The Best Insulated Jacket For Women Review

Our old insulated jacket review took seven of the industry's top pieces and ran them through the gauntlet of winter activities and head-to-head tests. In this updated review, we've upped the ante, adding 10 new pieces, including several brand new releases. Read on to learn how we evaluated each of these unique pieces and how they compared throughout our testing process.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Insulated Jackets - Women's Displaying 1 - 5 of 12 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's
Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket - Women's
Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Arc'teryx Atom SV - Women's
Arc'teryx Atom SV - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket - Women's
Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody - Women's
Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody - Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award    Best Buy Award   
Street Price Varies $140 - $200
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Varies $100 - $200
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Varies $189 - $259
Compare at 4 sellers
Varies $92 - $140
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Varies $120 - $229
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1 rating
Pros Warm and cozy, Packs into stowaway pocket with gear clipTechnical jacket with cozy features, Attractive stylingThickest and warmest jacket reviewed, stylish, breathable for its weight, clever technical features.Affordable, Stylish, Lot of cozy featuresHighly breathable, Cozy feel, Attractive athletic styling
Cons No hood cinch, Not very breathableHeavier than other thin jackets, No stow clipDoesn't stuff into itself, most expensive, hood difficult to cinch.Heavy, Not suitable for technical activitiesDoesn't pack into pocket, Not very warm
Best Uses Alpine rock climbing, Backpacking, CampingHiking, Climbing, Around townBelaying, a thicker mid layer when skiing, a warm jacket around town.Resort skiing, Around townHiking, backpacking, climbing. Any cold whether activity where you want mobility and warmth.
Date Reviewed Sep 02, 2013Sep 02, 2013Sep 26, 2013Sep 02, 2013Sep 25, 2013
Weighted Scores Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket - Women's Arc'teryx Atom SV - Women's Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket - Women's Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody - Women's
Comfort - 20%
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8
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9
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9
Compressibility - 25%
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7
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Warmth - 25%
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Durability - 10%
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Style - 10%
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Water Resistance - 10%
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Product Specs Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket - Women's Arc'teryx Atom SV - Women's Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket - Women's Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody - Women's
Style/Design Looser fit with attractive feminine darting Slim fit with different colored zipper Athletic fit, hip length Feminine fit with sassy design extras Athletic feminine fit with shorter torso
Main Fabric Pertex® Quantum 15D Ripstop Nylon Ripstop Nylon, wind and waterproof coatings Omni-Shield of Windowpane Triple Ripstop 100% Polyester Luminara Nylon Ripstop + Polartec Power Stretch Fleece with Hardface Technology
Insulation 60g PrimaLoft ONE 60 g Thermal Q Elite 100 g/m2 Coreloft 100 g Omni-Heat Insulation (50% polyester/50% recycled polyester) + Omni-Heat Reflective Thermal Technology 60g CoreLoft
Waterproofing DWR water resistant Waterproof coating water resistant DWR
Unique Features Lofty insulation is extra cozy Fleecy pockets, cool quilted pattern Tricot inside underarms to enhance breaheability Thermal Reflective Lining Breathable side panels
Color Selection 3 colors 6 colors Black, Kalamata, Naranja 7 colors 6 colors
Weight 11.2 oz 9.3 oz RE-WEIGH 14.5 oz (16 oz?) 16.8 oz 11.5 oz
# of Pockets 3 (2 hand 1 external chest) 2 hand pockets 3 (one inside chest) 3 (2 hand 1 internal chest) 3 (2 hand, 1 internal chest)
Hood Option? Yes, no non-hooded option Yes, also vest Yes (no non-hood) no Yes, also non-hooded jacket and vest
Stuffs into itself? Yes into chest pocket, with loop Yes into hand pocket, no loop No No No
Dimensions when compressed 8x8x3.5 8.5x5x3.5 N/A N/A N/A
Cuff construction Elastic Elastic Stretch Woven Thumb-loop interior cuffs Stretch Knit

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products

Selecting the Right Product
After almost half a year of testing, we're here to provide some insight into the industry's top performing, most affordable, and even most stylish jackets. Throughout this review, we'll take into consideration such criteria as warmth, compressibility and weight, durability, water resistance, comfort, and style. But, first things first…let's get to the bottom of this question:

Why Choose A Synthetic Insulated Jacket?
When choosing a jacket, there are a multitude of decisions to make, but perhaps the first and most important to consider is whether to opt for synthetic or down insulation. All the jackets in this review are made with synthetic insulation, which has several notable benefits in comparison to down.

