Technical jackets have to keep you dry in brutal weather, breathe so you don’t sweat too much when you break trail, and fit comfortably whether you’re hiking fast-and-light or wearing a backpack or harness. In addition to being tough, these jackets should also weigh as little as possible to keep your gear weight low when you’re headed up the mountain. Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.
Plan for the worst when you’re looking for jacket that you’ll wear into the mountains. You want a jacket with fabric that boasts a high waterproof rating (20K+) and a highly breathable membrane, ample durability, and a construction that includes fully taped or welded seams.
Because these jackets have to fit comfortably when you’re wearing backpack or climbing harness, they tend to have a slim to regular fit. Be careful not to choose a fit that’s so slim or a size so small that you can’t add extra baselayers or an insulating layer.
For backpacking, you don’t need many bells and whistles. If you’re climbing, then you’ll want good wrist closures and a helmet-compatible hood to seal out a storm.