With the right kit, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the great outdoors all year round.
Of course, finding the right kit that is in your price range can be a difficult process. The market is flooded with low-cost, low-quality outdoor gear. Not only do these products waste your time and money, but they can cause injury if they fail.
Some people tend to underestimate the necessity of a good jacket. Your jacket is the basic boundary against the cold and needs to be high quality to protect you. Depending on where you hike and the weather conditions, a good quality coat can mean the difference between life and death.
The problem is that cold weather causes our body temperature to drop. In extreme cases, this can cause hypothermia.
Hypothermia can sneak up on you. One minute you think you’re just a little cold, the next minute you’re taking off your jacket and jumper because hypothermia has impaired your decision-making processes.
That’s the dangerous thing about hypothermia. It messes with your thought process. If you don’t make smart choices out on the trail, you can get yourself in real trouble.
So, to help prepare you for those beautiful winter hikes, we’ve put together a buyer’s guide and reviewed some of the top quality products available.
Our buyer’s guide will help you understand the features and specifications of winter jackets. You’ll be able to make a genuinely informed decision about what jacket works for you.
But first, our reviews!
Top 5 Best Hiking Jackets for Cold Weather
OUR TOP PICK
This is a super lightweight jacket that provides superb waterproof and windproof protection. You can use it year-round, but you will need to layer up underneath for colder weather.
Available in a huge range of colors, this jacket is versatile and hard working. The nylon fabric construction creates a near-perfect seal against the elements. Customers report that even in torrential downpours, the jacket kept them perfectly dry.
The covered zipper is a great touch. It prevents rain from seeping in. The pocket zippers are also covered to protect your belongings.
The cut is more sensible than most women’s coats. The hem is loose and the waist is straight. It means that even with layers on you shouldn’t feel too restricted. There is a drawstring in the hem and the hood to allow you to custom fit the coat to your body.
For cold weather, you probably want to buy a size up to give you room for base and insulation layers. There is not insulation built into the jacket.
- Fully water and windproof.
- Snug but not restrictive fit.
- Covered zippers.
- Adjustable hem, hood, and sleeves.
- Huge range of colors and sizes.
- No insulation built-in.
- Limited pocket options.
The first thing you’ll notice about this jacket is the huge range of colors and sizes available. There seems to be something for everyone with Columbia jackets.
This is an uninsulated waterproof jacket which means you’ll need to layer up underneath. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Check out our buyer’s guide and FAQ section for more information on layers.
What this jacket does provide are water and windproof protection. The waterproofing is top notch for such a lightweight jacket. The sealed seams and nylon fabric keep you dry inside. The seams are particularly good for preventing seepage.
The cuffed sleeves and high-quality fabric perform well in the wind. Customers report that even the sharpest wind couldn’t touch them. The drawstring hood also helps seal yourself off from the elements and keeps the hood in place.
Overall, this is a versatile jacket that you’ll make use of all year round. It is waterproof, windproof, breathable, and lightweight. You can’t ask for more.
- Fully weatherproof.
- Sealed seams and covered pockets prevent seepage.
- Available in lots of colors and sizes.
- Excellent quality for the price.
- Drawstring hood.
- Cuffed sleeves.
- Limited pockets.
- Hood does not detach or pack away.
This jacket offers both insulation and weather protection. It is lightweight, functional, and affordable.
Made from polyester and available in 5 colors, there is a lot to love about this jacket. Customers report that the waterproofing and soundproofing have kept them warm and dry in some really cold weather.
There are a few reviews that mention some seepage in the arms which do not have the thicker lining. This does seem to be a fairly limited experience but something to bear in mind.
Speaking of the lining, the listing refers to it as a ‘fuzzy fabric’ which doesn’t tell us much. My guess is that it’s some sort of polycotton. That being said, customers find the lining warm but breathable. Which is perfect for winter hikes.
In terms of sizing, if you plan on going out in the winter, you might want to order a size up so that you can wear layers underneath. It has a snug fitted design that looks great but can be difficult to wear with extra jumpers.
- Great quality weather protection.
- Cuffed sleeves.
- Taped and hooded pockets.
- 4 pockets including 1 internal pocket.
- A few isolated reports of sleeve seepage.
- Some sizing issues.
This is a waterproof, windproof jacket that has an insulating layer included.
It’s marketed as a ski jacket and I probably more suitable for skiing than hiking. It’s quite a bulky coat which might make walking a bit too warm and sweaty.
That being said, it certainly offers plenty of protection against the elements. Customers have worn these jackets in some bitingly cold places, including Iceland! The fleece lining insulates fantastically well.
The wind and waterproofing hold up despite the fairly low cost of this jacket. One customer even tested the waterproofing by putting the coat in a sink of water!
