Choosing Jackets For the Outdoor Enthusiast


Choosing Jackets For the Outdoor Enthusiast

Jackets are an essential piece of outerwear that can help us sustain cold weather or harmful sun rays. They can also add a sense of style to our wardrobe.

Jackets typically don’t extend past your waistline and can be made from different materials. Some can be quite warm and others are designed to be worn over a heavier coat.


The windbreaker is a light jacket that is designed to fortify you against relatively mild weather like cool temperatures, light winds and sometimes mild rain. This type of jacket can be worn alone or as an additional layer. The downside is that it is not effective against strong windchill or heavy rain.

They are generally made of tightly woven synthetic fabrics such as nylon or polycotton mixes and often coated with a durable water repellent finish. They are a good choice for hiking, biking and camping as they are lightweight and pack up small enough to be carried in your backpack.

During our testing we found that the most important feature of a windbreaker is its ability to resist windchill. To achieve this, the fabric is tightly woven leaving very little space for air to pass between the threads. The Jackets Ortovox Merino Windbreaker, for example, uses a proprietary weave that blends wool and nylon into a single layer.

This enables the jacket to be incredibly thin while still providing excellent wind resistance and breathability. For this reason we weighted this metric 30 percent of each product’s overall score. This is a great example of how combining a highly functional and innovative design with quality materials can lead to an exceptional jacket.

Heated Jackets

For those who spend a lot of time outdoors in the winter for work or play, a heated jacket could be the perfect addition to their wardrobe. These coats use battery-powered heating zones to warm the chest and back for added comfort in cold weather. They also typically have extra features such as a hood that can be cinched, tall pockets for bulky gloves and a convenient power button on the outside of the jacket to control the heat settings.

Heated jackets use the same technology as electric blankets or heated car seats, by passing a low electric charge through panels sewn into the lining of the jacket. They then have a battery pack that sits in an outer or inner pocket and connects to the heating zones. Most heated jackets have a small temperature control with up to three different heat settings that are toggled by the external power button.

Some of the best heated jackets are waterproof, meaning that they can withstand snow and rain. This is a must for those who enjoy winter activities like skiing and hiking as it can save them from getting wet and cold which will make their experience less enjoyable. However, it’s important to remember that these jackets are not designed for prolonged immersion in water so don’t try dipping them in a lake or river without a waterproof layer underneath.

Waterproof Jackets

When the forecast calls for rain, opt for a waterproof jacket made from fabric designed explicitly to keep you dry. This usually means Gore-Tex, Polartec NeoShell, or eVent fabrics that use a membrane with billions of tiny pores per square inch that are too small to let water in but that allow sweat to escape. These materials are also highly durable, so you can expect them to last for years of hard wear.

While these fabrics do not breathe as well as softshells, they offer good protection in light to medium rain or drizzle. Waterproof jackets typically have taped seams to prevent moisture leaks. Some of these jackets, like the Outdoor Research Helium AscentShell jacket, also include breathable components to keep you cool during high-output activities.

Stalking game in the woods can leave you as doused as standing in a downpour, so a hunter’s rain jacket needs to be both waterproof and windproof. The Sitka Dew Point jacket delivers both, with its three-layer Gore-Tex Paclite shell. The fabric is lightweight, flexible and offers plenty of stretch for active pursuits, while the adjustable hood keeps head coverage in place.

For hunters who want to keep their impact on the environment, the Fjallraven Bergaten Lite Eco-Shell jacket is constructed with recycled fabric and avoids PFCs (also known as PFAS). These chemicals do not break down and can contaminate soil and water, accumulating in fish and wildlife.

Down Jackets

Down is the insulating material of choice for many outdoor enthusiasts as it provides excellent warmth-to-weight and compresses down to a smaller size. When choosing a down jacket consider the outer shell and lining fabrics as they will impact durability, weight and water resistance. Many gear companies have opted for ‘hydrophobic down’ which means the down has been treated to resist moisture and prevent it from absorbing into the feathers and losing insulation efficiency. If you’re going to be hiking in wet conditions a hydrophobic down jacket (and a waterproof shell) is a good choice.

The type of baffles used in your jacket will also impact warmth-to-weight and compressibility. Wide baffles create more chambers through which heat can escape whereas narrow baffles are more compact and agile.

Lastly, consider the jacket’s total weight Jackets as it will influence how easy it is to pack into your backpack or suitcase. Factors like high fill powers, thin materials, simplified feature sets and trim fits will all decrease a jacket’s packed size.

For backpacking, alpine climbing and ski touring a lightweight down jacket like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 or Feathered Friends Eos is a solid option. Both offer a great warmth-to-weight ratio, durable fabric and approachable price point. If you’re looking for a more rugged, backpacking-style down jacket check out the Arcteryx Cerium or the REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0.

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