Thoughts on Windbreakers (vs Rain Jacket)

I was wondering if anyone’s done this experiment, that is, before I go and spend more bob.

Quick background:
I’ve now had my third jacket fail on me. Have owned TNF, Columbia and even Gore. Depending on use 3-5yrs max before they wet out, membrane disintegrates, seam tape delaminate and so on. Also, they’re mostly like saunas when in use. I have not owned a 3L jacket, which seem best solution for durability. Have tried umbrellas, ponchos and just being a tough guy too. The latter being my simplest solution yet. I’m tired of the Waterproof/Breathable (WP/B) bullshite and it’s concomitant costs. Point being that these WP/B items soon stop working as promised and then turn into wet hot expensive sacks.

The situation
So it’s fairly well established you’re going to get wet. Main issue being hypothermia. Smaller concerns are rashes, fungal infections, maceration etc. Hypothermia once you’re wet and wind robs you of heat via conduction (extreme case scenario). Drying out at some point is key. And warming up.

Has anyone tried using an effective windbreaker instead of a rain jacket/shell?
With a good base-layer of course.

My thinking is
It should be windproof-ish (thus mitigating heat loss via said conduction once wet)
It will dry quicker (thus mitigating…)
It will be more “breathable” (arhh that term), thus allowing evaporation from base-layer.
It will be cheaper.
It will be smaller, lighter.

If any of you have tried this out I’d like to hear.
Thinking about std windbreakers with a hoody.

p.s. I used to cycle a bit about 10-15yrs ago, in Jhb. Often getting blasted in thunderstorms and always wearing a windbreaker. Now I recall that I managed fine, never froze, cycling in effect mimicking wind chill (a little) and that I’d dry quickly too. but I’m also sure I’d take shelter at times and that a hot shower awaited me end of day. So I was less concerned. But Jhb is not the Drakensberg escarpment.

I’m also not especially worried about being wet, to be frank. For me, when it gets really nasty I just pop up my tent and drink hot chocolate.


Decent base layer that dries quickly (with rain jacket or windbreaker).

Then when you stop; take action to get/keep warm (before you get cold)…this could mean a change of clothes (i.e.: raingear off, warm jersey on) or warm drink or…but at least out of rain & wind.

The caution to be applied here is if you wet out all your dry kit and have no means to easily raise body temperature.

Other side of it is to slow pace, use pit zips; open cuffs; open hood; wet hat to cool down /slow sweating during exertion. Challenge in the Berg during warmer weather is it’s very difficult to manage the inside wetness.

I used to use a cycling wind shell (very light & small) during all but very cold (wet) weather…then just manage the dryness (and warmth) at camp. I also tend to dislike base layers that wick too quickly during summer…end up losing too much fluid/minerals & then end up with cramp (I daren’t suggest cotton - although it isn’t the best in keeping you warm, but it has a place in keeping you cool & losing less minerals).

Currently use a BD shell with pitzips that works well, but I still get damp if working hard.
Hope this makes sense…typing on the fly. :smile:


I use a Second Skins running jacket over my long sleeve shirt if the rain is not to heavy or a rain jacket over it in harder rain. The extra layer form a barrier so I can’t feel the wet but then as soon as the rain stops or weather improves the rain jacket comes of. On cold days I wear a thin fleece if needed and the running jacket is fairly wind proof, it use to be water repellent but that has long gone. It also seems to dry out quite quickly as its very breathable.


Hi Carl , have you tried GORE-TEX PRO shell ? I know they are the most expensive solution, but in my experience it’s worth every cent. If u wash it correctly and regularly it will remain breathable and water repellent for years. There are many different GORE products that are not the same as the PRO fabric that don’t do a great job. Obviously proper base layer and managing heat with pit zips still necessary but waaaaay less than with any other shells I have used / including Patagonia/ North Face with their own fancy fabrics.


Really depends on where you are hiking. A common mistake with the more expensive jackets is to buy one designed for snow instead of rain. I haven’t hiked in the Cape Mountains in particularly bad weather, but I’ve endured many Drakensberg storms where you are drenched within minutes irrespective of what you do - so I know what you mean. A good raincoat still reduces how much water gets through, and provides decent wind protection - a non-waterproof jacket will be an absolute disaster in a situation like that.

Notably soft shells were actually designed for this exact reason, although I’d never use a soft shell as an outer layer in South Africa. Perhaps under a rain coat, and when it stops raining it will hopefully dry faster.

Yes, you have to replace your raincoats surprisingly often and they aren’t cheap, but its a cost of hiking in a country where the temperature is not cold enough for it to snow that often, but its cold and windy enough that hypothermia are real risks. Just the nature of the game.

My sleeping bag once got wet despite being in a plastic bag inside a water-resistant pack under a splash cover. So I’m not entirely convinced that anything will keep you entirely dry in a bad storm.

I was reading up about Messner’s tent designs used on 8000ers - where he notes its easy to make a lightweight tent for high altitude in Nepal, seeing as you only get snow, never rain - so you don’t have to bother with seam sealing etc. But the same tents won’t work in the Alps (or South Africa) because its too wet.


