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What to Look for in a Tech Jacket? + Our Top Picks

At this point, you’ve seen at least one meme involving an Arc’teryx tech jacket.

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The premise, no matter the context, is that some average, urban-dwelling bro has opted to shell out a good chunk of change for something truly geared toward hikers and backpackers.

In multiple regards, it’s overkill and resulting in yet one more item cluttering his closet. 

Still, despite this more extreme viewpoint, the tech jacket represents the perfect confluence between fashion and function.

It’s streamlined and versatile and, at the same time, built to hold onto body heat and repel water from the exterior without adding bulk.

Yet, especially for more style-minded men, entering the market of outdoor and tech garments ends up overwhelming at first. To narrow down and better focus your search, get started with the following:

The Basic Features of a Tech Jacket

“Tech” garments, these days, are anything that adds practical properties to a casual-seeming item.

This expanse covers athleisure – especially as more and more “gym” garments add stretch, odor-controlling, and moisture-wicking properties – to the movement-enhancing, warmth-retaining designs of workwear to hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor-centric technical clothing

man wearing a technical jacket

The tech jacket falls within the third category, crafted as something lighter weight, economical, and increasingly packable, with movement, warmth, and UV, wind, and moisture resistance all considered.

As well, to adapt to changing outdoor conditions, such garments are typically designed with layering in mind to some degree. 

In shopping around for a tech jacket, you want to examine:

  • Fabric: The material should have some stretch but, at the same time, offer ripstop or tear-resistant construction. Materials range from polyester to variations on nylon to more environmentally friendly wool and bamboo.
  • Properties: Without tech properties, this jacket ends up being a basic windbreaker and or shell jacket and nothing more. On a general level, look for how water-resistant or waterproof the garment is. Keep in mind that waterproof construction can compromise breathability, which can make you feel overheated. Beyond this, to keep out the chill, look for something wind resistant or windproof. Furthermore, depending upon when and how you’ll be wearing the jacket, seek out features like venting or pit zips for releasing heat. For cold-weather wear, insulation is also important. 
  • Features: Slightly different from properties, look for a hood that can be tucked or zipped into the collar, multiple pockets, and drawstrings to create a closer fit. Then, if you intend to travel with this jacket, find something that packs into its own internal pocket.
  • Seams: Within a jacket’s design, seams might seem like the last feature we notice, but their construction ultimately affects how the jacket performs – including if you remain warm and dry or get cold and damp when rain hits. In this regard, look for taped or heat-sealed seams, rather than something that’s solely been stitched. 

Types of Tech Jackets & Our Recommendations

Based on all of the factors described above, tech jackets are divided based on the amount of stretch, weather resistance, insulation, and breathability they provide.


Any “shell” type jacket looks the most like a windbreaker and functions as a thin outer garment, under which insulation like fleece is worn.

A hardshell often offers water-resistant or waterproof properties, breathability, wind blocking, and UV resistance yet features a two- or three-layer construction that offers only a minimal amount of stretch.


Patagonia Men's Galvanized Jacket

Patagonia Men's Galvanized Jacket

A Certified Fair Trade garment, this waterproof/breathable three-layer hardshell jacket is free of seams, includes a helmet-compatible hood for skiing, and is made with both vents and a moisture-wicking interior to keep body heat and perspiration under control. 

Alpha SV Jacket Wildchild

Arc’Teryx Alpha SV Jacket

This isn’t your typical urban windbreaker. Instead, Arc’Teryx constructed this for extreme alpine conditions, using durable Gore-Tex Pro for waterproof protection, abrasion-resistant materials, articulated construction for movement, pit zips, and features for search and rescue. 

Eddie Bauer Men's Powder Search 2.0 3-In-1 Down Jacket

Eddie Bauer Men's CirrusLite Down Jacket

While specifically a ski shell, the Powder Search works for everyday wear with waterproof-breathable seam-sealed construction to handle the conditions ahead and a zip-in down liner for an extra degree of warmth. 

The North Face Men’s Resolve 2 Jacket

The North Face Men’s Resolve 2 Jacket

The North Face increasingly constructs garments that look classic on the sidewalk and function well on the trails.

The Resolve 2 delivers this versatility through waterproof-breathable DryVent™ 2L material that fully blocks out gusts of wind for a greater degree of warmth. 


Although similar in role, a softshell is another lighter-weight outer layer that blocks out the elements and allows insulation to be layered underneath.

