FITNESS

Best Windbreaker: Keeping the Cold Out

Running city backdrop
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

When you want a light jacket to protect you from the wind and cool air, but you also want something that is comfortable and breathable, only the best windbreaker will do. A windbreaker is suitable for those cool summer nights and early autumn days being one of the lightest outer coverings on the market today, and the choice is perfect for when something far bulkier is less desirable.

There are also windbreakers that are better for the colder months when breathability and windproof functionality are desired, but so is the ability to keep in body heat to stay warm while outdoors. Thus, you will need to consider the season and the time of year you plan to wear the windbreaker to choose the best option for your individual needs.

What Makes Up a Windbreaker Anyway?

When you want a lightweight outer garment for outdoor wear when dealing with dust, mud, a bit of rain, and the wind, the windbreaker is a good choice. Rather than having a coat with down or some other filling that makes the jacket heavy, the use of a windbreaker serves as a basic, inexpensive alternative to the heavier winter coat selections on the market today.

Wind does not matter

Manufacturers of today’s windbreakers often design the coats out of nylon materials, as this material is flexible and durable. Some coat material is part or all polyester, and still others might be tricot: a synthetic fiber that is finely woven into a material ideal for windbreaker construction. The coat will have a zipper enclosure and many designs come with one or more pockets for storage.

The above description is really the very basic windbreaker. These coats sometimes come with hoods, and there are places in the world where people refer to the windbreakers as cagoules: translated from the French, the word means “hoods.”  While windbreakers are a fine choice for casual attire, a lot of athletic people like the coats because they are light, breathable, and do not add extra weight to the body during an outdoor workout.

Durable Water Repellent Finish

Water resistant materials: That is what today’s consumer demands from the modern windbreaker, and manufacturers are giving such features by including a durable water repellent finish (DWR) on some coats. Bulkier coats feature a special layer or membrane that supplies the wearer with either water- and wind-resistance, or water- and windproof properties.

Wearing water repellant windbreaker

To get the water-resistant feature in a windbreaker, the DWR coat gets applied as an exterior coating. The DWR coating allows for water to bead up and roll of the material rather than penetrate it. What is nice about the repellent is that even after the coat maker applies the DWR, the windbreaker will keep its breathability because the material keeps dry.

There is a bit of bad news when it comes to DWR finishes though and that is they have a time limit in terms of effectiveness. The DWR will wear right off the coat when you wear it a lot, and the more you wear the coat the faster the DWR begins to fade.

Abrasion against the coat’s surface is one sure fire way to wear it down quickly, and if you choose to wear a backpack with the breaker, you should know that a pack will cause the DWR to wear down fast. Once the DWR wears off, the windbreaker material is no longer water-resistant. Water can then penetrate the material, clog the fabric with water droplets, and render the fabric unbreathable.

A Closer Look at Windbreaker Materials

When choosing a windbreaker, there are three primary material offerings. The coats are made of nylon, tricot, or polyester, depending upon who made the coat. Each material comes with advantages and disadvantages:

Nylon

Exceptional because it resists high winds and water well. The durability of the fabric ensures the longevity of the windbreaker in question. The nylon will make noise as a person moves around. This is because the flexible fabric is also tough and scratchy. The amount of noise the coat makes is one reason nylon windbreakers would prove less than ideal on hunting excursions.

Nylon windbreaker spread on floor

Nylon materials also lack any ability to wick away perspiration or prevent moisture build up inside of the coat while you are wearing it. Keeping the cleanliness of the coat is easy though since dirt and debris have trouble clinging to nylon material.

Tricot

As mentioned earlier, tricot is a synthetic material. This choice is breathable, soft, and comfortable when it is cold outside. In fact, tricot windbreakers are for colder climbs. If you have a coat made of tricot it will not feature a lining because the tricot provides you with the warmth you need.

The material proves a bit on the heavy side. What you gain in warmth however, you lose in terms of water repellant or wind proof properties though.

Polyester

A light, quiet, soft choice for a windbreaker; this material is also better at resisting harsh chemical and mildew exposure. The coat made of polyester is often ideal for a variety of climbs and you might find it is designed with a mesh or cotton lining. If the coat has a cotton lining it is better for colder environments.

