walkhighlands


Windproof jackets review

Peter MacfarlaneYour waterproof is windproof, so why carry two things for doing the same job? Waterproofs have got lighter and more breathable, windproofs were an escape from a heavy, sweaty jacket years back, but a windproof is still far better at sweat management and some of the current fabrics are incredibly light but are still pretty durable.

Where a waterproof usually has a membrane to keep the rain wet out and transfer the sweat from the inside, windproofs tend to be single skin fabrics that happily absorb the sweat and spread it out through fabric to help it dry faster. You can easily saturate a windproof with sweat but they do hold a lot of moisture and it can be hard to overload it to the point of wetting out inside unless you’re running or biking. Most of the samples in the review have this single skin approach and all breathe well and dry fast. A Durable Water Repellent finish on the outside is a bonus: light rain and melting snow beads on the outside letting the fabric manage the sweat for longer before the weather overcomes the fabrics powers – by which point we’re probably pulling our waterproof shell out of our packs anyway.

I do wear a windproof in bad weather for as long as possible; trail running or mountain biking in my local hills a wet-through windproof over a baselayer is still warm on the move and shuts out the worst of the windchill. In the bigger hills unless the rain or snow gets sustained a windproof is always more pleasant on the move, compared even with the lightest waterproof I just feel freer and unencumbered in a windproof. They dry so fast too, whether the wet is from outside or in, occasional showers are nothing to fear for me.

One common point used to be that a windproof saved wear and tear on your expensive waterproof and this is still true, but with fabrics getting lighter and fancier along with production costs going up, windproofs aren’t as cheap an option as they used to be. Part of cost is down to how fancy do you want? For the review I’ve been using from the most basic and featureless windshell up to a mountaineering-spec jacket. They all work, but what do you need for where you’re taking it?

windy

Using the samples I quickly became aware that the performance is broadly similar – I was happy enough in all of these most of the time as the fabrics are good. The big differences are in the features and the fit so this month I’ve included a few dimensions to help explain myself and it might be useful for comparing to a jacket you already have as some of these might be tricky to track down in a shop to try on. P2P is armpit to armpit, P2C is armpit to cuff, N2H is from the seam where collar or hood joins the main body of the jacket down to the hem at the back. There’s a lot of sculpting around the shoulders so the first two sizes are as accurate as I can get them! All sizes and weights are for men’s size large.

adidasAdidas Terrex Agravic Hybrid Softshell Hoodie

£170.00
224g
Women’s version available
P2P 60cm
P2C 58cm
N2H 79cm
Features
Adjustable hood, elasticated cuffs, adjustable hem, zipped mesh hand warmer pockets, zipped mesh chest pocket which doubles as a stuff sack.

The Agravic has a zoned fabric construction with Windstopper shoulders, hood and upper arms and Pertex Equilibrium elsewhere. If feels a little more like a lightweight waterproof and has excellent weather resistance to match. The outer sheds rain and snow and the inner deals with moisture every well. The Windstopper sections are slightly slower in that regard but these fabric zones are positioned for abrasion resistance and rain repellancy, the faster acting Pertex is placed where you’re pumping the sweat out so the whole jacket works well as one.
The fit is excellent, I’m fully mobile in this and the hood fits very well, moving with my head. The hood adjuster is easy to tighten but a two-handed faff to slacken off but there’s a slight built-in peak to the hood doesn’t stick to my forehead, a nice design touch.

The hand warmer pockets are positioned high enough I can use them with a pack hipbelt. The weight is one of the highest here but the Agravic does pack small and whatever images that Adidas logo conjures in your mind, this is very much a mountain jacket.

alpkitAlpkit Arro Windshell

£25.00
140g
Women’s version available
P2P 60cm
P2C 55cm
N2H 76cm
Features
Full length zip with reflective detailing, elastic cuffs, adjustable hem, rear/side zipped pocket which doubles as a stuff sack.

Alpkit have made this as basic as you need, it’ll keep the wind off in a fuss-free manner for walking, running and biking. The fit is pretty good on me, I get a bit of hem lift when I reach up high but the scooped tail stays tucked inside my pack hipbelt. The nylon fabric feels quite beefy, this should last through a bit of abuse and a heavier fabric does offer a bit of extra protection when the wind is cold – weight isn’t everything. Moisture management is good and outer water repellancy is decent enough, a shower will wet it out but it dries off quick.

arcteryxArc’teryx Squamish Hoody

£130.00
168g
Women’s version available
P2P 62cm
P2C 67cm
N2H 77cm
Features
Full length zip with fleecy chinguard, zipped chest pocket which doubles as a stuff sack, part elasticated and Velcro adjustable cuffs, adjustable hem, adjustable hood with stiffened peak.

The Squamish has an excellent fit and gives me full mobility. The arms are nice and long and the cuffs let me roll the sleeves up to my elbow. The hood fits well and moves with my head when it’s even partly adjusted, when cinched right in protection is excellent with a well-shaped peak that’s just the right size for keeping light showers off my glasses. It’s easily adjusted with one hand too.

