When hiking, the type of jacket that you choose with you can make a world of difference. But with all the options out there how do you choose the best hiking jacket for the type of hiking you plan to do?
Choosing the best hiking clothes for you needs can be difficult. Well, let’s be honest, its a gnarly business to say the least. The shopping bit is my least favourite in fact, but without a doubt it is also one of the most important aspects of hiking. Having the wrong gear can really wreck your trek. I have found that one of the most important items of clothing for hiking is a jacket. So here is a look at what you need to know that will help you choose the best hiking jacket.
What you Need in a Hiking Jacket
First things first… What type of hiker are you? Do you hike in warm or cold weather? Is the area you hike in prone to rain or is it perhaps known for being windy? The climate in which you plan on hiking in makes a big difference in what you need and want from a hiking jacket. For instance, as I live in Europe, as a rule of thumb I keep one good quality and warm winter jacket for those snowy hikes I love to take in winter. And I keep one good lightweight, waterproof summer jacket that I will usually carry in summer not only to protect against wind or rain but also against UV rays.
Now if you live in a warmer place such as Guatemala or South Africa, you may want to consider what your seasons are like before choosing your hiking jackets.
Another very important thing to consider is fit. This, of course, is entirely up to you. I prefer a snugger fit so that jackets don’t look bulky and can still pass for stylish if I decide to wear them when I am not hiking. Why not multi-purpose every item if you can right? But I know a few fellow hikers who prefer loose-fitting jackets that are slightly longer. It all comes down to your preference in comfort.
I always recommend buying jackets that are more durable, even if you aren’t planning on hitting rugged terrain. You never know when your jacket will be put to the test on a trail.
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Rain Jackets for Hiking
Having a good waterproof jacket is really important, especially when hiking in tropical and rainy areas. Keeping dry is really important as it can save you a lot of discomfort, including saving you from getting sick, which is something you really wouldn’t want while hiking.
Rain jackets have to be resistant and durable and have to offer you good protection from the elements. They should also fit well and be lighweight enough to easily keep with you no matter where you are hiking.
This Rain Jacket is pretty awesome when going hiking, it will keep you totally dry as it has Gore-Tex insulation technology. It is also great with condensation, meaning you won’t be getting wet inside the jacket with your own corporal heat.
Breathability is also great, you won’t be sweating inside it while exploring any kind of rugged terrain during the rainy season. I would say this is the perfect Rain Jacket for multi-day hikers. This item is light, but not light enough for trail-runners. The bad news is that all these amazing things come with a cost. This is one of the more expensive hiking jackets out there.
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I found this Rain Jacket very functional and versatile. It does a pretty good job during the rainy season while being very resistant and durable.
The Resolve II is very light, packable, and comfortable. This is a great rain jacket to invest in no matter what type of hiking you prefer.
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Acadia is one of the most comfortable rain jackets in the market. This jacket is extremely lightweight and packable. It works great with harsh weather, from a moderate rain to a hurricane wind, you can rely on this jacket. It is the perfect hiking jacket no matter what type of hiking you prefer.
If you like exploring narrow trails with dense vegetation, the Acadia has you covered. For an affordable price, Mountain Hardwear will give you lots of features: ventilation zippers, adjustable hood, velcro cuffs, soft chin guard, zippered pockets, etc. The company is also environmentally sustainable and manufactures most of its items with recycled materials.
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This rain jacket is a great value choice for hiking. This rain jacket is perfect for seasonal or urban hikers who prefer wider trails. Thick vegetation usually found in narrower trails can permeate the jacket and you’ll end up a little moist; the Watertight II will do a great job otherwise.
The Omni-shield technology works great at repelling liquids while also making it extra resistant to stains and abrasions. The Watertight II works better in mild weather since it is a little warm for hot environments. The thing I love most about this jacket is that is really easy and lightweight to pack so you can easily take it anywhere.
This was one of the first rain jackets I bought myself when I started hiking. Marmot Precip is great for seasonal hikers.
This rain jacket is reliable, resistant and easy to pack. It will keep you dry while hiking under moderate rain and is a great windbreaker. This is also a really affordable jacket so it won’t break the bank. This is a great jacket to keep with you in any weather. On the downside, this is not the jacket you want for heavy rain.
