Standalone, mid layer or just something to wear to the grocery store these 20 insulated jackets are sure to be a hit with the outdoor community. We tested a bunch of insulated pieces of outerwear specifically jackets here in the Tetons of Wyoming. The following our picks for the best lightweight insulated jacket of the year:
Big Agnes Fire Tower Belay Jacket
As the name indicates, Big Agnes was targeting climbers when they created the Fire Tour Belay Jacket and they packed it full of climbing-specific features. With 700 fill down it is warm enough to protect you from the elements while mostly stationary, and the vertical baffles contour to your body while maneuvering on the wall. It sits high enough to wear with a harness, and it can zip open from the bottom to accommodate a bit more movement at the waist. The hood is a standout, large enough to wear over your helmet and fully adjustable in the back to seal the gaps. This jacket is for those who like to climb even when its not clear and sunny, with DownTek moisture-resisting tech and a rip-stop nylon shell that whisks away water and keeps out the wind. Probably a bit too burly to wear on a grocery run, but a perfect jacket for the climber’s quiver.
L.L. Bean PrimaLoft Heater Hooded Jacket
L.L. Bean makes a point to deliver quality in a no-frills package, and they have delivered this year with their PrimaLoft Heater Jacket. Filled with synthetic PrimaLoft Gold insulation, this jacket is a particularly good choice if you are primarily using it in a rainy or humid environment. And just to make sure you are protected in bad weather they built on additional waterproof fabric where you want it most, covering the hood, shoulders, and arms. You won’t find any fancy gimmicks in this one, just solid covering of the basics at a fair price.
Montane Quattro Fusion Jacket
It doesn’t always end up well when trying to combine a variety of styles into one product, but it seems Montane wasn’t afraid of the challenge. Certainly the most unique jacket on our list, the Quattro Fusion is part down jacket, part mid-weight fleece; warm enough for cold days but breathable enough to wear on the move. They relied on thermal imaging data to design 800 fill down baffles located to keep in heat in the most crucial locations, using 120 weight Polartec fleece to allow some airflow on the rest. A nice feature is the high collar that keeps your neck covered in all ranges of motion. This jacket won’t be warm enough on its own for high-alpine nights, but it’s a great option for backpackers and hikers looking for something that can be used on active days in a variety of weather and temperatures, or for someone looking to minimize their clothing bag in the pack.
Rab Zero G Jacket
When Rab set out to create what they call the “ultimate alpine down jacket”, they had in mind a serious alpinist who moves fast and light in the mountains. The result is the Zero G Jacket, built with an incredible 1000+ fill down and protected with Pertex Quantum fabric. It may have an eye-catchingly high price tag, but that reflects Rab’s use of a much higher than average quality down in order to get one of the best weight-to-warmth ratios on the market. While the outer shell feels a bit thin, it’ll hold up well to normal wear and tear and if you count every ounce than you won’t mind keeping it away from your camp knife. This is a reliable jacket intended for those looking to explore the extreme parts of our planet, and it won’t disappoint you anywhere you go.
Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Parka
Patagonia makes products that are known for good looks, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hold up under heavy use. The Fitz Roy Down Parka is a perfect example, designed for long climbing expiditions in the coldest places. You’ll notice that this jacket is huge, with large baffles packed with 8 ounces of 800 fill down to keep you warm in any conditions. But it still packs down pretty small to keep some room in your pack or even to clip on your harness for the climb. It also has some great features, like super roomy pockets that’ll never fill up and a high interior collar that will keep you neck warm even with the hood down. You can’t go wrong with this bomb-proof tank of a down puffy.
Black Diamond Cold Forge Jacket
Black Diamond has been steadily making the transition into the world of apparel, resulting in this year’s sturdy Cold Forge Jacket. Its slightly heavy weight (575 grams) and somewhat low packability mean that it hasn’t made every best-of list, but it here on ours because unlike many puffy jackets it has a number of features that make it an excellent choice for skiers. It has a lower fit that covers your waist in the snow, a helmet compatible hood that adjusts in the front as well as the back for high-speed descents, and a burly 20d Pertex Quantum shell to protect against rips and snags. The most important factor that’ll make it a favorite for skiers is the insulation. With a PrimaLoft blend of 70% down and 30% polyester this jacket will hold up well under the wettest winter conditions while still providing impressive warmth. There’s no more need to fear for the fate of your puffy when you click into your bindings, the Cold Forge is here.
