6 Things To Consider When Buying Carhartt Jackets [My Advice]


Finding the right Carhartt jacket can be overwhelming. The choices feel endless and it’s often very hard to figure out what the warmest Carhartt jackets are, and what type of lining makes the most sense for your climate.

This past winter I tried 15 different Carhartt jackets. I’ve tried even more than that if you go back years earlier. I’ve put time and research into understanding the different linings and outer-shell fabrics used in these Carhartt winter jackets.

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Here are my recommendations for the best Carhartt Jackets:

I live in Kansas, and for this climate I like the Carhartt J140 jacket. It has a firm duck canvas shell with a warm quilted-flannel lining. It is one of the warmest Carhartt jackets you can buy. But for some climates, it can be too warm.

Firm cotton duck is very durable, but it is also stiff off the rack. It will take time to break in. Eventually it will loosen up and be very comfortable to wear. Because of this, some people like to buy pre-washed canvas jackets that use the pre-washing to help break in the canvas fabric so it has a worn-in feeling on the first wear.

If you want to do a deeper dive into these jackets, please visit my article about the best Carhartt winter jackets, where I provide more in-depth examples of the jackets I own. In this article I want to talk more about the things you need to consider when buying Carhartt jackets.

6 Things You Must Consider When Buying Carhartt Jackets

#1: Warmth

Please understand that Carhartt currently does not assign a temperature rating to their jackets. I obviously cannot either. But I’m going to give you my best judgement on what climates makes sense for each jacket that I’ve tried. Just understand this is my opinion based on experience with these Carhartt winter jackets.

Because Carhartt creates workwear for a wide range of people across a wide range of climates, their coats and jackets will vary in warmth. The most important thing to consider is what type of insulation/lining is vest for your climate.

carhartt-duck-active-jacket-review-lining

Do you need an ultra-warm jacket for a harsh winter climate? Then you’ll likely want to stick with one of Carhartt’s warmest linings like the quilted-flannel or the arctic insulation. If your climate experiences more of a mild winter, then you will want a lining like the thermal lining or the fleece lining.

Carhartt offers a long list of linings, and understand which linings make the most sense for your region is a good place to start. We cover all the linings and insulation and length in our article about the warmest Carhartt jackets.

Here are Carhartt’s available linings, and my personal opinion on how they rank from lightweight warmth to warmest. Just for reference, I would consider the thermal lining something I’d wear on a mild winter day:

Carhartt LiningWarmth
ThermalMild Warmth
FleeceMild Warmth
BlanketMedium Warmth
Quilted-NylonMedium Warmth
SherpaWarm
Quilted-FlannelVery Warm
Arctic InsulationWarmest

The warmest and toughest jacket that Carhartt offers is the Yukon Arctic Active Jacket. If you are needing protection from a dangerously cold environment, that is a good place to start. To learn more about this jacket, visit our Carhartt Extremes Arctic Jacket Review.

#2: Outer Shell Fabric

Just like Carhartt varies it’s inner-lining and insulation so that customers have a range of choice to find what works best for their climate, Carhartt also varies their outer-shell fabric. The outer-shell fabric can have an impact on three major details about a jacket: the warmth, the toughness, and the comfort.

In general, outer-shell fabrics come down to firm shells, and pre-washed shells. The firm shells will have a tough, stiff feeling off the rack while the pre-washed shells will have more of a broken-in feeling from the first wear.

When deciding which is best for you, there are a few things to consider. The firm shells generally add a bit more toughness and weather protection. Some firm shells offer wind-resistance and can repel light precipitation.

104458-carhartt-jacket-pocket-reflective

They also stand up to tough work environment and can resist abrasions and tears. The downside is they will be a bit stiff off-the-rack, and will take some time to break in.

The pre-washed shells don’t offer as much weather protection and toughness, but will be more comfortable to wear and won’t need a break-in period. It’s also important to emphasize that just because it is pre-washed doesn’t mean it still isn’t durable and rugged enough to stand up to most work sites.

Think of the pre-washed shells as toughness without stiffness. Are they as tough and durable as the firm shell fabrics? No, but they still can stand up to most all work sites. Below is a look at Carhartt’s Quick Duck Fabric, which is a lightweight canvas that is comfortable but still tough.

camo-carhartt-quick-duck-traditional-jacket-review-seams

#3: Coat vs Jacket

Do you want a Carhartt coat or a Carhartt jacket? There will be differences that you must consider.

