Whether the dog is standing by the door with the lead in its mouth or you’re rucksack ready and determined to cover some serious ground, having a versatile walking jacket is a must before you step outside. 

Even if you know that the temperature won’t waver much from when you set off, you can almost guarantee that you will be walking through sun, wind and rain at some point, especially in the autumn and winter months. 

Waterproofing and good warmth to weight ratio are crucial, as well as how the jacket feels as you walk. Is it lightweight enough to feel like a second skin, allowing good freedom of movement and of course breathability so that you don’t end up a sweaty mess?

We field-tested a range of jackets on a very changeable October weekend on Dartmoor, and on some rugged coastal footpaths, to find the best walking companions you could ask for.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Mammut broad peak light down jacket: £229, Mammut

This stylish, water repellent outer layer strikes the perfect balance between warmth and wearability thanks to its athletic fit and the cosy goose down and feather insulation. It’s this filling that made this jacket one of the lightest and most comfortable that we tested: we never felt weighed down or encumbered while walking in it. The all-round utility of the jacket is added to by the fact that it packs down easily into its own side pocket and can be stored away in your rucksack. Detailing was excellent too, from the quality zips to the chin/beard guard that stops skin getting snagged when the jacket is zipped up to the neck.

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The North Face apex flex Gore-Tex jacket: £250, The North Face

If you know that you’re in for some seriously wet and windy conditions but still need to get out into the elements, then this is the jacket you should be reaching for. Even when walking through horizontal rain for hours, it remained absolutely watertight with a hydrophobic surface that had no problem repelling a prolonged downpour. It’s pretty unique in that it has all the functionality of a hardshell jacket, but with the comfort and wearability of a softshell with a nice slim, profiled fit.

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Adidas terrex windweave insulated hooded jacket: £169.95, Adidas

This is a water repellent jacket with an excellent weight to warmth ratio, which makes it great for winter. The synthetic insulation kept us warm but allowed for good temperature regulation when we were working harder on more technical trail sections. The ripstop fabric stood up well on overgrown parts of our walk so we weren’t constantly feeling it snag on branches and brambles. The balaclava-style hood was very welcome for wind-whipped areas of high ground and it packed down easily into one of its own pockets for easy storage in a backpack.

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Arc’teryx norvan SL hoody: £255, Arc’teryx

This good looking waterproof shell has a stretchy athletic fit, which moved well with our upper body as we walked at a quicker pace and needed the jacket to work with our momentum. It’s lightweight and very breathable so we were never close to overheating. When the sun came out and we wanted to lose a layer, it packed down to the size of a fist so took up minimal space. The hood fitted nicely and the elasticized rim meant that it stayed in place even when we were walking directly into the wind.

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Barbour fohn waxed cotton jacket: £269, Barbour

The wax treatment makes this hip-level, high collar jacket more than able to stand up to heavy rain and provide a barrier to cutting northerly winds. The raglan design where the sleeves meet the tunic make it very comfortable and it’s perfect if you have a walk in mind that doesn’t require rucksacks and rations. There’s excellent detailing here – from the roomy bellows pockets to the storm cuffs and detachable fleece-lined hood – and as with all waxed jackets, you can guarantee that it’s going to weather really well with age.

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Paramo torres activo: £185, Paramo Clothing

This is a jacket designed with plenty of movement in mind, so if your walks often turn dynamic because of the terrain then this athletic fit, synthetic filled jacket is a good choice. The jacket insulated really well in some biting moorland winds and on a coastal path. It has good detailing with two zipped hand warming pockets that make a great alternative to gloves. There’s even an OS map-sized pocket on the inside so you can stay on course. This also packs away easily into the chest pocket for portability.

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Adidas my shelter rain jacket: £169.95, Adidas

If you’re walking through the urban jungle this offering from the sportswear brand has style, substance and some pretty unique features. It’s fully waterproof with a hidden hood, high neckline and sealed seams, although it’s still nicely breathable thanks to a three-layer membrane. The fit is borderline baggy so there’s plenty of room for movement and the jacket also offers a unique feature whereby two straps go over your shoulders so that you can drape the jacket off your body without fully removing it.

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The North Face Thermoball eco packable jacket: £170, The North Face

Lessen your environmental footprint when you’re on the footpaths with this lightweight softshell that’s made from recycled polyester fabric and insulation. It kept us warm without overheating and is a nice slim fit so we never felt restricted, whether rambling over the flat or pumping hard uphill. The jacket will pack down into the pocket for easy storage and is available in seven different colour schemes.

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Target Dry benone: £59.95, Target Dry

Mid-length with a concealed hood, this is an excellent choice for walks to the country pub for Sunday lunch, as it offers good protection from wind and rain while still looking smart. It’s well constructed with a durable cotton outer so we didn’t have to worry about snagging it on brambles or barbed wire when we were walking off the extra helping of roast potatoes afterwards.

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Berghaus fellmaster: £165, Berghaus

With the guarantee of Gore-Tex, you’re not going to have to worry about wet conditions as the breathable membrane is tried and tested to keep you dry and cool. Its adjustable cuffs and hood mean that the rain won’t start leaking through the jacket’s openings. The material is comfortable, warm and allows for natural upper body movement.

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Finisterre litus: £160, Finisterre​

A nicely styled waterproof layer from the Cornish manufacturer, this jacket has a roomy fit which means you can wear extra layers underneath. The hydrophobic material keeps you bone dry on top. The adjustable hood, cuffs and hem ensure you don’t get soggy around the edges and the jacket was one of the most breathable we tested, so we had no problem staying cool even during an extended hill climb.

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Mountain Hardware ozonic: £180, Cotswold Outdoor

This lightweight rain shell jacket has a good sporty fit and was very effective at taking the sting out of a biting wind. It was extremely stretchy and comfortable to wear over a day out on the trails and the sizeable zip vents under the arms mean that you can stop sweat and condensation build-up.

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The verdict: Men’s walking jackets

A must for any walker’s cloakroom, the Mammut broad peak light only requires a single layer underneath to keep you warm, even for higher ground walking. The jacket works with you while you walk and is so lightweight that it’s barely noticeable while being worn. For wet conditions, the North Face apex flex offered one of the best mixes of waterproofing and wearability.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.