Often combining elements of hiking, shooting and stalking, when it comes to photographing the countryside bringing the right kit makes all the difference.
As with any outdoor pursuit, your photography jacket can make or break the day. The exact choice you make will depend on the terrain, time of year and your own preferences, but as photographers the key criteria we need are:
- Reliable, warm & waterproof
- Ample storage
- No unnecessary bulk
- Able to take punishment from rough terrain/heavy kit bags/tripod bags/etc
This still leaves plenty of options to sieve through so, to help you get started, we have picked out our top recommendations for different disciplines.
Stalking Jackets (General Purpose)
Designed to balance high activity use with periods of prolonged stillness, a stalking jacket is my go-to recommendation. Stalking jackets feature a higher hem for improved flexibility, good pocket space, and are made from ultra-noiseless materials which are coloured to help you blend into the background. Perfect for general use.
Best in class: Harkila – Pro Hunter Move Jacket
The Pro Hunter range is legendary in it’s own right – this new addition for 2018 cleverly uses an off-centre zip to create a large chest pocket for fantastic waterproof storage. This is ideal for storing lenses if you’re chopping and changing on-the-fly.
It’s also very lightweight and, as with all things Harkila, the membrane is second to none – plus it comes with a 5-year Pro Hunter warranty.
See also: Seeland – Helt Jacket
Also a new addition for 2018, the Helt features a large rear pocket (designed for carrying small game) which provides huge amounts of storage, while the nifty sleeve pocket is ideal for lens caps and filters. The storm cuffs also have thumb holes to help keep your hands warm – no pawing at your camera with clumsy numb fingers.
There are also heavy-duty reinforcements on the hard-worn areas, including on the shoulders which is perfect for heavy kit/tripod bags.
Smocks (Extra Storage)
I once borrowed a (now sadly discontinued) Harkila smock for a wet weather shoot, and I loved the huge chest pocket. Being able to stash all my lenses within easy reach, including a bulky zoom and wide angle, was an absolute pleasure.
With their longer length providing more coverage for your upper legs, lined & unlined versions available to suit the climate, and often with huge storage on offer, a smock can be a great option.
Best in class: Laksen – Gamsbock Anorak
Handsome wool with a Teflon-coated membrane for complete waterproofing & dirt repellency. With Primaloft insulation, a breathable mesh lining and side vents to regulate your temperature, while the Gamsbock may be the most expensive pick of the lot, you do get an awful lot in return.
The huge chest pocket provides masses of easy-to-reach waterproof storage, while side pockets & fully adjustable cuffs keep your hands warm.
See also: Ridgeline – Monsoon Elite II Smock
Pictured in Teak but also available in Olive, the Monsoon Elite II is one of our most popular stalking smocks. Lightweight, highly breathable, and with extra length for additional coverage, the only negative is the lack of a full-size chest pocket, which has been down-sized in favour of a front opening for added optional ventilation.
Packaway Jackets (Landscape Photography)
The weather in the UK is changeable at the best of times, but never more than when you’re in the hills. For a long day hiking to and from viewpoints, you’ll want something that offers great protection but won’t add unnecessary weight & bulk to your kit bag while not needed.
Best in class: Musto – Fenland BR2 Packaway Jacket
At just 600g, the Fenland folds niftily into itself to create a tiny pouch that you can simply attach to your bag with its built-in carabiner clip. Four good sized pockets are on offer, and with a 10,000mm waterproof rating, you don’t sacrifice protection for convenience.
See also: Harkila – Orton Packable Jacket
Harkila quality at a great price. With good pockets, a stowaway hood and an adjustable fit, this is fantastic jacket is just narrowly beaten out by the elegance of the Fenland’s self-contained carry pouch.
Camouflage Jackets (Nature Photography)
When it comes to nature photography, breaking up the human silhouette is crucial. You may also find yourself crammed into a hide for hours at a time, so a jacket that’s comfortable, regulates your temperature and doesn’t rustle is absolutely paramount.
Best in class: Harkila – Lynx Jacket
With Harkila’s weatherproof & noiseless HWS membrane, a fine mesh lining & underarm vents for maximum breathability, and Harkila’s own AxisMSP camo pattern to disguise your shape, the Lynx ticks all the boxes.
For those wanting a full suit, the Lynx range includes plenty of matching options including gloves, hats, boots, waistcoats and trousers.
See also: Chevalier – Mosquito Anorak
With a face net to keep mosquitoes and midges at bay, and a good sized chest pocket for storage, this is a heavier option than the Lynx, perhaps better suited to colder weather or those outside of a hide.
Insulated Jackets (Night Photography)
Cold air means clear skies; anyone who has spent a night running long exposures of a night sky will know just how important it is to stay warm, and how difficult this can be when you’re remaining stationary for hours at a time – often trying desperately to avoid disturbing the tripod. A flask of tea will only get you so far, so extra insulation is the real answer for combating prolonged cold.
Best in class: Harkila – Heat Jacket
Stay warm from within thanks to the built-in heating elements in the Heat jacket. Compatible with any standard USB powerpack, these provide up to 7 hours of warmth from a 10,000mAh pack (stored in a handy compartment in the front-right pocket). Should you need to change the battery on the fly, just unplug and replug the waterproof USB connector in the pocket – no need to remove the jacket.
A handy button on the chest allows you to switch between off/low/medium/high heating, but for total control you can set the desired temperature with the accompanying mobile app.
See also: Harkila – Norfell Insulated Jacket
For a more traditional insulated jacket, the Norfell Insulated features 120g Primaloft insulation, with adjustable waist, hem and cuffs.