As someone who enjoys hiking and backpacking in the Pacific Northwest, I know firsthand the importance of having a good jacket for all kinds of weather. Jackets are necessary all year round here in this part of the US, and I always take a puffy coat with me when I go backpacking. I also take a rain jacket with me, even if the forecast doesn't call for rain because they are good windbreakers and mosquito protection.
When it comes to rain jackets, I have a few favorites. The first is the Mountain Hard Wear Exposure 2 GORE-TEX Jacket. It has pit zips and is quite long, which is great for keeping my entire body dry. The hood is also really nice, with a long bill that is perfect for a downpour. The second rain jacket I really like is the Outdoor Research Aspire II, which is also a GORE-TEX jacket. It's a little bit less fitted, but it's also a little more lightweight. I especially like the fact that it zips all the way up the sides, so if I get overheated, I can unzip it and keep from sweating so much. That is one thing I always look for in a rain jacket, the ability to regulate my body temperature. Rain jackets can be quite warm, so having large pit zips or other ways to open up the jacket is essential.
Another thing I always consider when purchasing a jacket, especially for winter adventures, is the color. For safety reasons, I prefer to wear at least one item of bright clothing. If I were to get lost or stuck somewhere and needed help from search and rescue, I would be much easier to spot if I was wearing something bright that stands out in the forest like bright red, yellow or blue.
One of my favorite lightweight raincoats is the Outdoor Vitals Tushar jacket, which has been one of my go-to pieces of gear all winter. Outdoor Vitals says "we've utilized different membranes in fabric that have been mapped to cover the correct parts of your torso for optimized breathability and all day waterproofing. This will help prevent pressure areas (such as where a backpack or shoulder straps sit) from getting saturated, and will still allow other areas to breathe."
It's a pretty spectacular jacket! Only heavy GORE-TEX jackets have been able to keep me as dry as the Tushar.
In addition to rain jackets, I also have jackets specifically for winter hiking, like puffy coats, and others that are more lightweight for the fall and spring.
One of my favorite mid-weight jackets for fall, spring and for layering is the Outdoor Vitals Vario jacket. It comes in a men's and women's cut and they use an innovative 3DeFC insulation which creates an ultralight jacket while retaining high warmth value and body-mapped breathability. This jacket has a fitted hood, pit vents and nice roomy pockets. This has been my favorite piece of gear for the shoulder seasons as well using it for layering when doing things in the winter like snowshoeing where I easily overheat in bulkier jackets.
Speaking of puffy coats - in the past I have enjoyed using a synthetic coat from Marmot. During the winter on the west side of the Oregon Cascades, it is generally very damp even if it is not raining, so if I am wearing a down coat, it tends to not keep me warm because the down clumps due to the moisture in the air. Unfortunately Marmot does not make their Avant Featherless jacket anymore but they do have something similar now called the Echo Featherless Jacket.
While a synthetic puffy coat was great for wearing during the cold PNW winters, taking a synthetic jacket backpacking was heavy and cumbersome. In the fall of 2022 I discovered the Outdoor Vitals NovaPro jacket and fell in love with this perfect piece of gear! It also comes in a men's cut and women's cut. Outdoor Vitals explains "This innovative puffy jacket utilizes all-new Nova Zero Stitch™ Fabric, which is neither bonded nor stitched, but literally woven into place. The I-tube baffle design gives the NovaPro a brand new look while eliminating the chance for stitches to
wear out or snag on things as you brush by. What this means is that you get a jacket with 10,000 fewer stitch holes than typical down or puffy jackets, making the NovaPro more water & wind resistant, and ultimately more durable!" The NovaPro has not only been an epic jacket for me for these cold wet winters here in Oregon, but it's also been the perfect jacket to take on spring, summer and fall backpacking trips. It is so lightweight (size medium is 12.8 oz.) and it compresses down very small.
Overall, having a good jacket is essential for hiking and backpacking whether you're in the Pacific Northwest or not. It's important to consider factors like body temperature regulation, color for safety reasons, and material when purchasing a jacket. With the right jackets, you can enjoy the outdoors no matter what the weather is!
In this video I model all of the jackets mentioned above.