There’s a moment in a lot of hikes and trail runs I’ve been on where you’re moving at a reasonable pace, generating a fair amount of body heat, and your layering system is more or less keeping up warm… except for the nagging icy wind that penetrates to your shoulders and arms especially, chilling you unpleasantly. Just adding a more insulated layer will only cause you to overheat, and may not even cut out the wind particularly effectively if it’s fairly air-permeable, while a waterproof shell will be heavy and insufficiently breathable.
It’s at this moment that you want one of the super-light windroof, water-resistant shells that a lot of manufacturers make. My chosen one is the Arc’Teryx Squamish, an incredibly lightweight (155g) and packable hooded windshell.
Despite being so light as to be almost unnoticeable, both in your bag and on your body, the windproof powers of the jacket are incredible. On my recent Snowdon hike, the wind really picked up as we approached the summit and was starting to bite through my lightweight Rab fleece. As soon as I put the jacket on I had the weird sensation of still being able to feel the pressure of the wind against my arm, but absolutely none of the chill of it getting through. There is no doubt that this jacket does what it says, and blocks even the 35-40mph winds we experienced. With the hood on and the zip done up to the top, I managed to completely shut out the sub-zero winds on the summit.
It’s not designed to be a waterproof jacket, but it does have a DWR coating which, if maintained, will certainly keep you dry in light showers, dense fog/cloud and so on.
To save weight, the jacket is fairly light on features with just a single drawcord at the back of the hood to tighten it, and a soft brim. It also has an adjustable elasticated draw cord at the waist, which is a really nice feature to keep it in place, stop it flapping about, and seal out winds. The sleeves have a simple Velcro fastener which makes it easier to adjust over various garments, or to push up the sleeve which is something I sometimes do when I’m on a run and I’m trying to keep a cold wind off my torso, but want my forearms to be bare.
The jacket is equally good for running – the light weight and breathability making it ideal for trail runs on cold windy days, such as the Pilgrims Challenge run I did around this time last year, on an incredibly windy weekend. Its ‘athletic’ fit and shaped forearms make it comfortable to run in to the point that you barely notice it is there. My one issue when running was that I had the hood down and it kept flapping around in my peripheral vision which was distracting without being a real issue. On future occasions I would just know in advance to bring something along a bit of elastic or even tape or something that I could use to secure it.
Although I don’t have enough experience of other similar products to make a direct comparison (my brother will no doubt at some point provide me with a guest review of his similar jacket from Rab) I can highly recommend this to any hiker or trail runner who wants something light and packable that they can reliably use to keep off the worst winds.