The Best Insulated Jacket for Women Review

The ThermoBall Hoody is super cute hosting numerous baffles loaded with ThermoBall insulation.

Looking for the best insulated jacket out there? After scouring through over 60 different products, we selected 11 of the best options on the market. Over three different seasons, we tested each while hiking miles through the backcountry, climbing technical faces in the Mountains, and while skiing down open slopes. Utilizing this experience, in addition to a few at-home tests, we were able to objectively (and subjectively) gauge each for warmth, comfort, compression, breathability, fit, and weather resistance. Armed with this insight, we have provided you with the best recommendations for your next insulated jacket.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

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Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Amber King
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
May 8, 2018

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Updated May 2018
As we roll with the changes of the seasons, our reviews continue to update as quickly as we can get our hands on new gear. In this updated review, we look at a plethora of new insulated jacket options, and highlight a brand new award winner that epitomizes warmth! In addition, find great recommendations for gear as the seasons turn from frosty windows to budding wildflowers.

Best Overall Synthetic Jacket


Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's


Editors' Choice Award

$235 List
List Price
See It

Weight: 10.65 oz | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest
Warm
Super compressible
Outstanding weather protection
Versatile
Relatively inexpensive
Boxy fit
Lacks old comfort features
Not very breathable

Dominating the Editors' Choice podium, the Rab Xenon X is an award winner for four years in a row. Boasting versatility and amazing weather protection, this jacket is a perfect option for almost every endeavor! The weight-compression ratio is stellar, packing into the smallest spaces of your backpack…making it a great option for backpacking or cross-country travel.

The inner and outer fabric is slippery and smooth, providing great layering capabilities either above or under another jacket or shell. While this jacket has many great features, we aren't super stoked on the boxy fit that isn't the most flattering. Overall, this top performer is our favorite, making it a great option for all four seasons.

Read review: Rab Xenon X

Best Bang for the Buck


Columbia Mighty Light Hooded Plush


Best Buy Award

$130.00
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 17.92 oz | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hand, 1 internal chest
Cozy features
Very warm
Wind resistant
Cute and flattering design
Inexpensive
Layerable
Not compressible or light
Not super breathable

While many insulated jackets may be hard on the wallet, the Columbia Mighty Lite Hooded Plush is a relatively inexpensive casual winter wear jacket. Retailing for only $130, this sweet jacket can be found cheaper online. With a 100% polyester ripstop shell and 80-grams of Omni-heat insulation, it protects well from nasty weather, while keeping you warm in temperatures that plunge into the negatives. In fact, this is one of the warmest jackets in this review.

Our only major caveat with this coat is its lack of breathability and compression. While the insulation and shells keep in warmth, it doesn't allow moisture to leave quickly. That said, its best use is for casual winter wear around town. If you're in the market for an affordable jacket, this option is a no-brainer.

Read review: Columbia Mighty Light Hooded Plush - Women's

Top Pick for Winter Recreation


Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody


Top Pick Award

$279.19
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 14.82 oz | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hand, 2 external zippered chest
Warm
Weather-resistant shell
Surprisingly breathable
Wonderful craftsmanship
Faulty and sticky zipper
Shallow pockets
Does not stuff into its pocket

The Proton AR Hoody stands out for its glorious balance of warmth and breathability. This Top Pick for Winter Recreation features 90-grams of Coreloft insulation that runs continuously throughout the body and arms and kept us warm in temperatures that dipped as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit. The shell is breathable and provides decent venting, keeping you warm while you move on the coldest days of the year. Its cute style with a selection of beautiful colors makes it a functional piece of winter wear that ranges from wear around town to frigid belays on your favorite ice climb.