Available in 6 different colors and 5 different sizes, there are plenty of options here.
- Fully waterproof and windproof.
- Fleece-lined for insulation.
- 4 pockets, including 1 internal pocket.
- Taped zips prevent seepage.
- Range of colors and sizes available.
- On the bulky side for hiking.
- Sizing runs small.
- Zip is on the opposite side to normal.
The first thing you should note about this jacket is that it is not fully waterproof. It is a softshell jacket which means it is water-resistant. If you’re heading out for a hike, you could wear this as an insulating layer, but you’ll also need a waterproof jacket.
This jacket will keep you warm and it seems to be very good at keeping the wind out. It has a fleece-lined collar which helps keep your neck and chest warm. The adjustable cuffed sleeves prevent any wind from sneaking in that way.
The hood folds into the collar which can make it a little bit bulky. You can detach the hood if you don’t like the feel. The hood itself is thick and comfortable. It won’t stick to your head and face as soon as it gets wet.
The only real customer complaints with this jacket are that the pockets are in an awkward placement and the sizing seems to run a little small.
Overall, though, as an insulating layer under your waterproof jacket, this will serve you well.
- Polar fleece lined.
- Plenty of pocket options on body, back, and arms.
- Foldaway and detachable hood.
- Taped pocket seams to prevent seepage.
- Mesh-lined vents to improve breathability.
- Runs small.
- Odd placement of body pockets.
Best Hiking Jackets for Cold Weather Buying Guide
There are four key things you should keep in mind when buying a winter hiking jacket.
Notice we say weatherproofing and not waterproofing. Keeping the rain out is a priority but it’s equally important to keep the wind out.
Winter winds are bitingly cold and if they blow through your jacket, they will lower your body temperature.
Make sure you look for a jacket that is marked as windproof. Don’t settle for something that just has lots of insulation. If the wind can get through it, it won’t keep you warm.
In terms of waterproofing, you need to look for a jacket that specifically says waterproof. Water-resistant jackets have some water resistance, but a good downpour will result in water seeping through the fabric.
The gold standard for weatherproof fabrics is Gore-Tex. It is fully waterproof, windproof, and breathable. It can also really bump the price of your kit up.
If Gore-Tex is out of your price range, you can still find plenty of quality fabrics across a range of brands. Just make sure you double-check the level of wind and water protection.
Down is a wonderful insulator. The only issue is that it is terrible when wet. Down feathers are not waterproof and they get heavy and soggy when rained on.
If you go for a jacket that has down insulation, you will need to swap it out for a different jacket if it starts to rain.
Synthetic down is much better in wet weather. It doesn’t absorb anywhere near as much water as real down.
Not all jackets are down jackets. Some have removable fleece linings, others do not have insulating linings. In the latter case, you will need to layer up.
A nice big jacket might seem like a great idea, but you need to think about how much it is going to weigh you down.
Heavy coats are also a bit of a pain when you’re hiking. As soon as you start to work up a sweat, you start burning up inside.
Personally, I think there’s a lot to be said for layering up. A lightweight jacket on top of fleece and thermals is preferable to one big coat. If you do get too warm, you can remove a layer but still have the weather protection of your jacket.
A lightweight but quality coat can also be used year-round. It doesn’t have to get shoved in the back of the closet when spring rolls around.
Good quality jackets use materials that allow moisture and sweat created by your body to be wicked away. This is what we mean when we talk about breathable fabrics.
If that sweat is allowed to stay inside the insulation, it will eventually cool and bring your body temperature down. So it’s quite an important feature.
Again, when looking for breathable fabrics, Gore-Tex will come up time and time again. For cheaper options, look for jackets that have mesh panels, vents, or moisture-wicking designs.
There are a few other things you should think about when buying a winter hiking jacket.
Firstly, the hood. You may not like wearing them, but they do protect you from bad weather. A lot of your body heat is lost through your head, so making sure it is protected is essential.
The next thing to think about is pockets. You want to look for a mix of external and internal pockets. They should have taped zips to stop water from getting in.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best brand of hiking jacket?
Everyone has their favorites that they swear by so it’s not easy to give a definitive answer. However, some brands that are well-reviewed and known for quality include The North Face, Arc’teryx, Jack Wolfskin, Helly Hansen, and Salomon.
If you want a reputable brand, start with the ones listed above.
What to wear on a hike in winter?
A good recipe for success is a base layer that wicks away perspiration, an insulating layer to keep you warm, and a final water and windproof layer. This way, if you get too warm on your hike you can shed a layer but still be protected.
You also need to make sure that your extremities are covered in cold weather. Gloves, hats, thermal socks, and a buff or scarf are very much needed.