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Best Insulated Jacket for Women of 2021

Our main tester enjoys a high perch on the Yellow Brick Road multi-pit...
Photo: Amber King
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Wednesday May 12, 2021
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Our outdoor experts have tested 25 of the best insulated jackets for women over the last 8 years. This update features 14 of the cutest and high-performing on the market. Our team of ladies has tested them all over the world including sailing adventures around Iceland, multi-pitch climbing across the USA, and on several backcountry ski and hiking trips. Not only do we wear them throughout the year, but we also carefully inspect and compare each to learn about slight performance details. This thorough and hands-on review offers you unbiased recommendations to help you find your next jacket to keep you warm throughout the seasons.

Top 14 Product Ratings

Displaying 11 - 14 of 14
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Awards  Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $259.00 at Backcountry
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$47.10 at Amazon$140.00 at Backcountry
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Pros Attractive style and fit, breathable, water resistant, cute colorsWarm, packable, light, unbeatable price, excellent weather protectionGreat style and colors, lightweight warmth, warm when wet, versatile use, durableVery breathable, relatively warm for weight, good wind protection, packable and light, good price
Cons Small pockets, lacks wind resistance, no stow-away system, expensiveLess durable construction, not breathableExpensive, not super packableLacks water resistance, absorbent material
Bottom Line A technical and stylish mobile-jacket suited for most adventuresA warm, comfortable, high value baffled jacket with excellent performanceA veratile wool-insulated jacket with fantastic overall performanceStay warm and dry while tackling your most aerobic adventures in cold weather
Rating Categories Atom LT Hoody Essentials Lightweight Water... Swisswool Piz Bial Refuge Air Hoody
Warmth (25%)
4
7
6
6
Weight & Compression (20%)
7
6
5
4
Comfort & Coziness (20%)
8
7
5
5
Weather Resistance (15%)
5
5
6
4
Breathability (15%)
8
5
8
10
Style & Fit (5%)
8
7
8
4
Specs Atom LT Hoody Essentials... Swisswool Piz Bial Refuge Air Hoody
Weight 10.85 oz 12.75 oz 12 oz 13.45 oz
Number of Pockets 3 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest) 4 (2 handwarmer, two internal) 3 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest) 3 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest)
Insulation 60g/m squared Coreloft 100% polyester 88% virgin wool, 12% polylactide 70 g/m^3 VerticalX Air 100% polyester 75D insulation
Outer Fabric Tyno 20D Shell, Polartec Power Stretch with Hardface Technology - 88% polyester, 12% elastane, 230 g/m squared 100% polyester 100% recycled nylon Pertex Quantum Pertex Quantum Air 59% recycled nylon, 41% nylon mini rip stop, 100% polyester
Lining Synthetic textile 100% Polyester 100% nylon 50D warp knit tricot
Hood Option? Yes Yes No Yes
Built-in stash pocket? No Yes No No
Cuff construction Stretch-knit Elasticized cuffs Elasticized cuffs Elasticized cuffs


Best Overall Insulated Jacket


Patagonia DAS Light Hoody - Women's


83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 9
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 8
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 9
  • Breathability - 15% 6
  • Style & Fit - 5% 8
Weight: 10.50 oz | Insulation: 65 g Plumafill
Superior warmth
Cozy and lofty
Large, helmet-compatible hood
Not very breathable

For many reasons, the Patagonia DAS Light Hoody is our favorite jacket. It features a continuous shell design, with a roomy fit throughout the arms and torso. The hood is huge and has enough space to easily accommodate a helmet. The shell offers superior weather resistance, beading, and wicking water in sleet, rain, and snow. The Plumafill insulation is airy and warm, which allows it to pack down to the size of a one-liter bottle. Designed for alpine adventures, with climbers in mind, it's built to go anywhere.

Breathability and durability are a few caveats. The fabric has a continuous design, so it doesn't vent through the fabric at all. Also, we noticed that while the shell is good at resisting tears, it got cut with the edge of a sharp snowboard, so it's not the most durable. If you're looking for a warm and compressible jacket that's versatile for all seasons, this is our top pick.

Read review: Patagonia Das Light Hoody - Women's

Best Midweight Construction


Arc'teryx Nuclei FL - Women's


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 8
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 8
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 10
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 9
  • Breathability - 15% 5
  • Style & Fit - 5% 8
Weight: 9.70 oz | Insulation: 65-g Coreloft
Lightweight and packable
Very warm and lofty
Exceptional weather protection
Super cozy
No chest pocket
Lacks breathability
High price

The Arc'teryx Nuclei FL is built as a technical jacket to take on alpine conditions; it's almost weatherproof, and is incredibly packable and insanely warm. The FL designation means fast and light, providing functionality on any lightweight mission. For a long time, we've been looking for a warm and packable jacket that is adequate for sitting around on high windy bivvies while taking up next to no room in our pack. We're happy to say we've found it.

