Reviews You Can Rely On

The 4 Best Windbreaker Jackets for Women of 2024

We tested women's windbreaker jackets from Patagonia, Columbia, Rab, and others to find the best of the best
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Best Windbreaker Jacket Women Review (Some of the many women's windbreakers we have tested over the years.)
Some of the many women's windbreakers we have tested over the years.
Credit: Maggie Nichols
By Maggie Nichols ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Wednesday May 8, 2024

Searching for the best women's windbreaker for any adventure? We've spent 9 years and tested over 40 jackets to bring you the 10 top models currently on the market. Our all-female team of adventure-loving ladies put these jackets through months of intensive, side-by-side testing in the field and in the lab. We tested wind and water resistance in alpine maelstroms, ocean breezes, and unexpected flash storms. We biked, climbed, ran, paddled, and backpacked in these jackets to learn how they move and breathe. From technical jackets to niche options and across a range of prices, we've found the right windbreaker to become your next go-to piece of adventure wear. If you are worried a wind breaker does not provide enough weather protection, see our reviews of the best women's rain jackets. While less breathable, some of the lightest rain jackets might be what you are looking for.

If you want to take your wardrobe further, our teams of outdoor experts have tested a huge variety of great jackets. We've tested everything from the best women's running jackets to the best women's down jackets for colder temperatures. For anyone shopping on a tight budget, we also have a round-up dedicated to the best best budget women's windbreakers.

Editor's Note: We updated our women's wind jacket review on May 8, 2024, to remove some discontinued models, including our previous Editors' Choice, the Patagonia Houdini Air. Patagonia told us they're revamping this jacket and it will be available again in Spring 2025.

Related: Best Windbreaker for Men

Top 10 Windbreaker Jackets - Test Results

Displaying 6 - 10 of 10
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Awards     Best Buy Award 
Price $185 List
$148.00 at Amazon
$65.73 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$122.46 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$59.99 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$31 List
$30.99 at Amazon
Overall Score
61
59
56
55
51
Star Rating
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Pros Good temperature control in variable conditions, excellent hood, comfortable, good cuffsWater resistant top portion, unique fit, vented midsection, useful pocketsStylish, good wind protection, double zipper, good hood fitUnique pocket system, bright and interesting colorsDecently wind resistant, moderate precipitation protection, lightweight, less expensive
Cons Not overly breathable, sleeves a bit short, minimal rain protectionOdd look, bottom portion less protectiveNon-technical, not very water resistant, not compressibleBaggy, less-than-incredible wind resistance and breathability, not adjustableSleeves a bit short, small pockets, sloppy construction
Bottom Line An athletic-chic jacket that works well for moderate output and cooler tempsAn interesting jacket that's fitted sweatshirt on the bottom and windbreaker on the topA cute but functional urban windbreaker with unique construction and great styleThis jacket's pros can be seen as cons and vice versa, making it a jacket for a person with a very specific styleA simple, casual jacket that's best for mild days and small budgets
Rating Categories Ortovox Merino Wind... Outdoor Research He... Fjallraven High Coa... Cotopaxi Teca Half-... SoTeer Waterproof H...
Wind Resistance (30%) Sort Icon
7.0
6.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
Breathability (30%)
5.0
6.0
6.5
4.0
4.0
Weight and Packability (20%)
7.0
6.0
3.5
8.0
6.0
Versatility (10%)
6.0
5.0
7.0
4.0
6.5
Water Resistance (10%)
5.0
6.0
4.5
7.5
5.0
Specs Ortovox Merino Wind... Outdoor Research He... Fjallraven High Coa... Cotopaxi Teca Half-... SoTeer Waterproof H...
Weight 4.7 oz 6.6 oz 10.0 oz 3.7 oz 6.6 oz
Material 55% Merino wool, 45% polyamide 40604 100% nylon ripstop upper body, 86% nylon 14% spandex lower body 54% polyamide, 46% cotton, wax coating 100% repurposed polyester taffeta with DWR finish, with 600mm PU backer 95% polyester, 5% spandex
Pockets 1 chest 2 stretch stash pockets, 1 zip front pocket 2 hand, 1 chest 1 Kangaroo, 1 zippered pouch 2 hand
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cuffs Half elastic Half elastic Elastic Elastic Elastic
Stuffs Into Pocket Yes Yes No Yes No
Safety Reflective Material Reflective logo (front, back and sleeve) Reflective logo on front and L cuff None None None
Fit Regular fit Slim fit Relaxed fit Relaxed fit Relaxed fit


