Best Insulated Jacket for Women of 2020
Best Overall Synthetic Jacket
Patagonia DAS Light Hoody - Women's
We are so excited to tout the excellent performance of the Patagonia DAS Light Hoody, our favorite overall jacket. This continuous shell design offers a versatile fit with lots of room throughout the arms and torso, without looking boxy. The hood is huge and comfortable. The shell proves to have superior weather resistance, beading, and wicking water in sleet, rain, and snow. The Plumafill insulation is airy, keeping warmth in while you explore. Plus, it packs down to the size of a small water bottle! Clip it or pack it easily into small packs. Designed for alpine adventures, it's built to go basically anywhere.
Our only issue with this jacket is breathability. The fabrics are incredible at holding in heat, but not so great at letting it go. If you're seeking something that'll keep you warm while standing, sitting, or squatting in the cold, it'll do great things. It also functions perfectly as an additional layer to put overtop a shell. Versatile and a near-perfect insulated jacket fit for any woman.
Read review: Patagonia Das Light Hoody - Women's
Excellent Midweight Construction
Arc'teryx Nuclei FL - Women's
The Arc'teryx Nuclei FL is one of the newest insulated jackets recently added to the Arc'teryx line, and it blows the competition out of the water. Built as a technical jacket to take on alpine conditions, it's almost weatherproof, incredibly packable, and insanely warm for its midweight construction. The FL designation means fast and light, providing functionality on any lightweight mission. For a long time, we've been looking for a warm and packable jacket that'll be adequate for sitting around on high windy bivvies and will take up next to no room in our pack. This contender does it all. Plus, it'll easily ward off a strong wind, a snowstorm, or rainstorm while keeping you protected and warm. Take a gander at our new favorite insulated jacket.
Unfortunately, buying this jacket takes a toll on the wallet. Also, while the fabrics are somewhat breathable, this isn't a jacket that's meant to be worn while trudging uphill for hours. We also wish it had a chest pocket, which would make it much more functional for alpine climbing as the hand warming pockets are unusable when wearing a harness or backpack overtop.
Read review: Arc'teryx Nuclei FL - Womens'
Best Bang for the Buck
Amazon Essentials Lightweight Water-Resistant - Women's
When money's tight, but you still need a good performing insulated jacket, the Amazon Essentials Lightweight Insulated Jacket is our top recommendation. At first, we were skeptical of this super low priced jacket, we are impressed with its performance. Its baffled design is cute and stylish, packing in quite a bit of insulation. What's more is the fabrics are surprisingly weather-resistant, offering protection. Its functionality isn't best just to wear around town, but this is a jacket we'd easily take as an insulating layer on any backcountry mission. It's also insanely packable, getting to the size of a small Nalgene bottle and packs away into its own stuff sack.
Not surprisingly, this jacket isn't as well constructed as higher-priced competitors. It uses a single stitch through the sewing of the baffles, which we noticeably abraded on seams just a few months of testing. After six months, we see a lot more wear than other options. The fit is also a little wonky. A size small felt quite narrow across the chest and armpits. We'd recommend sizing up. It's not very breathable either. This is one of the best value jackets you'll find on the insulated jacket market that performs well in poor conditions.
Best for Compression
Rab Xenon Hoodie - Women's
The Rab Xenon is a jacket we can't help but love, even after testing it for over six years! It stands out because of its amazing compressible ability with lofty warmth that'll keep you cozy on any frigid belay or adventure. The continuous shell construction is both wind and water-resistant that won't scratch or tear when rubbed across rocks and shimmied into tight corners. Wear it on its own in cool weather, or add it to your layered outfit for insulative warmth when the weather deteriorates.
We love this coat, but don't love its boxier style. The newest update does have a more breathable face fabric, but you'll find yourself getting hot if you're hiking uphill. That said, you can simply unzip it when the going gets warm. This stand-out jacket is excellent for stuffing into a pack and adding as an additional warm layer or shell.
