Ah, the windbreaker 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 the best windbreaker for your needs and enjoy it for a lifetime of running.
To bring you this windbreaker jacket buyer’s guide, the iRunFar team tested an array of jackets on the market in all four seasons to find out what works best — and what doesn’t. In the end, we chose the champion jackets you see here.
To learn more about our choices for the best windbreakers, jump down to our recommendations for how to choose, as well as our frequently asked questions. You can also learn more about our research and testing methodology. If you’re looking for a rain jacket instead, be sure to check out our best running rain jackets guide.
Best Windbreaker Jackets of 2023
- Best Overall Windbreaker Jacket: Montbell Tachyon Hooded Jacket
- Best Windbreaker Jacket – Runners-Up: Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell and Patagonia Houdini Jacket
- Best Hoodless Ultralight Windbreaker Jacket: Montbell Ex Light Wind Jacket
- Best Hooded Ultralight Windbreaker Jacket: Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Shirt
- Best Features in a Windbreaker Jacket: inov-8 Windshell Windproof Jacket 2.0
- Best Budget Windbreaker Jacket: Montbell Wind Blast Hooded Jacket
- Best Lifestyle Windbreaker Jacket: Cotopaxi Teca Half-Zip Windbreaker
Best Overall Windbreaker Jacket: Montbell Tachyon Hooded Jacket ($139)
With lots of features, an ultralight weight of 2.6 ounces (73 grams), and an affordable price, the Montbell Tachyon Hooded Jacket is our top choice for windbreaker jackets.
Montbell achieves this jacket’s low weight largely by using seven-denier nylon fabric, the thinnest fabric used in windbreaker 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 running belt.
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 windbreaker 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 jacket 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: Seven-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
- Seven-denier nylon fabric may be less durable than thicker but heavier jackets
Best Windbreaker Jacket – 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 windbreaker 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 windbreaker 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 hood that is adjustable 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 windbreaker 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 windbreaker jackets in this guide
Best Windbreaker Jacket – Runner-Up: Patagonia Houdini Jacket ($109)
An iconic windbreaker jacket and longstanding favorite among trail runners and mountain athletes, the Patagonia Houdini Jacket offers superb wind-blocking performance in an ultralight package. It features a simple design with few bells and whistles, though it offers ample warmth and protection for its weight. The jacket’s cuffs contain cinched elastic to help them stay in place (though no thumb holes) and a single chest pocket that could hold a chapstick or some cash for après run. Aptly named, the Houdini stuffs conveniently and easily into its own chest pocket when you don’t need it. Like the Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell above, this jacket features a uniform, full-length front zipper and an adjustable hood that can fit over a climbing helmet.
Our main gripe with the Patagonia Houdini is that it’s louder and more crinkly than our other top picks, which offer comparable weight and performance. That said, the Houdini is less expensive than our favorites from both Montbell and Black Diamond. It’s a durable and reliable jacket, so if you don’t mind its noisy fabric, this jacket could be a worthy choice at a great value.
Actual weight: 3.7 0z. (105 g)
Material: 1.2-oz. 100% recycled nylon ripstop with a PFC-free DWR finish
- Packs into its own pocket
- Competitive price
- Noisier than our top picks
Best Hoodless Ultralight Windbreaker Jacket: Montbell Ex Light Wind Jacket ($129)
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 Hooded Jacket described above — but not too pared down.
With this Ex Light Wind Jacket, we keep the same seven-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 running 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: Seven-denier ripstop nylon, what Montbell calls its Ballistic Airlight fabric
- Super ultralight
- Packs down tiny
- Shiny material
- Seven-denier nylon fabric may be less durable than thicker but heavier jackets
Best Hooded Ultralight Windbreaker Jacket: Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Shirt ($120)
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 it 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, can fit over a running pack or extra layers
- Size inclusive
- Shiny material
Best Features in a Windbreaker Jacket: inov-8 Windshell Windproof Jacket 2.0 ($110)
While it’s in the middle of the pack for both weight and price, the inov-8 Windshell Windproof Jacket 2.0 has the best collection of features among all the windbreaker 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 2.8 ounces (80 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 and feature-packed design has won us over.
Actual Weight: 2.8 oz. (80 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 Budget Windbreaker Jacket: Montbell Wind Blast Hooded Jacket ($90)
While not ultralight nor ultra-technical, the Montbell Wind Blast Hooded Jacket is an awesome entry-level windbreaker jacket that works for almost everyone and has an approachable price point.
