Are windbreakers the same thing as rain jackets? No. Can windbreakers be worn as rain jackets? In some instances, yes. How, you might ask? Let’s get into that. While windbreakers and rain jackets are two separate things, a windbreaker can indeed be worn on a rainy day when you don’t have a rain jacket on hand. In this post, we will go over a few things you need to know about the trusty windbreaker.
First, let’s talk a little bit about the core differences between a windbreaker and a rain jacket. That way, once you are familiar with the characteristics, you can decide how you’d like to wear either article of outerwear clothing. Windbreakers are famously more lightweight than rain jackets, meaning they are great for light hiking in a climate where it is both warm and rainy. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to hike in 90-degree weather in a thick rain jacket, even if it was lightly drizzling. You'd just need a water-resistant outer shell (which is the windbreaker).
Another fabulous feature about windbreakers is that because they are so lightweight, they are easy to pack. So if you don’t want to carry around a bulky rain jacket on a hike, just roll up a windbreaker that won’t take up much space, and stuff it in your backpack.
The main difference is that rain jackets (as the name suggests) function primarily to keep rain out, whereas windbreakers mainly protect against the wind. Now, that doesn’t mean a windbreaker can’t protect against the rain at all. It just won’t do as good of a job as a proper rain jacket might. And a rain jacket will offer some protection from the wind, but not as much as a windbreaker. The moral of the story? Pack a windbreaker if there is a chance of light rain but strong winds, and pack a rain jacket for days when you expect a torrential downpour.
Rain jackets, because they are made with multiple layers, tend to be rather inflexible, meaning they are not very comfortable to wear when you have to move around a lot. Because windbreakers are far more lightweight and airy, they are much better choices when you anticipate a lot of physical activity. A windbreaker will offer plenty of protection against the wind and some protection against rain (since it’s made of water-resistant material), but a rain jacket will be much better at keeping out the rain. But for those days when you plan to go on a rigorous hike and need plenty of freedom of movement, windbreakers are the way to go.
Windbreakers are much more air-permeable (think breathable material) than rain jackets. Windbreakers are designed with one thin layer of material, which means they are much better outerwear choices for aerobic exercises, like hiking, jogging, or walking on a gray, windy, slightly rainy day. This breathability is something you want to keep in mind when shopping for windbreakers. High-quality windbreakers will offer more air permeability than cheaply made alternatives, so pay attention to the quality and type of material before buying anything.
Because rain jackets are designed with multiple layers, they are generally accepted as the more durable option. However, a low-quality rain jacket won’t provide the greatest amount of durability because of the cheap material. Windbreakers are typically more delicate and won’t offer adequate protection in heavy rain. But a windbreaker made with a high-quality, wind-resistant, waterproof fabric can offer enough protection in light rain and high winds. Essentially, it will all depend on the circumstances in which you wear either jacket and the jacket's material.
Whether you are shopping for women’s rain jackets or boys’ jackets in a windbreaker style or anything in between, it helps to know what else to pair these outerwear pieces with. Windbreakers are great for rigorous activity, so they pair best with running shoes or hiking boots. Rain jackets serve the purpose of effectively keeping rain out, which means you’ll also want footwear that’ll properly protect your feet from water, like rain boots. And then, there are the accessories that would go with either a rain jacket or a windbreaker, such as unisex hats which serve to keep you extra warm on a windy day.
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