Men's hiking jackets

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How to choose the right rain jacket?

A rain jacket is both waterproof and windproof, protecting you from the rain and preventing the wind from causing heat loss. It also allows perspiration to escape in the form of water vapor. However, it's best not to wear a rain jacket during physical exertion if it's not raining, as perspiration will be better evacuated naturally. What's more, the thermal protection offered by a rain jacket is generally limited, so it's often necessary to wear a fleece as a complement.

What's the difference between waterproofing and water repellency?

It's important to distinguish between a water-repellent jacket and a waterproof jacket. Water repellency refers to a fabric's ability to allow water to slide off in droplets, thus preventing it from becoming soaked and heavy. However, this property is limited: a water-repellent fabric will not withstand a prolonged or intense downpour for long, and will eventually let water through. What's more, water-repellent treatment tends to fade with time, washing and rubbing. It is therefore necessary to regularly treat the garment with an appropriate solution.

Waterproofing, on the other hand, refers to a fabric's ability to prevent water penetration. A waterproof fabric may absorb a certain amount of water (unlike a water-repellent fabric), but it won't let it reach the inside of the garment. A waterproof jacket is made from a microporous material, whose pores are 20,000 times smaller than a drop of water. This keeps you dry while allowing your skin to breathe. That's the difference with oilskins, which are waterproof but not at all breathable. However, it should be noted that once the surface of the waterproof fabric is saturated with water, perspiration inside the garment is trapped and cannot escape.

Different criteria to consider

The weight of the jacket is a less crucial criterion than that of hiking boots, but it's worth taking into account because the differences can be significant. Bearing in mind that you can always wear a fleece under your lightweight jacket in cool weather, opting for a lightweight jacket offers the advantage of reducing the weight of your rucksack and allowing you to hike without excessive sweating when the terrain or temperature becomes more challenging.

The hood, whether removable or fixed, can be tucked into the collar of the jacket. It's best to avoid fixed hoods for bike touring, as they tend to catch the wind. Check for an adjustment system such as Velcro or a strap on the top and sides of the hood. A good fit allows the hood to follow the movements of your head.

Cuffs are usually adjustable with velcro (for a snug fit) or elastic.

It's important to check the pockets, as they can sometimes cause minor inconveniences. If they're too small, they may be difficult to access when wearing gloves. If they're poorly placed, they may be right under the shoulder strap of your backpack, rendering them useless. It's best to consider how you'll be using your jacket. When hiking, it's likely that you'll need to handle a map frequently. So you'll need a pocket high enough to store the map easily and open it without difficulty. You may also need a smaller pocket for your cell phone, to keep it close at hand, as well as an inside pocket for your wallet. Everything else can be stored in your backpack. It is highly recommended that pocket closures be waterproof.

The collar of the jacket is an area to keep an eye on, as it can cause irritation to a fairly sensitive area of skin, and act as a privileged entry point for rainwater. A misplaced snap or an unsuitable cut can quickly become a nuisance. So it's important to pay close attention when trying them on.

Its use

Warmth is not really a determining factor for these jackets, as they are not designed to provide significant thermal insulation. They are designed to be worn with T-shirts or fleeces of different thicknesses. It's important to take this into account and choose a sufficiently ample size if you plan to walk in cool weather. It's also good to know that if you occasionally go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, a hiking jacket combined with a fleece is a perfectly adequate outfit. Avoid wearing cotton or wool under your jacket, as these natural fibers have poor moisture-wicking properties.


It's essential not to set off on a hike wearing an oilskin or a simple plastic poncho. Jacket breathability is crucial, as there's no point in keeping the rain out if you end up drenched in perspiration. What's more, when your skin is damp or in contact with something wet, you feel the cold more easily. That's why it's important for clothing to be breathable, i.e. to allow the moisture produced by your body, i.e. perspiration, to escape. The microscopic pores in jackets hold back water droplets while allowing the steam released by your body to pass through.

Some jackets are equipped with underarm zippers, allowing you to ventilate without having to remove the entire jacket or open the central zipper. This feature is particularly useful in hot, humid weather, as it helps regulate your body temperature.

Care and maintenance

Whichever model you choose, your hiking jacket shouldn't give you much trouble in this respect. Water-repellent fabrics tend not to get very dirty, and rarely require a full wash. A simple wipe with a damp cloth is usually all that's required. If the water-repellent effect weakens, sprays are available to reactivate it.

Understanding the label

Some products display their waterproofing and breathability characteristics on their label, while others provide details on their website. Waterproofness is measured in Schmerber (or mm), a unit defined by EN 20811 (ISO 811). In the rain, the pressure exerted by water on the garment can reach 1,300 to 2,000 Schmerber, in addition to the pressure exerted by the wearer (e.g. at the shoulder straps of the backpack). For short day hikes, 2,000 mm of waterproofness may be sufficient, but for multi-day hikes, a minimum of 10,000 mm is recommended. A jacket is considered perfectly waterproof from 20,000 mm, and garments up to 30,000 mm are reserved for extreme use. It's important to note that these figures also apply to overtrousers and tents.

Waterproofing in Schmerber refers to the fabric itself, not the garment as a whole. In our test on hiking jackets, we chose to check the waterproofness of the complete jacket on a mannequin rather than on a sample of the main fabric, as some jackets showed water infiltration through their zippers or drawstrings.

When it comes to breathability, there are two ways of displaying it. The MVTR (Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate) value corresponds to the quantity of water (in grams) that evaporates from a square meter of fabric in 24 hours. It is expressed in g/m²/24 h. The higher the figure, the more breathable the jacket. Good breathability starts at 10,000 g/m²/24 h.

RET (resistance, evaporation, transmission) determines a textile's resistance to wicking moisture away from the body, and is expressed in Pa × m²/W. Unlike the MVTR value, a lower RET value indicates better breathability. A RET value below 12 indicates a highly breathable fabric, while a RET value above 20 indicates a fabric with low breathability.
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