Most names for tactical gear and apparel don’t really stand out, but this featherweight jacket from Fenton, Missouri’s FirstSpear sports the intriguing moniker, “Wind Cheater.” After some extensive use, I’ve discovered why.
One phrase that comes to mind when looking at the design of the Wind Cheater is “excellence in execution.” The jacket keeps the features to a minimum, which I think is a positive. Some tactical clothing goes overboard in terms of pockets, adjustments, and other options that complicate construction and make items more expensive. The Wind Cheater, however, focuses only on options that you’ll actually make use of while keeping the jacket lightweight and sturdy.
The basic concept for the Wind Cheater resembles that of the Protective Combat Uniform system’s Level IV jacket. It’s a lightweight outer layer designed to stand up to windy conditions (hence the name). The design isn’t intended to retain heat — there’s no insulation inside the jacket — so it’s ideal for warmer temperatures where rain is still a concern but you still want a breathable outer layer.
Wind Cheater by FirstSpearPhoto courtesy FirstSpear
FirstSpear manufactures the Wind Cheater in the US out of a special variant of nylon Cordura they call “Ambush.” This material is extremely breathable, to the degree that it almost feels like a long-sleeved t-shirt as opposed to a jacket. It also features a durable water repellent (DWR) that provides some degree of resistance against rain. While not waterproof, it can shrug off rain for a couple hours.
The hood is a perfect example of FirstSpear’s design philosophy: it doesn't stow inside the collar, which eliminates another zipper in the design and allows for a simple shock cord adjust system that makes it easy to cinch down or open up. The hood expands pretty well, so it could be worn over a helmet. (I was able to fit an Ops-Core FAST Helmet inside.) However, if you have a bunch of accessories, like IR strobes or helmet cams, that could be a struggle. The only other feature on the hood is small verco field for a IR patch tab.
Another smart piece of design is the extended tail on the jacket. While Wind Cheater fits pretty well, any jacket can ride up, especially during more energetic activity like climbing and running. As with the hood, the tail uses two shock cords for adjustments to sizing. Tucking the tail in works well for those looking for a secure fit. It also serves as a way to keep the seat of your pants dry, perfect for rainy days on the range.
The front of the jacket is where the simple design mindset is most obvious. The Wind Cheater only features 4 zippered pockets, but they’re the most useful ones: two deep chest pockets, and a bicep pocket on each arm. The biceps pockets are sizeable enough to fit a folded map, wallet and ID, or even a smartphone. They also feature a small field of color-matched velcro featuring the outlined FirstSpear logo, which if nothing else, looks cool. There are also “pit zips” under the armpits, which open up much further than other designs I’ve seen, so you can get plenty of ventilation when you need it. All zippers feature durable pull tabs, and only a single zipper per track, which I find much simpler and less prone to breakage than dual zipper set ups, especially when it comes to the main centerline zipper track on a jacket.
FirstSpear advertises the Wind Cheater as “fitting like a t-shirt; however, I found that the size-small didn’t quite fit as advertised. Still, I recommend buying a size larger if you plan on wearing the jacket over low-profile armor or load-bearing gear, or if you conceal carry outside-the-waistband. While wearing kit over the jacket, I was still able to access the chest pockets, though this will definitely depend on what chest rig or armor carrier you’re using. The jacket works well over other garments, too, so if you’ve got your own preferred system of layers, the Wind Cheater will be perfect to add weather resistance to that setup without adding much bulk.
The First Spear retails directly from the company at $185, placing it in the lower price range of US manufactured tactical-style jackets. It’s available in Coyote, Ranger Green, Black, Multicam, and what FirstSpear calls Manatee Grey. And Wind Cheater is certainly an apt name: It deflects the elements. It carries what you need, and nothing you don’t. It adjusts to fit under any gear, but also can accommodate your tricked out ballistic helmet. Yet it’s still lightweight enough to get rolled up and stuffed into a cargo pocket. The only thing not getting cheated is your wallet.