Unfortunately, it is expensive. While the fabrics are somewhat breathable, it's not our first choice for hotter uphill slots as it bolds in heat. We also wish it had a chest pocket. Aside from these caveats, this is the best midweight jacket we've tested that is both lighter weight and very packable.

Read review: Arc'teryx Nuclei FL - Women's

Best for Compression


Rab Xenon Hoodie - Women's


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 6
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 9
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 8
  • Breathability - 15% 5
  • Style & Fit - 5% 7
Weight: 8.75 oz | Insulation: 60g/m Stratus Synthetic
Highly compressible and lightweight
Windproof and water-resistant
High warmth to weight ratio
Boxier fit
Breathability could be better

The Rab Xenon is a jacket we still love after seven years of testing. It stands out because of its amazing compressible ability with lofty warmth that'll keep you cozy on any frigid belay or adventure. The continuous shell construction is both wind and water-resistant that won't scratch or tear when rubbed across rocks and shimmied into tight corners. Wear it on its own in cool weather, or add it to your layered outfit for insulative warmth when the weather deteriorates.

We love this coat but don't love its boxier fit. The newest update has a more breathable face fabric, but you'll find yourself getting hot if you're hiking uphill. That said, you can simply unzip it when the going gets warm. This stand-out jacket is excellent for stuffing into a pack and adding as an additional warm layer or shell.

Read review: Rab Xenon - Women's

Best Bang for the Buck


Amazon Essentials Lightweight Water-Resistant - Women's


62
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 7
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 6
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 5
  • Breathability - 15% 5
  • Style & Fit - 5% 7
Weight: 12.75 oz | Insulation: 100% polyester
Warm and packable
Cute design and color options
Very weather-resistant
Smaller fit, be sure to size up
Not breathable
Poor quality stitching

The Amazon Essentials Lightweight Insulated Jacket stands out as a budget-friendly option that's warm with decent performance. At first, we were a little skeptical of it because of the lower price, but we were pleasantly surprised. While the baffle design is cute, it's also warm and suited for cooler to cold days. The fabrics are also surprisingly weather-resistant, offering protection for a winter storm or light rain. It's also insanely packable, getting to the size of a small Nalgene bottle and packs away into its own stuff sack. Overall, we think it's cute, warm, packable, and offered at a wonderful price.

Unfortunately, stitching construction isn't top tier, using only a single stitch through the seams of the baffles. The seams have noticeably abraded after just a few months of testing. The fit is also smaller through the chest and armpits, so we recommend sizing up if you're on the fence. If you're looking for a well-priced baffled jacket at a good price, this is one we recommend.

Read review: Amazon Essentials Lightweight Water-Resistant - Women's

Best for Warmth


Marmot Avant Featherless Hoody - Women's


73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 10
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 4
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 10
  • Breathability - 15% 3
  • Style & Fit - 5% 9
Weight: 14.75 oz | Insulation: 3M Thinsulate Featherless Insulation
Very warmth
Cute style
Quite compressible for the size
Very weatherproof
Tight across the back

The Marmot Avant Featherless is a popular jacket that stands out for its baffling warmth. When winter weather hits, this is the one we reach for; the baffled design houses 100% synthetic insulation that is similar to down. The shell also offers excellent water and wind resistance. It compresses to a surprisingly small size and looks great with its polished, shiny finish.

This is not the jacket to use for all seasons. Sure it can be used as an extra layer in colder temps in the summer, but when it heats up, you'll find yourself sweating. We also notice that it is a little tight across the shoulders and back. If you are broad-shouldered, you might want to look at a different option. If a warm and stylish baffled jacket is what you seek, this is our top recommendation.

Read review: Marmot Avant Featherless Hoody - Women's

Best for Breathablility


Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody - Women's


65
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 4
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 9
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 6
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 5
  • Breathability - 15% 9
  • Style & Fit - 5% 7
Weight: 9.40 oz | Insulation: PrimaLoft Gold Active
Light and packable
Mobile and breathable fabric
Looser construction and long arms
Good price
Not very warm

The Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody is everything you'd want in a mobile, breathable insulated jacket. It boasts a good price, layerable fit, and highly breathable construction. It packs into a small package and is easy to take along on any adventure. The fabrics are soft on the skin, while the stretchy construction moves with the body. There's ample room through the arms and torso, making the fit versatile for all body shapes. The hood is helmet-compatible with a voluminous chest pocket that offers excellent storage when wearing a harness or backpack.

