We test some of the best autumn-winter running kit to keep you adding up the miles this triathlon off-season.

For triathletes in less temperate climates, winter running is a real challenge against the elements. If you’re going to keep training through the coldest months of the year, you need clothing that’s comfortable and warm. That’s why we’ve tested a selection of jackets and jerseys to insulate you against the icy air without you getting too hot under the collar. These mid-layers and outer shells don’t have to be bought together but are designed to work as a set against the winter. Weeks of cold, early mornings and dark evenings provided the testing ground for these garments. Facing frost, wind and horizontal rain, we sweated buckets to test their breathability, protection and comfort to provide you with a real-world verdict.

Find more group tests from Triathlon Plus in our other best triathlon gear reviews.

Adidas Response 3-Stripes LS Half-Zip Tee & Windbreaker

Adidas Response 3-Stripes LS Half-Zip Tee & Windbreaker
£40 | £40
www.adidas.co.uk; www.adidas.com

This pairing from the brand that sponsors the Brownlees is a basic but comfy option for chilly, rather than freezing, mornings. The Response 3-Stripes top has a slim rather than fitted cut and is very breathable thanks to Adidas’s tried and tested ClimaLite fabric. Extra ventilation comes via the 15cm zip, which you’ll probably want to keep down as it tends to rub on the neck when fully fastened. The Response 3-Stripes Windbreaker jacket might be a bargain option, but with tiny holes perforating half the back it lets heat escape well. Despite being light, the jacket coped well in blustery conditions and lets you get on with your session without fuss. The lack of reflectors and black colour could limit your nocturnal running routes though. As a combination, the top and jacket work well to keep things comfortable without overheating too much as long as the weather doesn’t turn foul.

Verdict
A great basic set that performs well together in chilly weather.

TOP

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

JACKET
Performance 3/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Top Value Award

Brooks Equilibrium LS & The Essential Run Jacket II

Brooks Equilibrium LS & The Essential Run Jacket II
£27 | £55
www.brooksrunning.co.uk; www.brooksrunning.com

Brooks’s Equilibrium LS is a simple, thin, lightweight running top that’s silky, stretchy and feels comfortable as soon as it’s pulled on. The lack of a zip went unnoticed, as despite staying comfortably warm, breathability was excellent. The reflective detail is also welcome for running in darker winter conditions. The Essential Run Jacket II features a soft collar and covered zip at the neck for comfort. There’s also an internal pocket for your phone or MP3 player and an elastic loop to hold a headphones cable. The jacket is impervious to wind and showers but warms up quickly and doesn’t breathe brilliantly. It’s also quite heavy and, with the zip done up, dances around annoyingly at anything faster than a light trot. Undo the zip a little and the collar flaps irritatingly. It’s also clumsier than some others to tie around the waist once you’re warmed up, making it best suited to longer, slower runs in the cold.

Verdict
A great top that’s more suited to a lighter jacket for most winter weather.

TOP
Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

JACKET
Performance 2/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5

Nike Women’s Relay Short Sleeve & Women’s Vapor Jacket

Nike Women’s Relay Short Sleeve & Women’s Vapor Jacket
£22 | £65
www.nike.com

The Relay top is made from Nike’s Dri-Fit fabric and has a casual design for those more conscious of their appearance when not racing with fellow Lycra-clad competitors. The top’s material is kind on the skin, but the sleeves are cut just under the armpits and our tester found they rubbed uncomfortably, especially on longer runs. Despite having short sleeves, the top is actually quite warm (probably as it’s not the most breathable) but it doesn’t get uncomfortably sweaty. It also works well with Nike’s excellent Vapor jacket, which features a slim, female-specific cut, a smooth neckline and soft, wrist-hugging cuffs that make it really comfortable. Mesh sides and underarms mean it’s breathable, so you’ll only get wet if the heavens decide to open. The bright colours and large arm reflectors offer great visibility while the two front pockets and detachable hood make it a practical choice too.

Verdict
A great jacket that would be better paired to a purer running top underneath.

TOP
Performance 2/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5

JACKET
Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Sugoi Firewall 180 Zip & Zap Jacket

Sugoi Firewall 180 Zip & Zap Jacket
£64.99 | £49.99
www.sugoi.com

Sugoi’s winter jersey is made from the Japanese company’s fleecy, stretchy MidZero material on the back and inner arms, and their smooth, windproof Firewall 180 fabric on the front. This comfy combination is hampered by the cut of the women’s version, which is baggy around the shoulders, but tight on the neck and forearms, and features a wide, sculpted curve around the hips that flared out on our tester. Still, if it happens to fit your figure well, it’s a cosy top for low intensities when the mercury drops, although the wind-proofing seems to inhibit its breathability, leaving a fair bit of moisture on the skin. The Zap jacket is much better, especially for night owls, thanks to its bright colours and reflective patterns. The single vent on the rear offers good ventilation and it doesn’t jump or move around too much with the zip open. The jacket’s light weight also makes it ideal for tying around your waist once you’ve warmed up.

