Seeking out the best women's insulated jacket for your next adventure? After scouring over 70 different options on the market, we settled on 15 of the top models. Seeking out extreme conditions, we truly tested the limits of each jacket. We hiked to the tops of the world's tallest sea cliffs, sailed in the North Sea, skinned up the steep mountains of the Colorado Rockies, and skied down the groomers of slopes of the Sierras. Each was exposed to cold, wet weather, and was soaked to the core in our objective shower tests. Evaluating each using six important metrics, we've identified key performance differences to help you find the best insulated jacket this season.
The Best Insulated Jacket for Women Review
|Price||$234.95 at Backcountry|
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|$113.83 at REI|
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|$131.99 at MooseJaw|
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|$79.52 at Amazon|
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|$149.50 at Patagonia|
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|Pros||Warm, compressible, lightweight, weather resistant||Super warm, lots of comfort features, versatile fit||Breathable, warm, great comfort features, mobile face fabric, great layering ability||Warm, lofty, inexpensive, cute and stylish, removable faux-fur||Super mobile face fabric, wide range of thermoregulation, comfortable, cute colors and style|
|Cons||Lacks comfort features, not breathable||Heavy, compression isn't the best, sticky zipper||No cinch cord around hood||Lacks water resistance, no pull tabs on zippers||Expensive, not very wind resistant, non-adjustable hood, short torso|
|Bottom Line||A compressible jacket that is warm and lightweight, perfect for any adventurer requiring a technical, high performing insulated jacket.||Designed for standing around in the coldest of temperatures.||Offering a unique balance of warmth and breathability, this jacket is highly versatile.||An inexpensive and well-performing synthetic jacket perfect for winter weather.||This mobile and breathable design offers a wide range of thermoregulation and comforts.|
|Rating Categories||Xenon X Hoodie||Stance||Ventrix Hoody||Peak to Park||Nano Air Hoody|
|Weight & Compression (20%)|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Comfort & Coziness (15%)|
|Style & Fit (5%)|
|Specs||Xenon X Hoodie||Stance||Ventrix Hoody||Peak to Park||Nano Air Hoody|
|Weight (ounces)||10.65 oz||25.95 oz||25.15 oz||25.15 oz||11.82 oz|
|Number of Pockets||3 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest)||Two zippered hand pockets, single zippered chest pocket and two internal drop pockets, internal mesh zip pocket||3 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest)||3 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest)||4 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest, 1 zippered external chest)|
|Insulation||60g/m2 2oz PrimaLoft Gold Active||ThermoLite (180gsm)||80g 100% polyester Ventrix stretch synthetic insulation||Synthetic down 100% polyester||60g FullRange 100% polyester stretch insulation|
Best Overall Synthetic Jacket
Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's
Dominating the Editors' Choice podium, this amazingly protective and compressible jacket is an amazingly versatile. The warmth to compression ratio is stellar, packing into the smallest spaces of your backpack and keeping you warm when the weather deteriorates. The fabrics are slippery and smooth with ample room, offering great layering capabilities. What we love the most is the loftiness of the coat…making it feel like you're wrapped in a warm sleeping bag all day long. This is our favorite coat because it simply performs in all conditions throughout all seasons.
It's hard to find caveats with this coat…that's why it's our favorite after all. But, if we had to really scrutinize, the boxy fit isn't the most flattering. Also, the Pertex Quantum shell doesn't offer much breathability through the fabric or ventiing capabilities. Despite these minor imperfections, it's highly versatile functioning in all four seasons either as a wear-alone jacket or additional warmth layer.
Read review: Rab Xenon X
Best Bang for the Buck
Columbia Peak to Park - Women's
This jacket is perfect for wear from the ski slopes to the chalet. The StormLight shell is fairly weather-proof warding off strong winds and a light rain. The insulation is lofty and cozy…making it perfect for wear on days that dip below freezing. The removable hood is huge and insulated, with a removable faux-fur liner allowing for those who love it to keep it on, and for those that hate it to take it off. Since the hood can be removed, it can easily be worn underneath a more protective shell if you plan on crushing it in super wet conditions.
