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The Best Mountain Hiking Jackets 2023

The Best Mountain Hiking Jackets 2023

Setting off into the woods to hike to your favorite mountain lake or exploring new trails is one of the best parts of summer. There's nothing we love more than exploring the outdoors and enjoying all that nature has to offer. But no matter if you’re an occasional hiker or a seasoned veteran of the trails, you need the right gear for your adventure. One important piece of gear that you should invest in is a mountain hiking jacket. Let's explore everything you need to know about buying the best mountain hiking jacket, including factors to consider, features to look for, and the different types of jackets available on the market.

Factors To Consider When Choosing the Best Mountain Hiking Jackets

Mountain hiking requires the right gear for an enjoyable and safe experience at elevation. However, finding the right mountain hiking jacket for you can be challenging. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the best mountain hiking jacket.

Weather Resistance

Weather conditions on mountain hikes can be unpredictable, with sudden changes ranging from intense sun heat to heavy rain or snow. This is why weather-resistant materials are a must-have when it comes to purchasing mountain hiking jackets.

Weather-resistant fabrics are designed to provide protection against rain, wind, and harsh weather conditions that hikers may encounter on their journey. These fabrics are typically made from durable materials such as Gore-Tex, a waterproof and breathable membrane designed to keep you comfortable on the trail. 

Mother Nature has a mind of her own, and can thrown any conditions at you on your hike, which is why the importance of weather-resistant materials in mountain hiking jackets cannot be overlooked. In harsh weather conditions, a quality hiking jacket can be the difference between an enjoyable hike and you planning your next hike as you stand on top of the mountain, or a miserable experience where you're feeling all of your hiking gear before you get back to your car. A jacket with good weather-resistant properties will keep the hiker warm, dry, and protected from the elements. 

Not to mention, these materials will help to prevent moisture from penetrating the jacket, which can be dangerous in colder temperatures. This is because moisture can lead to hypothermia, a potentially life-threatening condition. Additionally, a weather-resistant jacket will also protect the hiker from the wind, which can cause body heat loss and discomfort.

Material and Construction

The material and construction of a mountain hiking jacket are what sets apart a good hiking jacket, and a great one. Material is important because it affects the jacket's durability, breathability, and water-resistance. Most mountain hiking jackets are made of synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester. These materials are lightweight, durable, and highly breathable. They also resist water and wind, making them ideal for harsh mountain weather conditions.

Construction is equally important when it comes to mountain hiking jackets. A poorly constructed jacket may not provide adequate protection from the elements, leaving the wearer vulnerable to cold and wet conditions. Look for jackets with reinforced seams and tightly woven fabrics that help keep rain, snow and wind out, while keeping you comfortable as you hike on. Jackets with double-layered construction provide better insulation against cold weather conditions, but may not be the best choice for hiking in the middle of summer.

The design and features of the jacket often makes a big difference. A good mountain hiking jacket should have a hood that can be adjusted to fit tightly around your head, as well as adjustable cuffs and hem to prevent drafts. The jacket should also have enough pocket space to store items such as gloves, maps, and snacks. Some hiking jackets even feature packability, where they can be packed down and save space in your hiking pack. Take into consideration weather, length of hike, and the season you will be hiking in, while you're deciding on the best hiking jacket for your adventures.

Overall, material and construction are two crucial factors to consider when choosing a mountain hiking jacket. Investing in a high-quality jacket that can withstand harsh mountain conditions is essential for a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.

Fit and Comfort

Fit and comfort are an another important factor to consider before purchasing a mountain hiking jacket. A well-fitted hiking jacket ensures that it does not bunch up, sag or restrict movement. It should fit snugly, providing warmth without bulkiness. A poorly fitted jacket can be a distraction and cause discomfort, impacting the hiker’s performance. For example, a hood without adjustments could impact your vision as you hike in rainy conditions, which can be dangerous. It can also allow wind and cold air to circulate inside the jacket, leading to heat loss and hypothermia. Similarly, a poorly fitting jacket can rub and cause chafing, skin irritation, and discomfort, ultimately leading to a ruined hiking experience. 

Comfort is also critical in mountain hiking jackets. Hiking jackets made of breathable fabrics are more comfortable, allowing the hiker to remain cool and dry even during strenuous activity. A jacket designed specifically for hiking is made with carrying packs in mind, meaning seam construction is built to help reduce chafing. A comfortable jacket allows for freedom of movement and flexibility. The jacket should not interrupt the hiker’s movements, which can impact their pace, balance, and overall performance. 

