Have you been searching for the best insulated jacket? We examined over 70 different insulated models and purchased 12 of the top options on the market. We tested each while exploring cities and remote corners of the Earth, traveling the deserts in the Southwestern parts of the United States via trail and cliff wall. We sailed the cold waters of the North Sea, and conquered distances amounting to over 1000 miles of remote trails - all while carrying a backpack. Through these ventures, we noted relative performance comparisons centralized around a few key metrics, and selected the best that earned awards. We aim to add value and critical information in finding the best-insulated jacket for your next big adventure.
The Best Insulated Jacket for Women Review
As the season changes, so do your gear needs. In this update, we introduce two new award-winning jackets. The North Face Ventrix wins a Top Pick for breathability, beating out the old Patagonia Nano Air. The Black Diamond Stance provides ample warmth on a cold day. Take a gander below to discover your needs for this upcoming season.
Best Overall Synthetic Jacket
Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's
Dominating the Editors' Choice podium, the Rab Xenon X is an amazingly protective and compressible that is exceptionally versatile. The weight-compression ratio is stellar, packing into the smallest spaces of your backpack, making it a great option for any lightweight adventure. The inner and outer fabric is slippery and smooth, providing fabulous layering capabilities above or under another jacket or shell. The general loft and warmth of this jacket also made it feel like you're being wrapped in a warm sleeping bag all day long.
It's hard to find caveats with this coat; that's why it's our favorite overall. That said, just a couple we note is the boxy fit and its general lack of breathability. Aside from that, it's our first choice out of our fleet and leads as a top scorer and performer in the field. It's a perfect option for all four seasons, whether you wear it as a stand-alone piece in the Fall and Spring, or as a mid layer on the coldest days of winter.
Read review: Rab Xenon X
Top Pick for Winter Recreation
Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody
The Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody is a warm and breathable jacket that earns a Top Pick for its 90-grams of Coreloft insulation that run continuously throughout the body and arms; the insulation kept us warm in temperatures that dipped as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit. The shell is breathable and provides decent ventilation, maintaining warmth while you move on the coldest days of the year. It also hosts a variety of features that our testers love!
Our only caveats with this jacket are its boxier style and the sticky zipper that caused a couple of problems in the mornings. Also, to make it a functional super cold winter piece, it must be utilized with a decent base layer. Overall, this Top Pick is great for exercising in the winter. Its performance and craftsmanship stand out from the rest, preparing you for anything winter throws at you.
Read review: Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody - Women's
Top Pick for Breathability
The North Face Ventrix Hoody - Women's
The North Face Ventrix Hoody is incredibly breathable and warm, making it the perfect go-to for those seeking a great mid-layer or stand-alone piece. Best for all four seasons, it layers and breathes well, and provides fantastic performance overall. The face fabric is decently weather resistant while the arms offer an additional layer or protection from abrasion.
We had a hard time finding cons with this jacket. The only one of note is the lack of a cinch strap around the hood so it can't be pulled into precise place. Aside from that, this jacket offers a high warmth to breathability ratio, off-loading heat when needed but keeping you warm when you stand still.
Read review: The North Face Ventrix Hoody - Women's
Top Pick for Warmth
Black Diamond Stance - Women's
The Black Diamond Stance is the warmest insulated jacket that we've tested thus far. This parka is incredibly lofty and cozy, providing all-day comfort for wear on the coldest days of winter. The continuous shell fabric provides fantastical weather resistant from rain, snow, sleet, and wind. Many features of this jacket make it perfect for hanging out all day in cold weather.
Our major caveat with this jacket is its sticky zipper and lack of compression. Being a heavy-weight jacket, it's not as light as other contenders, but it definitely doesn't feel heavy when wearing it. The style isn't anything to write home about, but it's cute enough to wear out on an informal night in town. Overall, this is the warmest insulated contender and a perfect option as a winter jacket.
Read review: Black Diamond Stance - Women's
Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures
Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody - Women's
The Patagonia Micro Puff is an uber-lightweight and compressible insulated jacket that can fit into the smallest backpacks out there. For its lightweight construct, it's surprisingly warm with only 65-grams of PlumaFill insulation. We took it hiking in the cold and wet climates of Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and it performed perfectly as our go-to warmth piece. It's also perfect to layer underneath a shell with warmth to weight ratio and stand-out breathability.
