Half a zipper, twice the style, and all of the weather protection you may need both in town and the backcountry
Anorak jackets—the classic half-zip mountain shell—have long represented the peak in outerwear tech. The anorak jacket has roots with the native dress of Inuit people—it was whalers visiting Greenland’s coasts who took the Inuktitut word annuraaq, referring to hooded pullover coats traditionally made from fur and sealskin, and phonetically transformed it into the word anorak. Nineteenth-century polar explorers like Norwegian Roald Amundsen later adopted the piece for their expeditions, and like parkas, the garment has continued to evolve for adventurous and casual uses.
Simply put, an anorak is a type of jacket or coat that bears a hood and partial-length zipper, requiring the wearer to pull the jacket over their head and other layers. To aid the sometimes awkward task of pulling on an anorak, it’s not uncommon for an anorak to feature one or two side zippers that widen its entry point.
The term “smock” is sometimes used interchangeably with anorak, though a smock doesn’t necessarily need to include a hood nor any type of mid-length opening at the chest. An emphasis on weather-proof fabrics is also an important distinction: a hooded pullover fleece jacket, even with a mid-length zip front and cozy deep-pile sherpa fuzz, is not an anorak, though many other winter coats and jackets might be.
An anorak's primary benefit is the lack of a full-length zipper or fasteners of any sort, which reduces opportunities for wind and weather to enter the jacket. Many anorak rain jackets are made from waterproof materials like Gore-Tex or waxed cotton, further enhancing their inherent weather resistance. Another benefit for thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers, is that a partial zipper shaves grams from a base weight item that may only see use in extreme weather conditions or emergencies.
As full-zip jackets have come to be seen as more versatile and, let's face it, easier to put on, many anorak designs have taken a sometimes-subtle, often-overt turn into fashion. Most now include a large cargo/kangaroo pocket in front of the belly with side openings for hand warming–just like your favorite hoodie. In a sense, an insulated hooded anorak jacket is like a hoodie on heavyweight mountain steroids. Overall though, anorak jackets still do just what the Inuits intended: keep you warm and dry when the weather does everything it can to prevent that.
Now that we've got the basics covered, let's dive into our top picks for the best men’s and women’s anorak jackets.
After proving itself for over a decade through missions in Antarctica, including the first ascent of the brand’s namesake peak, this anorak from Norway’s expedition-wear brand is well suited to any ski touring outing you can throw at it. Its design includes waterproof zippers, sealed seams, side-entry zippers, and all the technical features one could ever need out of an anorak jacket. Though somewhat low-tech in practice, the hood can accommodate an optional coyote fur trim for protecting one’s face against strong winds, too.
Women's Option: YES Price: $549 SHOP NOW
If you’re as addicted to the survival-reality TV show "Alone" as the Field Mag staff is, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that a heck of a lot of folks living off the land in low temperatures wear anorak coats. Fjällräven’s Anorak No. 8 is of such survival-oriented ilk; thanks to the brand's renowned G-1000 and G-1000 Heavy Duty fabrics, which are hearty, breathable, and easy to weatherproof with a dry wax bar. A massive drawstring hood and generous cut are easy to layer over wool sweaters while you’re busy chopping wood, carrying water, or doing other outdoor chores.
Women's Option: No :( Price: $475 SHOP NOW
A puffy jacket (or puffer jacket, if you prefer) stuffed with down insulation is the way to go when optimal warmth-to-weight ratio is critical, as in any carefully weighed layering system. Montbell's ultralight down anorak weighs only 215 grams (7.6 ounces) and packs down nicely into its own stuff sack for storage. A chest-length zipper helps dump excess heat if things get too warm, and a single zipperless pocket at its side provides access to layers beneath it, and whatever snacks you have stashed in their pockets.
