– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Should I buy a windshirt?

I’ve been thinking about the question in the title for a while now… Should I buy a windshirt?

The answer may seem (and be) obvious as almost all the people imaginable swear by windshirts:
– “For those of you who haven’t got yourself a ‘wind shirt’ yet, do yourself a favour and get one.
– “Windshirts are one of the epitome of lightweight & ultralight backpackers.
– “No other garment in my wardrobe is as adaptable or useful.
– “I like wind shirts.   Had walks without them, and with.  Summing up my position is simple.  Get one.
– “Given that windshirts are the most versatile of garments, having two isn’t a bad thing at all.

Apparently they are the best single piece of clothing available for a lightweight or UL hiker. But, should I buy one? And if so, then why? And which one?

The reason why I’m thinking this is that I’ve never owned a proper windshirt and have managed years in the outdoors without one. I have a random cheapo windshirt that I modified a little (It’s now 85g, close-fitting, full zip and chest pocket) and have used occasionally. The problem with this shirt is that it’s not too breathable and windshirts should be breathable. At least more breathable than waterproof hard shells. And this one isn’t! What I do have is a pair of “wind pants” i.e. the Montane Featherlite pants and I do like them a lot (except that they are too short for my longish legs…) They are light, breathable, comfortable, quick drying and surprisingly durable. I’m a big fan of the Pertex fabrics.

Yours truly after walking 105km in 25 hours. Wearing the aforementioned Montane Featherlite pants and not-so-breathable windshirt.

Usually I’ve substituted the windshirt with other clothing that I’m carrying. In summer my outermost layer is either Rab Demand eVent jacket (waterproof, quite breathable), Powerstretch fleece (gives some protection from the wind, very breathable and occasionally too warm) or a Haglöfs Climatic button-up shirt (very versatile: bugproof, windproof, cool enough for hot weather and so on).  In winter I’m often very happy with my Goretex shell and if the weather is nice and warm I’m often happy skiing in my fleece, merino base layer or even going topless. In autumn I wear the eVent shell jacket or thin fleece as top layer. And this autumn I also did a trip wearing a Haglöfs softshell jacket made of the Flexable material. It performed flawlessly and I wore it every day, occasionally adding a waterproof jacket on top it. The times when I really miss a windshirt are quick and short trips and a bit sportier trips with high pace. And of course it would probably be nice in certain weather like in the strong cold wind in the fells in summer or during the days of little or moderate wind with warm sun in the open arctic.

Skiing in Svalbard on a warm day. Some are skiing in merino shirts, some in Powerstretch and some still wear Goretex jackets. Maybe a windshirt would be the best option?

But I feel that if I’d buy a windshirt it would just be adding weight and stuff into my backpack (or pulka) as I wouldn’t want to leave anything out in favor of it: The button-up shirt is simply great for summer use. I want to have a thin but warm fleece for cold weather and sitting in the camp (and actually two of these for colder winter trips). And for trips longer than a day or two, I want to have a waterproof shell jacket. But maybe the windshirt would add so much comfort that it would be worth the extra 100 or 200 grams? Or maybe I would learn to substitute something with the windshirt?

Hiking in the Haglöfs Climatic shirt in Lapland last summer. A windshirt might be a good option.

If I’d buy a windshirt it would have to work both in summer and in winter. For summer use it should be: windproof, bugproof, water-repellent, light, quick drying and reasonably durable. Long sleeves with thumb loops and a pocket or two would be nice but not obligatory. I don’t know if I’d need a hood for summer use as a hood in the shell jacket should be enough for me Long zipper might be nice but again not obligatory. The windshirt should protect me from cold wind and bugs and fend off occasional slight drizzle. For winter use the requirements differ a bit: again windproof, water-repellent and quick drying but also a bit warmer and a bit more durable. Long sleeves would become a necessity (and I wouldn’t mind having thumb loops), a full zip would probably be quite useful as would a pocket or two and a good hood would be very much-needed. In winter I would use the windshirt as a shell on trips in the woods and as a secondary shell and layering piece on trips on the open fells and arctic. From these bases I’ve shortlisted some options out there:

From summer perspective the list includes:
Montane Lite-Speed (reviewed by Joe here)
Montane Featherlite Smock (short review by Petesy here)
– maybe Rab Cirrus Wind Top (reviewed by Hendrik here).

Or maybe I could replace my fleece with Rab Boreas Pull-on (reviewed by Dave here) to get more protection from wind but still have some insulation?

