Choosing the right travel jacket is an important decision – get it wrong and you’ll be left cold, wet and miserable. But get it right and you’ll be able to conquer whatever conditions the world throws at you!
There are literally thousands of jackets available today, so to save you feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of options , we’ve picked out seven of the best. The jackets in our list range from waterproof shells to insulated puffy jackets. They cover a range of styles, fits and price brackets to make sure there’s something for everyone!
So, keep reading to see our picks for the top travel jackets!
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- Waterproof rating of 20,000mm
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The Seven Best Travel Jackets
- Waterproof – Patagonia’s Torrentshell rain jacket is the perfect waterproof layer for travellers without budget constraints. The proprietary H2No fabric prevents water getting in but allows vapour to escape, reducing the internal build-up of condensation. Its waterproof rating is 20,000mm, meaning it can deal with extended periods of heavy wind and rain. The main zipper has both an internal and external storm guard to ensure you remain as dry as possible – no matter what the world throws at you!
- Comfy – The Torrentshell features pit zips to increase airflow and helps you to maintain a good body temperature when walking in the rain. It also has a microfleece-lined neck for warmth and comfort and a hood to keep the rain out.
- Packable – The Patagonia Torrentshell packs down into a dedicated pocket, so it’s easy to cram into your backpack when not in use. It weighs less than 400g, so you’ll barely notice it among your other luggage!
- Looks – While not the best-looking jacket on the market, the Torrentshell is far from the worst. It’s simple and doesn’t stand out from the crowd, meaning you can blend in easier when on the road.
- High waterproof rating
- Good breathability
- It's expensive
- Hybrid - Cotopaxi’s Capa Hybrid is a combination of insulated jacket and lightweight mid-layer. However, it is not waterproof! The front and back panels feature PrimaLoft insulation to ensure your core temperature is well-regulated. The sides, sleeves and hood are all made from a stretchy polyester/spandex blend. This means the jacket is warm but comfortable and super easy to move around in!
- Looks – Cotopaxi are known for their jazzy colour combos and the Capa is no exception. Available in four colourways, you’re bound to find an option to suit you!
- Packable – The Capa Hybrid packs down into its interior pocket, making it easy to travel with. It weighs around 700g depending on the size you opt for, which is a little heavier than other jackets but the comfort, extra warmth and durability make it worth the extra few hundred grams.
- Features – Cotopaxi’s Capa Hybrid features zip-up pockets, thumbholes, a scuba hood and elasticated bindings at the hood, cuffs and hem. These features, while not necessary for a travel jacket, make for a much more comfortable experience!
- Great colour options
- Not waterproof
- Heavy for a travel jacket
- Lightweight – Patagonia’s Nano Puff clocks in at around 350g. For the warmth it offers, this weight is exceptional. The synthetic PrimaLoft insulation is thin but traps an incredible amount of heat.
- Packable – As well as being lightweight, the Nano Puff is packable. The whole jacket compresses down into its internal chest pocket. You can cram it into almost any remaining nook or cranny in your backpack!
- Windproof – The Patagonia Nana Puff is windproof, ensuring you don’t lose valuable body temperature due to a stiff breeze! However, it lacks some breathability compared to other coats, so you can easily overheat and sweat if you’re doing a lot of exercise in it.
- Water-Resistant – While not properly waterproof, the polyester shell of this coat is treated with a DWR (durable water-repellent) coating. This means it sheds water and can keep you dry in light rain – don’t expect it to hold up to a real downpour though, that’s not what it’s for!
- A Classic – The Nano Puff has been available for over a decade. During that time, the jacket has seen several upgrades that have kept it a firm favourite for travel, hiking and anyone enjoying an outdoor adventure!
- Super warm
- Not fully waterproof
- Not the most breathable jacket
- Budget-Friendly – The Qikpac from Trespass is one of the best budget travel jackets available. It’s comfortable, reliable and long-lasting. That said, you should pay attention to the jacket when it arrives. Make sure the seams are taped correctly as there have been quality control issues with this coat in the past.
- Packable – Trespass’ Qikpac jacket is relatively lightweight, clocking in at under 500g. Trespass themselves say it’s around 350g but my large version of this coat weighs 450g. As well as this, the coat packs into its own pouch, making it easy to store and find when you need it!