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Mountain Hardwear usually designs great apparel for hikers, but this jacket is probably one of their best. This stretchy super functional jacket will keep your body dry no matter what.
This jacket is really breathable and is highly resistant making it the perfect jacket for fast-paced hikers who enjoy wooded hikes.
The fit is also one of the best, you get a nice feeling the whole time when you’re wearing it. If you like other stuff unrelated to hiking like kayaking or sailing, the Ozonic will do a perfect job as well. Let’s just hope you don’t mind getting your hair wet because the hoodie is not as waterproof as the rest of the jacket.
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The Arcadia II is basically the same as the Watertight II but for women. This rain jacket is the best value option. It works perfectly for every day as it can make the transition from urban environments to natural ones very smoothly.
I wouldn’t recommend this jacket if you’re planning to explore the Amazon rainforest or the Appalachian trail, but for shorter day hikes or longer ones with moderate conditions, this rain jacket is the perfect addition to your hiking gear. A huge plus is that the Acadia II comes in a wide variety of colours and the fit is perfect, so style is not a problem with this one.
Softshell Jackets for Hiking
Softshell jackets are a great addition to your hiking gear. They are lightweight and durable and easay to pack. They are also really comfortable and easy to pack and carry with you on your travels. Soft shell hiking jackets are really versatile and I usually choose ones that are more stylish so that I can wear them in my downtime and even when I am doing other activities such as cycling.
They are perfect for most weather conditions, either worn as a layer on their own. Depending on the type of hiking that you are doing, you want to make sure to choose a lightweight jacket that is easy to pack and durable to take on any hike in any weather.
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When the weather gets cold and windy, the Bionic II is one of the best items you can be carrying in your backpack. Combine it with a hard shell, and you can endure the harshest weather while on a hiking trail.
This softshell will keep you very warm and dry, it can deal with moderate rain but it won’t work very well if you’re under heavy rain. The Bionic II is the most versatile and budget softshell on this list. You’d probably want to use this one when it’s too windy for a windbreaker or too cold for a fleece.
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The Summit is the perfect choice for those slow-paced hikers who like lots of pockets for power bars, extra cash, and anything else that you may need. The Condor Summit is versatile, resistant, and durable; it works great in moderate weather conditions, it will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable.
As most softshells, it will fail if it’s raining or snowing too heavily but will do a good job otherwise. The jacket is not as breathable as I would prefer, so you may not want to use it for fast-paced hiking or trail running.
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If you plan on climbing high peaks, the Patrol is a wonderful choice. Not precisely for mountaineering, but reaching base camp or thru-hiking during the autumn months is what this softshell was designed for.
This is the perfect jacket to transition from moderate conditions to the harshest ones up there in the mountains. The Patrol is also very easy to pack, so it won’t take much of your valuable backpack space. This is the kind of jacket you buy for a long hike or a mountaineering expedition.
The Canyonwall is another great softshell by The North Face. This jacket is very resistant and sturdy while also granting a lot of mobility and breathability.
I wouldn’t use this jacket for a thru-hike but it will do great for a multi-day hike or a climbing trip during the chill months. This hiking jacket will repel rain and wind and will keep you warm and protected.
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The Tempo is a great jacket for high-performance activities such as trail running, rock climbing and cycling. This jacket offers you great mobility and is made with breathable material, perfect for hiking.
The jacket is made out of material that uses quick-dry technology. It is also really effective as a layer and is quite warm. This jacket has very long sleeves, great for tall people with longer arms.
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So the Trino doesn’t precisely fall under the softshell category despite its fabric being softshell. This is a jacket that deserves its own category. Arc’teryx designed it for high output activities, like running on the snow for example.
The Trino is incredibly light and its heat transfer technology allows it to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable while performing intense activities under extremely cold weather. The versatility, resistance, and functionality of this jacket are simply astonishing. If you’re a winter runner, hiker or cyclist, this jacket is a great buy.
Hardshell Jackets for Hiking
Hardshell jackets are an excellent addition to your hiking gear if you hike in extreme terrain. They are designed to offer protection from the most extreme weather conditions and are perfect for mountaineering and similar types of hiking.
They offer you great protection without taking away your mobility. These jackets are also really breathable, which makes it perfect for high intensity activities. The Hardshell jacket is the perfect hiking jacket to layer under so make sure you have the right size, you don’t want to purxhase one that is too snug or too baggy as it could get uncomfortable.