While this jacket is cute and super lightweight, the fabric does tear easily. We observed some holes in the material after coming up against some sharp branches. That said, the insulation stays in place, and the fabric is easy to repair. Overall, it's a great Top Pick with many fantastic performance properties.
Read review: Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody - Women's
Analysis and Test Results
Synthetic jackets offer the unique property of keeping you warm…even if it gets wet. It's a perfect piece to don if you're seeking a ultra versatile jacket that will keep you warm despite the weather conditions. As gear testers, we took each of the 12 contenders in this review all over the world to truly see how the performance of each compares. Centralized in SouthWest Colorado, we wore them regularly from the desert landscapes to the tops of the Rocky Mountains. We also tested them in different locations around the world including the cold North of Canada and the remote Islands territories of Northern Europe.
The most important metrics we determined to rate performance includes; relative warmth, compression & weight, weather resistance, comfort, breathability, and style & fit. Through our testing period, we scored each of the products for each of the categories. The result? Being some of the best synthetic jackets out there, each performed for its specific function. The award winners highlight the creme of the crop.
At OutdoorGearLab, our Best Buy winner is often an indicator of the product that not only offers high value but provides a steal of a deal. The most expensive products are not always the best performers. For example, the Rab Xenon X is our Editors' Choice winner and offers the best balance of all metrics considered. Its price point is about average and almost $100 less than other contenders (like the Arc'teryx Atom LT) that didn't score as high.
When evaluating warmth, we took each jacket out into cold, blustery weather that dipped down into the negative double digits. We walked around, hiked, ran, and just stood around wearing similar layers under each coat to determine relative warmth differences. We also looked at warmth features to include cinching hoods, weather resistant shells, and the relative length of the torso and arms. Finally, we note the relative amounts of insulation. All these factors are important when considering the overall warmth of an insulated jacket.
The warmest jackets in this review include two leading contenders. The first is the newly reviewed Black Diamond Stance, featuring 180gsm of ThermoLite insulation. The second is last year's Top Pick winner, the Patagonia Hyper Puff, offering 100-grams of hyperDAS insulation. Both feature a longer torso and arm length to help cover all the essential parts. Also, both are highly weather resistant. The Black Diamond simple beats out the Patagonia Hyper Puff because of its loftier insulation and continuous face fabric that offers a little more in the way of insulation. Both are great winter-pieces though the Patagonia Hyper Puff provides a little more breathability and style.
The Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody features 90-g of continuous Coreloft insulation throughout the body and arms that will keep you warm (with appropriate layering) in temperatures that plummet down to the double negatives. The insulation is warm, but because the fabric is more breathable, heat escapes a little faster than the ultra warm parkas discussed above. That said, that's why it's a Top Pick for Winter Recreation, retaining heat when needed, and unloading it quickly when activity increases.
We are surprised that the Rab Xenon X provides enough warmth to keep anybody warm in super cold weather. While the jacket is thinner than the Arc'teryx Proton AR, the lofty 60 g/m2 PrimaLoft Gold Active offers generous warmth, while the Pertex Quantum Nylon shell locks in heat. When taking a short walk in double negative digits in humid weather, we were pretty cold at first, but with a short walk and cinching down the hem, heat locked in and stayed for a short period. As a result, we'd recommend this jacket for colder weather when using an appropriate layering system, but not on its own. If you aren't likely to experience double negative digits, this may not be an issue.
The warmth performance of this jacket is comparable to the Black Diamond First Light Hoody. The Black Diamond instead features a more breathable shell designed for warmth during aerobic activities like Nordic or backcountry skiing. Other thinner jackets that scored lower in this review had a breathable face fabric and less insulation.
Some jackets function best as a stand-alone piece that does better in the warmer seasons, or as an additional layer for skiing or hanging out around town in frigid conditions. For example; the Patagonia Micro Puff provided relatively more warmth and insulation than the Patagonia Nano Puff, which is surprising given its lighter nature. Both are great examples of jackets that have a slippery face fabric and easily fits underneath a shell or a heavier model in colder conditions. The North Face Thermoball Hoody also falls into this category, providing more warmth than the Micro Puff. Many of our testers liked using this piece for colder days in the winter and as a hiking option in the Fall.
The super breathable Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody provides the least amount of warmth. As an exceptional layer or stand-alone jacket in the warmer seasons, this is not a cold weather jacket, due to its super breathable nature. That said, we love wearing it during warmer winter runs or alpine tours in the backcountry.
