When preparing for an outdoor adventure, having the right clothing is very important. The focus is on efficiency and functionality – you need something that will keep you warm, dry and comfortable, while still allowing you to move freely and enjoy yourself. Depending on weather conditions, your choice of clothing will change, and this is where hiking vests find their place.
A hiking vest is a great piece which keeps the core of your body warm while leaving your arms completely unrestricted. This makes it excellent for those days when you don’t quite need a jacket, but could use some added heat. Vests can also be used as a mid-layer or an outer layer when layering your clothing, which is important for outdoor activities. Furthermore, some products are designed to allow breathability, and give you enough storage space for all the items you want to take with you.
There is a good vest for every occasion, but finding the best vest for hiking depends on where and how you’re going to use it, and whether your focus is on increased warmth or higher functionality. We will discuss different types of products in this article, so you can easily find what you’re looking for. There is also a buying guide included below, so be sure to check it out and learn more about different features available.
How To Choose A Hiking Vest – Buying Guide
The primary function of your new vest is to give you some extra protection. However, there are many other factors that need to be considered when choosing, for example materials used to make it, insulation or breathability among other things. It’s also a big plus if it’s lightweight and easy to pack. Furthermore, additional pockets and other extras are always useful. Take a look.
Many different materials are used to make hiking vests, depending on intended use. The best vest for hiking should keep you warm while being breathable and comfortable. Some materials are excellent as shells, while others are used for warmth and insulation.
Synthetics (polyester and nylon) are most commonly used, for many reasons. These materials are fairly warm, breathable, and usually very affordable (at least compared to some alternatives). In addition, synthetic materials are good at wicking sweat, and they dry off relatively fast. They also have a certain level of water resistance, which means it will keep you dry longer. Finally, synthetic vests are usually more durable compared to other options.
Down is used as a fill and commonly found in vests and jackets designed to keep you warm. It’s usually goose plumage, which is very lightweight and easily contains body heat. Some manufacturers specify the fill power for their vest. This represents the insulation efficiency of the product, and a higher number means it will be warmer. On the other hand, down is not particularly breathable, so you may feel too warm in higher temperatures.
Fleece vests are a popular choice among hikers. This type of fleece is synthetic (made of polyester), and it feels great to wear. These vests don’t have extra insulation, meaning they are thinner. They are heavier than down, but also more affordable.
Merino wool is also sometimes used to make hiking vests. Even though it’s not as common as some other materials, it certainly has some qualities. It has perhaps the best feel against your skin – very soft and comfortable. The structure allows it to wick moisture easily, dry off quickly and have excellent breathability. All of this makes it a great material choice for base layers. However, it’s not very warm, at least compared to down or synthetics.
Cotton vests can also be found on the market. While people like cotton for its quality and comfort, you can encounter some problems if you choose this material. It isn’t a good insulator on its own, and if it gets wet it doesn’t dry off quickly which can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous in cold weather. Cotton is good for warm weather, but you should explore your options for cold and wet conditions.
Warmth and Insulation
When buying a new hiking vest, you will usually expect it to be warm. This is particularly important if you use it for layering, underneath a hardshell jacket for example. They are not very good in keeping you warm on their own in cold conditions, but they can be great when combined with other pieces, or when the weather isn’t freezing. Insulation is key when talking about the warmth of your vest.
Down is a great choice – it’s very warm and at the same time exceptionally light, and it’s the best choice for cold weather. On the other hand, it can be expensive, and it loses its insulating properties when it gets wet. Vests with a synthetic fill are more affordable, but won’t be as warm or light as down. However, they will keep you warm even when wet, since they are often water resistant. Fleece vests don’t give you the insulation as those with a fill, but they are much slimmer which can be a plus under a jacket.
Every layer of your clothing should be breathable, including the vest. You will be physically active and get sweaty at one point or another. You will often wear something underneath the vest, and this base layer should wick moisture away from your body. The vest should let this moisture go through and evaporate, while keeping you dry and comfortable.
If this is not the case, the sweat will remain trapped inside and you will be soaked in no time. This can be an even bigger problem during the summer months, because bad ventilation can lead to overheating. In most cases, manufacturers must compromise when choosing between breathable and water resistant materials. The best hiking vests will come with the right balance of these two so you can get the most out of your product.
