Wind Jackets, Take 2

Greetings all,

So a few weeks ago, on February 18, 2015, I published an article entitled ‘Wind Jackets: Montbell Tachyon, Patagonia Houdini, ZPacks Wind Shell‘ and it appears it caused a bit of ruckus around the world.

It seems to have done so for for a few reasons:

  1. because the results where not what people wanted to hear about their favorite wind jacket
  2. because some of the results did not make sense
  3. because some of the data used was, at best, guesses due to incomplete testing
  4. because I am a horrible writer and cannot properly explain things

Now which of these issues people seemed to have issues with, or heck, all of them, the facts are the facts:

  1. Yes, some of the fabrics were not tested (specific this mysterious ‘Ventum’ fabric that zpacks is using – and I have no idea if zpacks make up that name or if the manufacturer did)
  2. Yes, some of what I explained did not make sense (and I suspect some of it will continue to not make sense – except for those who understand the crazy ways and terms that fabrics are tested – I will admit, some of it still makes me go “huh?!”)

But, as my long time readers know, I strive to make things right.

Since that initial article, ZPacks sent Richard Nisley (the awesome guy behind all this crazy testing and data and reporting) some samples of both of the fabrics that they use for their wind jackets.

Richard has now tested these two Pertex fabrics that the ZPacks wind jacket uses and he has posted his results – so thanks Richard!

He has also posted a number of other results that you really should take the time read and review to really understand all of this stuff.

Now, you having just spent the last hour reading through all of those different posts I just linked to… if all those numbers and odd sounding terms make NO sense to you, well, no worries, as I am going to break down the results to the simplest possible way that I can think of, by going back to the same basic questions I asked in my last article and which Richard was kind enough to provide answers to.

The Updated Results:

So with Richard, having now tested the fabrics from zpacks, let us once again answer my “lets dumb it down questions“:

Wind Jackets:

Montbell Tachyon

Montbell Tachyon Anorak

Patagonia Houdini (2015)

ZPacks Wind Shell (Blue Ventum)

ZPacks Wind Shell (Green Pertex GL)

(both montbell tachyon wind jackets use the same 7d fabric)

The Questions & Answers:

Taking on the issue of breathability:

Question: Can you please place, in order of best to worst, these jackets when it comes to breathability.

Answer: Montbell Tachyon, Montbell Tachyon Anorak, ZPacks Ventum, ZPacks Green Pertex, Patagonia Houdini

Taking on the issue of waterproofness:

Question: Can you please place, in order of best to worst, these jackets when it comes to the waterproofness.

Answer: Patagonia Houdini, ZPacks Ventum & Montbell Tachyon & Montbell Tachyon Anorak (nearly identical), ZPacks Green Pertex

Taking on the issue of wind resistance:

Question: Can you please place, in order of best to worst, these jackets when it comes to wind resistance.

Answer: Patagonia Houdini, ZPacks Ventum, ZPacks Green Pertex, Montbell Tachyon & Montbell Tachyon Anorak (identical)

The best ‘middle of the road’ option:

Question: Can you please place, in order of best to worse, the jackets when it comes to the “middle of the road”.

Answer: (Based on assumed rank order objectives: MET <7, CFM, HH, Weight): Montbell Tachyon & Montbell Tachyon Anorak (identical), ZPacks Ventum, ZPacks Green Pertex, Patagonia Houdini

In Conclusion:

So, there you have it folks. This is the most recent data that is available to us when it comes to these wind jackets rank and how they rank.

Now, I want to be open and honest about something, you can take these four questions and pretty much throw three of them right out – yes, I said that, and yes you read that right.

The reality here, folks, is that we are comparing WIND JACKETS!!!

A wind jacket is NOT a rain jacket.

A wind jacket is NOT a highly breathable garment.

A wind jacket IS DESIGNED TO BLOCK WIND.

So if your goal in buying a wind jacket is to actually block wind (what a great concept) then the only real question you should be asking is the third question, “taking on the issue of wind resistance“.

At the end of it all, what we have to remember is that all of these jackets are so relatively close together that buying any one works – it just does not really matter all that much which one you pick(ed). I know folks are going to huff-and-puff about me saying this, but let us just be open, honest, and clear about all of this. A wind jacket exists to BLOCK WIND and ALL of these wind jackets will get that job done.

If you really want to know which one you should buy, well, here is my response to you:

  1. If you want a hoodless wind jacket go with the Montbell Tachyon, or:
  2. If you want a hooded wind jacket, well, here are your options, in order of the highest (best) to least (worst) amount of wind resistance:
    1. The Patagonia Houdini — it has a MSRP of $99, is 113 g (4 oz) and is made in Vietnam.
    2. The ZPacks Wind Jacket — it has a MSRP of $115, is 54 g (1.95 oz) and is made in the USA
    3. The Montbell Tachyon Anorak — it has a MSRP of $99, is 55 g (1.9 oz) and is made in Vietnam.

It really all does come down to that one basic question.