Read review: Rab Xenon - Women's
Best for Warmth
Marmot Avant Featherless Hoody - Women's
The Marmot Avant Featherless is a popular jacket that stands out for its baffled warmth. When winter weather hits, this is the one we reach for. The baffled design houses 100% synthetic insulation that is similar to down insulation in its performance. During our tests, it kept us the warmest of any of the jackets, with an exterior that offers more water and wind resistance of most options tested. It compresses to a surprisingly small size and looks great while milling around in town.
This is not the jacket to buy for three or four-season use. Sure it can be used as an extra layer in colder temps in the summer, but when it heats up, you'll find yourself sweating. We also noticed that the back fits a little tight for those with broader shoulders. If a warm and stylish baffled jacket is what you seek, this is our top recommendation.
Read review: Marmot Avant Featherless Hoody - Women's
Best Breathable Jacket
Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody - Women's
The Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody is everything you'd want in a mobile, breathable insulated jacket; it boasts a good price, layered able fit, and highly breathable construction. It packs into a small package and is easy to take along on any adventures. The fabrics are soft on the skin while the stretchy construction moves with the body. There's ample room through the arms and torso, which makes the fit versatile for all body shapes. The hood is helmet compatibility, and the ample chest pocket offers storage when wearing a harness or backpack. Plus, the price can't be beaten when comparing high-end breathable jackets on the market.
While it's incredibly breathable, it doesn't offer great stand-alone warmth. In the winter, you can easily use it as a midlayer or shell with a base layer, but it's not one that'll keep you warm during the coldest days of the year. If you seek a breathable jacket for high output activities, like running or backpacking, this lighter, breathable option is one we just love.
Read review: Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody - Women's
Excellent Value and Stylish Warmth
Columbia Heavenly Hoody - Women's
Weight: 21 oz | Insulation: 100% polyester
The Columbia Heavenly Hoody is a 100% polyester stylish hooded jacket with lavish cozy features. Not only is it stylish, but it's functional as well. The shell cuts the wind and repels rain and snow, with plenty of room for layering. We absolutely love the hi-pile fleece hood that offers immense comfort throughout the season. To top it off, it's affordable. It has many of the features, with removable attributes, and looks great when wearing around town or at the chalet.
Unfortunately, with a thicker and more protective construction, breathability and compression is an inherent trade-off. We did not experience any durability issues, but the stitching could be improved upon. This high-value stylish jacket is truly best for those seeking a great deal that isn't too worried about packability.
Read review: Columbia Heavenly Hoody - Women's
Why You Should Trust Us
As an outdoor educator and adventurer, Amber King has been a gear tester for OutdoorGearLab for over six years. She's written over 15 different categories, providing expertise in gear through her adventures. She is an avid trail running, climber, and splitboarder, commonly found exploring new trails and ridgelines in the San Juan Mountains just outside of Ouray, Colorado, here hometown. When she's not adventuring here, you can find her sailing the high the North Seas with friends from Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, with jacket in tow. When she's not reviewing gear, you'll find her working as the Executive Director for Treeline Education, a local outdoor environment education school, that she founded in her hometown.
Our testing starts by researching over 80 different products for several hours. After carefully reading descriptions, we select the best on the current market. Paying for each at retail costs, we then receive them to test comparatively, and side-by-side. We wear each jacket for at least 60 hours while hiking, backpacking, skiing, splitboarding, running, and more. We test primarily in Southwest Colorado, but adventure across the country and the world to access different climates and environments. In addition to field testing, we put each jacket under the shower to see how it fairs when completely saturated. Yes, our testing is in-depth, unbiased, and honest.
Analysis and Test Results
We tested a myriad of synthetic insulated jackets that stay warm when wet. Our selection ranges from heavier resort-bound options to super packable products designed for light and fast travel. All are subjected to an array of objective tests to measure performance in six important metrics, including warmth, weight & compression, comfort, weather resistance, and breathability.
At OutdoorGearLab, we care about getting you high-value products. Not only does our selection include the top of the line options, but those that we think might offer good performance for a reasonable price. For example, the Amazon Essentials insulated jacket is far less expensive than other competitors and provides surprisingly good performance. It's the least expensive and an excellent performer, meaning it's of great value. The Columbia Heavenly Hooded Jacket is a high value stylish jacket that's less technical and full of super cozy features that we love.
