Reviews You Can Rely On

The 5 Best Insulated Jackets of 2024

To find the best men's insulated jackets, we tested models from Patagonia, Arc'teryx, Rab, and more
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Best Insulated Jacket Review
Credit: James Lucas
Wednesday April 10, 2024

Looking for a synthetic insulating layer without the cost and maintenance of down? We have tested over 60 of the best synthetic insulated jackets in extensive side by side comparison to find out which ones will hit the mark for your specific needs. Synthetic insulated jackets insulate when wet, offer excellent breathability, and generally cost less than down competitors. Whether you are looking for the warmest jacket to keep you comfortable in the coldest of temperatures, a lightweight and stretchy active layer to wear while working up a sweat, or a jacket with optimal wind resistance, we have you covered with excellent and affordable recommendations.

We've put a variety of apparel for men through the wringer and have thoroughly analyzed clothing, including the best down jackets, the top-rated fleece jackets, and the best winter jackets. Men's and women's versions are available for most styles; however, they don't always perform the same. To address this, we conduct in-depth testing by female reviewers on the best women's insulated jackets, too.

Editor's Note: Our insulated jacket review was updated on April 10, 2024, to include more jackets and offer more recommendations as alternatives to our award winners.

Related: Best Insulated Jackets for Women

Top 9 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 9
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award   
Price $173.73 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$260 List
$260.00 at Amazon
$300.00 at REI
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$329 List
$164.50 at Backcountry
$160.96 at Backcountry
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Lightweight, weather-resistant, warm, durableWarm, wind resistant, feature rich, comfortableComfortable, breathable, warm, great mobilityLightweight, windproof, water resistantExceptionally warm, excellent features, compresses well
Cons Expensive, hard to stow in pocket, no internal pockets, less breathable, fabric is crinkly soundingMinimal water resistance, no stow pocketPricey, no stow pocket, small pocketsPoor durability, less warmthHeavy, bulky
Bottom Line This versatile and lightweight insulated jacket offers impressive weather resistance and warmthBreathable and lightweight, this jacket is the perfect companion for cold weather high-output activitiesThis active insulated layer combines lightweight mobility with great breathability while offering some warmthThis lightweight mid-layer works great for the weight-conscious hiker, backpacker, or climber as it stuffs away small and weighs littleWith high loft and water-resistant insulation, this jacket will keep you warm on cold, damp days without breaking the bank
Rating Categories Patagonia DAS Light... Rab Xenair Alpine Arc'teryx Atom Hoody Patagonia Micro Puf... Rab Nebula Pro
Warmth (25%)
7.5
8.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
Comfort (25%)
8.0
9.0
8.5
7.0
6.0
Weather Resistance (20%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Portability (15%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
9.0
5.0
Breathability (15%)
6.0
7.0
8.5
5.0
5.0
Specs Patagonia DAS Light... Rab Xenair Alpine Arc'teryx Atom Hoody Patagonia Micro Puf... Rab Nebula Pro
Measured Weight (size M) 12.31 oz 18.30 oz 12.70 oz 10.37 oz 21.16 oz
Number of Pockets 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest 2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest 2 zippered hand, 2 internal drop-in 2 zippered hand, 1 internal zippered chest
Hem Type Lightly elasticized Dual adjustment Dual adjustment Adjustable Adjustale
Fit Relaxed Regular fit Fitted/trim fit. Regular fit Regular
Insulation PlumaFill 100% recycled polyester PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Active+ Coreloft 100% recycled polyester PlumaFill 100% recycled polyester 100% recycled PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Luxe
Outer Fabric 10D Pertex Quantum Pro 100% recycled nylon ripstop 20D Pertex Quantum Air with fluorocarbon-free DWR Tyono 20D shell with FC0 DWR treatment - 100% nylon Pertex Quantum 10D NetPlus 100% postconsumer recycled nylon ripstop Pertex Quantum Pro ripstop
Lining 10D Pertex Quantum 100% recycled nylon ripstop 20D Recycled Nylon Dope Permeair 20D - 100% nylon Pertex Quantum 10D NetPlus 100% postconsumer recycled nylon ripstop Recycled 20D Atmos nylon
Hood Option Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Built-In Stow Pocket Yes; left hand pocket No No Yes; hand No
Cuff Construction Lightly elasticized Elastic with velcro adjustment Stretch-knit Elastic cuff Elastic with velcro adjustment