Features To Look for in the Best Mountain Hiking Jackets

Now that you're familiar with some factors to consider when shopping for a mountain hiking jacket, here are some essential features to look for to ensure you get the best out of your purchase:

Ventilation and Breathability

When you're hiking, your body will generate heat, and you'll need a jacket that allows this heat to escape. A jacket with proper ventilation and breathability can prevent overheating and moisture buildup, which can make you feel uncomfortable. Look for jackets with pit zips or other ventilation systems like integrated mesh areas that help regulate your body temperature during intense physical activity.

Weight and Packability

If you're planning an extended hike, you'll want a jacket that's lightweight and easy to pack. You don't want a bulky jacket taking up valuable space in your backpack or weighing you down during your trek. Fortunately, many hiking jackets are designed to be lightweight and packable, so look for jackets designed with materials like merino wool or synthetic fibers that offer warmth without adding extra weight. Some jackets feature a pocket the jacket can be packed down into, taking up less valuable space in your pack, and making them ideal for a day hike when you want to carry extra weather protection.

Pockets and Additional Features

When you're hiking, you'll need a jacket that offers enough pockets to store essential items like your phone, map, and snacks. Look for jackets with multiple pockets that are easily accessible, so you don't have to remove your backpack every time you need to access your gear. Ideally there are zippered pockets so you don't worry about dropping your map or phone while you're on the trail. Other features to look for include adjustable hoods, wrist cuffs, and drawstrings that allow you to adjust your jacket to your liking.

How to Choose the Best Hiking Jacket

Now that you know what features to look for in a hiking jacket let's dive into three critical layers that make up a high-quality jacket for the mountains.

Base Layer

A good base layer is the foundation to an amazing day spent in the mountains. The base layer acts as a moisture-wicking barrier between your skin and the rest of your clothing. Look for base layers made from synthetic or merino wool fabrics that can regulate your body temperature while keeping you dry - avoid cotton at all costs. A base layer close to the skin shouldn't be too tight and allow for a full range of movement.

Insulation Layer

The insulation layer is the layer that traps heat close to your body and is responsible for keeping you warm in cold weather. This can be sometimes referred to as the mid layer, and should work with your base layer to allow vapor to move away from your body, keeping you comfortable during your hike. Look for insulation jackets made with down or synthetic materials that can offer a wide range of warmth. Down jackets are lightweight but can pose a threat of getting wet when the weather turns. Synthetic jackets are bulkier but can perform better when wet.

Shell Layer

The outer shell layer provides protection against rain, snow, and wind. It should be waterproof, wind-resistant, and breathable so that moisture can escape from your body. Look for hardshell jackets made from Gore-Tex, eVent, or other waterproof materials that can withstand heavy rain and snow. Softshell jackets are good for colder, drier climates, while hardshell jackets are suitable for pacific northwest-style weather.

The Four Types of Hiking Jackets

Hard-Shell Jackets

Hard-shell hiking jackets, also called rain jackets or waterproof jackets, are an essential piece of equipment for any hiker. They keep you comfortable in wet and windy conditions, providing protection from rain, snow, sleet, and other harsh weather. Hard-shell hiking jackets are made with a waterproof and breathable membrane, like Gore-Tex, which makes them durable and efficient for outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, and camping. In addition to the membrane, these jackets come with fully taped seams and waterproof zippers to ensure that no water can seep in through the jacket.

One of the key features of a hard-shell hiking jacket is its ability to breathe. This means that the jackets allow water vapor to escape from inside the jacket, ensuring you stay dry even during high-exertion activities like hiking uphill. Moreover, this breathable membrane makes the jacket comfortable and easy to move in, which is essential for outdoor activities.

Another important feature of hard-shell hiking jackets is their durability. These jackets can withstand harsh weather conditions and rough use, making them ideal for hiking and mountaineering. They are also abrasion-resistant, which means that they can withstand brush, rocks, and other debris that hikers may come across during their trek. This makes them an essential piece of equipment for outdoor enthusiasts, who need reliable gear that can withstand extreme weather conditions. The other reason a durable jacket is worth the extra expense is it will last you for season after season. Usually it is worth the extra expense to buy a more durable hiking jacket, knowing the cost over the life of the jacket will be less than having to buy multiple medium or lower quality jackets every few years.

