Ah, the wind jacket! This glorious piece of apparel weighs nearly nothing, disappears into almost any corner of your hydration pack, and yet keeps you comfortable in the wind and cold. Even more, this is often a one-and-done purchase: buy a quality wind jacket that suits your specific needs and enjoy it for a lifetime of running.
To bring you this wind jacket buyer’s guide, the iRunFar team tested an array of jackets on the market in all four seasons to find out what works — and what doesn’t. In the end, we chose the champion jackets you see here. You can click on any of the links below to jump straight to a certain wind jacket.
Alright, let’s dig in to the best wind jackets available to you today.
- Best Overall: Montbell Tachyon Parka
- Best Overall Runner-Up: Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell
- Best Hoodless Ultralight: Montbell Ex Light Wind Jacket
- Best Hooded Ultralight: Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Shirt
- Best Features: inov-8 Windshell Windproof Jacket
- Best Features Runner-Up: Smartwool Merino Sport Ultra Light Hoodie
- Best Budget: Montbell Wind Blast Parka
- Best Women’s: Janji Zephyr Runner Jacket
- Best Men’s: Craft Pro Hypervent Jacket
- Best Lifestyle: Cotopaxi Teca Half-Zip Windbreaker
Best Overall: Montbell Tachyon Parka ($99)
With lots of features, an ultralight weight of 2.6 ounces (73 grams), and an affordable price, the Montbell Tachyon Parka is our top choice for wind jackets.
Montbell achieves this jacket’s low weight largely by using a 7-denier nylon fabric, the thinnest fabric used in wind jackets today. It feels quite delicate, but the ripstop nylon showed no signs of wear or tear on our runs, even when worn underneath a variety of hydration packs and when brushing up against the occasional shrub or rock. We love how tiny and light it packs away into our running vest or even a small waistbelt.
This fabric does have some shine to it, so that’s a downside if you don’t like that particular look. An upside, however, is that it’s a quiet fabric — you don’t hear swishing or flapping noises in the wind and while running.
For a wind jacket this light, it has an array of features, including a full-length zipper, two zippered hand pockets, a hidden inner pocket with a Velcro closure, a bit of elastic at the waist, tiny underarm vents, and a drawstring hood with front pull tabs for adjustment.
The parka also features a microfiber material on the elastic wrists for comfort, the back is a touch longer than the front, there are a couple of reflective hits, and it’s treated with a DWR finish for water resistance.
Actual weight: 2.6 oz. (73 g) (all weights measured in men’s medium unless otherwise noted)
Fabric: 7-denier ripstop nylon, what Montbell calls its Ballistic Airlight fabric
- Features galore despite a very low weight
- Shiny material
- Thinner, so maybe not appropriate for very cold winds
- 7-denier nylon fabric may be less durable than thicker but heavier jackets
Best Overall Runner-Up: Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell ($140)
The Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell is a bit pricier than other items in this guide, but with a combination of quiet fabric, generous sizing, some solid water resistance, and a good look, we chose this jacket as our runner-up.
While Black Diamond states this wind jacket has a slim fit, we found it to be generously sized in all aspects, allowing it to easily fit over a small running pack or several layers. We appreciate that the 15-denier fabric is quiet and doesn’t look quite as technical as other wind jackets, so you can transition to a post-run beer without looking like a space nerd.
The Distance Wind Shell’s features include a full-length zipper, a zippered chest pocket into which the jacket packs for storage, elastic wrists with a little microfiber for comfort, as well as a generous and adjustable hood via a drawstring at the nape of the neck. The hood is additionally climbing helmet-compatible, so get your scrambling adventures on. The jacket’s length is the same at the front and back.
Several wind jackets in this guide are treated with DWR to help repel water, but we found the Distance Wind Shell’s fabric repels the longest in a light sprinkle before wetting out. Of course, this jacket shouldn’t replace your rain jacket, but it helps in a pinch.
Actual weight: 3.6 oz. (102 g)
Fabric: 15-denier ripstop nylon
- Feels good, looks good
- Generously sized to fit over a small pack or extra layers
- Fabric is quiet in the wind as you run
- Fabric repels water longer than the other wind jackets in this guide
Best Hoodless Ultralight: Montbell Ex Light Wind Jacket ($89)
The Montbell Ex Light Wind Jacket is another winner from Montbell, this time in the super ultralight category at just 1.6 ounces (47 grams). Think of the Montbell Ex Light Wind Jacket as a pared-down version of the Montbell Tachyon Parka described above — but not too pared down.
