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Wind Shirt Wars Review Summary

Wind Shirt Wars Review Summary

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by the Product Review Staff | 2001-08-06 00:00:00-06


A wind shirt is simply a single-layer woven (nylon or polyester) torso garment cut to the pattern of a shirt, pullover, or jacket. Key characteristics of a wind shirt are extremely light weight (typically not more than 8 oz in size medium), high breathability, and some water resistance (usually provided by a durable water repellent finish, or DWR).

A wind shirt is probably the most versatile piece of clothing you can carry in your pack. Typically worn over a base layer, they can also be worn on their own in warm weather. Wind shirts of course provide protection from the wind chill effect, as their name implies, but they can also be worn while hiking for light to moderate rain protection, for added warmth in cool weather (e.g., to slow the process of evaporative cooling that occurs rapidly at rest stops), and for sun and insect protection. For a more thorough treatment of the benefits of a wind shirt, refer to Part 2 of Jordan and Nelson's Clothing and Sleep Systems for Mountain Hiking, also available from BackpackingLight.COM.

This review includes wind shirts from GoLite, Mardale, Montane, and Wild Things.

Review Criteria

All wind shirts present in this review have been tested in both laboratory-simulated and real-world field conditions (with the exception of the GoLite Bark, which was not submitted for this review in time for field-testing, and thus, will not be considered for a Trail's Best Award until field testing is complete). Key feature categories investigated in the review included fabric specifications and performance, fit, and features. Each product review is summarized in the Review Summary Table (below), with subjective designations (excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor) assigned relative to each other (i.e., not on an absolute scale, or on a scale that can be compared with other products outside this review).

The Products

  • GoLite Bark (jacket)
  • Mardale Aerolite (pullover)
  • Montane Featherlite Smock (pullover)
  • Wild Things Wind Shirt (pullover)

Review Summary Tables

Click here for a 1-Page (Printable) Adobe PDF Version of the Summary Table, Opened in a New Window

Review Discussion

Fabric Specifications and Performance

GoLite. The Bark jacket is made with "Silmond," a trademarked 1.9 oz/yd2 polyester that is comfortable when worn next-to-skin (we would have rated the Bark's next to skin comfort as "excellent" if it wasn't for the noticeable abrasion of the inner seams when worn without a shirt). Silmond is uncoated, so it breathes well and dries quickly, and the combination of its tight microfiber weave and heavier fabric weight (compared to the other wind shirts in this review) provide very good water and excellent wind resistance. We found the Silmond to be the most durable fabric of the lot, and would highly recommend it if your highest priority was bushwhacking through slide alder.

Mardale. The Mardale Aerolite's 2.0 oz/yd2 Pertex RS5 is a ripstop nylon that did not perform to our expectations, considering the popularity of Pertex nylons. The fabric is heavily calendared (a process by which the fabric is heat-treated on one side to improve strength and decrease porosity) on the inside, which inhibited its breathability and next-to-skin comfort (the fabric tended to feel much "clammier" than the other products), although it made for excellent wind resistance and very good water resistance.

Montane. Montane's Featherlite collection is made using Pertex Microlight, a 1.2 oz/yd2 ripstop nylon that is lightly calendared on its inner surface. Of the four products tested in this review, the Featherlite's next-to-skin comfort, breathability, and drying time were tops. The Pertex Microlight feels like satin when worn next-to-skin and breathed well enough during light exercise that clamminess was never an issue. As expected, the thinner fabric of the Featherlite suffers in the area of wind and water resistance, but we were surprised by the quality of the fluorocarbon DWR finish on the Featherlite and its ability to shed light rain with ease. In addition, we wore the Featherlite through some pretty harsh brush conditions and noticed only very slight abrasion marks on the fabric. For a 1.2 oz/yd2 fabric weight, we were very impressed with its durability.

Wild Things. The Wild Things Wind Shirt uses the lightest fabric of the lot, an uncoated 1.1 oz/yd2 ripstop nylon. As expected, the paper-thin fabric did not withstand the rigors of busting brush while traveling cross-country through a dense forest. In addition, the lightweight nylon cannot be counted on for its ability to shed anything but the lightest mist or drizzle, and would not be appropriate as a wind shell while standing around camp in a cold breeze. However, such a light fabric has extreme advantages for the hiker that stays on the move: its breathability was unmatched, keeping us comfortable even while climbing steep hills with a pack in only moderately cool (40s) weather. But if you're looking for a wind shirt that is appropriate for more stationary activities or harsher conditions, you may want to consider one of the other three products.

