Are Carhartt Jackets Good?

It seems like Carhartt jackets are everywhere. They have caught-on with everyone from hipsters or to outdoor adventure seekers. What started as an 1800s overall and jacket company for workers has become pretty mainstream.

We were skeptical when we saw the rise of Carhartt clothing everywhere, assuming it was just a bit trendy. They did not have the quality of brands like Filson or Orvis in our opinion. However, we never like to assume, so we gave the jackets a good test.

Here is what we found:

Carhartt Jackets: What We Like


Carhartt jackets are like that old friend who’s always there when you need them. Made from some tough, stiff material – duck canvas and heavy-duty denim – these jackets are built to take a licking and keep on ticking. I had no worries about getting snags from sharp rocks or branches.carhartt detroit

Weather Resistance

Many Carhartt jackets have water-repellent coatings, so you can keep on adventuring without becoming a drowned rat. Wind-resistant too – so you don’t get blown away. I would stop short of calling Carhartt waterproof — they are not raincoats — but they do a good job of keeping the initial water off you.


If you use the Carhartt jackets in the fall or winter like I did, Carhartt has your back. They’ve got jackets for all seasons, from lightweight spring options to heavy-duty winter warmers. Their warmest jackets provide some really good insulation, which is why it is so common to see Carhartt jackets and bibs on outdoor job sites. This is where the typical Carhartt is a step above a more pedestrian windbreaker.

Pockets and Storage

Carhartt jackets come with more pockets than you have friends on social media. The downside of having lots of pockets is that you fill them up, but for this kind of coat, I really like to have plenty of pockets within easy reach, and it is important that a few of them can zip or button shut.


The style these days is to have something that looks a bit rugged but can also look refined at the same time. Carhartt jackets pull it off with ease. Wear them in the wild or on a wild night out; they’re like the Swiss Army knives of clothing – versatile and always handy. Carhartt’s definitely have a unique look that many like.

Layering Compatibility

This is a really important one for those of us who spend lots of time experience real winter conditions. Layering is the name of the game, folks. Carhartt jackets are your best buddies in this department, designed to play well with other clothes. I often find myself wearing one over a fleece or a sweatshirt.


Perhaps where the Carhartt really shines is in its price point. You just get a lot for the money.  Is a Carhartt as good as a Filson or Barbour? No, but it also costs about 1/3 or 1/4 as much.

Cleaning and Maintenance

I get my jackets pretty dirty, and sometimes it is with stuff that you want to get cleaned off quickly, like when I’m hunting. Carhartt jackets are low-maintenance darlings. Most of them are machine washable, so you can have them looking spiffy with minimal effort.carhartt badge

My Weekend With a Carhartt

My big test was when I took a Duck Sherpa Carhartt jacket out for a spin during a fall weekend, with the weather ranging from 28 degrees to about 55 degrees. I also got a brief shower one day which was a great test of the water-repelling.

The jacket held its own. I wanted to see if this jacket could handle some real active use, and it didn’t disappoint. The trails were a mix of mud and foliage, but the Carhartt took it all in stride, not a tear or snag in sight and I did not feel any of the relatively light rain work its way through the jacket.

This weight jacket was nice for the temps of high 30s and above,  but when I just started out in the high 20s I needed a base layer underneath.

The design is straightforward but practical – tough stitching, good pockets, and the kind of durability you want in the great outdoors. The Carhartt earned its keep that weekend.

Best Carhartt Jackets (in my opinion)

There are three jackets from Carhartt that I think are the best options when it comes to outdoor activities like hiking, hunting, or ice fishing.carhartt jacket

Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket

I’ll just cut to the chase: this is the best, most versatile winter coat that Carhartt has to offer. If you are looking for a jacket that will keep you warm throughout any circumstance and stay strong for years in any environment, this is the coat for you. Sporting reinforced fabric, fleece and sherpa-lined insides, and machine-wash durability.