With this Ex Light Wind Jacket, we keep the same 7-denier ripstop nylon fabric, full-length zipper, underarm vents, elastic wrists with the microfiber panels, a bit of elastic at the waist, the small pocket with the Velcro closure (but this time on the outside of the jacket), the DWR finish, and the reflective hits. And in this jacket, we lose the hood, two zippered hand pockets, and a full ounce of weight.
We love that it packs down so incredibly small that it fits in the palm of your hand — it’s about the size of a Clif Bar — so small you could even stuff this jacket into a large shorts pocket.
Again, we’ve found this fabric to be quiet and quite thin, but it continues to pack a durable punch even when we brush against rocks and vegetation.
Actual weight: 1.6 oz. (47 g)
Material: 7-denier ripstop nylon, what Montbell calls its Ballistic Airlight fabric
- Super ultralight
- Packs down tiny
- Shiny material
- 7-denier nylon fabric may be less durable than thicker but heavier jackets
Best Hooded Ultralight: Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Shirt ($110)
Made by a small company in Winona, Minnesota, the Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Shirt is the best-performing hooded super ultralight jacket we’ve tested, even if its ultra-shiny fabric means it’s not the prettiest in the bunch. The Copperfield Wind Shirt weighs in at a magical 1.8 ounces (51 grams).
Made from 10-denier nylon, the fabric performs excellently in the wind. This jacket has a very robust waist cinch, so you can pull it tight against you to keep out all the breeze, and is the same length around from front to back. You can also adjust the hood from the front via the same type of elastic. The wrists have elastic for security, too.
As Enlightened Equipment states on its website, this jacket runs very big for its size, both in width and length. If you prefer a sleeker jacket, size down. On the other hand, choosing your standard jacket size will likely mean the jacket will fit over several layers and a modest running pack — we tested up to 12 liters underneath the jacket, and it works!
In addition, the Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Shirt comes in the widest variety of sizes of all the jackets we tested. We also love that it’s a quiet fabric that makes very little noise when you’re running or in the wind.
Actual weight: 1.8 oz. (51 g)
Fabric: 10-denier nylon
- Super ultralight while still having a protective hood
- Runs a bit larger than normal sizing so can fit over a running pack or extra layers
- Really wide variety of sizes
- Shiny material
Best Features: inov-8 Windshell Windproof Jacket ($110)
While it’s in the middle of the pack for both weight and price, the inov-8 Windshell Windproof Jacket has the best collection of features among all the wind jackets we tested.
Double layers on the front for extra protection! Thumb holes! An earphone cord hole in the zippered chest pocket! A chest snap that keeps the jacket in place when you want it unzipped to keep you cool! Another snap to stow the hood when you don’t need it so it doesn’t flap in the wind! A hood crest to keep water off your face! Elastic on the hood, wrists, and waist! Reflective hits! And all this on a jacket weighing just 3.3 ounces (93 grams) makes it truly extraordinary.
The jacket also features a waist that’s significantly longer in the back than the front for added protection. The waist and hood aren’t adjustable, but their fitted construction works well enough to make that unnecessary. As we said, it’s not the lightest or the cheapest, but this jacket’s attention to detail via its features has won us over.
Actual Weight: 3.3 oz. (93 g)
Fabrics: 20-denier ripstop nylon; the front fabric is windproof, while the back fabric is more breathable
- Wonderful feature set, including thumb holes, a chest snap, reflective details, a zippered pocket, and an earphone cord hole
- Good weight and price for features offered
- Louder material while running in high wind than some jackets in this guide
Best Features Runner-Up: Smartwool Merino Sport Ultra Light Hoodie ($130)
Merino wool seems like an odd element to integrate into a wind jacket, but the Smartwool Merino Sport Ultra Light Hoodie and that wool take runner-up honors in the features category.
This is one of the heavier jackets to make our list, but it makes sense considering it has a double-layer hood, four pockets, as well as merino wool panels in the arms, upper back, and lining the hood itself.
This hooded jacket also features two zippered hand pockets, two open inner pockets, a ton of reflective detailing, elastic on the hood at the back of the neck, more elastic at the wrists and waist, an earphone cord hole in one of the zippered pockets, and a DWR finish for water resistance. The length of the jacket bottom is the same all the way around.
While the fabric is a bit louder than we would prefer, and the jacket is the second heaviest in this guide, we can’t turn away from the usefulness of wool in the wind jacket for extra warmth and breathability when conditions are not awesome. A gold star to Smartwool for innovation in this jacket!
