Best Travel Jackets: How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

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Need to find the best travel jackets? You’ve come to the right place. We prefer warm weather for traveling. However, dropping temperatures shouldn’t stop you from exploring new places, right? Whether you’re interested in a jacket for winter or other lightweight jackets for travel, having an extra layer on the road is often a good idea.

It’s important to travel light — especially when you’re heading to a warm destination. A jacket may be the last thing you want to pack. However, sometimes you have no choice. In these situations, having one of the best jackets for travel comes in really handy, regardless of the season.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

The Best Travel Jackets

We prefer to live in places that are warm all year round (Malaysia, Spain, or Mexico anyone?). That said, we often travel to destinations once winter’s chill takes full effect. After all, there are lots of fun things to do in Japan during the winter. Same goes for Barcelona in winter.

The problem with winter travel for us is that we have to pack so much more clothing. That’s why it’s important to have one of the best travel jackets so that you can minimize luggage space.

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Not Just Winter: Why the Best Jackets for Travel?

The main reasons for buying a jacket for travel, to keep you warm in cold weather of course. But that’s only part of the story. Travel jackets aren’t just for winter in Japan or ski season in Japan. The best travel jackets are for just about every destination and type of travel.

Cold Airports, Airplanes, Buses, Etc.

It’s best to have a packable jacket no matter where you’re going. For example, we almost always use packable jackets on big travel days. Why? For starters, many airports are cold. Ports, bus stations and train terminals, too. Then, of course, the flight itself can be chilly, and many airlines don’t hand out blankets and pillows the way they used to. Even lightweight jackets for travel can cut the chill or provide a softer place to rest your head when rolled up.

Some Countries LOVE Air Conditioning

Another example is the use of air conditioning in tropical countries. For example, let’s talk Malaysia: you’ll almost never need a jacket outside, but when in hotels, shopping centers, and other indoor spots, having one of the best lightweight jackets for travel is a must. Most of the country’s movie theaters and shopping malls crank the AC full blast all day. Seriously: we brought lightweight travel jackets and socks to every movie we went to. The same could be said for the for the boat from Penang to Langkawi…you could almost see your breath!

We’ve had similar issues in Mexico. For example, the Yucatan Peninsula is hot and humid all year long — but during long bus rides from Merida to places like Playa del Carmen or further south to Tulum? The bus is frigid. Locals bring blankets, but we bring lightweight jackets for travel.

For Warming Up After Cold Activities

Just because it’s warm outside doesn’t mean it’s warm in underwater. Oceans, lakes, and mountain streams can be freezing depending on the season and where you are. That ice-cold river is refreshing on a hot day, but stay in too long and you may want to warm up faster than the sun will allow. But if you have lightweight jackets for travel with you, then you can raise your children’s body temperature quickly.

For example, there was the time the kids needed to warm up quickly after surfing in the Canary Islands. Or after canyoning and wild swimming in the alpine-like waters northern Spain. Back in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, we loved swimming in cenotes. The clean cold water was such a refreshing break from the sauna-like climate at ground level. But there were a few times where we stayed underground for hours — away from the sun, essentially in a cave. Good lightweight jackets for travel came in handy then, as well. There are many other examples. In every case, we were glad to have some of the best travel jackets with us.

It’s hard to predict when one of the best travel jackets will come in handy. If you’re heading into winter, by all means, bring a warm coat. But even when heading to a warm area, pack at least one thin, packable lightweight jacket for travel. In this piece, I talk about a few of the best jackets for travel on the market today.

What to Look for in the Best Travel Jacket

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Most of the best jackets for travel share a number of characteristics. Not all great travel jackets have each and every one of these features. Indeed, some only have a few. For example, one lightweight travel jacket packs down really small, but it only has two pockets and isn’t designed for winter. Other lightweight travel jackets for travel are very warm, but take up more room in your suitcase. Consider your needs and the climates you’ll face when considering the best travel jacket for you. Here are the features to look for in the best travel jackets.

Warmth Level

The best jackets for travel keep you warm, but how warm do you need to be? Where do you plan to go? Most of the best travel jackets listed here are mid-level jackets for fall, spring, and milder winters. They can also be layered with other warm clothes when the temperatures really drop. If you are traveling to Iceland, Antarctica, or some other place with extreme weather, then look for more specialized jackets for winter weather that can keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures.