Finally, hard-shell hiking jackets come in a variety of styles, colors, and brands, which means that hikers can find one that suits their needs and preferences. For instance, some may prefer a lightweight jacket made of thin fabric, while others may prefer heavier-duty jackets with more insulation for colder excursions. No matter if you're looking for a day hike jacket or a muti-day hiking trip, pick the jacket you will get the most use out of and will keep you comfortable on the trail.

Down Jackets

Down hiking jackets provide optimal warmth and comfort during low-temperature conditions, making them an ideal choice for hiking mountain trails. A typical down hiking jacket is filled with high-quality down feathers. These feathers come from ducks or geese, and they are known for providing excellent insulation properties. The use of down feathers in hiking jackets ensures that the user remains warm and comfortable, regardless of the temperature or weather conditions.

One of the key benefits of down hiking jackets is their lightweight construction. These jackets are designed to be easy to pack and carry during extended hikes. They provide outstanding warmth without adding unnecessary weight or bulk to your gear.

Another advantage of down hiking jackets is their durability. These jackets are designed to withstand the tree branch snags or abrasions from rocks. They are designed with high-quality materials, and are built to last, meaning they will last you for many seasons of hiking adventures. . Many down hiking jackets are also water-resistant, which is an essential feature for hikers who may encounter rain or snow during their adventures.

One important consideration when selecting a down hiking jacket is the fill power. This refers to the amount of down used to fill the jacket, and it is measured in cubic inches per ounce. The higher the fill power, the more insulation the jacket will provide. A good down hiking jacket will typically have a fill power of 600 or higher.

Soft-Shell Jackets

Soft-shell jackets are designed to provide a high level of comfort and protection against cold, wind, and water while allowing for excellent mobility and breathability. They are typically made from durable, stretchy, and breathable fabrics such as polyester, nylon, and spandex that are designed for unrestricted movement on the trails. These jackets are lightweight and packable, making them ideal for backpacking trips and day hikes.

One of the key advantages of a soft-shell hiking jacket is its versatility. Unlike hard-shell jackets, soft-shell hiking jackets are designed for a wide range of weather conditions. They provide excellent wind resistance, water repellency, and breathability, making them perfect for use in mild to moderate weather conditions. Soft shells are perfect when you need a jacket that can handle changing weather conditions as you hike. They are easy to layer on top of your hiking gear, so you can easily layer up at a moment's notice.

Another key advantage of soft-shell hiking jackets is their comfort. These jackets are designed to fit snugly, which helps to reduce bulk and improve heat retention. This means they won't restrict your movement, allowing you to move more freely and easily, while also keeping you comfy and dry. They also have soft linings, making them more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Additionally, many soft-shell jackets offer adjustable cuffs, hems and hoods, helping you to keep the cold and wind out.

Many soft-shell jackets offer a high level of UV protection, helping to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays. They also have convenient features such as pockets for storing essentials like maps, wallets, and snacks. The jackets may also feature adjustable hoods, which are perfect for protecting your head and neck from the elements.

Mid-Layer/Synthetic Jackets

Mid-layer/synthetic hiking jackets come in a variety of styles and designs to suit your personal hiking needs. They can be worn on their own on chilly days, or layer up with a base layer and shell for extra warmth on colder hikes. They are lightweight and packable, making them easy to carry in your backpack without taking up too much space.

One of the key benefits of synthetic hiking jackets is their ability to wick away moisture. They are made of materials designed to keep you dry and comfortable during even your most physical activities. Synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon are used to make these jackets, which are excellent at wicking away sweat and moisture.

Another benefit of synthetic hiking jackets is their durability. They are designed to withstand harsh conditions and heavy use. Unlike down jackets, synthetic jackets are not affected by moisture, making them an excellent choice for hiking in damp conditions. They also retain their insulation properties over time, even after multiple washes, and are resistant to wear and tear.

Mid-layer/synthetic hiking jackets are also versatile and can be worn for various outdoor activities. They are not limited to hiking and can be worn for camping, backpacking, and other outdoor pursuits. They are also stylish enough to wear casually, making them a great investment for outdoor enthusiasts who want functional clothing that can be worn beyond the trail.