From winter perspective the list includes
– Montane Lite-Speed (with hood modified) but then turns towards heavier stuff:
Rab Alpine Jacket being the lightest (the predecessor reviewed by Joe here)
– followed by Montane Dyno Jacket (few words by Petesy here)

Or maybe I could ditch my thin fleece and replace it with Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Tour (Vapour-Rise in general praised by Gary Rolfe here) that would provide both windproofness and warmth but still be breathable enough to layer under a shell in bad weather.

The last one in the line would be me going topless in Svalbard. Maybe a nice windshirt would have spared the poor bypassers from the sight? (Pic by Jouni Tanninen)

It seems that I might actually need two windshirts two fulfill the criteria. Or would one be enough and if so then which one? Or maybe I really don’t need a windshirt at all?

Help me out here and share your views and ideas! Also links to reviews about the stuff listed here would be nice.


27 responses to “Should I buy a windshirt?

  1. Joe Newton 12/12/2011 at 23:15

    Do you NEED a windshirt? Well Jaakko, you seem to be living proof that it’s perfectly safe to get up to plenty of outdoor adventure without one. On the other hand plenty of people have lots of gnarly adventure under heavy packs and in big fat boots. It might just be one of those things that you have to try for yourself. Starting at around £35 there are far more expensive technical clothing mistakes you can make. If you try one and don’t feel it fits your clothing system then you’ll just carry on as before. No harm done.

    Personally I would always go for a hood, excellent insect protection on a muggy summer evening, when sitting around in your rain gear is like being in a portable sauna. Then again you’re Finnish so maybe that’s a good thing 😉

  2. korpijaakko 13/12/2011 at 01:09

    It seems that I don’t NEED one but apparently I WANT one really badly. 🙂 Now the question is just that should I buy something heavier suiting the winter season or a lighter one for summer use that might also work in winter? The Rab Alpine jacket looks very good. What would you say: Too thick/warm/heavy for summer use in Nordic or not? And how is the sleeve lenght of (different) Montane shirt compared to long sleeves on Rab jackets?

    I’m the kind of Finn who likes his sauna around +100C. So the lousy sauna inside my shell jacket in the camp surrounded by mosquitoes just makes me angry. So good point with the hood.

  3. Martin Rye 13/12/2011 at 01:37

    I rate them and use them. I walked without them and for the cost and minimal weight they are well worth getting. I might invest in the Patagonia Men’s Houdini when my Lite-speed wears out. My other windshirt lacks a hood. I reckon a hood adds to the performance of a windshirt.

  4. hrXXLight 13/12/2011 at 02:05

    He Jaakko if you wanna test a windshirt without paying lots of money have a look at chillcheater.com. They have a very lightweight and excellent shirt and pants. Paid £45 +shipping for both. Shirt weighs round about 60g and the pants too.

  5. Mikkel Bølstad 13/12/2011 at 10:29

    A hood is nice for hiking, though on a light weight jacket it can act like a braking parachute when cycling 😀

  6. tookiebunten 13/12/2011 at 11:06

    I have a wind shirt and like it but it was designed for trail runners and MTBers, with zip off sleeves so that it converts into a windproof gilet/vest. It’s good and versatile but lacks a hood. It can get over-saturated under my pack but dries quickly. In the winter that usually means sticking a shell or an insulated jacket over the top went I stop but most people do that anyway? I’m thinking of investing in one with a hood but a light one I can wear all year round and just layer up with a fleece in winter to give me some heat retention. Again I think it’s a thing of personal choice and I don’t walk in the same environs as you but definitely worth a try as the pack weight and size are minimal for the garment. No harm, no foul other than a slight dent to the wallet.

    Not sure that helps at all with your decision 😉

  7. Simon 13/12/2011 at 12:01

    A wind shirt is something I have *almost* bought several times … including quite recently. They are rated by some of the guys I work with, but they are climbers rather than hikers. Every time I’ve *almost* bought one I’ve asked the question you asked “do I need this?” and the answer is always “no” … but maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe we should be asking “how could I use this?”. I would use mine for running year round, but only for hill use in the summer.

  8. korpijaakko 13/12/2011 at 16:33

    Thanks for all the comments! The point that the functionality of about all gear depents on environment, conditions and use is very a good point indeed.