The hood is helmet compatible with an easy-to-use one-pull adjustment that cinches around the back of your head. The gusseted wrists are glove-compatible and keep out the snow, while the collar is high and roomy, allowing you to hide away when the wind howls and the snow falls. While the fit is a little boxier than other contenders, it's a great option for those with a little belly. To top it off, the face fabric is slippery making it a great jacket to layer with a spacious shell or overtop lighter-weight jackets or layers. Our only caveat is the sticky zipper that had us frustrated for a few mornings. Aside from that, this Top Pick is great for winter use (not for warmer seasons) in some capacities. 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 Alpine Adventures


Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody - Women's


Top Pick Award

$168.34
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 11.18 oz | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest
Warm
Breathable
Packable
Mobile fabric
Cute colors and style
High-quality construction
Expensive
Does not compress into its pocket or compression sack
No cinch around the face

As a well-rounded hybrid insulated jacket, the Arc'teryx Atom LT wins our Top Pick for Alpine Adventures for its exceptional balance of breathability and weather protection. Many of our testers claimed it was their favorite for style featuring a flattering design that will have you looking "mountain-chic". The Polartec power- stretch hard-face technology wicks away precipitation while the super breathable, stretchy fabric underneath the armpits provides great ventilation and mobility on the move. While the 60g/m3 of Coreloft insulation isn't the warmest out there, the fabric is smooth and sleek, providing great layering options both above a warm base layer or underneath a hard or softshell. We also like that it feels ultralight to wear and stuffs away into a backpack with ease (but not into its pouch or pocket).

Many of our longer-limbed testers favored the extra length in the arms but thought the torso was a tad short in comparison to other options out there. The gusseted wrists are compatible with winter gloves while the hood is helmet-compatible. While the ticket price is high, so is the value; it features some of the best craftsmanship on the market. This Top Pick wins because it kept us warm, dry, and comfortable through the three seasons of the Fall, Winter, and Spring while skiing, hiking, climbing, and more. We recommend it for all-year use. Take it with you while you hit the grocery store, commute to work, or ski tour in the backcountry.

Read review: Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody- Women's

Top Pick for Breathability


Patagonia Nano Air Hoody - Women's


Top Pick Award

$285.00
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 11.82 oz | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest, 1 zippered external chest
Mobile fabric shell
Breathable design
Fitted and flattering
Layering capabilities
Expensive
Not very wind resistance
Lacks a cinchable hood
Lacks compression pouch

The Patagonia Nano Air Hoody - Women's is our top recommendation for all aerobic activities. This insulated jacket is breathable and high quality. Be it a cold morning run in the winter or tower climbing in the fall. It keeps you warm when it's cold, cool when it's too hot and moves without a sound. It regulates over a wide range of temperatures, earning our Top Pick for Breathability. The outer and inner fabric is soft and smooth, but not the easiest to layer because of its tight-to-the skin design. That said, its a great option to layer underneath a shell.

While the fabric shell does a decent job wicking away moisture, it's not meant to withstand a wet-snow storm or a heavy downpour; it's not the most wind-resistant option out there. The fabric is super mobile, allowing any of its hosts to contort into positions mastered only by the best gymnasts. Ideal for use during winter aerobic sports or while wearing around any other time of the year, this technical piece is a must-have for those in search of a piece of gear that can keep warm and dry while you're on the move.

Read review: Patagonia Nano Air Hoody - Women's

Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures


Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody - Women's


Top Pick Award

$239.99
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 8.07 oz | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hand, 2 internal drop-in
Lightweight
Great warmth to weight ratio
Compressible
Cute design and colors
Expensive
Not super weather resistant

Deserving a Top Pick, the Micro Puff crushes the competition as an uber-lightweight and compressible insulated jacket. We were surprised by the amount of warmth it generates with its 65-grams of PlumaFill insulation. Of the lightweight jackets tested, it has the best warmth to weight ratio and provides decent breathability on the go.

It's a perfect piece of gear for those in search of an insulated jacket that can pack down or compress for a backcountry overnight trip, and is a great additional layer or a wonderful stand-alone piece on warmer days. Our testers love its flattering baffle design and color choices that got a lot of kudos from other ladies on the street.

Read review: Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody - Women's

Top Pick for Warmth


Patagonia Hyper Puff Hoody


Top Pick Award

$299 List
List Price
See It

Weight: 18.60 oz | Number of pockets: 2 zippered hand, 1 internal drop-in, 1 chest
Very warm
Great fit
Comfortable and cozy
Not super compressible

The Patagonia Hyper Puff Hoody is a super warm jacket that offers 100-grams of insulation! If you're in need of a winter jacket that will provide the best warmth out there, this is our Top Recommendation. Take it with you skiing at the resort or while walking around town. The DWR treatment on the shell of this coat offers great water resistance while the wind is cut by all the layers. While it is warm, it isn't very compressible and it's the heaviest of all jackets tested. That said, leave it at home for super sweaty sports, but pile it on if you need warmth in the face of the coldest temperatures that winter can throw at you.