While performance is great all-around, the price does reflect the quality of craftsmanship. The stitching isn't very tight, noting many flyaways, and some of the material actually ripped during our testing period. This makes the durability of this jacket questionable…however, we didn't notice any performance deteriorate after washing it a couple of times, or when getting it wet. While we love this coat (and it's low price), you do get what you pay for. If you're a recreational outdoors person looking for a nice and stylish (and high value) insulated winter jacket that doesn't require the best performance on the market, this is our top recommendation.
Read review: Columbia Peak to Park
Top Pick for Warmth
Black Diamond Stance - Women's
This 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. Also, the 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 on. 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 Breathability
Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody - Women's
This soft-shell like jacket offers an extremely breathable design that is effective at protecting from a stabbing wind and light rain. The interior is lined with a plush fleece that, when worn on the skin, wicks away moisture. The mobile face fabric is flexible, moving with your body while you move. It's perfect to wear on its own with a t-shirt, stacked with layers underneath, or even worn underneath a shell. It's versatile in its function and a go-to if you're looking for a protective shell that will off-load heat while you break a sweat in winter.
Superlative breathability comes with the trade-off of warmth. As one of thinnest insulated jackets out there, it's not suitable for wear on its own in super cold weather. It must be layered with an insulative layer or even shell in order to perform. The only time it would be suitable is if you're planning on pounding out the miles on foot, intending to break a sweat the whole time. So…if you're in need of a jacket that will offer impeccable breathability in cold weather, this is our Top Choice. It's also great for hiking, backcountry skiing, climbing and more! Just make sure to add a base layer on cooler days or a shell when the weather starts to turn.
Read review: Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody
Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures
Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody - Women's
The Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody 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, a great Top Pick with many fantastic performance properties.
Read review: Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody - Women's
Top Pick for Weather Protection
Patagonia Micro Puff Storm - Women's
This unique jacket offers a real weatherproof shell with a built-in liner that offers weather protection, warmth, and awesome features. It's built as a belay parka meant to perform in cold to warm weather, offering great protection from snow, sleet, and other forms of precipitation. The built-in insulation is warm enough for temperatures that hover above freezing and the jacket is large enough to accomodate a secondary jacket or other bulky layers. Its pockets are massive and large enough to stash a water bottle or small lunch, with a built-in mesh pocket that doubles as a stuff sack.
While this coat is quite protective, it's not as warm as we'd expect. The 65-grams of PlumaFill insulation is nice and lofty, but because it is sewn into the liner, it's not as fitted, making it less warm than other competitors. In addition, the shell can't be separated from the inner jacket and vice versa. The price tag is also quite high. While you do get a shell and an insulative layer in one jacket, it's functionally best for those seeking a warm and protective jacket that can't be taken apart. Some people prefer this, while others prefer to buy them separately to make it more versatile. Ideal for wet climates or areas that experience inclement weather. Overall, this Top Pick will keep you protected in the worst conditions that father winter has to offer.
Read review: Patagonia Micro Puff Storm - 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 15 contenders 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. While some did well across all metrics, others have a specific function for unique climates, uses, and conditions. The award winners highlight the creme of the crop and our top recommendations.
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 and sometimes those that offer a great deal, offer great performance. For example; the Rab Xenon X is our Editor's Choice winner and offers the best balance of all metrics considered. Its price point is about average and less than other contenders (like the Arc'teryx Atom LT) that didn't score as high. Our Best Buy award winner offers the highest in value. Great performance at a reasonable price. This year, the Columbia Peak to Park takes home this award, offering amazing protection and warmth at a great price.
