We're truly in the thick of winter now, and if you want to get out shooting you need to wrap up warm. Jon Stapley looks at six of the best outdoor jackets for photographers
Páramo Waterproof ARWP Aspira Andy Rouse Smock
Like the Stealth Gear jacket (below right), we featured the Aspira Smock from Páramo in our Christmas gift guide, and we were so impressed with its performance that we felt it deserved a place in this round-up. The Páramo waterproof smock has its blessing from wildlife photographer Andy Rouse, and is an excellent premium choice for braving rough conditions.
It’s by no means the thickest or most insulated jacket on test, but the Nikwax Analogy Waterproof fabric will keep you dry. The smock is comfortable and easy to move in too, thanks to its articulated shoulders and sleeves, so the active outdoor photographer need have no fear of slowing down. Vents in the arms are a nice addition that really help to prevent overheating. While the price point may seem high, remember that every smock purchased also contributes money to the Aspira wildlife fund.
Manfrotto Pro Soft Shell Jacket
Street price: £80-£90
Manfrotto has a range of stylish jackets designed especially for photographers. These include the Pro Field Jacket and the Pro Wind Jacket, although we prefer the Pro Soft Shell jacket for both style and comfort.
The Pro Soft Shell is designed to be a versatile companion for almost all weathers, so while the fabric is water-repellent and wind-resistant it’s also light and breathable. It keeps you warm when there’s a chilly breeze, but in truly bitter cold you’ll probably need something more rugged. However, for most situations you’ll encounter on our temperate isles, it will prove more than adequate. You can pick one up for a decent price at the moment, too.
The North Face Men’s McMurdo Parka
An iconic parka from The North Face, this insulated coat is a great choice for demanding winter conditions. While the insulation on the McMurdo
Parka is one of the lightest North Face offers, it still feels pretty heavy to handle at first, thanks to the sheer volume of material. Pleasingly, however, once the coat is on, it feels thick but very breathable. You don’t feel as though you’re in danger of overheating.
There’s plenty of space to work with when handling your photography gear, and you could easily fit a spare camera or even an iPad into each of the two side pockets. The fur lining of the hood is detachable, for those who don’t care for the Parka look, and an internal zip-close media pocket makes a great place for spare SD cards.
Domke PhoTOGS Jacket
Street price: £179
The relatively compact Domke PhoTOGS jacket proves that looks can be deceiving, packing an astonishing 16 pockets into its slender frame. There is room for cameras, lenses, flash units, filters – in fact, anything pocket-sized you might think of taking to a shoot. The Domke jacket feels as though it has been designed with travel in mind, rather than simply cold weather – two of the pockets are hidden and zipped, providing a good hidey-hole for passports and other important documents.
Another interesting touch is that the sleeves are detachable, so if you’re too hot you can simply unzip them and the jacket transforms into a vest. The cotton lining comes in khaki and is pre-washed and weathered for an appealing, stylish look. The jacket is waterproof, but not overly insulated, and a great choice for the travelling photographer.
Stealth Gear Extreme Photographer’s Jacket 2
Street price: £259.95
Stealth Gear has upgraded its original Photographer’s Jacket with this new version that has been re-engineered to provide terrific protection from the elements. Stealth Gear has packed a fantastic number of features into the upgrade: an anti-slip camera strap grip on the shoulder; an all-weather hood; an air-vent opening; expandable pockets; and even cardholders for debit and credit cards. One thing to be aware of before buying this jacket is that it is very heavy.
Stealth Gear describes it as a real all-year-round jacket, but we wouldn’t recommend heading out with it unless you’re sure you’re going to want it. This is a rugged coat for rugged conditions.
Navitas Pocket Pacaway
If you’re on a budget and just need protection from the rain, the Navitas Pocket Pacaway is a fantastic inexpensive option. This jacket is made from a waterproof and windproof fabric, with elasticated cuffs and a waist hem to retain as much body heat as possible.
The Pocket Pacaway is so named because, ingeniously, it can be packed away into its own pocket. Once packed, it measures 15x20x7cm, so it fits easily into a rucksack or shoulder bag. The fact that this jacket packs into its own pocket rather than into an external sack is a clever touch that means you won’t be in danger of losing the bag it comes in (as I did constantly with the old ‘Mac in a Sac’-style jackets). The Navitas Pocket Pacaway is not nearly as well insulated as the thicker coats, which is not surprise for a jacket of this price, but it is practically unbeatable in terms of portability and convenience.