DWR Note: All wind shirts used fabric with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish.

Features and Fit

GoLite. The Bark was the only full-zipper jacket in this review, and one of only two with a hood. We found these two features to be well worth their added weight. The zipper provided an ability to ventilate that was not found in the other wind shirts, and allowed us to wear the jacket backwards with a pack on to keep airflow around your back (as recommended in Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking), which was a very nice feature for hiking in high winds or rain. The hood extends the cold weather comfort range of this shell tremendously, because it allows you to wear a hat underneath it, and thus, preserve a great deal of body heat that would normally be lost through the collar. In addition, we thought that a hood might be a nice addition during mosquito season when layered with a noseeum mesh headnet. Our only gripes with the hood were that it did not have 1-handed pull drawstrings, and that it was sized a bit too small for adequate layering and head-turning comfort. The bark had nonadjustable elastic hems and cuffs (comfortably sized), but we would have preferred at least a drawcord-adjustable hem (and/or a 2-way zipper that could be zipped up from the bottom) that could have been used to control chimney venting through the garment. The Bark was the only pocket-rich jacket in our review, providing two convenient zippered "handwarmer" pockets and a single small zippered chest pocket appropriate for minor essentials (and stuffing the jacket). The Bark's construction quality appears to be excellent, with reinforcement stitching in all the right places.

Mardale. The Aerolite pullover had a fairly deep neck zipper (deeper than the Montane Featherlite but not as deep as the Wild Things Wind Shirt), but was limited in length by the presence of a zippered map pocket (approximately 6" tall and 11" wide) that was made with nylon mesh and protected with a storm flap. The hood, like that of the GoLite Bark, could have a roomier cut (a minor issue) but its degree of articulation (i.e., head-turning comfort) was miserable, particularly for those of reviewers that wear glasses. In addition, the hood drawcords are poorly designed, and not only require two hands, but quite a lot of patience if you have cold hands. The Aerolite has a drawcord hem and a terrific hem cut that allows the jacket to cover your butt, a nice feature while hiking in the rain. Another saving grace on the Aerolite is the presence of a side zipper that travels from the hem to the armpit, providing a wonderful option for ventilation. Our only complaint is that the zipper is not available on both sides, so that a hip belt can be used without binding the entire hem of the jacket. Overall, we found the design and construction quality of the Mardale jacket to be fair--there were unbound seam edges in our product sample that frayed significantly, in addition to the need for reinforcement stitching in key wear areas (e.g., near the 1-handed pull loop on the hem drawcord).

Montane.  Montane's Featherlite wind shirt provided the trimmest cut of the four products tested, so the buyer may want to consider sizing up one size if they desire some added room. On the other hand, the trim cut provides a very efficient garment for both heat and moisture transfer, allowing the product to perform to its potential in more demanding (colder) conditions. Other than the Lycra elastic cuffs and hem, the only distinguishing feature of the Featherlite is a short neck zipper and mock-T collar. Lack of features on this wind shirt means that there is no place to stow your keys, lighter, or push-button micro-light, but it also means an astonishing lack of weight--the Featherlite took the honors for light weight and weighed a scant 3.2 oz in size M, less than half as much as both the GoLite and Mardale shells, and full 25% lighter than its closest competitor, the Wild Things Wind shirt. The simplistic style, negligible weight, and incredible packability were deciding factors in our review team's decision to include the Featherlite as part of their regular pack list. Construction quality of the Featherlite is excellent, on par with a small, high-quality custom shop.

Wild Things. The design of the Wild Things Wind Shirt is very similar to the pullover-style of the Montane Featherlite. The key features that distinguish the two include the cuff closure (Montane uses a Lycra cuff while Wild Things uses a less-functional hook-and-loop closure*), the hem (Montane uses a Lycra hem while Wild Things uses a non-elastic felled hem--in addition, the Wild Things' hem was long enough to remain tucked in while reaching overhead--a very nice touch that made for slim layering), the neck zipper (deeper on the Wild Things, thus providing more ventilation), and the collar height (higher on the Wild Things, making it nicer to layer with a balaclava). Construction quality of the Wild Things Wind Shirt gets high marks overall, but we dinged them in this category because of the use of hook-and-loop with such a fragile fabric, and a questionable fabric specification (1.1 oz/yd2 nylon is not particularly durable for anything but trail walking--something our testers learned the hard way) for a garment that is likely to be worn more than any other piece in one's clothing ensemble.