The Best Women's Windbreaker Jacket for 2024


Best Overall Windbreaker


Rab Vital Hoody - Women's


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Wind Resistance 9.0
  • Breathability 7.0
  • Weight and Packability 7.5
  • Versatility 7.5
  • Water Resistance 8.5
Material: Atmos woven nylon | Weight: 4.1 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent wind resistance
Decent water repellence
Very protective hood
Top snap to let you unzip and vent
REASONS TO AVOID
Doesn't stow in its own pocket
Lacks reflective decals

The Rab Vital Hoody offers a serious amount of protection from the elements in a relatively inexpensive jacket — a combination we're in love with. Its fabric is both one of the most wind-resistant and one of the most water-resistant in our test fleet. Its longer torso keeps you covered, and the hood features both an elastic rim and a wire-stiffened brim over your eyes. A unique snap flap above your sternum lets you fully unzip this jacket for serious ventilation, without it falling off your shoulders while you run headfirst into the wind. It's also one of the lighter jackets we tested.

Though previous versions of this jacket self-stowed into the chest pocket, this latest version of the Rab Vital instead comes with a separate drawstring bag for storage. While this bag works perfectly, we don't love having to bring an extra piece of gear along — especially one so small and likely to get lost. Rab also removed the reflective logos that used to be on both the front and the back of this jacket, limiting your low-light visibility. These minor complaints aside, if you're looking for superior technical performance without the super-high price tag, this is the windbreaker for you. If you can afford to pay more, we also like the Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody, which scores nearly on par with the Vital in every metric except breathability, where it suffers. However, this means it's highly windproof and a bit warmer, which may be something some folks are looking for.

Read more: Rab Vital Hoody review

wind breaker jacket womens - the rab vital has an excellent combination of technical features...
The Rab Vital has an excellent combination of technical features, comfortable details, and a reasonable price.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

Best on a Tight Budget


SoTeer Waterproof Hooded - Women's


51
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Wind Resistance 5.0
  • Breathability 4.0
  • Weight and Packability 6.0
  • Versatility 6.5
  • Water Resistance 5.0
Material: 95% polyester, 5% spandex | Weight: 6.6 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Solid wind resistance
Lightweight
Moderately water resistant
Less expensive than most
REASONS TO AVOID
Sleeves run short
Small pockets that don't close
Less careful construction

If you're aching for a windbreaker but your wallet is aching for a break, check out the SoTeer Hooded Jacket. This hooded jacket is a solid choice for lots of casual activities on mild days. It's got all the basics, including drawstrings on the hood and waist hem, wide, fully elastic cuffs, and two hand pockets. It's reasonably wind resistant against moderate breezes and occasional gusts, with a small-toothed, tight zipper that adds some protection. At about an average weight for this category, the SoTeer jacket feels pretty lightweight compared to many traditional “light” jackets, with flexible fabric that's comfortable and easy to wear. Made of mostly polyester, this jacket offers decent water protection against a quick rain shower, though it can't quite replace a DWR-treated coat when it comes to serious precipitation. It's offered in a wide variety of colors and patterns and gives us a bit of a 90s vibe.

If technical prowess and thoughtful details are what you're after, the SoTeer Hooded Jacket likely won't live up to expectations. The sleeves run a bit short on many of our testers, leaving wrists exposed while in motion — like on a bike ride or a run. As much as we like that this casual layer has hand pockets, they're rather small and have no closure mechanism, letting a smartphone dangle out precariously. The hood lacks a brim to shield your face and is actually so small that we had a hard time finding it comfortable when worn over a ponytail. There are also lots of extra flaps of unused material left dangling about this jacket's interior, further detracting from the already subpar breathability of the polyester as well as from our love of this windbreaker. While we aren't about to hike the whole PCT in the SoTeer jacket, it's a solid and inexpensive layer that's casual enough for running errands around town and walking the dog. Another fun option is the Cotopaxi Teca Half-Zip, with its bright colorblock and baggy fit, but it'll cost a bit more.

