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Most Breathable Windshirt -- Squamish, Houdini or Tyvek?
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Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Most Breathable Windshirt -- Squamish, Houdini or Tyvek? on 09/05/2013 12:49:41 MDT Print View

This is a followup question about bug shirts, but focused on the lighter options (as opposed to sun shirts). First of all, does anyone know what the most breathable windshirt is? I've heard really good things about the old Houdini (not the new one) as well as the Squamish, but I'm not sure how they compare with regards to breathability.

Second, I ran across this thread discussing Tyvek clothing: I had forgotten about that. So, I have a number of questions about Tyvek. Are they (in general) more breathable than windshirts? Are there other options besides those on that thread? Specifically, I'm curious as to whether there are different types of Tyvek, and whether they vary in terms of breathability, weight, etc. Likewise, I would be interested if anyone knows where to buy a Tyvek jacket (as opposed to buying the overalls and trimming them).

Edited by rossbleakney on 09/05/2013 12:50:46 MDT.

James Couch

Locale: Cascade Mountains
Tyvek on 09/05/2013 12:55:12 MDT Print View

If you are looking for most breathable I would say Tyvek is not your material. It is 'breathable' but most any wind shell will outperform it in that arena. Ebay is a great source for cheap Tyvek Jackets. If you have any friends who are cyclists ask them as well, most who have done larger organized rides anytime in the last 20 years probably have one or two stuffed in a box somewhere as these were popular giveaways for years.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
Re: Most Breathable Windshirt on 09/05/2013 13:00:13 MDT Print View

I'm TRULY not trying to be rude here, but aren't "breathable" and "windshirt" slightly oxymoronic? Perhaps you'd be better off with something like a Chocklite, which is a fairly light, rain resistant, thin soft shell...

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
hit or miss on 09/05/2013 13:04:50 MDT Print View

no one really knows on "breathability" ... at best you have anecdotal evidence on BPL

just remember that whats "breathable" to one person, aint to another ... especially without reference points

the best "test" ive found so far ... put it up to your mouth, and try to breath through it ... if you choke to death its obviously not breathable

all manufacturers say their windshirts/softshells are "breathable" ... marketing departments will say anything to sell their goods


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Most Breathable Windshirt -- Squamish, Houdini or Tyvek? on 09/05/2013 13:44:26 MDT Print View

I would try to get an older Houdini. I don't know about the Squamish vs the Houdini, but I'm sure someone here has hands-on experience.

Tyvek.... meh. Looks okay, not so good in practice. Leslie Jordan makes the promo-style Tyvek jackets with mesh vents that you see at bike races and the like. The jackets aren't cheap if you are buying one at a time-- like $40-$50. The zippers and bindings are usually weak.

I think Montane is the place to look until Patagonia comes back to their senses. The Lite-Speed hooded jacket is 5.6oz in a medium size (size up for US sizes). The Lite-Speed and Featherlite lines use 30D PERTEX Microlight Mini Rip-stop. See

The Montane Slipstream line uses PERTEX Quantum GL which I know nothing about and would like to see compared. The jackets in that line are 2.5-3oz.

Check out the Brooks running jackets too. They have lots of venting options and pockets while remaining light enough to be considered.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Most Breathable Windshirt on 09/05/2013 13:48:19 MDT Print View

>> I'm TRULY not trying to be rude here, but aren't "breathable" and "windshirt" slightly oxymoronic? Perhaps you'd be better off with something like a Chocklite, which is a fairly light, rain resistant, thin soft shell...

Yes, you are absolutely right, they are often at odds with each other. This is why I posted this thread. There are a lot of wind shirts that work really well for wind protection. The same is true for rain jackets. But I am trying to find lightweight, breathable clothing for bug protection (as mentioned in the original post). For example, the original Houdini is not nearly as windproof as many of the other windshirts, but it was extremely popular because it was fairly breathable. It was a good in-between jacket; between the breathability of something like fleece and the wind resistance of something like a rain jacket. What I'm looking for is something on the extreme side of breathability, but still bug proof. I'm pretty sure every windshirt is bugproof, so that is why I am looking at those. So far, from everything I've read, both the Squamish and the Houdini are towards that end. The thing is, I don't know which one is more breathable. Likewise, I don't know if there are other jackets that are even more breathable (but less windproof).

