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Best Insulated Jacket for Women of 2020

By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Thursday May 14, 2020
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In the last six years, we've tested over 40 of the best insulated jackets for women. In this 2020 update, we purchased 13 top contenders to put against each other in a series of exhaustive tests. We've globe trotted, testing them while sailing the high North seas, climbing big walls in the desert, and skiing steep faces in Colorado. We've spent hundreds of hours assessing craftsmanship, comparing fabrics, and conducting thorough in house tests to learn about the smallest nuances of each product. The result is a comprehensive and in-depth review that'll help you find an awesome synthetic insulated jacket that's built to satiate all your needs and wishes.

Top 13 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 13
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Best Overall Synthetic Jacket


Arc'teryx Nuclei FL - Women's


Editors' Choice Award

$299.00
at Backcountry
See It

77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 8
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 8
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 9
  • Breathability - 15% 5
  • Style & Fit - 5% 8
Weight: 9.70 oz | Insulation: 65-g Coreloft
Lightweight and packable
Very warm and lofty
Exceptional weather protection
Super cozy
No chest pocket
Lacks breathability
High price

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


Best Buy Award

$44.50
at Amazon
See It

69
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 7
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 6
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 9
  • Breathability - 15% 5
  • Style & Fit - 5% 8
Weight: 12.75 oz| Insulation: 100% polyester
Warm and packable
Cute design and color options
Very weather-resistant
Smaller fit, be sure to size up
Not breathable
Poor quality stitching

When money's tight, but you still need a good performing insulated jacket, the Amazon Essentials Lightweight Insulated Jacket is our top recommendation. While we were at first skeptical of this super low priced jacket, we were surprised to see it perform just as well as many top models, which retail for a heck of a lot more money. Its baffled design is cute and stylish and packs in quite a bit of insulation that'll offer warmth through all sorts of poor weather. What's more is the fabrics are surprisingly weather-resistant, offering excellent wind and water protection. Its functionality isn't best just to wear around town but will do on any backcountry mission. It's also insanely packable. If a deal is what you seek, you've gotta check this diamond in the ruff out.

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 noticed abrading on some seams after just three months of use. 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. Aside from these caveats, this is one of the best value jackets you'll find on the insulated jacket market that actually performs well in poor conditions.

Read review: Amazon Essentials Lightweight Water-Resistant - Women's

Best for Compressible Warmth


Rab Xenon Hoodie - Women's


Top Pick Award

$194.90
at Amazon
See It

71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 6
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 9
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 7
  • Breathability - 15% 5
  • Style & Fit - 5% 8
Weight: 8.75 oz | Insulation: 60g/m Stratus Synthetic
Highly compressible and lightweight
Windproof and water-resistant
High warmth to weight ratio
Boxier fit
Breathability could be better

The Rab Xenon once again dominates the competition with its lightweight, protective, and compressible performance, winning an award for the sixth year in a row. It offers an amazing warmth to weight ratio and is built for any kind of ultralight mission; it's our top choice for long overnight fastpacking missions and long multi-pitch climbs. The continuous shell is windproof and offers great water resistance. Wear it on its own in cool weather, or add it to your layered outfit for insulative warmth when the weather deteriorates.

It's hard to find caveats with this jacket, but if we had to scrutinize, the boxy fit isn't the most flattering, and the shell doesn't offer much breathability or venting capabilities. The newest update does have a more breathable face fabric, but you'll find yourself getting hot if you're hiking uphill. Despite these minor imperfections, we love it for fast and light missions throughout the year.