Actual weight: 5.4 oz. (154 g)
Fabrics: Main body is 20-denier recycled ripstop nylon; panels are merino wool and polyester mesh, what Smartwool calls its Merino Sport 150 fabric
- Great feature set, including a double-layered hood, merino wool panels, and four total pockets
- Merino-lined hood is a luxury we’ve never seen in a wind jacket
- Color variety
- One of the heaviest jackets in this guide
- A bit loud while running
Best Budget: Montbell Wind Blast Parka ($64)
While not ultralight nor ultra-technical, the Montbell Wind Blast Parka is an awesome entry-level wind jacket that works for most everyone and has an approachable price point.
This is a pretty standard wind jacket. It has a nice-sized hood with front pull tabs for adjustment, mesh underarm vents, two zippered mesh hand pockets, elastic wrists with microfiber panels for comfort, and a drawstring waist. It doesn’t pack down into itself, but it comes with a separate stuff sack. It has DWR treatment, a full-length zipper, and is a touch longer in the back than the front, similar to other Montbell jackets.
Because this jacket is made of 40-denier nylon, it is the thickest and warmest of the bunch here. One of our testers needed to unzip it for ventilation while running even in very cold winds. Not everyone needs an ultralight and ultra-expensive jacket, so if you want something simple and affordable, this one is for you.
Actual weight: 6.2 oz. (177 g)
Fabric: 40-denier nylon taffeta
- Functions great to block the wind
- Has some nice features despite being in the budget category
- Fabric can be a little noisy
Best Women’s: Janji Zephyr Runner Jacket ($114)
iRunFar’s women who tested this jacket loved it so much that we named the Janji Zephyr Runner Jacket the best jacket for women.
This is a really unique and interesting jacket — in everything from the colorways (which are offered in lavender or a really cool tie-dye) to the chest snap, which can leave the jacket wide open for ventilation, to the fit, which sits on the hip bones courtesy of the waistline’s elastic and is a bit longer in the back. It really is just very unique, and gives off a track-jacket vibe.
It stows away to a little bigger than palm size, and it has nice vents on the back for airflow, a zippered chest pocket, and elastic wrists. We’ve gotten a lot of compliments on this jacket, and while it’s not the best for high-altitude adventures, it’s great for a regular run in some wind and even a little drizzle.
It seems like both men’s and women’s Janji jackets may be made for people with smaller torsos, shoulders, and chests — and the men’s more significantly so. Unfortunately, our testers found the men’s version to have an uncomfortable fit in their normal size. If the men’s jacket is repatterned in the future to a fit appropriate for more body types, we’ll retest it.
Actual weight: 2.9 oz. (83 g) (women’s size small)
Fabric: 20-denier ripstop nylon
- Unique look and feel
- Chest snap
- Not perfect for all types of adventures
Best Men’s: Craft Pro Hypervent Jacket ($125)
Beautiful fabric, a long body, and a great look, we found the Craft Pro Hypervent Jacket to be the best wind jacket for men.
From Sweden, Craft’s items tend to run on the more expensive side — some of their shoes cost over $250 — so it was a pleasant surprise to see this jacket priced at a similar price point to other wind jackets we tested. The fabric is so soft it feels downright luxurious, and the cut is very stylish. It’s not a jacket to fit over a running pack, but is definitely one that will make you feel good striding down local trails or main street.
Vents on the back in an upside-down v-shape weren’t very effective, but we weren’t completely bothered by that. There are more zippered vents on the front, and the wrists and waist have elastic for protection.
Like the Janji Zephyr Runner Jacket for men, we didn’t like the women’s version of the Craft Pro Hypervent Jacket, as stylistic changes specific to the women’s jacket detracted too much from its performance.
Actual weight: 4.8 oz. (135 g)
Fabric: 37 grams-per-square-meter (GSM) ripstop polyester
- Luxurious fabric
- Great look
- Back vents not very effective while adding weight
Best Lifestyle: Cotopaxi Teca Half-Zip Windbreaker ($80)
Sometimes you don’t want a wind jacket just for running, but one that you can still wear pre- or post-run at the trailhead, coffee shop, or bar. The Cotopaxi Teca Half-Zip Windbreaker does just that.
This multicolored half zip with a huge front hand pocket, a second front Velcro pocket, hood, back vents, and dropped backside can be used for running, but it also works well for hikes or after runs. Because of the front pockets’ very large sizes, the only things you can put in there without them bouncing are very light items like gloves or a headband. The jacket stuffs down into that kangaroo pocket, and the sizing is unisex and not at all form-fitting.
This wind jacket is made of thicker material. Thicker means warmer, so if you do choose to wear this while running, you may need to use the half zipper to stay cool. There’s a DWR coating for water resistance.
