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Lightweight and easy to layer, the windbreaker is perfect for traveling to destinations with moderate to cold temperatures. It’s the jacket that isn’t a nuisance to bring along even when you think you won’t need it.
Three vital characteristics in a windbreaker include lightness, water-resistance and breathability. Most windbreakers weigh less than a pound, making them easy to stash in your bag, whether you’re hiking or exploring the city. Providing light to medium insulation, their synthetic outer shells, as their name suggests, protect you from moderate wind chill and light rain. High-end windbreakers usually come with a polyurethane coating, which prevents water from soaking through the outer shell. And because most people are active on their vacations, the inner lining of a windbreaker for traveling should be highly breathable to prevent stuffiness.
Below, we compiled the best windbreakers in the market to suit all of your traveling considerations, whether you need a jacket that won’t break the bank or one that will squeeze inside your nearly overflowing suitcase.
Best Overall: The North Face Venture 2 Jacket
Lightweight, waterproof and windproof, The North Face’s Venture 2 Jacket is true to its name and serves you dutifully throughout your ventures. It includes a Velcro storm flap and cuffs, as well as a cinch cord to seal heat in and keep the cold out. The nylon and polyester ripstop fabric blend is highly breathable and waterproof. The fabric is also seam-sealed so that water can’t get in your jacket. For added protection against the elements, the jacket has an adjustable hood that includes room for a helmet and extra layers. Need to stow it away? The windbreaker neatly packs into its own pocket. In the Venture 2 collection, you can choose from over 20 colors such as rainy day ivory and cardinal red.
Reviewers rave over the jacket’s lightness, breathability and durability. They also mention that this product runs one size bigger, but attribute this to a relaxed fit for easy layering.
Best for Women: Marmot Women's Precip Jacket
The stylish and functional Marmot Precip Jacket combats rain and wind in both backcountry and urban environments. It consists of waterproof, breathable nylon ripstop that resists ripping and tearing. Its attached hood rolls down with a hook-and-loop tab (i.e. the more generalized name for Velcro). Whether you’re sailing or hiking, you can move with a full range of motion thanks to the Angel-Wing Movement design, which gives the armholes and sleeves maximized arm movement. The Precip Jacket sports a cinch cord and adjustable cuffs. It also has a polyurethane coating, which allows vapor molecules to escape but will not let in larger liquid molecules.
Besides its functional characteristics, the Precip also looks chic. According to reviewers, its fit accommodates women’s body shapes in the waist and chest area. Color-wise, you can choose from 24 shades such as sangria, bright violet, lilac and deep dusk.
Best for Men: Men's Nike Sportswear Windrunner Jacket
Most people know Nike not only for its footwear but also its jackets. The company's classic Sportswear Windrunner Jacket grew popular in 1978 and remains relevant today. The comfortable windbreaker consists of lightweight, ripstop polyester that protects you against any unexpected rain and wind during your trip. It also features side zip pockets for miscellaneous storage. The vent in the back yoke allows for excellent airflow, great for hiking and rigorous exercises. Most reviewers say that the fit is perfect, but for layering, some suggest sizing up. If you opt for a bigger size, adjust the stretch cuffs, drawstring hood and hem to accommodate your body for a perfect fit. These features also seal the heat in.
The jacket has a simple but sleek color block design with a 26-degree chevron. You can select from understated color combinations such as white/black/wolf gray and thunder blue/black or more vibrant ones such as metallic/silver/black/red and coastal blue/electric green.
Best for Kids: The North Face Resolve Reflective Jacket
Rain or shine, kids love playing outside while on vacation. Keep your children warm and protected against dramatic weather changes with The North Face’s Resolve Reflective Jacket, which consists of weatherproof DryVent fabric with a breathable mesh lining. Like most adult jackets, this item also sports a hood, elastic cuffs and Velcro flap to keep moisture out of inner layers. Additionally, you’ll be able to keep an eye on your little ones while you’re traveling at night since the jacket has reflective logos on the front and back. As a bonus detail, the jacket has an ID label in case it gets haphazardly tossed aside and goes missing on your family adventures.
Best for Budget: Columbia Men's Glennaker Lake Front-Zip Rain Jacket
Protecting yourself against cold weather doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Columbia is a quintessential brand for affordable outdoors traveling apparel. If your packing list includes a windbreaker, the Columbia Glennaker Packable Jacket will be easier on your budget than high-end selections from brands like The North Face or Patagonia. Its nylon shell repels water, and its mesh lining provides breathability. The jacket also sports an adjustable hideaway hood, drawcord hem and adjustable sleeves that are constructed for rainy weather. Portability won’t be a problem. When you want to put away your jacket, pack it into a chest or hand pocket. The color selection features pairings such as black/grill, blue jay/Columbia navy and bright red/grill. For women, a similar product line is Columbia’s Switchback II Jacket.
Best for Packing: Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket
“Always bring a jacket” is great advice until you realize that a jacket burdens you with extra weight and space. But lightweight, packable jackets exist for a reason. Sure, the Outdoor Research Helium Jacket is not cheap, but it provides excellent quality for its steep price. Reviewers rave about the versatility of this product, which is perfect for emergency rainfalls, day hikes or backpacking trips. No matter how much luggage or hiking gear you have, the jacket packs down to the size of a granola bar, so you will find enough space in a side pocket of your backpack or even a pants pocket. The fabric is 100 percent waterproof nylon and is seam-taped for extra protection. Besides its fabric durability, the jacket includes typical windbreaker components such as a hood, front zipper, elastic cuffs and drawcord hem. Its more unique features include the internal pockets, reflective logos and carabiner loop. Outdoor Research balances both function and aesthetics. You won’t be limited in terms of color selection. The men’s selection showcases 16 colors, which include pewter, glacier, and hot sauce. The women’s sizes come in 11 similar shades.
Best Pullover: Charles River Apparel Pack-N-Go Pullover
If you dislike fussing around with zippers, this is your go-to windbreaker. Wind- and water-resistant, the Pack-N-Go pullover sports a drawstring hem and elasticized cuffs that cinch the jacket to the contours of your body to block out the cold. It has a big zippered front pocket for storing various knick-knacks. When you want to put the jacket it away, pack it into this pocket. It’ll compress to eight by six inches. The men’s selection includes colors such as black, navy, Columbia blue, forest, maroon, royal and stone, while the women’s selection showcases cheerful hues like aqua, coral, hot pink, mint, and pink.
Best for Storage: SCOTTeVEST Pack Jacket - 13 Pockets
The SCOTTeVest Pack Jacket balances lightness with storage space. It includes 13 pockets — including a pad pocket for tablet-sized objects — which allow you to safely stash away travel gear, wallets, cameras, sunglasses, electronics and much more. It even has an earbud loop, just in case you want to pop on a podcast or album while in transit. Want to put your jacket away when it gets hot? Just pack it into the back pocket after you take out your belongings. The lightweight fabric is breathable and wrinkle-resistant. It’s also treated with Teflon for water and stain resistance. There’s limited color choice, but there's color choice nonetheless — you can pick between red and sky.
Reviewers indicate that this jacket tends to run small. Should you be interested in buying this jacket, consider sizing up.