- Shell Jacket – The Qikpac offers nothing concerning insulation. Instead, it’s wind and waterproof. With a waterproof rating of 5000mm, it can keep you dry for extended periods but does wet out eventually. The seams are taped to reduce leaking but be sure to check them when the jacket arrives.
- Breathability – The downside of the Qikpac is that it’s not very breathable. Walk a lot in this coat and you’ll soon begin to sweat. There’s a breathability panel in the back but this does little to reduce condensation build-up – except when it’s very windy and you get a draft straight to the middle of your back!
- Not the most durable travel jacket
- Quality control could be improved
- Versatile – Tropicfeel’s NS40 jacket is more of a layering system than a jacket. It comes in two parts, the long-sleeved but not fully waterproof Layer, and the insulted waterproof Vest. When worn together, these create a fully waterproof coat which keeps you warm on chilly days. But you can also wear each part on its own. If you’re having a gilet kind of day, stick to just wearing the Vest. If you’re finding those sleeves a little more desirable, stick to wearing the Layer without the Vest! This versatility offers a range of protection against the wind, rain and cold.
- Packable – Even though there’s a lot going on with the NS40, it’s still a packable jacket. Weighing in at 700g, it’s far from the lightest option on our list but it packs easily into the front pocket and can easily be stowed in your backpack. You can even use the packed jacket as a pillow if needed!
- Extra Features – The NS40 has a waterproof hood which can be rolled away when not in use. It also has thumbholes and a range of pockets, so there’s plenty of room to carry everything you need!
- NS60 – As well as the NS40, Tropicfeel produce the NS60. This jacket is built for colder climates, so if you’re heading to a more extreme destination, consider that one instead!
- Layering options
- Not all parts are waterproof
- Budget Friendly – The Puffy Jacket from Amazon Essentials is an excellent budget-friendly insulation layer. Costing way less than more popular warm jackets, this option offers a lot of bang for your buck! Sure, it won’t keep you warm on high alpine ascents but that’s not what most travellers need. This is the perfect jacket for budget conscious backpackers!
- Packability – The Amazon Essentials Puffy Jacket packs down into the included bag, making it easy to store in your backpack or clip to the outside of your pack. It weighs around 400g so is light enough that you won’t notice it!
- Water-Resistant – While this jacket will protect you from the odd rain shower, don’t rely on it to keep you dry in a proper downpour. The water-resistant shell can only repel a certain amount of liquid before it becomes saturated.
- Variety – This jacket is available in both men’s and women’s versions, each of which is available in a range of styles and sizes. Aesthetically, you’re bound to find an option that calls to you! However, some users have reported that the sizing is out so make sure to consult the size chart before buying!
- The price
- The sizing is inconsistent
- Not as durable as more expensive jackets
- Lightweight – The Flash Jacket from REI clocks in at just 120 grams, making it one of the lightest items you’re likely to take on your trip. It’s packable too, so will slip into any small space you have left in your backpack!
- Water-Resistant – The REI Flash Jacket isn’t fully waterproof but does a good job of protecting you from short showers. The DWR coating means water just beads off rather than soaks through but this only works for so long, if you’re in a real downpour, it won’t take long for the jacket to wet out.
- Windproof – The Flash Jacket is built as a windbreaker. It helps maintain your body temperature on windy days by preventing cold air hitting your skin. This means, although it’s very thin, this lightweight travel jacket offers a good level of warmth!
- Recycled Materials – The Flash Jacket is made from recycled nylon. Buying clothes made of recycled materials reduces the amount of useable resources sent to landfill which is good news for all of us!
- Super small when packed
- Not waterproof
What to Look for in a Travel Jacket
Not all waterproof jackets are created equal. Some will keep you dry in the worst conditions while others just protect you from the odd shower. Understanding the level of waterproofing you need is an important factor when choosing the best travel coat for you.
Every jacket from a reliable brand includes a waterproof rating. If you know what you’re looking at, these ratings will tell you everything you need to know about your travel jacket. But if the words ‘hydrostatic head’ and ‘DWR’ don’t mean much to you, it can be incomprehensible.
Waterproofness is measured in millimetres. So you’ll see waterproof ratings ranging from 1500mm to 25,000mm. In simple terms, the higher the number, the more waterproof the jacket.
