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If you’re hitting the trails anytime soon, we highly recommend a dedicated jacket. The best hiking jackets are purpose-built to protect against whatever nature might throw at you — be it rain, snow or sleet — and they’re durable enough to withstand rogue branches, scrapes and falls.
Plus, the best hiking jackets aren’t just for cold weather. As any experienced hiker knows, wind- and water-resistance features come in handy any time of year. Because they’re so rugged, hiking jackets can also be broken out for urban use when the weather is nasty, or for traveling when you don’t know what to expect.
What Are the Best Hiking Jackets?
Not all hiking jackets are made equal. Some have a better water-resistance rating, some are better in warm weather and others are easier to pack. Below are a few things to think about while shopping for the best hiking jacket.
Water Resistance: Even if a jacket is advertised as water-repellent, that doesn’t mean you’ll stay dry in a downpour. Premium hiking jackets often use multiple rainproof layers for added protection, while others use a coating or single-layer design.
Warmth: Before shopping, you’ll want to decide how much warmth you need. Thin, lightweight shell jackets are great for most weather conditions, as you’ll be able to layer if it gets colder. Light down jackets are typically a good in-between, as they keep your body at a good temperature in a wide range of climates. Then there are cold-weather jackets, which usually feature a nylon shell and thick insulation for trekking through harsh conditions.
Also, be sure to check for ventilation. Even with cold-weather jackets, you’ll want some airflow to your armpits and back while embarking on a grueling hike.
Packability: If you’re traveling with your hiking jacket, whether for backpacking, road trips or flying, packability is a major concern. Some shells and down jackets are designed to pack up into small spaces, but serious cold-weather jackets will often hog space in a suitcase, camping bag or backpack.
Features: When it comes time to use a hiking jacket, the devil is in the details. Little things, such as drawstring closures, cleverly organized pocket spaces and packable hoods, all make a big difference when you’re out on the trail.
1. Patagonia Nano Puff Insulated Hoodie
For casual hikers, this Patagonia Nano hoodie is all you need. The shell is a rugged polyester ripstop fabric that’s been treated with a DWR coating for water protection, and a lightweight PrimaLoft insulation keeps you warm (but not too hot) in a wide range of conditions. The jacket also features an insulated hood and a drawcord around the waist to lock in heat or provide ventilation as needed. If you want to stash things or warm your hands, you’ve got two zippered handwarmer pockets and an internal chest pocket.
2. Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody
This Arc’teryx Squamish jacket is meant for serious hikers, but everyone can appreciate its premium features. The jacket is made using three layers of waterproof Gore-Tex, delivering supreme rain protection while remaining breathable and flexible. A large hood, outfitted with a drawcord for adjustability, ensures total coverage without visibility reduction (this hood is also compatible with helmets). If you get too warm, zipper vents in the armpits can be opened for more airflow. Overall, it’s a great choice for warm to average weather conditions, or for layering if it gets cold.
3. The North Face Flight Lightriser FUTURELIGHT
Lightweight shells are great for stashing away and breaking out in case of rain or intense wind. This Flight Lightrise jacket from The North Face is your best bet for a premium shell, boasting an incredible weight of just 7 ounces. Made of recycled polyester with a water-repellent coating, the jacket is ideal for layering when it rains or taking on runs. When you’re not using the Lightriser, it packs up into its own pocket for easy storage.
4. The North Face Men’s Gotham Jacket III
If you’re hiking in cold weather, we suggest this Gotham III jacket, also from The North Face. Thanks to 550-fill down insulation, you’ll be toasty in just about any weather. The shell, meantime, is a nylon plain weave with a water-repellent coating for effective protection against rain and melting snow. Despite its size, warmth and water protection, the Gotham jacket is still quite breathable for less sweat under the hood.
5. Carhartt Men’s Dry Harbor Jacket
It’s always a plus when hiking jackets can easily be worn into town with casual clothing. Thanks to Carhartt’s recent rise in popularity, the brand’s Dry Harbor jacket is one such piece. However, it’s still very capable of handling the outdoors with a rugged nylon build, a tow-layer membrane and a water-repellent treatment. It makes a great layering piece, although it’s warm enough for moderate temperatures on its own.