Read review: Rab Xenon - Women's

Best Lightweight Breathable Jacket


Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody - Women's


Top Pick Award

$99.83
(50% off)
at REI
See It

65
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 5
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 8
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 6
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 5
  • Breathability - 15% 9
  • Style & Fit - 5% 7
Weight: 9.40 oz | Insulation: PrimaLoft Gold Active
Light and packable
Mobile and breathable fabric
Looser construction and long arms
Good price
Not very warm

The Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody is everything you'd want in a mobile, breathable insulated jacket. A good price, easy to layer fit, and highly breathable construction. Unlike other mobile faced jackets, it's incredibly packable, which makes it a stellar option for hiking and backpacking trips in the summer. When we slipped it on, we fell in love with its light and thin fabrics, which offer plenty of room in the arms and torso. The fabrics are soft on the skin, while the stretchy construction moves with the body. The hood is helmet compatibility, and the ample chest pocket offers storage when wearing a harness or backpack. Wear it while climbing, hiking, or running in the winter. It'll vent and keep you nice and dry all year round. Plus, the price can't be beaten when comparing it to the high-end breathable jackets on the market. Put it on and leave it on through all your pursuits throughout the year.

While it's incredibly breathable, it doesn't offer great stand-alone warmth. In the winter, you can easily use it as a breathable mid-layer or as a shell with a heavier base layer and fleece. Aside from that, it's difficult to find anything wrong with this go-to layer that'll function through the seasons.

Read review: Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody - Women's

Notable Value for Stylish Warmth


Columbia Heavenly Hoody - Women's


Best Buy Award

$139.95
at Amazon
See It

66
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 9
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 3
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 8
  • Breathability - 15% 2
  • Style & Fit - 5% 9
Weight: 21 oz | Insulation: 100% polyester
Protects in poor weather
Warm
Great value
Many cozy features
Not breathable

The Columbia Heavenly Hoody is a 100% polyester stylish hooded jacket with all the creature comforts you want while battling cold winter weather. The shell cuts the wind and repels rain and snow, offering nice protection throughout the cold months. We prefer it as our outermost jacket, as it offers plenty of room for layering. The smooth interior layers easily and provides great comfort! We absolutely love the hi-pile fleece hood that offers immense comfort throughout the season. To top it off, it's affordable, with the jacket (without the hood) providing excellent value. It has many of the same features, with removable attributes, and is also a wonderful low-priced option to consider.

Unfortunately, with a thicker and more protective construction, breathability and compression are inherent trade-offs. We did not experience any durability issues, but the stitching could be improved upon.

Read review: Columbia Heavenly Hoody - Women's

Notable for Warmth


Marmot Avant Featherless Hoody - Women's


Top Pick Award

$146.22
(35% off)
at Amazon
See It

70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 10
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 4
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 9
  • Breathability - 15% 3
  • Style & Fit - 5% 9
Weight: 14.75 oz | Insulation: 3M Thinsulate Featherless Insulation
Very warmth
Cute style
Quite compressible for the size
Very weatherproof
Not a four-season jacket
Tight across the back

The Marmot Avant Featherless is a popular jacket that we just love. It's our favorite for its immense amount of warmth and weather protection, and our primary go-to for winter weather. The baffled design houses 100% synthetic insulation that is airy. It can compress and allegedly offer the same amount of warmth as a 700-pile down coat! During our tests, it kept us the warmest of any of the jackets, with the best overall performance in this metric. It offers excellent compression and has a plethora of uses for cold weather. Use it as your next belay jacket or as a winter jacket in cold weather.

While we absolutely love it, it's not our first choice if you're after one jacket for year-round use. Sure it can be used as an extra layer in colder temps in the summer, but when it heats up, this is one that you won't want to be wearing. Many testers noted that the back of this jacket can be quite tight; if you're not sure about sizing and have broad shoulders, size up.

Read review: Marmot Avant Featherless Hoody - Women's


We test all of our gear on fun adventures all around the world. Here we try out a few while climbing big walls in Red Rocks  Nevada.
We test all of our gear on fun adventures all around the world. Here we try out a few while climbing big walls in Red Rocks, Nevada.

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 seventeen 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. On all these adventures, she's trucking along with insulated jackets, collecting data in climates all around the world. A place like the Hornstrandir Nature Preserve, a remote northern part of Iceland, is just one of the many places she's been testing insulated jacket. We take our testing seriously, globe-trotting, and exploring all sorts of different environments to see how each jacket performs.

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, split boarding, 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.

Related: How We Tested Insulated Jacket for Women

We start the water tests that take about two minutes.
Take a hike  go climbing  go for a run. It will keep you comfortable through it all.

