Guide to Outdoor Jackets

When you head out the door for a winter adventure, the most important piece of gear you grab is your jacket. There are various types and styles of outdoor jackets, all created to serve a specific purpose. How do you know what jacket to pack for your next outdoor adventure? Check out our guide to outdoor jackets to find out!

Softshell Jackets

A softshell jacket is the perfect piece if you’re looking for something that’s weather-resistant and breathable, ideal for high-output activities like hiking or running. Softshell jackets are primarily used to protect you from the elements, providing less warmth than other jacket types.

While this style can be used in a number of different circumstances, a softshell jacket is primarily intended to be worn in dry climates. Though it will protect you in a light drizzle, softshell jackets are not usually waterproof and will not keep you dry in a substantial rainstorm.


A hardshell jacket is a must-have layering essential for any outdoor adventurer. The purpose of a hardshell jacket is to serve as durable protection against the elements. Most hardshells are fully waterproof, windproof, and breathable, ideal for rainy or snowy weather.

A true shell is usually not insulated, which gives you the versatility to wear it over a tee-shirt in warmer, stormy weather, or combine it with an insulated jacket for cold-weather storm protection. The simplicity and lack of insulation makes hardshell jackets very lightweight and packable—a great option for travel.

Fleece Jackets

Fleece is made to look and feel like pile wool, resulting in a warm, highly breathable, and stretchy material. Fleece material wicks moisture away from your skin and is incredibly quick-drying, so it’s a go-to for fast-paced adventures.

There are three different types of fleece—lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight. Heavyweight fleece offers the most warmth, while lightweight fleece is a more breathable, versatile option, typically found in next-to-skin layers like shirts and hoodies.

Insulated Jackets

Sometimes referred to as puffies or puffers, the main purpose of an insulated jacket is to trap your body heat and keep you warm. From skiing to winter hiking, an insulated jacket is a basic essential for any cold-weather adventure.

There are two main types of insulation: down and synthetic. Down offers the most warmth with the least amount of bulk. It’s extremely packable and lightweight, but it doesn’t insulate well if it gets wet.

Synthetic insulation continues to trap heat even when wet and dries quickly, but it doesn’t offer the same lightweight, packable warmth as down.

Overall, if you’re looking for packability and you’ll be adventuring in drier climates, opt for down. If packability isn’t a priority or you live in a wetter climate, synthetic insulation is a great choice.

Whether you choose down or synthetic insulation, puffer jackets provide lightweight warmth that pairs perfectly under a shell to create a robust, versatile cold-weather kit.

Casual Jackets

Casual jackets are designed for everyday wear, but many have outdoor-worthy features like robust waterproofing and lightweight insulation. You can find casual rain jackets, insulated jackets, softshells—you name it—with a focus on style over technical performance.

Whether you’re off for a hike in the mountains, a ski trip, or a walk around the city, there’s a jacket to complement your adventure-packed outing. Take some time to consider which jacket styles would best suit your itinerary of outdoor activity and stock up!

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