The correct clothing is vital when going on a camping trip – if you don’t have the proper attire, then what should be an enjoyable experience can quickly turn into a miserable one.
Today I’ll be looking at different types of camping jackets and the best options for different situations.
There is exists a vast variety of jackets – ranging from how warm they keep you to whether they are waterproof and/or windproof.
What you choose depends on where you are camping, the time of year and the weather that you will be expecting.
If you’re camping in the British Isles – then you should really prepare for rain and wind anytime of the year!
So the main features that you’ll want are for the jacket to be waterproof, windproof and then you can choose what level of warmth you need based on the time of year.
Types Of Waterproof Material
There is a difference between a jacket being waterproof and water-resistant. Water-resistant means that it can only handle light showers for a short period before water starts to seep through the material.
In addition, not all waterproof jackets are made equal – many different fabrics are used to make waterproof jackets.
Cheaper ones tend to be waterproof, but not very breathable – meaning that sweat and moisture is trapped inside. Whereas more expensive ones tend to be made of breathable fabrics that allow moisture out, so that you don’t end up getting damp inside from your own sweat.
There are two main types of waterproof materials:
- The inside of the fabric is coated with a polyurethane layer which creates a waterproof barrier.
- These types of jacket are very cheap and are best suited to non-strenuous activities – they are excellent at keeping rain out, but they are not very breathable and, therefore, will also trap moisture (sweat) in.
- These jackets have extra layers underneath the surface that consist of tiny holes that are small enough not to allow rain through but large enough to allow vapour out.
- This makes them perfect for more strenuous types of activity, such as hiking.
- Gore-Tex is probably the most famous brand of membrane technology, but there are many other brands too.
Another thing to note is that water-resistant jackets are breathable (as if water can eventually get in, it can also get out…).
Types Of Windproof Materials
Essentially any jacket that is waterproof will also be windproof.
Some jackets have windproof technology, but are only water-resistant.
And some are wind-resistant and only offer protection from light winds – these tend to be ultralight and can pack away into a pocket.
Waterproof jackets range from very lightweight types for warm days to ones designed for sub-freezing temperatures.
Warmth is achieved by a number of different methods, the main ones being down feathers, synthetic fibres and synthetic fleece.
The insulation traps your body heat, keeping you warm.
There are several types of insulation used in jackets:
- Down is the light and fluffy covering on the belly of ducks or geese, which lies beneath the feathers.
- These jackets are very warm and often very light – but not very waterproof.
- Moisture causes the down to clump together – this reduces the insulating properties and it takes a long time to dry
- Some manufacturers will coat the down in a special hydrophobic material which increases the ability of the down to handle moisture – however, they will still not perform as well as some other materials in heavy rain.
- Synthetic fibres are less sensitive to moisture.
- They don’t clump together when wet and although the insulating properties will be affected when wet, the effect is less than with down.
- They also dry out faster than down.
- Fleece is lightweight and great at insulating.
- However, it will become saturated quickly in rain
As can be seen from the insulation types mentioned above, none of them can be classed as waterproof.
If you want a proper waterproof jacket – you will need another layer over the insulation, either as a separate waterproof jacket or a jacket that has a waterproof outer layer and the insulated inner layer.
There are a variety of styles, some of which are mentioned below:
- These consist of a waterproof outer shell and a detachable inner jacket (often an fleece)
- Very useful and versatile – the outer shell can be worn by itself in warmer weather and the inner jacket can be attached when it gets colder.
- The inner jacket can normally also be worn by itself if it’s cold but dry.
- Lightweight and flexible – these jackets act as a warm layer that are often less restrictive than other types of jacket.
- Many have a high level of waterproofness and a good level of breathability too.
- Parkas are the ultimate winter jacket.
- The longer length and high level insulation combined with the waterproof outer layer that many manufacturers use gives excellent protection from rain and snow.
- Make sure that you are buying a technical parka for active outdoor use and not a cheap imitation, that probably won’t be waterproof.
Waterproof And Breathability Levels
Most manufacturers will state the level of waterproofness and breathability of the garment that they are selling.
Here you can find a useful guide to better understand the figures that are used and how to interpret them.
Waterproof ratings and breathability guide.
Other Useful Features
- This is arguably the most important extra feature of the jacket – the majority of body heat is lost through the head.
- It’s important that the hood is adjustable, so that it allows you to move freely but still be covered and able to see.
- Some jackets have stiffened hoods that give better protection.
- One may be forgiven for thinking that zips are just zips…
- However zips can allow water in, so they should either be waterproof or the jacket should have a storm flap to cover the zips to prevent water getting through.
- Pockets are very useful for storing gadgets and small gear.
- A decent number of external and internal pockets are important.
- Again make sure the zips are waterproof or covered by storm flaps
- These are found at the bottom of the jacket and sometimes to adjust the hood.
- They help to make sure the jacket fits properly.
- These are useful to make sure that the sleeves don’t ride up and drafts don’t get in.
There are many options out there.
The majority of people who go camping will be fairly active and as I mentioned before – always expect rain!
I would suggest a membrane waterproof jacket for camping as you will be moving around and will generally be quite active.
The insulation level you go for, really depends on the time of year and how cold it is.
In the warmer months, it would be best to have a thin jacket and then you can have extra layers to wear underneath if it gets cold (and it can get chilly at night, even in the summer…)
In the colder months you will need good insulation, so a winter jacket from the types mentioned above would be best.
Hopefully this post has given you some insight into what to choose from the extensive range of camping jackets that are available.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I’ll try to respond as soon as possible.