How to choose a hiking jacket

If you can only bring one jacket with you on your hiking trip, what would it be? Regardless, it should be convenient while remaining relatively comfortable to protect you from the disturbing weathers. Understanding the importance of this, we’re prompted to provide you the ultimate guide on how to choose a hiking jacket.

Which jacket is for you?

Hard shell

These are the toughest jackets that you can get for your hiking trip. They usually consist of 2, 2.5, and 3 separated layers for multiple purposes. The inner layer is made from skin-friendly materials to enable free movements. The middle one often comes with breathable and warm materials like wool, fleece, or down. And finally, the outer polyester layer provides great rain and wind insulations. They’re great for mountain hiking during cold conditions.

However, if you’re planning on going for a hike at tropical locations, hard shell jackets aren’t recommended due to the unnecessary warmth they provide. Not to mention that they’re quite bulky and also cost more than other types. In this case, you should go for soft shell jackets.

Soft shell

Thanks to their relatively lightweight and often, waterproof ability, soft shell jackets are preferred for tropical areas. Moreover, their better breathability makes them an ideal choice for intense hiking activities. Your sweats and body temperature can easily escape through the breathable layers of a soft shell jacket.


Windproof jackets are designed with well, very windy conditions in mind. They come with maximum wind protection and little warm-keeping features. Sometimes, your jackets might even have water resistance, although it’s not quite effective.


These are my number one choice when it comes to hiking. Mostly because it often rains in my area. So a rainproof jacket that provides both warmth and rain protection is ideal. However, if you want something with better breathability, you can go for hard shell jackets.

For me, I find them quite expensive. Not to mention that when it’s raining, the temperature tends to reduce so you won’t likely to sweat that much.


General speaking, there are multiple materials for different layers of a jacket depending on the types of jacket that you’re looking for. But if you’re like me and want to look for a rainproof one, then the information below might be helpful.
The level of waterproof also varied between different materials followed with few features like breathability or warmth. And of course, they do come with different prices.

If you go for cheap materials like nylon or polyester, you’ll get an excellent waterproof ability. However, these jackets tend to have really bad breathability as well as warm-keeping features.

One of the most advanced and respected technologies, the Gore-Tex offers both breathability and water resistance. By using advanced knitting technology, manufacturers are able to deliver fabrics that come with nano-sized holes for breathability while preventing the water from penetrating. But keep in mind that these products can cost a lot, so make sure you check your budget first.

Size and fit

Of course, to enhance your hiking experience, your clothes should have a good fit on your body. Don’t buy clothes that are too tight or too loose. They’ll make you feel both uncomfortable and cumbersome.

And even if they’re fit on you, don’t wear the wrong clothes for certain hiking activities. For example, you can’t wear a hard shell when doing hiking on relatively hot locations. The excess heat will destroy you before you can get to the top. Not to mention that it is also bulkier, making it hard to move around.


Moreover, you should consider the amount of weight that you’re carrying on your body to ensure the jacket doesn’t add up to it. During a long hiking session, extra weights are always forbidden as they’ll take a toll on the body the longer you carry them.

Other features

Every jacket should come with one or two additional features. As you go on your trip, you’ll find these features exceptionally useful.


Find a jacket that gives you as many pockets as possible, after all, they’ll not make your clothes any heavier or bulkier. Moreover, pockets are the best place to keep your important items.

Make sure your jacket has at least two waist pockets, two chest pocket, and a hidden pocket at the inner layer. I always use the chest pocket to keep my phones since they’re really reliable. And we all know how useful a smartphone can be nowadays, they can be a flashlight, GPS, and communication device to get you out of any dangerous situation.

Adjustable hood

For rainy and windy conditions, we’ll need to put on something to protect the head. And having an adjustable hood makes it extremely useful in these situations. You can make adjustments to ensure that it fits on your head perfectly.

Pit vents

It is a must for every rain jacket. As you’re hiking during wet condition, the humid that builds up inside your body will make it really uncomfortable. Having pit vents mean that you can get rid of the moisture inside, especially the armpit areas.

Adjustable Hem Draw-cord

From my experiences, this is definitely a must-have feature on your jacket. These adjustable cords help to tighten the jacket around your body allowing for more warmth and flexible movements. Not to mention that the embraced feeling also enhances your hiking performance.

Waterproof Zippers

Not all waterproof jackets come with complete water resistance, most of them (usually polyester ones) use the zipper for ventilation and breathability. Although this might be effective in certain cases, your jacket will lose its ability to provide complete waterproof.

So if you’re keen on keeping your body from getting wet, a jacket with waterproof zippers should always be one of your priorities.
Here is our opinions on how to choose a hiking jacket. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you in our future posts.