Best Backpacking Jackets 2016
Protecting yourself against exposure is a key part of staying safe in the wilderness. A trusty rain jacket and a warm puffy coat will help you to enjoy your trip and control your body temperature in harsh conditions while you're on the trail.
The lightweight jacket market is constantly evolving and innovating. Jackets are obviously a highly personal decision that will depend on your preferences and budget. Opinions vary widely about the best jackets and below you'll find a few of our favorite choices.
There are lots of expensive rain jackets out there, but you shouldn't have to break the bank to keep yourself dry in the woods. Affordable options like the Frogg Toggs rain suit (10oz) and O2 Original jacket & pants (10oz) will get the job done, but they will also have durability issues. That's why we generally prefer stronger rain jackets and pants.
We also like jackets from companies like Patagonia and Arc’Teryx, but those choices can sometimes be pretty expensive. Still, their quality is excellent and we often feel they're well worth the cost if taken care of properly. We hope our jacket guide will help you to narrow down your choices and find a good fit for you.
If you'd like to provide feedback on an item that we recommend or feel like we've missed an important piece of gear, we'd love to hear from you. Please use our contact form to let us know.
Learn the foundations of lightweight clothing and raingear with this video:
Lightweight jacket manufacturers often cut out a lot of extras from their coats to save weight. Many ultralight coats have a smaller amount of pockets, cinches, and zippers that add to the weight of a garment. If you prefer lots of straps, pockets, and zippers, make sure to check the specs of your coat choices and be willing to take on a little extra weight.
The M10 jacket (in men's and women's) is my all-time favorite shell for ultralight backpacking rain protection. It’s incredibly light, breathable, and compactable. The material of this jacket feels comfortable against the skin - not plasticy like some other jackets - and it will keep you bone dry even under the harshest conditions. No front pockets or pit zips keep the weight of this coat down, you won’t need those features on the trail. Find my full review here.
The Helium II (men - women) is extremely light, comfortable, and stylish. It packs into its single chest pocket for easy storage and has a simple and effective design. Outdoor Research cut out all the extras to keep weight down, so this model doesn’t have front pockets, adjustable wrist straps, or pit zips. Still, it's a solid option for a lightweight rain jacket.
The Montane Minimus jacket is extremely well crafted and stylish. It packs down to about the size of an apple and it's very lightweight. One of the best qualities about this jacket is it's fit and precision tailoring. It has one chest zipper pocket, an adjustable hood, wrist cinch straps, and an elastic waist cinch (no pit-zips or front pockets). It's a slightly more expensive jacket, but we think it's worth the price tag.
A great down jacket just might be the most beloved piece of gear in your pack. You'll find that even on warm weather trips you'll wear your down coat multiple times every day. If you take good care of your down jacket, it will keep you toasty warm on the trail for many years.
We generally prefer down jackets that are light, sleek, and stylish. We’re willing to pay a little extra for the right jacket and we take good care of our down garments to make them last a long time.
Ex Light Down Jacket
The 900 fill down Ex Light Jacket (men - women) is about as light as they come and it will keep you toasty warm. In order to keep the weight down, MontBell cut out all the extras, and that can be a turnoff to some, depending on your preferences. There are no pockets and there's no hood on this jacket. But if you’re looking to go ultralight, this is your jam.
The 850 fill Ghost Whisperer (men - women) is comfortable, stylish, light, warm, and it comes with all the features you're looking for. It has a hood and two small front pockets which make it a great choice for lightweight hiking and it packs into its own pocket for easy storage. Mountain Hardwear designed this fabric specifically for lightweight performance, which is why the price tag is so large, but we think it's well worth the cost.
Ultralight Down Hoody
Patagonia’s Ultralight Down Hoody (men - women) is stylish and functional with 800 fill down. It comes with nice extras like two large front pockets, a small breast pocket, and an adjustable hood. It compresses well, will keep you warm, and comes with a small stuff sack for storage. The price tag for this jacket is large, but it's an extremely well-built jacket, so it's worth a good look.
If you'd like to provide feedback on an item that we recommend or feel like we've missed an important piece of gear, we'd love to hear from you. Please use our contact form to let us know. Thanks!
Disclosure: The trust of my audience is of the utmost importance to me. That’s why I only recommend equipment I love from companies I trust. I have not been paid to review any of the products listed above. A couple of items were provided to me for free to review, but I purchased most of this equipment myself. Also, I am under no obligation to give positive reviews to any of the products listed above. This gear just rocks. This page contains affiliate links. Check out my terms page for more info.