Most UNDERRATED Piece Of Gear - When To Use A Windbreaker


What if I told you that throwing on extra jackets & layers when you are cold might be the WRONG thing to do? 

That's right. While extra insulation might help you feel warmer short term, it can potentially cause other problems for you later on in your backpacking trip!

Instead, a 4 oz windbreaker jacket may be all you need.


Wind Chill

Wind chill is one of the most underrated & fastest forces to make your feel cold. 

When air moves across our bodies, it pulls heat away from us & quickens heat loss. Even if the actual temperature of the air isn't that cold, it's amazing how cold our bodies can feel with just a slight breeze. 

This convective heat loss is one of the most common culprits for making us feel cold on the trail, no matter the time of year.

That's one of the biggest reasons a windbreaker jacket is the most underrated gear item.

It's something you really should be using year-round!


Windbreaker Jackets: The Basics

A windbreaker is a lightweight jacket designed to block air flow and minimize convective heat loss. 

Often it's worn as an outer layer, but in cold/windy conditions where you are being less active it's not a bad idea to wear it under other layers - closer to your skin. 

Either way, it will help block unwanted airflow and help keep your body temperature higher. 


Not All Windbreakers Created Equal


Since it is so frequently worn as an outer layer, your windbreaker jacket should be durable enough to handle your adventures but still remain as lightweight as possible. 

Some windbreakers are super ultralight, but they are too thin & get snagged by branches along the trail too easily. 

Others are more durable, but are too heavy to enjoy carrying around in your backpack. 

There is a sweet spot somewhere in the middle where durability and weight meet. 

A perfect example is the Nebo Windbreaker Jacket.

Even at just 4 oz, the 20D Ripstop Nylon is tough enough to last through many adventures without making you worried sick about tears and snags.


Wait, aren't windbreakers supposed to block air flow?

Well, mostly. But you need your windbreaker jacket to be breathable at the same time, especially if you are going to be actively hiking or moving!


Some windbreakers don't breathe at all - which is essentially like wearing a plastic bag. 

This can create HUGE problems for you down the road.  While hiking your body will be putting out more heat, and without anywhere to go that heat will increase the rate at which your body also creates moisture. 

Your base layers will be soaked with sweat before you know it!

The same thing happens when you add on more insulation layers while your hiking instead of using a breathable windbreaker. Your body overheats, sweats, get's you wet, and then that moisture pulls heat out of your body once you stop, making you feel much colder than you originally were. 


To avoid all that, find a windbreaker that is actually breathable!

The best active windbreaker will block most wind & air flow, while breathing just enough to keep your temperature in the right place while you're moving. 

One really effective & frequently used combination is to wear a windbreaker over a fleece top (active mid layer) in cold weather. A fleece doesn't block airflow on it's own, so in windy conditions it's not enough to keep you warm. But by adding a windbreaker, you're allowing that insulation to do it's job while still maintaining breathability!

The right windbreaker will be something you can use on almost any trip, any time of year.  You can even use it as a part of your layering system in the dead of winter!

Again, a good example of this is the Nebo Windbreaker Jacket. It was designed for active use & is breathable enough to wear all day while hiking - I've tried! 

You don't have to stop and take it off because you've overheated. It works really well at helping you regulate your body temperature!


Benefit To Weight Ratio

A windbreaker jacket that's durable yet ultralight & breathable will have the highest benefit to weight ratio out of any of your gear (with the exception of a good baselayer you use all year)!

You can use it for more hours per year than almost any other item. 

The amount of warmth & protection a good windbreaker can give you for just a few ounces of weight is quite surprising! It'll take the edge off in any season & takes up hardly any space in your backpack. 

For such a lightweight & simple item, a windbreaker is incredibly effective at retaining the right amount of heat while on the move, & also maintaining enough breathability to prevent overheating. 


It's the most underrated piece of backpacking gear! If you haven't already, I would recommend trying one out. 

You won't regret it.


 For more information about the Nebo Windbreaker, watch this video:


I wish you made medium tall sizing

Tadej May 01, 2023

How should your windbreaker fit. Do you want a bigger size so you can wear it over your other layers, or snug like an active hoodie?

Joe Martinez May 01, 2023

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Living Ultralight is not just about the lowest pack weight. It's about more enjoyable experiences!

Tayson Whittaker