Earlier today a Facebook user asked what is everyone’s must-have item for the PCT. I didn’t have to think one moment. The answer was simple, a wind jacket. Oddly enough very few people today carry them. The PCT is just as windy as ever. What changed?
A few years back Yogi, Eric D, and I were sitting at Grumpy Bear’s catching up. The bar was packed and we were in a room to the side. All the current year hikers were 3 deep at the bar getting something to eat and drink. One of us commented that everyone at the bar was wearing a down jacket. The three of us sat there in our decade-old Marmot DriClime jackets wondering what these guys wear on the trail when it is windy.
It seems the current trend is hikers use rainwear as a wind barrier. Not something we would recommend. The frequency of windy days on the PCT one will want wind protection 50 – 100 days on a thru-hike. Rainwear isn’t meant to be worn that often without cleaning, washing, and retreating. The DWR coatings eventually wear off and that is expedited with constant use, sandy shoulder straps, and hip belts. I’ve found that wearing a rain jacket every day without care will cause it to fail prematurely. In my experience, it isn’t worth carrying a rain jacket if it won’t keep me dry.
The companies that make rain jackets also make wind jackets. We recommend hikers carry both.
Thankfully Marmot still makes the DriClime jacket. In fact, Marmot introduced the Ether DriClime Hoody it has a hood and pockets plus Marmot made it much lighter.
These fleece lined wind jackets are incredible and last forever.
It may be a bit heavy for some people or not work with their layering ensemble. In that case, a lightweight shell may work better. Black Diamond has a few really impressive light wind shells.
New to the market is the 48g Deploy Wind Shell it packs down to the size of a golf ball plus it has a DWR treatment. We just received these recently and haven’t taken them in the field yet. However, the folks at BD have yet to disappoint us. The amount of high-quality new apparel they are bringing to market is unreal.
Black Diamond also has the updated Alpine Start Hoody
The Alpine Start Hoody plays right in the middle of a wind shell and a lined wind jacket. This is a Schoeller stretch-woven fabric jacket that is perfect for the Sierra. Highly breathable, weather resistant, and lightweight.
Rab offers a really inspiring item the Kinetic Plus Jacket.
Rab positions this as both a soft shell and a rain shell. This may prove to be a good hybrid everyday wind and rain jacket. It has a stretch fabric that has the feel of a softshell jacket. Plus taped seams and a waterproof membrane. It boasts an exceptional breathability rating and waterproof measure. The Kinetic Plus features the nicest hood I have ever tried on. It has a unique stretch panel on the front of the hood. Truly a nice touch.
I’ve been using Rab rainwear for most of my trips since 2010. They are a UK based brand so the zipper is reversed. However, that is a small price to pay for their quality.
All the above jackets are great to wear over a fleece or a t-shirt. They work well during strenuous activity or sitting on a ridge taking in the views. We highly recommend a wind jacket of some sort. Some may last for a decade or more, our Marmot DriClimes have. We wear our DriClimes every day, and someday I will be buried wearing one.
I’ve included care instructions from the manufacturers for the more popular fabrics below. The reality is on a long hike one won’t necessarily have access to Nik Wax products for proper care.