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Expensive windshirts vs cheap ones
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Steve Zavoda
(Anotherdyemention) - F

Locale: NE Ohio
Expensive windshirts vs cheap ones on 10/31/2013 09:53:22 MDT Print View

I've been looking at various windshirts and was wondering if the cheap ones (Adidas climashield for $25 ) would be any good. I know it's not water resistant but I can get a bottle of DWR for a few bucks that would be enough to do all my clothes if I wanted to. I mean, I honestly find it ridiculous to spend $100+ on a wind breaker with DWR coating on it just cuz it has Patagonia or marmot embroidered on it. Especially when I can get an 800 fill down jacket for the same price. So I was just wondering if anyone uses the cheap ones. I actually seen one on Sierra trading post for $25 and my local Khios has one on clearance for $15.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Expensive windshirts vs cheap ones on 10/31/2013 10:02:37 MDT Print View

Wind shirts block wind. They are not waterproof. "Durable Water Repellency" is not durable, or does in repel water for very long. With that in mind, one would like the lightest shirt that does indeed block wind and is breathable. Most cheap ones don't breath well. Neither do some of the expensive ones (MontBel UL wind shirt for example).

For me, the Houdini is the best breathable wind shirt I have ever used. I take it on every trip and I also have one in my suitcase for business trips.

For precipitation, I have other gear to handle that.

Ryan Bressler
(ryanbressler) - F
Wind Shirts can be Hit or Mis on 10/31/2013 10:24:21 MDT Print View

I had a thrift store one for a while, now I'm on my second (previous generation) houdini. The cheap one was fine for windy but dry desert conditions but the fabric in the houdini offers much better moisture protection and breathability, is lighter and packs smaller (into its own pocket which can be clipped to something which is nice). It is without a doubt my most used piece of mountain clothing. It comes on most trips and I run, bike, ski, hike climb etc in it.

My wife has had a couple over the years but now also has a houdini and feels it is much more breathable then her previous ones (or and golite i think) in which she would sweat out more often.

On a technical level I believe that, in a garment like this, the weather proofness is as much a property of the fabric weave as any chemical treatment.

That said, we paid something like $50 each for ours last year during an rei-outlet sale and my previous one came from geartrade. My advice would be to watch for deals on windshirts that get good reviews for the sports you do.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
darth vader on 10/31/2013 10:36:18 MDT Print View

do the darth vader breath test

put the shirt against yr mouth and try to breath through it ... youll either choke or sound like darth vader ...

if you choke its not very breathable of course ... if you can breath through it somewhat then you know its at least air permeable, which influences the "breathability" ...

as said windshirts are hit and miss ... the old squamish/celeris was very brethable, and the old houdini im told as well ... the new houdini people indicate as less breathable ... and the MB not very brethable

if you want guaranteed breathability get a light non-membraned softshell ... of course its tends to be a bit "warmer" and heavier of course

one thing to remember is that EVERYONE makes a windshirt these days ... they have for decades ... the ones for runners go on sale all the time and as long as they pass the breath test theres nothing really "wrong" with them ... runners tend to sweat much more aggressively that hikers


Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Re: Expensive windshirts vs cheap ones on 10/31/2013 10:50:00 MDT Print View

For decades I used cheap windbreakers, usually from places I worked. My only requirement of them was the "Darth Vader" breath test above. They all worked, to one degree or another.

But the Houdini which I finally got a couple years ago(definitely bought on sale!) is definitely ahead of the cheap ones, for breathability, weight and compactability.

So yeah, the cheap ones work, but the more expensive ones CAN be better. But shop the sales!

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
The Darth Vader Test on 10/31/2013 10:57:34 MDT Print View

Love it! Never heard that before, but this windshirt question is something I've been wondering about for a while. Thanks for asking and answering!

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Post Houdini on 10/31/2013 11:16:50 MDT Print View

Now that the new Houdini is significantly less breathable, what's the NEW de facto recommendation for a windshirt?

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Expensive windshirts vs cheap ones on 10/31/2013 11:27:31 MDT Print View

Thrift store windshirts will usually do the job just fine. You aren't going to find any real ultralight windshirts in thrift stores, but if you really look you can usually find one around 7 oz. I like a cheap, thicker fabric windshirt for thrashing around through brush and scraping against sharp rocks.

Stephen Komae
(skomae) - MLife

Locale: northeastern US
Re: Post Houdini on 10/31/2013 11:35:56 MDT Print View

> Now that the new Houdini is significantly less breathable, what's the NEW de facto recommendation for a wind shirt?

I've been testing the Westcomb Crest Hoody as a replacement for the Houdini and it seems like an ideal substitute. It breathes better than the 2013 version and just as well as the 2012 one, with an excellent hood and velcro cuffs.

Pertex Equilibrium is stretchy, lightweight, more wicking, and more breathable than the 2013 Houdini's tightly woven silicone-treated fabric.

The one downside is that if you bushwhack a lot it might develop pulls since the weave isn't as fine and tight.

