Choosing the Best Hunting Jacket

Choosing the Best Hunting Jacket

Along with hunting pants, jackets are the other cornerstone of a gear system. Your jacket does the most work to keep your core insulated. It can also provide important wind and moisture protection for your torso, as well as useful pockets for storing gear or un-numbing fingers.

Some jackets are very simple, but many of the best ones specifically designed for hunting have come to contain useful features such as hoods, masks, vents, oversized pockets, tree stand safety harness pass-throughs, ergonomic designs, and more. Many of these items can make your average day in the woods more comfortable, efficient, and fun.

What We Look for in Good Hunting Jackets

The parka you wear in the late November deer stand or January goose blind might actually come in handy at the opener of turkey season. It did for me this year. With that said, it will likely become a lot less practical by closing day. But, if you purchase and dress properly, the mid-layer hoody, sweater, or jacket you wore under that heavy coat can become the outer layer once the day or the season warms up. The qualities we look for in a good hunting jacket are:

  1. Temperature Range
  2. Breathability
  3. Versatility
  4. Features

Hunting Jackets We Use

What Makes a Good Hunting Jacket

These are the primary factors we consider when packing or purchasing a hunting jacket.

1. Temperature Range

I don’t mean to tell anyone how to dress; I’m sure your mother did that a long time ago. But I’ve seen enough hunters make bad clothing choices over the years that it feels worth mentioning that you should pull on or bring a jacket suited for the conditions at the outset of your hunt as well as the conditions you might encounter. It’s a common mistake to walk out on a sunny afternoon in a light jacket, only to get shivery once the sun dips low. Similarly, plenty of folks have braved a frigid morning in a thick coat, only to wish they’d brough a lighter option that still offers some warmth for later in the day. When choosing a jacket, keep such considerations in mind. It may be helpful to visualize the temperature range of an average day when and where you hunt. How warm could it get? How cold? Think about how this jacket fits into your broader gear kit to keep you comfortable all day.

2. Breathability

Do you typically walk a few hundred yards to sit in your turkey blind, or are you headed 2,000 feet up into the crags to glass the whole basin for black bears? Most modern hunting jackets breathe better than those of the past, but today’s offerings are still designed with a purpose in mind. Some are oriented toward sitting on stand and maintaining warmth while others will shed your excess body heat as you hike.

3. Versatility

It’s always nice to use one piece of gear for multiple applications, right? Some of our hunting jackets see use on spring bear and turkey hunts, fall elk and deer trips, winter waterfowl and ice angling, and even chilly summer nights of camping and fly fishing. Some of the best jackets and sweaters serve as a mid-layer when it’s cold and an outer layer when it’s temperate.

4. Features

Some folks can’t stand hoods; others can’t live without them. The features that appeal to us as hunters have a lot to do with personal preference and hunting style. A built-in face mask is awesome if you like to bowhunt gobblers or bulls up close, but may be less useful to the long-range rifle hunter. If you’re not hiking long distances, zippered vents may not be practical. They’re basically mandatory for certain hunts though. Consider pocket placement and number in regard to the amount of gear you normally need to stash, as well as whether you’re going to be wearing a backpack, tree stand safety rig, and/or binocular harness.

Field Notes from the MeatEater Crew

We could talk for hours about each piece of gear in our kits, and we know a lot of you love the details. We've summarized the key specs below along with comments from the crew.

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Brooks Down Sweater
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