In general, most Carhartt duck jackets come with a zip-front, cuffed waist, and an insulated built-in hood. Some refer to this style as a bomber style, although some consider a bomber jacket to not include a hood. Yes, there are a few other types of Carhartt jackets, but this is a good general way to understand Carhartt jackets.

carhartt-duck-active-jacket-review-front

(Pictured above, Carhartt J140 Duck Active Jacket)

The coats will be a bit different. Most Carhartt coats don’t have a built-in hood and don’t have a cuffed waist. They often have drop-tails that give you added weather protection below the waist.

carhartt-duck-chore-coat-review-front-flap

(Pictured above, Carhartt Chore Coat. To read more, visit our Carhartt Chore Coat Review.)

Many Carhartt coats have a button front (some have both button front and zip front). In general, the Carhartt coats have more pockets than the Carhartt jackets.

One major thing to consider is the cuffed waist. Do you want a cuffed waist or a drop-tail waist? If you will be wearing a toolbelt, the cuffed waist will work much better.

Ultimately, you’ll want to consider which type is more comfortable and functional for your needs. You can find most all types of insulation and outer-shell fabrics offered in both coat form and jacket form, so you should have plenty of options to choose from.

#4: Sizing

Knowing what size to buy is obviously important. There is a lot to discuss when considering Carhartt sizing, and if you want to do a deep dive, I suggest visiting our article: How Do Carhartt Jackets Fit?

In general, I recommend ordering your normal sizing, but there can be some exceptions noted in our sizing article linked above. Most Carhartt jackets and coats will run a touch big so that you have space to layer underneath and space to move around and function.

The last thing you want is a tight jacket that you can’t move around freely in. Again, my advice is to stick to your normal sizing in most all situations when ordering Carhartt outerwear.

***Don’t forget, we also cover Carhartt hoodie sizing, and what type of warmth you can expect from each type of Carhartt hoodie. To read more, visit our article How Do Carhartt Hoodies Fit?

#5: Versatility

How versatile do you need your Carhartt jacket or coat to be? Are you just looking for an everyday winter jacket or are you planning to use your jacket as a work jacket?

Matching functionality to need is very important when choosing your jacket. Carhartt offers functional coats and jackets that can meet a wide range of needs.

For example, will you be using your arms a lot while wearing your Carhartt jacket (like chopping fire wood, shoveling snow, driving fence posts etc.)? If so, consider one of Carhartt’s Full Swing jackets. The Full Swing jackets have built-in gussets in the shoulders to allow freedom of movement in the arms (see below).

carhartt-duck-chore-coat-review-gusset

Carhartt has flame-resistant jackets, waterproof jackets, two-way zip jackets, extreme weather jackets, and other types of specialty jackets for you to choose from.

#6: Alternatives

Carhartt may be (in my opinion) the most premium brand of workwear, but that doesn’t mean there are other quality options. Have you considered other brands?

If you shop around you may be able to find a style or a price point you like better. If you want to do a deep dive into Carhartt alternatives, I would suggest reading our article that details the 10 best brands like Carhartt.

My personal favorite Carhartt alternative is Dri Duck. Dri Duck is a workwear brand headquartered in Kansas. They specialize in making comfortable outerwear that is tough, but has a worn-in feeling off the rack. Their Cheyenne Jacket is a very popular alternative to Carhartt.

dri-duck-jacket-worn-chest
dri-duck-jacket-cuff

(Pictured above, Dri Duck Cheyenne Jacket. To read more, visit our Dri Duck Cheyenne Jacket Review).

The Dri Duck compared very similarly to the Carhartt Active Jackets, and gives you something else to consider if you are looking to shop around. To read more about how these brands compare, visit our Dri Duck vs Carhartt article.

Another well-known name in work outerwear is Dickies. Dickies specializes in many types of workwear, and they make many comfortable soft-shell work jackets like their quilted-nylon jacket pictured here:

dickies-diamond-quilted-jacket-zip (2)

(To read more about the Dickies Quilted Nylon jacket, visit our Dickies Quilted-Nylon Jacket Review).

There are several differences between Carhartt and Dickies, and understanding those will go a long way in helping you decide which brand is better for you. To read more, visit our article Carhartt vs Dickies Jackets.

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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