Best winter cycling jackets of 2024 - Stay warm and dry no matter the weather

The best winter cycling jacket buyers guide is here as both a specific list of products, with details for both men and women, and also a resource for how to handle riding whatever comes your way. As we move into warmer days and more mild conditions, there are lighter options here plus you might find great deals on the heavier jackets. There are also choices that let you layer to match variable conditions. 

Keep in mind, the best winter jacket is just going to be one part of your overall strategy. As your jacket shifts with the season it’s a good time to examine your entire system. The right gloves from our list of the best winter cycling gloves can make a huge difference in how you regulate temperature when the weather isn’t what you expect. You can also move to one of the lighter choices in our list of the best winter bib tights or try making a different choice from the best cycling base layers to make your jacket work across different temperatures. 

Also, I understand that winter cycling jackets can mean a hefty investment. With that in mind, I've included some options that are super specific and incredible at what they do. If that's what you are looking for you might also want to check our list of the best waterproof cycling jackets for even more rain specific options. If that's not what you are looking for I've also included options that might not be as capable in every situation but work as part of a layering system. Tackling the puzzle of winter riding from this angle means less big budget purchases and more multi-use pieces. Once you've had a chance to read through everything, you should have an idea of strategies as well as specific products that I know work in specific situations.

Quick list

Best Winter Cycling Jackets available today

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Best all-around

Assos Mille GT Winter jacket Evo / Assos Uma GT Winter Jacket Evo

(Image credit: Josh Ross / Imogen Sykes)
Best all-around winter cycling jacket

Specifications

Sizes available: XS-XLG and TIR (XLG but wider)
Water Resistance: Highly water resistant
Temperature range: Early winter
Pockets: Three standard rear pockets
Zipper: Small tooth, one-way

Reasons to buy

+
Top-quality pockets
+
Comfortable with enough warmth for most winter situations
+
Assos specific Neos textile is highly water resistant

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs an updated zipper

There are ways to maximise your budget through layering with shells. You might also find that a less robust softshell is plenty for your climate. Assos takes a different approach though. The brand integrates the mid-layer and expects you only have a base layer underneath. Add one of the various Assos mid-layers and you can likely get through most winter situations without any need for a different jacket. 

Owing to the fact that there’s no need for a mid-layer with Assos jackets, the brand doesn’t leave room for layering. That means you can expect a tight fit, but because the Assos Mille GT Winter jacket Evo is part of the Mille GT line of products, it has a slightly more relaxed fit. It's still pretty tight compared to a club fit like the Sportful but it’s not as tight as other Assos jackets. 

Then, when it comes to fabric, Assos has something called NEOS. NEOS medium is a very capable waterproof 3-layer membrane fabric that Assos uses for the front of the jacket. The tops of the arms and upper back get NEOS light which boosts breathability and reduces insulation. Then for breathability, under the arms and the lower back have a non-membrane fabric. 

Again owing to the design of jacket as both outer and mid-layer in one, you can count on quality pockets with Assos jackets. You’ll never find yourself needing to grab a jersey just to get pockets and you also don't have to try and access pockets underneath. Unfortunately that last bit does mean the zipper isn’t as good as some of the competition. Other than the zipper though, the thing you’ll need to consider with this jacket is whether you’d rather use a shell and a mid-layer or just a single piece.

The women's equivalent, the Uma GT Winter Jacket, performed just as well, though as is often the case the sizing recommendations given by Assos doesn't translate into reality quite perfectly. 

Jump over to our full Assos Mille GT Winter Jacket review for even more info, and we've got a full write up of the women's version too, the Assos Uma GT Winter Jacket

Fast riding

Castelli Perfetto Ros 2 jacket winter cycling jacket on a white background

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best winter cycling jacket for racing or fast riding

Specifications

Sizes available: XS-XXXL
Water Resistance: Light rain
Temperature range: Early winter
Pockets: Three rear pockets
Zipper: Large tooth, two-way

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent quality pockets
+
Zippered vents on torso
+
One of the best zippers available

Reasons to avoid

-
Long torso doesn’t work for everyone

The Castelli Perfetto Ros 2 is not a particularly warm jacket. The whole construction uses Gore-Tex Infinium meaning it's technically only windproof. That said, this is a very capable jacket and will even hold up when it's raining. As long as you are moving fast and generating some heat, you'll be able to handle far more than you'd think with the Castelli Perfetto Ros 2.

