be 100% safe from rain under the jacket.

This is definitely a jacket I see getting a whole lot of use year round.”

 

“The Houdini has been the standard of running jackets for years. It’s a great jacket, there’s no doubt. In windy and cold conditions it performs as good as anything I’ve ever worn. It’s a fantastic piece for quick ascents to regulate temperatures and provide short term protection in the elements. The jackets durability is amazing in comparison to the competitors, but it is not abrasion resistant. At only 4 oz, one can only expect water resistance, not ‘waterproofness’.”

 

Ratings from our TAUR Testers

Durability  5
Weight 5
Fit 4
Packability  5
Performance in the cold 4.5
Performance in the wet  3.5
Weight  113g/4 oz
Fabric 

Featherweight 100% nylon ripstop

Price $99

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the_north_face_logoThe North Face Ultra Lite Waterproof Short-Sleeve Jacket

“The jacket wears well, and despite the unusualness about the fit of the short sleeves on a jacket, I found it to be a great way to manage body temperature. It tends to be my arms that get too warm when I layer, so on slightly chilly mornings, this made managing that easier. As far as packability, I’ve used jackets that pack up a little smaller, and the zipper was a little awkward to use when zipping it closed inside the pack pocket. It still took up a fair amount of space in my hydration pack which was surprising for how lightweight it is, but it’s manageable if I have a medium sized pack with me. I liked the hood and it didn’t get in my way. Overall I liked the jacket, however for the price point, I would likely go with another option.”

—–

“I had a great deal of reservations about the TNF Short Sleeve jacket. However, the more I wore the jacket and utilized it the more I started to appreciate the aspects of the jacket, and in fact, really like it.

The jacket is extremely light and packable. It fit easily into all of my hydration vests and was so light that I didn’t even notice that I was carrying it. For as light as it is, the jacket is actually very useful and provides an excellent wind shell as well as being water proof.

I think that not having the sleeves be full length is a genius idea because sometimes when it is windy and rainy it is still not super cold so it keeps the wind and rain off of your torso but at the same time you do not overheat. This is the perfect piece for a long adventure run where you will be going to elevation or possibly getting into some inclement weather because it is light enough to carry long distances, but can still provide a wind and rain shell if the weather changes.

I took this on a longer adventure run where rain was in the forecast and my running partner had a poncho which he pulled out when it started to rain. I had the Ultra Lite Jacket and it was far less cumbersome than having a rain poncho with a running hydration vest on. My partner was quickly jealous of my jacket and thought that it was a great idea. It performed brilliantly.

I do think that this jacket is very useful and I will definitely add it to my pack on longer adventure runs or going to higher mountains where there is a possibility of inclement weather. It is, however, very expensive and I do feel like most people will not be willing to spend the extra money for what the jacket provides.

The jacket did an excellent job keeping the wind and rain off of me. From a performance perspective the jacket performed flawlessly and I came away very impressed with its capabilities for being as light as it is. The quality of the material is also excellent and very durable.”

 

Ratings from our TAUR Testers

Durability  4
Weight 4.5
Fit 4
Packability  4.5
Performance in the cold 3.5
Performance in the wet  4
Weight  74g/2.6 oz
Fabric  HyVent™ 2.5L
Price $150

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Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket

“The UD Ultra jacket is now the standard in running cold weather wear. It is, by far, the best thing I’ve ever worn. Their attention to detail on this jacket is second to none; from the fold out mini-mittens to the hood, it is just nearly flawless.
I have worn the jacket in every condition, from crazy wind to heavy rain and I never had one problem. Best jacket on the market. “

“This jacket is radically changing the expectations of runners. The Ultra Jacket combines light weight and performance. This has become the go to jacket for our team in remote and rugged terrain, while still going light. Whether going to Hardrock100, doing an adventure run or even needing something around town, this jacket looks good and performs exceptionally well.” 

Ratings from our TAUR Testers

Durability  5
Weight 5
Fit 5
Packability  5
Performance in the cold 5
Performance in the wet  5
Weight  167g/5.9 oz
Fabric 

20D HexNylon Fastbreath Ultra™ Fabric

Price $179.99

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Brooks LSD Jacket

Great wind jacket. It is very packable and constructed of a stretchy fabric that makes it easy to wear around your arm or hand. This feature is great if you are unsure about the weather before heading out or if the weather changes while running. This jacket is extremely useful in the fall and winter as it is getting dark early. The jacket is very reflective and definitely designed for the city/road rather than trails. It is however an overall useful jacket in windy and light rain conditions. It is NOT Waterproof. 

The jacket did great for cold foggy mornings, and light rain. On cold mornings, I was able to just wear it and a light top underneath. The LSD still kept me pretty warm during my runs. This jacket is breathable and it dries fairy quickly after a good run. Also, I find it very comfortable to wear and it almost feels like you are not wearing it, it’s super light!! This jacket has a built in pocket which you can pack the jacket into it and and it has a elastic strap which allows you to carry it while you run. Super compact and portable!

Ratings from our TAUR Testers

Durability  3.5
Weight 5
Fit 4.5
Packability  5
Performance in the cold 3.5
Performance in the wet  3
Weight  87 g/3.1oz 
Fabric  100% ripstop nylon
Price $98

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La Sportiva Hail Jacket

La Sportiva is a brand that has really focused its attention on mountain athletics. The Hail Jacket is a strong competitor in the light weight jacket category. My first impressions of the jacket were of the materials and construction. I was apprehensive about using this jacket in rugged terrain due to the lightweight and thin nylon material. However, I was happily surprised by the flexibility and durability of the shell. I would be confident using this on fast alpine ascents, short runs, or stashed in a long adventure pack. The jacket is extremely breathable and packs up very nicely. And while it does not come in at the lowest weight, it does pack tightly down. In regards to fit, the shell seems a little long, but after a thoroughly wet run, it kept this boy’s vital parts dry due to its longer torso fit. This is the most flexible fabric we tested.