Women's Option: Unisex sizing Price: $300 SHOP NOW
The California running brand might be best known for its eyewear but has recently made a considered push into developing apparel, like this funky anorak for running and GORPy streetwear (recently rocked by none other than Jeff Goldblum). The dual chest zippers make for an unconventional design feature that serves well for ventilation and provides access to a running vest if you're wearing one beneath it. There's also a mesh cargo pocket that the brand refers to as a foraging pocket–because why not take your miles a side of wild morels, too? DWR-treated, 100% recycled shell fabric with bonded seams makes up the entirety of the jacket, so it’s perfect for a run in the rain.
Women's Option: Unisex sizing Price: $350 SHOP NOW
This Swedish mountain apparel brand never fails to seize an opportunity to design an item around its logo shape, the triangle. The Lodur Cutan softshell jacket’s central triangle panel hides openings for zippered hand pockets along its seams, where they're angled well out of the way of backpack straps. There are more zippers along the jacket’s sides that zip all the way up into armpits, not only for ventilation and easier on/off, but also to allow you to get the entire back panel out of the way by rolling it up and securing it with a toggle. It's weird for sure, but provides some smart breathability when you're wearing a backpack.
Women's Option: No :( Price: $470 SHOP NOW
The Japanese royalty of mountain outerwear at Goldwin are known for keeping their designs understated with clean, minimal lines. Here, a waterproof fabric from Pertex brings three layers of waterproof protection while maintaining a remarkably light-to-the-touch feel. Functionally, an off-set chest vent keeps a dangling zipper off your chin and out of your face, and long side zippers provide tremendous ventilation opportunities and an easy way to get in and out. A smart set of snap tabs at each side keeps the front and back panels of the jacket from flapping around while they're fully open, too. In addition, a mesh pocket helps organize small carry items like keys or a phone inside the central cargo pocket.
Women's Option: Unisex sizing Price: $450 SHOP NOW
The lightest hardshell from Arc'teryx weighs in at only 209 grams—that's 7.4 ounces—but still provides the weatherproof protection needed at unpredictable elevations, thanks to the waterproof prowess of Gore-Tex. Gear this light isn’t known to be very durable, so Arc’teryx developed a proprietary ripstop grid fabric called Hardron to be both lightweight and tough as nails. If you’re looking for conveniences like an array of pockets, there are shells in Arc’teryx’s lineup to better suit those needs. This minimal anorak has just one job, and it’s keeping alpine weather out at the lightest weight possible.
Women's Option: YES Price: $375 SHOP NOW
Summer outerwear? You bet. In places like the Pacific Northwest, New England, or even the Bay Area, a light layer can come in handy on even the warmest days. Key to that in Battenwear's made-in-the-USA Packable Anorak is a cotton-like, water-repellent nylon Taslan that resists overheating when you just want to keep a cool ocean breeze off your sunburnt skin. When it’s overkill, just flip the jacket into its cargo pocket for storage, then pop it back out later to keep mosquitoes off while chilling on a rental cabin porch on a summer evening.
Women's Option: Unisex sizing Price: $285 SHOP NOW
This anorak from Patagonia helps continue to prove our point: anoraks aren’t just for winter wear. The NetPlus fabric is a 100% post-consumer recycled nylon sourced from recycled fishing nets and provides sun protection rated at UPF 50+, the highest level of UV radiation protection recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. The anorak’s central cargo pocket is a handy spot for snacks, and you can stuff it all inside for space-saving gains inside your pack, too.
Women's Option: No :( Price: $129 SHOP NOW
Just because L.L.Bean's Mountain Classic Anorak is affordable doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering. Bean knows well that this anorak jacket is one of its best sellers, so why bother complicating the design with too much tech anyway? Consider the Mountain Classic Anorak less like a heavyweight raincoat and more like a hooded windbreaker. Its light nylon fabric is best suited for spring and summer days outside and wind-exposed activities, such as, perhaps, sailing along the coast of Maine. Its water-resistant surface will help keep the ocean spray off, but this lightweight anorak is mostly for dealing with the wind. Other features include a zippered pouch pocket and a drawstring hood.
Women's Option: YES Price: $59 SHOP NOW
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