Read more: SoTeer Hooded Jacket review

wind breaker jacket womens - the soteer jacket works well as a casual, everyday layer that&#039;s...
The SoTeer jacket works well as a casual, everyday layer that's inexpensive and offers moderate protection. It's not as technical and lacks some of the thoughtful details we love about others, but with tons of colors and a low price, it still holds solid value.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Best Ultralight Model


Patagonia Houdini - Women's


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Wind Resistance 8.0
  • Breathability 7.0
  • Weight and Packability 9.5
  • Versatility 7.0
  • Water Resistance 6.5
Material: 15D ripstop nylon with DWR | Weight: 3.1 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Compatible with a helmet
Dries quickly
Stows away into a tiny pocket
Extremely lightweight
REASONS TO AVOID
Not overly waterproof
Thin fabric is see-through

Remaining one of our favorite options for when keeping weight low matters most is the Patagonia Houdini. This impressively lightweight windbreaker continues to earn some of our highest ratings in wind resistance, weight, and packability. This piece has been around for years, which has allowed Patagonia to fine-tune the details to get a seriously impressive mix of function and weight savings. The Houdini compacts into a ridiculously lightweight 3.1-ounce package, sure to please even the most hardcore ultralight enthusiast. Despite this absurdly low weight, the Houdini is still impressively wind-resistant and withstood every adventure we wore it on, from climbing and mountain biking to hiking and boating.

Of course, this impressively thin layer is a bit see-through, particularly in some of its lighter colors. This makes it not the best-looking model we tested. And though it claims to have a DWR coating, it does still eventually get wet — and a little quicker than some others. It retails for less than a lot of less-impressive models in our lineup and has your back when you need to stay protected and still travel ultralight.

Read more: Patagonia Houdini review

wind breaker jacket womens - the patagonia houdini is impressively light while still providing...
The Patagonia Houdini is impressively light while still providing excellent coverage and protection against the elements.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Best for Everyday Versatility


Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell Wind Hooded Jacket - Women's


73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Wind Resistance 7.0
  • Breathability 7.5
  • Weight and Packability 7.0
  • Versatility 8.5
  • Water Resistance 7.0
Material: Pertex® Quantum Air 20D stretch ripstop nylon | Weight: 4.2 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable fabric
Breathable
Soft, easy to wear cuffs
Good water resistance
REASONS TO AVOID
No adjustable features
Lack of technical features lowers wind resistance

The Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell is the light, comfortable jacket from your childhood memories, with some upgrades. Made of soft, modestly stretchy fabric, this windbreaker feels more like a shirt, leaving the swishy crinkliness of most models in the dust. An elastic hem, half-elastic cuffs, and an elastic-rimmed hood add security without restriction in the face of moderate breezes and gusts. The Pertex body is breathable while still offering good protection against light rain. Zippered hand pockets are functional, while their zippers are hidden along seams, adding to the sleeker style of this garment.

If you're after technical versatility, the lack of adjustability of the Kor may not be up to your needs (check out the Black Diamond Alpine Start instead). This lightweight jacket can't be cinched tighter against dropping temperatures. It also takes some practice to stuff it into its oblong pocket — with a very small opening. But if you're seeking the versatility to go from a light hike in the morning to beer garden happy hour, the style and comfort of the Kor AirShell have got you covered.