* We felt that the use of hook-and-loop closures on such a light fabric was inappropriate. Closing and opening the cuffs repeatedly on the Wild Things Wind Shirt eventually stressed the seams on the nylon until stitching began to tear away from the fabric.


GoLite Bark

For a full-featured jacket (hood, pockets, zippers), the GoLite Bark's 8.0-oz weight provides a performance-to-weight bargain. Constructed with an attention to detail and quality, good fit, and a very comfortable fabric, the Bark won the hearts of our testers and is one of their favorite jackets. Only time will tell, however, whether or not the 8.0-oz weight will displace an ultralight wind shirt (like the Montane and Wild Things products reviewed herein) when it's time to pack up and pay the piper. [Editor's Note: We did not receive the GoLite Bark in time to include a comprehensive, long-term field review. Therefore, interpretations of the Bark's performance in comparison to other products in this review should be taken conditionally. Backpacking Light will be testing and reviewing the Bark extensively in the coming months, after which time, a comprehensive field performance review will be released.]

Contact: GoLite

Mardale Aerolite

The Mardale Aerolite's novel (single side-zippered) anorak design was not enough to earn an overall vote of confidence among our testers. Our recommendations to the manufacturer include: add a second side zipper; increase quality of construction; change the hood design or lose it entirely; and change the fabric specification to something that is more comfortable when worn with a short-sleeve t-shirt.

Contact: Mardale Clothing, Ltd.

Backpacking Light
Trail's Best Award 2001

Montane Featherlite Smock

Montane Featherlite

This was a clear favorite among our reviewers. Extreme light weight and packability means that the Featherlite will seldom (if ever) be left behind. Its simplicity of style was a refreshing option in a market flooded with "feature-rich" alternatives. Although our initial performance expectations of the Featherlite's Pertex Microlight were not optimistic, once we took the Featherlite to the field and put it through the ringer of heat, insects, rain, wind, and sun, we were beyond impressed and amazed that a 1.2 oz/yd2 fabric can perform to such specifications. One of the finest pieces of lightweight clothing we've seen, the Featherlite earns a well-deserved Backpacking Light Trail's Best Award. Our only recommendations: (1) the neck zipper could be lengthened to improve ventilation, and (2) improve U.S. distribution channels.

Contact: Montane (Chonos, Ltd.)

Wild Things 1.1 oz Nylon Wind shirt

Wild Things almost hit the target with this well-designed wind shirt, predominatly due to the long hem, high collar, and deep neck zipper. But the inappropriate fabric specification (not particularly noticeable when reviewed independently, but a stark contrast to the luxurious Pertex Microlight of the Montane Featherlite) for situations requiring at least a reasonable degree of water resistance and durability make this garment suitable for only specialized situtations, thus limiting the versatility that should be the hallmark feature of a wind shirt. Needless to say, Wild Things makes a solid product that is well worth its bargain-basement price tag and ultralight weight.

Contact: Wild Things Gear


"Wind Shirt Wars Review Summary," by the Product Review Staff. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2001-08-06 00:00:00-06.


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Wind Shirts
A thread for discussing features, design, fabrics, applications, and analyzing current products in the apparel category loosely defined as "wind shirts". Articles relevant to this discussion include:

In addition, forum participants may find useful background in the article M Soft Shells: The Real Story, and in the Wind Shirt Chapter of M Clothing and Sleep Systems for Mountain Hiking.
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Colin Thomas
(fullofadventure) - F
Montane Aero Smock Sizes on 12/01/2003 19:58:48 MST Print View

I am thinking about getting this windshirt but have not tried one on yet. I am trying to figure out what size I would need. Usually I am a medium (5 11/170lbs) from most brands. I have herd that Montane sizes their clothing small. So should I go up a size like this site claims? Also is it the same with their pants too. Any help would be appreciated.

