Jacket Required: 6 Types of Outdoor Coats to Know
The first thing to think about is the weather. What kinds of conditions will you be facing? Will you be battling rain? Wind? Cold? Or maybe all of them at once? And what will you be doing in those conditions? Tackling a black diamond run or a rain-soaked hiking trail? Your level of aerobic activity also plays a factor in which jacket you choose and how you layer for the cold weather.
Whatever you’re doing and whenever you’re doing it, there’s a jacket that will help you do it more comfortably. Let’s take a look at your options in more detail so you’ll always know which outdoor jacket to pull out of your closet.
Generally speaking, if you’re going to be contending with heavy rains or doing intense aerobic activities, you’ll want to opt for a fully waterproof outer shell. These hardshell jackets offer lightweight, fully waterproof materials that block the rain and other weather elements without making you too hot. For lighter rain showers, or times when you’re not exerting yourself as strenuously, water-resistant softshells make good choices because they offer added breathability. If you’re in doubt about which rain jacket to choose, consider these two factors first.
First, think about the insulation type. Some puffer coats are filled with natural down feathers while others are insulated with synthetic down, so it’s important to understand the difference. While natural down feathers provide exceptional lightweight warmth, they don’t perform as well when wet. Synthetic down, on the other hand, will continue to keep you warm in wet conditions and dry out a whole lot faster. In the past, synthetic down has often meant a bulkier jacket, but newer jackets use a synthetic down that provides warmth without the bulk.
Some puffer jackets feature fully waterproof technologies like Columbia OutDry Extreme—these make the best choices for excursions that are both cold and wet. Not only do they keep the water out, but they’re made with highly breathable fabrics to keep you dry inside and out, no matter how strenuous your winter activities get.
It is important to understand the special care puffer jackets require. Proper washing and maintenance will keep your puffer jacket warm, breathable, and puffy season after season.
Because they’re well insulated, parkas are ideal for everything from hunting to fishing to skiing to snowshoeing—basically any time you’re looking to keep a cold snap from snapping you. Parkas are also usually a little longer than other winter jackets and often include a faux fur-lined hood, both of which offer extra protection from the cold. A shorter-length parka is called an anorak, and provides nearly the same amount of protection, but with just a bit more mobility.
While windbreakers can look similar to a rain jacket, they aren’t intended to protect from the rain or extreme cold, so they’re most often worn in the moderate temperatures of spring and fall. These jackets have one job: to stop the wind. And a good windbreaker will do that very well.
Check out our or guide on how to wash and dry fleece to learn more about proper fleece care.