Weight & Compression
We love jackets that compress into the bottom of a backpack or clip to something. A lightweight jacket also makes it more versatile for a variety of purposes. As a result, we regard compression and weight as one of the most important metrics. To test each comparatively, we noted stow-away systems, relative weight, and compressed each until they couldn't compress anymore. Jackets scoring the highest in this category feature a formal stow-away system, compress to about the size of a salami sandwich, and are so light we hardly notice it on.
The most compressible and lightweight jackets out there feature a baffled design with pods that are stuffed full of insulation. The air among the insulation is what gives it overall loft and warmth. These contenders scored higher in this metric. In comparison, mobile face fabric jackets offered a little less compression, but in some cases are still relatively lightweight. Let's explore each option comparatively.
If you're looking for the lightest and most compressible layer, the Patagonia Micro Puff is the best option out there!
As our Top Pick, it weighs only 8.07 ounces, making it the lightest jacket we tested. It works great as a mid-layer in the winter or as a stand-alone piece during the winter months. It packs down the smallest and fits into the smallest cracks and crevices of any backpack; we stuffed it into the confines of a tiny running pack. Additionally, it stows away into its left pocket and features a carabiner loop. Overall, it has the best weight to compression ratio, earning a perfect score in this category and earning a Top Pick.
The Rab Xenon X is another option that features a high compression to weight ratio. This Editors' Choice award winner compresses just as small as the Patagonia Micro Puff and stows away nicely into its pocket. The most significant difference between the two is that the Rab is a little heavier (10.65 oz) than the Patagonia Micro Puff. The North Face Thermoball is also a lightweight option that does well in this category but scores a smidgen lower because of its higher weight (11.46 oz). All jacket options are great stand-alone layers in the warmer seasons and fantastic mid-layers in the cold of winter.
- Patagonia Micro Puff
- Rab Xenon X
- Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody
- The North Face Thermoball Hoody
- Black Diamond First Light Hoody
The rest do not pack into their pocket, but are relatively compressible. We recommend reading each individual review for additional information.
The Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody is one of the jackets that performed well in this category despite it not having its stow-away system or baffled design. The contender is thinner than most with a softer face fabric that doesn't make noise. While it doesn't compress down into its pocket, it still stows away nicely into the hood of the coat. Also, it only weighs 11.18 ounces, a little lighter than The North Face Thermoball, and a little heavier than the Rab Xenon X.
To assess weather resistance, we simply went outside when mother nature offered soul-crushing weather to truly test performance. This includes conditions offering howling winds, snow, sleet, rain, and more. When bad weather wasn't an option, we stood in the shower to determine how each piece performed during a simulated heavy rainfall and light sprinkle. In the end, we determined that the designs offering the best weather resistance typically are continuous fabric designs with many layers. Lightweight options that offer a heavier shell also did well in this category.
Which jacket offers the best weather resistance? The Black Diamond Stance is loaded with ample and lofty insulation in addition to a bomber 40-denier 100% continuous nylon shell. This shell is impervious to weather. While it'snot waterproof the insulation retains warmth when wet, and the many layers do a great job keeping the nasty stuff on the outside of the jacket. The continuous face fabric also does a great job cutting the wind and protecting from the elements. The Patagonia Hyper Puff features a similar design but offers a more breathable face fabric that doesn't provide as much protection as the Black Diamond Stance.
The Rab Xenon X is another contender that offers a similar level of performance with its Pertex Quantum face fabric that repels water and wind. This is an excellent option for anybody looking for a great midweight jacket that offers a wind-shell as a face fabric…a unique design for an insulation jacket.
Of the quilted competitors, The North Face ThermoBall offered the best weather resistant. While its baffled design allows some airflow, not making it impervious to the wind, it did a better job than both the Patagonia Micro Puff and Patagonia Nano Puff because of its tighter stitching patterns. Also, 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 the more breathable products scored lower in this metric. For example, The North Face Ventrix (Our Top Pick for Breathability) isn't as wind-resistant as jackets built with a continuous face fabric. However, its base layers are a little thicker than the OR Ascendent Hoody, making it more wind resistant open for those blustery days. The Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody has breathable, stretchy panels under the arms to allow more airflow, equating to less wind resistance. Of these three, The North Face Ventrix provides the best weather resistance because its inner and outer layers are stacked together to hold their insulation in place, providing a double layer of protection, in comparison to the single layer found in the other jackets.
Comfort & Coziness
Looking to burrow down while the comforts of your coat surround your torso and face? In this metric, we look at the comfort and cozy features of each jacket. Think fur-lined collars, fleece-lined interiors, helmet compatibility 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!
