Adventurers Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a full year in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, living in the wilderness and testing gear as a part of their daily existence. In this column, Dave looks at the geographically-appropriate Northern Wear Boundary Waters Windshirt after a two-month test and review.
Knowing the mercury would likely drop into the single digits overnight, we worked to fill our canoe with dead, downed, dry logs. A fire had burned this area a mile from the Canadian border and in the heart of the Boundary Waters several years before. We knew Knife Lake could begin freezing any day and we needed to gather enough firewood to see us through freeze up.
I stripped down to my long underwear while sheltered from the wind and worked hard to cut and haul several hundred pounds of firewood and load it into our canoe. With the canoe filled past the gunwales, we prepared to head back to camp. Before beginning our paddle into the wind down Knife Lake to our campsite, I slipped my Boundary Waters Windshirt over my head.
Wintergreen Northern Wear Boundary Waters Windshirt Review
The Boundary Waters Windshirt ($159; $169 with hood) made by Wintergreen Northern Wear has been a staple in my winter daypack for more than 15 years. It is stained and has a few spark holes, but it still works great. When the wind picks up I often wear it when I am cross-country skiing.
It is light, packable, and made out of a very breathable, three-ply Supplex nylon material. Like all Wintergreen products that I have used and abused over the years, it remains amazingly durable, even after hundreds of days of wear.
This is truly a “windshirt.” The garment has no waterproof membrane but uses a single layer of the tough and breathable nylon known as Supplex to form a wind-blocking shell.
It isn’t an ultralight garment, but it’s still packable (it squishes down to a diameter of 9″ or so), similar to that of many hardshell jackets, but it is much more breathable.
It is not waterproof, but the piece does bead water via its DWR coating and block wind. It’s great for exertion in cold weather.
Hooded Version Is Best
While chatting over a beer with a friend (and longtime Boundary Waters guide) a few years ago I learned that he brings his windshirt on all his canoe trips, for bug and wind protection, and he really liked the hooded version.
In September, before heading into the Wilderness for a year, I picked up a new hooded Boundary Waters Wind Shirt at Wintergreen’s store in Ely, Minnesota. Over the past couple months I’ve found myself wearing it a lot, especially when the wind picks up. I find the hooded version more versatile than my older hoodless shirt.
The hood is comfortable and has plenty of room for a thick hat, but it is not so large that it flops in your face. A simple drawcord allows you to tighten the hood when things get nasty.
The half-zip allows you to vent if you start overheating on a portage, and the chest pocket is perfect for a Clif Bar, lighter, car keys, or other small items. A large zippered kangaroo pouch is great for a map, gloves, a warm hat, or other medium-size items. Behind the kangaroo pouch is an unlined hand-warming pocket, which is great when the temperature drops and the wind whips up.
When you’re not wearing your windshirt you can use the kangaroo pouch as a stuff sack and it scrunches down to the size of a large grapefruit and tucks easily into your pack.
The fit is relaxed and designed to allow you to wear the windshirt over a variety of layers and trap air in your layering system for added warmth. An elastic draw cord around the bottom can be tightened to reduce airflow or loosened to encourage breathability.
The cuffs have a strong elastic, which I have found to be very durable, but they limit adjustability. The back of the windshirt has a large pleat, which allows for a wide range of motion and is great for activities like paddling and cross-country skiing.
Where To Test It: Anywhere outside the tropics where bugs or wind cause you to reach for a layer of protection. It is perfect for cool or cold temperatures one finds in northern Minnesota.
Who’s It For: Paddlers, hikers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts looking for a windproof, bug-proof breathable layer that can be used in any season.
Nuts and Bolts: The Wintergreen Northern Wear Boundary Waters Windshirt is made of a durable, lightweight, breathable three-ply Supplex nylon with a DWR (durable water repellency) treatment for water resistance and quick-drying properties.
Choose from two styles: hooded or collared. The brimmed hood is lined with a breathable brushed mesh for insulation and wicking.
Made in: Ely, Minn. (USA)
Flaw: There are times when I wish the wrists were more adjustable. It is not waterproof and will not replace a rain jacket. This is a supplement piece to a kit that will often include a hardshell jacket.
Final Thoughts: This is a versatile piece of clothing that I wear in a lot of conditions, from cross-country skiing on a cold, windy day, to trapping in a little extra heat while sitting around the campfire on a cool fall evening. This jacket excels when you need wind protection but you are active and also need breathability.
Wintergreen Northern Wear Boundary Waters Windshirt: More Info / Buy Now
—Dave Freeman and his wife Amy are spending a year in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in an effort to protect the region from a series of sulfide-ore copper mines that are proposed along the edge of our nation’s most popular Wilderness. Throughout their “Year in the Wilderness” they are sharing regular reviews on GearJunkie.com.