Wind shirts and wind shells are thin lightweight jackets, running shells, pullovers, or anoraks weighing 2 to 6 ounces, that hikers wear as a barrier to prevent winds from stripping away body heat. They’re usually made of highly breathable, uncoated nylon that is can be worn over a fleece or base layer to block the wind and keep you warmer when hiking, backpacking, or trail running.
While you can wear a wind shirt anywhere, they’re particularly useful in mountainous terrain, when wearing a full rain jacket or technical winter shell would be too warm. Wind shirts are a also great layer to wear on cold mornings over a fleece because they hold your body heat without the bulk of a rain jacket. Elastic wrist cuffs, an adjustable waist hem, and a 1/2 or full-length zipper are also useful for sealing in the heat and venting for thermal regulation.
Wind shirts may also come with hoods or be hoodless. If you get a wind shirt with a hood, look for one that lets you reduce the volume of the hood, or better yet, has pull cords so you can seal the hood around your face. Otherwise, the wind will make the hood flap noisily. Many trail runners prefer hoodless wind shirts because there’s no hood to flap around when they’re in motion.
Here are the best hooded and hoodless wind shirts and shells available today. Note: when shopping for wind shirts and wind shells, retailers may list them under trail running jackets or running jackets, since there’s so much overlap with hiking and backpacking.
1. Patagonia Houdini Jacket
The Patagonia Houdini is one of the most legendary wind shirts available today. Weighing just 3.7 oz, it’s made with a 15 denier 100% nylon ripstop shell with a DWR finish for improved water resistance. Elastic wrist cuffs make it easy to pull up the sleeves if you get too warm, while a drawcord cinches the hem. The hood adjusts with a single drawstring, while the jacket packs snugly into its zippered chest pocket, which has a carabiner clip-in loop. A women’s version is also available.
The Arc’teryx Incendo Hoodie is a highly breathable, 20 denier nylon taffeta hoodie treated with a DWR coating for improved water resistance. It has a trim fit with gusseted mesh underarms for improved ventilation, with a non-adjustable fitted hood that rolls away and secures with a snap when not needed. Weighing 4.6 oz, its thoughtful design and excellent breathability make it an excellent choice for high exertion hikes. The women’s version is called the Cita hoodie.
The Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Shirt is an incredibly refined, 2 oz wind shirt, made with 10d nylon with an adjustable hood, elastic wrist cuffs, a drawcord hem, and a full-length zipper. While most windbreakers and wind shirts have elasticized hood openings, the Copperfield hood is adjustable with pull cords, so you can completely seal off the face from drafts and prevent the hood from flapping loudly and violently in high winds. The sleeves are cut to be comfortable when wearing a backpack and the fit runs about a half size large for layering. A women’s model is also available. You can have the option to customize the Copperfield in a variety of colors and fabric weights.
The Rab Vital Windshell Hoody is a lightweight hooded jacket with an elasticated hood with a stiffened peak and rear volume adjustment, so it stays in place in strong winds. Made with 20 denier nylon, it has two zippered hand pockets, a front zip with an internal storm flap, elasticated cuffs, a hem drawcord, and internal stuff pocket. Weighing 5.7 oz, it’s a relatively heavy windbreaker because it is so rich in features and internal storage. A women’s version is also available.
Montane has a long history of making iconic wind jackets and wind shirts. Weighing 3.8 oz, the Featherlite Trail Jacket has a full-length front zipper, chest pocket, underarm vents, thumb loops, elasticized wrist cuffs, and an adjustable hem which are all great temperature regulation features. The Featherlite Trail Jacket is made with a 20 denier windproof stretch fabric that is simply outstanding for trail running, hiking, and cycling. Size up at least a full size as Montane uses UK sizing which tends to run small on well-fed Americans. A women’s model is also available.
The Outdoor Research Helium Wind Jacket is a lightweight wind jacket made with a 30d Diamond Fuse nylon shell for improved durability and wind resistance. Developed by Pertex, Diamond Fuse nylon is more abrasion-resistant and windproof than regular nylon because it’s made using diamond-shaped fibers that lock together when woven. In addition, the Helium Wind Jacket has one chest pocket, a hood with a rear volume adjuster, brim, an elasticized face opening, and wrists cuffs, and laser-cut underarm vents that dissipate heat buildup. The fit is generous, making this a good jacket for active layering in colder weather. A purple women’s version is also available.
The Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell is a lightweight 15d Jacket with a basic feature set including an adjustable hood with a rear volume adjuster and elasticized face opening, elastic wrist cuffs, a zippered chest pocket, and hem adjustment. The thing that differentiates it from other windbreakers is its DWR coating, which is woven into the jacket rather than coating its exterior. This makes it far less susceptible to wearing off due to abrasion from stuffing and unstuffing, providing longer-lasting protection in mist and drizzle, It doesn’t make the jacket waterproof like a rain jacket but does extend its range in variable weather. The fit is slim. A women’s version is also available.
The Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody is a streamlined windproof jacket with an adjustable hood, a single chest pocket, elasticized wrist cuffs, and dual hem adjusters. The hood has a rear volume adjuster, brim, and an elasticized front opening. Made with 30d nylon, the fit is slim, but on the long side with a center back length of 30.5 inches. A women’s model is also available.
The Sierra Designs Tepona Wind Jacket is a purpose-built wind jacket for hikers with a volume adjustable hood and elastic face opening, elastic wrist cuffs, and hem adjustment. Made with 15d nylon, the jacket’s shoulder seams have been removed for added comfort when wearing backpack shoulder straps and a drop tail has been added for better hip belt compatibility. A women’s version is also available.
SectionHiker is reader-supported. We independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.