Polyester material windbreaker

If it has a mesh lining, it is best for lighter wear opportunities. The downside: These coats are not made of environmentally friendly, biodegradable materials and if they get a stain of any kind, they are very difficult to get clean.

Reviews of the Top Seven Windbreakers Available

A windbreaker is the best choice when you want a thin outerwear pick that is less weighty than other coat options. The sheer lightweight nature of a windbreaker makes it a highly portable choice and one that does not burden you or add excess weight to what you wear, so it is a great selection when you are layering clothes as well.

You will find windbreakers with a variety of designs and prices, so finding one to suit your budget is not at all difficult. Today’s windbreakers have impressive breathability, and they promise you a good deal of versatility when it comes to wearing them alone or with other outer attire.

Blue windbreaker outdoors

Below are the top seven windbreakers on the market and the features each must offer: The list is available to make your windbreaker selection easier on you as these coats are chosen based, not just on their decent prices, but their high-quality designs and functionality.

Patagonia Houdini Jacket

Patagonia Houdini JacketWeight: 5 ounces shipping weight 

Size: Small, Medium, or Large 

Color: Black, Grey, Peppergrass Green, French Red, Andes Blue, Forge Grey, Classic Red, Electron Blue, Supply Green, or Deep Sea Blue

Specifications: Draw cord hem; half elastic cuffs, Durable Water Repellent finish (DWR) 100% Nylon featherweight ripstop, adjustable hood, nylon materials, zip closure, pocket, and convertible stuff sack.

Best Uses: Light rainy weather, mild to cold climbs, and layering with other outerwear.

The Patagonia Houdini Jacket costs between $170.00 and $190.00. This windbreaker serves up a long lasting, comfortable fit, especially with the draw cord hem allowing you to tighten the nylon jacket around the waist and the half elastic cuffs, which help in keeping the sleeves down when you move around.

You can reach for the sky without worrying about the coat walking or sliding up your abdomen. The drawstring and sleeve design prevents cold air from penetrating the jacket. The hood has adjustable properties so you will not experience tunnel vision when you have it on so you can have good peripheral vision. This jacket is an easy-to-care-for solution, seeing as you can wash it in the laundry machine at home.

A nylon ripstop helps in the prevention of tears, but it is a lightweight feature hosting a DWR or durable waterproof finish. The tight zipper closure helps in keeping body heat in and cold air out. The chest pocket has a zipper closure that transforms into a stuff sack featuring a carabiner clip-in loop with reinforced features.

Related: The Patagonia Alpine Houdini Jacket for men is an exceptional alternative to the windbreaker mentioned above. The coat is also made of 100% nylon materials, and gives storm protection for fast, light alpine endeavors. The coat offers waterproof and windproof features and it is highly breathable. It’s available in X-large sizes and in folios green.

Check the price on Amazon

Under Armour Performance Windbreaker

Under Armour Performance WindbreakerWeight: 1 pound shipping weight

Size: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, XX-Large, and XXX-Large 

Color: Black 

Specifications:  UA Storm technology; iridescent light, woven fabric; synthetic materials; hand pockets with mesh fronts, and the cuffs are adjustable. Hood includes a visor, high neck design.

Best uses: Mild to colder climates, and layering with alternative outwear.

The Under Armour Performance Windbreaker costs between $90.00 and $100.00. UA storm technology applied to this coat makes it great for all kinds of weather; The coat is also breathable, water resistant, and suitable for dealing with light rain or snowy conditions.

This coat makes a good offering in terms of athletic training gear. The offering is an imported coat featuring durable, light, luminous colored materials making it easier to see in low lighting conditions. The high neck hood keeps cold air off the neck, and the built-in visor adds to one’s visibility.

The adjustable cuffs keep the sleeves from creeping up the arms when you are in motion. You get an array of great features in a light body offering.

Related: If you want an alternative line up with similar features but more color diversity, you can opt for Under Armour’s Sportstyle Windbreaker for men priced around $70.00 to $80.00.  The coat features the same UA Storm technology, light design from woven fabrics, and mesh hand pockets as well. You can get the windbreaker in one of ten colors and three sizes including X-Large, XX-Large, and XXX-Large.