Best Overall Insulated Jacket


Patagonia DAS Light Hoody


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7.5
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Weather Resistance 9.0
  • Portability 8.0
  • Breathability 6.0
Weight: 12.31 oz (M) | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight
Strong weather resistance
Durable
REASONS TO AVOID
Hard to stow
Expensive

We put the Patagonia DAS Light Hoody to the test high above the talus in Rocky Mountain National Park. When the wind picked up and the afternoon thunderstorms changed from rain to hail, we pulled on this jacket for instant warmth and weather protection. This lightweight jacket combines 65 grams of warm PlumaFill insulation with a 10D nylon ripstop Pertex Quantum outer with a DWR finish to protect us from the elements. Though a bit difficult to fit inside, this jacket has the ability to stow into the left-hand pocket, making it easy to carry on long hikes or up climbing routes. The fabric tends to be noisy which some testers didn't like, but the fit was quite comfortable. The large and loose cut allowed for easy layering underneath, and there is ample room in the shoulders and back for unimpeded overhead movement. The longer hem kept the jacket from riding up, and the fabric feels smooth against the skin.

While it works great as an outer layer, this jacket performed better when protecting us from the elements than it did when we were performing high-output activities. Sweat built up quickly, and we needed to use the dual zippers to ventilate or simply take the jacket off altogether to avoid being cold and sweaty. While it's possible to use this as a mid-layer, it's better suited as an outer layer to protect against the elements on slightly rainy days. However, if you're specifically seeking an affordable jacket and don't care about weather resistance as much, we recommend the Columbia Powder Lite.

Read more: Patagonia DAS Light Hoody review

insulated jacket - the das light is great for keeping you warm when the wind picks up...
The DAS Light is great for keeping you warm when the wind picks up and easily packs away.
Credit: Travis Reddinger

Most Versatile Layer


Arc'teryx Atom Hoody


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7.0
  • Comfort 8.5
  • Weather Resistance 7.0
  • Portability 7.0
  • Breathability 8.5
Weight: 12.7 oz (M) | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest
REASONS TO BUY
Soft and Comfortable
Breathable
Great midlayer
Great mobility
REASONS TO AVOID
Pricey
No stow pocket
Pockets are small

The Arc'teryx Atom Hoody is an active insulated layer that has found a lot of utility during testing. The Atom Hoody can be used for climbing, running, snow sports, or any outdoor activity in cool to cold weather. The jacket offers a more athletic fit that's close to the body but still offers maneuverability and freedom. The arms are long enough that they don't pull up when stretching, and the low hem keeps your waist protected. The Atom Hoody offers Coreloft insulation to keep your torso warm and stretch fleece side panels that keep it lightweight and breathable when you are exerting yourself.

Active layers are meant to be worn while doing activities, protecting you from the wind and elements but breathable enough to keep you from getting overheated and sweaty. Since these layers tend to be thin, they aren't meant to protect you from cold temps if you are inactive and standing still. During testing, we found the Atom Hoody worked great as a stand-alone layer for outdoor activities in cool weather and equally perfect as a mid-layer when things got colder. The Atom Hoody saw lots of use as a winter running jacket, skinning uphill, winter bouldering, snowboarding, and even for high-output Nordic skiing. It also serves as a lightweight jacket for chilly mountain evenings and mornings during the summer, or spring and fall when a heavier jacket would be overkill. If you are interested in a slightly less expensive option, we also like the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody as a casual cool weather jacket.