Read review: Patagonia Hyper Puff Hoody - Women's

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
77
$235
Editors' Choice Award
This Editors' Choice is great for all four seasons, functioning for a plethora of outdoor fun.
74
$299
Top Pick Award
Battling the winter season will be easier in this Top Pick for Warmth.
73
$259
Top Pick Award
This Top Pick for Aerobic Activity will keep you protected from the elements through all the seasons.
72
$349
Top Pick Award
This synthetic Top Pick is uniquely warm and breathable, perfect for anything winter.
71
$130
Best Buy Award
Wear this Best Buy award winner on the coldest days of the year around town or on your next chilly hike.
70
$299
Top Pick Award
This mobile and breathable insulated jacket earns a Top Pick for its blend of breathability, mobility, and weather protection.
67
$220
This jacket will keep you warm as either an insulated layer or stand-alone jacket through all four seasons.
67
$299
Top Pick Award
This Top Pick for lightweight adventures will keep you warm and comfortable through all four seasons.
66
$249
Balancing warmth and breathability, this jacket is best for the winter season.
65
$249
This technical lightweight jacket is a favorite among hikers, climbers, and alpinists for its minimalistic design.
64
$249
This active wear piece performs best through all three seasons, touting a great balance of mobility and breathability.

Analysis and Test Results


A synthetic jacket is a key piece of gear for any outdoorswoman. In this review, we tested eleven of the best synthetic jackets on the market, we truly put each through the grit. We shoved each into backpacks, stuffed them into cracks, and wore them while sweating up a storm. We tested each through a wide range of conditions. From the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the lowlands of midwest. We took each through wet and dry climates to truly push their performance.

A look at most of our contenders. Top left to right: Rab Xenon X  Columbia Mighty Light Plush  Patagonia Micro Puff. Middle left to right: Arc'teryx Proton AR  Patagonia Nano Air  Arc'teryx Atom LT. Bottom left to right: OR Women's Ascendant  BD Lite Hoody  Patagonia Nano Puff.
A look at most of our contenders. Top left to right: Rab Xenon X, Columbia Mighty Light Plush, Patagonia Micro Puff. Middle left to right: Arc'teryx Proton AR, Patagonia Nano Air, Arc'teryx Atom LT. Bottom left to right: OR Women's Ascendant, BD Lite Hoody, Patagonia Nano Puff.

After our testing period, we scored each based on relative warmth, compression & weight, weather resistance, comfort, breathability, and style & fit. While all products did an excellent job as a synthetic jacket, each provided functionality in conditions a little different from one another…a reason why there are so many top pick options. Using this information, we decided on award winners based on the performance offered.

A look at our scoring rubric, so you have a good understanding of what each score means in this review. Keep in mind, the scoring is comparatively, looking at the differences between each jacket in this review (not everything out there).
  • 10: Beyond excellent - not held by any other contenders
  • 9: Excellent for its category
  • 7-8: Great and beyond expectation
  • 5-6: Average performance
  • 3-4: Below average performance
  • 1-2: Terrible performance

Value


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. Our price to value comparison chart below highlights which models in our fleet will give you the best bang for your buck. As such, you'll find these products falling toward the bottom right of the chart.


Warmth


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. In the end, we learned a few things.

First — warmth in a cold-weather system is not just dependent on the insulated jacket, but base layers and mid layers are of utmost importance. Any user can get away with wearing a thin jacket in cold weather if a quality layering system is present. Second, jackets with a higher concentration of better quality insulation coupled with wind resistant fabrics are warmer then fabrics that are more breathable. Third, products with longer torso length and better cinching technology are much warmer than those without. While all jackets provided a decent amount of warmth, there are distinct differences between all contenders in this review.