Verdict
A great thin shell for running after dark but double check sizing for the top.

TOP
Performance 2/5
Value 3/5
Overall 2/5

JACKET
Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Asics Seamless LS Top & Woven Jacket

Asics Seamless LS Top & Woven Jacket
£45 | £75
www.asics.co.uk; www.asicsamerica.com

This top from running specialists Asics is immediately comfy, with the smooth antibacterial fabric offering a second-skin fit, and the flat seams and label-free construction preventing any chafing. Out running in chilly weather, the top warms up to a comfortable level and then regulates temperature well. It holds on to a bit of sweat, but moves it away from the skin to stop things getting too clammy. Like most skin-tight tops, the hem rides up to the waistline, but as it’s cut quite long, it doesn’t irritate, rub or expose the stomach. The top also works well in tandem with the Woven Jacket, which is light and well ventilated thanks to mesh in the upper back. Its Ripstop fabric fares reasonably well against the wind, and shrugs off light showers. There isn’t any annoying movement even with the zip undone either. The jacket also has small reflective strips for visibility, two front zip pockets and a slot for a headphones cable on the inside.

Verdict
A great combination to keep you comfy in all but the coldest weather.

TOP
Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

JACKET
Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

Crewroom Vapour-X Microlight Short Sleeve & Dolly Mix Jacket

Crewroom Vapour-X Microlight Short Sleeve & Dolly Mix Jacket
£30 | £89
www.crewroom.biz

Crewroom’s Microlight top uses the company’s two-layer Vapour-X fabric woven from bamboo charcoal and polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. The bamboo charcoal is used on the fabric’s inner layer and is extremely fine and comfortable, while the polyester top layer is as breathable and fast-wicking as any we’ve ever tested – though the long-sleeved version’s probably a safer bet for winter. The Dolly Mix Jacket has taped, waterproof seams and it holds up to rain admirably. The inside is mesh lined throughout, but isn’t the comfiest against bare arms. The adjustable wrists and neckline keep the jacket in place with the zip open, which helps aid ventilation but doesn’t stop it getting hot and sweaty in mild temperatures. It’s better suited to providing protection against the rain on the days when it’s really cold. Both top and jacket came up a little large so consider sizing carefully.

Verdict
A good jacket for wet weather and one of the best running tops out there.

TOP
Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

JACKET
Performance 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

Pearl Izumi Aurora Thermal Top & Elite Barrier Convertible Jacket

Pearl Izumi Aurora Thermal Top & Elite Barrier Convertible Jacket
£49.99 | £89.99
www.pearlizumi.com

We were expecting this fleecy top to be hot, but were pleased to discover that it’s actually extremely breathable. Even while wearing a jacket, it stays comfy and dry. The fit is snug but not too tight and doesn’t chafe, ride up or restrict arm movement. The 10-inch zip provides extra cooling and the handy rear pocket doesn’t rub or irritate. The Elite Barrier Convertible Jacket doesn’t disappoint either. Fantastic ventilation, sleek fabric – even against bare skin – as well as wind and water resistance add up to one of the best jackets on test. The slim fit is comfortable and the jacket doesn’t bunch, bounce or impede running at all. As well as reflectors and four pockets (with one on the rear that hangs a little low), the sleeves also unzip to turn the jacket into a gilet, which make it a practical choice for long sessions in changeable weather.

Verdict
A fantastic top and jacket combo that’s perfect for Britain’s changeable climate.

TOP
Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

JACKET
Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Gold Award, Triathlon Plus Peak Performer Award

Saucony Kinvara Drylete Sport & Sonic ViZiPRO HDX Jacket

Saucony Kinvara Drylete Sport & Sonic ViZiPRO HDX Jacket
£55 | £90
www.en.saucony.co.uk; www.saucony.com

The Kinvara Drylete Sport is a comfortable top, but being one of the heavier garments on test, it heats up quickly. Opening the zip helps cool things down but lets the top bounce around distractingly, making it best for really cold days or just for warm-ups. The top features a USB-charged LED that clips onto the arm. Giving two hours of illumination per charge, it’s a nice addition with constant and flashing modes to help you be seen during dark sessions. The water resistant Sonic ViZiPRO HDX jacket is lightweight and has plenty of ventilation to keep things from getting too hot, even with a thicker layer underneath. There is plenty of adjustability in the hem and wrists, and loads of reflectors, which help to make this a versatile all-weather jacket. Its high-vis credentials are topped off by another LED sleeve light and front and back LED strips, making it one of the best jackets for running in after dark.

Verdict
A good frosty-weather top paired to a brilliant, high visibility jacket.

