Wind shirts are very thin lightweight jackets, pullovers, or anoraks that hikers wear in windy conditions. Weighing 2 to 4 ounces, they pack up to the size of an apple making them incredibly easy to carry and pack. Wind shirts are usually made out of lightweight water resistant nylon or breathable Pertex that is insufficient protection for sustained rain, but can be worn over a fleece or base layer to cut the wind and keep you warmer.
I often carry a wind shirt as part of my gear list if I know I’ll be hiking above treeline in 3 season weather, where I know the wind will be tearing at my clothes, but where wearing a fully breathable rain shell is simply too warm. Wind shirts also a great layer to wear on cold mornings over a fleece as you leave camp because they help hold the your body heat so well and are easy to adjust to keep from sweating.
Highly rated wind shirts:
- Patagonia Houdini Jacket
- Montane Featherlite Pull-on
- Montane Lightspeed Jacket
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Hooded Jacket
Some wind shirts come with adjustable hoods, which is my preference because they keep you warmer in cooler weather when wearing a fleece hat. I also recommend you look for wind shirts with a quarter zip and elastic in the wrist cuffs so you can vent them when you start to sweat. For example, when I start to overheat, I pull up the sleeves on my wind shirt to cool off the blood flowing through my wrists and arms or take off my hat. That can be enough to stop me sweating without requiring a layer change.
There was a period of time when I thought that wind shirts were an extraneous article of clothing and could be completely replaced by a hard shell jacket but that changed when I got myself a 2.3 ounce Montbell Tachyon Anorak Wind Shirt. It’s turned into a mainstay of my three-season layering system and is the primary outer layer I wear in dry weather if I need a little extra warmth or wind protection.
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