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

+1 Squamish on 09/05/2013 13:54:47 MDT Print View

I liked the Squamish more than the Houdini because the fabric is more like taffeta on the Squamish. That "soft touch" made it feel less sticky when I sweat.

Sometimes I overestimate how cold I am and, 20 minutes after putting on my wind shirt, I'm way too hot. I can use the Squamish for a bit longer before I have to stop and take it off.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Tyvek on 09/05/2013 13:57:04 MDT Print View

After doing some more research, I've discovered that there are different types of Tyvek. Unfortunately, this only complicates things. There may be Tyvek out there that is really breathable, but isn't what people use. So, I guess since I won't be making anything from scratch, I am curious as to how people like their Tyvek jackets (or modified overalls). Some of them are quite reasonably priced ($10 for an coverall) but I have no idea if it is the same Tyvek that someone else bought.

Thanks, Jim, for the input. It sounds like the ones you used weren't very breathable. This is very helpful, and I wonder if other folks can confirm his experience or if they feel differently (and if so, what type of Tyvek they bought).

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Most Breathable Windshirt on 09/05/2013 14:05:58 MDT Print View

"I'm TRULY not trying to be rude here, but aren't "breathable" and "windshirt" slightly oxymoronic? Perhaps you'd be better off with something like a Chocklite, which is a fairly light, rain resistant, thin soft shell..."

Windshirts vary a great deal in the breathability and DWR properties of the fabric. The whole idea is to get beyond "fairly light" to SUL. A Houdini is about 4oz and you can find windshirts in the 2oz range now. The right fabric is wind-blocking while feeling pretty much like a button-down shirt for breathability. The DWR is a nice "freebie."

Windshirts provide the lightest, most compact way to block heat-robbing wind and provide some protection from light precipitation. If you get a light color, it can provide sun and bug protection as well. I think it helps to think "shirt" rather than "jacket". In practice, a windshirt is worn over your base layer or over a fleecy mid-layer, used when you need a little warmth on an exposed traverse or downhill section in cool weather and for rest stops. Other than begrudgingly wearing a rain shell, it is the only outer layer I can imagine wearing while in motion with a backpack in above freezing weather.

Soft-shells are typically 3-4 times the weight of a windshirt and too single-purpose to be a multi-use part of an UL clothing system. They have good abrasion resistance and are good when you have a known set of conditions for a day, like going downhill skiing. I think the real appeal for soft shells is more fashion and town use than UL backpacking. They are heavy and bulky, provide little warmth, and don't give any more wind or rain protection than a good windshirt. I've tried several and equate them with a denim jacket for warmth and utility.

Bogs and Bergs
(Islandized) - F

Locale: Newfoundland
Re: Most Breathable Windshirt -- Squamish, Houdini or Tyvek? on 09/05/2013 14:24:24 MDT Print View

If 8 ounces is not too much, Rohan (UK) has the Windshadow:
(Can't do the blue linky thing, sorry).

Micro-ripstop polyamide with a matte texture. Nice details (narrow velcro wrist tabs, foldaway hood, inside draught flap, waistcord). A bit stretchy and very comfortable even on bare skin. Drizzle-proof DWR, and the material is proving to be surprisingly durable against rock scrapes and brush snags.

I can't get technical on 'breathability' but I can tell you that I don't sweat out this jacket. It may be partly due to the texture of the material, but I've never felt sticky in it. And it holds up to North Atlantic winds very nicely. I'm very fond of this jacket. The extra 4 ounces or so doesn't matter to me, it's very rare that I'm carrying it instead of wearing it.

(FYI, the women's does not have the zippered chest pocket, just the mesh-backed side pockets, so probably weighs less.)

Edited by Islandized on 09/05/2013 14:28:44 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Most Breathable Windshirt -- Squamish, Houdini or Tyvek? on 09/05/2013 15:09:47 MDT Print View

Read the second post by Richard Nisley.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Most Breathable Windshirt -- Squamish, Houdini or Tyvek? on 09/05/2013 15:13:25 MDT Print View

Personally i wouldn't use any Tyvek for any shirt or jacket for active wear because none of it is that breathable compared to woven textiles. I do use Tyvek homewrap as a rain kilt simply because i don't need the material to be that breathable in that case.

I have a 2012 model Houdini and a 2012 Brooks LSD II windshirt, and in some ways i like the Brooks windshirt more because the fabric is more breathable, and it has a back vent. The Houdini is better quality and will last longer, and i think it's very slightly lighter, but the Brooks is also cheaper and again more breathable.