Read more: Arc'teryx Atom Hoody review

insulated jacket - the atom hoody performs as a breathable jacket for climbing, hiking...
The Atom Hoody performs as a breathable jacket for climbing, hiking, and running.
Credit: Travis Reddinger

Best on A Tight Budget


Amazon Essentials Lightweight Puffer


54
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 5.0
  • Comfort 6.0
  • Weather Resistance 5.0
  • Portability 6.0
  • Breathability 5.0
Weight: 11 ounces | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hands
REASONS TO BUY
Great price
Comes with a stuff sack
Comfortable
REASONS TO AVOID
Not that compressible
Mediocre warmth

The Amazon Essentials Lightweight Puffer is filled with nylon insulation covered by a nylon shell and sold for a fraction of the cost of many other puffy jackets available. If you live in a milder climate or plan to layer this jacket with a rain jacket or hardshell jacket, this can be an adequate option that saves you a lot of money. Though it doesn't stuff into its own pocket, it comes with a small stuff sack if you want that option. It's comfortable to wear and inexpensive to own.

This jacket does not compress as small as a technical jacket, and so isn't ideal when packability is key. It's also not quite as warm as many others we've tested. While the version we tested didn't come with a hood, this jacket does have that option available if you want one. At the end of the day, this is a solid option for folks living in milder climates. If packability is what you're after, the Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody is hard to beat, though it won't be as friendly to your wallet.

insulated jacket - the amazon essentials jacket is a lightweight synthetic puffy that...
The Amazon Essentials jacket is a lightweight synthetic puffy that won't drain your bank account.
Credit: Jenni Snead

Most Comfortable


Rab Xenair Alpine


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8.0
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Weather Resistance 7.0
  • Portability 6.0
  • Breathability 7.0
Weight: 18.3 oz (M) | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest external
REASONS TO BUY
So comfortable
Very warm
Many features
REASONS TO AVOID
Doesn't have a stow pocket
Absorbs water in outer layer
Thicker than other active layers

A warm jacket meant to protect you from the elements, the Rab Xenair Alpine is one of the most cozy and comfortable insulated jackets we have tested. Rab designed this breathable and versatile jacket for activities like climbing, mountaineering, and skiing. The Xenair has 133 grams of PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Active+ combined with 20D Pertex® Quantum Air fabric to allow the jacket to breathe while protecting you from the elements. With two chest and two hand pockets, adjustable cuffs, hem, hood, and two-way zipper, you have plenty of ways to adapt the jacket to your activities while allowing for mobility and warmth. The long hem in the back keeps your rear protected, and the inner 20D recycled nylon with insulation throughout makes it feel like you're wrapped in your favorite sleeping bag. With the combined warmth and wind resistance, we found the jacket to be useful when hiking, skiing, snowboarding, and even everyday use when things got cold.

As you may expect, when using breathable fabric, you sometimes sacrifice water resistance. The shell of the Xenair Alpine sheds light water but begins to soak to the insulation if exposed to heavier rain. Thankfully, it didn't soak through to the inner layer, and since it is filled with synthetic insulation, it still keeps you warm. The jacket works well as an outer layer for most activities but functions great as an insulating mid-layer when you want to use a waterproof shell. If you are looking for a jacket to keep you warm with decent water resistance, check out the Rab Nebula Pro to keep you toasty.

Read more: Rab Xenair Alpine review

insulated jacket - the rab xenair alpine offers great warmth while still allowing for...
The Rab Xenair Alpine offers great warmth while still allowing for full mobility.
Credit: Travis Reddinger

Best Down Jacket for Men


Rab Electron Pro


Weight: 16.1 oz (S) | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest
REASONS TO BUY
Good warmth-to-weight ratio
Very comfortable
Helmet compatible
Resistant to weather
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
No pockets for gloves
Large when packed

Filled with Nikwax-treated hydrophobic down, the Rab Electron Pro is warm enough for a chilly walk with the dog, a backcountry ski trip, and anything in between. It's packed full of features, like an adjustable waist hem, a helmet-compatible hood, and a two-way zipper. The Electron Pro has a drop hem in the back, covering your rear and locking in heat during movement. The 800-fill is packed in large baffles that trap heat. It has plenty of room to comfortably moving around, and this jacket will fit a layering system underneath or a shell over the top. It is treated with DWR, and the hydrophobic down keeps the weather away.