That focus on performance does mean you should expect a race fit jacket. This is not the kind of jacket you've got room to layer under. The sleeves and torso are long to accommodate a thin fit and the collar is tall and comfortable. Many will need to size up and fit in general is the toughest thing about all Castelli garments and this one is no exception.

As long as it works for you though, the other details are superb. There is a big, easy to slide, zipper that unzips from both ends. There's also a pair of vents on the torso to further fine tune how much heat the jacket holds. Pockets are a highlight as well. After a few years of using a two-pocket design. Castelli has gone back to a standard three pockets and they are tall and stretchy. You can fit everything you need for a long day or you can stay light for racing.

Read more details in our full Castelli Perfetto RoS 2 jacket review.

Affordable layering

Pearl Izumi Attack WxB

(Image credit: Josh Ross / Imogen Sykes)
Best for budget layering

Specifications

Sizes available: S-XXL
Water Resistance: Moderate rain
Temperature range: Early Winter
Pockets: None
Zipper: Large tooth, two-way

Reasons to buy

+
Value pricing
+
Totally Waterproof
+
Room for layers
+
100% recycled polyester

Reasons to avoid

-
Loose at the wrist

If you are just starting to ride in the winter, the first thing you need is a quality shell you can use as an anchor point for layering. In the past that meant a hardshell but technology has progressed. Today a good quality softshell will do the trick while also breathing better and that's exactly what the Pearl Izumi Attack WxB provides. 

The outer is soft to touch and the material is 100% recycled polyester. A DWR coating as well as a waterproof/breathable membrane handle keeping the water out but also allowing perspiration to exit. Pearl Izumi also tapes the seams and there's a big plastic double direction zipper to allow you to either vent heat or access jersey pockets. 

On its own the Attack WxB isn't that warm but that's why it's included in this guide. If the weather is warm the inside feels fine against your skin and you can put a summer jersey underneath. When it gets colder switch to a long sleeve jersey under your jacket and when it's really cold grab your warmest base layer and add a mid-layer. In my experience there’s plenty of room for layering and this is a much looser cut than  something from Assos or Rapha. It’s worth noting that in the women’s version you might want to really look closely at the sizing and make sure you are getting it right. There should be plenty of room for layering. The sleeves do seem oddly loose, but that’s likely aimed at leaving room as layers stack up. 

This is a budget piece but it can handle a lot if you add the right layers. One of my favourite additions is the Pearl Izumi Pro Alpha layer. If you are just starting out, start here and build over time.

Read more details in our full Pearl Izumi Attack Wxb review and you can check out how the sizing is a little different in our full Pearl Izumi Women's Attack WXB cycling jacket review. 

Variable conditions

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

4. Santini Adapt Shell Jacket

Best winter cycling jacket for variable conditions

Specifications

Sizes available: XS-6XL
Water Resistance: Waterproof
Temperature range: Early Winter
Pockets: Three rear pockets plus a zippered valuables pocket
Zipper: Small tooth, two-way, waterproof

Reasons to buy

+
Includes matching arm warmers
+
Perfect pocket design
+
Two-way zipper 
+
Surprising performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Extra space in the mid-section 

When it comes to high-tech fabrics, the big names are Gore and Polartec and each brand takes on challenging weather in different ways. Polartec uses softshell technologies and doesn't hold back on listing the relevant water column ratings. In this case, Polartec Neoshell is the fabric of choice with a 10,000 mm water column rating and taped seams. It feels soft and breathable but it's also fully waterproof. Santini then takes that material in a highly unexpected direction by using it to build a short sleeve jacket. 

What isn't obvious anywhere that Santini advertises the product is that in addition to the race fit jersey with short sleeves, you get a set of arm warmers included. The arms aren't standard arm warmers either. Instead they use the same materials and when worn, they turn the short sleeve jacket into a long sleeve jacket. If the sun is out the breathable fabric, short sleeves, and dual zipper allow plenty of ventilation. When it turns nasty add the arms and you’ve got a surprisingly capable jacket that can handle weather nastier than you’d think.