Many higher-priced contenders are more expensive because they use more technical fabrics, which costs more. However, there are still great deals out there for the technical insulated jackets that we love. For example; the Rab Xenon is a superior option that is highly compressible, warm, and protective. It also boasts a good price for its high scoring performance. The ThermoBall Hoody is another great deal with a baffled design that is exceptionally compressible.
When evaluating warmth, we take each jacket out into cold, blustery weather that dips down into the negative double digits. We walk around, hike, run, and stand around wearing similar layers under each coat to determine relative warmth differences. We also look for warmth features like cinching hoods, weather-resistant shells, and long full coverage fits. In this metric, we think of warmth as its insulative value when standing around in the cold. We also discuss the relationship between breathability and warmth and the jackets that do the best in balancing both.
The warmest jackets tested are those with a thicker design and more insulation packed into every square inch. These jackets tend to be less breathable and are best if you find yourself standing or walking around in cold weather. The Marmot Avant Featherless is the warmest jacket by far.
The Patagonia Das Light Hoody is one with superior warmth with airy insulation. Unlike the Marmot Avant, which features a baffled design, it uses a continuous face fabric. The fit is a little looser, which allows more to be trapped, heating it up with movement. Both are similar in warmth, with the Marmot offering just a touch more warmth. We find the Patagonia Das Light Hoody to be a little easier to layer, arguably making it a touch warmer.
The Columbia Heavenly is our go-to for skiing at the resort because of its super plush and cozy features that protect well against a cutting wind and cold weather. It uses an Omni-Heat lining that keeps heat well retained in the fabrics. Both the Marmot Avant and Columbia Heavenly great jackets for winter, but aren't ones we typically wear during any other season. The Patagonia Das Light Hoody, can be worn throughout the year, making it more versatile than most.
Midweight jackets with a less breathable construction are typically warmer than mobile or breathable jackets. For example, the Arc'teryx Nuclei FL, and The North Face ThermoBall provide a similar amount of warmth. The Arc'teryx Nuclei FI is a continuous fabric jacket with plenty of coverage and cinching hems that lock in heat. The 65-grams of Coreloft insulation is insanely lofty, holding air, similarly to the North Face ThermoBalls' baffled construction. The Amazon Essential Insulated Jacket is also quite warm, but doesn't provide the same level of insulation as The North Face Thermoball. All are great options for cooler weather.
The Rab Xenon is another jacket with this continuous construction with 60-grams of Stratus insulation. It's not as warm as either the Nuclei FL or Thermoball, but provides a similar amount of warmth as the Ortovox Insulated Jacket. The Rab Xenon is much loftier and packable than the Ortovox, which uses Merino Wool in its construction. Of the two, the Xenon is the one we'd choose for missions that require a light, packable and warm jacket. But, when caught in a rainstorm, the Ortovox Insulated is what we'd want as it provides the best insulating properties of any jacket tested when wet.
More breathable jackets are typically not as warm because they are porous and breathe pretty well. They do, however, offer better moving warmth, allowing moisture to ventilate into the world, keeping you dry, and thus, warmer when you stop. The North Face Ventrix Summit Hoody (60-grams) offers the best warmth of all mobile-faced jackets. The Outdoor Research Refuge Air is another very breathable jacket that's fairly warm. While it advertises 70-grams of insulation in its construction, it's actually less warm than the Ventrix because of the super-thin fabrics it uses.
The Patagonia Nano-Air, Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid, and Arc'teryx Atom LT are three jackets with a surprising amount of warmth for their lightweight designs. Comparatively, they have less insulation when standing around than the OR Refuge Air or The North Face Ventrix, which are two warmer mobile jacket options.
Weight & Compression
We love jackets that compress into the bottom of a backpack, clip to something, and stuff into their own pocket or stuff sack. As such, we regard compression and weight as one of the most important metrics. When temperatures rise or while you're hiking in warm weather, it's important that your jacket can stow away with ease. To test each comparatively, we noted stowaway systems, weighed each jacket, and compressed each until they couldn't compress anymore. We also took them running, rock climbing on long routes, and backpacking. The highest scores are compressible, packable, and light.