The chest pocket is a decent size but I wish the inner of the pocket sat below the zip, so many outdoor jacket have this these days: zips that extend to the bottom of the pocket so stuff rolls back out if you leave the zip open.

The fabric is excellent, pleasant against bare skin and deals with moisture well. The outer has an excellent DWR finish. The fabric is a medium weight to it and it’s worked for me on sunny and snowy days.

BerghausBerghaus Vapourlight hyper smock 2.0

£100.00
84g
Women’s version available
P2P 58cm
P2C 60cm
N2H 74cm
Features
Half zip, central zipped pocket, elasticated cuffs and hem, hood.

I reviewed the a full-zip jacket version of the vapourlight for last month’s lightweight waterproof grouptest but the smock version is slimmer fitting, a little less protective feeling so to me it wears on the hill like a windshell that also happens keeps the rain out. The smock is waterproof which is a bonus especially as the incredible low weight, but when put up against the windshirts here breathability is down although over just a baselayer running around my deer fence inspection route in the Kilpatrick Hills I’ve been happy enough. The central pocket is a handy and unusual feature.

The hood isn’t adjustable other than having a wee strap for rolling it down but it fits well and moves with my head. Comes with a stuff sack.

HaglofsHaglofs Grym Shirt

£100.00
280g
P2P 61cm
P2C 58cm
N2H 79cm
Features
Elasticated cuffs, half zip, zipped chest pocket, folded collar.

Are you thinking Ray Mears and trying to light a fire with moss and a flint in the woods? Me too. The Grym is still in the shops but is being replaced by a new hoody version which has a similar fabric.

The fabric is a nylon/cotton mix which feels like a light canvas, very comfy to wear and with excellent wind resistance. Moisture management is okay, breathability and drying times are down on fully synthetic fabrics but the beefy nature of the smock means I’m doing anything fast paced in it – it’s a woodland walk jacket, for days out in the country and yes, it’s ideal for bush craft or camping activities where the cotton content of the fabric gives it a bit more spark resistance. The DWR isn’t that great, the Grym wets out quite quickly in a shower but the rain doesn’t seem to penetrate the fabric that fast. The collar has a softer inner fabric and fold up to double height, god for keeping the sun off and the wind out, but I’m afraid the midges still find a way in.

Outdoor ResearchOutdoor Research Tantrum Hooded Jacket

£85.00
148g
Women’s version available
P2P 56cm
P2C 56cm
N2H 71cm
Features
Full zip, hood, elasticated cuffs with thumbloops, adjustable hem, rear pocked with Velcro closure which doubles as a stuff sack and has elastic waist belt attached, reflective logos.

The Tantrum has a good fit on me which is helped by a little bit of stretch in the fabric. On me the arms could be a little longer as I couldn’t use the thumbloops. Moisture management is good although the outer does wet out in showers pretty quickly. Still dries fast afterwards though. The fabric has a matt finish and is pleasant on bare skin.

The hood is great, fits well and moves with my head and little stiffening in the peak keeps if from sticking to my sweaty forehead on ascents. The adjuster is easy to use one handed for cinching or loosening. The rear pocket is a common feature on biking and multisport jackets and here it does sit below the smaller packs I’m using this time of year. With bigger packs the elastic belt with its quick release buckle attached inside the pocket can be felt under the lumbar pad, but it’s not an issue, just cut the belt out if you don’t like it.

ParamoParamo Enduro Windproof

£100.00
392g
Women’s version available
P2P 61cm
P2C 63cm
N2H 78cm
Features
Adjustable helmet compatible hood, Velcro cuffs, elasticated hem, chest pockets, zipped side vents, upper arm pocket, two-way main zip, reflective detailing.

The Endura is a proper mountain jacket, I pulled it on and immediately went out looking for winter. It’s designed to work with the Paramo Endura fleece which I reviewed last winter, together they work as cold weather shell and midlayer system as the relaxed fit of the windproof shows. However, as a cool and cold weather windproof the Enduro stands fine on its own. The fabric has excellent DWR and moisture management as well as drying pretty fast and the soft feel it has is pleasant to wear. The napoleon chest pockets are great, stuff doesn’t fall out of these ones. Are you listening outdoor designers? The side vents are huge, two-way zips that run from waist to elbow giving various venting options or just access to midlayer pockets.

The hood is huge but it does cinch in okay and it moves fine with my head without obscuring my vision. To fit my bare head I do use up all the available adjustment, but it can be done and it is a mountaineering jacket in intent, the hood is designed to fit over a helmet. Arm movement is excellent and the two-way zip is excellent for getting to your fly without too much faff.

PatagoniaPatagonia Houdini

£85.00
112g
Women’s version available
P2P 60cm
P2C 63cm
N2H 77cm
Features
Full length zip, adjustable hood, part elasticated hood, adjustable hem, zipped chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack.

