For those of you who haven't got yourself a 'wind shirt' yet, do yourself a favour and get one. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in your wardrobe will give you more comfort and versatility. When you also consider that some of them weigh less than 100g and cost as little as £30 it's a no-brainer. Chris Townsend states in his book, The Advanced Backpacker, that his "favourite upper garment and the one I wear more than any other is a thin, single-layer nylon or polyester wind shirt". Wearing one you'll stay drier and more comfortable more of the time, relying on your waterproofs only when you really need them. Check out here for why you need one. Sermon over.
The Montane Lite-Speed Jacket was my choice over a year and a half ago and I've worn it almost every single day since. The Lite-Speed is advertised as 'The lightest weight, weather resistant, hooded jacket in the world'. I'm sure there are people who will argue this point but it's probably not far off. You can read the full specifications on the new, much improved Montane website. I'll just review a couple of the main points for you:
Don't sweat it - The Pertex Microlight fabric has proven to be amazing. Windproof and water resistant but breathable enough to wear all day. For most 3 season backpacking I'll slip it on over a merino or thin synthetic base-layer on exposed, windy summits or if there is a light drizzle that doesn't require the warmth or clamminess of my waterproof jacket. It's also great in camp for keeping the mozzies at bay. In winter I wear the Lite-Speed over a heavier base-layer made from a synthetic such as Power Stretch or Power Dry. When cross country skiing this is the perfect combination of breathability (open the zip, push up the sleeves and drop the hood when grinding uphill) and protection (batten-down-the-hatches when going downhill, in light snow or in the teeth of an arctic wind on a ridge). I also wear the Lite-Speed for running in the winter and it keeps clamminess to a minimum while keeping me warm enough to run in Bergen's freezing winter rain. The material also dries really quick if it does wet out. For such a light, soft, packable material it has also proven to be durable. 18 months of bushwhacking, falling over on skis, scraping past granite boulders and the daily commute have all been handled with very little sign of wear.
Making the cut - The Lite-Speed is cut slightly more generously than Montane's other wind shells but this actually makes it more versatile and better for long backpacking trips. I'd prefer a shorter, trimmer cut if I wanted something just for running but the extended tail and wider body offers more coverage and allows you to layer it over mid-layers and light insulation pieces in camp.
Hug a hoody - Some of the lighter wind shirts on the market don't have a hood and again, if I wanted one just for running then I'd go for this option but the few grams that a hood costs you is a very worthy investment. I am constantly surprised by the huge difference in comfort that can be gained on a windy, cold hill by simply pulling up the thin, almost weightless hood. It cuts the wind and creates a nice dry, warm 'bubble' over your noggin and neck. There is no peak or visor on the Lite-Speed but I usually wear a cap of some description so it's not needed for three season use.
It's the little things - Elasticated cuffs are light and allow you to push the arms up for venting. I'm not usually a fan of pockets but the single chest pocket has proven a useful place to stuff gloves when trying to do something that requires considerable dexterity. There are comfy fleecy 'beard guards' around your Gunga. Finally the wee Scotchlite dots stop you getting run over on winter evening runs down the lane.
Overall I love my Montane Lite-Speed. I really do. It's the perfect balance of features and lightweight comfort combined with versatility that is, in my opinion, without equal. There are lighter and trimmer running specific wind shirts and there are burlier and more feature-packed winter wind shirts but if you crave a simpler life then the Montane Lite-Speed has you perfectly covered 99% of the time. This is the single most important piece of clothing I own. Genius.