If you're looking for the lightest and most compressible jacket, the Patagonia Micro Puff is it. Weighing only 8.7 ounces, it's one of our favorites for fastpacking missions because of its ample warmth (65-grams of polyester), relatively good level of breathability, and packability. The Rab Xenon weighs just a tad more (8.75 ounces) and packs to an even smaller size than the MicroPuff. The MicroPuff offers more breathability, but not as much warmth as the Xenon. Both earn excellent scores in this category are a favorite amongst our testers for different reasons.
The Arcteryx Nuclei FL and Patagonia Das Light Hoody are two other options that we have to recognize. Both feature a continuous shell design with a similar amount of insulation, and both packing to a similar size. The Das Light is a little easier to stuff into its sack than the Arc'teryx Nuclei FL. Both are a little heavier than the Rab Xenon and Patagonia MicroPuff, but not by much. Both are warmer than these options, with the Patagonia Das Light offering a better warmth to compression ratios.
Baffled jackets like the The North Face ThermoBall Jacket and Amazon Essentials Insulated also have excellent warmth to compression ratios. The Thermoball and Essentials pack down to relatively the same size. The Amazon Essentials comes with a stuff sack while the Thermoball packs into its own pocket. Both weigh about the same, with the ThermoBall offering better warmth for its small, compressible package. The Amazon Essentials is a much higher value though, given its super low price tag. The Marmot Avant Featherless is a much heavier jacket (14.75 ounces) with superior warmth that still packs down to a relatively small package, making it an excellent super warm layer that you can pack while winter camping.
Breathable, mobile-faced jackets typically don't come with this own stash system and aren't as packable. However, the Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid breaks the mold weighing only 9.40 ounces, and packing into its own pocket! The Arc'teryx Atom LT is another technical, breathable jacket that packs into a super tiny package (10.85 ounces) but doesn't have a compression sack or pocket. Instead, we roll it up into its hood.
Comfort & Coziness
Looking to burrow down while the comforts of your coat surround you? In this metric, we look at the comfort and coziness of each jacket. Think fur-lined collars, fleece-lined interiors, those compatible with helmets, and pulls that are easy enough to use with a set of gloves. Some jackets offer the ability to remove different parts, while others don't. We also consider how easy it is to layer underneath the jacket, based on its fit, liner construction, and more.
Hands down, the most comfortable and featured jacket are those constructed by Columbia. The Heavenly Jacket is fully loaded with a hi-pile fleece hood and chin wrap that makes burrowing into it during cold weather, super comfortable, and cozy.
Other jackets with a continuous shell and baffled design are quite easy to layer but come with far less featured. Offering sleeping bag-like comfort includes the Patagonia Das Light, Arc'teryx Nuclei FL, and Rab Xenon. All score high because they feature airy fabrics that wrap the body like a big cozy sleeping bag. Of them, our favorite is the Patagonia Das Light for its looser fit, larger pockets, and hood. It also features a chest pocket, a feature that's hard to come by on women's insulated jackets these days. This functional feature makes stashing a phone or snack easy when wearing a harness or backpack. Both the Rab Xenon and Arc'teryx Nuclei lack this feature but are still cozy and comfortable.
We also like the baffled design of the The North Face ThermoBall, Amazon Essential Insulated, and Marmot Avant. These jackets have hi loft insulated construction which translates to superior coziness. All are easy to layer as the interior fabrics are almost frictionless. The Thermoball has the loosest fit while the Marmot and Amazon Essentials have a more narrow fit through the chest and back. We wish the Amazon Essentials had a chest pocket like these other two baffled contenders which would make it more functional while wearing a harness or hip belt.
Those with a softshell construction have softer fabrics that are nice and stretchy. Both The North Face Ventrix Summit Hoody, and Patagonia Nano Puff are soft to the touch and feel good right against the skin. The Ventrix has more and larger pockets with elasticized cuffs while the Nano Puff has fewer, with tapered cuffs and a shorter fit. The Arc'teryx Atom LT offers similar performance, and is a little more comfortable than both, but with three pockets, instead of four like the Ventrix. The Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody is also quite comfortable with three pockets and mobile face fabrics. These fabrics aren't as stretchy or tight as the Nano Puff or Ventrix Summit, but are a little looser, making it easier to layer thicker layers underneath. This adds to its comfort. All have hoods that are helmet compatible with excellent pockets for sufficient storage on the trail.
