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Ortovox Merino Windbreaker Review

All of the advantages of Merino, blended into a wind and weather resistant outerlayer
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Price:  $200 List | $200.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Futuristic Merino/nylon weave, wind resistance-to-weight ratio, size of chest pocket
Cons:  Awkward fit, oversized packed-parcel, expensive
Manufacturer:   Ortovox
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 8, 2020
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 12
  • Wind Resistance - 30% 9
  • Breathability and Venting - 30% 7
  • Weight and Packability - 20% 6
  • Fit and Functionality - 10% 6
  • Water Resistance - 10% 7

Our Verdict

Have you ever imagined what it would be like if you could rock your beloved Merino baselayer on the outside of your kit? Enter the Ortovox Merino windbreaker, a revolutionary jacket that blends Merino wool and nylon into a single, weather-resistant outer layer. We found that this proprietary blend offers incredible wind-stopping power for its lightweight texture. This jacket benefits from the addition of wool fibers when it comes to moisture-wicking and breathability, as well as the all-natural hydrophobia supported by a DWR finish. Thoughtful design points — like an oversized chest pocket — are almost hidden from plain sight in this enigma of a jacket. While there is space for improvement in fit, particularly with regard to torso length, we love the Merino windbreaker as a lightweight alpine option.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Futuristic Merino/nylon weave, wind resistance-to-weight ratio, size of chest pocketLow price, simple and effective design, tiny packed-size, impressive DWR coatingLightest in the category, tiny packed size, larger chest pocketWell-ventilated, body-mapped Merino panelsLots of zippered pockets, ease of packing, elastic brim
Cons Awkward fit, oversized packed-parcel, expensiveNo feature to stow-away hood, thin material can feel clammy during high-output activitySee-through material, under-performing DWR fabricLack of drawcords, billowyGoofy looking brimmed hood, swampy, lack of DWR
Bottom Line All of the advantages of Merino, blended into a wind and weather resistant outerlayerThe best overall value and performance in a lightweight package that sets the category standardAn ultralight jacket purposefully built for fast and light mountain missionsPackable weather protection that skillfully incorporates Merino into a well-ventilated shellBest-in-class storage in a lightweight, ripstop-nylon shell
Rating Categories Ortovox Merino Windbreaker Patagonia Houdini Distance Wind Shell Merino Sport Ultra Light Rab Vital Windshell
Wind Resistance (30%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Breathability And Venting (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
Weight And Packability (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
Fit And Functionality (10%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
9
Water Resistance (10%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
4
10
0
7
10
0
6
Specs Ortovox Merino... Patagonia Houdini Distance Wind Shell Merino Sport Ultra... Rab Vital Windshell
Measured Weight, size M 5.5 oz 3.9 oz (size L) 3.5 oz 4.8 oz 4.7oz
Material 55% Merino wool / 45% nylon, DWR coating 100% nylon ripstop, DWR finish 100% nylon ripstop, woven w/ DWR treatment (Green Theme Technology) 100% nylon outer, 54% Merino wool / 46% polyester liner, DWR coating Hyperlite nylon
Pockets 1 chest zip 1 zip (chest) 1 chest zip 1 zip (chest) 3 zip (2 external hand, 1 internal)
Safety Reflective Material? Yes reflective logos on chest, right arm, and upper left back No (company states reflective logo on left chest, too small to really be visible) No Yes reflective logos on chest, back, right arm; stripes on cuffs and seat hem Yes, reflective logo on chest and back
Stuffs into itself? Yes, stows in chest pocket Yes, stows in chest pocket Yes, stows in chest pocket Yes, stows in chest pocket Yes, stows in internal pocket
Adjustable Cuffs? Half Elastic Half Elastic Elastic Half Elastic Half Elastic
Hood? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

We've been excited to get our hands on this jacket since it was first previewed out Outdoor Retailer in the summer of 2018. The Ortovox Merino windbreaker is designed with proprietary "Merino Protect" — a revolutionary weave that incorporates Merino wool and nylon in a single layer. While this new technology didn't quite transform the category in the way that we once expected it might, this Merino windbreaker does shake things up when it comes to redefining expectations of a weight-to-wind resistance ratio.

Performance Comparison



Weather resistant enough to break trail in an early season storm  warm and breathable enough to wear as your only outerlayer over a lightweight Merino baselayer.
Weather resistant enough to break trail in an early season storm, warm and breathable enough to wear as your only outerlayer over a lightweight Merino baselayer.

Wind Resistance


Even though it weighs in at only an ounce more than our lightest jacket, the Merino windbreaker feels much more substantial than many of the other wind jackets we tested — and as a result, does a great job in blocking the wind. In our lab testing, this new material was by far the hardest to force air through, and this showed in the field. Standing on an alpine ridgeline during a ski tour, this thick-feeling jacket kept us warm and protected against a cold, strong winter wind.

This jacket incorporates simple features to help keep you protected from even a strong winter wind.
This jacket incorporates simple features to help keep you protected from even a strong winter wind.

