Updated March 2017
For the spring of 2017, we update reviews to reflect the most current versions available on the market. The Patagonia Houdini is rejuvenated with shiny new color options like True Teal and Campfire Orange. Each of our individual reviews notates if there were any changes whether major design overhauls or minor color alterations.
Best Overall Wind Jacket
Rab Windveil Jacket
Want a windbreaker that fits perfectly, has all of the most handy and useful features, retains its high level of water resistance forever, and is perfectly suited to virtually any
outdoor activity? Look no further than the Rab Windveil Jacket
, winner of our Editors' Choice Award for the Best Overall Wind Jacket, and also the highest scoring jacket in our extensive testing. Whether we were trail running, backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, or peak bagging, we found ourselves comfortable and impressed with this jacket, and compared to the competition, it simply did everything better. Particularly impressive were its superior water resistance and full selection of usable and convenient features. If you want the best wind breaker money can buy, then spend your money on the Rab Windveil.
As such a rad jacket, this one can be hard to find in stock. Be persistent, it's worth it! Despite shortages, Rab has informed us that this jacket is not being discontinued; it's simply really popular. However, if you can't find it and can't wait, then check out the other Top Pick Award winners described below. The Patagonia Houdini is a great substitute at a low price, and is our recommendation for rock climbers. For running and mountain biking we prefer the Outdoor Research Tantrum. If you need a light jacket for colder temperatures, then the Marmot Ether DriClime Hoody is the way to go. Lastly, if you need a super light shell for warm ski days, look into the Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody.
Best Bang for the Buck and Top Pick for Climbing
Retailing at a low, low $99, the Patagonia Houdini
without doubt presents the best bang for your buck if you want a performance jacket at a low cost. In reality, $99 is not very cheap for a piece of fitted nylon, but in the case of this review, it can be had for a few green bills less than the other options. We also think the Houdini is the best wind breaker jacket choice for rock climbers who need a little security blanket while attempting long climbs on the shady Middle Cathedral Rock in Yosemite Valley or the South Chasm View Wall in the Black Canyon. The entire jacket stuffs into its chest pocket, resulting in a tiny package that is significantly smaller than any other that we tested, about the size of a small banana. It easily clips to the back of your harness. This jacket will inspire you to cheat on the hardman mantra of "a rope, a rack, and the shirt on your back," (and a Houdini!)
and ensure that you aren't left shivering at the belay when the inevitable afternoon winds pick up. For the 2017 season, Patagonia re-energized the color palette, including new hues like Campfire Orange. Fortunately, no price "updates" coincide with the color overhaul.
Best Wind Jacket for Cooler Weather
Marmot Ether DriClime
Imagine that winter is waning and spring is in the air; you can't wait to put away your down jacket and hit the trails. Or imagine the autumn leaves are falling to the ground and summer's heat is long gone, but you aren't even close to embracing the onset of winter. While spring and fall are the most pleasant times of the year for playing outside, there is no doubt that the air is cool enough to warrant more than a t-shirt or a light nylon shell. For those times, we recommend the Marmot Ether DriClime
. Lined on the inside with soft felt-feeling DriClime wicking liner, this jacket works to perfectly maintain a balanced temperature even when the air is not so warm. While we found it a bit too insulated for mid-summer use, it was still one of the top scorers in our comparison testing, and the jacket we most often reached for as summer faded and cool temperatures started to dominate.
Top Pick for Running and Biking
Outdoor Research Tantrum
How many times have you prepared for a short or medium length bike ride or run and stared at your hydration pack, wishing you didn't need to wear it? How many times did you end up wearing it anyway, simply because you needed to bring a jacket? Enter the Outdoor Research Tantrum
, the perfect light wind breaker jacket for either running or biking, that packs into a tiny pocket with elastic waist belt, allowing it to be carried anywhere without the need to bring a pack. We wish every jacket in this review had this feature, because time and time again we reached for this jacket when we simply didn't want to bring a pack. Not only is it simple and easy to carry along, but it is made of super lightweight, stretchy, highly breathable material that moves perfectly with your body. While it really won't protect you from much rain, this was still our favorite wind shell to bring along on peak climbs, short to medium length runs, and mountain bike rides.
Best Wind Jacket for Backcountry Skiing
Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody
The Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody
looks and feels much like their award-winning hardshell jacket, the Arc'teryx Alpha FL
, except that it is much thinner, lighter, and costs a whole bucket of money less. Designed with an adjustable storm hood, drop hem, and Velcro adjustable wrist enclosures, this jacket comes with all the features of a hardshell — minus the Gore-Tex. While we certainly wouldn't wear it out into a heavy rainstorm, or on a nuking powder day, we would
stuff it into its own tiny chest pocket and save a ton of weight and space on those long spring days in the backcountry where the shell is only going to be used briefly on the descents. We also debated calling this award, "The Best Wind Breaker to Layer Under," as no other "jacket" in this review serves as a better lightweight outer shell. While we wouldn't use it for running or biking, and it does clock in as one of the most expensive that we tested, we can think of many situations where we would happily save weight and bulk with this versatile layer.