Most importantly, synthetic insulation will continue to keep you warm even if it becomes wet. Unlike down, which loses its loft when it gets wet, synthetic fibers maintain their structure and continue to trap warmth even in heavy rain. To be clear, you won't be as warm as if your jacket were dry, but you'll be warmer than if you were wearing a down jacket in the rain. Additionally, synthetic materials generally dry quickly, making it an optimal choice for outdoor adventures that might involve wet weather. These jackets do not serve as substitutes for rain jackets; however, if you are going on an outdoor adventure and aren't planning to carry some sort of shell, it's better to be caught in wet weather with a synthetic jacket than a down jacket.

The primary downside of synthetic jackets are that they typically do not provide as much warmth for the weight as down jackets. Additionally, they don't normally hold up as long as a well-cared for down jacket, but insulated jackets also don't require as much special care (i.e. you can just throw them in the washing machine without a second thought). For more in depth information on the differences between down and synthetic insulation, check out our Insulated Jacket Buying Advice.

Types of Insulated Jackets in This Review
Throughout our testing process, it became clear that some of the jackets in this review were more similar and comparable than others. (Note, we use the terms "synthetic" and "insulated" interchangeably.

There were thin, quilted jackets, including pieces like the Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover - Women's and the Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket - Women's (our Top Pick). These jackets work well as mid-layers and are generally lightweight and super packable. We really liked using these pieces as extra outer layers on long rock climbs and beneath a shell while backcountry skiing.

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The REI Revelcloud was one of the four lightweight quilted jackets that we reviewed. This subcategory of synthetic insulated pieces also included the Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic, the Patagonia Nano Puff, and The North Face Blaze.
Credit: McKenzie Long

We also closely compared those jackets that had continuous shells, like the Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's, the Arc'teryx Atom SV - Women's, and the Helly Hansen Odin Isolator Jacket - Women's. These jackets offered a little more water resistance and their insulation felt more lofty since it wasn't stitched down into baffles.

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The Helly Hansen Odin Isolator Jacket has a continuous outer shell like the Rab Xenon X and the Rab Strata. We found that this design shed water a little bit better than quilted jackets.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

Finally, we looked at jackets that offered increased breathability. Jackets like the Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody - women's and the Rab Strata Hoodie - Women's both serve as insulating layers that will still be comfortable during heavy cardio activity. These jackets help regulate body temperature by wicking sweat away from the body and allowing air to flow in.

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The Arc'Teryx Atom LT has fleece side panels that help increase breathability. However, this piece sacrifices a lot of warmth to provide this feature.
Credit: Amanda Fenn


Criteria for Evaluation

Warmth
The number one reason to buy a jacket? To stay warm! As we discussed above, insulated jackets aren't as warm for their weight as down jackets, but they do have some very specific advantages in wet weather. For the purposes of this review, we measured warmth in these jackets relative to each other, meaning that a 10 given to the warmest synthetic jacket will not be as warm as a 10 given to a down jacket in another review. This review encompasses pieces that are a bit thicker and warmer, as well as thinner layers that are highly compressible and jackets that are more breathable. We tested jackets with hoods and those without, in addition to pieces with longer cut torsos and pull cords to seal in warmth.

We learned all about the different types of insulation used in each of these pieces and through months of field testing come to conclusions about how each company's marketing claims held up in real life. After completing the testing process, we determined that the warmest jacket was the Arc'teryx Atom SV, which contains 40g/m2 more insulation than most of the other pieces we tested. On the other end of the spectrum, the least warm jackets were the ultra lightweight jackets like The North Face Blaze Jacket - Women's and the more breathable jackets like the Arc'teryx Atom LT. We were also really surprised that to discover that one of the thinnest jackets, the Patagonia Nano Puff, was actually almost just as warm as our Editor's Choice winner, the Rab Xenon X. Both of these jackets use 60 g/m2 of PrimaLoft ONE insulation, one of the leading synthetic products on the market.

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The Atom SV is the perfect synthetic jacket to wear while belaying or hanging out in snow and ice. Unlike down, it keeps you warm even if it gets wet, and its cinchable hood and stretch woven cuffs seal out wind and cold.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

If you want the thickest and warmest insulated jacket, check out the Patagonia DAS Parka - Women's in our winter jacket review, which is longer, has more insulation, and is more expensive than most of the jackets in this review.

