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We’re all familiar with how cold it can get when the wind picks up. Wind chill is very real, as the breeze whisks away any hot air or body heat next to our skin, which is why the best windbreaker jackets are such lifesavers.
Windbreakers may well be the most versatile piece of outerwear. They effectively keep us warm in any high-wind situations (some also protect against light rain), and they can be thrown on over layers in the winter or T-shirts in the summer. Plus, the best windbreakers collapse down into a tiny package that can be easily stashed in a bag.
Whether you’re climbing, cycling, running or just heading to work on a breezy morning, we highly recommend investing in a great windbreaker. Luckily, these versatile jackets have come a long way in past years with new jackets boasting less weight, better wind and water resistance and more useful features than windbreakers of the past. Below are some of the best windbreaker jackets to buy right now, plus a quick guide to picking the right one for you.
What Are the Best Windbreaker Jackets?
The best windbreakers come in a variety of styles for different activities. Be sure to consider how you’ll use your windbreaker — be it for urban commuting, wilderness adventures or exercise — before shopping.
Weight: The best windbreakers should be as lightweight as possible, easily slipping over layers and stashing away in a bag without adding bulk. All of our picks are extremely lightweight — some weighing less than five ounces.
Breathability: A breathable windbreaker might seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to consider ventilation and comfort as well as wind resistance. By keeping the wind out and body heat moving around, the best windbreakers are able to regulate body temperature and prevent sweat from building up underneath.
Water Resistance: Most windbreakers have a water-repellent coating for protection against rain. This is usually only effective against light or maybe moderate showers, but it’s always a very convenient addition.
Packability: As mentioned, one of the benefits of the best windbreakers is packability. Look for jackets that can be compressed into small packages and stashed in a bag or pocket.
1. Patagonia Houdini Jacket
The Patagonia Houdini has been a favorite windbreaker with the outdoor community for years, and for good reason. With a paper-thin ripstop nylon construction, the jacket is able to effectively block almost all wind. Weighing in at just 3.9 ounces and packing up neatly into its own chest pocket, the Houdini is also very easy to transport in a bag or large pocket. It also features a durable water repellent (DWR) coating and a hood to block light rain. The jacket is great for just about every application from hiking to climbing to commuting.
2. Smartwool Sport Ultra Light Jacket
While most windbreakers are made of exclusively nylon or polyester, this jacket from Smartwool introduces a new ingredient: merino mesh wool. This is spread out in panels around the body, further improving wind resistance. The wool also functions as insulation in wet conditions, in case any rain gets past the jacket’s DWR water protection finish. But, in addition to blocking wind and water, the Smartwool jacket is also exceptionally good at letting the body breathe. Thanks to strategically placed vents, body heat is regulated without letting in the wind.
3. The North Face Men’s HMLYN Wind Shell
This HMLYN shell from The North Face is another versatile pick for use in the city or the outdoors. Right away, you’ll notice that The North Face has successfully integrated its iconic color-blocking style into the hooded jacket. Once you put the jacket on, you’ll notice its high-quality polyester and light feel at just under 10 ounces. It’s also effective against light rain, as well as wind, thanks to a DWR coating.
4. Nike Sportswear Windrunner Jacket
If you’re looking for a stylish windbreaker to use in the city while commuting, exercising or just running errands, check out this Nike Sportswear Windrunner. The jacket features a polyester construction, as well as ribbing at the cuffs and hem, which does a solid job of keeping out the wind. Its real strength, however, is in the looks department with chevron designs, a minimalist construction and the Nike logo on the chest.
5. Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody
Arc’teryx is famous for premium outdoor gear (although plenty of urbanites are now grabbing the techy clothing for style purposes as well). This Squamish jacket proves the brand’s know-how with effective wind-blocking powers and real performance potential in a lightweight package (it weighs just 4.9 ounces). The construction is 100% Tyono 30-denier nylon, which lends more stretch than most jackets, and features a DWR treatment for rain protection. It’s quite breathable, ensuring less sweat after a day of hiking, running or mountain biking.
6. Eddie Bauer Sandstone Backbone Jacket
This Eddie Bauer Sandstone Backbone jacket is another great option for high-activity uses. It’s made of 90% polyester and 10% spandex which provides just enough stretch as well as wind and water resistance. On the interior, the fabric has been brushed for added comfort. If you need to stash any necessities, the jacket boasts quite a bit of room with two hip pockets and a chest pocket that’s big enough for a smartphone.