Considered alongside every other layer and item that goes into a backpack, a wind jacket might seem superfluous. After all, even though wind jackets are light, they’re often not waterproof enough to ward off a full-on deluge, or even a day’s trek through drizzling rain. Despite that, wind jackets have their uses and should be considered as an essential item in any outdoor kit.
What is a wind jacket in the first place? Also called windbreakers, wind jackets are lightweight, wind-resistant (duh) outer layers that can be worn over other layers to cut wind chill while recreating outside. They’re often compared to rain jackets, but there’s a fundamental difference between the two: wind jackets are often treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish but are lighter than rain jackets and don’t come equipped with a waterproof membrane. That means that they’ll wet-out faster and more easily than a rain jacket, but they’re also much lighter and more breathable.
That breathability is the main reason why wind jackets are essential. Hiking in a rain jacket can quickly turn into a sweaty endeavor — not so in a wind jacket. Having a layer of protection against the wind can be vital in particular environments though; wind can slice through fleece and baselayers, and windchill can be enough to cause cold-related injuries such as frostbite. The solution? A wind jacket. Here are five great ones to consider.
Houdini Jacket by Patagonia $99
Squamish Hooded Jacket by Arc’teryx $159
Ghost Lite Jacket by Mountain Hardwear $100
Abisko Wind Jacket by Fjällräven $180
Flyweight Hoody by The North Face $80
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