Along with the removable "sleeves" there's also outstanding pockets. All three main pockets are big and Polartec Neoshell is a stretchy fabric. You can fit a ton in plus there's a zippered pocket big enough to protect your phone in a downpour. 

To finish off the details you'll find taped seams, a two way zipper with a big pull tab, and a nice amount of drop in the rear. I'm also a big fan of the cut though it does roll, or bulge, a bit in the midsection on me. 

This is the jacket I choose for hard riding when I don’t know what to expect from the day’s weather.

Dry weather softshell

PAS Normal Essential Thermal Jacket

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best dry weather softshell winter cycling jacket

Specifications

Sizes available: XS-XXL
Water Resistance: Moderate rain
Temperature range: All Winter
Pockets: three rear pockets plus zippered valuables pocket and a chest pocket
Zipper: Large tooth single direction

Reasons to buy

+
Dence Polartec fabric 
+
Stylish colours
+
Long drop tail and arms
+
High collar keeps wind out

Reasons to avoid

-
Not great in the rain

Putting my finger on what the PAS Normal Essential Thermal jacket does better than any of the other fantastic softshell jackets in this list was difficult. As much as anything it's really defined by what it doesn't do and that was hard to find given the dry winter happening right now. This jacket excels in a wide range of temperatures from as high as 13 C / 55 F all the way down to freezing. Just make sure it's mostly dry.

What really defines this jacket though is the fabric. The PAS Normal Essential Thermal jacket uses Polartec Power Shield Pro. Before going further, it's important to note that Power Shield Pro and the latest Power Shield from Polartec are not the same fabrics. Power Shield Pro, used here, is a softshell fabric and this is the densest variation of it I've ever seen used anywhere. It's technically considered waterproof but any length of time in heavy rain will leave the exterior saturated and sap the warmth. Instead it's the breathability and wide range you can use this in that makes it great.

PAS Normal further builds on the properties of the fabric by leaning into the brands reputation for high performance pieces with style. The cut is almost exactly the same as the Essential Shield jacket, both have stylish colours, and both use an almost comically high cut in the front. Off the bike it looks a bit odd but when you lean forward there's tons of length in the rear and no fabric to bunch up in the front. The arms are also long enough to make sure you won't get a gap at the wrist even on a stretched out race bike and there's a high collar to keep wind out from above. Unlike the Shield jacket though, there's not a ton of room inside for layers. Instead there's excellent pockets built in so you don't have to layer. 

That all adds up to making this a dense single layer jacket. It's far warmer, and more water resistant, than the Castelli Perfetto Ros. It's not as warm as the Assos Mille GT Ultraz but it's warmer than the Assos Mille GT Winter jacket. Both of the Assos jackets handle rain better but this one handles a wider range of temperatures. 

You can read more details in my full PAS Normal Essential Thermal jacket review.

Budget softshell

Gore Wear C5 Gore-Tex INFINIUM Thermo Jacket against a white background

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best value high-performance winter cycling softshell jacket

Specifications

Sizes available: XS-XXL
Water Resistance: Moderate rain
Temperature range: Early Winter
Pockets: Three rear pockets plus a zippered valuables pocket
Zipper: Small tooth, single direction, off-centre, waterproof

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent collar
+
Brushed fleece lining feels good against the skin
+
Perfect fit at the wrist
+
Options for visibility

Reasons to avoid

-
Narrow pockets that sit high on the back

The Gore Wear C5 Gore-Tex INFINIUM Thermo Jacket can handle a lot of situations. Infinium is the name for the Gore-Tex membrane that's designed specifically for breathability and wind stopping. That means like both the Castelli and the Pearl Izumi jackets, it’s not technically waterproof. It’s really close though and probably plenty for a lot of people. Unlike the two shell jackets though, this one isn’t ideal for layering. I’ve done it but this jacket has to be an inner layer and it means you’ll be doubling up on membranes. 

