Dec 19

Gear 104 … The Best Piece Of Clothing I Own

In previous Gear articles I’ve talked about various things I take and wear when hiking. But I’ve neglected to talk about The Best Piece Of Clothing I Own.

I am a little bit hesitant to talk about this thing, because … it’s rather expensive. I’m not sure what convinced me to spend the $ on it. But it’s well worth it.
The Mountain Hardwear Windstopper Tech Jacket is an incredible item.

Before I had this jacket, I used plain hoodies from Target. Cotton. They’re cheap and comfortable. Why would you want anything more? Well…

Cotton Is Evil. I’ve talked about this before. It gets wet … and stays wet. If it drizzles … or if you sweat … then you’ll get cold.

Hoodies aren’t really all that warm. They let the wind blow right through. Again, you’re just cold and miserable.

The Windstopper Jacket is incredible. It’s extremely lightweight. It’s very water resistant. It has Pit Zips, which mean that you don’t get too warm or sweaty.

I’ve worn it in 30 MPH winds on a 33 degree day and been warm.

I’ve worn it on 70 degree days and been comfortable.

I’ve worn it on hikes in the rain and been completely comfortable.

I wear it to work most days and wear it in my over-air-conditioned office.

As the name implies, it is impervious to wind. A breeze that would feel cold in a hoodie feels like … NOTHING in this. It completely stops the wind, leaving me comfortable and unaffected.

It seems to be indestructable. Wash cold, tumble dry low … and it comes out looking exactly like it went in. It hasn’t worn at all in a year and dozens of washings. I suspect I’ll get many more years out of it.

It’s NOT water-proof. Drizzle or a little rain beads up and bounces off, but in a heavier downpour it gets wet. But because it stops the wind entirely it doesn’t FEEL wet and cold even when it is. And because it wicks moisture away from me, it feels a lot dryer than it is too. A few weeks ago I went on a 2 hour hike, and about an hour in it started to rain. I had a full rainsuit – top and pants – in my backpack, but the Mountain Hardwear jacket had me so comfortable I didn’t put it on, I just kept going. I got a little wet, but I felt warm and comfortable the entire time. Last winter I did a 12+ mile hike in a howling rainstorm. For that one I wore the Mountain Hardwear jacket under the rain suit, and again I was completely comfortable even though I wound up soaked. The concept of being soaked – on a 40 degree day – in a howling wind … and being COMPLETELY COMFORTABLE is astonishing.

I don’t have anything to compare this to. I can’t tell you whether this jacket is better than others in its price range, or whether there are options out there that are even better than this one. I just don’t know. But I CAN tell you that I love this jacket, don’t regret splurging for it, and would happily buy another. In fact I did … got one for Elaine, which she likes too.

UPDATE 12/28/2010. REI is a dangerous place to visit! Today I picked up a Mountain Hard Wear Dome Perignon Hat. When it’s cold I wear a normal stretchy stocking cap, but since they let the wind in my ears get cold. The Dome Perignon is a perfect match for the Windstopper jacket … with the same Windstopper material to keep out the wind. No more cold ears, I hope! It’s rainy and cold today and I certainly noticed the difference.

If you’re curious about the Windstopper fabric and my claims about it above, get the hat and try it out … surely a cheaper experiment than the jacket!


  1. Doug

    Need a good top for our rainy season. Thanks for the info.

  2. DavidC

    Good review. Is that jacket a laminate design?

    I’ve been similarly impressed with my Patagonia “Lightweight R4” jacket, which is comfortable at my desk and out in the cold/rain/hail/wind/snow in Oregon last week.

    You can get some great stuff on sale if you’re patient too. I’ve seen the Dome Perignon on sale a couple of times recently.

    “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”

  3. sammydee

    Yeah, fleece outside, windstopper plastic sheet, soft stuff inside – laminated together.

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