This is one of the best jackets for mountaineering. It works well with other light layers, the hoodie fits great with a helmet and the jacket feels very light overall. It also has a very functional pocket below the chest that is easily accessible, especially if you are wearing a backpack.
This hardshell does an excellent job and has great features like Gore-Tex insulation and pretty good breathability; however, the fabric is not very durable so you shouldn’t expect this one to last for a lifetime.
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The Westcomb Shift LT can be easily confused for a windbreaker because it’s surprisingly light. You get all the features you expect from the best hardshell from this super light and easy to pack jacket. This jacket is the perfect addition to your multi-day hiking gear.
The breathability of this hardshell feels amazing as well; you can perform the most intense activities, and the Shift LT won’t condensate a single drop. This hardshell feels very sturdy while granting you a lot of mobility. Nonetheless, if you plan to wear this one during an intense winter, I have to tell you that this is not the warmest hardshell out there. This is a great jacket for hikes in less extreme weather conditions.
This hardshell is basically the opposite of the Westcomb Shift LT. The Nordwand Pro is bulky, feels heavy, and does not have any features that allow it to breath or dry quickly. But if you’re looking for a jacket that can withstand the harshest winter conditions, this is your best choice.
This hardshell jacket is perfect for mountaineering and adventure hiking in extreme weather conditions. I have heard fellow hikers call this jacket “invincible ” because it has such great resistance to extreme weather.
Invincibility, of course, comes with a price; this Mammut is not the cheapest option. I’d recommend this hardshell if you’re a committed hiker or mountaineer who is looking for extreme adventures.
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This one is a very affordable hardshell. This hardshell jacket is breathable and offers great weather protection without taking away your ability to move comfortably. The most popular feature on the jacket is that it offers a great fit.
The Axiom comes with cool features like a deep hood that works great when you’re wearing a helmet. The frontal pocket should be a good feature, but when you’re carrying a large backpack it just stops being functional. This hardshell was designed for mobility under harsh weather, and for that, it does a perfect job. This is one jacket for hiking that offers value for money.
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The Torsun is a heavy hardshell designed for alpine climbing. If you don’t mind carrying one of the bulkiest hardshell jackets in the market, I’d say this one is the best choice. I hated this jacket when I was packing it, but I loved it when I was wearing it.
Despite its weight and sturdiness, this hardshell still grants you a lot of mobility. The hood is deep, so you won’t have any problems when wearing a helmet. The pockets look great but become just an ornament when wearing a large backpack; otherwise, they’re perfect. If you’re into mountaineering you should really consider this jacket as a serious option.
Fleece Jackets for Hiking
The fleece is a must-have for hiking. You won’t necessarily only use it for hiking. If you’re planning a multi-day hike you will want a fleece jacket for hanging at the campsite in the evenings. Feelce jackets are great as layers because they are comfortable and offer you great mobility. If you are into hardcore hiking though, make sure to check whether the fleece you choose is breathable and not too dense. You should also keep in mind that they are not water proof, so before you pack it for your chosen hike, check the weather.
This fleece is incredibly versatile and cozy. You can wear it whenever it gets chilly and you won’t be disappointed. The Benton comes in a wide variety of colors and is very affordable.
This is a very basic fleece that works well whether you are hanging at the campsite or on the move. It is so versatile that you can wear it on a day-to-day basis or specifically for hiking.
Fleece jackets such as this are not water-resistant and are not great for sweaty activities. These are perfect for the leisure hiker as they are comfortable and warm.
This one is similar to the Benton but for men, and with a hoodie. With the TNF Essential Fleece you will feel warm, comfortable, and very well protected; all while looking good.
This fleece fits amazingly well. This fleece is recommended for winter temperatures above 5C°. Any colder and you should consider adding this as a layer rather than wearing it on its own.
I’d say this is a great option to pack when you’re planning an easy multiday hiking trip during autumn or spring and you know you’ll have a lot of spare time at the campsite or your mountain retreat.
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The Marmot Norhiem is a light weight fleece that offers stye and comfort. It is also really light and easy to pack. This is the perfect fleece jacket if you are planning an easy hike or a leisurely urban walk
The style and comfort make it a great choice for wearing at the campsite. I would not recommend using it for strenuous hikes though as it does not offer very good breathability.