To assess weather resistance, we went outside when mother nature offered soul-crushing weather, and went hiking, skiing, or simply stood out in it. This includes conditions like howling winds, snow, sleet, rain, and more. When bad weather didn't present itself, we sprayed each down in the shower for two minutes to determine how each piece performed during a simulated heavy rainfall and light sprinkle. After each test, we assess the fabric to see how each comparatively performs.
An insulated jacket does not serve as a substitute for a rain jacket or hardshell, but many of the products that we review are treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish. With differences in fabric and stitching, each repels water a little differently. Be sure to carry a shell with you if you intend on using any jacket in especially wet conditions.
The most weatherproof jackets are those with a thicker construction, to cut the wind and a face fabric that beads water and doesn't absorb. Those with more water-resistant shells do the best. Of the jackets tested, the Marmot Avant, Patagonia Das Light Hoody, Arc'teryx Nuclei FL, and Amazon Essentials Baffled Insulated do best in this category. Each completely repelled wind and water in our tests, without absorbing into the material or pooling. Each left our cores completely dry and pockets holding our essentials, untouched.
Thicker jackets like the Columbia Heavenly also did amazingly well in these tests. Their thicker materials are impervious to cutting winds. While the shells on these jackets aren't as technical and absorb more water than our top contenders, the material didn't hold the water in our shower tests, once again, offering excellent weather protection.
Other jackets constructed of a continuous shell like the Patagonia DAS Light Hoody and Ortovox Piaz, does quite well when it comes to cutting the wind and repelling water. The Rab Xenon uses a lightweight Atmos shell material, which is very similar to the Pertex Quantum used in the Piaz. When standing on mountain tops, with sufficient layers underneath, both jackets adequately cut the wind and repelled water. Neither is waterproof, but the thicker nature of the Piaz offers more warmth when wet, which we appreciate. In our shower tests, both repelled water for a whooping 30 seconds (which is good) before absorbing completely. Both absorbed the water within the layers of the jacket, with no water going through the material.
Of the lightweight quilted competitors, the The North Face ThermoBall offers the best weather resistance. Its baffled design allows some airflow, but it does not make it impervious to a sharp wind. It does a better job than both the thinner Patagonia Micro Puff because of its tighter stitching patterns. And, the fabric, when put into the shower test, absorbed little to no water and repelled water effectively, making it much more weather resistant than most.
Finally, it's important to note that more breathable, soft-shelled competitors scored lower than other jacket designs. Thicker jackets like The North Face Ventrix 2 offer a little better wind resistance than thinner designs like the Arc'teryx Atom LT and Patagonia Nano Air. The Ventrix Summit and Nano Air offer a similar amount of water resistance, keeping the jacket pretty dry after 2 minutes in the shower. The Atom LT did the worst of the breathable contenders but still left the interior nice and dry.
Breathability is an important metric to consider, as it's important to discuss if each model has the affinity to be used for exercise throughout the seasons. The more breathable options we tested have soft, thin face fabrics or "breathable panels" that allow ample airflow in high sweat areas like under the arms or the back. A more breathable jacket is best for aerobic activities like hiking or running in cold weather. Sadly, they typically sacrifice warmth and weather resistance as a trade-off. A more breathable jacket offers the chance for moisture to escape from a layered system, effectively keeping the body drier and warmer while on the move. If you are going to be exercising in an insulated jacket this winter, be sure to prioritize breathability.
The most breathable insulated jackets are those with mobile face fabrics that resemble softshell materials. The Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody is the thinnest and most breathable contender we've tested thus far. It recently just stole the podium from the Outdoor Research Refuge Air. The entire jacket is quite thin with panels of ventilation through the arms and sides of the jacket. The Refuge Air is a warmer jacket that also has ample ventilation through the back. However, it's not as mobile and harder to layer and absorbs water, where the Kor Cirrus Hybrid simply wicks it away. Both can be worn close to the skin, with the Kor Cirrus offering better wicking power and more comfortable wear against the skin. Both are excellent choices for activities like winter running or cross-country skiing. The Mountain Hardwear can also be worn in super warm temperatures as a minimal insulative layer that you can wear on the move.
