The best part of being a dad? Having a child. The second-best part? Embracing all the things that were too dorky to do before you had a kid, such as sporting a mustache, telling dad jokes, or wearing a vest every single day of the week.
Well, if you’re like me, you did those things anyway, but now you have a good reason. I used my first child’s birth and the seasonal change from fall to winter as ideal excuses to test out a slew of sleeveless jackets, from athletic to heavy-duty and everything in between. I wore them while I rode bikes, went hiking, ran trails, sat in my office, chopped wood, and carried my daughter on my back. These are my favorites.
Filson Down Cruiser ($250)
Best For: Burly warmth
Filson has a reputation for making things that last. The Down Cruiser is no exception. Constructed with thick oil cloth that is reinforced on the bottom half of the vest, this is what you want to wear if you’re fighting with a blackberry patch. The 650-fill, responsibly sourced down is super toasty, and fleece-lined hip pockets welcome your hands on truly chilly days. It looks classy enough to wear into town but is tough enough that it will last through years—if not decades—of hard chores and schlepping kids.
Carhartt Knoxville ($70)
Best For: Affordable durability
Carhartt is a staple at construction sites around the country for good reason: its clothing is relatively affordable and built to take beatings day in and day out. The Knoxville fits the bill. Made of 12-ounce cotton-duck material, the face fabric resists all but the most severe tears and only gets softer with time. The cozy fleece lining extends to the oversize hood, which cinches down nicely with a drawstring. The fit is kind of boxy, but while it doesn’t look super flattering if you’re slim, it provides great range of motion while throwing your child in the air. Plus, it’s hard to beat the price.
Merrell Ridgevent Thermo ($125)
Best For: Packable toastiness
The Ridgevent Thermo is a classic insulated vest with a couple of twists. The heat-mapped back alternates between baffles that are filled and others that are not. This lets warmth escape as your body temperature rises. The insulation is a combination of 65 percent hydrophobic and responsibly sourced down and 35 percent is gossamer PrimaLoft Eco Gold. It’s so light and packable (it folds into an interior pocket) that I honestly didn’t know it wasn’t all down until I read the details. Great for throwing in the diaper bag during outings that could turn nasty.
Norrøna Lyngen Alpha 90 ($230)
Best For: High-output layering
Don’t let the light weight fool you, the Lyngen Alpha 90 packs a thermal punch. Lined with Polartec Alpha (a fuzzy, porous layer that insulates well but breathes like a champ) and enhanced by an exterior of Pertex Quantum (a windproof and durable outer layer), this vest keeps you warm when you want and dumps heat when you don’t need it. Bonus points for the hood: I used it much more than I thought I would and loved it during frigid trail runs, windy bike rides, and uphill snow missions with my daughter in a backpack.
Fjällräven Buck Fleece ($140)
Best For: Classy versatility
Whether you’re running a meeting or carrying a pair of skis, the Buck Fleece has you covered. This midweight piece has a timeless dad style that pairs well with cigars and scotch but features nice functional touches, like Fjällräven’s tough polyester-cotton blend on the shoulders, which offers protection from the elements and wear. And the construction of the vest’s polyester is tough: I caught the vest on a fence while feeding our chickens, and when I pulled it off, there wasn’t even a minor tear. The neck is extra long, too, which I found handy in biting winds.