Analysis and Test Results


A synthetic jacket is a key part of any outdoor woman's wardrobe. Unlike down, it maintains its heat when wet and offers great protection and reliability when you start adventuring into the backcountry. The products we select and test are mid to lightweight insulated jackets that can be worn on their own in warmer weather, or with a layer in the winter. We test each while biking, skiing, hiking, and backpacking throughout all four seasons. After our field tests, we objectively and comparatively evaluate the integrity of six key metrics, to get a comparative score. Our award winners highlight those that fill certain niches or those that stand-out among the rest.

Related: Buying Advice for Insulated Jacket for Women

We test our insulated jackets side-by-side. Here we look at two breathable jackets to compare their performance on one of the first snows of the season at Red Mountain Pass in the San Juans of Colorado.
We test our insulated jackets side-by-side. Here we look at two breathable jackets to compare their performance on one of the first snows of the season at Red Mountain Pass in the San Juans of Colorado.

Value


The most expensive products are not always the best and sometimes those that are less expensive perform better. For example; the Amazon Essentials insulated jacket retails for 150% less 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. The Amazon Essentials jacket is better suited for adventures that require a packable jacket while the Columbia Heavenly is warmer with lots of comfort features and better suited for the ski resort or sipping coffee around town.

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 has been an award winner for many years because it's highly compressible, warm, and protective. It also boasts a good price for its high scoring performance.

Look for deals on last season's colors. Typically these products feature the same performance at a greatly reduced price. For the highest and most expensive performers, this is the route to go to save a few bucks. Performance typically doesn't change much between iterations unless a model has a serious issue.


Warmth


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.


In our testing, we layered using a single merino wool midweight base layer to determine the differences in relative warmth.

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. It's thicker than the Columbia Heavenly Hoody (another warm coat), with airier insulation and a more breathable design. These two jackets are the warmest of our selection, but it's the Marmot Avant we prefer for the coldest days of winter. Since it is more breathable than the Columbia Heavenly, it's also suitable for more active activities like winter hiking. It also makes for a great belay jacket.

The Marmot Avant offers exceptional warmth in the face of cold weather. It offers great space for layering and thicker  warmer construction.
The Marmot Avant offers exceptional warmth in the face of cold weather. It offers great space for layering and thicker, warmer construction.

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 features an Omni-Heat lining that keeps heat well retained in the fabrics. Both the Marmot Avant and Columbia Heavenly are great jackets for winter, but aren't ones we typically wear during any other season.

The Arc'teryx Nuclei FL is layered with fleece and base layer on this cool evening along the river. It provides ample warmth while sitting around camp cooking  sleeping  and enjoying the beauty of nature.
The Arc'teryx Nuclei FL is layered with fleece and base layer on this cool evening along the river. It provides ample warmth while sitting around camp cooking, sleeping, and enjoying the beauty of nature.

Midweight jackets with a less breathable construction are typically warmer than mobile or breathable faced jackets. For example; the Arc'teryx Nuclei FL and The North Face ThermoBall provides 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 hanging out on cold, shivery belays when you need a jacket that'll pack away.

Chilling out on a shady ledge in Red Rocks is a perfect place for this packable  yet  surprisingly warm jacket.
Chilling out on a shady ledge in Red Rocks is a perfect place for this packable, yet, surprisingly warm jacket.

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 breath 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, while the Outdoor Research Refuge Air is another very breathable jacket that's fairly warm. While it advertises 70-grams on insulation in its construction, it's actually less warm than the Ventrix because of the super-thin fabrics it uses. Both are good choices for cold-weather aerobic missions with the Ventrix offering better stand-around warmth than the OR Refuge Air.

Jo enjoys the benefits of the warm The North Face Ventrix Summit while scoping out ski lines on Red Mountain Pass.
Jo enjoys the benefits of the warm The North Face Ventrix Summit while scoping out ski lines on Red Mountain Pass.

The Patagonia Nano-Air, Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid (our favorite breathable jacket), and Arc'teryx Atom LT are two jackets that offer a surprising amount of warmth for their lightweight design, but comparatively, are much less insulative when standing around than the OR Refuge Air or The North Face Ventrix.

