It's 50-something degrees out and you're soaked to the bone. You're on an epic ride and your heart is beating like the bass drum of a metal band--fast. While standing at the top of a gnarly climb, you're sure that the well-deserved descent will be steep and send you screaming past moving cars like they're parked on the side of the road. The only dilemma is that you're dripping sweat, fully kitted out in spandex, and going 45 mph sounds awfully chilly and unpleasant. With hypothermia around the corner, you realize you might have to squeal the brakes all the way back down the mountain. Having a windshirt would have turned this epic fail into an epic win.
What Is a Windshirt?
Windshirts are designed with ultralight synthetic fabrics that not only block wind but will also fend off light rain. Most windshirts are considered to be water-resistant because they are coated with a waterproofing agent that causes water to bead up instead of soaking into the fabric--that is, however, still very different from a "waterproof" jacket. Almost all major outdoor brands have their version of this product and a great example is the Patagonia Houdini Jacket.
One of the many benefits of using a windshirt is that they typically breathe really well which means that moisture (sweat) passes through the fabric very easily to keep your body dry and comfortable. Getting wet from the inside is just as bad as getting wet from the outside, right? They're perfect for hikes, bike rides or runs when there's sure to be wind and lots of sweating! Windshirts also come in a variety of bright colors and sometimes with reflective materials, making you highly visible to vehicles if you're road riding or running. They also can weigh as little as 4 ounces, almost always have a way to fold into their own pocket and can be clipped to a belt loop without being cumbersome, making it easy to carry one with you at all times!
There are only a few downsides to using a windshirt. The first is that they're typically not fully waterproof. They aren't designed to act like rain jackets and should never be a substitute on any adventure where getting wet could mean the different between life and death. Instead, windshirts are a great addition to any long adventure or travels, or as a "go to" piece for short jaunts close to home. Windshirts are also not the most durable garments in the closet and special care needs to be taken with them (like washing delicately and hang drying).
To me, a windshirt is an invaluable piece of gear. Just like a survival kit, it's something that I always have stuffed into a small pocket of my pack whether I'm hiking, biking or traveling. It keeps me comfortable when I'm sweating hard in chilly conditions and keeps me visible when I'm riding on the road. Don't be the person white knuckling down the mountain with your brakes engaged because you're too cold to go fast. Bring along a windshirt, and enjoy the fun ride down the mountain that you deserve for having pedaled all the way up!