Though it packs up larger than other down jackets, compared to synthetic insulated jackets, the Electron Pro is on the smaller side. It includes a stuff sack, though it isn't stitched in, so be sure to keep a close eye on it. This jacket is also on the heavier side at 16.1 ounces. All in all, we continue to love this jacket year after year. The REI Co-op 650 Down is another down jacket that is worth a look. It is affordable, comfortable, and is available in extended sizes.

Read more: Rab Electron Pro review

The Rab Electron Pro is stylish, warm, and versatile. Year after year, it is one of our favorite down jackets.
Credit: Sam Schild

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
78
Patagonia DAS Light Hoody
Best Overall Insulated Jacket
$349
Editors' Choice Award
76
Rab Xenair Alpine
Most Comfortable
$260
Top Pick Award
76
Arc'teryx Atom Hoody
Most Versatile Layer
$300
Top Pick Award
70
Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody
$329
65
Rab Nebula Pro
$240
62
Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody
$289
55
Cotopaxi Teca Calido Hooded
$150
54
Amazon Essentials Lightweight Puffer
Best on A Tight Budget
$40
Best Buy Award
47
Columbia Powder Lite
$160

insulated jacket - the recycled insulation in the rab nebula pro had a down-like feel...
The recycled insulation in the Rab Nebula Pro had a down-like feel, and the fleece lining at the chin felt comfortable against the skin.
Credit: James Lucas

How We Test Insulated Jackets


Choosing which jackets to include in this review starts with lots of research by our reviewers and editors regarding the newest technologies and upgrades in the market. We then put these jackets to the test in the real world, using them the same way you do or would like to. We wear them while backcountry skiing, snowboarding, backpacking, hiking, climbing, Nordic skiing, shoveling snow, sitting around the campfire, and all the moments in between. We also test and rate each product more objectively and base recommendations on several metrics, including warmth, comfort, portability, weather resistance, and breathability. See our How We Test article for more info on our testing processes.

Our insulated jacket tests are divided across five different metrics:
  • Warmth (25% of score weighting)
  • Comfort (25% weighting)
  • Weather Resistance (20% weighting)
  • Portability (15% weighting)
  • Breathability (15% weighting)

Why You Should Trust Us


This review is a collaboration between some of our top reviewers, including
James Lucas, Andy Wellman, Matt Bento, Buck Yedor, and

Travis Reddinger. James works as a freelance photographer and writer who has written a Yosemite Valley bouldering guidebook, worked as an editor for Climbing Magazine, and traveled the world exploring the outdoors and climbing. Andy is a former climbing guidebook publisher and lifelong and obsessive climber, backcountry skier, backpacker, and mountain town resident who has spent many years reviewing jackets for OutdoorGearLab. Matt has spent his fair share of time in cold weather while working with Yosemite Search and Rescue and several years spent climbing and living out of his vehicle. Buck, another alumnus of Yosemite Search and Rescue was born in the Colorado Rockies and has spent much of his life in California's Eastern Sierra. Travis has spent much of his life in Minnesota and, wanting to remain active through the winter months, has to endure harsh temperatures in the quest to be outdoors.

We put these insulated jackets to the test, wearing them on our hikes, errand runs, and ski trips. We even tested their weatherproofing by spraying them with water.
Credit: Travis Reddinger

Analysis and Test Results


The jackets tested in this category all use a variety of synthetic insulation but tend be either an active insulating layers or insulated jacket for warmth. Active jackets tend to be thinner layers made with stretch fabrics and are highly breathable. They are designed to be worn all the time, can be layered over, and thrive on winter days when you are working up a sweat. Traditional insulated jackets have been designed to be warm and present a less expensive and more water-resistant option compared to down insulation.