The warmest jacket in this review is the Patagonia Hyper Puff, our Top Pick for Warmth. Not only does this product provide 100-grams of hyperDAS insulation, but the materials are wind-resistant, locking in the warmth. In addition, the length on both the arms and torso is ample…keeping our testers warm in negative double digits. This jacket scored a perfect ten for its ample warmth that was not superseded by other jackets in this review.

The Columbia Mighty Light Hooded Plush offers a combination of 80-g of Omni-Heat insulation and 100% polyester triple ripstop face fabric that makes this a warm contender as well. While it's not as warm as the Patagonia Hyper Puff, it still did well in the double negative digits. The longer length of both arms and torso with the cinching technology found in the hood and around the bottom of the jacket locks in warmth generated by body movement. That said, be sure to wear a quality base layer that will aid in wicking away moisture while walking around town or building a snowman. This will effectively keep you warmer on cold days.

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

In comparison, the Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody features 90-g of continuous Coreloft insulation throughout the body and arms that kept us warm (with appropriate layering) in temperatures that plummeted down to -15 degrees (Celsius). While there is more insulation in this jacket then the Columbia, our testers reported that the jacket isn't as long in the torso and the hood didn't cinch down as well, allowing heat to escape more readily. In addition, the face fabric is far more breathable, losing heat faster than both the Patagonia Hyper Puff and the Columbia Mighty Lite.

Testing in the double negatives on Golden Lake  Ontario during the Polar Vortex. Here we wear the warmest jacket tested - the Mighty Lite Plush  also our Best Buy award winner.
Testing in the double negatives on Golden Lake, Ontario during the Polar Vortex. Here we wear the warmest jacket tested - the Mighty Lite Plush, also our Best Buy award winner.

We were surprised that the Rab Xenon X provided enough warmth to keep us warm in -15-degree weather. While the jacket is thinner than the Columbia Mighty Lite Hoody and the Arc'teryx Proton AR, the lofty 60 g/m2 PrimaLoft Gold Active provides generous warmth while the Pertex Quantum Nylon shell locks in heat generated from movement. When taking our winter walk in this cold Northern weather, we were at first much colder than when we were wearing the warmer jackets mentioned above. However, we started a jog, generating warmth within the jacket and pulled down the cinches on the hem of the jackets. Once we stopped, this warmth stayed with us for the remainder of the icy walk (roughly 20 minutes), keeping our core relatively warm. As a result, we'd recommend this jacket for colder weather when using an appropriate layering system, but not on its own.

The interior pull cords in the Thermoball cinches down the hem of the jacket. An excellent warmth feature that many of the synthetic jackets in this review exhibit.
The interior pull cords in the Thermoball cinches down the hem of the jacket. An excellent warmth feature that many of the synthetic jackets in this review exhibit.

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 also had more breathable face fabrics or much less insulation.

The Rab Xenon X  our Editors' Choice winner provides the most facial coverage of all jackets tested. This adds to its warmth rating.
The Rab Xenon X, our Editors' Choice winner provides the most facial coverage of all jackets tested. This adds to its warmth rating.

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, and we were surprised to learn that it provides even more warmth than the Micro Puff, with its fancy Thermoball technology that is claimed to the be "Better than down". Many of our testers liked using this piece for colder days in the winter and as a hiking option in the Fall.

Testing in the double negatives proves to be cold but awakening. Here we wear the OR Women's Ascendent with many layers in our testing process.
Testing in the double negatives proves to be cold but awakening. Here we wear the OR Women's Ascendent with many layers in our testing process.

The super breathable Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody is the least warm jacket tested. 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 loved wearing it during warmer winter runs or alpine tours in the backcountry.

Weight & Compression


A synthetic jacket is greatly benefitted by its ability to compress into the bottom of a backpack or its affinity to clip to something. In addition, 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 (in grams), and compressed each until they couldn't compress anymore. We also took them on climbing and backpacking trips and stuffed them into all sorts of cracks and crevices. 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.


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 229 grams. It works great as a mid-layer in the winter or as a stand-alone piece during the winter months. Of all the contenders tested, it packs down the smallest and fits into the smallest cracks and crevices of any backpack. Additionally, it stows away into its left pocket and features a carabiner loop. This was especially useful as an extra layer at the crag or while wearing as mid-layer in -30 degree Celsius weather. We loved its relative weight to compression ratio so much that we gave this a perfect ten score, and is truly the best option if you're looking for a lightweight synthetic jacket.

