Windbreakers have come a long way since…well, since we actually called them windbreakers and wore them with wind pants. These days you’ll hear them being called “wind jackets” or “wind shells” but we still wear them to break the wind’s vicious attacks away from our bodies. This review will delve into the function and fit of a variety of jackets designed to protect you from the wind.
You may be asking yourself why you need a wind jacket when you have a perfectly functional rain jacket and that is a valid question. You may not need both, depending upon the weather you adventure in. However, there are some distinct differences between a wind jacket and a rain jacket. A wind jacket often offers more breathability, is more lightweight, and comes with a lower price point. Many wind jackets are also “water-resistant” or “water-repellant” which makes them an acceptable option on misty days or for short bouts of rain showers. However, if you know you’ll need to take on aggressive rain, prolonged downpours or meet the requirements of some ultra races, a rain jacket is a necessity. Ultimately, I’m not here to persuade you to have one, both or neither in your gear closet…I just want to share the details of the wind jackets. You can check out our rain jacket review for similar insight on the function and fit of jackets designed just to repel water.
On that note, let’s jump right into the wind jacket review. We will focus on the function of each wind jacket with a little personal insight into the fit of the jackets. There is no standardized test or regulated standard for what makes a jacket “windproof” like there is for “waterproof” so individual brands tend to have their own testing process. We’ll take this into consideration and also share personal experience in the very windy weather that spring produces in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. We are known for getting aggressive wind in the spring and fall, to the point that most local firewood comes from trees that have been blown over in backyards.
Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell
The Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell is an incredibly lightweight jacket designed to withstand the winds of mountain tops. It features a revolutionary, environmentally friendly water-repellent finish that provides protection against light rain as well as breathability. The lightweight, packable jacket is an ideal item to have stashed in your pack for those just in case moments when the weather takes a turn.
- Hood Adjustability: Bungee adjustment in the back with elastic in the seam around the face.
- Packability: Packs down into a small chest pocket to become about 6”x3”. It is very easy to pack it into this pocket.
- Ventilation: This jacket does not have any added ventilation panels or openings.
What We Loved: The jacket is very lightweight and packable while still withstanding the abuse of mountain winds. It fits well and feels durable, even though it’s almost see-through!
- What We Would Change: When you’re on the move the sleeves tend to ride up your forearm — adding thumb loops or a bit more length on the sleeve could help mitigate this issue.
- Fit + Feel: The small fits true to size over a long sleeve or t-shirt. If you want to wear another layer under the jacket or if you want a wider range of movement you may want to size up. There is some restriction in arm movement unless you size up.
Patagonia Houdini Windbreaker Jacket
The Patagonia Houdini Windbreaker Jacket is a lightweight, packable jacket that will protect you from the wind while also providing a bit of protection against light rain. It is treated with a DWR [durable water repellent] finish for some water protection. It has a longer torso with a “duck tail” in the back for a little more coverage against the elements.
- Hood Adjustability: There is bungee adjustment at the back of the hood.
- Packability: The jacket packs down into a small chest pocket to become about 7”x3”. It takes a bit of persistence to get the jacket to fit, but you’re not required to wrestle it into the pocket.
- Ventilation: There are no additional openings for ventilation.
What We Loved: The longer waist of this jacket and slim fit make it comfortable to wear while the stretchy nylon material allows for more range of motion than expected.
- What We Would Change: The jacket is very noisy when you’re on the move, something you’ll definitely notice if you have your hood up and hope to have any semblance of a conversation with the people near you.
- Fit + Feel: This jacket fits pretty true to size [maybe a bit small, size up if you’re between sizes] and the material is a bit stretchy so your arm movement does not feel restricted. The back has a small “duck tail” to provide a bit more coverage.
Ultimate Direction Ventro Wind Shell
The Ultimate Direction Ventro Wind Shell is an extremely lightweight wind shell that is made with a breathable yet water-repellent material. It has more of a fitted cut, making it a bit more flattering than “just another running jacket,” so you can feel comfortable taking it beyond the trailhead. There are two vents in the back and one under each arm for extra breathability.