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The Monkey Man is not just a casual fleece, this one was designed for committed adventurous hikers, but if you’re an urban hiker, it works great too. This fleece does an amazing job as a layer and since it has very good breathability, it is a good option for any kind of hiking trip.
The pockets work great while carrying a large backpack. Despite its lightness and packability, its fabric technology will manage to keep you warm even when the temperature is starting to drop below 0C°. The mobility this fleece allows is amazing. I wouldn’t recommend wearing this one in densely vegetated narrow trails since the fabric is not very tear-resistant; however, this is a great fleece jacket for hiking overall.
The TKA Glacier is another basic classic fleece by The North Face. If you’re looking for a basic fleece jacket, versatile, reliable, affordable, and designed for hikers this is one of the best options. Unlike the Essential Fleece, this one has better breathability and can work as a layer despite it having a hoodie which can become a nuisance.
This fleece has good abrasion resistance and durability, with proper care, it can last for years. I’d say this is a good fleece to carry with you on hikes due to its reliability, but always keep in mind it has limitations and it won’t work well under harsh weather.
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The TNF Denali is a jacket designed to work as a layer in harsh weather conditions. It is very light and easy to pack.
It also offers great resistance, breathability and works perfectly on its own or as a layer. The hoodie also gives you extra protection in case you’re wearing this jacket by itself but it’s not deep enough to be worn with a helmet.
If you’re planning a mountaineering or climbing trip, I’d recommend the hoodie-less version. What I loved the most besides all the amazing features this jacket has, it’s the many functional pockets this fleece offers. This is not the cheapest fleece jacket on this list but it is a great investment if you are an avid hiker.
Down Jackets for Hiking
What I consider the best thing about purchasing a down jacket is that it is super versatile. To be honest, when I purchase a down jacket I always look for something that works for hiking but still looks great for everyday wear. That way I get more out of my investment, especially since these don’t come cheap. Like most jackets, there are many different options and you will have to consider what type of weather conditions you will be hiking in.
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This is a stylish, warm, and comfortable 650 fil down jacket designed for backpackers and casual hikers. This jacket works great when it’s starting to get cold and when you’re hiking with a light daypack. It also works well with windy conditions but be careful because the down gets ruined if it gets too wet.
The Transcendent is very light and easy to pack; I think this is one of the best options for backpackers due to its versatility and style, but it’s resistance and durability are not the best. I would recommend this jacket for day hikes rather than longer multi-day hikes or hikes on rough terrain.
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This 800 fil insulated down jacket is definitely one of the best an alpine climber or an extreme hiker can get nowadays. This down jacket features the most recent technological advances in down insulation.
Each down cluster inside the jacket is treated to be water repellent, which means this is a very durable jacket that can withstand humidity and bad weather way better than regular down jackets.
The Downlight Stormdown also has amazing breathability and grants you a lot of mobility, all while keeping you warm under the coldest conditions. The technology inside this jacket also allows it to be extremely light and packable. This stylish down jacket is one of the best options for your next winter expedition.
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This 800 fil down jacket features the best hoodie insulation on this list. If you like your head to stay warm the whole time, this one is your best option. Besides featuring a great hoodie, the Summit L3 also provides a great fit and amazing resistance, durability, and sturdiness overall.
Despite not being an ultra-lightweight jacket, this down jacket still manages to be very easy to pack with its 391 grams (13.8 oz). The North Face designed this jacket specifically for alpine climbing; however it still does a terrific job if you plan to wear it for any kind of winter hiking trip. As usual, don’t expect TNF to sell its cool stuff for an affordable price: this jacket is as pricey as it looks.
The Cerium LT 850 fil down jacket is another great product by Arc’teryx. This jacket is incredibly warm for its low weight, 340 grams (12 oz), and works perfectly in cold open spaces. This jacket is great for travellers as it is easy to pack and lightweight.
The jacket uses Coreloft panels to keep it dry, and it does a perfect job. However, the shoulders don’t have this technology, so if the rain gets too heavy, the down in that area might get compromised. I would recommend this jacket for cold winter hikes but not necessarily in wet conditions.
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While this 750 fil down jacket is not the warmest on the list, it is incredibly water-resistant. This jacket is perfect for hikes in wet weather and forested winter hikes.