Read more: Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell review

wind breaker jacket womens - the kor airshell is protective enough for light hikes and...
The Kor AirShell is protective enough for light hikes and comfortable and stylish enough for around town.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

Notable for Great Warmth to Weight Ratio


Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody - Women's


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Wind Resistance 9.0
  • Breathability 4.5
  • Weight and Packability 7.5
  • Versatility 7.0
  • Water Resistance 8.0
Material: Tyono™ 30D ripstop nylon | Weight: 4.1 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent wind protection
Above-average water resistance
Easy to layer
Durable materials and construction
REASONS TO AVOID
Less breathable
Light colors are semi-transparent

What this fairly lightweight windbreaker lacks in breathability, it makes up for by providing extra warmth when you need it most. Long sleeves with a bit of stretch can easily cover your hands in lieu of gloves and an extra tall chin guard lets you burrow into it when the winds pick up. With an updated slim (but relaxed) fit, the Squamish Hoody easily layers over sweatshirts and fleece jackets on cold days while maintaining a more flattering shape when worn alone. It provides decent protection against a quick spring shower and packs down into a small pocket that can easily be taken along just about anywhere.

The trade-off of the protective fabric of the Squamish Hoody is lower breathability. It's not our favorite option for warmer days or high-output activity on “justcool days. Its tall chin guard also becomes a bit floppy and awkward when worn very unzipped while trying to vent. In lighter colors, this jacket is also rather transparent. But for the tail ends of shoulder season, in trying conditions that can dip lower than expected, we appreciate the impressive warmth to weight ratio of this highly protective windbreaker.

Read more: Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody review

wind breaker jacket womens - the squamish hoody is our top choice for a lightweight jacket that...
The Squamish Hoody is our top choice for a lightweight jacket that can handle cold mornings and chilly evenings.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
79
Rab Vital Hoody - Women's
Best Overall Windbreaker
$95
Editors' Choice Award
78
Patagonia Houdini - Women's
Best Ultralight Model
$109
Top Pick Award
73
Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell Wind Hooded Jacket - Women's
Best for Everyday Versatility
$150
Top Pick Award
72
Black Diamond Alpine Start - Women's
$185
71
Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody - Women's
Notable for Great Warmth to Weight Ratio
$180
61
Ortovox Merino Windbreaker - Women's
$185
59
Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoody - Women's
$119
56
Fjallraven High Coast - Women's
$185
55
Cotopaxi Teca Half-Zip - Women's
$80
51
SoTeer Waterproof Hooded - Women's
Best on a Tight Budget
$31
Best Buy Award

wind breaker jacket womens - we put these windbreakers to the test across all four seasons, over...
We put these windbreakers to the test across all four seasons, over a dozen states, and five countries to bring you our verdict of their performances.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

How We Test Women's Windbreakers


We've been testing the latest and best windbreakers for years now, and we never take this task lightly. Each season, we scour the market for promising new models to test alongside old favorites. Every jacket gets measured, scrutinized, compared, and tested in the lab and in the field. We use fans and hair dryers to test wind resistance and garden hoses to assess water resistance — in addition to wearing these jackets up peaks, on runs, in the rain, and around town as much as possible for months. From kayaking and biking to walking the dog and picnicking with friends, we strive to always bring you the most intriguing models and up-to-date information to help you find the perfect windbreaker for your favorite adventures.

These jackets were tested and scored using five weighted performance metrics:
  • Wind Resistance (30% of overall score weighting)
  • Breathability (30% weighting)
  • Weight and Packability (20% weighting)
  • Versatility (10% weighting)
  • Water Resistance (10% weighting)

Why Trust GearLab


This category has been spearheaded for several years now by Senior Review Editor, Maggie Nichols, aided by her team of adventuring girlfriends. A seasoned backcountry guide of over 15 years, Maggie has professionally lead backpacking, hiking, kayaking, and canoeing trips in some of the windiest locations around the world, including mountain tops in the Sierra Nevadas, the perpetual breezes blowing across the Caribbean Sea, and remote plateaus in Lesotho. Originating from the Midwest, where “wind chill” is an everyday topic of discussion, Maggie has a lifelong understanding of what works to block the wind and the trade-offs needed to keep you comfortable and protected without melting inside a glorified plastic bag. She currently lives in the gusty foothills of the Sierras and travels around the country and world with these windbreakers in tow. She's been testing women's technical apparel and a ton of other adventure gear for GearLab since 2016.