As we mentioned, it’s a big plus if vest material is water resistant to some extent. However, keep in mind that this is not the main focus point of vests (they come without sleeves after all). But it can certainly be helpful to keep your core dry if you encounter some rain on the trail. Nylon shells have the best performance in this aspect, followed by other synthetic materials.
Sometimes your vest comes with a special coating to additionally block water. This is a DWR coating (durable water repellant), which has hydrophobic properties. The raindrops that fall onto your vest will form beads that simply roll off the surface, without any of them getting through. If you expect bad weather and need additional weather protection, it’s not a bad idea to pack a waterproof jacket or a windbreaker.
Even though vests are lighter than jackets, there are still some differences between products depending on materials used. Down filled vests are lightest, and have the best warmth to weight ratio. On the other hand, fleece or cotton can be much heavier. Whether you have it on you all the time, or carry it in your hiking backpack in case the weather becomes colder, the vest shouldn’t weigh you down.
The product you choose should be compact and easy to carry with you. Once more, down filled vests are the best choice. They can be compressed to a very small size, because you can eliminate all the air trapped inside. This way it becomes so small it can even be packed inside its own pocket on some models. Other models come with a sack, to hold it neatly until you need it. On the other hand, heavier materials often don’t pack small, so keep this in mind. If you do buy a compact vest, it’s a good idea to leave it unpacked and breathing while you’re home.
Hiking vests are casual wear, and aren’t oriented towards performance like some jackets. This being said, the function is much more important than good looks. It can be used on its own when the weather is mild, or as one of the layers for cold weather hiking. The most important thing is that the vest you choose comes with features you need most (good insulation, breathability or a large storage capacity).
This is a very important feature for most people who are looking to buy a vest. Almost every vest comes with pockets, but their number and design varies. Some have only a couple of side pockets used to warm up your hands. Others come with numerous pockets in different shapes and sizes, making them excellent for carrying your mobile phone, wallet, a flashlight or a pocket knife. These pockets are usually strategically placed so you can have quick access to their content. It’s best if the pocket has Velcro closure or a zipper, because there is less chance of things falling out. Interior pockets are an advantage too, since they can be used for safekeeping your valuables.
Q: Why Wear A Hiking Vest?
If you are in a dilemma whether to buy a vest or a jacket, you should know there are many upsides to owning a hiking vest. They are less bulky, and without any sleeves to restrict arm movement. If you choose a vest, you won’t feel as hot as if you were wearing a jacket, because ventilation is much better. Furthermore, vests pack smaller compared to jackets (made from the same material), because of the difference in design and less material used.
If you are conscious about your budget, you’ll be happy to hear that vests are often cheaper than jackets too. Of course, they have some limitations too. Vest aren’t the best choice as standalone clothing during cold weather, and in this case you will need to buy a jacket to keep you warm.
Q: How Should A Vest Fit?
This depends on how you want to combine it with other clothing. If you’ll wear it over a t-shirt, you should go for a snug fit because this will retain heat better. However, if you plan to wear base layers underneath (thicker than a t-shirt), or even wear the vest over a jacket, then you should go for a larger size with a more comfortable fit. Of course, your preferences play a large role too.
Size and fit aren’t universal for different products, and this depends on the manufacturer. Luckily, most of the vests we featured come with a size chart, and we advise you to measure carefully. It’s certainly easier to choose a vest than a jacket, since you don’t have to worry about sleeve length.
Q: When Is The Right Time To Wear A Vest?
Any time – there is a good vest for any occasion. Lightweight breathable vests with many pockets are great for summer hiking, and they allow you to easily pack and carry many things. Some people even prefer to wear it instead of a hiking daypack, even though both have their upsides. As we discussed, some vests are designed with insulation in mind, so you can wear them on their own in spring or fall, or even during winter time under your jacket.
Globo Surf Overview
A hiking vest is an excellent investment. It’s a really versatile clothing piece which can have many uses. You can wear it when hiking or trekking, but also when going to the store because it’s often casual and laid-back. If you find the best hiking vest, it can easily become your favorite clothing piece. You have a really large array of products to choose from, and we’re sure that with the help of our guide you’ll be able to find exactly what you’re looking for.
More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:
- Winter Hiking Boots
- Rain Pants
- Garmin Watch
- Survival Kit
- Hiking Baby Carriers
- Survival Books
- Bug Out Bag
- Gore Tex Jacket
- Drone For Gopro
- Lightweight Backpack
Have you tried a hiking vest that made it onto our list? Which one? Did it keep you warm? What about durability and functionality? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.