Behind the Seams: The North Face Ultra Lite Waterproof Short-Sleeve Jacket

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The purpose of a waterproof jacket is to keep you dry, so investing in a short-sleeved waterproof jacket—one that allows your arms to get wet—might seem counterintuitive. But that didn’t deter North Face athlete Mike Foote, an ultra-runner who is used to rainy conditions, from suggesting the idea to the company’s designers.

“In races I would always push my sleeves up because I’d be trying to get more air, but they’d be really tight and bulky around my upper arms,” Foote says.

While runners like Foote might choose to wear compression or full-length sleeves, those can begin to feel restrictive once their bodies warm up and sweat begins to pool along their forearms and elbows. Combine this with the lack of breathability of waterproof gear, which is built to keep elements out, and you’ll quickly feel the heat.

TNFInspired by a friend who had cut the sleeves off his mountain biking jacket, Foote suggested a short-sleeve jacket to the design teams at The North Face. Soon, the Ultra Lite Waterproof Short-Sleeve Jacket was born.

“’Waterproof’ is an oxymoron in the industry because a fully waterproof jacket isn’t very breathable, so we’re always challenged to figure out what something that’s waterproof and breathable looks like,” says Brigham Pierce, a senior product manager for performance at The North Face.

The Ultra Lite Waterproof Short Sleeve Jacket is the perfect combination of both. Without sleeves, air is able to travel up your arms and to your back, Pierce says, allowing you to regulate your body temperature, even during long efforts. Add two and a half layers of fully waterproof and windproof Dryvent material, a stowaway hood, and 360-degree reflectivity, and you’re ready to tackle anything the weather throws at you.

“It’s the perfect piece because I don’t get clammy arms,” Foote says. “You want something that’s light on the body and maneuvers really well without being bulky.”

The jacket is cut close to the body, so that it will keep your core warm and move in sync with your arms and torso. Plus, at just 74 grams per square meter, you can easily fold it up and pack it away if you get too warm.

Image: Instagram / @mikefootemt
Image: Instagram / @mikefootemt

This makes the jacket a great choice for competing in an ultra race because runners are typically required to carry a waterproof, breathable jacket in their pack along with other pieces of equipment, like survival blankets, head torches, and emergency energy food. The lighter the jacket is, the better.

If ultras aren’t your thing, the Ultra Lite Waterproof Short-Sleeve Jacket is the perfect layer to take on runs, hikes, or even your daily commute—rain or shine.