We have tested both varieties in this review and while we grade each choice on the metrics described below, be sure to identify which type of jacket — active or warmth — is likely to serve you well and aid in determining the best jacket for your needs.


Value


A good insulated jacket doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, but you should plan on spending a good chunk of change for excellent quality. Synthetic jackets have historically been less spendy than down competitors, but with their rise in popularity, the field (at least price-wise) has evened out.

insulated jacket - the rab nebula pro offers significant warmth for its price and acted...
The Rab Nebula Pro offers significant warmth for its price and acted as a solid choice as a heavier insulated piece.
Credit: James Lucas

The Rab Nebula Pro offers excellent value with its notable price point and excellent warmth. If you are willing to spend a little more, the Rab Xenair Alpine also has a lot of nice features you are sure to be happy with. We also want to highlight top performers like the Patagonia DAS Light and Arc'teryx Atom Hoody. While these models cost a bit more, they are some of the top performers in our fleet; as such, they represent excellent value for your money. Meanwhile, the Amazon Essentials Lightweight is much more affordable, though it doesn't perform as well.

insulated jacket - the das light hoody may be one of the pricier options in the list...
The DAS Light Hoody may be one of the pricier options in the list, but you will get years of use from it.
Credit: Travis Reddinger

Warmth


First and foremost, your jacket, combined with your other layers, needs to keep you warm in the weather you plan to use it in. Though down insulates better than synthetic, advances in synthetic materials are quickly catching up to the superior warmth-to-weight ratio of down. However, the scores awarded to the jackets in this review only compare their warmth relative to each other, not compared to down. Since this review includes jackets designed as activewear and for warmth, it's probably helpful to identify what type of jacket best suits your needs before giving too much importance to absolute warmth. After you know which kind you want, compare like types to like types.


The Rab Nebula Pro ranked as the warmest jacket in this review with its Primaloft Silver Insulation Luxe with Pertex Quantum Pro ripstop outer. With warmth comes weight, and the Nebula Pro was the heaviest jacket in our review. The Rab Xenair Apine also gets top marks for warmth with its solid features and PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Active+, but still ranks as one of the heavier options on the list. Comparing warmth between lightly insulated models proved challenging as the jackets allow some wind to blow through them to help with breathability while others block wind. To pick a comparison point, we rated their warmth as an outer layer when worn over base layers in various temperatures.

insulated jacket - insulation type, hood option, and hem length all impact the warmth...
Insulation type, hood option, and hem length all impact the warmth of a jacket.
Credit: Travis Reddinger

Among the lighter-weight models tested, the Patagonia DAS Light Hoody, Arc'teryx Atom Hoody, and the Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody ranked well in terms of warmth. Some very light jackets can still be impressively warm. For instance, the Micro Puff uses Patagonia's lightweight PlumaFill insulation, resulting in extraordinary warmth despite being one of the lightest jackets in the review. Unfortunately, its super lightweight shell makes it vulnerable to abrasion from rocks and sharp objects. Additionally, the PlumaFill tends to leak out in long strands once there is a tear in the shell.

insulated jacket - the athletic fit, elastic cuffs, and windproof shell of the das...
The athletic fit, elastic cuffs, and windproof shell of the DAS Light helped keep our testers warm.
Credit: Travis Reddinger

Comfort


In this category, we assessed each piece's mobility as well as little details that increased comfort. We found that some moved better than others, and some had features like a soft inner shell or fleece-lined hand pockets that delivered tactile happiness for minimal weight. We also note the fit characteristics of each jacket to give you a better idea of which body type each jacket fits best to help you choose the correct size. Since you aren't likely to use a jacket that doesn't fit well, comfort is something to consider when purchasing a jacket.