A look at all our contenders. Top L to R (no stow away system): Patagonia Nano Air  Arc'teryx Atom LT  OR Ascendant  Arc'teryx Proton AR. Middle Top L to R: Columbia Mighty Plush  Black Diamond Lite Hoody  North Face Thermoball  Patagonia Nano Air. Middle Bottom: Patagonia Micro Puff  Rab Xenon X. Bottom: All jackets.
A look at all our contenders. Top L to R (no stow away system): Patagonia Nano Air, Arc'teryx Atom LT, OR Ascendant, Arc'teryx Proton AR. Middle Top L to R: Columbia Mighty Plush, Black Diamond Lite Hoody, North Face Thermoball, Patagonia Nano Air. Middle Bottom: Patagonia Micro Puff, Rab Xenon X. Bottom: All jackets.

Second in the running is the Rab Xenon X. 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 (302 grams) than the Patagonia Micro Puff, thus scoring a nine out of ten in this category. 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 (325 grams). All jacket options are great stand-alone layers in the warmer seasons and fantastic mid-layers in the cold of winter.

Jackets that feature a stow-away system include the following:
  • Patagonia Micro Puff
  • Rab Xenon X
  • Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody
  • The North Face Thermoball Hoody
  • Black Diamond First Light Hoody
All the rest simply do not pack into their pocket, but most are relatively compressible.

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. 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 bring rated as the fifth most compressive contender tested. Also, it only weighs 317 grams, lighter than The North Face Thermoball Hoody, but heavier than the Rab Xenon X.

A look at all the jackets with a stow-away system. Some systems don't compress the jacket to their maximal compressibility. Here  the Patagonia Micro Puff (far left) is the most compressible jacket tested.
A look at all the jackets with a stow-away system. Some systems don't compress the jacket to their maximal compressibility. Here, the Patagonia Micro Puff (far left) is the most compressible jacket tested.

Other jackets with a more breathable face fabric didn't compress as well as those with a thin nylon-ripstop face fabric, though they still good job overall and perform well for their function. The Patagonia Nano Air (335 grams) and the Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody (420 grams) is still light for their purpose, but they don't compress very much, nor do they have a stow-away system. That said, they were not top choices if we were to embark on a lightweight mission. They were great for everyday wear, where stuffing them away wasn't necessary. The least compressive and heaviest jacket is our Top Pick for Warmth, the Patagonia Hyper Puff Hoody.

All the jackets that do not compress wrap easily into their hoods  but don't have their own stow away systems.
All the jackets that do not compress wrap easily into their hoods, but don't have their own stow away systems.

Weather Resistance


To assess this category, we designed tests that would measure each jacket's water resistance and its wind resistance. In addition, we stood outside in the wind, snow, and rain. The chart shown here is the cumulative score of both water and wind resistance.


Water Resistance

An insulated jacket does not serve as a substitute for a rain jacket or a hardshell, but many of the products that we reviewed are treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish. Thanks to the differences in fabric and stitching, each repelled water a little differently.

To test this metric in a specific head-to-head test, we wore each competitor in the shower with a cotton shirt underneath for about five minutes. The cotton shirt was a telltale sign of whether or not our skin (or layers in the field) would get wet. After that, we looked at the amount of water each piece retained by squeezing each coat and observing if there were any areas that "pooched up" from water accumulation. We also wore each in nasty conditions to see if our shower tests provided us with the correct data. In the end - it did.

A look at the water-resistant fabrics of the Xenon X. Our shower tests proved that this fabric  and the Columbia Mighty Lite Plush  were the best when it comes to water resistance. That said  neither are waterproof.
A look at the water-resistant fabrics of the Xenon X. Our shower tests proved that this fabric, and the Columbia Mighty Lite Plush, were the best when it comes to water resistance. That said, neither are waterproof.

The Rab Xenon X (Our Editors' Choice winner) once again performed well! With its Pertex Quantum face fabric, it repelled water even when we turned up the pressure; the fabric continued to bead the water and keep us dry. We were equally impressed with the The North Face ThermoBall, as when the material became wet, it held little to none of it. As a result, both are the fastest to dry in this review.

