Is this the best jacket you’ve never heard of?
No one makes a huge fuss over FirstSpear’s apparel. Maybe this gem has slipped under your radar. It may even have been incorrectly relegated to second fiddle, next to a more obvious or ubiquitous item by one of the major tactical/outdoor apparel brands.
If either explanation is true, I’m here to tell you your radar is shit and that no one makes a Wind Cheater like FirstSpear.
Because just to compound matters, it’s not a wind shirt in the traditional sense of a silk weight layer at all.
For my full review and description of this jacket and its feature set, the long read (from April 2018) is here:
It makes no difference in which order you read the articles, but today’s account is mercifully shorter and contains my thoughts two years on from the original account.
FirstSpear Wind Cheater Two Years On
This is not a snivel layer.
It’s not something you put on when cold, wet and miserable (or even when it’s incredibly windy, despite the name) unless you’re active. When inactive in adverse conditions, it’s sub-optimal.
That said, when inactive in a warm season it’s a useful light layer with superior breathability when the sun dips, or against drizzle. And it’s this breathability which, if you’ll excuse the pun, permeates the jacket’s capabilities and makes it an excellent active use layer.
In all four seasons, when the wearer is active, the Wind Cheater comes into its own. There’s enough room to layer lightly in winter but worn over a base layer it’s at its breathable best, and that comes down to the fabric.
The fabric is called Ambush and it’s a low denier (300D) Cordura with a brushed feel, which makes all the difference to its hand when compared with, say, 330D Cordura pouches. It’s cotton-like next to skin, but has many more advantageous properties than cotton. It keeps off wind and light rain to a reasonable degree for a non-membrane shell, it’s incredibly durable, wicks well and dries fast. It also features a small but perceptible degree of mechanical stretch.
Of course, after saying all that about how technical and breathable the fabric is, the jacket is easily and massively ventilated by its gigantic two way pit zips. If the pit zips are too much and you’ve nothing in the hand warmer pockets, these can be unzipped for mild ventilation as they are mesh lined.
The Wind Cheater is a regular cut and fits true to size. However, I was surprised when I went through these photos of the jacket earlier, because viewed from front then rear it looks like two completely different jackets; smashed together like some sort of sartorial mullet – business at the front, party out the back.
When worn it feels more like a light overhead smock, because it’s relatively roomy (which allows some layering as referred to previously), it features a huge helmet-fit hood, and it exhibits that exaggerated drop tail.
So it was a shock to see how sharp it looked from the front. More like a softshell, which it is absolutely not.
I mentioned earlier that the Wind Cheater is definitely not a snivel layer. Ideally you don’t want to be exposed to a protracted downpour in it. If that happens, out comes the hardshell. But the snood collar and helmet compatible hood are constructed for very short biblical-level events. There’s no need to get soaked in a torrential shower if you’re caught short without a hardshell, if the hood can take one for the team. So flip it up and enjoy that rain bill before the whole thing wets-out. Hopefully the rain stops prior.
If I Could Change One Thing
To be fair, this is a tough and durable jacket which has seen a fair amount of falling over, and ‘bushwhacking’ – something explained to me by an American friend, which thankfully has much less to do with dogging than its name suggests.
However…if I could change one thing it would be to reinforce some areas with double stitching or bar tacks for additional peace of mind. But – you know – no rips, thinning patches or seam ruptures in two years. In fact, the Wind Cheater still looks pretty new.
In two years I haven’t changed my mind about the FirstSpear Wind Cheater, but I have grown even more fond of it. Checking back between what I’ve written today and my original 2018 review, the accounts are fairly consistent without being too repetitive. And, I still think that Hill People Gear (HPG) best sum things up when talking about their version of the jacket, which shares a lot of the same capabilities as the FirstSpear version:
This garment is the perfect backcountry shell / mid layer for a wide range of conditions short of rain. The slightly stretchy Cordura Ambush fabric is on the robust side for a wind shirt, breathes better than most wind shirts, and cuts the wind and light moisture quite well.
I also recommend watching HPG’s video on the subject:
Where to Buy
In the U.K., keep an eye on Huey’s. I bought my very first Wind Cheater from there – an old gen version in Ranger Green. Huey’s service is excellent and Matt the owner is an all round good guy.
Shopping direct with FirstSpear is always excellent too, and they offer fast international shipping at non-hysterical rates.
Apparel Featured in Pics
For reference, I’m wearing the Wind Cheater in size large – my normal upper body apparel size. As mentioned, the item runs true to size.