Testing in the blustery Midwestern fall.
Testing in the blustery Midwestern fall.
Snow angels, brought to you by windbreakers.
Snow angels, brought to you by windbreakers.
Stay protected from the wind with the Vital&#039;s elastic-lined hood.
Stay protected from the wind with the Vital's elastic-lined hood.

Analysis and Test Results


Windbreakers are made to be lighter, more breathable versions of rain jackets, offering some protection from the elements while keeping you quick and agile while you're out. There are many specialized options out there and in this review, and we dove headfirst into rigorously testing each one to see what kinds of conditions it's best suited for. We divided our testing into five metrics, weighting these scores based on their importance to choosing the right windbreaker. Combining these weighted scores gives each contender one overarching numerical total. In what follows, we break down every metric and discuss the specifics of which models do best and where.

Be Prepared
It's important to always plan for the worst and expect the unexpected when heading outdoors. This includes packing a warm layer on a hot day and making sure your car has survival tools if you were to get stranded crossing a winter mountain pass or summer desert. A windbreaker is an excellent emergency layer and so absurdly useful you may find yourself wondering why you didn't buy one sooner.


Value


We tested a wide variety of specialty and general-use windbreakers across a range of prices. Some offer incredible performance that we think is worth the extra cost, like the Patagonia Houdini. We've been repeatedly impressed with the Rab Vital Hoody technical performance, and its moderate price tag makes it a high-value pick. The SoTeer Hooded Jacket, which isn't outstanding but functions well as a simple, everyday jacket, has a very reasonable price.

wind breaker jacket womens - we put these windbreakers to the test in all kinds of situations and...
We put these windbreakers to the test in all kinds of situations and environments to see which ones hold the best value for different uses.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

Wind Resistance


Wind may be a breath of fresh air in warm weather, but as the temperatures drop, cold gusts can chill you very quickly. This not only ruins a fun day, but it can also potentially leave you hypothermic. When journeying outside, you'll undoubtedly run into windy conditions at some point. A trusty lightweight windbreaker jacket might make the difference between a fun outing and a miserable experience. Every model that we tested is wind resistant to a certain degree, but when gusts huffed and puffed and nearly blew the little pig's house down, we noticed some key differences in performance.


The highest-rated jackets in this category include the impressive Rab Vital Hoody and Arc'teryx Squamish. These jackets offer the best protection thanks to their highly wind-resistant material and are our top picks for seriously windy days and even days that are colder than we'd recommend most windbreakers for. The Patagonia Houdini is impressively wind-resistant, though its thinner fabric offers less insulation in truly cold winds. The Black Diamond Alpine Start and Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell use slightly thicker fabric to help keep the winds at bay while remaining soft and pliable.

wind breaker jacket womens - a thin layer for a warm day or an outer layer for crisper airs, the...
A thin layer for a warm day or an outer layer for crisper airs, the Patagonia Houdini does a great job blocking those breezes.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

If you completely lock your jacket down by tightening an adjustable hem, you minimize the amount of air that enters, keeping those gusts at bay and your body warmer overall. A draft flap behind or in front of the zipper and adjustable cuffs are other components that contribute to stopping the wind. Those features also add to the overall weight of the jacket.

wind breaker jacket womens - the ortovox merino has one of our favorite hoods. it has great...
The Ortovox Merino has one of our favorite hoods. It has great coverage, a brim, and elastic in all the right places to maintain a tight fit even in the strongest winds.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Not all hoods are created equally. Many offer adjustable points on the back to really cinch down around your face, like the Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie, Ortovox Merino, and Black Diamond Alpine Start. Others have cleverly integrated elastic along the rim, like the Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell. A few jackets take hood protection a step further. The Rab Vital hood combines a scuba fit with soft elastic on top with a wire-stiffened brim to help shield your eyes. The Arc'teryx Squamish has a very wide, lightly stiffened brim and is one of the few jackets we tested with a bungee cord to adjust the hood's fit around your face.

