We enjoy our outdoor activities a lot more when we’re not too cold, too hot or too wet. Great outerwear is a must!
Why Invest in Great Outerwear
It’s pretty straight-forward, really: Great outerwear blocks wind, keeps you dry and keeps your warm.
But more than those basics, the best brands pay a lot more attention to the features—like fleece where the neck zips up to your chin, and well-made zippers, large pockets. And they also pay more attention to a good fit, and things like having free movement in your shoulders.
The best brands also stand behind their products with solid guarantees (as do the best outdoor retailers).
You may wince at the price initially, but when you can wear that product for several years and it performs well, it’s worth it.
For a Shell Jacket
Optimally, I always go for waterproof over water-resistant, for the simple reason that when I’m out in wet conditions, I don’t want it saturating through. Water-resistant is fine for running between your car and the grocery store. But it doesn’t work when you’re on a 5-hour hike in the rain.
If a jacket is already waterproof or resistant, it’ll also be windproof or resistant. That’s a big deal, too.
And go with a hood. You can always keep it down or, in some cases, roll it into the zippered pouch. But it’ll be a life saver in both wet and windy conditions, especially if it’s cold, too.
For an Insulating Coat
There are both synthetic and natural choices that work at various degrees of cold. Being a Minnesotan who’s outside every week of the year—I have two or three insulating coats I wear—depending on the temperature and wind.
Personally, my choice is down for the coldest weather. Nothing beats its combination of warmth and light weight. It also has built-in wind resistance, even when combined with a cheap nylon outer shell (as in the $24.99 one I got from Sam’s Club!).
Fleece is also wonderful—super light, easy to care for and warm. Not windproof, though, so it’s got to be combined with some other kind of shell or layer in wind.
Where to Find Great Outerwear
We have an amazing selection of high-tech, high-quality outerwear to choose from these days. There’s a wide range of styles, colors, features and price.
So here’s my advice: Do not go to Target. Or Walmart. Or trendy “city” stores, unless they sell reliable outdoor brands like Columbia and North Face.
Go with known outdoor retailers for the best selection of quality outerwear: REI, Cabelas, Eddie Bauer, Woolrich, Duluth Trading Co. (not as trendy, but they have super tough stuff), Lands End, LL Bean, The North Face, Patagonia.
You can spend hundreds of dollars on outerwear…but you don’t have to! Shop sales, shop around holidays, keep your eyes open on Ebay and CraigsList—even the thrift stores and garage sales. We’ve found really nice name-brand coats and jackets at all those places.
Sharon is the founder and publisher of Active Outdoor Women. She loves getting outside in beautiful places to hike, paddle, camp, snowshoe, ski, ride—and encouraging others to come along! Besides maintaining AOW and her other website, Twin Cities Outdoors, Sharon writes and designs websites, newsletters, blogs, emails, books and other marketing tools for clients.