Outdoor Research Swiftbreaker Windbreaker Review

The new Outdoor Research Swiftbreaker is like your relative that lives nearby in the big city. The windbreaker trades a certain amount of functionality for form and is a less technical (but undeniably more fashionable and comfy) cousin to some of OR’s more practical garments like the Helium Wind Hoodie.

Outdoor Research Switfbreaker at a Glance

  • MSRP: $99
  • Weight: 7.66 ounces men’s medium (my own measurement)
  • Material: 100% recycled polyester
  • Water-resistant? Not really. Only in the lightest of drizzles
  • Country of Origin: Indonesia
hiker standing on trail leaning casually against moss-covered rock with tall waterfall adjacent

Testing out how long it takes the jacket to get wetted out by standing adjacent to Tunnel Falls. Glasses were a poor choice.

Intended Use and Circumstances of Review

The athleisure-adjacent Swiftbreaker is primarily intended to be an extra layer of warmth and wind protection on day hikes, bike rides, and trail runs. It’s best for more casual recreation rather than, say, thru-hiking or ultrarunning, but it’s still a reliable piece for most day-use activities.

It excels in each of these roles; I’ve worn it for a variety of activities over about 30 days, and the fabric shows little sign of wear or degradation, even after a few washes. I also took it on a couple of backpacking trips to make sure that the shoulders didn’t wear thin too quickly.

But what fun would it be to confine this jacket to such narrow parameters? Better to unnecessarily test its further limits while we’re here.

Is the Swiftbreaker Water Resistant?

This jacket isn’t advertised as having any water resistance and doesn’t include DWR coating. But I know folks often look for water resistance in a wind jacket/shell, so I figured I’d give it a go anyway. Like Owen before me, I just wanted to check real quick whether the Switfbreaker could also be a viable, lightweight alternative to a traditional rain jacket on a hike.

Thus, I used it on day hikes, trail runs, my bike ride to and from work every day, PLUS a couple of backpacking trips. Although it’s entirely subjective and arguably irrelevant, I can see with a certain degree of finitude that the Swiftbreaker should not be used as a substitute for a rain jacket. In fact, I’d recommend leaving it at home if there’s anything more than a drizzle in the forecast. Regardless, let’s see how it performs in its intended roles in desert and alpine environments alike.

hiker with backpack standing in desert environment with hands in kangaroo pocket of outdoor research swiftbreaker

Playing with absolute fire wearing a jacket so close to so many pokey plants.

Outdoor Research Swiftbreaker Features

Half-Zip Pullover Style: This is my favorite style because it’s the best way to combine the ventilation/versatility of a zipper but still have those big kangaroo pouch pockets.

Back Vent Made of Mesh: This is another good way to add a bit of ventilation and breathability to the jacket—although it could be argued that it becomes fairly useless if you’ve got a reasonably form-fitting backpack.

Kangaroo Pouch Hand Pockets: As evidenced by almost every photo in this review, I love burying my hands in these things. You gotta give your mitts room to swim, you know? Plus, they’ve got a couple of snapping buttons to keep the pocket closed when your phone or whatever is in there.

hiker standing on mountain peak with hands in pocket looking over shoulder with mountains and tarns in background on clear day

Would not recommend climbing Granite Peak in slippers, though.

What Sets Outdoor Research Apart?

Since the 80s, Seattle-based Outdoor Research has been one of the most versatile yet reliable brands in the American outdoors industry. I carried the Echo Sun Hoodie on my first thru-hike of the Arizona Trail, and I carried the Helium jacket on the Colorado Trail. Everything I’ve ever owned from them has had a reasonable (but not excessive) lifespan and has performed well for the duration of its use.