Our testers fell in love with the super cozy OR Women's Ascendant for its amazing furry liner and soft-shell fabric. While this liner isn't super easy to layer with, it is cozy and a great option for wear all day long.
All of the coats tested showed some affinity for helmet compatibility. Some, however, provided more room between the collar and body of the jacket. Some jackets like the Patagonia Nano Air, Patagonia Hyper Puff Hoody, and Arc'teryx models feature a garaged zipper, keeping metal of the face in frosty conditions. Take a look at the picture below to compare the helmet compatibility of each jacket tested.
All jackets had some features of coziness and comfort. Loftiness was a significant consideration here. In this realm, the loftiest jackets are the Black Diamond Stance and the Rab Xenon X. Wearing models like these feels like slipping into a cozy and warm sleeping bag.
Breathability is an important metric to consider so we can discuss if a jacket has the affinity to be used for exercise throughout the seasons. The more breathable options we tested typically have softer 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 better for aerobic activities like hiking or running in cold weather, but often sacrifice warmth and weather resistance as a trade-off.
Our Top Pick for Breathability is The North Face Ventrix Hoody, which stole the podium from the Patagonia Nano Air. Both jackets feature a mobile and breathable face fabric that offers some level of weather protection. While both feature a similar level of breathability, The North Face Ventrix provides a broader range of thermoregulation and a higher affinity to offload heat.
Of all the jackets tested though, the Outdoor Research Ascendent is by far the best at wicking and breathing; because of its porous nature, it does not protect as well. While this is a great option for winter running, The North Face is more versatile and suited for a broader range of seasons. However, if you're in the market for the most breathable jacket that does wonderfully on cold winter runs or during a lazy hike, the OR Ascendent is a fantastic choice.
Of the warmer jackets tested, we are surprised by the Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody. While on an early morning run, this jacket kept us dry and warm, being worn with only a single base layer. As a result, it earned our Top Pick for Winter Recreation Award, as it's a tremendous wear-around-town piece and a perfect addition for colder aerobic exercise where you might want a thicker layer then the Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody.
Style & Fit
As in many of the women's clothing reviews that we do here at OutdoorGearLab, style is a component of this review. We recognize that many women are looking for jackets that have a flattering and feminine fit that will accommodate the length of their torso and arms. 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 a jacket that will actually fit them! 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.
Many of the jackets provided different fits based on the body types testing them; to effectively gain insight, we used different women to gather an opinion on each piece. Of all jackets tested, some of the most versatile pieces include the Rab Xenon X, OR Ascendent Hoody and The North Face Thermoball Hoody. All of these jackets feature a longer torso and arms that fit both our short and tall testers with a different type of fit. The other models in this review fit all of our shorter testers, but some of our taller testers mentioned that the arms and torso felt a little shorter than most. Be sure to check out each review to see an in-depth look at the fit for any jacket you're interested in. We would also recommend observing the photos below to see how fit compares with each insulated contender.
The Arc'teryx jackets offer a level of craftsmanship and style that is unrivaled by any other model. Getting many compliments on the street, the Arc'teryx Atom LT features a continuous nylon face fabric and breathable arm panels that transition with different shapes of its primary color. This in addition to its flattering feminine cut had many of our testers eliciting "oooohs and awwws" whenever we pulled it out. The Arc'teryx Proton AR also features these same details (minus the breathable paneling), but the fit is a little boxier, accommodating those with a bit of belly or a larger chest more efficiently than the Atom LT. Both jackets feature the best colors of any jackets that most of our testers loved!
More technical pieces like the Patagonia Nano Air and OR Ascendent frequently elicited reactions like, "Oooooooh! It's so cute." Many of our testers like the soft face fabric feel (others didn't) offered by the Patagonia Nano Air along with its brick baffling along the side of the torso. The OR Ascendant also has a soft face fabric but doesn't have any side baffling, and has a basic design (thus scoring a little lower). Both have fabric that stretches to accommodate all shapes and sizes. The OR Ascendant has a longer torso and arms than the Patagonia Nano Air, fitting a wide range of body types.
Choosing an insulated jacket can seem tough with so many options. By acknowledging what you are looking for in an insulated jacket, you've completed the first step in determining which one is best for you. We hope that this review and our Buying Advice article will help you find your next perfect insulated jacket for all the adventures you will embark upon in the future.
— Amber King