This is a pretty standard windbreaker 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 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 Lifestyle Windbreaker Jacket: Cotopaxi Teca Half-Zip Windbreaker ($80)
Sometimes you don’t want a windbreaker 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 windbreaker 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 color options 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 the Best Windbreaker 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 windbreaker 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 windbreaker for running will, at minimum, cover your wrists well and stay below your waistline when you raise your arms. Some are longer at the back, like the Montbell Wind Blast Hooded Jacket. Some people prefer that their windbreaker 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 windbreaker jacket specifically is to consider 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 searching for the best windbreaker.
Keep in mind as you shop that windbreaker jackets are not waterproof or meant to serve as rain jackets. However, most windbreaker jackets are made of nylon or polyester, which naturally repel a little water. And several of the windbreaker jackets in this guide have a water-resistant coating, like the Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell. Your windbreaker jacket should ward off a bit of rain or snow but should never be used as a rain jacket.
Nylon or polyester windbreaker 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 windbreaker 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. Windbreaker 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 windbreaker 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 seven-denier nylon.
While even the lightest jackets do a great job stopping the wind, you may have to be extra careful on terrain so as not to 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 windbreaker jacket pocket, it needs to be pretty light in order not to bounce. We have trouble carrying our phones in these pockets, for example, but find that gloves and a hat store easily, particularly in big pockets like the one on the Cotopaxi Teca Half-Zip Windbreaker. 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 jacket, the more packable it is. Some styles, like the Patagonia Houdini Jacket, 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 shove a windbreaker jacket in a pack or tie it around our waists regardless of a stuff pocket or sack). Others are bulkier but provide increased insulation and storage capacity. In the end, the best windbreaker is one that you’re willing to carry, and extra weight and bulk do make a difference.
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. The best running windbreakers can accommodate a variety of layers underneath.
So, when you consider adding a windbreaker jacket to your running kit, consider how you might wear it in tandem with your other clothing and size your windbreaker jacket properly. For instance, if you’d like to wear two shirts and a running pack under your windbreaker jacket, you might consider sizing up. And if you only think you’ll need one shirt underneath it, size normally. Some jackets, like the Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Shirt, run very large to accommodate several layers and even a running pack underneath.
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 windbreaker 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 in order to find the best windbreaker possible.
For this guide, we took 22 windbreaker 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 windbreakers as well as several standout jackets in specific categories to help you get the best jacket for what your running requires.
Please note that in the running world, product models are routinely discontinued, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we here at iRunFar often keep using our top picks in our daily running … they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes that continued use results in uncovering product failures. With all this — product discontinuations, product introductions, and product failures — in mind, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing as well as research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. When we update any buyer’s guide, most of the products are likely to remain the same. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear that you’ll be using for a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Windbreaker Jackets for Running
Is there a difference between men’s and women’s windbreaker 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 made for a specific gender that feels the best for you, go with it! Most brands make equivalent models in both men’s and women’s jackets, like the inov-8 Windshell Windproof Jacket 2.0.
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 windbreaker 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. There will be some exceptions, like the Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Shirt, which runs large to accommodate extra layers. Size guides when shopping online will generally inform you if a jacket runs small, large, or true to size.
Should I prioritize lighter weight or increased protection?
The good news is that with modern windbreaker 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 windbreaker jacket material can be pretty darn wind resistant. Additionally, the reason windbreaker jackets have the ability to be so light is that they generally lack extensive features.
However, there are other elements that increase a windbreaker jacket’s protection — like an adjustable hood, waist cinch, and elastic wrist cuffs — with only super-small weight penalties. The ultralight Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Shirt has a nice waist cinch and elastic at the wrists while weighing in at less than two ounces. However, unless you are a strict gram counter, you won’t notice much difference between two and four ounces.
Does my windbreaker jacket need to be waterproof? What’s the difference?
As previously stated, a water-resistant element in a windbreaker jacket is great, but windbreaker jackets and rain jackets are totally different pieces of equipment. While a DWR coating, as found on the Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell, will help protect you in light flurries or a very light sprinkle and is a nice bonus, you should never substitute a windbreaker jacket for a rain jacket.
If you’re going to be running in potentially wet weather, always make sure to have a waterproof 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 for keeping 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 like the Montbell Ex Light Wind Jacket can be a great choice.
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. We love the feature-packed inov-8 Windshell Windproof Jacket 2.0, which can stow its hood with a snap closure. Alternatively, 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 windbreaker jacket at all?
This depends on the climate in which you’re running. Take note, windbreaker jackets are designed for performance in … windy environments. Even cheaper options like the Montbell Wind Blast Hooded Jacket will 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. Windbreaker 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 Hooded Jacket, 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 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 windbreaker 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?