A jacket's mobility, or how well it moves with the body, often determines its usefulness. When you reach overhead while climbing or digging in your pack, a model that stays put (without the waist hem being tugged upwards) is preferable. We also assessed how well we could move our arms and our heads in the hood. Finally, we considered the ease of use when comparing jackets. Nice zipper pulls, pockets in the right places, convenient hood adjustments, adjustable hem, and other features contribute to higher comfort scores. The texture of interior fabrics and the presence of features such as soft chin guards add nice touches that also affect a jacket's comfort level.

insulated jacket - we tested each of the jacket&#039;s mobility by climbing, hiking, and...
We tested each of the jacket's mobility by climbing, hiking, and skiing in them. How well the jacket stayed down when we raised our arms overhead made a big difference.
Credit: James Lucas

The Rab Xenair Alpine quickly stood out as one of the most comfortable jackets we tested. The jacket fits nicely to the body without being too restrictive for activities. It has soft elastic cuffs with additional Velcro closure, dual front zipper, soft inner fabric, and the hood and hem are adjustable to snug up to your body. If you are looking for a thinner option, the Arc'teryx jackets stand out when it comes to comfort due to a combination of unobstructed mobility, perfect fit, and soft, comfy fabrics. The Atom Hoody received high comfort scores with low-bulk cuffs, well-shaped zipper pulls, very comfortable inner fabrics, and excellent mobility. We also cannot forget Patagonia who had multiple jackets like the DAS Light and Nano Puff which were scored well for overall comfort.

insulated jacket - our testers loved the wind protection and warmth from the soft...
Our testers loved the wind protection and warmth from the soft fabric and well fitted hood.
Credit: Travis Reddinger

Weather Resistance


We've all found ourselves in torrential downpours and fierce winds despite a bluebird forecast. In these situations, the right insulated jacket can significantly reduce the suffer factor. Most of the products we tested are designed to be worn primarily as a mid-layer with a rain jacket or hardshell on top for foul weather. That said, many users employ these products as their outer layer in milder conditions. We've worn all of these jackets as outer layers in all sorts of weather while climbing, skiing, and simply hiking and have found some that provide significantly better protection than others. All the models tested are meant to have a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment applied to the face fabric that causes light rain to bead and keeps insulation dry as long as it is effective (and not all are). The DWR treatments on some of the other lightweight jackets are far less effective.


Insulated jackets are usually not designed to be fully waterproof or windproof. If you're looking for a jacket that combines the warmth of an insulated jacket with the weather protection of a hardshell, consider one of the insulated coats from our best men's ski jacket review.


Models with a continuous or nearly continuous outer fabric do a better job of stopping the wind. The Patagonia DAS Light Hoody provides the most weather resistance of the products tested. It features a slippery nylon ripstop fabric with a durable water-repellent coating that works in light rain/snow and has a design that minimizes seams where air can leak making it practically windproof. Other jackets like the Arc'teryx Atom Hoody and Rab Xenair Alpine have a DWR coating that beaded water during a light misting, but soaked through the first layer with heavier and longer exposures.

insulated jacket - the das light kept our tester dry while rappelling through a virtual...
The DAS Light kept our tester dry while rappelling through a virtual waterfall. We tested the jackets by spraying them with water and by wearing them in real-life outdoor situations.
Credit: James Lucas

Hood or No Hood?
We enjoy having hoods since they provide a warmth upgrade for little weight, is impossible to misplace, and can be worn over or under helmets. Our favorite hood designs feature cinch cords that tighten the hood around the head and not the face. Although more and more hoods are being designed with only elastic to secure the facial opening, it cannot adjust depending on your head shape or the weather. A hood can sometimes get in the way if you're planning to wear your layer primarily under a shell, but many hooded models tested are also available in hoodless versions. If you are looking for a solid insulated jacket without a hood, the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket is worth a look.

insulated jacket - the rab, patagonia, and arc&#039;teryx behave differently when subjected...
The Rab, Patagonia, and Arc'teryx behave differently when subjected to water but didn't soak through to the inside layer.
Credit: Travis Reddinger

Portability


Since we pack our insulated jackets everywhere we go, lightweight and compressible options are ideal for outdoor pursuits. All else being equal, we'll choose the lighter, more compressible model almost every time. The Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody weighs a mere 10.37 ounces for a size medium, while the affordable Amazon Essentials, tips the scales at 11 ounces for a medium.