The Houdini has a good cut for me, a slightly relaxed body with slimmer arms that don’t catch the wind, arm movement is good too. Fabric performance is good, it’s one of the lighter feeling fabrics in the review and breathes well and dries fast. The DWR is good, it takes a decent duration of shower before it wets out. The cuffs are nicely done, the inner wrist is elasticated which pulls the other side flat onto the back of your hand in a slightly scooped shape, and nice touch and a wee bit of extra protection.

The hood is interesting, it adjust easily with one hand, in or out and moves very well with my head. However the fabric around my face stays a little loose even when I have the adjuster cinched right in. It doesn’t affect my vision and it’s certainly a very non-restrictive feeling hood. Maybe a hood for folk that hate wearing hoods?

RabRab Windveil Pull-on

£90.00
120g
Women’s version available
P2P 58cm
P2C 71cm
N2H 78cm
Features
Lycra bound cuffs, adjustable hem. Half zip, internal mesh pocket which doubles as a stuff sack, chest clip, reflective detailing.

The Windveil is a simple looking pullon with an excellent fit that gives me full mobility. The arms are long and the there’s a nice scooped tail at the back. The fabric is excellent, good moisture management and DWR treatment that last well into a rain shower before wetting out. Dries of very fast too. It’s comfortable against the skin and there’s a give to the fabric that makes it very wear and forget. There’s an internal clip at collarbone height that keeps the front opening in place even if the zip’s fully open. I think I like this better than the two-way zip design I’ve often seen on smocks and it’s a feature I’ve been using a lot. The internal pocket is top opening and hangs free so nothing falls out and you can over stuff it too – well, beanie and liner gloves at a push.

True MountainTrue Mountain Stretch Windshell Smock

£65.00
126g
Women’s version available
P2P 58cm
P2C 57cm
N2H 77cm
Features
Half zip, zipped stretch chest pocket, elasticated cuffs, elasticated hem, reflective detailing.

The Windshell smock has a mix of fabrics, the green is windproof and water resistant and the grey is lighter and stretchy. The green fabric breathes well, dries fast and has good DWR treatment. The grey fabric has less wind and water resistance but it’s positioned where it’s not so important and it does help to keep me cool. The stretch panels also help to give an excellent range of movement, arm lift is fine although I’d like another inch or two on the sleeves for it to be perfect on me.

The chest pocket is excellent, the windproof fabric inside with the stretch fabric on the outside, you can cram niknaks in there, they don’t ruin the fit of the smock and they don’t fall out as the zip’s pretty well positioned too. The collar is tall and is a snug fit on me, crew neck baselayers are fine, but I can’t wear anything collared underneath. The fabric is comfortable against the skin and the stretch helps make the smock another fit and forget top. Comes with a draw-corded stuffsack and it’s made in the UK too.

VaudeVaude Scopi Windshell

£70.00
142g
Women’s version available
P2P 61cm
P2C 61cm
N2H 73cm
Features
Lycra bound hem and cuffs, hood, full zip with internal storm flap, zipped chest pocket whicg doubles as a stuff sack, two large zipped handwarmer pockets.

I remember years back when Pertex Quantum, the fabric the Scopi is made from, first came out. It was so light at the time that folk were sure it was dissolve in heavy rain or wear through from rubbing on your ruck sack on just one trip. It turned out to be an excellent and very tough fabric which still holds up today in amongst all the other lightweight fabrics. Lightweight really doesn’t have to mean fragile.

It’s pleasant against the skin, has a great DWR, manages sweat very well and dries fast. The Scopi has very good arm articulation and although the hood has no adjustment, it’s well shaped, it fits me fine and moves with my head. The handwarmer pockets are huge, a very unusual feature on a light windshirt, but I’ve been using them alot. The construction also means that the pocket bags give two big internal poachers pockets. More storage there than many winter waterproofs.

The Last Word

These all work for me. Some will be better on colder days, some you’d pull on to keep the chill off on a summer ascent at the wind start to nip and some might live in your pack – just in case.
The dark horse was Adidas, the fit and the hood are excellent, the level of protection make it more of an autumn/winter jacket for me though. Arc’teryx’s Squamish had two features than stood out, the hood and the cuffs, I like being able to have bare forearms while wearing a windproof, an instant excellent cooling-down option. You can’t argue with Alpkit for the price they’re asking either and Rab had simplicity and those lovely long arms.

It was an excellent selection of fabrics, but fit and the features you want will be the decider as always.

The Latest Word

This month I thought I’d take a break from doing studio gear shots and show you my weather-beaten mug with the gear instead. It’s at one of my favourite spots too, the best wee hills in the land maybe? You won’t be far away at NS440773.




  • Accessories
  • Baselayers
  • Books
  • Camping
  • Footwear
  • Jackets
  • Rucksacks
  • Trousers
  • browse the
    ARCHIVES
  • 2017 (140)
  • 2016 (160)
  • 2015 (207)
  • 2014 (282)
  • 2013 (257)
  • 2012 (274)
  • 2011 (376)
  • 2010 (274)
  • 2009 (126)
  • 2008 (77)
  • Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each walker's responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.