* * *

To OP, I'd argue that cheap wind shirts do work just fine. I've used a lot of various wind shirts out of curiosity and interest in the overall state of the market and any wind shirt will do exactly as advertised by cutting down on the wind blowing around you. They will perform, and they will do the primary job of keeping you comfortable.

However, I think that if you do have the budget to pay a little extra for a nicer wind shirt (or a nicer any-piece-of-clothing) then there are a lot of valid reasons to do so.

First of all, the trim is usually better (neater, smaller, nicer to deal with) on a more expensive wind shirt -- there's usually less flaps, cuff material, better elastic cinching mechanisms -- and secondly, the fit is usually better. A slimmer fit that doesn't restrict your movement comes from more complicated tailoring or patterning. Most cheaper garments are cut to a boxy pattern that restricts arm movement, particularly forward or upwards if worn too slim and flaps around a ton if worn too baggy. Better garments can fit close without restricting movement and may still yet allow layering. Finally, and possibly most important, is that the fabric itself can be (but not necessarily) better.

Patagonia for instance uses a very light 10D nylon on their latest revision of Houdini (the new, less breathable 2013 model which I use and still recommend) that is actually silicone impregnated. That means that it absorbs less water, has permanent water resistance lasting the life of the garment, and is slick enough to slip on over and under other layers with ease. That slickness also seems to add to its durability, since it experiences less abrasion… surprising for such a gossamer thin piece of gear. That's not a fabric you'll see on other, cheaper products, since most cheaper windbreakers simply use calendared nylon or nylon with a light PU coat.

Steve Zavoda
(Anotherdyemention) - F

Locale: NE Ohio
Thanks on 10/31/2013 12:00:17 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the very informative responses. Weight for me isn't such a huge issue if it's one or two pieces of gear. Durability, not too much either as I live in NE Ohio and just trek through the woods. But fit is important. I would definitely spend some extra cash on something that wasn't going to piss me off and either bunch up or restrict movement. I will defiantly research these a lot more before making a purchase. Thanks

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Windshirts on 10/31/2013 16:38:59 MDT Print View

I like modestly priced windshirts, as they tend to take a lot of abuse. I wear it over my downjacket around camp, or to protect my arms when bushwacking.

The MEC RD Windshirt is really good. Nice long torso with a slim cut and a hood that fits snugly to keep bugs out. Virtually all the weight in the fabric, so for 5oz you get a nice durable windshirt that lasts years. You can get one that weighs half that, but you don't actually want that to be taking a lot of wear. Having a jacket that you can use for the rougher parts of hiking is great so you can perserve your more expensive WP/B jacket and downjacket. $78.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Windshirts on 10/31/2013 23:45:36 MDT Print View

The thing i like most about the Houdini is the truly durable/D in DWR coating, since it's like an Epic like coating. Can be refreshed just by washing and potentially lasts a long while. Most DWR's on most other windshirts will wear off much faster.

Bought ours on clearance and so thought it was well worth the price.

A decent and cheaper alternative is the Brooks LSD windshirts. They seem to be somewhat styled after the Houdini, like with the hood design etc. They probably won't be as durable as they are make out of polyester and not silicone coated nylon like the Houdini. Around the same weight, and usually cheaper than the Houdini.

One thing i like more about it, is that my Brooks LSD II windshirt version is definitely more breathable than my 2012 Houdini, both in the fabric itself and the fact that it has a back vent. I lean to liking more breath-ability than not as i run warm.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Expensive windshirts vs cheap ones on 11/01/2013 00:57:39 MDT Print View

Once you get off the super light factor, there are lots of running and biking wind shells that work. The Brooks LSD series running jackets are quite good. I have a Royal Robbins polyester shell that I use for my town wind shell.

Many of the less expensive shells like Sierra Designs and Red Ledge are coated to the point that they are more like a rain shell that hasn't been seam taped and are sweaty.

As others said, the breath test tells you what you need to know. You can treat them with Nikwax and improve the DWR.

Montane makes some good windshirts. I would love to see data on the latest Mountain Hardwear and Outdoor Research offerings.

You do get lighter weight and more product integrity with the better wind shells. Things like zippers, fit, hood construction count, as well as all the little features like hem drawstrings and cuff design. A good warranty adds value for me c

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Expensive windshirts vs cheap ones on 11/01/2013 01:26:44 MDT Print View

This is a tough one to answer because it depends on the fit of the wind jacket, the weight of the fabric, the type of fabric, etc...

What I will say is that you can certainly get a wind jacket that performs well for you without breaking the bank.

With the wind jackets made by the "outdoor brands," you will be getting a piece of clothing that is made to be light, and will usually layer pretty easily. With the other brands, it's hard to say, but you could get lucky.

I use a Marmot Trail Wind Hoody that I got off Amazon for $50 (they are currently $64, I checked). It's held up well after several years of use. The DWR is now non-existent but I find that all DWR coating are not very durable, so it's to be expected. The jacket has performed well enough that I don't feel any need whatsoever to replace it with something "more technical."