Keep in mind that although the jacket is incredibly water resistant, it is not entirely water proof though. For the price, you are getting great value though. This jacket also comes with a foldable hoodie and functional pockets.
I wouldn’t pack this jacket if I’m planning on climbing a high summit, but for wet cold winter weather in the forests, I’m definitely relying on this one.
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I’m not personally a fan of this jacket but I have a couple of friends who love it and pack it wherever they go hiking or mountaineering. This one is the lightest on this list, and despite not working well with wet weather, you can fix this issue if you layer it with a hard shell or a rain jacket.
The Illuminate is very warm for its weight, has nice features, and is incredibly easy to travel with. The hoodie feels nice but it’s not deep enough to handle a helmet. I’d recommend wearing this jacket as a mid-layer and it will do a great job. Wearing it by itself can get risky if the weather gets too wet.
Wind Jackets for Hiking
I honestly believe that everyone should have a good quality windbreaker (wind jacket). This is the perfect jacket to have in any season and I love using mine to not only protect against windy conditions but also to protect against sunburn. These jackets come in incredibly lightweight and breathable options which won’t break the bank and can be used any time on any type of hike. They are also so easy to pack, you can roll them up and put them in your backpack without losing much space.
The RAB Vital is perfect against the elements. You can rely on this one for intense activities. RAB Vital offers amazing protection against strong wind and moderate rain.
It is also really lightweight at 142 grams (5oz) and won’t be a problem to pack no matter where you’re off to. This hiking jacket is also really affordable, although it loses points on being less breathable than other jackets.
I wasn’t sure what kind of jacket this was when I first saw it. It looks like a windbreaker but feels like a softshell. While not being very versatile, the KOR Preshell does a terrific job if you like moving light and fast on the trails.
It has perfect breathability and is astonishingly light, making this jacket the ultimate choice for fast-paced hikers and trail runners under moderate weather conditions. This is not a jacket you want to rely on if you’re carrying a large backpack or are expecting harsh weather since it offers minimal protection against the elements.
This jacket’s resistance and durability are also more than satisfactory, this is the one you want to wear when hiking in the tropics or in densely vegetated areas.
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Ortovox designed one of the most innovative alpine windbreakers. This top tech jacket is manufactured with a mix of nylon and merino wool in a single layer, which is unique but works perfectly when you’re facing strong winds. This jacket feels thick and gives you a sense of protection while weighing only 156 grams (5.5 oz).
Ortovox gave this windbreaker a very sturdy and durable construction, every piece of this jacket feels resistant. The hoodie features an elastic band to make sure it always stays in place. The chest pocket while looking minimalistic from the outside, can fit a lot of stuff. While not being the cheapest alpine windbreaker on the market, getting one of these will make a perfect addition to your winter hiking closet.
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If you’re a runner or a fast-paced hiker who doesn’t like carrying much weight, Arc’teryx manufactures this versatile, resistant, one-does-all kind of jacket. While focusing on protecting you from strong winds, this jacket will also do its best to protect you from getting wet and retain your body heat to keep you warm when the weather is starting to get rough.
Just notice that this is not rain nor an alpine jacket, so I wouldn’t recommend it for extreme weather. Nonetheless, the breathability of this jacket is almost perfect, great for intense activities all year round under moderate weather conditions. Unlike other windbreakers, this is a jacket you could wear in any season.
The Alpine Start is a windbreaker that looks super stylish while being very comfortable and versatile. If you think you’re going to need some wind protection for whatever kind of activity you plan to do, this is a great choice.
This windbreaker looks and works great in any kind of activity, from cycling, climbing, hiking, or walking to your favourite coffee shop, you can rely on the Alpine Start. It also has a perfect fit while also having amazing breathability.
Just don’t expect much protection if it gets rainy since it can’t handle any kind of moisture. I think this is a windbreaker every backpacker should be carrying; it’s the perfect piece of clothing that makes a perfect transition from civilization to the great outdoors.
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This is another windbreaker that also features Merino wool, but unlike the Ortovox Merino Windbreaker, the Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralight doesn’t incorporate the merino into the nylon fabric.
Instead, it comes in huge-sized panels in the underarms where it provides extra comfort and breathability. This jacket does a great job when the weather gets unpredictable. The combination of great breathability, water resistance, wind protection, and comfort, makes this item a perfect jacket for trail runners and fast-paced hikers all year-round.