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Jackets: A Guide to Your Next Outdoor Jacket.

 
With so many brands and styles available, it can be difficult to know exactly what jacket you need for your next adventure. This guide will outline the types of jackets available, the ideal situations to wear them and the nuances and variances within the specific styles.
 
When purchasing a new outer layer, there are so many variables to consider. This includes the climate, the chosen activity, and your own personal preferences. Are you going for a trek in the Himalayas or getting a bit cold on your daily commute? Are you needing a windbreaker for your morning trail run or needing protection from the elements while exposed on a rock wall? There are endless possibilities for needing a new jacket but there is always a solution out there, you just need the right information and advice to guide your choice and hopefully the information below will provide that.
 
To make things as simple as possible, we’ve broken down jackets into six distinct categories, all with specific functions and purposes. 
 

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1. Insulated

 
The insulated or ‘puffer’ jacket is the perfect option for when things get cold. A staple during winter, the traditional duck or goose down insulation traps the heat inside the jacket and keeps the wearer nice and toasty. While down is typically considered a more effective insulator based on its warmth-to-weight ratio (the higher the ‘fill’, the more effective the insulation), synthetically insulated jackets are becoming more and more popular. This is mainly due to the constant improvements in its performance and often lighter and streamlined designs – perfect for people who don’t like the bulkier puffy style.
 
There are many situations where a down or synthetic jacket is perfect. For example:
  • For your daily commute – keeps you warm during that early morning commute and often come with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating that provides mild water resistance to protect you from that office to car/train run.
  • The approach to the climbing crag – those early mornings can get a bit chilly so an insulated jacket can be perfect to keep you warm before you start climbing. They are also great for keeping the belayer warm when you’re at an exposed, windy crag.
  • For a high-altitude trek – you’re going to need some serious insulation if you’re taking on a trek or expedition at altitude and making sure you have the right jacket is crucial.
  • As always, the key to optimal temperature regulation is effective layering! So, for maximum warmth year-round, wear your insulated jacket over a fleece and/or thermal baselayer with a hardshell layer over the top for rain protection. 
 
Here are some of our favourite models:
 
The iconic Nuptse is probably the most recognised puffer jacket on the market today due to its street styling and its supreme insulating ability – it’s a great option as your next winter jacket and is available in both men’s and women’s models. Check out our review of the Nuptse here
 
Patagonia make some awesome insulated jackets; all being made from 100% recycled polyester and ethically sourced down. A great option for slightly colder climates without the bulk of other down jackets. Available with or without a hood and with both men’s and women’s models.
 
The Arc’teryx Atom is an absolute rocket of a jacket. This synthetically insulated jacket packs a real punch for such a light weight. Sleek looking, breathable yet warm, and perfect for almost all activities with its stretch side panels allowing for full range of movement. Available with or without a hood and with both men’s and women’s models.
 

 

2. Waterproof Jacket

 
An essential piece of gear on any trek or hike even with the smallest chance of rain. Rain jackets can range from being an everyday rain jacket that protects you against light showers or high performance, technical hardshells that offer protection against even the harshest of alpine environments. There are lots of different technologies out there offering maximum waterproofness with the most well-known being Gore-Tex. However, other waterproof fabrics such as North Face’s new Futurelight and Patagonia’s H2No technologies offer amazing alternatives depending on your intended usage. 
 
When purchasing a new waterproof jacket, it’s important to know the situation you plan to use it in. If you’re planning a summit expedition in New Zealand, you’re going to want a technical alpine jacket that offers features such as harness compatible pockets, a helmet compatible hood and a roomier-than-usual fit that allows for bulky insulated layers underneath. If you plan to use it while completing a trek or day hike you will want a jacket that is more durable to withstand bush-bashing and constant pack wearing as well as being breathable to avoid excess sweating while on the trails. Of course, you will also want a high level of waterproofness as well, to protect you from that potential week-long downpour.
 
Here are some of our favourite models:
 
Using The North Face’s new waterproof technology, Futurelight, this rain jacket offers supreme waterproofness while still being ultralight and breathable. The Dryzzle will be your best friend in any downpour and can be packed down in its handy back stow pocket for when the weather gods are being nice to you. 
 
The Marmot Minimalist Waterproof Jacket is an all-round beast of a jacket. Using GORE-TEX and Paclite technology, it will provide ample waterproofness while still being lightweight and packable. The Minimalist has all the features too, with PitZips for ventilation, taped seams, an adjustable hood, and Angel-Wing movement for a full range of movement. This jacket won’t let you down.
 