    I think I’ll be getting a windshirt. But the question about light windshirts in winter use (and heavier in summer use) still remains. All experience concerning this is very welcome! How would Rab Alpine Jacket do for summer use? Or Montane Lite-Speed in windy winter fells?

  9. Kev 13/12/2011 at 21:22

    Ah well, when it comes to the Summer/Winter thing, I would say buy two :o) Stupidly light for Summer and heavier for Winter. I’m a big fan of windshirts and never leave home without one.

  10. Mikkel Bølstad 13/12/2011 at 23:39

    I like to carry a super-breathable wind shirt accompanied by a rain jacket for crap weather (I’ve got loads of wind jackets/shirts for training and hiking but could do with a new lightweight rain jacket myself :D). Windproofness and good breathability is what I need most of the time. Membrane clothes or similar falls short regarding breathability compared to wind jackets, but is nice when it’s cold and pouring. I think of the wind jacket as my main jacket in summer and a good-weather jacket in winter.

  11. Eero 14/12/2011 at 10:33

    I like my Featherlite pull-on a lot. In summer use it does everything you listed above and I have also used it as my only “jacket” when traveling abroad.

    I also like my Rab Alpine and the weather lately has been perfect for it in south-western Finland, but do you really need another soft-shell for winter use if you already have a Haglöfs?

  12. korpijaakko 14/12/2011 at 13:17

    Huge amount of comments. Thanks guys!

    Kev: Yeah, I think two different windshirts would be good. Wouldn’t have to compromise.

    Mikkel: I like your thinking: main in summer, secondary in winter (and thus should be light).

    Eero: The Haglöfs softshell is a bit too heavy (around 600+g) to be lugged around as a secondary jacket in winter because I still want to have my hard shell for trips that require it. Thus I probably don’t need another softshell (heavy) but a good winter windshirt. How is the sleeve lenght of Montane Featherlite compared to Rab (that usually has long sleeves)?

  13. Eero 14/12/2011 at 21:47

    Featherlite sleeves are fine. For me, at least. Not as long like traditional Rab cut but long enough.

  14. DJS 15/12/2011 at 08:37

    Yey! You’ve hit spot on with this one it seems.
    You know, we seem to have the same kinds of crisis. I’ve been reading all these praises for windjackets too, but exactly like you, do I need one? I’ve analyzed my gear and come to roughly the same conclusion. I’ve got a windstopper fleece which come to use on summer evenings and winter, but other than that, it’s usually no windstopper or hardshell. No windstopper actually means, tadaa, the button-up Haglöfs shirt you use, though I’ve got a different color, girlfriend didn’t like the “SAR-me” version you’ve got; or then it means technical underwear or old wool polo. The hardshell is my friend. They get alot of shame on you, but I use them alot. Everyday infact. I sweat alot, but instead of seeing it as a problem, I’ve learnt how to properly dress and undress.
    So. Question remains. Should one get a windskirt?
    Many of the other posts suggest so.
    But then again. Does the gear solve the crisis? 😉

  15. korpijaakko 15/12/2011 at 13:55

    Thanks Eero! And one more question to bug you with, how long are you and what size Featherlite you wear?

    Daniel, are you serious with this one? “So. Question remains. Should one get a windskirt?” 🙂

    If so and it wasn’t a typo, you might be on to something… Rainskirts seem to be popular in some circles but there hasn’t been a major break trough yet. So why not launch a windskirt! 😉

    I think this is once again about wants and needs. And we actually need very little in life. So it’s a want and maybe I should just keep rolling the way I’ve been doing. But nobody can’t deny that new gear is nice…

  16. RogerB 15/12/2011 at 18:04

    It has taken me a while to get to this post, in my view you should buy a windshirt. I have been a user of the Montane LiteSpeed and the Featherlite Smock and have used the Featherlite Smock in lapland these last two summers. The benefit of the smock (original version) is lightweight and packs small, the disadvantage is no hood. Last summer I wore a BPL Merino Hoody with a Columbia Silver Ridge shirt then the windshirt and then a Rab Demand top when needed. This set up worked. However, I am now exploring the Rab Boreas, I have used it on 2 day walks and I see the benefit has being that it will allow me to ditch the columbia shirt as it will provide bug protection and wind protection, it is “breathable” to some extent and will resist minor rain, from my limited use.
    So I am optimistic it is the right choice as a replacement for 2 pieces of gear and, as I found out last week, the Boreas allows me to layer a fleece underneath it for warmth when needed.

    Enjoy the challenge of the search for what works for you.