TOP
Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5

JACKET
Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5

Salomon Exo Motion 1/2 Zip Long Sleeve Tee & XR Jacket

Salomon Exo Motion 1/2 Zip Long Sleeve Tee & XR Jacket
£70 | £80
www.salomonrunning.com

The body-hugging Exo Motion long sleeve top, with its soft material and a neck protector at the top of the zip, is immediately comfy and warm. The long arms give the option of wrapping up cold hands while the low hem means it doesn’t ride up as much as other similarly fitted garments. There is absolutely no rubbing and although it keeps a bit of moisture, heat regulation is excellent, with the zip helping to stop things from ever getting too toasty. The XR jacket is one of the best on test. Its thumbholes keep the sleeves in place and its light, silky material allow great freedom of movement. Breathability is excellent despite the solid back, as the inspired addition of a popper across the chest allows you to completely undo the zip and let tons of air without the jacket flapping about. The XR isn’t phased by wind or light showers and is also comfy when tied around the waist for when the weather begins to improve.

Verdict
A great pairing that won’t break the bank highlighted by the brilliant XR jacket.

TOP
Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

JACKET
Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


Craft Active Extreme Wind Stopper & Active Run Hybrid Jacket

Craft Active Extreme Wind Stopper & Active Run Hybrid Jacket
£65 | £110
www.craftsportswear.co.uk; www.craftsports.us

Craft’s neat, lightweight top has Windstopper panels on the torso and shoulders layered over its slightly ridged, stretchy material. The form-hugging fit and flatlocked seams don’t chafe although the hem does ride up above the waistband. Chilly winds fail to penetrate the core while the remainder of the thin material has fantastic breathability, so the lack of a zip for extra ventilation doesn’t irk. The hood on the Active Run Hybrid jacket is a permanent fixture, so if you don’t want it up, your only option to stop it bouncing around annoyingly is to roll it inside the collar and fasten it with a piece of elastic. The lack of venting and the plasticy material also mean the interior gets hot and slick with sweat quickly. It does, however, offer excellent protection against wind and showers for such a lightweight jacket. It also has plenty of reflectors, as well as two front pockets and one on the sleeve for your iPod.

Verdict
A really effective running top but the jacket was a little disappointing.

TOP
Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

JACKET
Performance 2/5
Value 2/5
Overall 2/5

X-Bionic Humdinger Shirt & Symframe Evo Jacket

X-Bionic Humdinger Shirt & Symframe Evo Jacket
£204.99 | £314.99
www.x-bionic.co.uk; www.x-bionic.com

The Humdinger’s fleecy fabric is the most luxuriously comfortable on test. Vents in the front and back combine with strips of padding that lift the top off the back to provide ventilation without chafing. The Humdinger proved to be insulation enough on its own for all but Britain’s coldest days, meaning things got a little hot and sweaty with a jacket on top too. The SymFrame Evo jacket shares the Humdinger’s ridged collar, which allows moisture to escape at the neck, and adds large pads on the back for airflow inside the jacket. Lined with X-Bionic’s Symbionic Membrane, the inside transports both water vapour and sweat away from the body to leave the jacket dry after every run – as long as the layer underneath isn’t as thick as the Humdinger. It’s also got a detachable hood, fully taped seams and is completely waterproof, so if you can afford to own one, you shouldn’t miss a run ever again.

Verdict
Serious performance for the cold of winter but with a pricetag to match.

TOP
Performance 4/5
Value 2/5
Overall 3/5

JACKET
Performance 5/5
Value 2/5
Overall 4/5

OVERALL VERDICT

The Pearl Izumi Aurora Thermal Top & Elite Barrier Convertible Jacket takes both our Peak Performer and Gold Awards

There remains a wide contrast between the prices of bottom- and top-end running gear. But the good news is that there’s great kit available for all budgets, with those looking to economise able to grab some fine winter running threads without missing out on too many of the more advanced fabrics and features.

At the wallet-friendly end of the spectrum, honourable mentions go to the Brooks’s Equilibrium top and Sugoi’s Zap jacket. But it’s the performance-for-pound ratio of Adidas’s Response 3-Stripes top and Windbreaker jacket that claims our Top Value award.

X-Bionic manages to cram a huge amount of technology into their gear, with the SymFrame Evo jacket providing incredible performance for the money-is-no-object crowd. We were also really impressed by Salomon’s Exo Motion top and XR Jacket, which offered excellent performance, worked brilliantly together and were only just pipped to the overall win. Pearl Izumi’s amazing Aurora Thermal top and Elite Barrier Convertible jacket provide the comfort, heat regulation and versatility to get you safely through the mercurial British winter climate, which is why they earn both our Peak Performer and Gold awards.

This review was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

You’ll find loads more triathlon gear and kit reviews in triradar.com’s Gear section

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