Breathability


A windbreaker that breathes with you as your exertion increases is like gold. The drier you stay, the more comfortable you'll be. Because windbreakers are designed to keep wind out, they are generally not great at letting air from the inside get out to keep you dry. Breathability is largely dictated by fabric type, though a few other features aid in this as well. We tested every model's breathability by wearing them during all kinds of activities, including long hikes, morning runs, gardening, bike rides, multi-pitch climbs, and dog walks.


The Black Diamond Alpine Start features Schoeller stretch-woven nylon, which helps it breathe during long periods of high exertion. One of our testers forgot her sun hoody on a 20-pitch climb in sunny Mexico, and she made do with the Alpine Start, with only mild discomfort throughout the day. The similar feeling Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell is nearly as breathable as the Alpine Start, and another favorite of ours for a more shirt-like feel. Because this gear category typically aims to cut weight, adjustable cuffs and pit vents are rarely included. Instead, cuffs are often lined with softer fabric to make them more comfortable to push up your sleeves. The Black Diamond Alpine Start and Cotopaxi Teca both feature a fully elastic cuff made of wider, softer material than the rest of the jacket.

Other models incorporate hidden vents under flaps of fabric to keep you cooler without sacrificing too much in element protection. The Cotopaxi Teca features a long mesh strip between the two back panels, while the Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie has a hidden mesh vent strip circumventing the entire torso to help keep you cooler. The Rab Vital Hoody offers impressive breathability during high-output activities by including a chest button that snaps under your neck, allowing you to unzip the jacket all the way without it falling off your shoulders — even during a run or climb.

wind breaker jacket womens - the vital&#039;s snap closure at the top of the chest allows for easy...
The Vital's snap closure at the top of the chest allows for easy ventilation by simply unzipping the jacket.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

Weight and Packability


When traveling over long distances or in fast-and-light mode, the weight of your gear and how well it packs down become a priority. While the difference between the lightest and heaviest models that we tested is only a matter of ounces, when you can shed an ounce here or there from all of your gear, the difference adds up. If you are trying to move efficiently in the mountains, weight is crucial. A lighter weight model is more likely to end up in your pack or clipped to your harness than a heavier one, so consider your priorities when it comes to added features such as zippered pockets and cuff tabs, and decide if they are worth their weight.


The lightweight Patagonia Houdini packs down into an impressively small package. Patagonia shed weight with this design's athletic fit, absurdly thin yet resistant fabric, and lack of certain features, like a zipper storm flap, hand pockets, and cuff tabs. Even more astounding is that this jacket doesn't sacrifice performance for these weight savings. If you love having hand pockets, you'll have to live with an extra ounce or two and go with something like the Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell or Rab Vital Hoody.

wind breaker jacket womens - the patagonia houdini (left) and patagonia houdini air (center...
The Patagonia Houdini (left) and Patagonia Houdini Air (center, previously tested) both pack down to about the same size and weigh about half an ounce differently.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

The Cotopaxi Teca stands out for its low weight, but as this jacket can be made of a variety of different types of materials, it's difficult to say if the 3.7 ounce model we got is representative of the typical Teca weight.

If you want a lightweight jacket, but you need it to perform in cold weather, try the Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody. This 4.1-ounce coat brings some of the best warmth of any lightweight model we tested, combining protective fabric with features that are better at blocking out strong gusts than any other option in our lineup.

wind breaker jacket womens - like many, the squamish hoody packs into its chest pocket for easy...
Like many, the Squamish Hoody packs into its chest pocket for easy stowing.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

Versatility


Certain features of a windbreaker jacket may increase versatility for one person but decrease it for another. For example, some jackets don't stuff into their own pockets - the Fjallraven High Coast, the SoTeer Hooded Jacket, and the Rab Vital are among these, although the Vital comes with its own separate stow pouch. You may not miss a stow pocket for everyday use as you can simply hang these jackets in your closet, but for activities like backpacking or rock climbing, it could be a dealbreaker. Many of the lighter-weight models lack hand pockets and instead feature only a chest pocket.


