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Best Windbreaker Jacket for Hiking Through the Great Outdoors

From trekking through the rain to running on the beach, here's how to choose the best windbreaker jacket for your outdoor activities and climate.

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Man With Jacket In Woods Via Getty Michelle ThomasMICHELLE THOMAS/ GETTY IMAGES

One of my first memories is running down a mountain in a rainstorm. I was about three years old, and our sunny day had suddenly turned into a downpour. My parents stuck a cheap windbreaker jacket over me, and when we got back to the car, we reveled in changing out of our soaked clothes and blasting the heat in the van.

Now I have more technical gear for my outdoor adventures. Still, one thing has stayed the same: I see the value in packing a windbreaker jacket designed for your particular climate and activity.

The best windbreaker jackets are ideal companions whether you’re meandering through the city or summiting a ridge. And they don’t take up much room in a backpack, which is great for those who like to travel light. Here are our favorite windbreaker jackets for hiking (and they happen to also make a nice gift for hikers).

1 / 5

Minimalist Mens Jacketvia merchant

Best Overall Windbreaker Jacket

Marmot Minimalist Jacket

The Minimalist Windbreaker from Marmot shines thanks to its ability to withstand really wet weather—think hiking in the Pacific Northwest and Scotland. It’s durable, super-lightweight and breathable but still windproof, thanks to its Gore-Tex Paclite Plus lining.

A few notable features include pit zippers for an easy cool-down, taped seams, a water-resistant zipper, oversized pockets, adjustable velcro cuffs and an attached hood with an adjustable cord. Plus, it even comes in both men’s and women’s models. Pair this with a fleece jacket and you’re ready for all of the elements.


  • Lightweight
  • Abrasion-resistant
  • Stretch technology allows for full range of motion
  • Available in men’s and women’s models
  • Two hand-zip pockets and one water-resistant chest zip pocket


  • Hood isn’t helmet-compatible

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2 / 5

Columbia Mens Rain Jacket via merchant

Best Budget Windbreaker Jacket

Columbia Glennaker Lake Rain Jacket

With its waterproof nylon fabric, Columbia’s Glennaker Lake windbreaker keeps the elements at bay at a wallet-friendly price. It features an attached hood, has multiple pockets and is machine washable. Additionally, it is lightweight enough to pack in your bag or luggage, and the drawstrings around the hood and waist guarantee a secure fit. This is a quality item for  a reasonable price, which is always a score in my book.


  • Budget-friendly option
  • Waterproof and lightweight
  • Available in seven colors
  • Comes in extended sizes up to 6X


  • On the thin side

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3 / 5

Patagonia Houdini Air Jacket via merchant

Best Windbreaker Jacket for Action Sports

Patagonia Houdini Air Jacket

For trail runners or cross-country skiers, it’s hard to beat this Patagonia windbreaker’s breathability and lightweight construction. It’s made from 51% post-consumer recycled material, which means it’s environmentally conscious as well as soft and airy.

The windbreaker packs into its zipper pocket down to the size of a scoop of ice cream. Other features include a pull cord on the hood with a single adjustment so you don’t lose your peripheral vision, a textured back to increase airflow and a weight of just 3.6 ounces.


  • Only weighs 3.6 ounces
  • Packs down into itself
  • Breathable construction
  • Attached hood is adjustable


  • Doesn’t have side pockets

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4 / 5

Vital Hooded Windshell Orangevia merchant

Best Mid-Cost Windbreaker Jacket

Rab Vital Hoody

Rab’s Vital Hoody is the right pick for those who want performance features and good value all wrapped up into one jacket. It’s windproof and water-resistant, and packed with features. The hood is rimmed with elastic, keeping it secure in the wind, and a stiff brim guards your face from sprays of rain.

There’s a snap near the neck, which lets you unzip fully for ventilation or to remove layers without taking it off. It’s also made with fluorocarbon-free coating, and the company was recently certified carbon-neutral for the third year in a row. Other features include a rear hood volume adjustment, an internal storm flap with a chin guard, two zipped hand pockets, a hem drawcord and partial elastic cuffs. And best of all? It comes in both men’s and women’s windbreaker jacket styles.


  • Good value
  • Dries quickly
  • Weighs only 4.6 ounces
  • Available in five colors


  • Less breathable than more technical models

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5 / 5

The North Face Antora Kids Rainjacket via merchant

Best Windbreaker for Kids

The North Face Antora Rain Jacket

For kids who like to keep up with their parents (or are itching to explore the woods solo), The North Face’s windproof and waterproof Antora rain jacket incorporates the tried-and-true features of their adult jackets in a tailored youth size.

Features include two-layer DryVent breathable technology, sealed seams, zippered pockets, a three-piece attached hood with elastic, elasticized waist and cuffs, an ID label, a chin guard and a reflective bar on the side of the sleeves for safety. Plus, it even comes in both girl’s and boy’s styles. Pair it with a kids’ tent, and you might never get them indoors again!


  • Versatile for a range of activities
  • Lightweight
  • Durable construction
  • Waterproof and windproof


  • Pricey

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What to Consider When Buying a Windbreaker Jacket

When choosing a windbreaker, consider your price-to-wear ratio. Determine how often and where you think you’ll pull it out of your pack. If you think you’ll rarely use it, there’s no harm in choosing a budget option. But if you’re going into the backcountry where your well-being might depend on being dry, it’s wise to invest in a more technical model that’s fully windproof and waterproof.

Next, consider your climate and activity. You’ll want a more substantial jacket if you’re hiking in a rainy place. If you’re doing something more aerobic, like jogging in a mild climate, reach for a more breathable and lightweight windbreaker. Also, remember that layering with tech-fabric shirts and performance fleece can greatly expand a jacket’s capabilities.

How We Found the Best Windbreaker Jackets

As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject-matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.


Do windbreaker jackets keep you warm?

Windbreaker jackets can block part or all of the wind and rain depending on the model and materials. But in colder weather, you’ll probably also need warm clothing layers underneath it and, in some instances, a waterproof shell over the top of it.

Are windbreaker jackets waterproof?

Windbreaker jackets are sometimes waterproof. Some options are 100% waterproof raincoats. But others, especially those that are more breathable and lightweight, will only keep out mild rain.

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Karuna Eberl
Karuna writes about wildlife, nature, history and travel for magazines, newspapers and websites including National Geographic, National Parks, Discovery Channel, Atlas Obscura and the High Country News. She's also produced a number of independent films and directed the documentary The Guerrero Project, about the search for a sunken slave ship. She and her husband, Steve, wrote an award-winning guidebook to the Florida Keys and are currently completely renovating an abandoned house in a ghost town. She holds a B.A. in journalism and geology from the University of Montana. Member of OWAA, SATW.