When looking at travel jackets, keep layering in mind. The warmest jackets are often heavy and bulky. This list of travel jackets was created by considering warmth, the ability to pack down small, and the other factors you’ll see below. Most of these are lightweight jackets for travel, but with a scarf and a few layers underneath, you can be ready for many cold-weather situations.

Durability

The best jackets for travel are built to last. Sure, they’re comfortable. That’s a given of any good jacket for travel. But the best travel jackets can take some abuse and look no worse for it. Today’s lightweight jackets for travel use the latest polyester, nylon and other synthetic materials. These jacket materials and insulators ensure comfort and warmth while remaining rugged. Sturdy, solid zippers should be considered too. Even the best travel jacket in the world won’t keep you warm if you can’t zip it shut!

Quick Drying

Like with durability above, today’s synthetic materials play a large role in why the best travel jackets work so well. The best jackets for travel will dry quickly when hung properly. They’ll also not succumb to body odors as quickly as natural fabrics like cotton and wool. There are few things worse than getting caught in the rain when it’s cold. Not only are you cold, but the clothing you rely on for warmth is making you colder! The best lightweight jackets for travel can dry out in a fraction of the time of conventional coats.

Water/Dirt/Odor Resistance

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

When considering the best travel jacket would be for you, let’s start with the color. Some people like bright colors. That may be your style, but remember that these can stain more easily than a black, brown, or earth tone-colored coat. At the same time, some families prefer buying bright colors so that you can easily spot each other in a crowd. Sure, even the best travel jackets may get a stain here or there. But if you want to spot your kids quickly in a crowded airport — or for them to spot you — then consider bright colors.

Here’s the good news: many of the best jackets for travel are designed to keep stains at bay. Many are also water resistant or even waterproof. A few of them can also keep you warm even when wet. For example, the Thermoball lightweight jackets for travel from North Face retain heat even when wet. I know because it’s happened to me. Down jackets can’t do that. Some of the best jackets for travel will keep you warm even when wet.

Pocket Versatility

When you’re traveling, you’ll be carrying all sorts of things with you. The best jackets for travel will give you a place to put everything and secure it all inside zipped pockets. Most of the best travel jackets on our list have at least two common outer pockets with zippers. Many also have internal pockets. Some have lots and lots of pockets. As a general rule, the more pockets, the less packable the jacket becomes, but that’s not always the case. Some lightweight jackets for travel skip internal pockets for a variety of reasons, while other lightweight travel jackets have more pockets than you’ll ever need. More pockets don’t always make the best jackets for travel even better — think about what you really need and choose accordingly.

Light Weight

When you’re traveling, every gram of weight in your luggage counts. The best jackets for travel feel more like a windbreaker than a coat, yet keep you just as warm. Whether it’s Patagonia’s Nanopuff technology or the North Face’s Thermo Ball, the new synthetic materials in today’s lightweight jackets for travel retain heat while weighing almost nothing. These are considered lightweight jackets for travel, yet they heat you like a fleece and pack down as small as a loaf of bread.

Size & Comfort

For the best jackets for travel, comfort should be a given. But here I just wanted to mention that when it comes to size, consider this carefully. Some of the best jackets for travel have a size chart on their sites and their Amazon pages. It is worth looking at this very carefully. For example, some people find that jackets from some international travel brands run a little smaller than some travel clothing brands from the USA.

Moreover, if you choose lightweight travel jackets with specialized pockets (and plan to use them), then consider your size carefully since you will have more electronics inside before you zip up. Also, think about the weather you’ll be facing and how many layers you may wear underneath. For example, use only lightweight travel jackets and add undershirts, flannels, and fleece in layers underneath. In many cases, my pockets are full on travel days: phone chargers, passports, camera batteries and more. That’s why I bought my travel jacket one size larger than I usually do. That way I can zip up comfortably when I wear several layers and have loads in my pockets.

Packability

Like the issue of weight mentioned above, packability is crucial. In fact, it may be the most important characteristic of the best jackets for travel. The best travel jackets are able to fold, stuff, or compress themselves into a fraction of their actual size. The result: more room in your luggage. I personally like the packable nature of today’s puffy jackets. Within seconds, a winter coat is scrunched into the size of a loaf of bread. Many of the best lightweight jackets for travel can go even smaller.