A hood adds some versatility (and warmth), and a few of the models we tested came with a helmet-compatible one. However, if the hood's drawstrings cinch down around the sides of the face, it tends to bring the material forward and obstruct your peripheral view. We prefer the Patagonia Houdini, Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody, Rab Vital, Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie, and Black Diamond Alpine Start jackets because their hoods cinch at the back. This lets you pull the hood far enough back to keep your side vision angles wide and clear.

wind breaker jacket womens - the black diamond alpine start has a fit and feel that we love...
The Black Diamond Alpine Start has a fit and feel that we love wearing for hiking as much as we do meeting friends at the beer garden.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Another important aspect of versatility is a jacket's style. Some models that we love, like the Patagonia Houdini and Rab Vital Hoody, are great options for functionality, but their technical appearance makes them stand out walking into the office on Monday morning or shopping the trendy new downtown area on a Saturday afternoon. Other models, like the Fjallraven High Coast and even the budget-friendly SoTeer Hooded Jacket, are much more stylish and at home in situations where fashion is just as important as function.

wind breaker jacket womens - the fjallraven high coast is the perfect combination of style and...
The Fjallraven High Coast is the perfect combination of style and functionality for hanging out at Lake Tahoe in the fall.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman


These jackets lose a little in certain areas of their performance, like weight and packability, but make great options for urban use. Two jackets stand out from the crowd in this respect, performing well enough for adventuring while looking cute enough for Sunday morning brunch - the Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell and the Black Diamond Alpine Start. These two jackets take slightly different approaches to achieve their higher levels of versatility. The Kor AirShell drops more technical features like an adjustable hem and hood and instead includes generally useful options like two zippered hand pockets and a sleek design that fits right into urban scenes. The Alpine Start maintains more technical features like an adjustable hem and hood, but has a softer, more flattering fit and style that still make it a good choice for around town — even without any hand pockets.

wind breaker jacket womens - the kor airshell is a less technical layer that still works for more...
The Kor AirShell is a less technical layer that still works for more casual adventures but looks more natural in urban environments.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

Water Resistance


We conducted various tests to determine the water resistance of each windbreaker jacket. While none of these jackets will hold up in a torrential downpour, many offer decent protection against light rain and intermittent showers. To properly assess this metric, we tested their resistance to becoming soaked, in addition to how quickly they dried once completely wet.


One of the most common ways to make a garment water-resistant is by applying a durable water repellent (DWR) finish. This is a water-repelling chemical coating applied by the manufacturer to the outer material of the garment. It works by beading up raindrops, causing the water to roll right off instead of saturating through the material. Other manufacturers have created proprietary materials made of blended fabrics with specific weaves that help water droplets roll off rather than soak in. And still, others rely on the natural properties of man-made materials like polyester (aka plastic) to create fabrics that don't soak up water easily or quickly.

DWR coatings don't last forever and need to be reapplied over time. You can increase the coating's longevity by keeping your jacket clean. Dirt particles interfere with their ability to bead water droplets. Once the coating is no longer working effectively, you can renew it with a product like Nikwax Tech Wash.

wind breaker jacket womens - the squamish hoody provides solid protection against light...
The Squamish Hoody provides solid protection against light precipitation.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

The windbreakers with thicker material and a DWR finish, like Rab Vital Hoody, are quite water repellent. The DWR coating and breathable fabric keep the jackets drier.

The Arc'teryx Squamish has a DWR coating that does a good job of resisting soaking — though it needs to be reapplied with successive uses and packing. The Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie has very waterproof fabric on the top half and sleeves of the jacket, easily repelling more water and for longer than many others. However, the bottom portion is like a fitted sweatshirt and lacks any water resistance at all, easily soaking up raindrops, with its thick fabric staying wet for longer.

wind breaker jacket womens - whatever wind blows through your life, we identify the right layer...
Whatever wind blows through your life, we identify the right layer for your needs.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg


Conclusion


Windbreakers are a frequently underrated piece of gear that is truly an integral part of any outdoor adventurer's apparel. But knowing which jacket is best for you can be difficult. With considerations ranging from breathability, water resistance, and weight, the jacket you choose will ultimately depend on the climate in which you plan to wear it. We hope our review has steered you towards the jacket most suited to your needs.

Maggie Nichols