  17. Alastair Humphreys 16/12/2011 at 04:11

    Wow – I love this blog! You give more thought to buying a windshirt than I have ever thought about anything!

  18. DJS 16/12/2011 at 12:00

    Well, I did mean shirt. But then again, why not make a skirt too. I’m semiseriously considering making a kilt if there’s leftover fabric after this round of myog madness.

  19. Eero 16/12/2011 at 15:55

    No prob 🙂 I’m 176 cm and 74 kg and wear size S Featherlite pull-on. I can put it comfortably on top of a thick baselayer but not much more. It’s a shirt anyway.

    I also have some size S Rab jackets and my Montane Featherlite trousers are medium sized.

    I hope these help you to find a fitting windshirt.

  20. korpijaakko 16/12/2011 at 16:15

    Thanks guys! Incredible amount of comment (on my blog’s standards)! This gives me motivation to keep writing.

    RogerB: I’m eagerly waiting your report on the Boreas pull-on. I think it might be great for my needs in summer… Especially if it’s bugproof (very important in the North in summer)!

    Alastair: Nice to hear that you enjoy the blog. Your blog/page is also great and the videos (especially the year of micro adventure series) are brilliant! I’ll have to put together some videos. There is some material, just need the time to learn and do the editing.

    Daniel: An UL kilt out made of Pertex Quantum? And a rainskirt from cuben for wet weather? 😉

    Thanks Eero! I guess I’d be fine with my usual XL (about everything I wear is XL). Though now I’m thinking about going the Alpine Jacket + Boreas Pull-on route. Have to see how things turn out.

  21. Mikkel Bølstad 16/12/2011 at 20:00

    Hey, let’s keep it alive: A wind shirt is super for cooling down on hot summer days: Drench it in water, clench your teeth and put it on. Let the evaporation cool you off. If the weather turns cold on you, it’ll dry in a breeze 😀

  22. dzjow 17/12/2011 at 13:10

    Hi Jaakko,
    I’ve done everything without a wind shirt for years, walking just in a fleece and putting on a hard shell jacket in case the wind was blowing too strong and then often inevitably sweating of course. Now that I use a wind shirt I’m often much more comfortable in the outdoors. I wear the Marmot trail wind hoody, can be another option in your list for summer use. The hood can sometimes become annoying in strong winds, just like Mikkel described for cycling. Beside that, no other negative points to mention. I also wear it during winter when it’s not too cold and windy, otherwise I take my heavier than needed soft shell jacket which is especially warmer in the wind.
    Keep up the good work! You made a bunch of nice posts lately.

  23. Juuso Juuri (@juusojuuri) 17/12/2011 at 13:15

    With regards to use of light wind shirt (Lite-Speed in my case) in winter: combined with a wool baselayer of variable thickness it’s all I use for cross-country skiing down to -25 °C. For this application, the hood is essential (although the one in Lite-Speed should have a longer back panel to prevent the whole jacket from riding up one’s back upon head movement) and I wouldn’t use a heavier shirt. Haven’t used it for backcountry travel in winter, though.

  24. korpijaakko 19/12/2011 at 18:38

    Nice tip, Mikkel! The first idea, if feeling hot in the summer, would probably be taking of the windshirt.

    dzjow: Thanks for sharing your windshirt experience! I hope it would add comfort to my clothing system. When I’ve done speedier nordic skiing with my softshell the hood flpa and drags while going down hill and Iäve occasionally folded it inside the back. It didn’t flap or drag and I got nice Quasimodo look. 😉

    Juuso: I think a bit of extra would be good for backcountry/cross-country traveling with skis as the pace is often a lot slover. But I’m not sure, so I should start testing.

  25. Mikkel Bølstad 20/12/2011 at 12:27

    “The first idea, if feeling hot in the summer, would probably be taking of the windshirt”. I know, I know, the idea was to wear nothing else underneath. It worked like a charm when hiking and packrafting this summer. Since it dries quickly compared to other garments, you’re not risking ending up with a wet sweater or t-shirt, which can be more difficult to dry later. When enough water has evaporated, it’s time for another soaking. 😉

  26. Eula 18/01/2015 at 04:33

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  27. korpijaakko 19/01/2015 at 13:30

    Dear Eula, I’ll leave the comment here because I find it so absurd! Isn’t that about the shittiest thign one can do? Copy content online ja tweak it to look original, maybe even automatically. What would that be adding to anything?

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