Men’s Packable Jackets Buyer’s Guide

August 04, 2015

  • by
  • Peter Reese

Exactly what you need, right when you need it.  Packable jackets push the limits of performance when ounces and cubic inches count.  These Active Junky selections favor light weight, compressibility and a touch of style over expedition-grade weather protection; instant access is the common thread between them all.

Key Attributes:

Each attribute is present in all jackets selected with a top attribute indicated for each model.

Performance: connects with the specific scenarios (climate, weather, activities) attached to each jacket

Fit: considers the jacket’s profile as well as freedom of movement

Features: analyze essential function along with added storage and adjustability

Style: aligns with the jacket’s wearing occasions with a bias toward trimmer, athletic cuts

Value: weighs the other four attributes against the retail price

Craghoppers Chima Jacket: Jazzed for the jungle

Craghoppers chima jacket004 Craghoppers NosiLife Chima Jacket

As we see it, the inspiration for this jacket lies somewhere between Army surplus, a Milan fashion runway and Arkansas backwater bass fishing camps.  More sophisticated styling is paired with the intrinsic bug-battling power of Insect Shield (0.52% Permethrin) in Craghoppers’ well-conceived offering.  Four pockets and a vented back turn tight, treated mesh into a fitting addition to the serious traveler’s apparel arsenal.  Elastic hem and cuffs create a barrier to intrusive insects while supporting the jacket’s effectiveness in light rain.  While the hood is well shaped, including a drawstring would increase Active Junky’s confidence in the product’s potency during massive hatches.

Key Attribute: Fit

Best For: U.S. and international travel including backwoods trekking, paddling and visits to high-risk locations

Helly Hansen Feather Jacket: Sail through gales

Helly hansen feather jacket004 Helly Hansen Feather Jacket

Here’s another case when a brand’s origins prove relevant.  Born to water and wind, Helly Hansen turns experience with extreme Arctic weather into extraordinary protection.  Shedding weight without sacrificing wind resistance, Feather adds DWR treatment to fight off spray and sprinkles.  Testers see this as a cross-category packable, a moderate weather jacket capable of handling 80% of spring, summer and fall scenarios.  Cut trimmer than others, elastic, drawstrings and an ultralight (but reliable) YKK zipper seal the deal to minimize luff and puff in heavy winds.  The genius here?  Back, front and pit venting “ports” channel body heat and moisture away from the body.  Self-store Feather in its pocket and leave home prepared.  No matter what the meteorologist predicts in the hours ahead.

Key Attribute: Value

Best For: daily carry and deployment, international travel to nearly any climate

Marmot PreCip: Freedom for the wearing

Marmot precip jacket 001 Marmot PreCip Jacket Starting at: $46.35

At a shade over 13oz., PreCip wasn’t the lightest packable tested.  But with performance more like a full-on shell, plus the product’s irrefutable track record, it earns a place in your pack.  Active Junky rode PreCip on a gritty bikepacking trip in Utah, pedaling through intermittent thunderstorms.  Hail entered the picture and Marmot’s long-tailed design easily shifted gears from sunshine to wind and rain.  Less stuffable but more reliable than many others currently on the market, PreCip’s PitZips and Pack Pockets suit active, aerobic pursuits where snack and map access count.  For all-conditions reliability, this jacket takes the trail.

Key Attribute: Performance

Best for: All-around, multi-season use including travel and emergency preparedness

ExOfficio Rain Logic Jacket: More for the pours

Exofficio rain logic003 ExOfficio Rain Logic Jacket

Some passionate pursuers of adventure and adrenaline get soaked more than others.  For them, along with travelers to damper destinations, Rain Logic makes total sense.  Active Junky’s fought off squalls and days-long downpours with this jacket without getting cramped or clammy inside.  A 2.5 layer laminate pushes waterproof/breathable ratings to 10,000/10,000, placing ExOfficio squarely in the high performance packable category.  An internal, four-pocket system pair with two welded front pockets for plenty of carrying power in the maelstrom.  Two-way pit zips along with the waterproof front zipper allowed ventilation manipulation, as did the drawstring hood.  If you’ve only worn the brand’s underwear, now’s the time to take it outside with Rain Logic.

Key Attribute: Features

Best For: Wetter locales, destinations with unpredictable (and sometime severe) weather

Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Jacket:  Part the clouds

Mountain hardwear stretch ozonic jacket 5 Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Jacket Starting at: $188.00

For those looking to prevail, whatever the weather, the under-10oz. Ozonic is a blessing in beast’s clothing.  Active Junky’s stretched Mountain Hardwear’s Dry Q technology in Colorado, Oregon and Chile without provoking failure.  A 2.5 layer build carries superior abrasion resistance in a lightweight package that fits – and feels – comfortable under a fully loaded backpack.  Less tailored than some, there’s room for a light baselayer if temps drop; two zippered handwarmer pockets provide respite well above waistbelt level.  Testers trust the brand when reaching aggressive objectives is the goal and safety is imperative.  Mission accomplished with the easy-moving Ozonic.

Key Attribute: Value

Best For: Challenging conditions, readiness to endure unrelenting wet weather

Berghaus VapourLight Hyper Smock 2.0: A superhero’s selection

Let’s say Marvel Comics wanted a hero to don weather-fighting armor that’s more ethereal than mortal rainwear.  They’d start, and likely end, with Berghaus’ contribution to the eternal battle against evil (hypothermia, that is).  Active Junky’s lauded this model previously yet ongoing testing has revealed something more; warmer weather doesn’t impair comfortable wear.  The world’s lightest at 75g, Hyper Smock was spec’d out for trail runners.  Testers put fast-packers, road cyclists and day hikers on a growing list of outdoor athletes who put a premium on adding to their super powers.  Make certain to get this brand on your radar for even more lab-meets-world innovation.  

Key Attribute: Performance

Best For: Faster, lighter, farther, longer

Check out the Berghaus VapourLight Hyper Smock 2.0 >

Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody: Take on the transitions

Arcteryx squamish hoody 6 Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody $85.44 - $117.90

Squamish is the perfect name for a piece in this category.  This multi-sport town is a mecca for the accomplished and inspiring.  While affordable housing is going fast, this lightweight, crammable wind fighter is a superior value from a renowned maker of to-the-core apparel.  Trimmer fitting than most Arc’teryx styles, the hoody’s Zen-like flow comes from articulated elbow and gusseted underarms.  Details include hood and hem drawcords, micro-corded zipper pulls and a chest stow pocket.  DWR coating handles damps and drips in a boundary-defying piece Active Junky finds compelling – and a great way for newcomers to try this iconic brand.

Key Attribute: Value

Best For: Moving between adrenaline-fueled activities, shoulder seasons where full-on protection is unwarranted

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