Check the price on Amazon

 

The North Face FuseForm Eragon Wind Jacket

The North Face FuseForm EragonWeight: 140 grams

Size: no size listing 

Color: Fluorescent green

Specifications: Light windbreaker; nylon materials, DWR finish, fitted hood, sleek design, FuseForm construction. Elastic hem and cuff. 

Best Uses: Cycling and use in light rain/mild to cold climates. 

The North Face FuseForm Eragon Wind Jacket costs between $52.00 and 60.00. This alpine fit windbreaker is one with an appealing and sleek design.  It comes with a FuseForm construction, light shell, and it is resistant to winds.

The coat also comes with a DWR finish to ensure water resistance and lasting breathability. Fitted hood allows you to put a helmet beneath it. The cuff and hem is elastic to ensure a snug fit and no creeping up of material when you are in motion.

Related: The Men’s North Face Fuseform Cesium Anorak Jacket is a decent alternative with a price between $91.00 and $100.00. The coat features the same FuseForm construction and it is package, durable, and waterproof.  It also hosts the Alpine fit and promises decent breathability.

Likewise, the North Face Kilowatt LTD Jacket for Men costs $52.00 to $60.00, is available in a wind- and abrasion-resistant fabric and is one of the manufacturer’s best sellers.

Check the price on Amazon

Brooks LSD Running Jacket 

Brooks LSD Running JacketWeight: N/A

Size: Small, Medium, and Large 

Color: Kale, White Cosmo, Navy Scape, Surf Scape, Navy Cosmo, White, Currant Big Sunshine, and Asphalt.

Specifications:100% ripstop nylon materials; semi fitted windbreaker. Water resistant. Front zipper. Zipper pocket in the back. Windproof. Zipper closure.

Best Uses: Layering with other outerwear, and light rain or mildly cold weather.

The Brooks LSD Running Jacket costs between $35.00 and $105.00 and is one of the best windbreakers for women. The coat is available in a range of colors so personalizing the choice is a breeze. The coat is made out of 100% ripstop nylon so you are getting a flexible, durable, long lasting material.

It is semi-fitted to assure comfort and it has both wind proof and water resistant properties to make ideal for use in light rain, cold conditions, or for the purposes of layering. The front zipper makes the jacket seal up nicely to keep body heat in and the pocket keeps personal belongings safe.

Related: As an alternative, you can choose the Brooks Women’s LSD Lite Shelter Device IV jacket which costs between $86.00 and $90.00.  The coat has a water-resistant and windproof shell with a DWR finish. The cinch hood keeps the head warm and ears protected from the cold.

Check the price on Amazon

Nike Shield Jacket

Nike Shield JacketWeight: 13.6 ounces. 

Size: Medium 

Color: Navy 

Specifications: DWR finish, reflective materials, ergonomic seams, stretch panels, mesh armpits, interior media pocket, mesh pockets, and the panels are made of 12% spandex and 88% polyester, while the body of the jacket is made of 100% polyester. Machine washable.

Best Uses: Layering, outdoor cold weather and low lighting conditions. 

The Nike Shield Jacket 2.0 Running Jacket includes finish makes the coat water repellent. The material has reflective elements to ensure greater visibility and that you remain warm, dry, and free from sweat and moisture accumulation.

The windbreaker is designed with stretch panels and ergonomic seams to give you the greatest room for movement without the coat creeping up on your as you move.  The underarms are made of a mesh panel to ensure adequate ventilation.

Related: As an alternative, you can opt for the NIKE Impossibly Light Men’s Running Jacket between $75.00 and $85.00.  The jacket is light, durable, and made of durable, attractive nylon materials.  Exceptional for use during outdoor run sessions, and the DWR finish offers water repellent properties.

Check the price on Amazon

Volcom Ermont Jacket

Volcom Ermont JacketWeight: N/A

Size: Large and Extra Large

Color: Merlot and Stealth

Specifications: Reflective logo, 100% nylon materials; hooded; imported; welt hand pockets, zip front closure; elastic detail on the hem and cuffs.

Best Uses: Outdoor, light rain, cool weather and layering.

The Volcom Ermont Jacket costs between $52.00 and $65.00. The reflective logo helps make you visible during outdoor runs in low light conditions. The nylon materials help ensures the durability of the jacket in question.