All the mobile-faced jackets tested with a focus on breathability can be worn as the final layer with a fleece and base layer built underneath it. On super cold days, all these jackets function well as mid-layers underneath a shell or thicker jacket. Think of using them as apart of your layered system, as opposed to the final layering level. More warmth can be gained by using a shell and a great base layer in your system.

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.


Here we scope out Crestone Peak  a Fourteener located in Colorado. We strap the Patagonia Micro Puff to our running pack. It's one of our favorite choices because of its lightweight construction and breathable fabrics.
Here we scope out Crestone Peak, a Fourteener located in Colorado. We strap the Patagonia Micro Puff to our running pack. It's one of our favorite choices because of its lightweight construction and breathable fabrics.

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), a relatively good level of breathability, and packability. The Rab Xenon weighs just a tad more at 8.75 ounces and packs to an even smaller size. The MicroPuff offers more breathability but isn't as much warmth as the Xenon. Both earn excellent scores in this category with different use cases. Running? We recommend the MicroPuff. Standing around? The Xenon is a good go-to.


We have our tiny rock packet stuffed with two sets of gear and the ultra-compressive Rab Xenon. This jacket is perfect for long multi-pitch climbs as it is packable and warm. A great insulative layer.
We have our tiny rock packet stuffed with two sets of gear and the ultra-compressive Rab Xenon. This jacket is perfect for long multi-pitch climbs as it is packable and warm. A great insulative layer.

The Arcteryx Nuclei FL jacket is built for going fast and light, packs into its own stuff sack and is incredibly light. Weighing only 9.70 ounces, it's an ounce heavier than the Rab Xenon and Patagonia MicroPuff. It packs to a size that's a little bigger, which is why the Rab Xenon wins as the best for its compressibility with a high relative level of warmth. The Nuclei FL is warmer than the Xenon but is a touch heavier earning a lower score in this metric.

The size is a little smaller than a Nalgene and easily squeezes into the corners of your pack. The Arc'teryx Nuclei FL offers the best warmth for the amount of compression offered.
The size is a little smaller than a Nalgene and easily squeezes into the corners of your pack. The Arc'teryx Nuclei FL offers the best warmth for the amount of compression offered.

Baffled jackets like the The North Face ThermoBall Jacket and Amazon Essentials Insulated are other options with excellent warmth to compression ratios. The Thermoball and Essentials pack up to relatively the same size. The 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 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.

When climbing on cold routes  a packable jacket with lots of loft is important. Our favorites are low weight  high warmth  and very packable in design. For example; the Rab Xenon and Arc'teryx Nuclei FL fit this bill. Here  we stuff the Rab Xenon into this backpack while climbing Dark Shadows (the full route) in Red Rocks  Nevada
When climbing on cold routes, a packable jacket with lots of loft is important. Our favorites are low weight, high warmth, and very packable in design. For example; the Rab Xenon and Arc'teryx Nuclei FL fit this bill. Here, we stuff the Rab Xenon into this backpack while climbing Dark Shadows (the full route) in Red Rocks, Nevada

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! This is an exceptionally light and packable breathable jacket. 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.

The Arc'teryx LT packs into a very small package.
The Arc'teryx LT packs into a very small package.

The other heavier mobile faced jackets aren't nearly as packable or come with their own stuff sack because they're designed to stay on the body. The Outdoor Research Refuge Air (13.45 oz) is heavier but surprisingly compresses to quite a small package that you can stuff and store. The Patagonia Nano Air (10.50 oz) is lighter but doesn't compress as small. The North Face Ventrix (12.65 oz) is somewhere in between, but is bulkier than both of these jackets, taking up a touch more space in a backpack.

The Outdoor Research Refuge Air compresses quite small but weighs more than any of the breathable jackets tested.
The Outdoor Research Refuge Air compresses quite small but weighs more than any of the breathable jackets tested.

Jackets that feature a stowaway system include the following:
  • Arcteryx Nuclei FL
  • Amazon Essentials Insulated Jacket
  • Rab Xenon
  • Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody
  • The North Face Thermoball Hoody
  • Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid

The rest do not pack into their pockets, but most are relatively compressible.