I'd advise just finding a wind jacket from one of the outdoor apparel companies that happens to be on sale. It's just a lightweight nylon or polyester shell. It's not that complicated. The fit of the jacket, the weight of the fabric, and the tightness of the weave is going to be more important than the brand.

Just my two cents. Good luck with your search.

Edited by dmusashe on 11/01/2013 01:29:51 MDT.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Expensive windshirts vs cheap ones on 11/01/2013 05:06:32 MDT Print View

Perhaps adding that windshirts designed for running or biking can have a design that not allows carrying a backpack (backvent that is incompatible with carrying a backpack., pockets that interfere with a hipbelt, ...)

Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Re: windshirts continuum on 11/01/2013 07:59:29 MDT Print View

After some skimming I think I'm agreed with Dan -- moderately priced is great, and that MEC windshirt looks like a great deal.
The thing with windshirts is that, in my experience, used as described in various canonical ultralight literature (like on this site) ... they tend to be worn a whole lot. That means they accumulate light (or heavy) amounts of abrasion, they get a lot of incidental friction contact with other pieces of gear like base layers (with sweat and body oils) and pack straps, belt loops, that kind of thing. IMHO in other words your windshirt is a workhorse-like piece of gear, and as such it should be good enough that you enjoy using it, but not so precious that you would mourn its loss of the new-pristine-gear condition. Hope that all made sense.

And, keep in mind that, as Dan pointed out, the market is coming down. There are a lot of reasonable, breathable, wind-resistant, ultralight windshirts that are under 5oz and under $60. I remember tracking the Marmot Trail Wind Hoody for a while when it was under $40 on a variety of sites. At that price, with that quality, man, I would think you couldn't go wrong. Unless it was like the dreaded bad run of Marmot Ions from a few years ago that had basically silnylon for fabric -- but hey, that's what the darth vader test is for.

Here are some other quick samples of what you can get for not nearly as expensive as a Houdini:

... and so on. Search for longer than my ~5min and you'll find better deals than that. Oh, and Campsaver happens to be running a 20%-off-everything coupon right now, see front page for the code.

You get the idea. No need to compromise on this stuff. In my book, getting down to $35 - $50 for a reputable-brand windshirt like what's listed above, seems like the sweet spot.

Adrien Baker
(AdrienBaker) - F

Locale: Kern County
Houdini on 11/01/2013 09:02:49 MDT Print View

I'm not sure what size you are, but I just picked up a blue Houdini in XL from for $50.


Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: windshirts continuum on 11/01/2013 09:19:41 MDT Print View

Just to say that I bought a Dead Bird Anabatic windshirt (6 oz. for an M) years ago (2007 or earlier) Okay, MSRP wasn't cheap, but fortunately I found it on sale (± -35 %). Now, I have been using it up to this past summer, even sometimes with a rather heavy pack.

Edited by Woubeir on 11/01/2013 10:12:55 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
trail wind on 11/01/2013 09:56:47 MDT Print View

i own and use a trail wind occasionally

its not very breathable for a windshirt ...darth vade who probably breath through it, but hed turn blue

its not that durable either ... mine has enough pinholes that ive started seam gripping it

i remember seeing 7$ clearance windshirts at superstore earlier this year, unfortunately they were only womens ... they look very UL with only 2 pockets, a hood and nothing else ... passed the breath test fine

as i said everyone and their mom makes them these days

a windshirt should be as breathable as possible while stopping the wind ... and dont worry about the DWR, if you use it alot under a pack or high abrasion activities, it will wear off where it rubs


hwc 1954
(wcollings) - M
light weight windshirts on 11/01/2013 22:11:57 MDT Print View

I have two lightweight wind shirt hoodys -- a Brooks LSD running hoody and a Marmot Trail Wind Hoody. I bought both on sale. Both were still expensive for little bits of wispy material, but they are the jackets I wear more often than anything else. One of them is always in my pack. One is always in my car. Just a little rain protection against a shower. Perfect wind protection on a breezy summit in the summer. Great when you need just a little something extra when hiking or walking fast. 5 ounces and stuff into its own pocket, there's really no reason not to carry one.

It is the first jacket I would get for hiking or running or sightseeing...


I have another one -- a Marmot Essence jacket -- that is similarly light weight fabric, but with 100% waterproof "breathable" material. I would choke on the price of this thing ($175), but found it on the clearance rack at TJMAXX for $59 and grabbed it as quick as I could. A 6 ounce 100% waterproof hoody. Wow. Still clammy on a hot day, hiking uphill, but infinitely better than most rain jackets. I love it so much, I got a pair of matching ultra-light rain pants. Those are now a pair in my pack as my standard rain gear in the spring, summer, fall... I wouldn't want to bushwhack through dense underbrush. The fabric is definitely not rugged, but for occasional use rain gear -- perfect.