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3-in-1 Jackets - Buyers Guide

When heading outdoors in the autumn and winter months, layering up is absolutely essential. Multiple layers trap air near your skin, keeping heat close to you. A 3 in 1 jacket combines two of the key layers: a waterproof outer jacket and an insulating mid-layer. The two jackets can be worn separately or zipped together to create the ultimate winter-busting layer.

The outer shell jacket provides a shield against the wind and rain and can be worn alone when you need quick protection against a downpour. The mid-layer is ideal to throw on when it is dry but the temperature has started to drop. Combined, the two layers work together to give you full protection against the harshest weather Mother Nature can throw at you.

Though they may sometimes seem a little pricier, 3 in 1 jackets are excellent value for money as they can be worn all year round for a wide variety of activities. Sometimes, two jackets bought separately can be zipped together to form a 3 in 1-style layer, these are known as 'interactive' or 'IA' jackets.

Keep on reading for key features and top tips about 3-in-1 jackets.

Key features


The shell layer of a 3 in 1 should always offer waterproof protection. Waterproofing is achieved via either a waterproof coating or membrane. Membranes are more durable and breathable, whereas coatings are cheaper but will lose effectiveness much quicker. Different brands use different technologies to achieve waterproof protection. GORE-TEX® and eVent® are used by a number of manufacturers, whereas some use their own, e.g. AQ2 (Berghaus), AquaDry (Craghoppers), HyVent (The North Face) and IsoTex (Regatta). 

Top tip - Over time the effectiveness of the waterproof coating will diminish. To prolong the lifespan of your jacket you will need to reproof it. To find out more about reproofing your waterproof gear check out our handy guide: Reproof Your Kit.


While protecting against the elements your jacket should also allow your skin to breathe. Whether or not an item of clothing is breathable is largely down to the fabric used, with the best waterproof membranes having microscopic pores that are tiny enough to prevent rain from entering, but large enough to allow moisture vapour to escape. 

Top tip - Don't be fooled into thinking that breathability is only important in hot weather. Any moderate effort will cause you to perspire and this can build up quickly in cold weather when you have your jacket zipped up - causing you to feel damp and cold.


Insulation is achieved through the inner layer of a 3 in 1 jacket. This layer is usually zipped into the outer shell, however they are occasionally attached using buttons or hooks. More often than not, the inner layer is a fleece, though softshell jackets are sometimes used.

  • Fleece - Fleece is a soft, warm fabric which keeps you cosy and comfortable in chilly weather. They don't add too much bulk and work by using soft napped insulating synthetic fabric to retain body heat around your core.
  • Softshell - A softshell isn’t as warm as a fleece, but is better equipped to deal with wet weather when worn alone. Softshells are versatile as they provide wind and water resistant protection of their own. They are lightweight and offer a good amount of stretch for freedom of movement, making them ideal for more physically challenging activities in the outdoors. 
Top tip - Look for a minimum of 200 grams of insulation in the fleece layer for protection during the winter months. Anything lower will not offer the benefits needed in colder weather.

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Now you should have all the information you need to make an informed decision about purchasing a 3 in 1 jacket. If you have any further questions you can contact us on Facebook, Twitter or by leaving a comment below.

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