In this case, construction uses two- or four-way mechanical stretch material for better movement. 


Eddie Bauer Men's Windfoil Elite Jacket

Eddie Bauer Windfoil® Elite Jacket

More of a three-season jacket, this softshell lets you move with four-way stretch construction and keeps out the elements through windproof, breathable, and water-repellent construction. 

Under Armour Men's ColdGear Infrared Shield Jacket

Under Armour ColdGear® Infrared Shield Softshell Jacket

Whether to get to work or get through your morning jog, this Under Armour shell goes the distance through midweight insulated stretch construction with its proprietary ColdGear® technology, moisture-wicking properties to control perspiration, and windproof material to keep out the chill. 

Men’s PHG Ascender Softshell Jacket

Columbia Men’s PHG Ascender™ Softshell Jacket

Stay comfortable outdoors with this softshell designed to repel water and stains, keep wind out, and hold onto body heat to help you stay warm. 

Insulated Jackets

An insulated jacket – possibly called a “midlayer” by outdoor enthusiasts – is built to be worn underneath a shell jacket. Like the shell jacket, it too feels lighter in weight and is made for layering.

However, the material – usually fleece or something else warmth-retaining – isn’t designed to be water repellent, hence the need for an outer layer with this functionality. 

Carhartt Men's Rain Defender Relaxed Fit Lightweight Insulated Jacket

Carhartt Rain Defender® Relaxed Fit Lightweight Insulated Jacket

While we typically associate Carhartt with workwear and workwear-inspired pieces, this insulated Cordura jacket proves its versatility with water-repellent, ripstop construction and lightweight insulation that lets you add a layer on top or below, if needed. 

Llbean Men's Mountain Classic Down Hooded Jacket

L.L. Bean Men's Mountain Classic Down Hooded Jacket, Sherpa-Lined

This is meant to be your all-in-one insulated jacket, complete with a down-insulated body and arms and Sherpa fleece for an extra degree of warmth. 

Marmot Men's Calen Insulated Puffer Jacket

Marmot Calen Insulated Jacket

Designed for the outdoors but lightweight enough for everyday wear, this insulated jacket keeps warmth close with Primaloft® Black insulation, a moisture-wicking collar, and movement-oriented design. 

Kuhl Rebel Insulated Jacket

KUHL Rebel™ Insulated Jacket

With nylon construction, this quilted nylon jacket features an abrasion-resistant, water-repellent appearance and cotton-like feel, transitioning from the city out to the trails with ease. 

Puffer Jackets

Although puffers further function as midlayers or insulated jackets, they feature a specific construction and increasingly can function on their own, offering both insulation and weather resistance.

A puffer specifically features pockets of insulation, also known as baffling, all over the body and typically the arms. Tech jackets consider where the body needs the most warmth and distribute insulation closer toward your core. 

Whether packable and designed to be worn under a shell or a single-function solution, puffers use two types of insulation.

Down feels lighter and offers more warmth but, unless treated to be water resistant, loses its properties quickly. As one tip, pay attention to fill power, which is usually rated between 300 to 900. The higher the number, the greater the warmth the jacket provides. 

Synthetic like PrimaLoft®, meanwhile, feels heavier but performs more reliably in damp weather. As one downside of synthetic insulation, these jackets typically don’t pack down well. 

Columbia Lake 22 Down Jacket

Columbia Men's Lake 22™ Down Jacket

Consider this a technical puffer, complete with lightweight construction for everyday to outdoors wear enhanced with a water-resistant exterior, sealed seams, and 650-fill power down insulation for warmth. 

Lands Ends Men's 600 Down Puffer Winter Jacket

Lands’ End Men's 600 Down Puffer Winter Jacket

This more classic form of the puffer jacket handles conditions from the driveway through the ski slopes with warm 600-fill power down insulation, a storm flap, and water-resistant construction. 

Tommy Hilfiger Men's Hooded Puffer Jacket

Tommy Hilfiger Men's Hooded Puffer Jacket

With tech influences, this everyday puffer jacket is built for the cold with large baffling, polyester insulation, and features that help keep out gusts of wind. 

Whether you're looking for rain jackets for hiking or warm winter jackets for skiing, these will help you stay comfortable outdoors in the elements.

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Ivan Yaskey is a Philly-born menswear fashion blogger and copywriter. When not writing about men's style he's also an EDM and synthpop enthusiast.