Instead, the Gore C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Thermo Jacket is a single layer solution. Almost every inside panel uses a fleece backing that feels amazing against the skin if you decide to stick with a summer jersey. There's also an excellent design to the neckline that feels great and keeps the cold out. The pockets are a bit narrower, and higher on the back, than I'd like but they are also stretchy and there's a zippered valuables pocket. At the wrist you will find a wide swath of neoprene with an angled cut that feels just perfect reaching forward to drop bar controls. For those that like to stay visible during winter riding, you'll also find high visibility colour options.

For the best pricing, look through all the available colours. Half price is common for some of them.

You can read more in our full Gore Wear C5 Gore-Tex INFINIUM Thermo Jacket review.

Storage

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best winter cycling jacket for storage

Specifications

Sizes available: S-XXXL
Water Resistance: Light rain
Temperature range: Early winter
Pockets: Six rear pockets and three on the upper torso
Zipper: Large tooth, one-way

Reasons to buy

+
Nine total pockets
+
Polartec Alpha internal insulation feels great against the skin
+
Tight but comfortable wrist treatment 

Reasons to avoid

-
Outer is quick to overwhelm in sustained rain

Not every ride has to be a battle with epic weather. If you want something comfortable and warm but not extreme, the Sportful Supergiara jacket is perfect. 

Sportful calls the Supergiara jacket an option designed specifically for gravel riding. Personally, I see no reason for that and if you ride gravel in the wet I’d actually recommend against a softshell as they are harder to clean. Instead, this jacket from Sportful is perfect for anyone who likes to be able to keep everything in its place with a pocket. 

The construction of the Supergiara jacket is almost exactly the same as the Total Comfort jacket. That means the same comfortable club fit and also the same Polartec Alpha Direct insulation. There are some small differences though and the Supergiara jacket stops the Polartec insulation at the upper arm then uses lighter design for the rest of the arm and ends with a highly elastic band at the wrist. It's lower bulk so it works better with gloves and overall if you need something a bit lighter, you'll want this one. 

The big difference though is the pockets. At the rear there's the same three standard pockets with plenty of stretch and capacity but there's no pocket on the side. Instead, there's an additional three mesh pockets that sit on top of the other pockets. Then, the upper part of the front panel on each side has another mesh outer that serves as a pocket and the last pocket is on the outside of the upper left arm. 

Read more details in my full Sportful Supergiara jacket review

Comfortable

Sportful Total Comfort jacket winter cycling jacket against a white background

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Most comfortable

Specifications

Sizes available: S-XXXL
Water Resistance: Light rain
Temperature range: Early winter
Pockets: Three rear pockets and one zippered side pocket
Zipper: Large tooth, one-way

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of room for a phone in the zippered side pocket
+
Lots of stretch in the pockets
+
Polartec Alpha internal insulation feels great against the skin

Reasons to avoid

-
Outer is quick to overwhelm in sustained rain

I realise that it seems like I'm taking the easy path by labelling the Sportful Total Comfort jacket the best for comfort given the name. It's not just a play on the name though. Sportful is often one of the tightest fits on the market but when it comes to winter jackets, the brand leans the opposite direction. The Total Comfort jacket is a club fit that's downright cosy to wear. It's also a softshell. 

Softshell jackets tend to be super comfortable with the trade-off being a lack of wet weather capabilities and that's exactly what you get with this option. In sustained rain it will get overwhelmed before long but the rest of the time it's a joy to wear. The interior uses Polartec Alpha Direct which is far and away the best insulation option on the market right now. It's low bulk and highly breathable and happens to feel great against the skin. You could easily get away with a summer base layer in the mild winter weather this jacket handles well. 

At the rear there's three quality pockets with lots of stretch. You can get a lot of gear into them, the Sportful Hot Pack No Rain would be a good companion to go there, and there's a fourth pocket on the side. Putting your phone in that fourth pocket opens things up even more for extra food and supplies.

Read more details in our full Sportful Total Comfort Jacket review.