The sturdy zipper is reinforced with a storm flap, and every hem and cuff is supported by a thick elastic, even the front of the hood. We particularly appreciate this thoughtful addition, as many hoods — even when cinched down — struggle to stay attached to your forehead in a strong wind. The elastic hem around the waist could benefit from the support of a cinch, as this single barricade didn't keep the wind from blowing up into our core as much as we had hoped.

We love the elastic strap around the forehead  which does a particularly good job of keeping our hat on when the wind picks up.
We love the elastic strap around the forehead, which does a particularly good job of keeping our hat on when the wind picks up.

Breathability and Venting


The Merino windbreaker feels a bit heavy to grab before heading out on your next run, but we were happily impressed by the breathability of this new fabric. This jacket does not include any vents, so there is some heat pooling, particularly around the upper armpits and shoulder blades. But there is an unexpected airiness in the chest and core, and although it's sticky while actively sweating, the jacket quickly dries off on your body.

Warm and breathable  this jacket works well when training in cold weather  but is definitely designed for the alpine over the city.
Warm and breathable, this jacket works well when training in cold weather, but is definitely designed for the alpine over the city.

A particularly interesting observation we noticed during an extended uphill run is that while the fabric gets damp during high-output activity, there are no moisture droplets visible on the inside. Just like a Merino wool baselayer, the blended fabric of the Merino baselayer works to actively wick up and evaporate sweat, leaving you dry and comfortable to keep pushing your limits.

Weight and Packability


The Merino wind breaker feels much heavier than many other competitors when you first pick it up. But weigh and compare them all side-by-side, and this jacket tips the scales at only half-an-ounce more than the majority of the field.

More packable than it looks  we found that this parcel could easily be compressed into a much smaller package.
More packable than it looks, we found that this parcel could easily be compressed into a much smaller package.

The jacket packs into its own massive chest pocket, resulting in a parcel that is thin but much larger than it needs to be — the packed pocket could be easily downsized without losing any function. In fact, while you would think that an extra-large pocket would make packing easier, we noticed that the bunched material often needs to be held in place to ensure that it doesn't get caught up in the zipper. To their credit, the designers did include a storm flap that both hides the chest pocket and helps prevent zipper-catch when inverted, a very thoughtful design point.

A blessing and a curse... this oversized pocket is able to fit so much more than a cellphone  but we often found our items fell out when we went to open it back up.
A blessing and a curse... this oversized pocket is able to fit so much more than a cellphone, but we often found our items fell out when we went to open it back up.

Fit and Functionality


With so much thought put into material research and design, the Merino windbreaker has room for improvement when it comes to fit. We expected a classically tighter fitting, Euro-styled cut to this jacket. But the jacket has a very short torso, and with the snug elastic of the waistband, we found ourselves constantly adjusting to try and pull this jacket down over our waistline.

An awkwardly short torso that rides up every time we lifted our arms  despite an elastic band designed to help hold the hem in place.
An awkwardly short torso that rides up every time we lifted our arms, despite an elastic band designed to help hold the hem in place.

As mentioned above, this jacket includes many features to improve wind resistance — a storm flap behind the zipper, a fully elastic hem, half-elastic cuffs with an extension to help cover the back of the hand, a slight drop seat, and most importantly, an elastic band in front and back to lock down the hood. Initially, we thought the huge chest pocket — tall enough to fit a full-size UTM map (!) — was an awesome break from the norm, only to find our phone and gloves constantly falling out as we tried to zip it up.

If you were wondering  there IS Merino spliced into this jacket  and all of the benefits that come from incorporating this magical material.
If you were wondering, there IS Merino spliced into this jacket, and all of the benefits that come from incorporating this magical material.

Water Resistance


All of the benefits we know and love of Merino wool — the unmatched thermoregulation and insulation when wet — come through in this jacket, thanks to the revolutionary blend of 55% Merino wool and 45% nylon into a single-layer fabric. This magic material is backed by a DWR coating, which makes the Merino windbreaker feel more substantial than its weight suggests.

A perfect option when the snow fell last night  but the sun is out and shining today.
A perfect option when the snow fell last night, but the sun is out and shining today.

In a light rain down low, and heavy snowfall up high, this jacket proved its worth as a lightweight alternative to a rain jacket. We noticed in our lab testing that while the Merino Protect material is visibly dampened by water running down the outside, underneath our clothes stayed completely dry.

Dry on the outside  a little damp through the middle  but completely dry on the inside. Exactly what we would expect from a Merino wool layer.
Dry on the outside, a little damp through the middle, but completely dry on the inside. Exactly what we would expect from a Merino wool layer.

Value


If you strive to be the kid on the block with the newest and coolest technology, than the Merino windbreaker is justifiable. But otherwise, we find it difficult to reconcile the steep price tag attached to this innovative piece of technical outerwear, especially when compared directly to other, better-performing jackets in this category.

Awesome in the alpine  but this jacket will cost you about as much as a lift ticket to a major ski resort.
Awesome in the alpine, but this jacket will cost you about as much as a lift ticket to a major ski resort.

Conclusion


The Ortovox Merino windbreaker is an example of material technology that may well be a revolution for lightweight, technical outerwear. While it may benefit from some design adjustments — and a healthy dose of market competition to help lower the price tag — we're excited to see how this piece influences the future of wind jackets.


Aaron Rice