The Best Windbreakers to Protect You From the Elements

The Patagonia Houdini Air and Black Diamond Alpine Start Jacket are the best

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Whether you’re traveling, working out, or just completing your daily activities, a windbreaker is a worthy addition to the mix—few other pieces of outerwear strike the same balance between lightweight protection and breathability. The best windbreakers are stretchy and packable and have a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.

Reviewed & Approved

We like the Patagonia Houdini Air Jacket for women because it has a DWR finish and an adjustable hood. The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket is also a great choice because it's lightweight and super packable.

Windbreakers come in a variety of sizes, styles, colors, and textiles, so it's easy to find one that meets your personal preferences. Helpful features that you may want to have include hoods, UPF protection, pockets, and machine-wash compatibility. We researched popular options from trusted brands with these features in mind.

Here are the best windbreakers on the market.

Best Overall for Women: Patagonia Houdini Air Jacket

4.8
Patagonia Houdini Air Jacket

Back Country

Who else recommends it? Men's Health also picked the Patagonia Houdini Air Jacket.

Our top pick, the Patagonia Houdini Air Jacket, was designed with running in mind, and it shows. Because the jacket is crafted from a blend of recycled nylon and polyester, it feels both breathable and protective. And its thoughtfully designed silhouette promises to stay in place as you move around. Even better? The windbreaker is coated with a DWR finish, so you can rest assured knowing your jacket will hold up if you get caught running in the rain

On particularly windy days, you can take advantage of the Patagonia Houdini Air Jacket’s built-in, easy-to-adjust hood. And when you’re not wearing the jacket, you can pack the entire windbreaker into the chest pocket, which makes it a travel-friendly option. 

This jacket comes in two colors and sizes XXS to XL. And if you like purchasing your products with a purpose, this jacket is Fair Trade Certified sewn.

Best Overall for Men: Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody

4.8
Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket

Courtesy of Amazon

The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket offers everything you could want in a windbreaker—it’s lightweight, protective, and portable. Available in five colors and sizes S to XL, the jacket is crafted from a lightweight blend of nylon and elastane, and its DWR finish ensures it will hold up against light rains. Its stretchy cuffs and drawcord hem offer added protection, ensuring that the jacket fits you tightly enough to keep cool air out.

Because the Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket was designed for athletic use, the windbreaker boasts a slim-fitting silhouette that cuts down on bulk and maximizes range of motion. The jacket was also designed to be portable and conveniently packs down into its own pocket, making it easy to carry from place to place.

Best Budget for Women: Columbia Flash Forward Lined Windbreaker

Columbia Flash Forward Lined Windbreaker

Courtesy of Amazon

The Columbia Flash Forward Lined Windbreaker is a reasonably-priced jacket that offers comfort as well as protection. Its shell is crafted from a shiny, protective polyester, and its interior is lined with a cozier version of the textile. The result is a lightweight, wind-resistant jacket that feels comfortable enough to wear regularly.

While the windbreaker doesn’t pack down to its hood or one of its pockets, it is veritably portable. Weighing less than 1 pound, it’s easy to toss in a bag and carry from place to place. Plus, it’s machine-washable, so it's hassle-free to clean between uses.

The jacket comes in sizes 2 through 26W. 

Best Budget for Men: The North Face Cyclone 2 Hooded Jacket

The North Face Men's Cyclone 2 Windbreaker

Courtesy of Amazon

North Face is known for creating comfortable, protective jackets, and its Cyclone 2 Hooded Jacket doesn’t disappoint. Crafted entirely from polyester, the windbreaker feels both lightweight and comfortable. And the jacket’s DWR finish offers protection from water, in addition to wind. The windbreaker’s adjustable hood offers added warmth on particularly cool days, and its elastic cuffs and hem keep the cool air where you want it—outside your cozy windbreaker.