- Hood Adjustability: N/A, there is no hood on this jacket.
- Packability: The jacket packs into a small pouch pocket to become about 7”x4”. It is easy to pack away but there is only a flap closure.
- Ventilation: There are two ventilation openings in the back and one under each arm.
What We Loved: The jacket fits well and the longer waist that is a bit fitted near the bottom stays in place, even when the wind is blowing every direction.
- What We Would Change: This may be user error, but every time I tried to put the jacket on in the wind I would end up with my second arm in one of the ventilation holes in the back. The jacket is designed so that the ventilation access is near the neckline and somehow I ended up all twisted up in the jacket on a regular basis, especially if the wind was blowing. Also, a hood would be nice to keep your ears and hair under wraps.
- Fit + Feel: The Ventro Wind Shell fits true to size and the sleeves have mini “duck tails” at the wrist for a bit more coverage. However, if you have longer arms or a long torso you may want to size up just for the length.
REI Swiftland Trail Run Jacket
The REI Swiftland Trail Run Jacket offers up a lot more than just protection from the wind. It is made of a lightweight nylon shell that is treated with a DWR [durable water repellent] finish. There are small laser cut holes under the arms for added breathability, but this jacket doesn’t stop there. It also has some ultralight insulation along the inside of the main panels to provide a little bit of warmth throughout your core.
- Hood Adjustability: There is no adjustability on the hood.
- Packability: The jacket does fit into either of the pockets, but they are not designed with a double sided zipper so if you do pack it you’ll need to be careful with the zipper.
- Ventilation: There are holes for ventilation under each arm.
What We Loved: The added insulation on the interior of the jacket was a pleasant surprise. It’s not very noticeable as you put on the jacket but it does seem to make a real difference on the early morning runs.
- What We Would Change: The jacket has a boxy fit, especially across the waist and hips without any way to adjust the hem closer to your body. This allows a lot of wind up the jacket which almost completely counters the added warmth from the insulation.
- Fit + Feel: The jacket fits true to size with a slightly boxy profile. This boxiness, combined with the shorter torso, does allow wind to get up into the jacket. Overall, you have full range of motion.
Cotopaxi Palmas Wind Shell Jacket
The Cotopaxi Palmas Wind Shell Jacket is a colorful addition to your gear closet that offers protection from the wind and light rain with its DWR [durable water repellent] treated polyester material. The jacket is lightweight, feels durable and packs down into a pocket…with room for you to add gloves or a hat/gaiter as your transition through weather on your adventures.
- Hood Adjustability: There is no adjustability on the hood.
- Packability: The jacket fits into the right hip pocket to become about 8”x6” with a lot of extra space in the packing pocket. It is very easy to get the jacket into this pocket.
- Ventilation: There are two openings for ventilation across the back of the jacket.
What We Loved: Superficially, the colors are great. More practically, the polyester material is soft and malleable which means you can maintain your full range of motion while stealthily roaming the trails [it doesn’t make loud swishing with every movement!]
- What We Would Change: This jacket is more of a colorful statement to be worn as an additional layer. It does offer wind protection but not enough to warrant space in a pack that’s headed up a mountain side.
- Fit + Feel: The jacket fits true to size and the stretchy material allows you nearly full range of motion. The sleeves are longer and have adjustable thumb straps to help keep them in place.
Saucony Pack-It Run Jacket
The Saucony Pack-It Run Jacket is a lightweight, brightly colored wind shell made of a ripstop material with a DWR [durable water repellent] finish. It offers protection against wind while also allowing for some breathability, a lot of reflective points and the ability to withstand a light rain or mist. It is a good option to have in your pack when the weather may change while you’re out on an adventure.
- Hood Adjustability: There is a bungee on each side of the hood to adjust the opening.
- Packability: The jacket packs into the small pouch pocket located near the hood of the jacket to become about 7”x3”. It is easy to pack up but there is no way to secure the opening of the pouch pocket.
- Ventilation: There are no ventilation openings.