Apart from this, OR has pages upon pages of sustainability and accessibility initiatives that you can read more about on their website if you’re interested. They’ve included a dutifully corporate commitment to climate positivity (although their renewable energy initiative curiously only includes their North American operations and, like the rest of their website, essentially erases the fact that a lot of their manufacturing is outsourced to Indonesia). Anyways it’s cool to see people trying, even if it’s in a fairly corporatized context. Plus, the jacket is made of 100% recycled materials, and that’s imperative at this point in the Anthropocene.

OR Swiftbreaker Pros

Breathability: Between the half-zip, the mesh vent on the back, and the loose fit around the waist, there’s still plenty of air flowing through this jacket regardless of how hard the wind is or isn’t blowing.

Comfort: The polyester never rubbed or chafed anywhere, even when I was wearing a heavy backpack. I also slept in this jacket a few nights for extra warmth during a cold snap and felt pretty cozy inside it. It’s definitely a more comfortable material than nylon.

Sizing: Everything I’ve ever worn from OR has been true to size. I’m a 5’11” dude of exceedingly average build and feel like the medium is the perfect amount of baggy. Both the sleeves and torso really nailed the length as well. I felt the same when I wore their sun hoodie for my first thru-hike on the AZT and the Helium on the Colorado Trail.

Style: This is mostly where the form-over-functionality comes in. The color blocks are the undeniable selling point of this jacket, as it still looks H-O-T-T regardless of how well it’s performing.

hiker crouching and looking at something on the ground in front of yucca plant while wearing blue, black, and white outdoor research swiftbreaker

Fashionable morning calisthenics with a crown of yucca rosettes and a jacket of polyester (credit: @ginger.s.snaps).

OR Swiftbreaker Cons

Breathability (with a backpack on): If you’re wearing anything more than a small running vest on your shoulders, then the back mesh vent gets rendered pretty much useless. And without it, a lot of the breathability gets sacrificed, leading to a very sweaty back.

Not Water Resistant: With so many other wind jackets and windbreakers on the market that have a DWR coating or are made of Pertex, I was surprised that there wasn’t at least a minimal amount of water resistance built into this one. I understand that this jacket is meant for fairly casual use, but there’s hardly any situation in which it would keep you dry.

Weight: At 7.66 ounces, the Swiftbreaker clocks in a solid four or five ounces heavier than a lot of other wind jackets. Combined with the complete lack of water resistance, the weight firmly classifies this as a casual jacket bordering on an athleisure piece.

outdoor research swiftbreaker on kitchen scale with reading "7.66" on screen

Final Thoughts

I’m obsessed with the color scheme and love how much I can bury my hands into the kangaroo pocket. It’s undeniably comfortable in most exercise that isn’t too intensive, and it’s usually the first thing I’m reaching for on chilly shoulder season runs and day hikes. It was also nice to wear in the morning in the desert before the sun started baking everything.

That being said, I’ll usually leave it at home for long bike rides as my back doesn’t ventilate any more than in any other jacket. Couple this with the fact that there’s no water resistance, and the Swiftbreaker’s usefulness is confined to day-use activities near the city and hikes with predictable weather patterns (e.g., in the desert). Plus, the extra weight means I wouldn’t take it on any longer backpacking trips.

Overall, if you’re looking for something casual that will perform consistently, the Swiftbreaker is a good option. Otherwise, given the weight and price, I’d recommend splashing out a few extra dollars for something with more versatility. That is, of course, unless you’re just tryin’ to look good out there—which, to be fair, you will.

Shop the Men’s Outdoor Research Swiftbreaker

Shop the Women’s Outdoor Research Swiftbreaker

Hiker looking over their shoulder onto an alpine lake with snow-dusted peaks in background.

Tell me you’re in Colorado without telling me you’re in Colorado.

Comparable Windbreakers

Patagonia Houdini

MSRP: $109
Weight: 3.7 ounces

Enlightened Equipment Copperfield

MSRP: $120
Weight: 2 ounces

Cotopaxi Teka Half-Zip

MSRP: $80
Weight: 8 ounces

The Outdoor Research Swiftbreaker was donated for purpose of review.

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