Because the North Face Cyclone 2 Hooded Jacket boasts a relaxed silhouette, it’s particularly easy to layer. Throw it under your heaviest coat during the winter, or rely on it for standalone protection during the spring and fall. When traveling, you can fold it up and easily fit it into its own pocket, making this a conveniently portable pick.

The jacket comes in men's sizes small through extra-extra-large. 

Best for Cycling: Arc'teryx Squamish Hooded Jacket

Arc'teryx Squamish Hooded Jacket

Courtesy of Amazon

When cycling, you don’t want to worry about your jacket bunching up or shifting out of place, and with Arc'teryx's Squamish Hooded Jacket, you don’t have to. The lightweight jacket was designed with athletic use in mind, and its thoughtfully crafted silhouette promises to move with you—staying firmly in place as you work out. 

The windbreaker was crafted entirely from nylon. Since it’s coated with a DWR finish, you can rest assured knowing it’s durable, wind-resistant, and water-repellent. Though the jacket doesn’t pack down to a hood or pocket, it’s incredibly lightweight. Fold it up any time you need to take it on-the-go—it promises not to hog a lot of cargo space. 

The jacket is currently available in sizes extra-small through extra-large. 

Best for Running: Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover

Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover

Courtesy of Patagonia

The Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover is a classic fitness jacket, fit for wearing on all your runs. The bulk of the windbreaker is crafted from DWR-finished nylon, making the jacket water-resistant, wind-resistant, durable, and lightweight. The windbreaker’s hood and sleeves are crafted from a softer textile called Capilene, which promises to wick moisture and dry quickly—keeping you comfortable on all your runs.

While many windbreakers zip from top to bottom, this one is a zip-up pullover. This makes it a particularly warm option, but you can always unzip the top of the jacket when you need a little more airflow. Unlike many other windbreakers, the Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover boasts built-in thumb loops on its sleeves. This design detail ensures your sleeves won’t bunch up as you run, and it also gives you a convenient way to keep your hands warm on cooler days. 

The jacket comes in women's sizes 0 through 14.

Best for Travel: Patagonia Women's Houdini Jacket

Patagonia

 Patagonia

The Patagonia Houdini Jacket is a versatile windbreaker that’s easy to pack up and carry with you on-the-go. The lightweight jacket is crafted from recycled nylon ripstop, and since it’s coated with a DWR finish, it’ll hold up in drizzly situations. The jacket’s drawcord hem will keep it firmly in place as you move around. And its reflective logo will increase your visibility in lower-light conditions.

Like many windbreakers, this one boasts a chest pocket, which doubles as a packsack. Simply fold up the windbreaker until it’s small enough to slip inside the pocket, and voila—you’ve got a lightweight, protective jacket that’s easy to carry with you anywhere you need to go.

The windbreaker comes in women's sizes 2 through 22 and in a variety of fun colors.

Best Waterproof: Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

Courtesy of Amazon

The Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket isn’t just water-resistant—it’s fully waterproof. Boasting elastic cuffs and a stretchy drawcord hem, the windbreaker is solidly protective. And since it’s seam-taped and equipped with YKK AquaGuard zippers, you won’t have to worry about water sneaking in anywhere you don't want it to. 

But don’t expect this protection to come at the cost of convenience. Weighing in at just 5.5 ounces, the Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket is incredibly lightweight. Plus, it easily folds up to fit inside its own pocket so you can carry it with you on the go.

The jacket comes in sizes extra-small through extra-large.

Best for Cold Weather: Fjallraven High Coast Wind Jacket

Fjallraven High Coast Wind Jacket

Courtesy of Amazon

Dealing with cooler-than-usual weather? You’ll want to slip into the Fjallraven High Coast Wind Jacket. The windbreaker is crafted from a combination of organic cotton and waxed polyamide. The cotton will keep you cozy as you battle breezy days, while the waxed polyamide offers the water-resistant protection you need to combat light drizzles. Plus, the jacket’s elastic cuffs and drawcord hem will keep cold air from sneaking into it. (They’ll also keep your windbreaker comfortably in place as you move around.)