Everything else, is just a whole bunch of specs and numbers. The reality is, a wind jacket is designed to BLOCK THE WIND. They are ALL going to eventually cause you to build up heat and sweat. They are ALL going to eventually get saturated if you wear them as the outermost layer when it is raining. A WIND JACKET is designed to be a WIND JACKET.

So all that said, I want to again thank Richard Nisley for the insane amount of work he put into helping me with this article, and the greater and global hiking community. The data Richard has tested and provided gives us the data we need to really answer that one important question. If you need those numbers for yourself, well, reference the bunch of links I already linked to at the top of this article.

At some point, we just have to call a given topic, “answered”. Richard Nisley has given us that answer. Case closed in my book.

For those wondering: I bought a Montbell Tachyon many years ago, before I become a sponsored hiker of montbell, and it is what I still use. That said, if I were to buy one today I would go with either a Montbell Tachyon Anorak or the ZPacks Wind Shell (Blue Ventum). The wind blocking ability of the Patagonia Houdini might make it be the best at blocking wind, but at twice the weight of every other wind jacket listed — and you all know how I feel about that :-D

Thank you,

+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com

In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that at the time this article is published that I am a sponsored hiker of Black Rock Gear, Montbell US, Suluk46, Sun Precautions, Suntactics.

ps: if any of the information within this article is incorrect, the blame rests fully on me.

15 thoughts on “Wind Jackets, Take 2

  1. Well John, another pat on the back for more great informative writing. And let me add, all the previous chunks of information.
    Thanks again……..

  2. “So a few weeks ago, on March 18, 2015…” I see you have back to the future again John. Thanks for the great piece, as usual.

  3. I still love my North Face Verto (which was also in Richards recent testing with the other ZPacks materials) and it resulted in a pretty low CFM… meaning, it don’t breath worth a durn… but I’ll tell ya, it blocks wind like a champ, and the full front zip gives me all the ventilation I need… Plus, at 2.9 oz it is impressively light… As I said before though, if I were doing it again now, I would go with the ZPacks wind jacket, but it’s not worth it to me at this point to spend another $115 to save almost an oz… :)

    ~Stick~

    1. Hey Chad, I have the data for the Verto but it appears it has been removed from TNF catalog, so I could see no reason in adding it into the list. It does have good numbers on its side.

      And yeah, same here, not going to drop $115 bucks for another wind jacket when I got one already.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. It seems to me the fabric manufacturer should list the MET, CFM, HH mm, oz per they offer for sale to those who produce the products to sell.

    By that means, the end result can be targeted by those who produce end-user products for their customer’s intended use.

    I know I would like a product hang-tag to have one rain drop for “light showers” to more raindrops for “steady rain” and one windy symbol “light breeze” to more windy symbol for “strong gusts”.

    Like that.

  5. I am on my second Montbell Tachyon jacket. Tiny, light and windproof and works fine. I have used it in Japan, Ireland, Austria and Canada and take it on every hike. I do not use the hoodie as I use the BlackRock Gear Down hat for head or just a buff. If things get serious I use my Zpacks rain jacket for full coverage and rain protection as well as wind. It is also light. I will visit the Montbell store in Shikoku Japan next week to pick up a sleeping BAG (900 #5) AND AN ex-light JACKET. Their gear is superb and with the 900 Fill DWR is feather (sic) light.
    The importaqnt question .. “How many of each thing do you need?” ANSWER: “One more than you already have”. At least that is what I tell herself!
    Thanks for the update.

  6. So John these rating are best to worst in the category of wind shirts with a CFM of 10 or less correct?

    Which Mr Nisley says”There are a large number of light weight wind shirts available with CFM values less than 10. If you want something to wear for low MET activities, they are great choices.”

    “Backpacking is an activity that averages 7 MET; that is the highest indefinitely sustainable MET .” Which Mr Nisley said around 35 CFM is optimal for.

    I think this article is a little misleading though. If it was title was “The best 10CFM and under wind shirts ” that would be one thing.

    However this makes it seem that Mr Nisley recommends a 10 CFM or under wind shirts for backpacking which he doesn’t.

    In the end I think everyone should use what works best for their personal needs whether is a wind shrrt with a 35cfm or one that is higher or lower.

    Keep up the thought provoking articles John they are enjoyable reads…

    Oh and sorry for the terrible typing…. doing it on a tablet doesn’t work the greatest….

    Thanks again John this is one of my favorite sites learn a lot here….

    1. >>>> In the end I think everyone should use what works best for their personal needs whether is a wind shirt with a 35cfm or one that is higher or lower.

      I agree, folks should use what they have or what they are able to acquire within their budget. I think I basically said this in the article…. its all just a bunch of numbers… what matters is that your gear does what it was designed to do. If I need a wind jacket and I don’t have one with me, but I have a rain jacket, and I can safely use it without having thermoregulation issues for a short while, why hike along freezing from cold wind when you already have something that can help with that. Eh.

      1. I don’t think budget enters into it: people spend a great deal of money on “performance” clothing.

        I think the manufacturer of the fabric has an obligation to provide the specifications to the purchasers of fabric, and then, that information provided by those who produce goods on to the end-use customer.

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