Windbreaker buying guide

Whether you’re camping or hiking, cycling or just spending time in the great outdoors, chances are you’ll be investing in a windbreaker jacket. It shouldn’t be a complicated decision – essentially, you just need protection against the wind, rain, mud and dust.

A windbreaker jacket is a light, waterproof jacket – without insulation, it is ideal for layering over winter clothes or wearing in summer months when a thick, bulky garment would be prohibitive to movement and comfort. That said, there are some windbreaker jackets designed specifically for winter with extra padding and these will be less suitable for hotter climates. It is worth checking when buying to ensure you get the right one for you.

Why choose a windbreaker jacket?

They’re lightweight, easy to transport, breathable and often lower priced than rain jackets and hardshell jackets. They act like a light and thin outer skin to the rest of your outfit, but with great durability and practical application. A versatile layer, they offer protection from the elements including the wind, rain, mud, dust and cold.

Material

Generally, windbreaker jackets are made with synthetic materials including polyester, nylon and tricot. Depending on the design and climate they’re intended for, some will have cotton or other warmer materials layered inside. In order to remain protective, they will commonly have elasticated waistbands, armbands and a central zip.

Nylon

If you opt for a nylon windbreaker, you can expect it to be highly resistant to water and the wind. It will also be very durable – this is largely because of the tough texture of the fabric, but this same element means it can also be quite noisy and rustling to wear. It is also not sweat-wicking, meaning you can often get very hot while wearing a nylon jacket. It is straightforward to clean and can be dried easily.

Polyester

When it comes to polyester, you can expect a jacket that is much softer, quieter and more lightweight than its nylon counterpart. It is also more resistant when it comes into contact with mildew and harsh chemicals. In warmer climates, micro polyester can offer an even more lightweight solution. It is important to recognise that polyester windbreaker jackets are not biodegradable and can be difficult to clean should they get stained. For colder climates, they will often be lined, making them suitable for a variety of uses.

Choosing the right one for you

For trail running, cycling or mountain biking, it is important to get a windbreaker that allows for sweating, is lightweight and breathable. In this instance, a polyester windbreaker makes the most sense. Check for vents under the arms as this will help with cooling.

For sailing, the durability and waterproof qualities of the nylon jacket make it a sound choice. Extra insulation will help you to stay warm against the harsh sea air.

Hiking and trekking are much slower activities and often warmth can be crucial as you get to elevated heights and are exposed to open areas with high wind. Choosing a jacket with sufficient insulation will be important, but it is also important to get one that is still lightweight enough to wear in spring and early summer. Opting for one that is easy to pack will be key so that you can remove it while walking without much stress.

If you’re a backpacker or climber, chances are you’ll need a windbreaker with a lot of pockets that can all be zipped up securely. It’ll need to be safe without too many toggles hanging off as these could get caught easily and the design ought to be as simple as possible. Given how durable nylon is, it’ll stand the wear and tear much better.

For general casual wear, you can generally take your pick – the polyester option will probably be the most relaxing in terms of sound quality and generally being so lightweight. If you’re not going to be using it in harsh climates, avoid paying over the odds for it to be highly weatherproofed or insulated. If it doesn’t have insulation, it’ll be versatile enough to wear in both hot and cold weather.

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