What We Loved: This is a lightweight jacket that fits well, has pockets at the waist and a hood. It ticks a lot of the boxes for a spring/fall jacket that deserves space in your adventure pack.
- What We Would Change: The DWR finish is not very long lasting or durable. This was most noticeable when I had my phone in one of the zipper pockets and it was soaked through on a misty morning.
- Fit + Feel: The jacket fits true to size and allows you to maintain almost full range of motion when you’re wearing it.
Columbia Sportswear Rogue Runner Wind Jacket
The Columbia Rogue Runner Wind Jacket is both durable and packable with genuine protection against both the wind and rain. It is made of a thicker nylon material that utilizes the Omni-Tech technology to be both waterproof and breathable. This means it doesn’t quite fit like a long sleeve t-shirt [like many of the other jackets reviewed here] but it does provide more protection against the elements.
- Hood Adjustability: There is a velcro adjustment at the back of the hood and elastic in the seams around the face opening.
- Packability: The jacket packs into the small chest pocket to become about 5”x5”. It is easy to pack and zip into this pocket.
- Ventilation: There is a line of ventilation flaps [four total openings] across the back of the jacket.
What We Loved: The jacket’s material is thicker which immediately makes it feel more durable. There are thumb holes on both wrists that are adjustable with the elastic tension of the wrist cuff which helps keep the sleeves in place when you’re on the move.
- What We Would Change: The zipper is heavy duty with the option to zip in either direction, but it is bulky and hard to use, especially if your fingers are cold. A more low profile, user friendly zipper would make it much easier to zip this jacket on the go.
- Fit + Feel: The jacket does run a bit large, but this allows for layering. The material of the jacket allows for some stretch but you’ll still feel a bit of restriction, something you can avoid a bit of by sizing up if you’re on the cusp.
Under Armour Qualifier Storm Packable Jacket
The Under Armour Qualifier Storm Jacket offers a “next to skin” fit with its lightweight material that protects you against the wind and is water repellent against light rain. There are added ventilation panels across the back to help you regulate your body temperature. This jacket is a good lightweight, packable option to have on hand when you know the weather will turn mid-adventure.
- Hood Adjustability: There is no adjustability on the hood.
- Packability: The jacket packs into the small hip pocket to become about 6”x5”. It is easy to pack the jacket and zip the pocket.
- Ventilation: There are two openings under a flap in the back for ventilation.
What We Loved: The jacket is very light and it is just fitted enough to let you feel sleek and fast while you’re wearing it. The hood fits nicely, although you cannot adjust it.
- What We Would Change: The water repellent feature of this jacket leaves a lot to be desired, so it’s probably best to keep it on deck for the sunny, but windy, days.
- Fit + Feel: The jacket fits true to size, although if you have longer arms and torso you may want to size up just for extra length and range of motion.
|Brand + Style||Back Length||Sleeve Length||Pockets||Advertised Weight|
|BD Distance Wind Shell [S]||24”||22”||One, on the left chest panel||72g / 2.5oz|
|Patagonia Houdini Windbreaker [M]||27”||23”||One, on the left chest panel||96g / 3.4oz|
|UD Ventro Wind Jacket [M]||26”||21.5”||One, a pouch pocket inside the left chest panel||58g / 2oz|
|REI Swiftland Trail Run Jacket [M]||25”||22”||Two with zippers on either side, each has a pouch inside it||145g / 5.1oz|
|Cotopaxi Palmas Wind Shell [M]||26”||23.5”||Two with zippers on either side, two pouches inside by the hips||130g / 4.6oz|
|Saucony Pack-It Run Jacket [M]||27”||20”||Two with zippers on either side, one pouch for packing||119g / 4.2oz|
|Columbia Rogue Runner Wind Jacket [S]||27”||22.5”||One, on the left chest panel||200g / 7.1oz|
|Under Armour Qualifier Storm [M]||24”||21.5”||One, on the left hip||105g / 3.7oz|
Thanks for the great overview of jackets! Have you ever considered including environmental impact/ sustainability in your reviews? Definitely something I think about these days when selecting new pieces of gear!