A Comprehensive Guide to Buying the Best Hiking Jacket

winter hiking jacket

You've finally decided to trade in the noise and stress of everyday life with the beauty and silence of nature's backyard, and are looking for a hiking jacket.

However, you're not sure of what to look for when buying one.

  • How do you know what's best for you?
  • What do you look for?
  • What types of hiking jackets are there?

This article is here to help. In this post, we'll discuss everything you need to know about hiking jackets.

Consideration 1: The Type of Jacket

There are different types of outdoor jackets. Your choice of outdoor jacket will depend on the activity you intend to partake in as well as the weather conditions.

Some of the most common types of hiking jackets include:

Hardshell Jackets

Hardshell jackets are made of rigid and relatively stiff material designed to protect you from rain, snow, and wind.

Designed to be worn in all weather conditions, these jackets provide an excellent barrier against the wind and water.

Most of these jackets however lack insulation.

The lack of insulation makes them lightweight and easy to pack (we discuss this later in the article)

Softshell Jackets

Softshell jackets are an integral part of any hiker looking to hike in the cold.

Made from polyester and nylon, softshell jackets make an excellent outer layer jacket in warmer conditions and a perfect second layer in colder environments.

Softshell jackets provide ample breathability, making them a better choice than fleece jackets. They're also water-resistant and protect against light showers.

Down Jackets/ Insulated Jackets

Insulated jackets help trap body heat, making them excellent for mid-layers when layering clothes during cold weather camping.

When buying an insulated jacket, you can go for a down jacket (made using the warm under-feathers of ducks or geese) or a synthetic insulated jacket made from polyester fibers.

While the down jacket is a bit more comfortable, it's not the best option for a wet environment as it tends to get waterlogged.

Rain Shell Jackets

Rain shell jackets are often confused with outer shell jackets.

While they may look similar, rain-shell jackets are built using two layers of fabric, while outer shell jackets come with three-layer fabric construction. Thanks to this feature, rain-shell jackets tend to be lightweight, making them the most common choice for most hikers.

Rain shell jackets are made from waterproof material and protect against rain.

Consideration 2: Where and When You'll be Hiking

Different climates require different jackets. If you plan to hike in the rain, it's best to combine a softshell jacket and a rain shell jacket or hardshell jacket.

If you plan to hike in the cold, an insulating jacket in combination with a hardshell jacket would be your best choice. If you're going to walk in mild conditions, a softshell jacket will do just fine.

You also need to consider what type of jacket is best for where they'll be hiking.

A hiker who plans on trekking up steep mountainsides should invest in both an insulation and hardshell jacket to provide insulation and protection against wind. One who walks along valley floors may want to choose softshell because it has greater breathability.

Consideration 3: Size and Fitting

When choosing a jacket, it's vital to get the right fit.

Don't go for a jacket with a similar fit to your everyday jackets. Always go for a larger fit to accommodate other layers of clothing when hiking.

Getting a jacket larger than your standard size also allows space for air to move in the jacket.

Consideration 4: Weight and Bulk

It's hiking 101. Be as lightweight as possible.

Whether it's your backpack, hiking pants, or jacket, it's essential to go for the lightest.

To ensure your jacket is as lightweight as possible, go for one with minimal extra features. The more zips and hooks, the heavier a jacket is likely to be.

The material your jacket is made of will also affect weight. If you're looking for a lightweight jacket, a hardshell jacket isn't the best option.

Consideration 5: Packability

If you're not wearing your jacket, it will probably be packed in your bag.

So, when choosing a hiking jacket, go for one that can quickly go from your back tour backpack without taking much space.

A softshell jacket is the best option as it's lightweight and folds up in your bag without taking too much space. A down jacket or insulated one, on the other hand, will take up more room.

Consideration 6: Water Proofing

Whether you plan to hike during the summer or during the rainy season, you'll never go wrong with a waterproof jacket.

When shopping for a softshell jacket, go for one with waterproof capabilities. If not, go for a hardshell or rain-shell jacket.

Consideration 7: Additional Features

A good hiking jacket should come with some additional features to improve functionality.

One of these features is the availability of an adjustable hood to protect your head, neck, and back from rain and cold.

A proper hiking jacket should also come with ample pockets that are lockable to store items like your phone, compass, or maps.

You should also look for the availability of adjustable draw cords and cuffs, which help tighten the jacket around your body; therefore, preventing heat loss.

Another feature to consider is the availability of zipped vents to ensure breathability.

Recommendations on the Best Hiking Jacket


We can proudly say that we at Northbound Gear design top-quality jackets that our customers absolutely love. Check out the p reviews!

For example, the Northbound Gear Apex waterproof jacket is perfect for any hiking expedition. 

Ideal for moderate to harsh weather, the Men's Apex waterproof jacket is made with water-repellent fabric, comes with waterproof zippers and fully taped seams. This jacket also comes with a removable hood, adjustable cuffs, and zippered vents for maximum breathability.

And here's the best part!

This jacket can be comfortably worn around town when running everyday activities.

Any Further Questions?

Do you know of any other factors to consider? Do you have any questions regarding the aspects to consider?

Please share them in the comment section below.

And if you're looking for other high-quality outdoor apparel, check out our online shop here.

Onwards and Upwards with Northbound Gear.

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