Great jacket to bring along for long hikes/run, very light and does not take much room in my hydration vest. It only has one side pocket which I find it a bit odd also, it has hidden under arms vents which allows extra ventilation while running, I love the hoodie with a built in visor. The high collar is great as it will help to keep your lips from getting cold on the cold windy nights. Overall a great fit and perfect for windy rainy days. It fits great where you can still fit in a few layers for chilly running days.

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Ratings from our TAUR Testers

Durability  4.5
Weight 5
Fit 4.5
Packability  5
Performance in the cold 5
Performance in the wet  4
Weight  178g/6.3 oz
Fabric 

100% Nylon

Price $199

 

 


outdoor research

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

The Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket was the most durable jacket we tested. With this durability and protection fromt the elements comes the added cost of weight and packability  Many normal folks are snearing at our weight weeny obsession  FO those looking for a waterproof and packable jacket with a little bit of weight, this is the jacket to get. Beautiful construction and simple features. I felt very confident taking this jacket off trail on bushwhacks or when the wind was roaring. Conversely the jacket doesn’t breath as well as the others on the list. But again, this jacket is not for the faint at heart. 

This OR jacket didn’t breathe as well as other waterproof jackets I’ve used due to lack of venting. That said, when the weather is bad, it keeps the water and wind out and is a great top layer high in mountains on cold, windy, or wet days. I wore it on an 11k ridge in a rain storm and stayed completely dry, where other (more vented) rain jackets would’ve failed. Fit is loose and comfortable but not loose enough to wear over a vest. Light weight to toss in a vest and not notice it’s there. Love the color and fit, it isn’t “noisy” to run in like some waterproof jackets. Also a big fan of the built in visor in the hood and the bunjees on the hood for a customizable fit

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Ratings from our TAUR Testers

Durability  5
Weight 4
Fit 3.5
Packability  4.5
Performance in the cold 4.5
Performance in the wet  5
Weight  180g/6.4 oz
Fabric 

Pertex® Shield+ 2.5L, 100% nylon 30D ripstop

Price $159

 


 

Comparative Summary

Brand

Durability

Weight

Fit 

Packability

Performance in Cold

Performance in Wet

Weight

Fabric

Price

Black Diamond Alpine Start
4.5
4.5
4.5
4.5
4
3.5
202g / 7.1oz
Schoeller Nanosphere
$149.00
Patagonia Houdini
5
5
4
5
4.5
3.5
113g / 4oz
Featherweight Ripstop
$99.00
TNF Short Sleeve Waterproof
4
4.5
4
4.5
3.5
4
74g / 2.6oz
Hyvent 2.5L
$150.00
UD Ultra
5
5
5
5
5
5
167g / 5.9oz
HexNylon Ultra
$179.99
Brooks LSD
3.5
5
4.5
5
3.5
3
87g / 3.1oz
Ripstop Nylon
$98.00
La Sportiva Hail
4.5
5
4.5
5
5
4
178g / 6.3oz
100% Nylon
$199.00
OR Helium II
5
4
3.5
4.5
4.5
5
180g / 6.4oz
Pertex Shield
$159.00

3 Responses to Lightweight Jacket Review

  1. Dom Layfield says:

    Love the write-up. Great job!

    One thing that I would have liked to see was ratings for breathability. That’s the most important aspect for me. Which jacket(s) would you say were the most breathable?

    Also, can you make some overall recommendations? The UD Ultra got perfect scores. Does that mean it is the best in all circumstances?

    • Hey Dom,

      Agreed. We could add that category for sure. One aspect for the breathability is the variability of environments, intensity level of activity, etc. Additionally, breathability is measured in numerous ways, so we just din”t want to go there. That’s my excuse, and I am sticking to it. Our main goal was to provide first hand experiential feedback.

      Honestly, all of these jackets are great. And having the fortune to be able to keep many in my closet after the tests, I tend to use all of them for different reasons, and circumstances. I find myself pulling the jackets based on
      BD Alpine Start – Light fast Day Alpine runs/activities due to durability of fabric, breathability and water resistance (and it is dead sexy)
      Patagonia – Very light and fast all season Day runs, with occasional longer adventure runs, very breathable, packable, water resistant
      TNF Ultra Lite – Similar to Patagonia, but more for warmer temps
      UD Ultra – The go to for Endurance/Adventure runs and epic adventures, Water proof, Packable, not quite as breathable and very durable. If I am doing Hardrock or similar this will be in the pack
      Brooks LSD – Day running light jacket, similar to the above Water Resistant, Very Packable and breathable, but durability in rugged circumstances and torental downpours a concern. I use this all the time for morning cold runs
      La Sportiva – The most flexible fabric of the bunch, love it for Alpine/adventures, Big day runs. Very packable, breathable and very water resistant.
      OR Helium – The jacket for rugged and burly adventure runs. Heavier, but not by much. Waterproof

  2. Craig Lloyd says:

    Great recommendation Dom, something we’ll keep in mind for future tests. I will say this, having worn both a fully waterproof and a resistant jacket, “breathability” is most impacted by whether or not you want a fully waterproof jacket vs just one that can resist some light sprinkles. The UD jacket is fully waterproof, so it doesn’t breath quite like the Patagonia Houdini. However, as far as fully waterproof jackets go, it is by far the most breathable. Insanely good. Glorious, you might say.

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