Compressibility & Weight
When we started this review, we started thinking about how we most often use synthetic jackets and we realized that we generally consider these pieces to be "workhorse" jackets. That is, we're constantly stuffing them in as a "just in case" layer in the bottom of a pack or clipping them to a harness for a long rock climb. For this reason, we decided that Compressibility & Weight should be one of the most important categories to consider. We really appreciated jackets that compressed down so small and were so lightweight that we barely noticed them in the bottom of our packs. You'll notice, however, that generally speaking the lightest weight jackets earned lower scores in warmth. While this conclusion is not surprising, it is a good reminder that sometimes you have to choose which aspects are most important for you in a jacket and be willing to compromise on other aspects.

The lightest, most compressible jacket that we tested was the Patagonia Nano Puff, which packs down into its external chest pocket. On the other end of the spectrum, some pieces, like the Arc'teryx Atom LT, didn't have integrated stow systems at all. Our Editor's Choice winner, the Rab Xenon X, was not the lightest or most compressible jacket, but we appreciated how small it packed down while providing significantly more warmth than other thin quilted jackets like the Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic.

Compressed sizes from top to bottom, left to right: Arc&#039;Teryx Atom LT,...
Compressed sizes from top to bottom, left to right: Arc'Teryx Atom LT, Columbia Kaleidaslope II, Helly Hansen Odin Isolator, L.L.Bean Primaloft Hooded Jacket, Rab Xenon X, Rab Strata, Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic, North Face Blaze, Patagonia Nano Puff,
Credit: Amanda Fenn

Comfort and Coziness
Although insulated jackets aren't nearly as cozy as, say, the ultra plush Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover, we found that some jackets had features that made them just a little more comfy and easy to use. We checked to see which jackets had fleece-lined pockets and chin guards and which ones had gusseted underarms for maximum mobility. We also considered the loft of the insulation and how we felt overall while wearing each piece.

We discovered that the Rab Xenon X Hoodie - with its puffy PrimaLoft ONE - feels like wearing a sleeping bag…comfy? We think yes. Another jacket that scored well in this category was the Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket - Women's (our Best Buy Award winner), which features a fur-lined collar that zips up snugly against the neck. The Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic also had several comfy extras that added a little weight, but made for more cozy wearing.

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Testing insulated jackets for warmth during a temperate Texas winter. (L to R) Arcteryx Atom LT, The North Face Blaze, Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic, Columbia Kaleidoslope II. Each of these pieces had slightly different cozy features.
Credit: John Long

Durability
When evaluating durability, we took into consideration such factors as shell fabric type, stitching quality, and insulation type. Some shell fabrics were lighter weight, which made them more compressible, but limited their overall durability. We not only researched the fabrics that each jacket is made of, but also used them while climbing and doing other activities to see how the shells would hold up in the real world. We found that some fabrics ended up with more snags and that some of the pieces had very low quality stitching that quickly unraveled. Finally, although it would take years to see how the loft in these jackets held up over the long term, we also took into consideration the quality of the insulation used and the manufacturers' reports of longevity.

Not surprisingly, the most durable jackets were the heaviest ones with the thickest outer fabric, like the L.L. Bean Primaloft Hooded Jacket - Women's. We found the lightest weight jacket, the North Face Blaze to be one of the least durable pieces. Interestingly, an older version, the Rab Xenon Hoodie, used a lighter weight Pertex Quantum fabric; however, when Rab redesigned the piece for its fall 2013 collection, they decided to use a slightly heavier fabric to increase overall durability.

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Durability varied significantly between jackets. Look closely at the baffle closest to the cuff and you'll see that all the stitches on The North Face Blaze pulled completely out.
Credit: Amanda Fenn

Water Resistance
As we mentioned before, insulated jackets do not serve as substitutes for rain jackets, but many of the jackets that we reviewed had been treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish. Thanks to the differences in fabric and stitching, each jacket repelled water a little differently. We wore these jackets in some intense rain storms and although we stayed dry in lighter rain, heavier rain soaked through despite the DWR finish. Generally, the loftier the jacket, the drier we stayed, since the rain drops tended to get trapped in the insulation's fibers. On the other hand, jackets with a quilted design absorbed water slightly faster through their stitching.

One of the many reasons that we loved the Rab Xenon X was because of its ability to repel water. When we sprayed this jacket during our head-to-head test, the droplets beaded up and stayed on the surface instead of soaking in. The Luminara Nylon shell of the Arc'teryx Atom LT and SV also shed water fairly well, while the fabric on the REI Revelcloud didn't do much to protect us from the elements.

