The 12 Best Hunting Jackets for Braving the Elements

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Hunters place some serious demands on their outerwear. It needs to be weatherproof and comfortable for all-day wear, but also quiet, scent-free, and help conceal hunters from their quarry.

Luckily, hunting jackets have come a long way since the bulky workwear of a few decades ago, thanks to hunting brands adopting technical innovations from the ski and outdoor apparel industries. Leading manufacturers have also engineered lots of helpful features just for hunters, such as high-tech camo patterns, quieter fabrics, and specialized tethers and pockets for gear.

A fancy hunting jacket won’t guarantee you a trophy, but a dry, comfortable hunter can stay in the field longer than one whose jeans and Carhartt hoodie got soaked walking into the treestand.

There are so many options for hunters now that you can buy jackets that are specifically tailored for your climate and style of hunting. Western hunters that hike 10 miles a day can get jackets that cut the cold while staying breathable, while whitetail tree stand hunters can benefit from the latest and greatest in insulated jackets that keep them warm through long, mostly static hunts. With all these choices comes some confusion, so I’ve broken my picks down into categories to help you find the right jacket for how and where you hunt.

Best Hunting Jackets

  • Best Overall Hunting Jacket: Eberlestock Trinity Peak 2.0 Jacket
  • Best Budget Hunting Jacket: RedHead Silent Stalker Elite Parka
  • Best Rain Hunting Jacket: Sitka Dewpoint Rain Jacket
  • Best Budget Rain Hunting Jacket: ScentBlocker Drencher Rain Jacket
  • Best Cold Weather Hunting Jacket: Sitka Aerolite Incinerator Jacket

The Expert:

What to Look For in a Hunting Jacket

Layering Systems

Hunting jackets should be considered in the broader context of a layering system. That sounds more scientific than it actually is. Layering—basically an approach to clothing that uses a base layer, various insulating mid-layers, and a weatherproof shell—is essential for hunters so they can deal with a wide range of extremes in a single morning. Even the common experience of hunting whitetail can require a diverse array of clothing to be comfortable for situations ranging from a pre-dawn walk into the woods to sitting for hours in a tree stand exposed to wind and weather.

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A good layering system starts with a simple breathable, moisture-wicking base layer of merino wool or synthetic fabric. (In the earliest seasons in warmer areas, that may be all that you wear.) Thicker wool, down, or synthetic mid-layers add warmth. Jackets, or shells, come last (hence outerwear) and are meant to block wind and resist precipitation—and provide more insulation if needed.

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If you hate the idea of trying to figure out your own layering system or if you hunt in a narrow portion of the year with fairly predictable weather, you may want to sacrifice the flexibility of a layering system and look for a middle-of-the-road jacket that fits your hunting season. Still, consider erring on the side of lighter because you can always add a layer under a light jacket, but you can’t make a hot, heavy jacket lighter.

Shell jackets come in two broad categories: hardshell and softshell. Hardshell jackets are typically fully waterproof or close to it, with a waterproof-breathable membrane sandwiched between layers of face fabric. Some have insulated liners that are either sewn-in or zip-in.

Softshells are windproof and water-resistant, but typically not fully waterproof. A softshell is a versatile piece that can also be used as a mid-layer in some situations. Many hunting jackets—including several recommended here—are softshells since they’re quieter and usually more breathable while still providing some warmth.

Patterns and Colors

An in-depth discussion of camouflage patterns and colors is outside the scope of this article, but suffice it to say there is no shortage of options these days when it comes to patterns. Thankfully, most of the bigger hunting outerwear brands offer at least a few options catered to your location and style of hunting, whether marshland waterfowl hunting or woods-oriented patterns for other game.

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If concealment is ultra important to you, consider searching first for the pattern you prefer and seeing what options are available. Look for a brand that makes pants as well, so you can keep your camo consistent.

Some hunters don’t sweat camo and prefer to rely on concealment and other means of going unnoticed. For disciplines like upland bird hunting, where you’re on the move trying to flush birds out of brush, you’re not exactly trying to stay invisible. If you fall into these categories, there are a much broader range of garments available to you, including general outdoor jackets.

Materials

Most of today’s hunting jackets use modern materials in their outerwear, which means multilayer exterior fabrics with a breathable weatherproofing membrane like Gore-Tex. Whether Gore-Tex or another system, waterproof-breathable membranes exist on a continuum with different levels of breathability and water protection. You may not need a fully waterproof jacket if you’re unlikely to stay out hunting in the rain.

Many hunting jackets use Gore-Tex’s Infinium which is less waterproof than normal Gore-Tex but is more breathable, soft, and quiet. Christy Haywood, Applications Engineer at W.L. Gore, explained to me that “Gore-Tex Infinium products are for use when waterproof is not as important, but softness, comfort, and stretch are a priority. They offer water resistance and wind protection but are not fully waterproof like [other Gore-Tex products].”

Since many hunters carry separate rain gear and prefer quiet, more breathable fabrics when actively hunting, hunters can opt for less-waterproof layers and bust out the rain gear when weather really turns bad. If you hunt in the Pacific Northwest or another particularly wet area, you may want to prioritize waterproofing.

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In addition to full waterproofing, look for outerwear with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating that helps water bead and roll off the jacket’s surface rather than soak the exterior fabric which limits breathability. Note: Because it’s a coating, a DWR finish will wear off over time and need to be refreshed with products like Nikwax’s TX Direct.

The only material to avoid is cotton. As the saying goes, “cotton kills,” and that’s because it absorbs water readily and moisture transmits temperature faster and more efficiently than air. Staying dry means staying warm.

How We Selected These Hunting Jackets

My selections are based on conversations with other hunters, brand reps, and from my own firsthand experience testing several different jackets throughout several hunting seasons. I have worn a wide range of jackets from cheap and flimsy to technical and expensive. What I’ve found is that the best jacket is the one that you’re comfortable in and that’s appropriate for your particular type of hunting and climate. A comfortable hunter stays in the field longer and is more likely to be ready in critical moments.

I focused my selections on the more common brands that show up in outdoors stores such as Cabela’s and local outdoor shops in North America, as well as online. Our category picks offer guidance if you’ve already narrowed down your search.

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Sean Campbell’s love for hunting and outdoor life is credited to his dad who constantly thrilled him with exciting cowboy stories. His current chief commitment involves guiding aspiring gun handlers on firearm safety and shooting tactics at the NRA education and training department. When not with students, expect to find him either at his gunsmithing workshop, in the woods hunting, on the lake fishing, on nature photoshoots, or with his wife and kid in Maverick, Texas. Read more >>