The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Insulated Jacket for Women

By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Thursday May 14, 2020

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.

We travel to all sorts of places  all around the world  testing these jackets. Pictured here is our main tester in the remote Faroe Islands  testing out the Patagonia Micro Puff with a group of friends from around Europe.
We travel to all sorts of places, all around the world, testing these jackets. Pictured here is our main tester in the remote Faroe Islands, testing out the Patagonia Micro Puff with a group of friends from around Europe.

Warmth


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.

Here we find that double layering is important to ensure warmth on super cold days on the East coast.
Here we find that double layering is important to ensure warmth on super cold days on the East coast.

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.

We look at the relative size  weight  and compression of each jacket when packed and when worn.
We look at the relative size, weight, and compression of each jacket when packed and when worn.

Weather Resistance


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.

We spray down each jacket (when we can't find rain or snow) just to see how it stands up to a simulated downpour!
We spray down each jacket (when we can't find rain or snow) just to see how it stands up to a simulated downpour!

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.

Here we test wind resistance in Red Rocks. The Patagonia Nano Puff is compatible with a harness and easily layers. It also stuffs into its own pocket with an accessory loop if needed. Great features and decent weather protection.
Here we test wind resistance in Red Rocks. The Patagonia Nano Puff is compatible with a harness and easily layers. It also stuffs into its own pocket with an accessory loop if needed. Great features and decent weather protection.

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.

We also love the garaged zipper and the height that it protects for cold weather.
We also love the garaged zipper and the height that it protects for cold weather.

Breathability


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.

We took each jacket running during early winter mornings and evenings to truly test breathability of the fabric.
We took each jacket running during early winter mornings and evenings to truly test breathability of the fabric.

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.

A look at the overall style  length  and fit of the Atom LT. Each individual review has pictures that outline the different fit and style features of each jacket tested.
A look at the overall style, length, and fit of the Atom LT. Each individual review has pictures that outline the different fit and style features of each jacket tested.