While iRunFar wouldn’t necessarily recommend this jacket for a long run, we found it worked well for up to a couple of hours in nasty weather. Because Cotopaxi uses fabric scraps for this jacket, its colorways continuously change.
Actual weight: 5.1 oz. (144 g)
Fabric: 40-denier repurposed polyester taffeta
- Thicker material makes it warmer
- Generous sizing allows you to wear it over a pack or layers
- Styling is appropriate for a variety of non-running scenarios
- Not technical or form-fitting
- A bit noisy in the wind
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Wind Jacket for Running
Just like any other piece of clothing, fit is the most important part, and it’s subjective from person to person. The one thing to note is that almost all wind jackets are made from nylon or polyester that doesn’t stretch, so getting the fit right may be a little more challenging than normal.
Do you want something that fits a bit tighter, or to size up for a little more room to move or to put the jacket on over a running vest? The best jacket for running will, at minimum, cover your wrists well and stay below your waistline when you raise your arms. Some people prefer that their wind jacket actually covers their backside and opt for a longer product, but that is a personal preference.
The jacket should also have enough room in the shoulders when you bend over and raise your arms, say, when you raise your arms to scramble a scree field or bend down to tie your shoe. A potential downside of sizing up a wind jacket specifically is to consider is that the more extra material there is, the more there is to blow and flap in the wind. That won’t really change the protection factor, but it does make noise and can be bothersome.
Protection from the elements — namely, wind and the cold air it brings with it — is the very reason you are buying a jacket.
Keep in mind as you shop that wind jackets are not waterproof or meant to serve as rain jackets. However, most wind jackets are made of nylon or polyester, which naturally repel a little water. And several of the wind jackets in this guide have a water-resistant coating. Your wind jacket should ward off a bit of rain or snow, but should never be used as a rain jacket.
Nylon or polyester wind jackets, even when the material is thin, are all quite good at offering wind protection. However, with this kind of fabric, generally thicker means at least a little warmer. That said, the wind jackets in this guide with the thinnest material are still plenty protective!
Various features add weight, but also add protection. The lightest and least protective jacket would be one with no hood, loose cuffs, and a non-adjustable waistline — a minimalist jacket. However, if you want improved protection, look for a jacket that has an adjustable hood, fitted cuffs, a waist cinch, and maybe thumb holes.
While a sleek-fitting jacket can feel good and be lighter, buying a jacket that is a bit bigger than you normally would means you can wear it over a running pack to protect all of your gear, not just your body.
The lighter your clothing and gear, the easier it is to run. Wind jackets offer some incredible bang for your buck in terms of being a protective garment with a very low weight. That said, take note that there is still significant variation in wind jacket weight — the jackets in this guide vary from 1.6 ounces (47 grams) to 6.2 ounces (177 grams).
The more bells and whistles like pockets, zippers, and hoods, the heavier the jacket, so there is a tradeoff to consider. Another element that adds to the weight of a jacket is the material: 40-denier nylon is thicker, heavier, and likely more durable than 7-denier nylon.
While even the lightest jackets do a great job stopping the wind, you may have to be extra careful on terrain as to not rip their thinner fabric.
Speaking of storage, everyone loves pockets! But as we’ve said, there’s a tradeoff: more storage equals heavier weight. For some people, a single chest pocket for a key will suffice; others will appreciate the standard side pockets to keep hands warm or store light objects.
In our experience, for an object to be stored in a wind jacket pocket, it needs to be pretty light in order to not bounce. We have trouble carrying our phones in these pockets, for example, but find that gloves and a hat store easily. And, of course, if you want somewhere to keep your hands during a break in your run, they can be convenient for that purpose.
Packability often goes hand in hand with weight — usually the lighter the coat, the more packable it is. Some jackets have an internal pocket where the product itself can be rolled up and stored, producing a package no bigger than your fist. (Although we’re just as likely to just shove a wind jacket in a pack or tie it around our waists regardless of a stuff pocket or sack.) Others are more bulky, but provide increased insulation and storage capacity.
Layering is the secret to success for every outdoor athlete. Each time we venture outside, we try to wear and carry layers that, when worn together, keep us cozy in the worst weather we find on that outing, and when we strip down to our last layer, cool us in the best weather.
So, when you consider adding a wind jacket to your running kit, consider how you might wear it in tandem with your other clothing and size your wind jacket properly. For instance, if you’d like to wear two shirts and a running pack under your wind jacket, you might consider sizing up. And if you only think you’ll need one shirt underneath it, size normally.