I also think it is the best-looking Carhartt jacket, in terms of how it hangs on your torso.

There isn’t a lot I would change about the Duck Sherpa jacket, but it will wear over time and might not last as long as some of the higher-end coats (that cost twice as much or more.)

Relaxed Fit Duck Blanket-Lined Detroit Jacket

The Detroit jacket is another favorite of mine, and of many others. You see lots of these around.carhartt detroit

It is designed with comfort and reliability equally in mind, with Carhartt’s classic look. I love that the jacket is easily washable — I wish more jackets were — and it is fashionably made with soft fabric and a corduroy collar. It’s going to look better with time, trust me.

If there is a downside, it is that the jacket might feel a little baggy for some, especially those who like a trim fit on their coats. However, if you plan to wear a sweatshirt layer underneath, or if you happen to have a little extra around your belly, this jacket should be perfect for you.

Rain Defender Heavyweight Softshell Jacket

Water resistant, warm, and impervious to wind, this coat might be perfect for people in the Pacific Northwest or Atlantic Northeast where common weather is a cold,carhartt defender review drizzly day. Carhartt really knocked it out of the park in terms of comfort for a jacket that keeps you warm. 

I really like the feel of the coat, moving around in it is unrestricted and very comfortable. The rain-resistance was really good in a light rain.

The only downsides were that it is not a raincoat – the name is perhaps a touch deceiving, and the zippers felt a little light for the job.  But overall, a super comfortable and capable jacket.

Best Alternative to a Carhartt Jacket

Based on the jackets that I have used and tested, a Carhartt’s main competition for many is going to be the much-more expensive Filson Tin Cloth coat. The Tin Cloth is an amazingly tough jacket and I would put it a cut above Carhartt in terms of both durability and look. The material, trim, and zippers are all about as tough as you can get in a garment these days. However, you really pay for it.

filson tin cloth
The Filson Tin Cloth

Carhartt gives you a jacket that is along somewhat the same lines as a Filson Tin Cloth, just not as well-appointed or tough, but for a much lower price point.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Carhartt

What’s Carhartt known for?

Carhartt is known for creating tough and durable workwear, which they have done since the late 1800s. Only recently has the brand gone more maintstream.

Are Carhartt jackets completely waterproof?

No. While not every Carhartt jacket is completely waterproof, many of them come with water-repellent coatings that keep you nice and dry when the skies decide to open up.

Can I wear Carhartt jackets in the dead of winter?

Yes, as long as you get one that is built for it! Carhartt offers a range of jackets designed to keep you toasty in the depths of winter. Just look for the heavy insulation and other cold-fighting features. Their lighter jackets don’t have insulation and would need some layers to be suitable in the dead of winter.

Can I toss my Carhartt jacket in the washing machine?

This is actually one of my favorite features of the Carhartt brand. Many Carhartt jackets are machine washable. Just give the care label a quick read to make sure you’re giving your trusty jacket the TLC it deserves.

Do Carhartt jackets run true to size?

My exprience is that Carhartt jackets usually come with a relaxed fit to accommodate layering and ensure you can move with ease. If anything, they might run just a tad large but that is usually OK given how the jackets are usually used. But if you’re not sure, check their size chart to find your perfect fit.

What outdoor activities are Carhartt jackets suitable for?

Carhartt jackets are pretty versatile overall, and conducive to various outdoor activities. Hiking, ice fishing, camping, hunting are where they excel. I would not consider them to be an active wear jacket for something like trail running or cycling. The combo fo a good Carhartt jacket along with some good hunting boots could be a potent combination for a day out in the field, as long as you don’t need blaze orange on.

Are Carhartt jackets eco-friendly?

While Carhartt isn’t leading the eco-warrior charge, they do make efforts toward sustainability and responsible business practices. Choosing Carhartt means you’re supporting a company that cares about the planet. Just not in as pronounced a way as, say, Patagonia.

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