Our List of The Best Travel Jacket [CHART]

Best Packable Travel Jacket

For me, packability is one of the most important aspects of lightweight jackets for travel. It’s more important to me than warmth (I’ll wear layers), specialized pockets (I have a backpack) and stain-resistance (I’m a slob anyway). If you’re carrying check-in luggage and you have room for more clothing, then this may not be as big of a priority. But if you sometimes travel carry-on only, then space matters.

The North Face Thermoball

Keiko and I both bought one of these a few years ago. Now we both think that the North Face Thermoball jacket is one of the best lightweight travel jackets you can own. We love them. It has been our go-to jacket for travel ever since. Small, light, warm, and packable, these are easily some of the best jackets for travel. The North Face Thermoball series of jackets use a synthetic material that dries fast and can keep you warm even when wet.

I haven’t soaked it in a snowy river and then put it back on, like some gear testers I’ve read. That said, I have been caught in a winter storm without an umbrella and been soaked in it. Stayed warm. Thermoball jackets pack into a fraction of their size and weigh next to nothing. That’s why I list the North Face Thermoball as one of the best packable travel jackets. The only downside I have to mine is that it only has the two hand pockets, and I wish I had a chest pocket as well. The newest versions have them.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: The North Face Women’s Thermoball

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: The North Face Men’s Thermoball

Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer

At less than eight ounces, this is one of the world’s lightest down jackets. It makes our list of best jackets for travel because of its weight-to-warmth ratio and its packability. The Ghost Whisperer is super warm but packs as small as a loaf of bread. Yet it retains all the heat-trapping ability of a down jacket. Few down items make a list of lightweight jackets for travel, but this one earns it. The only downside is that the hood can’t be tightened.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Women’s Hooded Ghost Whisperer

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Men’s Hooded Ghost Whisperer

Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Down Jacket

If you or your partner prioritize style in your travel purchases, then the Tommy Hilfiger down jacket may be one of the best travel jackets for you. This is not a travel jacket for extremely cold climates, but rather more for fall to milder winter temperatures. The price is good for a down jacket like this, and there are lots of colors to choose from. It’s easy to pack into a small bag or stuff it into your luggage.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Down Jacket

Hawke & Co Men’s Down Puffer Jacket

Another men’s lightweight jacket for travel in fall and mild winters. This down jacket is good to travel with since it packs into its own pocket. It’s very lightweight as well. The downside is that there are only two common outer pockets with zippers. The internal pocket has no zipper. If you want to carry more than what this can hold, then you may want to consider a travel jacket with more pockets. However, at this price, Hawke & Co Men’s Down Puffer Jacket for men is one of the perfect travel jackets for budget-minded travelers.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Hawke & Co Men’s Down Puffer Jacket

Best Women’s Travel Coat/Long Women’s Travel Jackets

Many of the best lightweight jackets for travel lack the style or length that some female travelers want. Therefore, I’ve added this section of women’s travel coats. If you want a puffy jacket that doesn’t look like the typical puffy jacket, read on.

Calvin Klein Chevron Down Coat

Do you prefer a women’s travel jacket that keeps you warm beyond your waist? Then the Calvin Klein Chevron Down Coat should make your list of the best women’s travel coats. It packs up nicely into the small bag it comes with. Few jackets of this length are regular packable jackets, so this helps makes travel packing easier. If your thighs are covered, it feels much warmer than wearing a jacket that stops at the belt line. We like how the cut of this jacket fits the female form. It looks stylish whether you’re climbing ancient ruins or walking into a nice restaurant.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Calvin Klein Women’s Chevron Down Coat

Tommy Hilfiger Women’s Mid Length Packable Down

Another one of the best women’s travel coats from Tommy Hilfiger. This women’s mid-length coat is another packable down jacket with a detachable hood. Once you arrive at a warm-weather destination, just pack it up and leave it in your luggage. We couldn’t consider this one of the most lightweight jackets for travel. However, for the size, design, and level of warmth, it’s easily one of the best jackets for travel for those who want something longer.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Tommy Hilfiger Women’s Mid Length Down

Top Lightweight Jackets for Travel

Out of all the qualities of the best jackets for travel, weight should be important to everyone. Airlines are charging more and more for less and less luggage weight. That’s why it’s important to carry lightweight jackets for travel. Not only do they pack small, but they also keep the scales tipped in your favor.