While it's incredibly breathable, it doesn't offer great standalone warmth. In the winter, you can easily use it as a midlayer or shell with a base layer, but it's not one that'll keep you warm during the coldest days of the year. If you seek a breathable jacket for high output activities, like running or backpacking, this lighter, breathable option is one we just love.

Read review: Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody - Women's

Excellent Style and Value


Columbia Heavenly Hoody - Women's


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 9
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 3
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 10
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 9
  • Breathability - 15% 2
  • Style & Fit - 5% 9
]
Weight: 21 oz | Insulation: 100% polyester
Protects in poor weather
Warm
Great value
Many cozy features
Not breathable

The Columbia Heavenly Hoody is a 100% polyester stylish hooded jacket with lavish cozy features. Not only is it stylish, but it's functional as well. The shell cuts the wind and repels rain and snow, with plenty of room for layering. We absolutely love the hi-pile fleece hood that offers immense comfort throughout the season. To top it off, it's affordable. It has many of the features, with removable attributes, and looks great when wearing around town or at the chalet.

Unfortunately, with a thicker and more protective construction, breathability and compression are an inherent trade-off. We did not experience any durability issues, but the stitching could be improved upon. This high-value stylish jacket is truly best for those seeking a great deal.

Read review: Columbia Heavenly Hoody - Women's

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
83
$329
Editors' Choice Award
Warm and comfortable with excellent compression, this continuous shell design is really hard to beat
81
$300
Editors' Choice Award
A high performing technical jacket offering weather protection, warmth, and all day comfort
74
$195
Editors' Choice Award
Protective, warm and compressive, our favorite for our ultralight adventurers
73
$225
Top Pick Award
Warm and packable, a great jacket for hanging out in the cold
70
$140
Best Buy Award
This non technical insulated model is offered at a great price for wear in the winter
69
$280
Breathable and warm offering versatile performance
68
$299
A quilted jacket with lightweight warmth and great packability
66
$220
A high value quilted jacket that'll keep you warm on all kinds of adventures
65
$200
Top Pick Award
A packable insulated jacket with exceptional breathability
64
$299
Keep it on while you start and stop, all day, while on the move
64
$259
Stylish and breathable, this cute coat has an arsenal of functions
62
$45
Best Buy Award
Boasts excellent performance at an excellent price
60
$280
A reversible wool-insulated jacket with optimal performance
56
$229
Top Pick Award
Take on cold weather adventures in this warm yet breathable jacket

Testing side-by-side we do everything from hanging with friends to...
Testing side-by-side we do everything from hanging with friends to skiing to climbing up tall cliffs. Each jacket is truly put to the test.
Photo: Amber King

Why You Should Trust Us


As an outdoor educator and adventurer, Amber King has been a gear tester for OutdoorGearLab for over six years. She's written over 15 different categories, providing expertise in gear through her adventures. She is an avid trail running, climber, and splitboarder, commonly found exploring new trails and ridgelines in the San Juan Mountains just outside of Ouray, Colorado, her hometown. When she's not adventuring here, you can find her sailing the high the North Seas with friends from Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, with jacket in tow. When she's not reviewing gear, you'll find her working as the Executive Director for Treeline Education, a local outdoor environment education school, that she founded in her hometown.

We researched over 80 different products for this review. After carefully reading descriptions, we selected the best on the current market. Paying for each at retail cost, we then tested them comparatively, side-by-side. We wore each jacket for 60+ hours while hiking, backpacking, skiing, splitboarding, running, and more. We tested primarily in Southwest Colorado, but adventured across the country and the world to access different climates and environments. In addition to field testing, we put each jacket under the shower to see how it fared when completely saturated. Yes, our testing is in-depth, unbiased, and honest.

Related: How We Tested Insulated Jacket for Women

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Analysis and Test Results


We tested a myriad of synthetic insulated jackets that stay warm when wet. Our selection ranges from heavier resort-bound options to super packable products designed for light and fast travel. All are subjected to an array of objective tests to measure performance in six important metrics, including warmth, weight & compression, comfort, weather resistance, and breathability.

Related: Buying Advice for Insulated Jacket for Women

Photo: Amber King

Value


At OutdoorGearLab, we care about high-value products. Not only does our selection include the top-of-the-line options, but those that we think might offer good performance for a reasonable price. For example, the Amazon Essentials insulated jacket is far less expensive than other competitors and provides surprisingly good performance. It's the least expensive and an excellent performer, meaning it's of great value. The Columbia Heavenly Hooded Jacket is a high value stylish jacket that's less technical and full of super cozy features that we love.

Many higher-priced contenders are more expensive because they use more technical fabrics, which costs more. However, there are still great deals out there for the technical insulated jackets that we love. For example; the Rab Xenon is a superior option that is highly compressible, warm, and protective. It also boasts a good price for its high-scoring performance. The ThermoBall Hoody is another great deal with a baffle design that is exceptionally compressible.