Why You Should Trust Us
iRunFar experts are based most often in the mountains, where some of the most unpredictable weather can occur. We’re used to runs where it may be quiet and calm at lower altitudes, but as soon as we crest the ridgeline, we get blasted by huge gusts of wind. We are committed to testing the best products out there for a variety of conditions, so you don’t have to suffer through trial and error in the elements.
We started developing this wind jacket guide by researching roughly 70 jackets from a huge range of brands. From there, we polled the large team at iRunFar on their favorite jackets as well as diving deep online before choosing a multitude of jackets to test in person.
For this guide, we took 22 wind jackets to the field for four seasons of testing in Colorado, Utah, and Alaska in the U.S., as well as several western European countries. The jackets we chose for this guide represent the best of those over several hundred hours of total testing in every condition you can imagine.
In the end, we identified a pair of best overall wind jackets as well as several standout jackets in specific categories to help you get the best jacket for what your running requires.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wind Jackets for Running
Is there a big difference between men’s and women’s jackets?
Along with other items of clothing, jackets are usually made for men’s and women’s specific body needs. Wide versus narrow shoulders, and a straight cut versus a waist taper and larger hips are only a couple of the differences between jackets made for different body types.
Of course, if you find a jacket traditionally made for a different gender and it feels the best for you, go with that one! Most brands make equivalent models in both men’s and women’s jackets.
What size should I buy to layer clothing underneath?
Brands will generally give specific measurements (including chest, waist, and hip size, and sometimes even sleeve length and shoulder width) to ensure that you get the best size for what you need.
In general, if you only plan on wearing a single layer underneath, a wind jacket will be sized in line with your normal running top size. If you want to layer heavier clothing or multiple elements including your running vest or waist pack underneath, you may want to size up.
Should I prioritize lighter weight or increased protection?
The good news is that with modern wind jackets, you can have both at the same time! We consider all the jackets in this guide to be both protective in wind and lightweight.
Technology is advanced, so even the thinnest wind jacket material can be pretty darn wind resistant. Additionally, the reason wind jackets have the ability to be so light is that they generally lack extensive features.
However, there are other elements that increase a wind jacket’s protection — like an adjustable hood, waist cinch, and elastic wrist cuffs — with only super-small weight penalties. Unless you are an absolute gram-counter, you won’t notice much difference between two and four ounces.
Does my wind jacket need to be waterproof? What’s the difference?
As previously stated, a water-resistant element in a wind jacket is great, but wind jackets and rain jackets are totally different pieces of equipment. While a DWR coating on a wind jacket will help protect you in light flurries or a very light sprinkle and is a nice bonus, you should never substitute a wind jacket for a rain jacket.
If you’re going to be running in potentially wet weather, always make sure to have an actual rain jacket with you.
Hood or no hood?
This depends on your needs and how comfortable you’d like to be. In the wind and rain, it’s ideal to keep your head warm and dry, as that’s where a large portion of body heat can be lost, but if you can’t stand the swishing around your head, and you’d like to save a bit of weight, a hoodless jacket can be okay.
If you do decide to go for a jacket with a hood, some jackets have an elastic strap, a button, or some other way to pack the hood away when you don’t want to cover your head. Alternately, you can try shoving the hood down the back of the jacket, but that might not work in the windiest of conditions.
Do I need a wind jacket at all?
This depends on the climate in which you’re running. Take note, wind jackets are designed for performance in … windy environments. They do an excellent job of keeping the wind and the cold that it often brings away from your body, and they also perform well to help hold your own body heat inside of the jacket.
This latter quality also helps them perform well in cold, dry environments. Wind jackets are not designed for high-moisture environments, like when it’s raining or there’s high humidity.
Why are running jackets so expensive?
Like the Montbell Windblast Parka, a great jacket can be had at a reasonable cost. Other jackets in this guide range up in price from there, with prices generally increasing as features increase and weight decreases.
The cost of a product increasing with added features is intuitive enough, whether it be the cost of additional parts or for a wind jacket, more so, the additional labor cost from additional steps needed to make the jacket.
Counterintuitively, a lighter jacket is likely to cost more than a moderate-weight jacket. This is the case as ultra-fine fabrics are produced in lesser quantities and may require specialized equipment or techniques to weave. On the other hand, the lighter fabric might be more difficult to sew, and the design may require tighter tolerances in sewing and construction.
Call for Comments
- What is your favorite wind jacket and why? Leave a comment to share about yours and we’ll consider it for the next round of testing!
- Do you have separate jackets for wind and rain, for the climate you run in?