How to Care for Your Mountain Hiking Jacket

Mountain hiking is an exhilarating experience, but it requires proper clothing to ensure safety and comfort. A well-made mountain hiking jacket protects you from the elements, including wind, rain, and snow. However, these jackets require proper care to stay functional and durable. Here are some tips on how to take care of your mountain hiking jacket:

1. Read the Care Label

Before washing your mountain hiking jacket, read the care label carefully. The care label provides information on the recommended cleaning method, temperature, and drying instructions. Some jackets require dry cleaning, while others can be hand washed or machine washed. If the label recommends dry cleaning, take your jacket to a professional cleaner for the best results.

2. Spot Clean First

If there are specific areas of your jacket that need cleaning, spot clean them first. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently remove dirt and stains from the surface. For tougher stains, use a mild detergent and water. Be careful not to scrub too hard, as this can damage the fabric.

3. Wash Your Jacket

If your jacket is machine washable, use a gentle cycle and mild detergent. Avoid using fabric softeners or bleach as these can damage the fabric. Wash your jacket in cold water and tumble dry on low heat.

If your jacket is hand washable, use cold water and a mild detergent. Soak the jacket for 15-20 minutes and then gently agitate it with your hands. Rinse the jacket thoroughly with cold water and hang it to dry.

4. Use the Right Detergent

When washing your mountain hiking jacket, use a gentle detergent designed for technical fabrics. Regular detergents can leave a residue on the fabric and affect its performance. Look for detergents that are free from bleach, fabric softeners, and fragrances.

5. Store Your Jacket Properly

After washing your mountain hiking jacket, make sure it's completely dry before storing it. If the jacket isn't completely dry, it can develop mold and mildew. Hang your jacket on a hanger in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Do not store your jacket in a compressed state, as this can damage the insulation and affect its warmth.

6. Reapply DWR

DWR stands for Durable Water Repellent, which is a coating applied to the surface of your jacket to make it water-resistant. Over time, the DWR coating wears off, and your jacket won't repel water as well. You can reapply DWR using a spray-on product that's specifically designed for technical fabrics.

7. Repair Damage

If your mountain hiking jacket has any tears, rips, or holes, repair them as soon as possible. Small tears can quickly turn into larger ones, compromising the integrity of your jacket. You can repair small tears with a patching kit, or you can take your jacket to a professional repair shop for larger repairs.

Taking care of your mountain hiking jacket is essential to keep it functioning properly and lasting for years. By following these tips, you can extend the life of your jacket and ensure that you're always protected on your outdoor adventures.

About Stio

Stio connects you with the outdoors through quality products infused with a mountain soul. Proudly operating from Jackson Hole, WY, we take inspiration from our natural surroundings and put it into every piece of apparel we make. From technical performance to aesthetics, Stio outfits you with exceptional products for unforgettable outdoor experiences.

FAQs

What are the types of mountain hiking jackets?

There are three types of mountain hiking jackets — hardshell, softshell, and insulation jackets. Hardshell jackets are waterproof and highly breathable, making them ideal for heavy rain and snow. Softshell jackets are lightweight and offer greater mobility, making them suitable for activities like trail running or multi-day hikes in milder conditions. Insulation jackets made of down or synthetic materials provide warmth in cold weather conditions and should be worn as a mid-layer.

What are the important features to consider when choosing a mountain hiking jacket?

When choosing a mountain hiking jacket, you should consider the following important features:

  • Waterproofing
  • Breathability
  • Warmth
  • Lightweight
  • Wind resistance
  • Durability

The jacket should also have an adjustable hood, adjustable cuffs, and a zip pocket where you can store small items.

What is a shell layer when it comes to mountain hiking jackets?

A shell layer is a type of jacket that is worn as an outer layer to protect against wind, rain, and snow. It is not designed to provide warmth but rather to protect against the elements. A shell layer should be waterproof, wind-resistant, and highly breathable to prevent moisture build-up inside the jacket. It should also have a hood, adjustable cuffs, and pit zips for maximum ventilation.

What is the difference between a rain shell and a hardshell jacket?

A rain shell is typically lightweight and less durable than a hardshell jacket. It is designed to be worn as a top layer in wet conditions to keep you dry. A hardshell jacket is more durable and provides better protection against harsh weather conditions like heavy rain and snow.

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