Mid and outer layer combo

(Image credit: Josh Ross / Imogen Sykes)
Best winter cycling jacket for use as a midlayer

Specifications

Sizes available: XS-XXL
Water Resistance: DWR will ward off a light sprinkle
Temperature range: All Winter as insulation
Pockets: Three jersey pockets and a zippered valuables pocket
Zipper: Small tooth, two-way

Reasons to buy

+
Low bulk
+
Comfortable fit
+
Useable as a mid-layer
+
Excellent zipper design

Reasons to avoid

-
Narrow centre pocket

The Endura Pro SL Primaloft Jacket II is the missing piece for an effective layering system. I've included a number of excellent shell options and even more single layer winter jacket solutions but finding a good mid-layer is tough. I find the Pearl Izumi Pro Alpha layer to be the best mid-layer I've used but it's also completely unusable on its own and that's what makes the Endura Pro SL Primaloft Jacket II unique. Since it has no membrane, it's a great option under a shell but it's also windproof so you can use it as an outer layer. 

No matter how you use it, there's a comfortable fit and the Primaloft insulation provides a lot of warmth without bulk. The outside face has a DWR coating in case there's a bit of mist in the air and, as mentioned, does a good job blocking wind. At the rear, the drop tail has three traditional pockets, though the centre is a bit narrow, plus a zippered valuables pocket. If you are bikepacking this is a very packable option as well. 

In short, this is a great jacket for dry weather but it also pairs with a shell unlike anything else out there. Add pieces over time as you need them and you'll have more flexibility in how you use them. For the worst weather rides this piece plus a shell, and a base layer will handle anything you are likely to brave.

Read more details in our full Endura Pro SL Primaloft II Jacket review or the Endura Women's Pro SL Primaloft cycling jacket review for a woman’s point of view.

Deep winter

(Image credit: Josh Ross / Imogen Sykes)
Best winter cycling jacket for deep winter

Specifications

Sizes available: XS-XLG and TIR (XLG but wider)
Water Resistance: Highly water resistant
Temperature range: Deep winter
Pockets: Three standard rear pockets
Zipper: Small tooth, one-way

Reasons to buy

+
Top-quality pockets
+
Incredibly warm
+
Assos specific Neos textile is highly water resistant

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs an updated zipper
-
Women’s version not great for curves

There is no jacket I've taken on more winter rides than the Assos Mille GT Ultraz Jacket Evo. Assos uses fabrics that you won't find available anywhere else and their softshell outers are more water resistant than anyone else. While both Sportful and Castelli softshells are very good, those feel closer to a heavy jersey. 

The Assos Ultraz jacket has a softshell outer but the tight weave and membrane makes it much better at handling the rain. Then, for the interior, Assos again leans in a different direction from the competition and goes the route of adding density. The interior fabrics aren't bulky but they are dense and there is a weight to them that feels really good in the cold. 

Because Assos builds jackets that aren’t designed for layering, the brand puts good quality pockets on them. The Mille GT Ultraz has a pretty standard pocket arrangement for a summer jersey. That’s a big departure from most brands who tend to make winter jacket pockets much narrower if they exist at all. Assos keeps the pockets wide and they are also deep and stretchy enough to accommodate a lot. Keeping the weight in them manageable is handled by also keeping them low on the back with the added advantage of making them easy to reach. 

For curvier women, the Assos Women's Uma GT Ultraz Winter Jacket Evo review does note that the added insulation affects the fit. This piece could also use a switch to the larger and easier to use zippers that Assos has added to most of their other jackets. Still, you can choose this piece with confidence for any cold winter ride except for the absolute worst rain. 

Jump over to our full Assos Mille GT Ultraz Winter Jacket Evo review for even more info.

Extreme weather

Pas Normal Essential Shield Jacket

(Image credit: Josh Ross / Imogen Sykes)
Best winter cycling jacket for extreme weather

Specifications

Sizes available: XS-XXL
Water Resistance: Waterproof
Temperature range: All Winter as shell
Pockets: Bicep, chest, and side pocket on drop tail
Zipper: Large tooth plastic, two-way

Reasons to buy

+
Big tooth double zipper
+
Tailoring is friendly to layers
+
Velcro alternative at sleeves won’t catch
+
Keeps water out even in sustained rain

Reasons to avoid

-
Main zipper catches storm flap 
-
Women’s version lacks features 

The first time I wore the PAS Normal Essential Shield jacket, I was the outlier even in a group of PAS Normal athletes. I'd arrived in San Francisco to ride close to 100 miles north and there were warnings of a historic storm. While those accustomed to warm weather riding grabbed lightweight rain jackets, I chose the Essential Shield jacket and layered up underneath. As I followed the coast into an atmospheric river I looked around at a lot of suffering faces but I was warm, dry, and comfortable. Later in the year when I found myself carrying my bike and hiking through the snow, I was again warm and comfortable. 

