Where Can I Find the Best Hiking Jackets?
I am and always will be a Hiker who follows the Layered Clothing System. This simply means you wear on the upper body a Base Layer, such as a Tee Shirt or Long Sleeved Tee Shirt, a Mid Layer, like a Sweat Top, Hoodie or Jumper, and an Outer or Shell Layer such as Waterproof/Windproof/Weatherproof Hiking Jackets, depending on your climate and chosen Hiking Area.
Hiking Jackets can be worn over the base layer in mild weather or for covering the base and a midlayer in colder weather. Hiking Jackets come in multiple types and combinations including: Raincoats, Soft Shell Jackets, Windproof Jackets, Gore-Tex Insulated Jackets (waterproof or water-resistant) and many more to suit every need. This of course makes it a difficult task for the Beginner Hiker to choose their first Shell Jacket.
A Shell Layer Jacket is normally worn in windy and rainy weather as it reduces the breathability of the under layer garments. As a general rule of thumb, the more “waterproof” the Jacket is, the less breathable it is.
However, by cleverly combining advanced materials Jacket manufacturers can create breathable fabrics that offer excellent protection against rain. Don’t believe the hype either, no breathable fabric can be completely waterproof, no matter what the advertiser and label may tell you.
Below we will look at what types of Jackets are available at various budget levels.
Low Cost Hiking Jackets for Beginners
If we are talking Shell Layers and we are from the UK or a similar climate, then we are talking about a Waterproof or a Wet Weather Jacket. Unfortunately, this is probably going to challenge Footwear as your most expensive hiking purchase. Waterproof Jackets are expensive, there is no way around this.
If you are like me, you will only wear a Jacket as an absolute last resort and it will spend the majority of its limited life at the bottom of your Rucksack or Daypack as mine does. This seems a shame and a waste of money, but when you need it, you really need it, so it has to be available.
So our quest now comes down to “Which ones are the least expensive and still actually function”. We can all slip into something resembling a bin liner from the “Crazy Aisles” in ALDI or LIDL, but you will end up as wet from sweat and condensation than if you hadn’t bothered to put a jacket on at all in the rain. So breathability has to be a consideration too.
If you are on a budget, you are most likely going to have to avoid the “Names”, you know, the well known brands with bottomless advertising budgets such as Berghaus, Arc’teryx and Patagonia. There are Jackets on the market without the Name that offer comparable performance to the big boys. Jackets made by Columbia, Helly Hansen (which I have) and North Face to name a few. They, and many others all offer good quality and affordability.
The North Face Venture 2 is Waterproof, Breathable and Lightweight. It is currently available for around £89, which is a steal for what it offers.
Mid Cost Hiking Jackets for Beginners
Upping your budget by £50 or so can bring into play a Higher Performance Jacket with a lot of extra features. Better Materials, More Durability, A More Breathable Fabric, Pit Zips, Detachable Inners and even A Brand Name if you scour the sales for “Last Year’s Colours”.
Amazon, Decathlon, Blacks and other big outlets often have end of season, or Black Friday type sales where they clear out the last few items in each category, here is where you can pick up a far better quality Jacket than you thought your budget could afford, so always be on the lookout for a bargain, they are always out there.
Expensive Hiking Jackets for Beginners
I say “Expensive Hiking Jackets”, but are they really expensive? We are probably comparing a Hiking Jacket with every other Jacket we have had before. But, the Hiking Jacket will have so many different and additional features, that it is in a totally different arena to normal Jackets.
What we are paying the extra for, are the additional features not contained in other Hiking products. The expensive Hiking Jacket we speak of will be more durable, better looking, have better pocket positioning and design for wearing with a Rucksack or Daypack, and be slightly more breathable than a mid priced jacket and have a longer life due to better materials being used. For some people that’s worth a lot extra on its own, but if we divide the initial cost by the overall life span of an expensive jacket to a cheaper version, it will probably work out to a similar figure.
The “Best of” Hiking Jackets for Beginners
So there we have it once again, Hiking Jackets for beginners, discussed. So what should a beginner hiker go for? Really, it depends on your outlook for hiking. If you are just “giving it a go”, buy something Low Cost in case you aren’t sure you are going to enjoy Hiking. However, if you think, this is it, I have found my new love, then go for the most expensive Mid to High end Jacket you can afford. It will pay for itself many times over in the future.
Something from Arc’teryx would probably be my recommendation off the top of my head, if you can afford it. Arc’teryx is one of the market’s best outdoor brands, hands down. It’s not the cheapest brand on the market, but their gear will last forever (literally), see the Jacket above….
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