To measure the waterproofness of a material, companies stretch their fabric flat. On top, they place a column of water, one inch in diameter, and keep adding water until it soaks through the fabric. If a fabric has a hydrostatic head of 3000mm, it means the fabric can hold a column of water three metres high and one inch in diameter before leaking. If a fabric has a HH rating of 25,000mm, it can hold 25 metres of water before leaking!
|Waterproof Rating in MM||Level Of Waterproofing|
|1500 – 5000mm||Light waterproofing. Will keep you dry for short bursts of rain but won’t handle a sustained deluge.|
|5000 – 10,000mm||Mid-range waterproofing. Will keep you dry for extended periods of heavy rain but don’t expect it to last forever. A good choice for most travellers who aren’t going into extreme conditions.|
|10,000 – 20,000mm||High level waterproofing. Will keep you dry for long periods in almost any weather. A good choice if you’re going to be in cold weather and rain.|
|20,000mm +||Top rated waterproofing. Good for winter and extreme conditions but overkill for most travellers. Good for high altitude locations where weather conditions can change fast.|
Traditionally, the biggest problem with waterproof jackets was their breathability. Until modern materials arrived on the scene, a waterproof coat kept rain out but trapped sweat and moisture inside – meaning you got wet even though the rain couldn’t get through!
Modern jackets combat this in several ways. The most common method is to use breathable materials. These let moisture vapour escape while keeping liquid water out. Materials by companies such as Gore-Tex are the market leaders in waterproof, breathable materials.
Other options for breathability include ventilation panels and zips around the coat. These increase airflow and ensure things don’t get too humid inside your jacket!
Jackets sometimes display a breathability rating but to be honest, these aren’t really worth the time of day. There is no required standardised official testing, so companies have been known to make up their own tests which make the jackets seem more breathable than they actually are. The best bet is to check some reviews and see what people say about the breathability of a certain jacket.
If your jacket isn’t durable, it doesn’t matter how warm, breathable or waterproof it is. These features will soon fail if it falls apart after a few uses. Make sure the jacket you’re looking at is durable enough to do the job. Check reviews and ask other users.
Often, you can tell the durability of something just by touching it. If it feels high quality, chances are it is! Always try the zips on any jacket before buying. These are often a good indication of quality. If the zips move well, don’t get stuck and feel durable, the rest of the jacket is likely to be the same!
Unless you’re heading into some extreme environments, packability is one of the most important factors in choosing the perfect travel jacket. Having a coat that packs down small is ideal as it won’t take up much room in your backpack!
Much like packability, you should consider the weight of your travel jacket. In general, jackets for travel should be as light as possible but if you’re heading to harsher climates, this isn’t as important.
Lighter jackets tend not to be as waterproof, warm or durable as heavier options and even though exotic materials like DCF offer tough, lightweight, waterproof properties, they’re super expensive!
If you want a travel jacket to keep you warm, you need more than waterproofing. The most common types of insulation for travel jackets are down or synthetic materials. Down tends to be lighter but doesn’t work so well when wet. Synthetic insulation still offers some heat retention when wet but often weighs more than down and doesn’t offer the same level of insulation when dry.
Rather than opt for a jacket that features waterproofing and insulation, we recommend getting an insulated jacket and a waterproof shell. This offers more layering options and versatility.
Let’s face it, no one wants to look like the Michelin Man’s scrawny brother while travelling. Make sure you like your travel jacket! Sure, the way your coat looks is less important than how it performs but life is rarely so simple. If you hate your jacket, you’re unlikely to use it as much as you should and even when you do, you’ll just want to take it off again!
Extra features like hoods, thumbholes or a padded pocket for your phone are must-haves for some travellers – but for others, they’re not necessary. If you need a special feature from your jacket, make sure to look out for it!
Travel Jackets – A Round-Up
The best travel jacket for you depends on several factors; style, warmth, waterproofing, price and comfort should all be considered.
If you want a top-of-the-range puffy jacket, the Patagonia Nano Puff is a favourite among travellers. The Amazon Essentials Puffy Jacket isn’t quite as good but is much cheaper, so if you’re on a budget, it’s a good choice!
For travellers wanting a packable, waterproof jacket, the Patagonia Torrent Shell comes highly recommended. But there’s a cheaper way. Trespass Qikpac jackets weigh a little more but pack down small and perform very well in a range of conditions!
While the jackets on this list are our favourites, always remember that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on gear to go travelling. If you’ve already got a lightweight coat, that will likely do the job. And if you’re short on money, check second-hand stores before buying your gear new! Your wallet and the planet will thank you!