Choosing the right thing to wear when hiking can be a difficult and expensive task. Every individual requires different equipment, layers, and accessories. And a hiker’s needs can depend on the terrain, climate, and intensity of the hike.

A common necessity for all outdoor enthusiasts, however, is a windshirt.

What is a Windshirt?

A windshirt is a thin, lightweight jacket or pullover that acts as a barrier between the wearer and the elements. Shirts typically range between 2 and 4 ounces, making them very lightweight, and are designed to be highly breathable, water-resistant, and incredibly durable.

Windshirts do a great job of capturing body heat, preventing sudden gusts of wind from whipping through your clothes and stealing warmth. Windshirts do not, however, hold in as much heat as a rain jacket or shell. As such, they are a great alternative to a rain shell on a warm and windy day.

The great thing about windshirts is that they are extremely versatile. They are comfortable, practical, and can be worn on all kinds of outdoor adventures: hiking, fishing, hunting, biking, backpacking, and climbing.

Windshirts are also often considered the same thing as a trail running jacket, wind shells, or maybe even thin rain jackets.

How to Choose my Windshirt

A windshirt is an essential part of the hiker’s closet, but seemingly endless options can make it hard to determine which type of windshirt is right for you. With this quick guide, you will be on your way to a fashionable and comfortable hiking experience.

Consideration One: What’s the Purpose of Your Windshirt?

The first step to finding your perfect windshirt is determining what your hiking expectations will be. Are you planning on traversing across the country on the 2,653 mile-long Pacific Crest Trail? Or do you stick to local trails and parks? A thru-hiker, for example, should consider weight, durability, and packing size as priority. A casual hiker, on the other hand, should look at comfort, aesthetics, and price as deciding factors. Keep in mind that in cold climates, are areas in which rainfall may be heavy, a windshirt may need to be substituted for a more durable rainjacket.

A trail runner often needs something extremely light and thin that is very packable.

Someone hiking at high elevations, or in windy areas should make sure they get a windshirt with a fully adjustable hood. This will help protect you in heavy winds.

Consideration Two: Where Will You be Wearing Your Windshirt?

You also need to consider the terrain where you plan to wear your windshirt. Alpine and mountainous environments tend to be very windy. If you plan on a lot of alpine hikes, for example, consider a tighter fit, elastic wrist cuffs, and warmth when deciding.

Another key determining factor is expected precipitation. Windshirts can keep you dry in a light drizzle, but they are not rain jackets. Many windshirts, however, dry very quickly. Take a look at your destination’s expected rainfall, and keep water resistance in mind when buying.

Consideration Three: What is your budget?

Some well known brands make incredibly lightweight, rainproof, packable, and comfortable windshirts. Marmot, Arc’teryx, and Patagonia are among the best. Do keep in mind that these will set you back a bit more than other brands, but you are gauranteed some of the highest quality windshirts.

The Best Windshirts

Patagonia Houdini Jacket

 

Patagonia Houdini Windshirt

Patagonia Houdini Windshirt

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Marmot Precip Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket

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Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

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