The hem and cuffs are a snug fit so the jacket does not wiggle up when arms are elevated. The zip front closure helps keep warm air in cold air out. The welt hand pockets are perfect for storage options.

Related: The Volcom Stone Storm Jacket is an affordable alternative between $130.00 and $160.00.  The coat is 100% nylon materials, fitted with a layered hood, and it is water resistant. The hood adjusts for comfort.

Check the price on Amazon

Marmot PreCip Jacket

Marmot PreCip JacketWeight: 11.4 ounces

Size: Large and X-Large

Color: Black, Platinum, Aqua Blue, Gemstone, Team Read, Arctic Navy, Celtic/Deep Teal, Citrus, Ice, Dark Raspberry, Deep Teal, Dew Drop, Green Frost/Green Garnet, Magenta, Magenta/Dark Purple, Persian Red, Pop Green, Poppy, Royal Night, Royal Night/Arctic Navy, Sea Breeze, Summer Pink, and Wild Rose.

Specifications: Imported; 100% fully seam-taped; roll up hood with adjustable features

The roll up hood can be adjusted to allow for greater visibility. PitZips; packed pockets, elastic drawstring hem, DriClime with moisture wicking properties.

Best Uses: Layering over an insulated jacket.

The Marmot Women’s Precip Jacket costs between $66.00 and $105.00. The imported jacket is one with PitZips to allows for greater temperature control, and the nylon ripstop material helps prevent water penetration while allowing the coat to stay breathable.

The center back length is long and comfortable. The double storm flap covered zipper ensures body heats stays and the cold goes out. DriClime line chin guard allows the face to remain away from the zipper when coat is zipped closed. With angel-wing movement you get a good range of motion in this windbreaker.

Related: The Marmot Minimalist Jacket comes in sixteen different color choices and costs between $150.00 and $270.00. The jacket is made of 100% polyester materials, feature an adjustable hood, PitZips ,and zippered pockets to protect your belongings.

Check the price on Amazon

The Lightest Outerwear on the Market

After examining the above-reviewed windbreakers you will agree on the incredible diversity of the product. It is easy for you to find one that will suit your seasonal or weather needs, and the coats on today’s market have exceptional designs with equally exceptional materials.

Running while still misty

Whether you need the windbreaker as a wear alone garment or you are looking to use the coat when layering your garments, you will have little trouble finding the ideal windbreaker below. Do you have experience with any of the above windbreakers?

You would like to give some feedback or comments about the brands you have tried? We invite you to comment below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Janet Wilder

    I keep a windbreaker in my pack for coverage if needed. The best ones in this situation are light and easily stored away. Another plus for me is when they have elastic or some similar mechanism around the wrists and waist, so that the material won’t get in my way when I am finishing out a climb.

  • Daniel Carraway

    These windbreakers are tops – I love them. I’ve enjoyed writing the reviews for each one AND testing them as well. They offer the best combination to protect us from the cold and wind. I’m pleased that you shared us your experiences Janet!

  • Tonya Murphy

    I remember being younger and not having a single clue as to what wind breaker meant. Now as I’m older I understand the importance of wanting to stay warm and dry while being outside. I like to have a couple wind breakers around for those terribly blustery days here when the wind can come in bursts of 50 mph. Definitely a must have for my closet.

  • Phyllis Perez

    These are certainly more stylish than they were on the 80s. Of course, they were also trying to create something you can use and be stylish in. I do agree with you, Janet, there is nothing worse than running and having to keep pulling down the jacket. I hate feeling that cold burst of air on my lower back.

  • Daniel Carraway

    That’s true Phyllis and I must add that the materials of these windbreakers represent the best in term of technological innovation. Don’t you just appreciate the DWR finish of these coats? Well, I do.
    The fact that these are very inexpensive and lightweight makes owning one a no brainer. I think its a basic outerwear that everyone should have. They are stylish and durable, as well.

  • Daniel Carraway

    There are a lot of styles to choose from and these days, there’s more colors, too. Women have more options and they don’t have to look like men, either. My sister stashes one in her car since she leaves upstate where she says has”too much rain.”
    I think keeping one in the car is a sound idea, don’t you?

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