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 is the Black Diamond Stance, featuring 180gsm of ThermoLite insulation. It features 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 competition because of its loftier insulation and continuous face fabric that offers a little more in the way of insulation.
We are surprised that the Rab Xenon X provides enough warmth to keep anybody warm in super cold weather. While the jacket is on the thinner side, the lofty 60 g/m2 PrimaLoft Gold Active provides generous warmth while the Pertex Quantum Nylon shell locks in heat. When taking a short walk in double negative digits in humid weather, we found that we were cold at first pretty cold, but with a short walk and a cinched 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.
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, earning a Top Pick for just this function.
Weight & Compression
We love jackets that compress into the bottom of a backpack or clip to something. Also, a lightweight jacket 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 oz, making it the lightest jacket 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 for lightweight adventures
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
- Patagonia Micro Puff Storm
The Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody is one of the jackets that did 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 oz, 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? A new contender this season is the Patagonia Micro Puff Storm that offers a unique design. With H2No shell and built-in insulation, this is the most protective and lightweight insulated jacket tested thus far in our review. No other jacket can be deemed as "weather-proof" to the extent of the Micro Puff Storm. As a result, it earns a Top Pick, standing up in the worst weather out there. If you're seeking an insulative jacket that will keep you protected from the elements in say wet climates or inclement weather, this is our top recommendation.
The Black Diamond Stance Parka is also super weather resistant, but it's not as lightweight or weatherproof as the Micro Puff Storm. It features a thick construct with lofty insulation and a 40-denier 100% continuous nylon shell. While it's not 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 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 The North Face ThermoBall offers the best weather resistance. It's baffled design allows some airflow but it does not make it impervious to a sharp wind. Though it does a better job than both the thinner 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 isn't as wind-resistant as jackets built with a continuous face fabric. Though, its base layers are a little thicker than the OR Ascendent Hoody making it more wind resistant for 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. Both are soft to the touch, and moves with your body, whether you're climbing or hiking. While this fleece liner is a little sticky and not super easy to layer with bulky or fleecy layers, it is a cozy and great wear all day option.
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, 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 it 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 sacrifice warmth and weather resistance as a trade-off.
Of all the jackets tested though, the Outdoor Research Ascendent is by far the best at wicking and breathing. The fleece liner wicks away moisture while the insulation is quite porous allowing one to easily off-load heat. This jacket surpasses other option because of this construction, making it our top go-to for super sweaty endeavors like winter running or cross-country skiing.
If you seek a breathable jacket that offers a little more warmth, the North Face Ventrix Hoody scores well across the board, being more versatile over a broader range of seasons. The materials are a little bit thicker (and thus not as breathable), but it's more protective from wind and rain, making it a great mid layer or stand-alone jacket. The Arc'teryx Atom LT offers a similar level of breathability with a less fitted construction and less warmth.
The Atom LT is a great option as a mid-layer in the winter or as a wear-alone option while climbing or hiking in the shoulder seasons. Both offer breathability right through the face of the fabric, with the Atom LT sporting nifty vents along the armpits and sides of the jacket, with thinner materials.
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. In this metric, we used some different women to gain an opinion on each piece. Of all jackets tested, some of the most versatile pieces include the Rab Xenon X, OR Ascendent Hoody, Patagonia Micro Puff Strom, and The North Face Thermoball Hoody. All of these options feature a longer torso and arms that fit our short and tall testers.
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. It features the best colors of any jackets that most of our testers loved!
More technical pieces like the Patagonia Nano Air, OR Refuge, 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 and the OR Refuge. 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 fabrics that stretch 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. We really liked the OR Refuge because while the fabrics aren't super tight, they have a nice hourglass shape and flattering stitching (and color) patterns.
Choosing an insulated jacket can seem tough with so many options. Though, by acknowledging what you are looking for in an insulated jacket is the first step to determine which one is best for you. We hope that this review will help you find your next perfect insulated jacket for all the adventures you will embark upon in the future.
— Amber King