‘Tis the season when jackets and beanies come out of hibernation to help fight off rosy-nose temps.
Perhaps you’re looking for an insulated option to wear to and from the office, hiking the final summit of the season, or the right option to layer under a shell while blasting through waist-deep powder in single-digit sunshine. Regardless of how you spend your time, the right insulated jacket is your ticket to better cold weather adventures.
We all have our favorite outdoor pursuit, and arguably the most important piece of our gear kit for that pursuit is the jacket. Just like stoking a fire, it’s important to cultivate those core embers and maintain the production of body heat with a steady flow of insulation and fuel. Whatever your activity of choice, you can keep that internal inferno ablaze with a quality insulated jacket. The following selections are the best pieces from our gear closet, ready to keep you warm from autumn excursions to spring backpacking trips above the treeline.
If backcountry pursuits in damp environments don’t deter your adventure routine, the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody stands ready and willing to serve as your cold weather wing man. Powered by 850 white goose down, the Cerium LT touts a hybrid construction and slim fit that makes it ideal for backcountry pursuits, climbing in chilly conditions, snowshoeing with the family, or simply for wearing around town.
Featuring specialized construction with thoughtful attention to detail, the Cerium LT is built with highly durable top performance materials but designed with a streamlined minimalist set of features to keep thing light and fast. Down Composite Mapping places Coreloft synthetic insulation, that retains warmth when wet, along the shoulders, cuffs, underarms and front of mouth— spots that are most likely to get a bit damp. Still, while the Coreloft insulation resists moisture better than down, this backcountry specialist hoody is intended primarily as a mid layer in cool, dry conditions. But paired with a waterproof shell, you’ll be ready to tackle that stormy weather on the horizon.
arcteryx.com; MSRP $379
Best for Mountain Adventure: For those aerobic start-stop missions when core warmth, stretch and breathability are key, the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody Jacket reigns supreme. This beautifully thought out and well-designed jacket (available in men’s and women’s) is an answer to gear needs you didn’t even know you had. Combining the best qualities of a fleece, a puffy and a softshell, this feathery light jacket packs small while still offering the technical, cutting-edge features of other brand’s beefier jackets.
The Nano-Air Hoody features Patagonia’s exclusive FullRange™ insulation that’s warm, stretchy and impressively breathable, making it the perfect partner for any dynamic outdoor activity. The secret to this insulation technology is a proprietary element that gives it added stability against fiber migration, and allows for great stretch and recovery. In other words, insulation stays put enabling the designers to open up the exterior and create space for vapor to exit the jacket. How well does it work? One a recent summit, we were the only trail tacklers that never had to stop, unload and take off our jacket. In other words, you get a super-breathable jacket with mechanical stretch that lets you move easily on the wall, the skin track, or the hiking trail. And trust us when we say, the warmth to weight ratio on this vest is off the charts.
Patagonia.com; MSRP $299
Best Overall Value: Stio’s premium all-conditions insulator, the Azura is your year-round layering piece for fall hikes, morning campsites and early snows. With the sheer versatility of the stio Azura Jacket (available in men’s and women’s), you’ll find yourself reaching for it at least 329 days a year. That’s because it’s tough enough to be an outer layer and bulk-less enough to be a midlayer: warm enough for skiing and stylish enough for nights at the mountain tavern. The secret to its performance is Primaloft GOLD insulation that offers maximum warmth in cold and wet environments with a lightweight design that ensures you won’t feel weighed down when you’re on the trail.
Primaloft GOLD sets a high standard for synthetic insulations. Microfibers trap body heat to make this the most thermally-efficient synthetic insulation available, with water-repellency that insulates even in the wettest weather. So you get a jacket that keeps you warm and dry during predawn starts and blustery afternoons. The more you wear this one, the more you’ll love it. With a current price point of $136, it’s also the best value on our list.
stio.com; MSRP $136
The Nangpala jacket from Sherpa Adventure Gear offers an ample demonstration on how what’s on the inside of a jacket can empower your outside adventures. Insulated with PrimaLoft Silver 750, a revolutionary combination of 750 duck down (60%) and PrimaLoft fibers (40%), the Nangpala has some very special abilities: it absorbs water ten times slower than 100% down, retains 95% of its warmth if it does get wet, and dries four times faster than down.
Extra style points include graphic print on the interior of the jacket based on ancient carvings and patterns designed to pay tribute to the people and cultures of Nepal. The micro-grid ripstop shell is water-resistant and has a tight weave ensuring no feathers escape. In terms of performance, here’s what we can tell you. For the past several months, when we take to the trail and the meteorologist is predicting reporting Old Man Winter to throw a temper tantrum, this is the insulated option we grab.
Sherpaadventuregear.com; MSRP $240
Best for Around Town: It’s complicated, in a good way. No drama here. This performance jacket is loaded with technical function and fashionable flair. With references to the classic M-67 military jacket style and vintage Japanese motorcycle styling, the Universal Moto is ready to take the cold season by storm.
