Three Questions To Ask When Buying A Windproof Jacket

With a good windproof jacket, you remove one aspect of the weather that can make you less comfortable in the great outdoors.

A windproof jacket will keep you warm in multiple environments
Windproof, waterproof, and highly visible rain shells make for a versatile piece of equipment.Justin Luebke/Unsplash

If you spend much time outdoors, you know how a brisk wind can make even a coolish day seem frigid. A good windproof jacket can protect you from the wind and make it less of a concern. Different types of windproof jackets work best for different activities, though, so choosing one can be complicated. To make a good selection when shopping for your next windproof jacket, ask yourself three questions—what types of windproof jackets are available, what each of those types is best used for and which type is best to meet your needs.

Types Of Windproof Jackets

Columbia Men's Ascender Softshell Jacket
This windproof jacket is made of 100% polyester for water and wind resistance.Columbia

In a nutshell, windproof jackets can be divided into three broad categories—wind breakers, rain jackets and hardshell jackets. The lightest of the three, wind breakers are just thin outer shell garments usually made of breathable nylon or some similar lightweight material. Their construction allows them to be lighter, less expensive and more breathable than the other jackets in this category. When not in use, they can be rolled up into a small, neat bundle and tucked away until they are needed again. Rain jackets, as you would expect, are made to keep you dry, but can keep the wind from mercilessly punishing you whether it is wet or dry out. They’re typically made of waterproof, breathable fabrics that not only keep water from coming in, but wick moisture away from your skin to keep you drier. Hardshell jackets are the heaviest and warmest of the three types, and also generally the most expensive. These insulated jackets are constructed of three layers—a strong face fabric, a waterproof/breathable membrane and an insulating layer closest to your body.

What Is Each Type Best For?

Wantdo Mountain Waterproof Ski Jacket
This wind- and rainproof hardshell jacket is made for skiing, snowboarding and other snow sports.Wantdo

A good wind breaker just might be the handiest jacket you can own. Whether running to the store on a cool, windy day or hiking in the mountains, wind breakers are lightweight and versatile. Most, however, aren’t waterproof, so if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the rain, make sure any wind breaker you select is also waterproof. Rain jackets excel in most wet conditions, but are sometimes a little heavier, so sometimes warmer. A really lightweight rain jacket can serve as a good wind breaker even if it’s not wet outside. Hardshell jackets are made for colder, windy weather. Many have insulating layers that keep you warm when it’s really cold outside. If you are going to be spending a lot of time outside on a windy winter day—especially skiing, snowboarding or participating in other snow sports—a hardshell wind jacket is probably the best choice for you.

Which One Is Right For You?

Columbia Watertight II Front-Zip Hooded Rain Jacket
This waterproof rain jacket does a great job of cutting the wind as well.Columbia

Now that you know about the types and their uses, picking the perfect windproof jacket is a process of elimination. If it’s for casual use, a simple, inexpensive wind breaker is going to be hard to beat. If you anticipate lots of rainy weather, you should step up to a windproof rain jacket for the wicking properties and keeping rain on the outside of your clothing where it belongs. If you’ll be doing activities in very cold, windy weather, a hardshell windproof jacket should be your first choice. Obviously, if you spend a lot of time outdoors participating in many different activities, you’ll need two or even all three of these types of jacket. Color can even be a consideration, depending on how you’ll be using your jacket. If you’ll be jogging or bicycling, it’s always safer to let drivers and other cyclists know you are there. For such activities, a bright orange or chartreuse windproof jacket is the perfect choice.