Three Questions To Ask When Buying A Work Jacket

A good work jacket—if matched to the weather and job at hand—will make your outside work and chores more comfortable and easier.

construction worker leaning on truck
Hard work takes a hard jacket. Here are some things to look for in yours.Tim Gouw via Unsplash

If you’ve ever felt like you nearly froze to death working outdoors, you know that a good work jacket is an invaluable tool to any hard-working man or woman who makes a living in nature’s elements. Working outdoors can be hard even in good weather, but when it’s extremely cold out, you need the right tool for the job. All work jackets aren’t created equal, however. To make a good selection, ask yourself three important questions—what type of work you will be doing, what will the weather be like and are there safety requirements you need to consider.

What Type Of Work?

Carhartt work jacket
This rugged work jacket features a quilted flannel lining for comfort and warmth.Amazon

The type of work you intend to do will affect the features you are looking for in a jacket. If you will be swinging a heavy sledgehammer, you'll want a jacket with underarm gussets, a bi-swing back and/or pleated elbows. All of those features give you more range of motion than jackets without them, and all help your jacket not to rise above your waist when raising your arms and bending your elbows. If your work is more tactical—security or even firearms competition (not work, but still cold)—a tactical-type jacket with extra storage might be best for you. On the other hand, if you'll be welding or working close to flames, a jacket that is flame retardant will best fit your needs.

What Type Of Weather?

Dickies work jacket
This 100 percent cotton work jacket has a sherpa lining for warmth.Amazon

The type of weather you'll be working in will also have a big impact on both the exterior and interior of your jacket. When thinking about work jackets, most people envision brown or black cotton duck material, which is extremely popular for exteriors. This fabric is tough and easy to clean, making it a good choice in many cases. For wet and windy conditions, however, a nylon or polyester exterior might be more to your liking. They're not as rugged as cotton duck but will keep the wind and rain at bay. Interiors are made of a number of materials, and selection largely depends on how cold the weather will be. Down is warm, but when it gets wet will let you down. Polyester or synthetic isn't as good as down thermal-wise but works much better when wet. Work jacket interiors can also be made of flannel or wool—both very warm materials.

Are There Safety Requirements?

hi-vis neon bomber jacket
This work jacket is offered in hi-viz yellow for maximum visibility when on the job.Amazon

This question might be surprising, but it still needs to be asked. In many cases, your company or even the government might place restrictions on your outerwear, and knowing that in advance could save you some heartache. Some jobs might require flame-retardant jackets. Others require ANSI-rated high-visibility outerwear. If you're not sure, find out. It's better to be safe than sorry when purchasing a work jacket.