A trustworthy addition to your kit, the Torrentshell offers great performance at a more affordable price. Using Patagonia’s H2No waterproof technology, this jacket offers all the features of other high-end jackets, such as PitZips, an adjustable hood, and handwarmer pockets without breaking the bank. Perfect as a trekking/hiking rain jacket when low-moderate rain is expected.
 
 

3. Fleece

 
Finally reached the campsite after a long days hiking and it looking like things might get a bit cold? A fleece might be what you need. Perfect as a midlayer with your insulated and hardshell jackets for extra warmth or as a standalone jacket or pullover for when things get unexpectedly chilly. Fleece’s help generate warmth but often lack the insulation of a down jacket and the weather resistance of a hardshell or softshell jacket, but they still have an important part to play in any outdoor adventure.
 
You can wear a fleece in almost any situation, at work when the air con gets a bit too much during summer or by the campsite in the middle of the wilderness. The soft, plush fleece often being preferred to a regular cotton hoodie or DWR coated puffer jacket. 
 
Check out some of our top fleece jackets for both men and women:
 
Long-time crowd favourite is The North Face’s classic fleece, sporting a 100 weight this fully recycled polyester is super durable and offers great all-around comfort. Different zipper length options (half zip and full zip) and comes in both men’s and women’s models available.
 
This water resistant micro baffled fleece offers very efficient warmth, super lightweight construction and is extremely comfortable to wear with its enhanced breathability features. Available in both men’s and women’s models.
 
 

4. Softshell

 
Durable, weather resistant and extremely versatile. A softshell jacket is your jack of all trades when it comes to jackets. They will offer you water resistant not quite at the level of a hardshell, but perfect for that light unexpected shower. They will often have a fleece lining that provides extra comfort and warmth, which make it a great option as a standalone jacket for the morning walk to work or as a layering piece underneath your hardshell.
 
Here are some of our favourite softshell models:
 
This highly water resistant, fully windproof softshell is the perfect answer for a technical garment that doesn't look out of place in the office or on the mountain! Available in both men’s and women’s models.
 
This hard-wearing soft shell is perfect for the person looking for the technical goods that can keep going and going. With good stretch and articulated patterns, this jacket moves with your body in its comfy alpine style fit. Available in both men’s and women’s models.
 
 

5. Running

 
Ultralight, breathable, and windproof jackets purpose-built for running and other performance activities. These jackets differ from regular hardshells due to their breathability and ultralight weight, which allow you to run without restriction and overheating. Running jackets will generally have a more anatomical and slim fit to minimise wind drag while you’re flying on the trails.
 
Check out some of our favourite running jackets:
 
With 360* degrees reflectivity and good wind resistance and water repellent coating this super lightweight running jacket is a great choice for keeping the pack light - folds into its own pocket for easy and compact storing. Available in both men’s and women’s models.
 
Using Gore’s active technology with shake dry there is nothing that will beat how lightweight, waterproof and compact this jacket is. Ticking all boxes for mandatory gear carry for trail running events, this is the jacket that won't let you down! Available in both men’s and women’s models.
 
This 2.5 layer fully seam sealed waterproof, windproof and breathable jacket is always a great choice for anything in the outdoors. Being super compact it's easy to carry it without sacrificing much needed pack space, great slim/ active fit as it hugs the body but allows sweat/ moisture to escape your body through its ergonomic design.
 

 

6. Vests

If you’re out on a short-day hike and a big, bulky down jacket is going to be too hot for you, a vest is the perfect middle ground between providing enough warmth and not overheating you as you walk. An insulated vest is going to give you plenty of warmth in the core of your body while allowing for ventilation, so all that heat generated from walking isn’t trapped. 
 
A vest can also serve as a great layering item, where you need that little boost of warmth to your core and a heavier jacket will be just a little too hot. 
 
Check out some of our favourite vest models:
 
This iconic piece features a 700 loft making the Nuptse range the perfect bulky winter piece. Having large baffles fully stuffed with RDS goose down this water repellent vest is a fashion statement sporting some pretty amazing technologies. Available in both men’s and women’s models.
 
With a highly wind resistant Windwall outer fabric and aggressive DWR treated nylon this highly compressible vest is a great addition to anyone's collection. The side strips on the Aconcagua uses a synthetic filling to reduce bulk and add extra elemental protection in the higher wear zones (shoulders, under the arms and down the side). Available in both men’s and women’s models.
 
This entry level vest is a great lightweight option for more mild temps, using a RDS duck down as the garment compresses well and has a great warmth to weight ratio. Treated with a DWR on the outer nylon repels dirt, dust, and water. Available in both men’s and women’s models.