Windbreakers have become increasingly popular in the last years and many hikers have switched from rain jackets to these minimalistic shell layers. Windbreakers are lighter and pack smaller than rain jackets and are thus perfect for lightweight hiking.
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 airier, 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.
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.
As their name suggests, rain jackets are much better at protecting their wearers from getting soaked than the windbreakers are. Once again, this has to do with the distinction between softshell and hardshell.
A hardshell coat is the one whose outer layer looks like a sheet of pliable plastic – the fabric is sturdy and thick. Softshell is everything else. Today’s market offers softshell and hardshell varieties of both rain jackets and windbreakers, but the former ones are typically hardshell and the later ones are typically softshell.
If you are looking for a jacket that will keep you warm in cold weather, then you can go for our "Heat Regulates" 3D Printed Aerogel Jacket is anything but boring. This tough little number is made of high-density woven laminated fabric, which means it's wind-resistant and waterproof.
So, should you buy a windbreaker or a rain jacket? If you mostly hike in dry weather, a windbreaker is the obvious choice because it provides good breathability and is lighter and more packable than a rain jacket. You can also use it for running and other highly aerobic activities which is indeed a benefit. Now, if you often hike in rainy weather, in areas with unstable weather (for example at high altitudes) or do long backpacking trips where you can’t rely on the weather forecast, a rain jacket is a better option. For such conditions a windbreaker doesn’t provide appropriate protection against the elements.