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Best photo vests: waistcoats and jackets with big pockets for photographers

Best photo vests
(Image credit: Getty )

Popping out for a casual spot of street photography will rarely require special clothing, but if you’re heading off on your travels, it’s worth donning a decent coat focused on photography or outdoor pursuits.

A few things to consider

1. Get the right size. Most sizes will be as expected, and note that drawstring waist and hems, and adjustable cuffs can take up some slack.

2. You can never have too many pockets. Some pockets are large enough to hold a lens or two!

3. Wildlife photography demands stealth: A good jacket should be the right color, made from rustle-free fabric and free from noisy Velcro fastenings.

4. Choose breathable fabrics to ensure moisture can escape.

Not only will this help keep you warm, such garments also tend to be festooned with pockets, making them ideal for stashing accessories and essentials like the maps and snacks required for a long shoot. The copious number of pockets mean they can also be useful in situations where you want to avoid carry a bag – such as when shooting a wedding.

Unlike a regular raincoat, jackets designed with wildlife photography in mind are usually constructed from quiet fabrics and can feature slits and openable flaps to make crouching more comfortable. You’re also likely to find a hood with a wired peak that’ll keep rain off your face without obscuring your view. 

The biggest choice is whether to opt for a full-on jacket, or a waistcoat/vest. Go for the latter if you intend to team it with your existing coat, but it should still be waterproof to safeguard any kit stored within.

• Read more: Best waterproof jackets for photographers

(Image credit: Just Photography)

1. Just Photographers Shooting Vest

Great value photo vest for everyday use

Color: Beige | Material: Lightweight polycotton | Size: Small to XXL

13 different-sized pockets
Two zipped inner pockets.
Not waterproof
Not as durable as we would have liked

It’s by far the cheapest option here – yet this waistcoat still features 13 pockets, including a selection of large front pockets capable of stashing some lenses. Extra accessories will find a home in numerous smaller zippered pockets, and this is another waistcoat with a large back compartment, suitable for a lightweight raincoat.

There are also extras like a removable identity card pouch and a small sun hood that packs discreetly away in a slot behind your neck. This isn’t designed to keep the rain at bay, though, and neither is the rest of the vest, with the fabric letting water soak through to your gear. The material and construction also reflects the price tag: compared with the rugged Raptor, this doesn’t feel as though it would stand up to frequent use. At least there’s some extra neck and shoulder padding to help ease strap strain, even if you don’t get a collar.

(Image credit: Country Innovation)

2. Country Innovation Raptor Waistcoat

Tough, durable and with 15 pockets – you might opt to leave your kit bag at home!

Colors: (Olive) Green | Material: Rip-Tec – a tough military-grade fabric | Size: Small to 4XL

15 generously sized pockets
Two expandable lower front pockets

Packing more pockets than a pool hall – 15, to be precise – this waistcoat can store a huge amount of gear. Two expandable lower front pockets easily swallow a lens each, and a pair of chest pockets above can house another two optics. Behind these are spacious side-access slots ideal for maps or guide books; if you fancy carrying a rain poncho or even a tablet, these can be stowed in huge internal and external rear pouches. Extra inner compartments provide a home for smaller accessories.

Military-grade Rip-Tec ripstop fabric and rugged construction ensure the waistcoat can cope when fully loaded, and it repels water well. Other nice touches include shoulder padding and a substantial neck collar to help ease the strain of a camera strap or shoulder bag.

Sizes range from Small to XXXXL, and we found our Medium example shaped up to expectations.

(Image credit: Country Innovation)

3. Country Innovation Traveller Jacket

Protective jacket with loads of pockets for all your smaller gear

Color: (Olive) Green | Material: Cotton-Tec outer fabric and Innovation XL lining | Size: Small to XL

13 outside pockets
Full vision detachable hood 
Not for use in winter conditions

Compared with the Raptor, this jacket’s outer fabric doesn’t feel quite so substantial, but it’s easy to move in, and quiet. It’s also windproof yet breathable; water instantly beads off the waterproof coating, so you and your gear will stay dry.

The Traveller shares the same size range as the Raptor and fits as expected, but has the added advantage that it can double as an everyday raincoat. It’s not compromised on a shoot, though, with 13 pockets scattered outside and in to provide decent kit stowage. Two huge lower front pockets are ideally suited to lenses, and there’s a pair of side slots for maps, and a couple of hand pouches. The detachable hood incorporates a drawstring and wired peak.

Inside the Traveller jacket, the soft Innovation XL lining provides some warmth without adding bulk, while also wicking away moisture.

(Image credit: Páramo)

4. Páramo Halcon Traveller Jacket

A great lightweight, quick drying, breathable jacket

Color: Brown, Dark grey, Green | Material: Nikwax Analogy | Size: XS to XXL

Incredibly lightweight
Hand-warmer pockets are a good addition
Not waterproof

The Halcon Traveller gets off to a good start, thanks to a light design that packs small. It’ll also look the part in the city as well as the country, especially if you go for this dark grey version. Brown and green options are also available, in sizes between XS and XXL, and there were no sizing surprises with our Medium sample.

In such a lightweight jacket, the four main front pockets feel a little less substantial than those on the Country Innovation products, but they are large enough to hold a lens each. You get a further eight pockets, including four inside and a couple of hand-warmer pockets. Another nice touch are the popper-side slits that stop the jacket rucking up when crouching for a shot.

Páramo markets this jacket as being best suited to sun, wind and shower protection. It’s not waterproof, though, as droplets soak into the Cotton+ fabric rather than beading off it.

Read more:

Best rain covers for your camera gear
Best waterproof jackets for photographers
Best camera bags and cases for photographers in 2020
Best messenger bags for photographers
Best camera sling bags in 2020