In this inaugural blog post, I talk about my love of windbreakers!
I have worked at Benchmark for the last 6 years! And every year the thing I look forward to the most is how the spring days start to feel extra long with the sun hanging around past 8. It always feels so gratifying to squeeze so much productivity into a day and cap it off by doing something fun in the sun. We are starting to hit that period now, but true to form, Ohio weather just won't commit. And although this is one of my favorite times of the year, I never know how to dress for these kinds of days. I know that I will want short sleeves to catch some afternoon rays but it's way too cold for bare arms on my drive in.
Last year I found the perfect solution to my problem in a garment that I had long regarded as nothing more than a noisy fashion piece from the 80’s. A humble Windbreaker like the Free Fly Breeze Jacket can be such an incredibly versatile piece if you know how to layer properly. Although jackets like this are water-resistant, highly breathable, quick drying, and comfortable, the best thing windbreakers have going for them is how packable they are. How many times have you been caught in a rainstorm with no protection, thinking to yourself how your perfectly good rain jacket is sitting at home in the closet because you didn’t think of it or didn’t have room to pack it. I’m certainly not suggesting that a windbreaker is the perfect replacement for a rain shell, but I think it is often more useful. And unless you’re planning on hanging out in a rain puddle all day, a solid windbreaker can be just enough to get you to your destination.
The biggest thing you lose with a water-resistant shell over a water-proof shell is the membrane. But as you can see in the diagram, if the outer fabric is doing its job, rain shouldn’t even touch the water-proof Membrane until wet out. Wet out is the term used when the outer fabric of a rain jacket is completely saturated. This may not seem so bad because the water-proof membrane will keep that outside water from getting in. However now that there is an impermeable barrier of water on one side of the Gore-Tex, the hot sweaty air that you are producing on the inside of the jacket can’t escape and will condense on the inside lining. This will feel a lot like a leak where rain is coming in, but with a good wash and retreating the outer fabric with a DWR(durable water repellant) like Nikwax TX-Direct the rain will bead up and allow air to move through the membrane.
You can also use TX-Direct to beef up a windbreaker or a puffy jacket, but if you are really caught in a downpour a water-proof rain shell like Patagonia's Torrentshell 3L is still your best bet for staying dry. A windbreaker certainly won’t solve all your problems and you will still want to pack a rain shell for really bad weather, but for a garment that’s so easy to keep handy, it can get you out of a lot of trouble. Whether that’s keeping the rain off your head while getting groceries out of the car, giving you a protective layer when you forgot sunscreen, or giving you just enough warmth to stay for the whole sunset. At the end of the day there is a time and place for everything, but we should try to test new things in new scenarios to see if something works better than before.