ultralight wind shell reviews

The Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell.

The Best Ultralight Hiking and Running Jackets of 2024

By Michael Lanza

You’re out on an all-day hike or a long climb or trail run or ride in the mountains. The weather forecast looked pretty good before you set out—but no one shared that memo with the wind that just started hammering your summit ridge, or the spitting rain and hail now pelting you as you contemplate the sudden drop in temperature and the miles between you and shelter. The question now is: What’s in your pack?

If you’re smart, it’s an ultralight jacket that takes up little space, but is about to gift you with just the right amount of weather protection when you need it.

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The Arc’teryx Norvan Windshell Jacket.

Review: Arc’teryx Norvan Windshell Jacket

Ultralight Wind Shell
Arc’teryx Norvan Windshell Jacket
$130, 3.2 oz./91g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XXS-XXL
Men’s: arcteryx.com
Women’s: arcteryx.com

On winter and spring trail runs in my local foothills in every combination of cool to cold wind or calm air and overcast to sunny skies, and on a hike-scramble of 11,330-foot Twin Peaks in Utah’s Wasatch Range—nearly nine miles with 6,200 vertical feet of up and down—on a sunny October day with temps ranging from the 40s to the 50s Fahrenheit and cool wind at times, the Arc’teryx Norvan Windshell Jacket demonstrated its strengths and minor shortcomings as one of the very lightest of the many ultralight wind shells you’ll find today.

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The Mountain Hardwear Kor Airshell Hoody.

Review: Mountain Hardwear Kor Airshell Hoody

Ultralight Wind Shell
Mountain Hardwear Kor Airshell Hoody
$150, 5.1 oz./145g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL

After sweating hard on a sunny and humid June morning hiking up the headwall of Huntington Ravine—the steepest and hardest trail on Mount Washington—we hit the cool wind blowing across the mountain’s alpine terrain. I pulled on my Kor Airshell Hoody and it tamed that wind while breathing so well that the wet sun shirt against my skin dried out quickly. And that pattern of sweating and hitting wind kept repeating itself on that two-day, 21-mile hut trek in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range, providing plenty of opportunities for the Kor to show off its strengths.

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Mammut Kento Light HS Hooded Jacket.

Review: Mammut Kento Light HS Hooded Jacket

Ultralight Rain Jacket Mammut Kento Light HS Hooded Jacket $219, 5.5 oz./156g (men’s medium) Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s S-XL backcountry.com When the sky darkened with foreboding, black and gray clouds that suddenly obliterated the sharply angled peaks flanking the John Muir Trail in the Evolution Basin of Kings Canyon National Park, I pulled on the ultralight Mammut Kento Light HS …

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The Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoody.

Review: Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie

Ultralight Wind Shell
Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie
$129, 5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XS-XL

If, besides very low weight, versatility counts for everything in an ultralight wind shell, the variety of places, weather, and seasons I’ve worn OR’s wafer-thin Helium Wind Hoodie speaks volumes about its value. From hiking up and sometimes running down crazy-steep trails in fall and the earliest days of spring in Utah’s Wasatch, Canada’s Banff National Park, New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and Idaho’s Boise Foothills, to the breezy heights of Hawaii’s high point, 13,803-foot Mauna Kea, and the windblown depths of the Grand Canyon, this shell fended off cool wind while taking up no more space in my daypack than my long-sleeve jersey.

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