Feathered Friends Eos Jacket
Rounding out our list is the little known Feathered Friends, a Seattle-based brand that’s a long time favorite of hard-nosed alpinists. This year’s offering is the Eos Jacket, a lightweight puffy built for performance. With 3.7 ounces of 900 fill down this is one of the best weight to warmth ratios you can find anywhere, made specifically for long trips where every ounce counts. The baffles are designed to fit a bit closer to the body, allowing it to act as an active outer layer or a fitted mid-layer under a shell. The hood is fitted and non-adjustable, but this is in fitting with Feathered Friends’ ethos of keeping their designs streamlined to be as lightweight as possible. If you are looking for a high quality performance jacket, and to help out the little guys in the process, you can’t make a better pick.
Past winners below:
Patagonia Nano Puff
The Nano Puff from Patagonia was designed with climbers in mind, and it really shines through in the small details. A roomy chin garage provides some extra comfort for neck-craning belays, the hood is compact and comfortable for wearing under your helmet, and its fold-into pocket pouch even has a carabiner loop so you can tote it up the wall with you. As always, Patagonia has that extra bit of style panache so you’ll look good hitting the town when you get back from your latest adventure.
North Face Thermoball
North Face has a game changer this year with some help from the Primaloft development lab. Thermoball insulation, with clusters of synthetic-fibers, is designed to mimic the way that down insulates while retaining the wet-weather warmth of synthetic, and never before has a water-resistant synthetic jacket garnered as many comparisons to down. North Face claims the insulation is the equivalent of 600-fill down, a bit lower than average. But if you live in a wet climate (or just like the sound of raindrops on your hood) then you won’t mind a bit.
Stuffed with 900-fill Pertex Quantum down, the Quasar is all about the kind of warmth that only the highest quality goose-down can give. Its durable fabric will help keep that down in, even when your adventures get a bit scratchy or when it’s stored in your pack next to those rocks you like to take as souvenirs. It also happens to be light, thin, and extremely packable, giving you every reason to bring it with you on every trip into the mountains.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
For those diehards who just will not make the switch to synthetic, Mountain Hardwear has put in the work to make a water-resistant down that keeps its warmth in wet conditions, lining the fibers of their Q.Sheild down with a water-repellant material. Finally, those with a habit of getting caught out in the rain have a down coat that won’t wither away. As an added bonus, this ridiculously light jacket is almost the same weight as that smartphone you have in your pocket all day.
Arc’teryx Atom LT
With a hybrid composite construction, the Arc’teryx Atom LT is a true Frankenstein of a jacket with versatility at the core of its mantra. It delivers traditional synthetic insulation in the hood, arms and torso, but breaks the mold with stretchable and breathable side panels for highly active use, and adds a weather-resistant shell to help it hold up as an outer layer option. If you want a coat you can ski-tour in one day, scale a peak with the next day, and run a few miles in at the end of every day, then this is the pick for you.
Like the Nano Puff, the Xenon’scharacteristics are well suited to a climber’s needs with great small details like the carabiner loop on the built-in pouch. Its construction, however, gives it some great advantages over similar models. With large panels and minimal stitching, the inner and outer layers are able to move with greater independence, giving you more mobility. Minimal seams also provide a high level of wind-resistance normally reserved for much heavier jackets.
Montbell Frost Line
In line up of pared down, lightweight jackets, the Frost Line stand out as a feature-packed option. With five pockets (two of them fleece lined!), cinch-chord hood and waist, wind-blocking zipper tube, and 800-fill goose down, this is the Cadillac of puffy coats. If you need a heavy-duty jacket for longer stretches in cold backcountry weather, you cannot beat this offering from Montbell, and at a significantly lower price than its peers.
Dynafit Cho Oyo
As you might expect coming from Dynafit, the Cho Oyo is the best pick on the list for backcountry skiers. It sports a longer-than average waist to keep the lower back covered, a warm hood that fits snugly over a helmet, and a warm yet not-to-heavy 750-fill down. It packs into its own pocket for storage when you’re sweating on the skin trail, and has a tough shell to keep you safe and warm on the way down. An all-around finely made jacket that lives up to the Dynafit name.
Western Mountaineering Flash
Western Mountaineering has come up with the perfect word to sum up their Flash jacket; balance. You’ll be hard pressed to find a coat with a better weight-to-warmth ratio. At 850-fill goose down, this jacket has a thick warm layer of insulation, but also provides a very lightweight and durable shell without cordlocks to keep the weight low. It also sports insulation on both sides of the hand pockets to keep those digits toasty.
Feathered Friends Helios
There are puffy jackets that aspire to a fashion statement, and there are puffy jackets that aspire to function, function and function. The Helios is resoundingly the latter. It is a streamlined coat with few zippers and cinch-chords to keep down weight and stay out of the way of climbing gear. The handwarming pockets are ideal for getting a quick warmup without taking the time to fiddle with a zipper, and the high elastic waist rests above a harness. These details and more all amount to a highly specified jacket ideal for winter climbing, but should be avoided if you’re looking for a jacket to keep you warm walking home from the bars.