6 best men’s walking jackets
A decent jacket can protect you against the cold and wet
After a pair of proper walking boots, a decent waterproof jacket is the most important bit of kit a hiker can have. It can mean the difference between being able to enjoy the outdoors, and being cold, wet and miserable.
With that in mind, the first tip we’d offer when looking at waterproof jackets is don’t go cheap. A plastic mac might feel waterproof in the shop, but it almost certainly won’t be breathable, meaning that as soon as you sweat, you’ll start to feel cold and clammy.
Fabrics that are truly waterproof and breathable will have ratings, usually expressed in millimetres (waterproofing) and grams per square metre per 24 hours (the amount of sweat/moisture the jacket allows out in a 24-hour period). This might sound a bit technical but take a non-breathable jacket out for a day hiking and you’ll quickly notice the difference – after all, a bin bag is waterproof but you wouldn’t want to wear one while exercising.
Other things to look for when choosing a walking jacket are the weight, and what brands refer to as “packability” – ie, how small the thing folds down. Especially if you’re in the UK, chances are the weather will change in the course of your hike. If the sun comes out and the jacket is in your bag, you don’t want something heavy and bulky. That said, weight and packability are often a trade off for waterproof performance, so it’s worth picking something that suits the prevailing conditions you’re likely to be out in.
The type of jacket you choose is also important – all of the jackets on these pages are shells, meaning they’re designed to be worn as an outer layer with base and mid layers underneath. But if you’re going to be out in serious cold, you might want to look at a down jacket instead. Features – pockets, hoods, armpit vents – will make a difference to price too, and of course the final thing to consider is style.
We’ve chosen a range of hardshell jackets here from some of the best respected brands in the business. All are versatile enough to suit a variety of conditions, and all have slightly different cuts and fits. Because let’s face it, even when you’re out hiking you want to look good, right?
Arc’Teryx Zeta SL: £270, Arc’teryx
A brand new model from Arc’Teryx, the Zeta SL wasn’t supposed to be out until spring 2019, but the brand has decided to release limited numbers in particular sizes and colours early – and it’s an excellent job they have, because we predict this will sell well. Made from the latest ‘Gore-Tex Paclite Plus’ fabric, this is not only fully waterproof but packs down very small and weighs very little. The ‘SL’ in the name stands for ‘Superlight’, and this tips the scales at just 310g.
Based in Vancouver, Canada, Arc’Teryx caters to the upper end of the market, and the amount it pumps into R&D means you definitely pay a premium for its products. Because of that however, its jackets often boast the newest and best tech. Not only that, they look sleek too. This doesn’t have loads of extra frills – there are just the two pockets and simple hood and hem adjusters, for example – but it does everything a walking jacket needs to and does it supremely well. For that reason, it’s our best buy.
Mammut Kento Jacket: £189, Mammut
Swiss brand Mammut traces its history back to 1862, when Kasper Tanner started making rope in the village of Dintikon. It has been making kit for climbing, hill-walking and other alpine activities ever since. As you’d expect with 150 years of pedigree behind it, the build quality of its gear is exceptional – the Kento jacket being a case in point.
Weighing 400g, this is a mid-weight hardshell with – here’s the technical bit – a waterproof rating of 20,000mm and a breathability rating of 15,000g/m²/24h. What that means in layman’s terms is this will keep you bone dry in all but the most extreme storms – there are plenty of good ski jackets on the market that are less waterproof. With three pockets, underarm vents and waterproof zips all round, this has everything you need for a squally day on the trails.
Fjallraven Keb Eco Shell Jacket: £445, Fjallraven
Fjallraven is the Swedish brand best known for the box-like Kanken backpacks beloved of school kids in its home country and hipsters everywhere. Because it is the brand du jour among trendy young urbanites, people sometimes overlook the fact Fjällräven has serious outdoor credentials – it has been making kit to deal with Scandinavian winters since the 1960s.
The high-end Keb Eco Shell Jacket is one such example. A three-layer hardshell jacket, it is made from Fjallraven’s polyflurocarbon-free fabric. Polyflurocarbons – PFCs – are often used to make materials waterproof. Removing them from the manufacturing process reduces a garment’s environmental impact dramatically.
Fjallraven jackets are never the lightest – this weighs 570g – but the company’s fondness for traditional techniques means its jackets are incredibly well made, and they work. This reviewer spent seven days trekking across Swedish Lapland last summer in weather that was variable at best. The Keb Eco-Shell handled it all with aplomb.
TNF Thermoball Triclimate Jacket: £300, The North Face
This neat package from the North Face is almost like having three jackets in one. The outer layer is a breathable, weatherproof shell, coated in water repellent DWR to keep the rain off.
Underneath that, there’s a North Face Thermoball jacket, an insulating mid layer made with primaloft – a synthetic alternative to goose down which packs down almost as small – and which, crucially, far outperforms the natural material if it’s wet. Down has a tendency to absorb water, becoming heavy and reducing its ability to insulate. The Thermoball has no such issues.
Combining the two means the Triclimate gives three options – they can be worn together or individually depending on conditions. As a brand, The North Face needs little introduction. One of the biggest outdoor companies in the world, it developed out of the 1960s California climbing explosion. In a strange twist, it has recently become the brand of choice for British grime artists, but that hasn’t impacted on its impeccable alpine credentials.
Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket: £120, Patagonia
Like The North Face, Patagonia’s origins are in the California climbing scene of the 1960s. In the years since, the brand has developed a reputation not just as a maker of excellent kit but as one of the most eco-friendly clothing companies on the planet.
It has developed a range of eco-friendly fabrics, pioneered initiatives to make its supply chain transparent and worked hard to reduce the environmental impact of every element of its business. These moves – as well as its policy of funding grassroots environmental activism – have earned it a fanatical following among outdoor enthusiasts.
Even if you’re not a fanboy, however, products like the Torrentshell stand up on their own merits. This is one of Patagonia’s cheaper jackets but it has an impressive range of features including handwarmer pockets, armpit vents and an adjustable hood. The outer material is waterproof, lightweight and breathable, and the whole jacket folds down into one of the pockets – creating a small, lightweight package that can easily be thrown in a backpack or clipped to a belt using the built-in carabiner.
Paramo Cascada Jacket: £250, Paramo
Like Patagonia, Paramo takes its environmental obligations very seriously. It was the first waterproof jacket brand to be entirely free of harmful PFC chemicals, thanks to its use of a fabric developed in-house, called Analogy.
Its waterproof and breathability ratings mean even the most inclement weather is like water off the proverbial duck’s back, and it’s softer to the touch than conventional waterproof fabrics, meaning it makes less rustling noise when you move. For this reason, Paramo jackets have become popular among birdwatchers as well as walkers.
The Cascada jacket is one of the brand’s classic models. Along with its Analogy outer, this boasts a fully adjustable hood, double storm flaps and two adjustable draw cords, at the raised waist and the hem, so you can get the fit just right. This, along with the slightly longer length, makes it ideal for people who are spending long days outside – this really will take anything the British weather can throw at it.
The Verdict: Best walking jackets for men
Each of these jackets offers something different but in terms of technical waterproof performance, weight and packability, it’s hard to beat the Arc’Teryx Zeta SL. It doesn’t have as many features as some of the others here, but we like the way it looks sleek, and at £270 it’s not too pricey either.
The Patagonia Torrentshell is worth a closer look. It’s got an impressive range of features for the price and is made in the most eco-friendly way possible, using fabrics that meet stringent BlueSign environmental standards. In this day and age, any outdoor enthusiast should be considering the environmental impact of their purchasing choices, making Patagonia a great option.
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