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The Rab Strata was one of the more water resistant pieces in this review. Many of the insulated jackets we tested had a DWR finish.
Credit: Amanda Fenn

Style
As in many of the women's clothing reviews that we do here at OutdoorGearLab.com, style was a component of this review. We recognize that many women are looking for jackets that have a flattering and feminine fit. There were several jackets that we reviewed, including the Best Buy Award Winner, the Columbia Kaleidaslope II, that didn't have many technical advantages, but were stylish (and affordable!) pieces that work really well around town. Additionally, some of the more technical jackets still had stylish elements and flattering fits. On the other hand, a few jackets, including the Patagonia Nano Puff, had very boxy, unflattering cuts, but were unbeatable as high performance layers for extreme adventures. Throughout the review, we did our best to give you an idea of which jackets provide a balance of style and outdoor functionality, which ones were best solely for around town, and which ones were more suited solely to outdoor applications.

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All jackets are size small unless noted. L to R: LLBean Primaloft Hoody, Rab Strata (size M), Rab Xenon X (size M), Rab Xenon, ATX Atom LT, Columbia Kaleidaslope II, HH Isolator, REI Revelcloud, MHW Thermostatic, TNF Blaze, Patagonia Nano Puff
Credit: OutdoorGearLab

Editor's Choice Award: Rab Xenon X Hoodie
The competition for the Editor's Choice Award in this review was intense, but at the end of our evaluation process, we couldn't think of a more worthy piece than the Rab Xenon X Hoodie to take home first place. With its puffy PrimaLoft ONE insulation, comfy hood, and fleecy chin guard, our testers felt warm and cozy in this awesome technical piece. The Rab Xenon X Hoodie weighs in at just over 11 ounces and compresses down to a very manageable size. It wasn't the smallest or lightest jacket that we reviewed, but we loved this piece for technical adventures, hanging out around the campfire, and running errands around town. The older version of this jacket, the Rab Xenon Hoodie, also won the Editor's Choice Award in the men's insulated jacket review. Finally, at $200 we think this piece is an amazing value.

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Having a synthetic jacket was key for this 4-day climb up El Capitan just in case a storm blew in. The Rab Xenon X kept Amanda warm and cozy...here she enjoys the view from the top!
Credit: Phil Wesseler

Best Buy Award: Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket
When it came down to choosing our Best Buy Award winner, the Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket stole our hearts. Although it's not a technical jacket, we loved it's sassy styling, warmth, and comfy features…then we learned that it was only $140 and we were sold. This jacket has a faux fur-lined collar that snuggles up comfortably around the neck, as well as fleece-lined pockets and Columbia's new reflective thermal lining. This jacket was plenty warm for a mild spring day of skiing or running errands on a chilly fall day, but it was not quite lightweight or breathable enough that we wanted to take it hiking. Overall this is a cute, stylish piece is perfect for around town and won't put too big a dent in your budget.

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We loved the ultra cozy and stylish Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket for use around town. Plus at only $140, this jacket earned our Best Buy Award.
Credit: Trish McGuire

Top Pick Award for Lightweight Outdoor Adventure: Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket
As we were wrapping up this review, we wanted to spotlight a thin quilted jacket as our Top Pick Award winner. These jackets provide the perfect extra layer when you want that "just in case jacket," but don't want to carry anything too heavy or bulky. After much deliberation, we decided to award our Top Pick Award to the Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket. It's not the lightest of the thin quilted jackets, but it compresses down to the size of a Nalgene bottle and can easily be tossed into a pack for a big adventure. The Patagonia Nano Puff also meets these qualifications, but ultimately, the Thermostatic's attractive cut and cozy features helped sway our final decision. The Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket rings up at $200 and the fall 2013 model is filled with Mountain Hardwear's new Thermal Q Elite insulation.

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The Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic won our Top Pick Award because it's lightweight and compact enough to take on big adventures, but still offers cozy features and a flattering fit.
Credit: Phil Wesseler

Best for Specific Applications
Best jacket for big rock climbing missions: Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket - Women's
Best jacket backcountry skiing: Rab Strata Hoodie - Women's
Best technical jackets with attractive styling: Helly Hansen Odin Isolator Jacket - Women's and Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody - Women's

Amanda Fenn
Buying Advice
How we Test
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose a Women's Synthetic Insulated Jacket - Click for details
 How to Choose a Women's Synthetic Insulated Jacket

by Amanda Fenn and McKenzie Long
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