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.

Contenders that scored the highest in this metric have the best features tested. These insulated synthetic jackets are ones that our testers didn't want to take off all day long, even after wearing them for weeks.


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. The Peak to Park doesn't have these features, but it comes with a faux-fur liner for the hood. Both the liner and hood are removable. Both have super soft, stretchy cuffs with thumb loops. While the Heavenly has an Omni-heat liner that makes it very easy layer, the Peak to Park has a baffled design, that also makes it easy to layer. You can easily fit a thinner profile helmet under both of them.

The fleece-lined hood of the Columbia Heavenly makes it one of the most comfortable pieces that we've tested so far.
The fleece-lined hood of the Columbia Heavenly makes it one of the most comfortable pieces that we've tested so far.

Other jackets with a continuous shell and baffled design are easy to layer but come with far less featured. Some models offer sleeping bag-like comfort, like the Arc'teryx Nuclei FL and Rab Xenon. Both score high because airy fabrics wraps the body up like a big cozy sleeping bag. They have many functional pockets and features that we love. The Rab Xenon comes with a chest pocket that we love for climbing and backpacking. Unfortunately, even though the Nuclei FL is supposed to be built for alpine climbing, it doesn't have this chest pocket, which makes for poor storage when wearing a backpack or harness.

The North Face Thermoball is quite cozy and layers nicely with other bulkier layers.
The North Face Thermoball is quite cozy and layers nicely with other bulkier layers.

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 that is super cozy. All are easy to layer, as the interior fabrics are almost frictionless. The Thermoball has a 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.

The Arc'teryx Atom LT is light and cozy with fleece-lined panels and a light fit that accommodates lots of layers. What's more  is it has an internal chest pocket that offers storage when the backpack straps cover the hand warming pockets.
The Arc'teryx Atom LT is light and cozy with fleece-lined panels and a light fit that accommodates lots of layers. What's more, is it has an internal chest pocket that offers storage when the backpack straps cover the hand warming pockets.

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.

What can we say? We love chest pockets! The Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid has one that's very large and functional. This gives you storage when wearing a harness or hip belt from a backpack.
What can we say? We love chest pockets! The Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid has one that's very large and functional. This gives you storage when wearing a harness or hip belt from a backpack.

It's important to note that all the jackets in this review are comfortable to wear all day. Some just have cozier features than others. When trying to find your next jacket, be on the look-out for what you prefer. Faux fur? Soft pockets? Slippery liners? You choose.

Weather Resistance


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 perform comparatively.


Water Resistance
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 Patagonia MicroPuff is a mid-weight jacket option that stacks beautifully under a layer. A perfect combination when encountering potentially rainy weather while climbing at the end of summer.
The Patagonia MicroPuff is a mid-weight jacket option that stacks beautifully under a layer. A perfect combination when encountering potentially rainy weather while climbing at the end of summer.

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, Arc'teryx Nuclei FL, and Amazon Essentials Baffled Insulated earn top points 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.

Here we conduct water tests on this ultra-weatherproof jacket  the Marmot Avant Featherless Hoody. Two minutes in the shower under full water and it's completely dry. Similar to other high scoring contenders!
Here we conduct water tests on this ultra-weatherproof jacket, the Marmot Avant Featherless Hoody. Two minutes in the shower under full water and it's completely dry. Similar to other high scoring contenders!

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 absorbed more water than our top contenders, the material didn't hold the water in our shower tests, once again offering excellent weather protection.

The continuous shell and merino wool insulation provide excellent weather resistance. While we test wind resistance on this ridge  we stay comfortable and warm in the Ortovox Swisswool Piz Bial jacket.
The continuous shell and merino wool insulation provide excellent weather resistance. While we test wind resistance on this ridge, we stay comfortable and warm in the Ortovox Swisswool Piz Bial jacket.

Other jackets constructed of a continuous shell like the 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.