Some interesting views here.

The poor beleaguered cotton. And yet I’m always soaking my Columbia UPF sun-shirts in rivers on hot days and slapping them back on. As you say @MikeLima everything has a place, and time.
I think yours and @Berghiker 's methods do answer my questions. But there’s obviously a point beyond which you cannot go with a windbreaker, as @Ghaznavid also illustrates.

@1armbandit No have not looked at GT-Pro, will snoop around. I am currently eyeing out a Salomon jacket (on sale) with Pertex Shield 3L. In the defence of jackets in general I should add I’ve dug a bit deeper and looked closer to note my two most recent jackets did not in fact have ‘membranes’ but had ‘coatings’ instead, that white layer literally painted on the inside of the outer fabric. Which wears off quick-stix. Perhaps a membrane based WP/B would last longer, and give me less to sniff over?

As always it’s nuanced and situation particular. Main point being able to warm-up / dry-off at some point. In my youth I hiked loads in the E.Cape, Witteklip, Cockscomb etc. Back then waterproofs were those plastic things flashers and paedos wear, so we wore none, being young and clean of soul. Maybe some army kit which was never ideal, tough, but heavy and nasty; and a bit GV. I had a nice thick Norwegian jersey I used to wear, even in light rain. But to pretend we didn’t suffer at times would be a rose tinted lenses lie.

My impression this far is a windbreaker would no longer be an effective barrier against wind chill once thoroughly soaked, this especially relevant on the escarpment, or Cape winter eg Cedeberg. In warmer climes 'n times not an issue, not really at least.

Thanks for feedback.



As Ghaz mentioned, these things have to be replaced ever so often.
Mine last 2 jackets have lasted surprisingly well. The Mountain Hardwear one (can’t remember the name, Drifters used to sell them) lasted a good 7 years, only now started to delaminate at the typical chafe and stretch points like where the hoody section attaches to the main body of the jacket.

The newer teck jackets like TNF use a woven type of material that is now part of the outer shell (as I understand it) so no more delaminating issues. Yes, at some stage you will have to reapply waterproofing, that’s just how it is.

You could also consider carrying a storm shelter along - works well in a sudden downpour, but of course then you are stationary. Works well for sudden Drakensberg storms that typically doesn’t last for very long. I carry mine in any case as I prefer bivvy sleeping. But not in the rain, where this will help - a bit.

Moisture management is one of the most important aspects to manage in alpine environments. This is why these outer shells are breathable. Wearing a windbreaker is a bad idea as your sweat can’t evaporate, which means you will be wet under the windbreaker and as soon as the wind get in here, and your chest area is wet, your chances of getting sick becomes much, much higher. As I found out on my very first Berg hike. Bronchitis nearly turned into pneumonia in my case. The Dr said if I arrived one day later than I did, I would have ended up in hospital.

My current outer shell is a Marmot (don’t know the name offhand), it doesn’t have an E-vent layer like in the Mountain Hardwear jacket, but it has pit zips that goes down to just above the pockets, with the result that it breathes substantially better.

You can of course also go for a poncho, but in really windy conditions these are quite a handfull. I generally carry 2 cheapies (disposables) in my pack, just in case I or somebody else pick up a problem with our outer layers. I have to say, they do work well when you have to answer the call of nature and it is raining outside your tent.

Whatever option you choose, it is vital that you keep moisture off your chest. It may be a while and many miles before you get to a spot where you can heat up or get dry, and you can’t always afford to wait that long. I’ve had multiday hikes where I was in the rain the entire time, except at night in the tent or cave. Getting your torso wet and cold in such cases is generally a bad idea. I found this out the hard way, and after that experience made sure it never happened again.

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Think they’re called Futurelight, or …lite.
To be honest I have an issue with TNF as I’ve had multiple important items fail dismally and dismally quickly. Upon closer inspection I managed to uncover ‘built-in-obsolescence’ for example:
(bear with me)…the seam taping that’s supposed to cover the seams, that are supposed to represent where a needle’s pierced the membrane, simply peeled off, what was revealed was that the membrane/coating stopped short of the seams leaving the only seam tape and outside nylon face fabric, or put a different way - if the strip either side of the seam (without membrane/coating) was 12mm wide, ie 6mm either side of seam, the seam tape only covered 16mm. Thus the second that tape lifted 1-2mm the whole operation started falling to bits leaking like old plumbing. That is slovenly and intentional. A company like TNF should know better. But now I’m just griping…

One of those orange Vango jobbies?
I’ve checked them out, watched a man and his black labrador hide under one in a snow blizzard.
We humans are an odd lot :rofl:

I’m also looking at some Buffalo DP Systems for the future. Someone I know travels to EU/UK often for work, this could pan out. People speak of 20yrs+ for one item.

Anyway, playing with ideas, lots of fun this. Thanks for tips.

This is my other big idea:

Someone once asked me if I had considered something like this. I responded “not yeti”…

Ok, enough bad jokes for today. Back to work.

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aaaoooh :grin: