Running Windbreaker: 4 Fall-Weather Jackets + How to Pick One

Looking for a running windbreaker to help you put in the miles?

You know...to take the chill off and keep you from getting soaked when you go for a run this fall and winter.

Not all running windbreakers are created equal. The truth: Some do the job better than others.

Runner Brynn Cunningham put some running windbreakers to the test for some fall-weather running.

In this post, you're going to learn:

👉How to pick a running windbreaker and what to look for,

You'll also get Brynn's review + list of pros and cons for the following running windbreakers:

🏃‍♀️ The Oiselle Wallace
🏃‍♀️The Patagonia Houdini
🏃‍♀️The Salomon Agile Wind
🏃‍♀️The Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid

Canyon Edge Trail, Ohiopyle, PA, October 2021 (Photo/Brynn Cunningham)

Gear up for fall weather with a running windbreaker

It’s autumn in the northeastern United States and many parts of the world.

With the changes that autumn brings comes a change in the way we dress for running.

This time of year (and in the springtime) calls for my favorite trail running uniform: 

Looking for a running windbreaker for fall-weather runs and training?

You need a running windbreaker to...

  • Cut the chill of the first mile
  • Block the wind, hence its name, which picks up this time of year
  • Shed easily, like tying it around the waist
  • Stow well in a running pack 
  • Be versatile and, for the most part, three-season friendly 
If you're looking for a running windbreaker, these 👆👆 are the things you need to look for.

When your running windbreaker dies...

The first type of running specific outerwear I owned was a stretchy, hooded Under Armour zip up, given to me in my early 20s.

It was more like a shirt than a jacket, and it’s what I wore for all chilly runs. At that time, I didn’t run much more than half marathon distances and never ran for more than an hour in the winter.

Mileage and duration of runs began increasing in my late 20s.

Around that same time, I was given a red Mountain Hardwear rain jacket, model unknown. 

It lasted five years before the insides began peeling away. I used it for running, biking, hiking, rock climbing, commuting and everyday. 

After the demise of the Mountain Hardwear jacket...

...I invested in the Oiselle Wallace.

I believe Oiselle does not make the Wallace anymore, perhaps for good reason. 

  • I wanted to love the jacket, but I was too used to companies like Mountain Hardwear that specialize in extreme outdoor sports.
  • I wanted the Wallace to be my jacket for all-year trail running, something that would protect and shelter me on hours-long trail runs far from home through snow, hail, whipping wind, exposed ridges and the like. 
The Wallace did not live up to my expectations.

I’ll tell you why...

Oiselle Wallace Jacket purchased Nov. 2015. Author is 5’ 3 ¾ ” and wearing a size small.

The Oiselle Wallace Running Windbreaker

What I Do Not Love About the Oiselle Wallace:
  • Size small is baggy - the armpits are huge, sleeves floppy and torso too wide - I should have exchanged it for an extra small
  • The hood is useless - it does not cinch, is not fitted around the face and simply flies off the head; thus, I removed it and have no idea where it is at the moment, it’s that useless 
  • The jacket itself does not zip up to the neck - I don’t know about you, but having my throat exposed makes me COLD (see pic above) 
  • The neck hole is large and gaping - again, this brings in wind and cold air
  • The main zipper is challenging - it’s small and not easy to grip or line up to begin zipping up
  • The back pocket fits a phone, but the pocket is detached from the back material and beats against the back the entire time
Despite its cons, I have made the most of the jacket. Here’s how: 
  • I wear it when coaching/ volunteering for the local high school track team and for 30-to 45-minute easy road runs around my house when the weather is cool but tame 
  • I use it for cool weather, muddy bike rides because the dark color doesn’t stain from the mud
  • The back pocket fits a phone, which I like taking in case of emergencies when biking (not running, see why above), plus accessories like gloves or beanies
  • I like the looks of it more than the functionality, so I wear it while running errands or to a trail head then remove it before running 

My 3 favorite water-resistant running windbreakers

Perhaps these days Oiselle makes a better fitted, elements-ready jacket with more attention to detail. Or perhaps I was looking in the wrong place for what I wanted. 

Either way, I was not prepared to find out, so I sought long-standing, outdoor-specific brands more in tune with trail running for my next windbreaker investments. 

1. The Patagonia Houdini

When the Wallace was not meeting my needs season after season, I finally bought the Patagonia Houdini and highly recommend it to anyone who asks. 
Patagonia Houdini. Author is 5’ 3 ¾ ” and wearing a size small.

Purchase details:

  • Purchase date: February 2019
  • Price paid: $69
  • Retails for $99
  • Paid for with a Worn Wear trade-in gift card

Author’s specs, for sizing reference:

Height: 5’ 3 ¾”
Waist: 27 inches
Chest/bust: 35 inches
Weight: last weighed in August 2021 at 121 pounds, generally ranges from 121-125 pounds
 
Note: I wear size extra small in all Patagonia tops but went with small for the Houdini, which is slim-fitted and fits thermal-weight shirts underneath without becoming too tight.

What I love about the Houdini

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Simple, minimal, no hand or back pockets
  • One small chest zipper pocket for keys or thin gloves
  • Long-enough sleeves that go just below the wrist
  • Fitted hood that stays in place
  • A go-to for light rain, autumn mornings, and even below freezing temperatures layered on top of thermal running clothes
  • Folds up into the chest pocket/ stows easily 
  • Many color choices 
  • Zips up to the chin, covering the throat
  • Four-season friendly 
  • Fits well underneath a Patagonia Nano Puff Vest for very cold days
  • My go-to for drizzly summertime camping trips
  • Hat and beanie fits well under the hood
  • Bottom hem has a toggle that cinches around the hips
  • Dries quickly - I avoid overwashing my windbreakers and like to hang them up to dry for the next adventure; the Houdini dries the quickest of all three; within 24 hours of being drenched, it is ready to go the next day

2. The Salomon Agile Wind

The Houdini was getting a lot of wear, and even though I only wash it after every four to five uses, when it is washing and hanging up to dry, I find myself scrambling for something to wear. 

Then the Agile Wind went on clearance. I bought it and am happy I did.

Salomon Agile Wind. Author is 5’ 3 ¾ ” and wearing a size small.

Purchase details:

  • Purchase date: February 2021
  • Price paid: $40 during an online Salomon sale
  • Retails for $100

Author’s specs, for sizing reference:

Height: 5’ 3 ¾”
Waist: 27 inches
Chest/bust: 35 inches
Weight: last weighed in August 2021 at 121 pounds, generally ranges from 121-125 pounds
 
Note: I wear size small in most Salomon but an extra small in some shorts and hoodie dresses

What I love about the Salomon Agile Wind:

  • Extremely soft, cozy and comfortable - the fabric feels oh so nice
  • Stretchy 
  • Long-enough sleeves that go just below the wrist - I can even ball my hands into fists and stick them in the sleeves
  • Hood hugs the face with elastic and stays in place with a slight, soft bill that blocks rain
  • Two hand pockets - I stash extra hand warmers and mittens if I’m not running with a pack
  • Fits well in my collection of windbreakers as it is a bit heavier and warmer than the Houdini
  • Size small fits true to size
  • Hat and beanie fits well under the hood
  • My go-to for very cold runs, such as below freezing, with thermals layered underneath 
  • Zips up to the chin, covering the throat

3. The Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid

The reasons I added yet a third running jacket to my collection: 

  • The blaze hunter orange color, because hunters hunt where I run and mountain bike for a third of the year
  • It was advertised as waterproof and finding an affordable, actually waterproof/ running specific jacket is a challenge (turns out it DOES NOT withstand two-hour downpours, which is why I’ve classified it as a windbreaker/water resistant)
Even though the Helium Hybrid is not as waterproof as I wanted, Outdoor Research really got it right with the details, and I highly recommend it.
Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid Hooded Jacket. Author is 5’ 3 ¾ ” and wearing a size extra small.

Purchase details:

Purchase Details: 
  • Purchase date: March 2021
  • Price paid: $57.98 on closeout from enwild.com
  • Retails for $144.95

Author’s specs, for sizing reference:

Height: 5’ 3 ¾”
Waist: 27 inches
Chest/bust: 35 inches
Weight: last weighed in August 2021 at 121 pounds, generally ranges from 121-125 pounds

What I love about the Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid:

  • Stretchy, breathable side and under-arm panels
  • Slim fit that hugs the body 
  • The blaze hunter orange color 
  • Hood adjusts in the back with a toggle and cinches very closely to the face
  • Hood has a structured bill, which keeps out snowflakes and rain
  • Withstands hail as much as a jacket can!
  • Two hand pockets and one chest pocket 
  • Zips up to the chin, covering the throat
  • Easy-to-grip zippers
  • Velcro panel that covers the zipper when zipped all the way up
  • Packs into its chest pocket
  • Sleeves cinch at the ends, keeping wind and water out 
  • Waterproof for about 1.5 hours in heavy rain, but after a two-hour backpacking trip in torrential downpours, it was saturated through the side-panel areas and slightly on the chest. 
  • With that said, it is the warmest and most weather and wind resistant compared to the Houdini or Agile Wind - I wore it on a 20-mile trail run through strong, intermittent snow storms, hail storms and high winds once and was very glad I had grabbed the Helium Hybrid from my closet that day. I was dry underneath at the end of that run.

Looking for a running windbreaker?

I hope this helps you find your favorite running windbreaker or windbreaker collection to keep you outside year round.

Happy all-season running! 

Do you have a favorite running windbreaker? Let us know in the comments! Or create a WeeView about it.
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Brynn Cunningham 234
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, backcountry skier, yogi, mom and writer. www.inhaleexhalerun.com

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