Though the jacket offers ample protection, it doesn’t skimp on packability. At 10.24 ounces, it’s veritably light, making it easy to toss in a bag and carry with you on-the-go. Also nice? Since the jacket is lightweight, it’s easy to layer under other outerwear. Simply slip it under your favorite coat any time you need a little extra warmth.

This option comes in sizes extra-small through extra-large.

Best with Pockets: Rab Vital Hooded Windshell

Rab Vital Hooded Windshell

Courtesy of Amazon

Most windbreakers are designed with a single chest pocket, which is great when your priority is maintaining a sleek silhouette. But when you need extra storage space—or when you want a comfortable place to rest your hands—you’re better off with a two-pocket design, like the one found on Rab's Vital Hooded Windshell.

Slip into the windbreaker, and you’ll find two pockets along the jacket’s waistline. These give you ample space to store more than a few necessities, and they also double as hand-warmers on particularly cold days.

Of course, the added pocket isn’t the only thing the Rab Vital Hooded Windshell has going for it. The jacket is crafted from Hyperlite, an incredibly lightweight material that will keep you protected from the wind without weighing you down. The jacket’s elastic hood and drawcord hem will let you customize your fit to ensure the cold air stays out. And its reflective details will help you stay visible in lower-light conditions.

The jacket comes in sizes extra-small through large.

Final Verdict

The Patagonia Houdini Air Jacket is a well-rounded windbreaker worth investing in. The jacket is breathable, protective, and comfortable. And since it can pack into its own pocket, it’s easy to carry around. The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket is just as solid. And since it’s designed to maximize range of motion, it promises to be fitness-friendly.

What to Look for in a Windbreaker

DWR Finish

Windbreakers offer protection from the wind, but many also offer protection from water. Look for jackets that are coated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. While this finish may not leave the jacket perfectly waterproof, it will increase its ability to hold up in rainy conditions.

Stretchy Details

Many windbreakers boast elastic cuffs and drawcord hems. These stretchy details help ensure your jacket stays in place as you move around. They also help to keep cool air out.

Packability

Because windbreakers tend to be lightweight, they’re typically pretty packable. Some windbreakers, though, are so compressible that you can fold them up and fit them inside a built-in pocket or hood. If portability is important to you, look for a jacket with this capability. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should you wear a windbreaker?

    Wear a windbreaker during windy or rainy conditions when the weather is mild. Lightweight windbreakers are not typically used to provide warmth. Runners and cyclists often wear windbreakers to provide protection from the elements, especially since the air can become much colder against the skin when cycling due to wind resistance. Some windbreakers are brightly colored with reflective details that provide additional safety during runs and bike rides.

  • How warm are windbreakers?

    Windbreakers are not typically used to provide warmth, although the amount of warmth depends on the garment you choose. Some have fleecy or cotton layers that may provide some warmth. However, you can always layer a windbreaker with a warm sweater and thermal undershirt for both warmth and protection against the elements.

  • How do you style a windbreaker?

    Oversized windbreakers can be stylish with high waisted belted jeans or trousers and a tucked t-shirt. You can wear them 90s-style, with loose fitting rolled up jeans and a sweatshirt, as well. Choose a more closely fitting windbreaker to wear with fitness leggings.

  • Are windbreakers waterproof?

    While most windbreakers are water-resistant, they are not usually fully waterproof and therefore aren't meant to be worn during heavy rainfall. They may offer enough protection for light drizzles or misty weather. You can add waterproofing spray to some windbreakers to provide additional water resistance.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

As a seasoned health and fitness writer, Lindsey Lanquist understands how vital quality product recommendations can be. She is careful to recommend products that are reliable, comfortable, and genuinely well-reviewed by those who’ve tried them.

1 Source
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  1. The 7 Best Men's Windbreakers of 2022, Tested by Experts. Men's Health. https://www.menshealth.com/style/g39695693/best-mens-windbreaker/