Patagonia Nano Puff

Patagonia has been making some of the best travel jackets on the planet for decades. Their nano puff technology is the latest iteration of this. Warm, water-resistant, and lightweight, Nano Puff lightweight jackets for travel come recommended by travelers the world over. Like the North Face Thermoball travel jackets mentioned earlier, Patagonia’s Nano Puff material dries fast and keeps you warm even when wet. Yet an additional benefit that Patagonia jackets have over Thermoball jackets is better wind resistance. When it comes to lightweight jackets for travel, the Nano Puff is hard to beat.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Patagonia Men’s Nano Puff

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Patagonia Women’s Nano Puff

Columbia Women’s Mighty Lite III Jacket

Another great lightweight jacket for travel is the Columbia Women’s Mighty Lite III. As the name suggests, it is very light. That said, it’s also warm and packable. It may not be for sub-zero temperatures, but with layers inside, it’s plenty for fall and mild winters. The Mighty Lite has two outer pockets and one inner pocket with zippers. You can secure your valuables inside without worrying about dropping them or having them snatched by skilled pick-pockets. We also like the thumb holes to help cover the hands and keep any cold air from creeping in from the sleeves.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Columbia Women’s Mighty Lite III

Columbia Sportswear Men’s Mighty Lite Hybrid Jacket

The Columbia Mighty Lite line also has some of the best jackets for travel for men, and this model is a perfect lightweight jacket for travel. It’s very light and packs down small. It also has Omni-Heat thermal reflective insulation to keep you warm.

With both outer pockets and inner pockets secured by zippers, you can confidently carry small valuables such as a wallet, phone, and passports. Unlike the women’s line, there are few colors to choose from. If the color of your travel jacket is very important to you, you may want to look for others.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Columbia Men’s Mighty Lite Hybrid

The North Face Aconcagua Jacket

The North Face Aconcagua Jacket is snug, warm and lightweight. With internal elastic cuffs, you can keep cold air from coming up the sleeves. The pockets zip up too, so you can carry small items without needing a backpack or shoulder bag. The men’s Aconcagua has a small zippered chest pocket as well.

The downside? You can’t pack it away like some of the best packable jackets listed in this post. If you plan to travel wearing it and keep using it while you travel, then the North Face Aconcagua is certainly one of the best lightweight travel jackets. Just don’t plan to squeeze it into a small space.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: The North Face Women’s Aconcagua

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: The North Face Men’s Aconcagua

Best Travel Jacket with Many Pockets

I’ll admit it: I’m a pocket nerd. When I’m looking at the best travel jackets in the market, I look at the pocket design. Why? Because I tend to carry lots of little items that get lost in the cavernous pockets of a typical day bag. I have phones, point-and-shoot cameras, and the accompanying accessories for each, such as batteries, wires, and SD cards. Then there’s usually a pen and notepad, pocket change, perhaps a subway card and glasses case…you get the idea. Some of the best travel jackets will have specialized pockets for some or all of these. Think about what you carry with you and then choose the best lightweight jackets for travel accordingly.

SCOTTeVEST OTG Travel Jacket for Men & Women

Scottievest specializes in lightweight jackets for travel, and they make some of the best travel jackets with many pockets. Their patented travel pocket designs make them stand out among all travel jacket brands in many ways. Their OTG Jacket has 29 (!) pockets, with specialized storage for everything from passports to iPads. There’s even a pocket for a laptop! Among the pockets is an RFID-blocking pocket to thwart anyone trying to skim your credit cards. Do you need this many pockets? Only you know the answer, but even if you put half of them to use then this would make it the best travel jacket with many pockets.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check the Price of SCOTTeVEST OTG Men’s

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check the Price of SCOTTeVEST OTG Women’s

SCOTTeVEST Revolution Travel Jacket for Men & Women

This may be the best jacket for travel ever. Like the OTG above, the SCOTTeVEST Revolution has loads of specialized pockets (26) and specialized features. One of the things I like about the Revolution is that one of the specially designed pockets is clear and you can operate the phone or tablet without removing it. The jacket is water & wind resistant, and the sleeves can zip off when the weather warms up. I actually like wearing a vest when it’s not extremely cold since I can use my arms more freely. The ScotteVest Revolution may be my next jacket for travel when my current one gives up. Easily one of the best travel jackets with many pockets, if not the best travel jacket ever made.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check the Price of Men’s SCOTTeVEST Revolution

