We beat the crap out of each of these insulated jackets, year after year. We wore each in everything from sub-zero temperatures in the deep winter of Canada to the warm and balmy conditions of the desert. We put them over and under other jackets in a plethora of layering combinations. We stuff them into their pockets, clip them to harnesses, and cram them into small crevices and corners. Our testing team took them on adventures while hiking, backpacking, camping, climbing, biking, and more. In doing this, we evaluated each based on six different metrics: warmth, compression & weight, weather resistance, comfort, breathability, and style.
In this metric, we wear each jacket with a single mid-layer in temperatures that drop below freezing. We walk for the same amount of time in each piece and determine which kept us the warmest. We wear each while skiing, biking, hiking, and backpacking in cold weather. The warmest jackets with the best insulation, both wet and dry, score the highest.
Compression & Weight
Testing this metric was simple. We stuffed each jacket to see how small it could get. We noted if jackets had their stowaway systems, weighed each on a scale, and compared relative compression volume. Jackets that scored the highest are lightweight and compressible. Extra points are given for those with stowaway systems in pockets or included sacks.
In this metric, we specifically looked at water and wind resistance. In addition to our field tests in conditions that ranged from mild snow storms to rainstorms to windy days, we performed quantitative analyses.
For water resistance, we sprayed each jacket down with water in a shower. We note if the fabrics wet quickly or repel the water, and which soak through completely. We also note if the garment holds water and how quickly it dries. To test wind resistance, we stand outside on a windy day with hands extended to see which jackets resist wind better than others.
Comfort and Coziness
We look at all the comfort and cozy features in this metric. We enumerate all these features and those with more features just perform better. We also look at the relative loft of the models to see which ones just felt better when wearing each. We love features like chest pockets, thumb loops, fleece-lined pockets, and super cozy hoods that are helmet-compatible. We also note which are the easiest to layer.
To test each jacket for breathability, we wear each while running, cross-country skiing, hiking, and backpacking up steep trails through all seasons. With each, we wore a single base layer to determine differences. After the runs, we compare our base layers to see which kept us warm and dry and which made us wet and sweaty. We also look at the fabrics and note any areas of high ventilation and which fabrics provide good passive breathability.
Style and Fit
We note the style features of each jacket and reactions from other women while wearing this jacket. In addition, we ask our testers what they like best and why. We also look at features that offer a flattering fit and which don't. For fit, we note the type of fit, the length of the torso and arms, and which jackets are best for specific body types, and which are more versatile.