The PAS Normal Essential Shield jacket is a three-layer waterproof breathable membrane shell that isn't like what you'd expect from PAS Normal. This is the adventure piece designed for layering in the most extreme weather situations. It's not labelled as a rain jacket but the Schoeller PU membrane has taped seams and is completely waterproof. It's also much heavier than the other shell options I have on this list. 

The fabric is just the foundation though and PAS Normal follows through with a collection of smart details. Foremost on that list is the tailoring designed for protection and layering. There's a deep drop tail that easily covers a mid-layer with pockets stuffed full and the sleeves are long enough that you'll never feel them pull no matter how racy your bike fit is. All the hook loop closures are a unique design with large pegs that can't catch expensive fabrics and all the zippers use big teeth with pull tabs. The larger zippers are waterproof which does mean they don't slide that easily, and sometimes catch on the storm flap underneath, but they also don't leak. There are even some pockets scattered around to make essentials faster to get to than whatever is in your mid-layer. 

As I've ridden in more extreme weather over the years, I've also shifted away from single layer jacket solutions. A quality shell will keep you warmer and drier in more extreme weather and the PAS Normal Shield jacket is the best shell I've experienced so far. Unfortunately the brand seems to have left some of the features, including under arm zippers, out of the women’s version.

Read more details in my full PAS Normal Essential Shield Jacket review or check out PAS Normal Essential Shield women's waterproof cycling jacket review for a different point of view.

Puffy jacket

Rapha Explore Jacket

(Image credit: Josh Ross / Imogen Sykes)
Best winter cycling jacket if you are looking for a puffy jacket

Specifications

Sizes available: XS-XXL
Water Resistance: DWR coating
Temperature range: Deep winter
Pockets: Hand pockets and mirrored pockets inside
Zipper: Large tooth, two-way

Reasons to buy

+
Hood fits over a helmet
+
Cinchable waist
+
High front neckline
+
Included stuff sack

Reasons to avoid

-
 Inconsistent sizing

If you are thinking that a puffy jacket on a bike sounds crazy, you are seriously missing out. The right puffy jacket is cosy and incredibly warm plus it stops wind. It's true that you wouldn't choose it for the fastest road rides but if you are heading across town or bikepacking, it's a great choice. For many, this isn't new info but cycling culture hasn't traditionally embraced the kind of adventure that a puffy jacket makes sense for. 

The brand who really brought puffy jackets into modern cycling culture is Rapha. When you see Lael Wilcox wearing a puffy jacket as she covers a continent, it's from Rapha. Or perhaps Lachlan and Gus Morton in the snow somewhere in Eastern Europe, again it's a Rapha puffy jacket called the Rapha Explore Down Jacket. Paid endorsements of course but that doesn't make the jacket any less capable. 

The Rapha Explore Down Jacket is one the best bike specific down jackets available. Filling is 850-fill-power down with 90% down to 10% feather ratio. It packs down into a tiny, included, stuff sack and only weighs 240 grams in a size medium. You might need a different size but Rapha sizing is incredibly inconsistent so maybe order a couple and pick what works for you. On the upside, when Immy tested the women’s version she felt like the recommended size matched her perfectly even if she worried about those with a curvier body. Either way, once you get the size right, you'll find the hood will fit some helmets but not others. Immy couldn’t fit a Specialized helmet but I was able to make my POC Omne Ultra MIPS work.

As with most puffy jackets, the Rapha Explore isn't a good choice in the rain. There's DWR coatings but if wet is your primary need, add a shell. 