The North Face Thermoball is warm and offers excellent weather resistance. We choose it as an insulating layer while heading out to a tackle another long route in Red Rocks.
The North Face Thermoball is warm and offers excellent weather resistance. We choose it as an insulating layer while heading out to a tackle another long route in Red Rocks.

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.

We actually get out in snowy weather! The Patagonia Nano Air Hoody offers breathable protection on this super snowy day in the mountains of Colorado.
We actually get out in snowy weather! The Patagonia Nano Air Hoody offers breathable protection on this super snowy day in the mountains of Colorado.

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 relatively dry after two minutes in the shower. The Atom LT did the worst of the breathable contenders but still left the interior nice and dry.

Breathability


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.


While the Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody doesn't have a whole lot of stand-alone warmth  it'll keep you dry (and thus warm) when you stay in motion...even in snowstorms at 11 000 feet.
While the Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody doesn't have a whole lot of stand-alone warmth, it'll keep you dry (and thus warm) when you stay in motion...even in snowstorms at 11,000 feet.

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 Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody is another notable jacket that you can keep on while hiking uphill  and transitioning to ski or snowboard mode. It's incredibly breathable with its mobile face fabrics.
The Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody is another notable jacket that you can keep on while hiking uphill, and transitioning to ski or snowboard mode. It's incredibly breathable with its mobile face fabrics.

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 allow for better passive breathability through the fabrics.

The Patagonia MicroPuff women's jacket offers excellent breathability that performs while we descend the Crestone Peaks. We also used this layer while fastpacking in Iceland for its excellent warmth  packability  and breathable fabrics.
The Patagonia MicroPuff women's jacket offers excellent breathability that performs while we descend the Crestone Peaks. We also used this layer while fastpacking in Iceland for its excellent warmth, packability, and breathable 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 fastpacking 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.

We find that the Rab Xenon is an okay choice for this wintery hike. It offers warmth and enough breathability for us to keep it on  even when tackling super steep slopes.
We find that the Rab Xenon is an okay choice for this wintery hike. It offers warmth and enough breathability for us to keep it on, even when tackling super steep slopes.

Continuous shell insulated jackets like the Rab Xenon and Ortovox 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. 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. Its fabrics aren't very comfortable on the skin when sweaty though. The Arc'teryx Nuclei is the least breathable of the three because of its thicker design, but does better than thicker baffled contenders or jackets specifically designed for winter use.

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. We analyze the fit of each jacket, and with information from the internet, in addition to our own observations, we report on any issues, relative length, and stretch of each.


The Arc'teryx Atom LT is a favorite amongst alpinists and mountain women for its super cute look  awesome colors  and long arms. It's both stylish and functional.
The Arc'teryx Atom LT is a favorite amongst alpinists and mountain women for its super cute look, awesome colors, and long arms. It's both stylish and functional.

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 The North Face ThermoBall and Rab Xenon will offer more room throughout the body, than a slim-fitting piece like the Patagonia Nano Air.

Jackets best for those with longer torso and arms:
  • Rab Xenon
  • Columbia Peak to Park
  • Columbia Heavenly
  • Outdoor Research Refuge Air

It's important to make sure the jacket fits! Be sure to read about each jacket to learn about how it might work for you. The OR Refuge  for example  is longer and great for those with longer limbs.
It's important to make sure the jacket fits! Be sure to read about each jacket to learn about how it might work for you. The OR Refuge, for example, is longer and great for those with longer limbs.

Style

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.

We love this reversible merino wool jacket that is basically two jackets in one! Check out its cool color options.
We love this reversible merino wool jacket that is basically two jackets in one! Check out its cool color options.

More technical pieces like the Patagonia Nano-Air, OR Refuge Air, and The North Face Summit Ventrix frequently received reactions like, "Oooooooh! It's so cute". Many of our testers also liked the soft face fabric feel offered by these jackets. They have 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.

Layered appropriately  even jackets like the Patagonia Micro Puff can provide enough warmth for cold days. Pictured here is our main tester at Glacier Beach in Iceland.
Layered appropriately, even jackets like the Patagonia Micro Puff can provide enough warmth for cold days. Pictured here is our main tester at Glacier Beach in Iceland.

Conclusion


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