The Patagonia Hyper Puff Hoody also performed well in this metric, resisting water in our shower tests and providing great protection from the water. We even stood under the shower head for five minutes longer just to see what would happen, and we stayed dry! As a result, it scores on par with our top performers! All are great options if you get caught in a rainstorm, and do well in wet snow.

Wind Resistance

Have you ever been caught in a windstorm? Have you ever felt a polar wind cut through your jacket and chill you to your core until you wanted to curl up into a ball, trying to retain what little warmth you have? We have - over and over again. We consider wind resistance an important metric because any outdoor enthusiast will likely run into windy conditions. Jackets that are more wind-resistant are typically warmer than those without, but at the trade-off of breathability.

Testing in the double negatives on Golden Lake  Ontario during the Polar Vortex. Here we wear the warmest jacket tested - the Mighty Lite Plush  also our Best Buy award winner.
Testing in the double negatives on Golden Lake, Ontario during the Polar Vortex. Here we wear the warmest jacket tested - the Mighty Lite Plush, also our Best Buy award winner.

To test this metric, we wore each while hanging out at the tops of high mountains with just a single mid-weight base layer. We rode around on bikes to see which were the most impenetrable by the wind. During our tests, we learned that a few factors affected the wind resistance of a jacket. This includes the type and thickness of the face fabric. Contenders with more layers and/or a more solid outer shell that was less porous did better than those without. We learned that some face fabrics work better than others. Those with the least amount of airflow did the best in the weather resistance metric.

When it's close to freezing  a windy and shaded belay is not ideal. Luckily Alison could layer her Patagonia Nano over a soft shell to both lock in heat and cut the wind. This layer doesn't hack it on this exposed  frigid belay.
When it's close to freezing, a windy and shaded belay is not ideal. Luckily Alison could layer her Patagonia Nano over a soft shell to both lock in heat and cut the wind. This layer doesn't hack it on this exposed, frigid belay.

In this review, jackets that offered the best wind resistance featured a continuous, less breathable shell. Standing above the rest is the Rab Xenon X and the Patagonia Hyper Puff, both featuring a Pertex Quantum shell. The only contender to do better is the Columbia Mighty Lite Hooded Plush, which has multiple layers that are thicker than most. Jackets with a nylon outer like the Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody, The North Face Thermoball Hoody, Patagonia Nano Puff, and Patagonia Micro Puff all have fairly wind resistant face fabrics. The scores differ due to the type of material and differences in the thickness of the fabric. For example, the Patagonia Micro Puff features a ripstop 100% nylon Quantum Pertex shell (similar to the Rab) that is surprisingly more wind-resistant than the Patagonia Nano Puff. Mostly because of the better quality (and less porous) fabric. However, the Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody has a more breathable face fabric than the Micro Puff, but it's more wind resistant because of the thickness of the layer.

Finally, it's important to note the more breathable products we tested scored lower in our wind resistance sub-metric. For example, the Outdoor Research Women's Ascendant Hoody is super breathable, but it is not the best piece to be caught in a windstorm because of its thinner fabric design and quilted shell. The Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody (Our Top Pick for Breathability) also isn't as wind-resistant as most jackets with a nylon ripstop outer, but its base layers are a little thicker than the 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 Patagonia Nano-Air provides the best wind 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. This is one of the reasons it was selected as a Top Pick.

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 Columbia Mighty Lite Plush and the OR Women's Ascendant for their amazing features. The Columbia Mighty Lite features a fur-lined hood and collar that made burrowing down on cold days feel like wearing a fleece blanket. While this jacket is a little heavier and does not have a fully fleece-lined interior, our testers touted the OR Ascendant Hoody for its fully fleece lined interior and soft-shell fabric. Both are unique features that no other jackets exhibited. Both scored a nine out of ten in this metric.

A look at the fur-lined collar and hood of our loved Mighty Lite Plush jacket.
A look at the fur-lined collar and hood of our loved Mighty Lite Plush jacket.

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.

