Here’s Why Some Jackets Have Armpit Zippers (Pit Zips)

When shopping for a new jacket, there are so many things to consider.

The type of material, the breathability of the jacket, the waterproof rating, often offers different features, etc. One notable feature that some jackets have is armpit zippers.

You might be wondering what is the purpose of these zippers?

Armpit zippers in jackets exist to increase ventilation when performing strenuous activities, while still giving you a protective layer against the elements. They allow you to adjust the airflow on the go without having to remove a layer of clothing.

This article will look at which type of jackets have armpit zippers, whether armpit zippers are practical, and when they are a good option for you.

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Which Jackets Have Armpit Zippers?

Jackets that most commonly have armpit zippers are typically those used for outdoor sports.

This is because their purpose of allowing for extra ventilation matches well with outdoor activities. Some common types of jackets that include armpit zippers are:

  • Ski Jackets
  • Rain jackets
  • Hiking jackets
  • Fleeces
  • Softshell jackets
  • Hardshell jackets
  • Running jackets

If you are looking for a jacket with armpit zippers, then it’s best to look at an outdoor or running store. Some of the most prominent outdoor brands like North Face, Patagonia, Canada Goose, REI Co-op, Columbia, and Arc’teryx, sell jackets with pit zips. 

Are Jackets with Armpit Zippers Effective?

Jackets with armpit zippers have been around for several years. While major innovations have come in jacket ventilation technology, the armpit zipper has remained steadfast. So that begs the question, are the armpit zippers effective? Well, the answer is two-pronged.

In terms of reducing and releasing heat, armpit zippers are extremely effective.

As you start to feel your body temperature rise, you can unzip the two zippers and create a poncho-like garment. This releases any heat captured within the jacket and creates a nice airflow to cool you down. 

However, if the jacket’s purpose is to prevent water from reaching your inner layers, then jackets with armpit zippers tend to be less effective than alternatives.

The problem with armpit zippers is that they create an additional seam in the jacket for water to leak through. Even if you have the best jacket on the market, seams can only withstand so much water intake.

Therefore, if you purchase a rain jacket or winter coat with armpit zippers it’s best to wear a water-resistant layer underneath the jacket as well. 

When Are Jackets with Armpit Zippers a Good Fit for Me?

Jackets with armpit zippers can be great in the right circumstances. So let’s look at some situations where armpit zippers are the right fit for you. 

1. When Going on a Long Hike

One ideal situation for a jacket with an armpit zipper is while taking a long hike. When you’re in the “groove” and don’t want to stop walking, it’s almost counterproductive to stop, take a layer of clothing off, and stuff it into your pack. 

This is when armpit zippers come in handy. If you are getting a little toast, you can quickly unzip your armpit zippers and increase the airflow without ever stopping. 

2. While Hitting the Slopes

Another great place for jackets with armpit zippers is while skiing or snowboarding.

It’s often hard to remove layers while skiing because there is nowhere to put them when you take them off, and removing layers on a ski lift or in the middle of the slope can be difficult.

While it’s probably not the best idea to go down the slopes with your armpit zippers open, you can easily unzip them while riding a chair lift. Then when you get off the lift, you can zip them back up so you don’t get any snow inside of your jacket.

If you choose to wear a jacket with armpit zippers while skiing, make sure to wear a water-resistant sub-layer if the water makes it through the seams.

3. While Rock Climbing or Participating in any other Outdoor Activity

One final great activity for a jacket with armpit zippers is rock climbing.

If you are in mid-climb and start to get hot, you can’t exactly pause to remove a layer. However, you can use one hand to unzip your armpit zippers to cool you down a little. 

Essentially, this jacket feature is great for any outdoor activity when you don’t want or cannot remove a layer. 

Ventilated Jackets Offer Cooling Technology Without a Zipper

Ventilated jackets are a great alternative to jackets with armpit zippers. They strategically place vents to optimize airflow but still keep you protected from the elements. 

The downside of ventilated jackets is that they are always ventilated. Therefore, if you get cold you can’t close the vents for extra warmth. Additionally, they are only ideal in a drizzle. Anything heavier than that and you can expect to get wet. 

Wearing Layers Allows Versatility for Temperature Regulation

Another great option for versatility is purchasing a weatherproof jacket and then dressing in layers. This ensures that you have an outer jacket to protect you if it’s raining or extremely cold.

However, if you’re hot then you can just remove your jacket and go to the next layer.

As mentioned earlier, the downside to this tactic is that you must carry your layers. This means you have to carry a backpack and leave room for unwanted layers.

Should You Buy a Jacket with Armpit Zippers?

Realistically, there is no right answer when it comes to the correct outerwear.

It comes down to personal preference and what works best for you. Take the time to test all these options to find out what will work for you in the long term. 

Armpit zippers offer great on-the-go versatility for ventilation options but also compromise the weatherproofing of the jacket. If cooling down without having to remove layers is your top priority, then a jacket with armpit zippers is a great choice for you. 

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