Why you should wear an anorak when you go winter camping

by | Nov 22, 2023 | Winter camping

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A couple of winters ago, Ross started raving about anoraks.

I, on the other hand, had no idea what he was talking about.

He didn’t own one after all, but he was deep into researching how to stay warm in extreme cold—and somewhere along the line, he stumbled across anoraks.

We were just getting into winter camping and eventually planning a trip to the Yukon in January, so we knew we had to be prepared.

It turns out that anoraks are indeed an excellent piece of clothing to have.

What’s an anorak?

Wearing a wool anorak

An anorak is basically a type of hooded outerwear that’s designed to be pulled over your head.

The idea behind the pullover style as opposed to a full zipper is that it’s more efficient at keeping you warm because there’s no heat being lost through the zipper area.

Here’s a list of its typical features:

  • Hood: Protects your head from the elements
  • Partial-length zipper or drawstring: Allows for easy wearing without a full front opening
  • Pullover style: Keeps you snug and reduces the chance of drafts
  • Knee-length: Provides coverage without getting in your way

The history behind the anorak

The anorak can trace its roots back to the Arctic regions, and was traditionally worn by the Inuit people.

It was crafted from caribou or seal skin, with the fur side facing in for better insulation.

The term “anorak” itself derives from “annoraaq,” a Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) word that originally referred to a garment worn by both men and women for kayaking.

Over time, the anorak design was adapted by explorers and outdoorsmen, who appreciated its functional features for protection against harsh weather conditions.

As with many items of practical outdoor gear, it eventually made its way into mainstream fashion, and today anoraks are made in a variety of materials to suit different climates and activities.

Types of anoraks for winter camping

Since we’re winter campers, we’ll be focusing on anoraks that keep us warm and dry.

Mid or insulating anorak

Wearing a wool anorak

A mid or insulating anorak can provide a necessary layer of warmth without being too restrictive, and can be worn with a secondary mid layer (such as a fleece sweater or down puffy jacket) underneath it if it’s extremely cold.

Ross owns the Rough anorak from Boreal Mountain Anoraks, which is made of 95% wool.

Wool anoraks come with various benefits for winter camping:

  • Naturally insulating: Wool retains heat well, keeping you warm even in wet conditions.
  • Breathable: Wool fibres help regulate body temperature, preventing overheating.
  • Water-resistant: Wool can absorb moisture up to 30% of its weight without feeling damp.

Although Ross can wear his anorak in extreme cold when it isn’t snowing or just snowing lightly, he’d need to wear his Gore-Tex outer shell over it in heavy snow, sleet, or rain.

Outer shell anorak

Wearing a canvas outer shell anorak

I own an outer shell canvas anorak—specifically the Manic anorak from Boreal Mountain Anoraks.

It’s designed to keep the cold and wind at bay while winter camping.

Canvas anoraks offer distinct advantages for winter camping:

  • Durability: Canvas is a sturdy fabric that stands up to rough conditions.
  • Wind resistance: The tight weave of canvas blocks cold wind, keeping you warm.
  • Water repellent: Canvas anoraks often come treated with water repellent, helping you stay dry.

Although this anorak does a great job at blocking the wind and snow from making me cold and wet, it’s not very insulating, which means I need to wear a wool, fleece, or down mid layer underneath it.

What to look for in a good anorak

Since Ross already had a Gore-Tex outer layer, he was interested in a mid layer anorak.

I, on the other hand, had lots of great mid layers, but didn’t have a good outer shell for winter, which was why I went for the canvas anorak.

Depending on your needs, you may want to consider the following when looking for a good anorak:


When choosing an anorak, consider materials such as wool, canvas, Gore-Tex, eVent; they provide durability, waterproofing, and breathability.


Insulation is key for winter camping, so look for options with wool, down, or synthetic insulation, along with fleece or wool liners.

Breathability and ventilation

Anoraks need to be breathable, with ventilation features such as pit zips or mesh panels to keep moisture under control.


Pockets are necessary for storing essentials, so choose anorak jackets with accessible hand pockets, internal pockets, or even a large kangaroo pocket.


A good anorak will have a hood with adjustable drawstrings, for better fit and coverage during those cold, windy days.

Some of the more traditional looking ones, like hours, also come with fur lining.

Waterproofing or water resistance

To stay dry, ensure the anorak has appropriate waterproofing or water resistance, ideally with sealed seams and a DWR (durable water repellent) treatment.


Windproofing is important for keeping warm, so look for durable outer materials and design features like storm flaps and adjustable cuffs.


When investing in an anorak, make sure it’s made of high-quality materials designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, such as bushwhacking, heavy snow, and high winds.

Length, fit, and overall size for layering

Consider the length, fit, and size of the anorak, ensuring ample room to layer insulating clothes yet snug enough to prevent cold air from seeping in.

Colour and visibility

Select an anorak with bright colours or reflective accents, which not only adds style, but also increases your visibility in low-light conditions.

Weight and bulk

Lastly, consider the weight and bulk of the anorak, ideally opting for a lightweight and packable option that won’t weigh you down or consume too much space in your backpack.


High-quality anoraks don’t come cheap—we paid around $1,000 CAD each for our wool and canvas ones with the addition of fur on the hoods.

We suggest increasing your budget if the above features are important to you—especially the material and durability.

Alternatively, there are some more affordable options if you hunt around a bit, like this 70% wool anorak you can get from Amazon for around $100 USD.

Can you wear two anoraks at the same time?

Layering is key to staying warm while winter camping, so yes, it’s possible to layer your anoraks if you own a mid layer anorak and an outer shell anorak.

Wearing two anoraks, however, both of which are the same size, might feel bulky and restrict your motion.

This is why you may want to get two different sizes if you’re thinking about getting two anoraks—a smaller size as your mid layer and a larger one as your outer shell.

My canvas anorak is an extra large, which I chose for versatility reasons.

Ross can wear it over his large wool anorak, making it a great pairing as part of his layering system.

Now if only we had the budget to both get our own mid and outer layer anoraks!

Perhaps someday, right?

So, if winter camping is in your future, consider ditching the bulky parka and embrace the warmth and versatility of the anorak—a timeless and stylish piece of outerwear that stands strong in the face of the elements.

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Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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