How to choose the best winter cycling jacket

The last few years have brought drastic changes to what winter cycling means. In years past if you wanted to keep your cycling fitness through the winter, the only real choice was to brave the weather. At this point in the history of cycling technology, we've entered a new chapter. Indoor cycling has firmly entered mainstream adoption and for many cyclists, winter riding has almost completely migrated inside. That means as you start to think about finding the best winter cycling jacket you need to start by considering what you are really trying to tackle and when you want to visit our list of the best smart trainers

Every decision you make when it comes to a jacket is going to start with what weather you are facing. Are you looking for cold but dry, or wet? What about the length of time you need to manage? Ultimately, all these choices will lead you to a decision about how specialised you want to get with your jacket. Through it all, the price will play a role as well and I have some suggestions for saving money but again, it has to start with knowing what you are planning to face. 

How do you stay warm while cycling in the cold?

If you are attempting to tackle cold, but dry, winter weather the challenge is relatively simple. Your body generates a good amount of heat as you ride. The real challenge is balancing sweat and wind-stopping in these conditions. You need high-quality wicking and excellent breathability and you also need airspace against your skin. There are a lot of technologies that aim to solve this challenge for the inside of jackets but externally, it often comes down to budget. A hard shell exterior option is typically less expensive for the same warmth but it sacrifices breathability. Softshell jackets are more comfortable but also bulkier, more expensive, and less usable if it starts to rain. A softshell tends to be the best option in cold and dry weather so if that’s what you are trying to tackle primarily, softshell is likely the best choice.

How do you stay warm while riding in the wet?

We have an entire article devoted to choices for dealing with the rain. If you are looking for the best waterproof cycling jackets then jump over to that article. The options there are more focused on a day in the rain. What I wanted to cover in this article is a wider look at everything a winter might throw at you. There are a few options here that will deal with rain but they will generally also cover cold days as well. The reality is that dealing with cold and rain are two sides of the same coin. The point is to stay dry. When it’s not raining, that means staying dry from the inside. When it’s raining you still need to deal with that but now you have cold water that's constantly infiltrating your microclimate. 

The first thing to think about is how long you think you are going to be in the rain. The point of this consideration is how specialised you need to be. If you plan to ride for anything longer than about three hours then the best winter cycling jacket for you is probably a hardshell jacket. The problem with hardshell jackets is that they are less comfortable and they don’t breathe as well as softshell. The problem with a softshell jacket is that given enough time, water will soak through. Decide how long you plan to ride and make the choice that is going to work best for you. For the longest, coldest, wettest, rides consider putting a lightweight hardshell over a softshell. 

How can you save money on winter cycling jackets?

This is the big question that every consideration comes down to. If you want the best option for every situation, I've listed them here and we’ve also got options in our list of the best waterproof cycling jackets. There's nothing I don't stand behind and I put a label on them that covers the best use case. Decide what your use cases are, buy what you need, and you will have fantastic gear for winter riding. Alternatively, think about what will do the trick in most situations and find ways to double up. 

If you are looking for a value-priced option then start by finding an excellent lightweight shell or a value-priced softshell jacket. The more often wet weather is going to be an issue, the more it makes sense to choose a hardshell jacket first. Whatever piece you go with, the idea is to find something that works as a layer and covers the bigger majority of what you need. Initially, you can venture out when you have the gear and stay inside the rest of the time. As you find yourself wanting to do more, add layers. You can pair the best arm warmers and play with warmers and options from the best base layers. A value-priced thermal jersey from our list of the best cycling jerseys works well with a shell jacket and I’ve even been known to add something from the best cycling gilets on top. Pick up pieces over the years as you see the best pricing and you can slowly add to your capabilities as your needs increase. 

Early on, this solution is unlikely to work on the days with the worst weather. That's why you'll also want to consider what you are really willing to ride through. Arm warmers, a jersey, and a good shell will go a long way for light rain and shorter rides even in cold weather. 

How do we test the best winter cycling jackets?

When I test the best winter cycling jackets, I spend long hours in the rain and cold seeing what their strengths and weaknesses are. My interest lies in riding farther and it's not unusual for me to spend seven hours in constant rain.

I know that any jacket that can handle that torture test is going to work just as well when it's time to ride for less time in better conditions. I also take note of the jackets that are great choices when the ride is shorter and what their limitations are. I am passionate about finding high-quality winter gear and I am recommending the jackets that work for me.