Combining the stylish design with modern technology, the jacket features fully waterproof Helly Tech construction with PrimaLoft and technical Helly Hansen performance to keep you dry and comfortable in all your daily pursuits. Or, if mixed drinks are on your agenda, it’s happy to keep you chill. Go ahead, grab this jacket and lead your assault on the urban streets in comfort and warmth.
Hellyhansen.com; MSRP $230
Like all adidas Outdoor products, the Ndosphere Flex Hooded Jacket is designed to help you move through the mountains fast. Insulated with PrimaLoft Gold insulation for increased breathability, as well as an excellent weight-to-warmth ratio, the Ndosphere provides lightweight warmth that won’t interfere when your heart rate is up. The PrimaLoft Gold uses a microfiber structure to help the body retain warmth and conserve energy. The PrimaLoft insulation core creates millions of air spaces suspended in the microfiber mesh. These air spaces are so fine that water drops bead on the surface.
adidas wraps up this impressive insulation with the Innovative Pertex fabric featuring the tightest, toughest weave around for exceptional durability. Quantum is light and strong offering a significant weight reduction without sacrificing strength and abrasion resistance. The fit of the jacket works well either on its own, or as a midlayer with elastic cuffs that minimize bulk at the sleeves. For best protection and improved comfort, the center back length rides at 29.5 inches. Ideal for hours on the trail or extra icy mornings at home.
adidasoutdoor.com MSRP $225
If you’re looking for innovation and a brand that is changing the performance paradigm in outdoor apparel, look no further than Mountain Hardwear. The brand’s StretchDown Jacket is not only a prime example of fresh new thinking in the outdoor category, but an impressive re-imagining of traditional design. The StretchDown (also available in RS version) is versatile jacket that remains light but still offers uncommon warmth, with a little added stretch to improve technical mobility in the mountains.
Made with a welded channel construction, this revolutionary jacket traps more warmth than the standard stitched-construction of most down jackets. Mountain Hardwear’s unique Q.Shield Down is infused with permanent water repellency that helps maintain insulating performance, even when exposed to moisture. The 15D face fabric feels almost featherweight but is unexpectedly robust, so it has excellent resistance to wind, water, and all the trail trolls you inevitably come across. With impressive warmth and performance, the StretchDown RS Jacket will have you ready to tackle anything Mother Nature decides to throw at you.
Mountainhardwear.com; MSRP $250
When Old Man Winter comes to play in the Tetons, he plays for keeps. So when the white stuff hits the fan, this jacket approaches the day with presence, purpose and poise. Admittedly, most people tend to baby their down jackets, delicate flowers that they are. To wear one while chopping wood or hauling ski gear out of the basement is akin to inviting a disastrous tear in the face of the fabric. But the rugged, water-resistant quilted shell of the Men’s Swagger Jacket invites you to work like a lumberjack without the risk of accidentally tearing the thin face fabric associated with many down jackets.
To keep you comfortable while jetting in and out of the cabin for chore duty, the Swagger Jacket is outfitted with 80gm Primaloft Silver, a synthetic down alternative developed for the US Army renowned for superior warmth and compression. And for an added touch of sophistication, MK outfitted this jacket with metal accents, quilted insulation, and subtle details that set it apart from the sea of traditional nylon insulated jackets.
Mountainkhakis.com; MSRP $169.95
Whether you’re looking for a jacket to wear to a New Year’s firework show or as an insulating layer on those particularly biting ski days, the Glacial Featherless Jacket (Copenhagen Featherless Jacket for women) from Merrell keeps you warm and toasty.
This jacket features 3M Thinsulate Featherless Insulation, a loose fill insulation alternative to natural down. 3M Thinsulate Featherless Insulation was designed to closely mimic the look and performance of natural down with two times the loft when wet and without the allergens. The fill is as lightweight as natural down, highly breathable and provides extreme warmth for extreme conditions. The result is a featherless puffer that keeps you warm and dry on winter adventures.
merrell.com; MSRP $200
Best for Cabin Life: Chances are that you send the majority of your time in your jacket walking around town, not climbing the world’s highest peaks. Enter the PrimaLoft Mountain Pro Hoodie from L.L. Bean. This is a lifestyle garment that feels and looks like a sweater, but is stuffed with 60g Primaloft Gold Active, perfect for days at the family cabin, or when the weather gets rough on your neighborhood stroll.
If you’re anything like us, you find it hard to resist a piece that’s rugged, technical and ready to conquer the outdoors. From the mapped zoning for warmth to the top-notch PrimaLoft insulation, this hoodie is the perfect pick for gliding through some glades or trekking a new trail. Inside all that armor, it’s stuffed with 60g Primaloft Gold Active (100% polyester) that’ll work as hard as you do, keeping you warm until you can reward yourself for the day’s chores with a tumbler of good Scotch.