AMR GEARS UP: Running Vests for Cool, Wet Weather

By Sarah Bowen Shea 

I believe a vest is the most versatile piece of running gear: Wear it solo in damp or chilly weather, or layer it under a jacket to keep your core warm. Not to mention sporting it post-workout. (Note: I’m not talking about hydration vests.)

One tester highlighted this chameleon-quality on her review form: “I’ve been trying to be a lot more conscious of purchases and buying less ‘stuff.’ This vest really fits the bill being versatile, and not looking like I’m wearing ‘running clothes’ out to dinner or at a school function, allowing me to get way more wear out of it.”

There are several thoughtfully designed, multi-use vests on the market today, but it can sometimes be tough to find them. So we did the digging for you: Our BAMRbassadors tested five running vests, and wore them in a variety of weather conditions (dig the raindrops in the photo of the CEP vest!). Here’s folks’ honest feedback to help you find your ideal running vest.

Oiselle Seattle Showers Vest

This Oiselle vest is a beautiful contradiction: It’s loaded with features, yet incredibly lightweight. Made from a supple woven, water- and wind-resistant fabric, this vest has multiple pockets, an adjustable hood, and side vents. It stuffs into one of its own pockets that has a wide, plush elastic band, allowing you to secure the vest to your hand if you take it off mid-run.

Pros: Our testers loved the zippers on either side of the bottom of this vest. Testified one tester: “Being thicker in the hips, the zippers allowed me to loosen it enough to be comfortable and lay flat. When I ran, it didn’t ride up and didn’t bounce around.” The other tester unzipped them when she wanted added ventilation. Both testers appreciated the vest’s three zippered pockets. “They kept things in place without the vest bouncing around.” One gal liked that the vest is “a bit longer [1.5”] in the back than the front.”

Cons: The hood: One tester wished it was removable, while the other didn’t figure out how to stash the hood while not in use.

Take it from a mother runner: “I loved the pockets—they’re big enough for gloves, fuel, and a phone, and the zippers lay flat.”

Price: $74 (on sale!) 

CEP Cold Weather Reversible Vest

Part of the new apparel line by compression-giant CEP, this vest is a textbook definition of versatile: One side is designed to be worn going about daily life, while the other side—with lots of reflective elements and zippered side pockets—is meant for wearing while working out. “I got so many compliments from friends and neighbors when I wore the ‘lifestyle’ side out. This is going to be a staple of my wardrobe!” And it’s a work-horse during workouts, keeping testers dry and comfortable.

Pros: This water-repellent, wind-resistant vest is true to its claims. One marathoner-in-training reported, “I wore it for a rainy run in 50-degree temps, and my inner layer stayed dry from the elements. A unique flat-elastic bottom “ensures a stay-put fit without restricting movement, making it an excellent choice for runners with ‘well-developed’ glutes.” (Read: a strong, rounded booty!) Plenty of storage on this well-designed vest— three zippered pockets, plus two unzippped ones on the lifestyle side. The Primaloft Gold insulation is “super-light, yet effective.” Wrote one tester, “it let me feel warm in colder weather while still maintaining mobility and comfort.”

Cons: Testers found the two-sided zipper could be a bit tricky, often snagging the fabric in the zipper tracks.

Take it from a mother runner: “It’s great to know this vest considers various body types and offers a comfortable and functional solution for weather protection!”

Price: $130

Rab Xenair Insulated Vest

“Overall, this vest is a great option for those who need lightweight warmth without the bulk,” wrote our tester who put it through its paces in and around the Grand Canyon, where she lives. She wore it on a run into the canyon, then stashed it in the pocket of her hydration pack when she got warm hiking back to the rim. This vest, made partially of recycled materials, “is also pretty versatile: It’s great for a workout, and also looks super-cute at a football tailgate or a casual dinner out.”

Pros: A lot of careful thought has gone into the insulation in the Xenair. It includes two weights of a special recycled PrimaLoft insulation with lighter density material through the sides and down the spine. “I most appreciated how lightweight and warm the Xenair is: It has the same warmth as a regular puffer vest, yet is clearly designed with outdoor athletes in mind.” Both testers loved “the readily accessible and large chest and hand pockets.” And this is another clever, stash-in-its-own-pocket vest.

Cons: One tester lamented the lack of a hood.

Take it from a mother runner: “This is a perfect option for running at higher elevations where the weather (and the temperatures) can often be unpredictable.”

Price: $155

Brooks Run Visible Insulated Vest

Brooks Running has long made visibility a cornerstone of its apparel, which we appreciate. “The reflective elements are essential for being visible on my 4:30 a.m. runs,” says one dedicated tester.  Another liked that the reflective accents on this vest are “not glaring in regular light.” Made with 87% recycled materials, this semi-fitted vest got “two thumbs up” from a longtime lover of vests. “Yes, it’s pricey at $160, but totally worth it in my opinion.” 

Pros: This hood-free vest is insulated on the front, offering wind protection as you fare forward. If you heat up, unzip the vest and utilize clever snaps under the zipper to keep the open vest from flapping. Available in sizes XS-XXL, one larger-busted tester reported the “stretch and give” on the sides resulted in “no problems zipping up this vest.” The stretchy back panel also helps the vest conform well to the body. “It was warm and soft but not bulky.” Two zippered front pockets “are good size to stash fuel, a key, or gloves when your hands get hot.” 

Cons: Both testers complained about the collar being uncomfortably prominent, especially when zipped all the way up. 

Take it from a mother runner: “This Brooks vest will be my cold-weather staple! It keeps me cozy but is breathable and does not make me feel overheated.” 

Price: $160

Nathan Navigator Hybrid Vest

This monochromatic beauty has “hybrid” in its name because it’s lightly insulated with a down alternative on the front, while the rest of the vest is a soft, 4-way stretch fabric that’s water- and wind- resistant. Reports one marathon-training tester: “You won’t overheat in this vest, yet it’ll do its job to keep you comfortable as the temperatures drop.”

Pros: This vest protected our Pacific Northwest tester from light rain, thanks to a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish. Available only in sizes XS-L (tsk-tsk), one slender, tall tester found it “roomy,” until she “noticed the adjustable drawcord at the hem, which made the fit more snugly.” Two zippered hand-warmer pockets have a brushed lining. “I appreciate how cozy the pockets are when I stuff my hands in them, talking to my running buddy after our workout.” Stash your key or valuables in the vest’s internal zipper pocket on the left chest.

Cons: Only one small pop of reflective material on the vest, in the back.

Take it from a mother runner: “This is the Goldilocks of running vests: not too snug, not too big; not too bulky, not too light. Just right.”

Price: $125

Check out all of the AMR Gears Up columns here!

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