You don't have to spend $$$ to get a decent, lightweight windshirt. I paid 58 dollars for the Brooks one, and that was at REI. I'm sure it could be found cheaper. I only bought it at REI in case i wanted to return it.

Chris C
(cvcass) - MLife

Locale: State of Jefferson
tyvek on 09/05/2013 16:10:02 MDT Print View

The tyvek house wrap is not the same as the soft structure tyvek used in garments, 1443r is supposedly more breathable than sil-nylon and way more breathable than tyvek housewrap.

I don't know how 1443r tyvek rates against windshirt material for breath-ability.

anecdotally my tarptent tyvek sublite has less condensation than my friends sublite-sil.
(maybe he is a heavy breather).

steven franchuk
Re: Re: Tyvek on 09/05/2013 16:41:09 MDT Print View

The only tyvek that may work well of a wind shirt is 1600 series Tyvek. !600 is pin perforated specifically to improve its breathability. But like most wind shirt material is not waterproof, only water resistant. 1400 series tyvek is not pin perforated and is much more water resistant but not very breathable. I don't know who sells 1600 Tyvek.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Re: Tyvek on 09/05/2013 17:36:52 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone, I appreciate the information. I knew folks on this board knew all about this stuff. It pretty much confirms what I thought. The old Houdini hits the sweet spot for lots of folks (between breathability and wind resistance) while the Squamish is even more breathable (and less wind resistant) and still much lighter than a sun shirt. Meanwhile, Tyvek comes in many types, but even the one used in most clothing is not as breathable as something like the Squamish. As tempting as it is to try the Brooks LSD jacket (do they sell any with Grateful Dead Logos?) I think I'll go with the Squamish. I'm afraid I'm starting to build up wind shirts, and I would rather go with a more likely winner (even if it costs a few more bucks).

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Re: Re: Tyvek on 09/05/2013 21:54:14 MDT Print View

Re: tyvek, i've worked with different kinds. Yes there are more breathable ones, but i don't consider them strong or tough enough for windshirt use, some of them are more flimsy than Dri Ducks polypro stuff. I had made a double bivy out of the 1443r material and after just a few times out with Becky, it had started to rip/fray at the weak points. (course, she was none to gentle or conscious of it)

I can't speak for the Squamish since i've never tried it. Ross, what size do you wear? If you wanted to try it out, i could lend you the Brooks windshirt. I think mine is a size large, but i will have to double check that.

But yeah, by all means, if you have the money, spending a "few" more bucks makes sense if you get a better quality garment that is going to last a longr time. If i had known about the Houdini's epic like DWR coating, i would have by passed the Brooks windshirt to begin with and spent the extra 10 to 20 dollars on it instead. (i still got the houdinis [one for my partner as well] pretty cheap in comparison as they were on clearance).

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Tyvek on 09/06/2013 11:16:14 MDT Print View

Thanks Justin, I appreciate the offer. I'm afraid I already ordered the Squamish last night, before I read your post. In general I find it hard to get a handle on the breathability of a jacket unless I use it a lot, and have something else to compare it to. I use Propore (e. g. O2) rain jackets, and those are very breathable (for a rain jacket) so it takes me a while before I figure out if a windshirt is more or less breathable. The old Montbell I have seemed to be a smidge more breathable, but the new Mountain Hardware windshirt I bought (primarily because it has a hood) is not very breathable, which is why I decided to be really picky this time and get the windshirt that both machine testing (by Richard Ninsley) and personal testing (by several folks) seems to be the most breathable. I sure hope I like it, because $150 is a lot to drop on a shirt (especially when I bought something similar last year).

Danton Rice
(drice) - M

Locale: Bozeman
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Tyvek on 09/06/2013 15:55:51 MDT Print View

I think you made the right call on the Squamish. I just returned from 12 days on the TMB in the Alps and had with me a Rab Boreas, Arcteryx Alpha SL and a Squamish (yeah I know, too much stuff but at least I did not have to carry it all with me every day). Temps from 40 to 80 degrees and several days of chilly heavy mist / fog. Wore the Alpha 0 times, Boreas 1 time, Squamish every day multiple times. I know there are cheaper / lighter windshirts out there but as a relatively full featured solution I think it is the best choice.