XY37 Men Travel Jacket Hoodie

In the vein of SCOTTeVEST, the XY37 makes our list of best travel jackets with many pockets thanks to travel-specific functionality. For example, the XY37 had a built-in travel neck pillow, eye mask, and gloves. It also has specialized pockets for devices, passports, and other travel essentials.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check the Price of XY37 Men Travel Jacket Hoodie

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check the Price of XY37 Women Travel Jacket Hoodie

Best Travel Jackets for Kids

Last but not least, let’s talk about the best travel jackets for kids. For better or worse, there are fewer kids’ travel jackets on the market than for adults, but more than enough to choose from.

Columbia Powder Lite Puffer Jacket

For active kids who want to stay outside and play in cold weather, the Colombia Powder Lite Puffer Jacket is the perfect jacket to travel with kids. It’s made with water-resistant fabric, so a little drizzle or a drink spill will not affect it at all.

The hood is adjustable so it won’t completely cover your child’s face even if he/she has to grow into it. Inside the jacket, you have a place to write your child’s name so you know which travel jackets belong to which children even if you have the same colored jacket. That said, I highly recommend having different color travel jackets for each kid. Then, you can tell who’s where right away — even from a distance. Boys have 5+ colors to choose from, while girls have 10+.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Columbia Boys’ Powder Lite Puffer Jacket

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Columbia Girls’ Powder Lite Puffer Jacket

The North Face Reversible Jacket

One jacket, two styles. This one easily makes the list of best travel jackets for kids. With soft fleece on one side and wind-resistant polyester fabric on the other, your child gets to choose which side they would like to wear. This reversible jacket will keep your kid warm even though it’s quite lightweight.

The girls’ jacket model has zippered pockets on the taffeta side and welt pockets on the fleece side, and it comes with more than 15 colors to choose from. The boys’ model has welt hands pockets on either side, and more than 10 colors to choose from. Be reminded not to hand your kids any valuables to keep in these pockets. It may fall out of a zipper-less pocket and never be seen again.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Girls Reversible Mossbud Swirl Jacket

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Boys Reversible True Or False Jacket

U.S. Polo Assn. Bubble Jacket

Last but not the least on the list of the best travel jacket for kids, we have this bubble jacket for both boys and girls. These bubble jackets are fairly thick and will keep your child warm when traveling to cold destinations. For both girls and boys, the U.S. Polo Assn. Bubble Jacket offers many different designs, colors, and shapes. It’s best to look at the details of each jacket to see which one would be the best travel jacket for your kids. Some have detachable hoods, while others are completely attached. Another has no hood at all.

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Girls’ Bubble Jacket

Best Travel Jackets: Lightweight Jackets for Travel & How to Choose the Best Jacket for Travel

Check Price: Boys’ Bubble Jacket

Conclusion: Best Jackets for Travel

What do you consider the best jackets for travel? Where do you plan to go? Will this list of some of the best jackets for travel be helpful? I hope so! Do you prefer lightweight jackets for travel that pack small or jackets with specialized pockets? Why?

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Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy one of the best jackets for travel after clicking one of my links, we might get a small commission. You pay nothing extra, so don’t worry. Also, everything you see here is just my personal opinion. I only recommend places, activities, and gear like these lightweight jackets for travel that I believe will genuinely help my readers. I hope that this list will help you make smart shopping decisions when choosing the best travel jackets for your family. That includes the best travel jackets for men, the best travel jackets for women, the best travel jackets for kids, the best packable jackets for travel and the best jackets with specialized pockets for travel. What’s the best travel jacket for you? I hope this post helps you find it.

Comments

  1. All look like rocking jackets Jason and the reasons are spot on. I have frozen my rear end off in Malaysia, in a KL movie theater. Ditto for some chilly theaters in Phuket before management finally turned things down; had to be the number of complaints. Having a jacket and thick socks helps some, and when they are light and super easy to pack, all the better. Of course I am lugging a huge, heavy reflective coat around here in NYC. Gotta wear it for my Central Park runs at night during the winter 😉

    Ryan

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