The Arc'teryx Atom LT and Patagonia Nano Air are two other breathable, mobile-faced jackets that you can wear while climbing, backpacking, and hiking. They're designed to stay on the body, especially in colder weather. They aren't as warm as the OR Refuge Air or The North Face Ventrix 2 but provide better breathability. Between the two of them, the Patagonia Atom LT is a little more breathable, with fleecy panels down the side of the jacket that wicks away moisture. It's also thinner than the Nano Air, which allows for better passive breathability through the fabrics.
We also love the Patagonia Micro Puff — a quilted contender with good breathability. While the jacket is loaded with insulation and is surprisingly breathable, given its thinner and lighter design. We took it fast packing and running in rainy climates like Iceland, and it kept us warm by keeping us dry. We typically kept it on while backpacking and hiking, without it heating up too much in these colder climates. Of the baffled (aka quilted jackets) options out there, it's by far the most breathable option.
Continuous shell insulated jackets like the Rab Xenon and Ortovoz Piaz aren't nearly as breathable as mobile or quilted contenders. However, if they're thin in construction, they're better than thicker options. For example, the Rab Xenon is super thin and offers a decent level of breathability than other continuous shell options. When in warm weather, we find ourselves taking it off and the fabrics get sticky against the skin. The Piaz is more breathable than the Xenon because it uses breathable wool insulation in its core, with more ventilation throughout its construction.
Style & Fit
As in many of the women's clothing reviews that we do here at OutdoorGearLab, style is an important consideration. We recognize that many women are looking for an insulated jacket with a flattering and feminine fit that will accommodate the length of their torso and arms. More importantly, the fit is probably the most important part of a jacket, and one of the hardest to test and report on. That said, we don't actually score fit, but we do score style in this section, but not with much weight. We analyze the fit of each jacket using a large group of ladies and report on any issues, relative length, fabric strength, and roominess.
When considering style, we look at the cut, baffle shapes, fun features (like fur!), stitching patterns, and fabric type. We also note the length of the arms and torso to help our longer-limbed ladies find an insulated jacket that will actually fit you. We then compare and contrast each model to give you a tangible style and fit rating. Those with more stylish features and fit both short and long-limbed testers than those that did not have these features.Fit
Many of the insulated jackets provide different fits based on the body types testing them. In this metric, we used some different women to gain an opinion on each piece. Some of these jackets fit tighter than others, while others lend a more versatile fit. Boxier fitting jackets like Patagonia DAS Light Hoody, The North Face ThermoBall, and Rab Xenon will offer more room throughout the body, than a slim-fitting piece like the Patagonia Nano Air.
Some women love the outdoorsy look of shiny baffled jackets, while others simply aren't into it. Of the insulated jackets tested, the ones that offer the most versatile style include those made by Columbia. The Heavenly Hooded jacket has a super cute design and various colors that many of our testers love.
If you don't mind the outdoorsy look, the Arc'teryx Atom LT is one of our favorites. Its got many color options and continuous face fabrics with flattering lines that aren't too technical looking. The Ortovox Piaz Jacket is another that stands out as it is reversible! You actually get two different color options in one jacket. The colors are bright and stand-out, and the jacket has a slim fit that is a little short in the torso.
More technical pieces like the Patagonia Nano-Air, OR Refuge Air, and The North Face Summit Ventrix frequently receive reactions like, "Oooooooh! It's so cute". Many of our testers also like the soft face fabric feel on the skin. There are a variety of styles, so take a look at the pictures to see which you like the best. Other jackets have a technical baffled look, like the Marmot Avant, which has become quite popular. This puffy look is made to transcend the barrier between town and trail.
A jacket built with synthetic insulation offers many great advantages, like the ability to stay warm, even when wet. With many options out there, the selection process can be tough. The first step is to decide what you're looking for to help slim down the options. This jacket is an integral part of any woman's outdoor wardrobe, and a big decision like this should be made with care. Enjoy the process, using this guide as a means for finding the best option out there for you.
— Amber King