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As a hiker or trekker, a hiking jacket is an important part of your equipment. Not to mention that choosing the right jacket is essential to guarantee an enjoyable adventures (especially when the weather isn't guaranteed). However, sometimes it's difficult to find the right pair. So for you, here is the complete guide to choosing the right hiking jacket!
When hiking or trekking, it is important to dress well. There are many different hiking jackets available and it is not always easy to know which one will be the most useful. We’ll share our tips to guide you in your choice and help you to hike or trek comfortably whatever the weather.
The waterproof jacket will protect you from wind, rain and snow. Its waterproofing and breathability will depend on its components and construction. Often lightweight and compact, it fits easily into a backpack.
In the 3-layer technique, the waterproof hiking jacket, or so-called hardshell, serves as layer 3. It provides protection against external elements such as wind, rain or snow.
Waterproofing depends on several criteria: its components and construction.
The component of a jacket may have a coating or a membrane, which will provide more or less breathability and protection against rain.
- The coating is similar to a paint layer applied to the inside of the fabric. It prevents water penetration from the outside.
- As for the membrane, it is a kind of very thin plastic film (polyurethane) that makes the component waterproof whilst remaining breathable. It has the advantage of being more flexible, lighter, more durable and often more breathable than a coating.
In addition, the construction of the component is assessed according to its layers and the watertightness of its seams.
- The 2-layer component: The membrane is glued only to the outer fabric; the inner protective lining is free.
- The 2½-layer component: The membrane is glued under the outer fabric and protected inside by a fine film.
- The 3-layer component: The membrane is glued between the outer and inner fabric.
The waterproofing rating is measured by the fabric's resistance to water pressure, expressed in terms of the height of a water column in mm (test based on the ISO 811 standard). The higher the pressure, the more waterproof the fabric. A component with a 10,000 mm waterproof rating, i.e. it can withstand the pressure of the 10,000 mm column of water. This is also equivalent to 10,000 Schmerbers. 1 Schmerber = 1 mm water column = 0.1 mbar
There are therefore several types of hiking jackets, more or less waterproof, whose choice will depend on the following criteria:
- The length of your outing
- The weather
- The intensity of the workout
First up when it comes to criteria for choosing your hiking jacket: the duration of your hike. This is what will guide you towards a jacket that is more or less technical, more or less waterproof, warm or windproof.
FOR A DAY-LONG HIKE
If you are only heading off on a few hours hike, the choice of jacket will depend on the terrain you have chosen to hike on. So head to the next paragraph to continue in your decision!
The region and the season can also impact the protection level that you'll need. Whatever it is, the weather will be a defining factor when choosing your hiking jacket.
So, what if the weather is mild when you set off? All you need is a rain jacket, which you can slip into your rucksack before setting off... In this case, no need to look at the more technical jackets. Clothing that will guarantee protection from rain shows will be more than enough. However, make sure you always have one with you, because you never know when a rain shower is going to creep up on you! Especially if you're taking on mountains!
On the contrary, if you're a hardened hiker and long hikes in the middle of winter don't scare you: you're going to need a jacket with more protection. Not to mention a jacket that is more compact and more lightweight (so that you can easily carry it with you).
So, what if the weather conditions are looking pretty chaotic? In this case, choose a jacket with a high level of waterproofing and warmth. Just what you need to take on storms and heavy rain, even halfway up a mountain.
Note that for each jacket, the waterproofness is rated on a scale from 1 to 5. These scores result from technical laboratory tests, the higher the score, the more waterproof the jacket (this rating is available on the technical information sheet for each jacket).
Ratings of 2 and 3 indicate that the jacket can offer protection during a shower with 6-12 cm of rainfall in 1-2 hours
A rating of 4 indicates that the jacket can offer protection during a storm with 30 cm of rainfall in 3 hours.
A rating of 5 indicates that the jacket can offer protection during a thunderstorm, with 1.8 m of rainfall in 4 hours!