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How to choose a jacket

How to choose a jacket banner

If you could only take one jacket on your next adventure, which would you choose? The answer largely depends on what activity you’ll be doing and what the weather conditions will be.

Will it be cold?

If you’ll be outdoors in cold to freezing conditions, you’ll need a jacket that provides excellent insulation.

Best option: Down is nature’s best insulator, providing exceptional warmth and breathability. A down jacket keeps you warm by trapping body heat and preventing it from diffusing into the cold air around you.

The performance of down fill is measured by fill power. The numbers 550, 600, 750, for example, refer to the fill’s quality. Fill power is measured by the number of cubic inches that one ounce of down occupies in a climate-controlled test cylinder. The more volume occupied by the down, the greater the amount of air trapped and the greater the insulation generated. A down jacket’s construction, such as baffle, also impacts the jacket’s insulation capabilities.

Will it be cold and a little wet?

If the conditions you’ll be venturing in will be cold and wet, down won’t be your best option as it loses its ability to insulate when wet and it’s slow to dry.

Best option: Synthetic fill is designed to replicate the qualities of down, but has the added benefit of being more resistant to moisture and being able to dry faster. Synthetic fill jackets are also generally the more affordable alternative to down and is naturally hypoallergenic. The downside of synthetic is it’s heavier and bulkier than down, requiring more weight and volume to keep you warm. The fibres in synthetic down jackets also gradually break down, so will need to be replaced more often than down.

Will it be really wet and not freezing cold?

If rain is your main concern, a rain jacket will provide the best protection in extreme conditions. The outer layer fabric is bonded to a membrane, which gives the jacket its performance properties but means the fabric isn’t as flexible, so it’s more for weather protection than comfort during strenuous exercise. Most rain jackets have no lining, so in cold conditions it’s best to wear them over a fleece or merino mid-layer.

Best option: If you’ll be exercising and breathability is essential and you’re not in torrential rain, a softshell jacket is a great option as it provides good wind and water resistance and is flexible and breathable for comfort during outdoor activities.

Will you be physically exerting yourself?

If you’ll be physically exerting yourself, you’ll need a jacket that’s highly breathable and, ideally, moisture-wicking too, to avoid feeling hot and clammy. If your activity requires a lot of body movement, like climbing, you’ll need a jacket that is stretchy and flexible and allows full range of motion.

Best option: A fleece jacket is an excellent choice for physical activity as it provides lightweight warmth, is highly breathable and moisture-wicking. Most are stretchy too, with our more technical options providing a full range of motion. In mild conditions you can wear it over a technical shirt or singlet. In colder or wet conditions, layer a breathable and flexible waterproof or insulation jacket over the top.

Will you be carrying your luggage?

If you’ll be carrying your luggage on a travel or backpacking adventure, you’ll want a jacket that’s easy to carry and pack. An all-round travel jacket with special passport and electronics pockets is also ideal for convenient travel.

Best option: Within the categories of fleece, down and rainwear, choose options that are designed to be compact and lightweight.