We appreciate a jacket that stows away in one of its pockets. Though we don't recommend keeping a jacket perpetually stuffed when not in use (which can compress the insulation), this is a great feature. It makes just-in-case storage in a backpack easy and keeps the outer fabric clean, protecting its DWR treatment. Many of the jackets tested stuff into a pocket or come with a stuff sack but a few of the jackets proved difficult to stuff into their own pockets, negating some of the advantages of this feature.


Among the lightest is the Cotopaxi Teca Calido Hooded. This jacket has an impressive number of pockets, including two zippered hand pockets, two internal drop-in pouches, and an internal zip pocket. Plus, it has a built-in stow pocket in the chest.

Durability
While synthetic insulation has become more compressible, long-term durability is still an issue. The fiber's ability to rebound to full loft decreases with repeated compression, and the more tightly compacted they are, the more wear the fiber matrices incur. Therefore, for storage purposes, we recommend keeping your jackets in their uncompressed state.

If you are looking for the perfect balance between warmth and weight, it's hard to beat the Arc'teryx Atom Hoody. While it is a top scorer, the Atom Hoody doesn't include a stuff sack or a stuff pocket option. The Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody and the Patagonia DAS Light Hoody can be stuffed down into their pockets, except that it's so challenging to get the jacket to fit that we didn't find this feature very useful.

insulated jacket - the ability of a jacket to stuff into its own pocket helped...
The ability of a jacket to stuff into its own pocket helped significantly with the weight and compressibility metric.
Credit: James Lucas

Breathability


Designed to regulate temperature by wicking away moisture during high-energy activities, breathable insulated jackets revolutionized the outerwear scene. The long-standing approach to making a Primaloft or Coreloft product better suited to exertion is to incorporate wind-resistant fabric to protect your core while breathable stretchy panels under the arms or on the sides dump excess heat.

insulated jacket - this jacket performs best during serious movement as it breathes...
This jacket performs best during serious movement as it breathes quite well, allowing for excess heat to escape the body.
Credit: James Lucas

The Arc'teryx Atom Hoody takes this hybrid approach and earned top breathability scores by using a Tyono 20D nylon shell, Dope Permeair lining, and performance stretch fleece side panels. Other companies have begun imitating this style of jacket and they have changed the game for high-energy activities like backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing, and winter running. Pair this type of jacket with a lightweight windbreaker if you need some outer protection.


The Rab Xenair Alpine also received a high score for breathability when moving about. The jacket is designed to keep you warm during activities like climbing, skiing, and mountaineering and has breathable Pertex® Quantum Air fabric, a dual zipper, and adjustable cuffs to aid in ventilation. The Patagonia DAS Light and Rab Nebula Pro also shone bright here. These both have two-way zippers, which can help dump heat if needed and double as harness-compatible.

insulated jacket - the atom hoody gives you mobility and breathability in a lightweight...
The Atom Hoody gives you mobility and breathability in a lightweight package.
Credit: Travis Reddinger

Conclusion


With the vast assortment of choices available, choosing the best jacket can be tough. We rank warmth and comfort high on the list of essential attributes, yet other features such as portability, weather resistance, and breathability may prove significant depending on your use. Remember to think about the type of activities you will be using the jacket for and what the most important attributes are to fit your needs. Will it be a multi-sport jacket that can be used as a stand-alone shell and insulating layer, or will it be a wind and water-resistant shield for climbing and hiking? Maybe you need something that's light and breathable for colder parts of the day but can be easily stowed until it's needed again.

Once you decide on your ideal jacket, make sure you have the rest of the necessary winter gear like Best Winter Gloves, best beanies for men, and Best winter boots to keep you warm and outdoors longer.

James Lucas, Buck Yedor, Matt Bento, Andy Wellman, & Travis Reddinger