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The Best Windbreaker Jackets of 2024: Stay Protected and Packable on Your Adventures

CEO Tinh Phung
We've all experienced that moment when the weather turns unpredictable, and we're caught between wanting protection from the wind and not wanting to overheat in heavier jackets. That's where windbreaker jackets come in. These versatile...

We've all experienced that moment when the weather turns unpredictable, and we're caught between wanting protection from the wind and not wanting to overheat in heavier jackets. That's where windbreaker jackets come in. These versatile layering pieces offer stellar protection from the elements while remaining breathable and packable. Whether you're hiking, climbing, or running, windbreakers are the ultralight, ultra-packable jackets of your dreams.

Putting Windbreaker Jackets to the Test

Over a 7-month testing period, we took over 25 windbreaker jackets on various adventures, from big wall ascents in the Sierras to international climbing expeditions. Our lead author, Chris Carter, brings over 10 years of gear testing experience to the table and included only the best windbreakers in this roundup. We tested each jacket for breathability, durability, and weather resistance to ensure they can withstand any adventure.

Our Top Picks for 2024

Here are our top picks for the best windbreaker jackets of 2024:

  • Best Overall Windbreaker Jacket: Patagonia Houdini
  • Best Budget Windbreaker Jacket: Cotopaxi Teca Half-Zip Windbreaker
  • Runner-Up Best Windbreaker Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell Hoodie
  • Best Windbreaker Jacket for Running: Black Diamond Deploy Wind Shell
  • Most Breathable Windbreaker Jacket: Patagonia Houdini Air
  • Best Windbreaker Jacket for Mountaineering: Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody
  • Best Ultralight Windbreaker Jacket: Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Shirt

Three guys stand on an overlook while wearing windbreaker jackets Putting a variety of different categories of windbreaker jackets through their paces on the Great Eastern Trail in Tennessee; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

How We Tested Windbreaker Jackets

We take our windbreaker testing seriously. Chris Carter put more than 25 windbreaker jackets through their paces over a seven-month period in demanding locations around the world. We analyzed each jacket based on wind resistance, weather resistance, breathability, value, and durability. We also conducted a shower-simulated downpour test to gauge the water resistance of each jacket.

Buyer's Guide: How to Choose the Best Windbreaker Jacket

Woman wearing a windbreaker jacket on top of a mountain while rock climbing Windbreaker jackets provide versatile protection from the elements on chilly adventures; (photo/Chris Carter)

Why Do You Need a Windbreaker?

Windbreakers may seem like flimsy garments, but they offer a lot more than meets the eye. They are lightweight, packable, and versatile, making them the perfect layer for any adventure. They provide protection from wind chill, allowing you to regulate your temperature while remaining comfortable. Whether you're hiking, climbing, or simply enjoying the outdoors, a windbreaker is a valuable addition to your gear.

Weight

Windbreaker jackets are incredibly lightweight, often weighing less than 5 ounces. They strike a balance between protection and packability, making them ideal for weight-conscious adventurers. While some ultralight models weigh as little as 1.6 ounces, others offer extra durability for more demanding activities.

Packed Size and Stuff Sacks

One of the advantages of windbreaker jackets is their small packed size. They can be easily folded down and stored in their own stuff sack or a pocket. However, some models may be more challenging to pack down due to their compact design. It's important to find a balance between a small pack size and ease of packing.

Wind Resistance and Breathability

Windbreaker jackets excel at blocking wind while maintaining breathability. They strike a balance between wind resistance and ventilation, allowing you to regulate your body temperature during physical activities. Different models offer varying degrees of wind resistance, so it's essential to consider the type of activity you'll be doing when choosing a windbreaker.

Weather and Water Resistance

While windbreaker jackets are not designed to be fully waterproof, many offer a high degree of water resistance. They feature a durable water repellent (DWR) coating that repels light rain and moisture. While they won't keep you dry in sustained downpours, they offer adequate protection in light to moderate precipitation.

Materials and Durability

Windbreaker jackets are constructed with lightweight and durable materials such as nylon, polyester, and elastane. They often feature ripstop fabric to prevent tears and punctures, as well as stretch-woven materials for flexibility. While windbreakers may not be as durable as some other jackets, they can withstand moderate abuse and offer excellent longevity with proper care.

Extra Features

Windbreaker jackets typically have a minimalist design, but they may include features such as zippered pockets, hoods, and cinch cords. These extras can enhance the functionality and versatility of the jacket. The type of adventure you have in mind will determine the feature set you need.

Categories of Windbreaker Jackets

Windbreakers come in various categories tailored to specific activities. Running windbreakers prioritize lightweight and breathability, making them ideal for high-intensity activities. Mountaineering and climbing windbreakers offer extra durability and protection for rugged adventures. Hiking windbreakers strike a balance between features and weight, making them versatile for various hiking trips.

Layering With Windbreaker Jackets

Windbreaker jackets are designed to be layered with other garments for added protection and warmth. Pairing a windbreaker with a light fleece or synthetic jacket can provide excellent insulation in cold and windy conditions. Layering allows you to adjust your clothing based on different weather conditions and exertion levels.

Value

Windbreaker jackets come in a range of prices, offering something for every budget. While more expensive models may offer advanced features and materials, budget-friendly options can still provide excellent performance. Consider your specific needs and the value you place on features when making a purchase.

Man sits on top of a mountain while wearing a windbreaker jacket Minimal feature sets are windbreaker jackets' modus operandi, reducing their weight and bulk; (photo/Ethan Chen)

Conclusion

Windbreaker jackets are essential gear for outdoor enthusiasts. They provide protection from the wind, regulate body temperature, and offer breathability and packability. Whether you're hiking, climbing, or running, a windbreaker jacket should be a staple in your adventure wardrobe. Consider the specific features, materials, and durability you need for your preferred activities. With the right windbreaker jacket, you'll stay comfortable and protected on your outdoor expeditions.

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