Paul Diez
(PaulDiez) - F
Re: Montane Aero Smock Sizes on 12/02/2003 16:06:17 MST Print View

I'm 5'-8" and 160-165#. I find my size medium Montane Featherlite smock to be a comfortable but snug fit over a base layer (e.g. a light polypro shirt). I'd need to go to a large to wear comfortably over an insulating layer.

Edited by PaulDiez on 12/02/2003 16:06:57 MST.

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Windshirt breathability and quantum on 12/02/2003 19:36:19 MST Print View

I have a nike "tiger woods" half sleeve wind shirt that I am almost positive is pertex quantum ( not well labeled because I guess the golfing crowd doesn't really care?) I trail run with this admittedly half sleeve, tight V-neck ( can barely get it over my head), and elastic bottom. Anyway at the end of my run the very first thing I do is pull off the wind-shirt and it is never the slightest bit damp. I have run the same route with a Marmot chinook at most half zipped ( or less) and the interior had some condensation. Do you think it's the half sleeves or the material?

Jerold Swan
(jswan) - F - M
Re: Re: Montane Aero Smock Sizes on 12/05/2003 07:16:03 MST Print View

I have the Montane Aero in size large. I'm 5'10" and quite thin (150 pounds). It's loose on me over just a base layer and I usually tuck it in to prevent flapping.

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Montane Aero Smock Sizes on 01/01/2004 18:19:08 MST Print View

My two cents...
I'm 6'2", 165lb and usually take a size large in most clothing. I have a large featherlite smock, and a large litespeed jacket (both by Montane). Both fit well over a base layer, but are tight over 200 weight fleece. (fwiw, the tag with the lightspeed jacket cites a 42" chest).

I would order an XL size if I had to do it over again.

Edited by MikeMartin on 03/20/2004 23:17:12 MST.

How is Dragonfly full-zip? on 01/13/2004 07:59:13 MST Print View

Is there anyone who have checked out the NEW Patagonia's Dragonfly full-Zip (or pull over)?
I' would like to have some infomations about it, because we can't get it in Japan, yet.

-One Step Beyond! 2004-

wind shirt on 02/21/2004 21:41:45 MST Print View

Wondering if anyone makes an all Epic 1.7 oz p sq/yd windshirt. Could that may be the ultimate? Could it be simply a price competition issue in that the end price would be too high?
Would it be too warm and need a super light mesh in the pits. Any thougts by anyone.

This could span the gap between windshirts and waterproof breathables...

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: wind shirt on 02/22/2004 11:45:57 MST Print View

Feathered Friends makes the Jackorack in the light ripstop Epic ("Malibu"). It has pit zips, huge vented torso pockets, and a hood. It's roomy enough to layer insulation under it. I've worn mine a ton - it's one of my favorite jackets. I wish the Epic was more breathable but you can't have it all, I guess!

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Montane Aero Smock Sizes on 02/22/2004 16:25:04 MST Print View

Also the beauty of the Montane Aero Smock windshirt is the price! At roughly $65 (Thru Hiker in the S.F. Bay area sells it) and the weight at 2.5 oz. makes it a great buy.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Montane Aero Smock Sizes on 02/22/2004 16:54:28 MST Print View

Good call. It's a great wind shirt for the price. For a 3-oz item, you'd think shipping would be cheaper! Shop around (Google it!) and you should be able to get away with shipping and the shirt for less than $65.

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: wind shirt on 03/02/2004 16:10:16 MST Print View

Wild Things Gear ( also has an Epic windshirt listed on their website. I haven't used one, so I don't know about quality or availability.

Edited by MikeMartin on 03/02/2004 16:13:03 MST.

Chet Clocksin
(chetc) - F
Montane Lightspeed on 03/16/2004 08:48:00 MST Print View

Has anyone had experience with this windshirt/jacket? Sounds like it could be the ultimate combination for breathability/durability.
from Back Country Gear's description:
" Many of you out there requested a featherlite that zipped up and had a hood. Well, Montane listened. The Lite Speed Jacket features a Pertex Microlite DWT+ shell with Pertex Quantum DWR+ side panels. The cuffs have an internal elasticized cuff, full length zip, integral roll-away adjustable hood, a chest pocket for your valuables, and it's own stuff sack that doubles as a hackysack."



Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Montane Lightspeed on 03/16/2004 11:26:36 MST Print View

Chet - the Lightspeed is a great little shell - unique is its 2-layer hood, which provides tremendous wind resistance. Combined the the Microlight, this wind shirt is one of the most protective on the market.

Chet Clocksin
(chetc) - F
Re: Re: Montane Lightspeed on 03/16/2004 19:55:36 MST Print View

Ryan, do you think the hood is overkill for a windshirt? Obviously the hood has merit for additional protection, but I'm wondering, based on your experience do you typically carry a seperate, hooded jacket in addition to your windshirt? And if so, do you typically choose a windshirt without a hood? Or is the hood worth it just to extend the range in which you can use the windshirt, even if you have a seperate jacket (like maybe the Precip)? I know, a lot of questions.
One more: Do the Quantum side panels result in a significant improvement in breathability ?

Thanks again,

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Re: Montane Lightspeed on 03/16/2004 20:23:23 MST Print View

The hood does indeed extend the windshirt to some pretty foul conditions. The ability to keep your head warm and maintain the breathability of a wind shirt - you can take this concept to some incredibly cold and windy conditions. The Quantum side panels - I don't know that they significantly increase breathability (although Quantum is more breathable that Microlight) so much as they keep the weight down in low-abrasion areas.

This is the kind of wind shirt I'd want to pair with a poncho, which I'd normally only bring out in a squall. For me, two hooded jackets are usually redundant, so if you carry a hooded rain jacket already, then a non-hooded wind shirt might provide for a more versatile clothing system with less duplication.

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Montane Lightspeed on 03/20/2004 16:48:55 MST Print View


I've used my litespeed for almost a year now. It is my favorite wind shell for backpacking, trail running, and backcountry skiing. A couple of comments:

1) I'm afraid that I have to disagree with Ryan about the sidepanels. Montane's website claims the side panels are "PEAQ", not Quantum. Using an informal "blow-thru" test, the fabric seems to have greater air permeability than Quantum, more comparable to Equilibrium. These panels are a great feature of the jacket as they add substantial breathability just where you need it -- sort of like the mesh armpit panels on Marmot's driclime windshirts, but with better weather protection. (Ryan -- I'd welcome your comments about this....)

2) I love the flexibility of the shell. I'd say the extra warmth of the hood justifies its weight, although I think the dual-layer construction is overkill for most conditions where I've used it. (I suppose you could cut the hood liner out and save a few grams if you wanted to.) Also, if you do carry a hooded storm shell or poncho, the litespeed hood can be rolled up into a gasket around your neck to minimize chimney-effect heat loss there.

3) One trick that the full zip and light fabric allow is to fully unzip the shell and pull the hem through the shoulder straps of a pack during periods of high exertion like extended hill climbs. This lets your arms breathe because they are not closed off by the pack straps (a poor man's pit-zip!). You can then instantly zip up and/or don the hood when you get to the top.

4) My size large weighs 5.2oz, which is not the lightest windshirt out there these days. But it remains my favorite due to the hood, side panels, and ventilation options.

5) What I'd really like to see from Montane is a 4 oz Quantum full-zip windshell with a single-layer hood and the PEAQ sidepanels. Oh well, I need something on my gear wish list for next year! ;)



Edited by MikeMartin on 03/20/2004 23:58:50 MST.

Tom Ekblad
(tekblad) - M

Locale: Southern California
Golite Helios on 04/24/2004 22:43:51 MDT Print View

Anybody have a comment about this wind shirt?

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Golite Helios on 04/29/2004 22:39:06 MDT Print View

Tom, I used the Helios in conjunction with a hoodless poncho on a recent trip to CA's Lost Coast under some incredibly foul conditions. It was GREAT! Here's the trip report/photos:

Tom Ekblad
(tekblad) - M

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Golite Helios on 05/02/2004 00:32:53 MDT Print View

Living in Southern California, I haven't had 56 hours of rain in the past 10 years. Your report of drying out while sleeping surprised me. How much of that would you attribute to the bivy sack?

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Re: Golite Helios on 05/02/2004 16:23:06 MDT Print View

> How much would you attribute drying out to the bivy sack?

A lot. I can't imagine what it would have been like in a Gore-Tex bivy.