I thought today I would do a short post with some reflections on why outdoor lightweight jackets are such a great investment and what the main advantages of them are. I am of course referring specifically to hiking jackets here which have all the basic things you need for a good outdoor jacket that’s not only lightweight but also very functional.
I am of course a hiker so I bought my hiking jackets with very specific and functional uses out on the trail in mind. However, do I use my jackets for just walking around town or to keep me dry on my way to my car at work? You bet I do!
Hiking jackets are a really versatile piece of kit to have around and will come in handy for almost any type of weather.
By default, many decent hiking jackets will come with waterproof capabilities as standard. This means that the outer shell of the jacket will at least have a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating of some kind on it which, you guessed it, repels water.
When you see this in action on a hiking jacket, the water forms little beads and rolls off. So whether hopping from your car to the gym or walking your dog on an unsettled November evening, a hiking jacket will keep your head and torso dry.
As already alluded to in the title, hiking jackets are by design lightweight. This is because they are generally used for layering. If you’re not sure what layering is, check out this post. In short it’s the process of adding or removing layers of clothes in response to your environment. You already do it every time your cold and put on a sweater. That’s effectively layering.
Anyway, back to the characteristics of hiking jackets. Hiking jackets also tick the box for being lightweight as they are normally made from very lightweight materials. This is to not only be light when actually wearing the jacket, but also to be light when it’s not being worn and is instead being carried in your day pack.
Accompanying the waterproofing capabilities mentioned in the previous section, many hiking rain jackets also have some element of breathable capability as standard. For a jacket to be breathable it basically means that it is made from a material that has pores on it that are small enough to keep water out e.g. rain water but large enough to let moisture and heat from your body out e.g. sweat. This keeps your body comfortable and dry from the inside as well as the outside.
It should be noted here too that many hiking jackets have additional ventilation features to help with internal heat regulation. An example of this would be pit zips, see the image below. that’s me sporting, 🙂 , the pit zips on the Marmot Minimalist Rain Jacket, an excellent rain jacket option.
These are zips that are located underneath the armpits of your jacket. When you open these you usually find a mesh like material that lets air in and so acts like a type of ventilator.
There is much, much more behind the science and wonders of waterproofing and breathability. If you’d like to learn more about how waterproofing and breathability works in hiking jackets, you can check out this post to get you started.
This is an easy one to forget about sometimes but another handy feature of a good hiking jacket is that they can be bundled up and stowed away neatly and efficiently. This ties in with the lightweight option mentioned above as, as well as being lightweight, hiking jackets are quite easy to stow away wherever you need to put them.
They are tough by design so can take a some ruffling and some abrasion as standard while losing none of their functional capabilities. Bottom line? They’re ideal for stuffing into your travel bag or throwing into the bag of you car when on the move.
Hiking jackets generally as a rule are pretty fashionable. Now, I don’t mean ‘put one on and head out to the club dancing’ fashionable but day-to-day use fashionable. A hiking jacket does tend to bestow a mild aura of adventure and freedom on the wearer, even if they’ve never went further than their local park for a stroll 🙂
I can’t say that for certain, that’s just a perception. However, when you see someone kitted out in good hiking gear, odds are that they’re not afraid to get out in the wilds and live a bit!
If you’re in the market for a new functional jacket but are hmmnning and hawwing about what to get, you could do a lot worse that taking a look through the wide variety of hiking jackets available on the market today.
You can get the search started by checking out the best hiking rain jacket options. If you’ve never owned a hiking jacket before, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and pleased with their versatility 😉
Todd Stauffer says
I like how you said that a light rain jacket can be stowed away because it is so small. Having this kind of rain gear for work would be great if you work outdoors and need something to help keep you dry. That way you can have a bit of a more enjoyable time even if the weather isn’t exactly agreeable.
Hey Todd, Yes for sure, a good lightweight jacket for the outdoors is generally pretty handy to carry around, and utilize when you need it.
Hiking jackets or outdoor jackets are far more practical than other light jackets you would get from the high street.
I use my hiking jacket to walk my dogs and not only does the beathability of the fabric keep me sweat free when walking at pace but the waterproofness keeps the frequent showers we get here in the north or Ireland from soaking me through. I also match these up with waterproof leggings to add additional protection on really bad days.
Lastly another great feature of most hiking jackets is the addition of reflective edges to show me up to car lights when walking my girls on the country roads at night. A life saving idea if you ask me.
Yes, you’ve summarized it well there I think. A hiking jacket has the versatility for all sorts of uses. The advantages of having a waterproof jacket speak for themselves but breathability, as you mention, is a great feature which you won’t find in standard jackets. Having a jacket that can help you effectively control the temperature within it is a really great advantage.
I never thought about the safety features in that context when out on the roads at night. You’re right, an extra benefit most hiking jackets will have that I hadn’t considered. Good call!