The garaged zipper and softer face fabric of the Nano Air are both great comfort features.
The garaged zipper and softer face fabric of the Nano Air are both great comfort features.

All jackets had some features of coziness and comfort. Loftiness was a significant consideration here. In this realm, the loftiest jacket is the Rab Xenon X. Wearing it feels like slipping into a cozy and warm sleeping bag. While the Rab earned higher scores in this category in the past, it lost some points as the new model does not feature a fleece-lined collar (only a patch of fleece) anymore. Aside from that though, it's super cozy coat, scoring a seven out of ten in this metric.

The ultra-lofty nature of the Rab Xenon X is super cozy and comfortable - especially on cold days.
The ultra-lofty nature of the Rab Xenon X is super cozy and comfortable - especially on cold days.

Breathability


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.


Our Top Pick for Breathability is the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody. It features a quilted face fabric (1.5oz 30D 100% nylon ripstop) with a softer inner fabric (2oz 50D 100% nylon plain weave) that does an excellent job wicking and moving moisture out of the jacket. While this is our top pick, this jacket scores only a nine out of ten in this metric. In fact, the OR Ascendent is a more breathable jacket with a single layer that provides ample airflow. This jacket didn't win a Top Pick because the Patagonia Nano-Air is a more versatile jacket 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.

Steph hikes up to the crag in the super breathable OR Ascendant Hoody  that earned a perfect ten score in this metric.
Steph hikes up to the crag in the super breathable OR Ascendant Hoody, that earned a perfect ten score in this metric.

We were surprised by the breathability of the Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody. Our testers were surprised that while on an early morning run, the single base layer stayed relatively dry as the breathable Nylon ripstop shell provided ample airflow on this aerobic endeavor. As a result, we dubbed it a Top Pick for Winter Recreation 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.

Our Top Pick for Breathability - the Nano Air kept us warm during ice climbing days and dry on long winter runs. It is the highest quality mobile fabric design in our testing pool.
Our Top Pick for Breathability - the Nano Air kept us warm during ice climbing days and dry on long winter runs. It is the highest quality mobile fabric design in our testing pool.

The least breathable contenders are those with a continuous nylon outer, loftier insulation, and thicker fabrics. For example, the Columbia Mighty Lite provides excellent warmth but does not allow moisture to escape easily, making it a fantastic wear-around town coat, but not remarkable for anything aerobic. The Patagonia Hyper Puff Hoody proves to be more breathable than the Columbia Mighty Lite Hoody because of its breathable face fabric. The Rab Xenon X is on par with the Patagonia Hyper Puff Hoody, but more breathable than the Columbia Mighty Lite because it features thinner fabrics.

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.


Fit

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, Columbia Mighty Lite Hoody, 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.

A look at the comparative lengths of each jacket tested. Some fit those with a short torso while others feature longer arms and body.
A look at the comparative lengths of each jacket tested. Some fit those with a short torso while others feature longer arms and body.

Style

When looking at style, our testers all agreed that they love the Columbia Mighty Lite Hooded Plush for its cute features, feminine fit that hugs the hips, longer length, and chevron baffles that are flattering for all shapes and sizes. It also comes in cute colors!

Style is important to consider. Whether you're out hiking or hanging around town  looking great is always a fine extra. Here we see the Atom LT  a favorite amongst our testers.
Style is important to consider. Whether you're out hiking or hanging around town, looking great is always a fine extra. Here we see the Atom LT, a favorite amongst our testers.

Next, we all agreed that the Arc'teryx jackets offer a level of craftsmanship that is unrivaled by any other model. 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 liked 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 Ascendent also has a soft face fabric but doesn't have any side baffling, and has a very basic design (thus scoring a little lower). Both have fabric that stretches to accommodate all shapes and sizes. The OR Ascendent has a longer torso and arms than the Patagonia Nano Air, fitting a wide range of body types.

Conclusion


Explore  adventure  and have fun! A synthetic insulated jacket is a key piece of apparel that will keep you warm when wet and dry. Take it with you on your next big adventure.
Explore, adventure, and have fun! A synthetic insulated jacket is a key piece of apparel that will keep you warm when wet and dry. Take it with you on your next big adventure.

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 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

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Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.

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