Look for deals on last season's colors.


Warmth


When evaluating warmth, we take each jacket out into cold, blustery weather that dips down into the negative double digits. We walk around, hike, run, and stand around wearing similar layers under each coat to determine relative warmth differences. We also look for warmth features like cinching hoods, weather-resistant shells, and long full coverage fits. In this metric, we think of warmth as its insulative value when standing around in the cold. We also discuss the relationship between breathability and warmth and the jackets that do the best in balancing both.


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

The Marmot Avant offers exceptional warmth in the face of cold...
The Marmot Avant offers exceptional warmth in the face of cold weather. It offers great space for layering and thicker, warmer construction.
Photo: Amber King

The warmest jackets tested are those with a thicker design and more insulation packed into every square inch. These jackets tend to be less breathable and are best if you find yourself standing or walking around in cold weather. The Marmot Avant Featherless is the warmest jacket by far.

The Patagonia Das Light Hoody is one with superior warmth with airy insulation. Unlike the Marmot Avant, which features a baffled design, it uses a continuous face fabric. The fit is a little looser, which allows more to be trapped, heating it up with movement. Both are similar in warmth, with the Marmot offering just a touch more warmth. We find the Patagonia Das Light Hoody to be a little easier to layer, arguably making it a touch warmer.

Testing the Columbia Peak to Park on a really cold day in Tahoe. It...
Testing the Columbia Peak to Park on a really cold day in Tahoe. It offers exceptional warmth, even when temps are dipping incredibly low.
Photo: Amber King

The Columbia Heavenly is our go-to for skiing at the resort because of its super plush and cozy features that protect well against a cutting wind and cold weather. It uses an Omni-Heat lining that keeps heat well retained in the fabrics. Both the Marmot Avant and Columbia Heavenly great jackets for winter, but aren't ones we typically wear during any other season. The Patagonia Das Light Hoody, can be worn throughout the year, making it more versatile than most.

Midweight jackets with a less breathable construction are typically warmer than mobile or breathable jackets. For example, the Arc'teryx Nuclei FL, and The North Face ThermoBall provide a similar amount of warmth. The Arc'teryx Nuclei FL is a continuous fabric jacket with plenty of coverage and cinching hems that lock in heat. The 65 grams of Coreloft insulation is insanely lofty, holding air, similarly to the North Face ThermoBalls' baffled construction. The Amazon Essentials is also quite warm, but doesn't provide the same level of insulation as The North Face Thermoball. All are great options for cooler weather.

Chilling out on a shady ledge in Red Rocks is a perfect place for...
Chilling out on a shady ledge in Red Rocks is a perfect place for this packable, yet, surprisingly warm jacket.
Photo: Nolan A

The Rab Xenon is another jacket with this continuous construction with 60 grams of Stratus insulation. It's not as warm as either the Nuclei FL or Thermoball, but provides a similar amount of warmth as the Ortovox Insulated Jacket. The Rab Xenon is much loftier and packable than the Ortovox, which uses Merino Wool in its construction. Of the two, the Xenon is the one we'd choose for missions that require a light, packable and warm jacket. But, when caught in a rainstorm, the Ortovox Insulated is what we'd want as it provides the best insulating properties of any jacket tested when wet.

More breathable jackets are typically not as warm because they are porous and breathe pretty well. They do, however, offer better moving warmth, allowing moisture to ventilate into the world, keeping you dry, and thus, warmer when you stop. The North Face Ventrix Summit Hoody (60 grams) offers the best warmth of all mobile-faced jackets. The Outdoor Research Refuge Air is another very breathable jacket that's fairly warm. While it advertises 70 grams of insulation in its construction, it's actually less warm than the Ventrix because of the super-thin fabrics it uses.

This chilly day is made warmer with the Ortovox Piz Bial that...
This chilly day is made warmer with the Ortovox Piz Bial that maintains warmth and breathability while on the go.
Photo: Eddie Kemper

The Patagonia Nano-Air, Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid, and Arc'teryx Atom LT are three jackets with a surprising amount of warmth for their lightweight designs. Comparatively, they have less insulation when standing around than the OR Refuge Air or The North Face Ventrix, which are two warmer mobile jacket options.

All the mobile-faced jackets tested with a focus on breathability can be worn as the final layer with a fleece and base layer built underneath it. On super cold days, all these jackets function well as mid-layers underneath a shell or thicker jacket. Think of using them as a part of your layered system, as opposed to the final layering level. More warmth can be gained by using a shell and a great base layer in your system.

Weight & Compression


We love jackets that compress into the bottom of a backpack, clip to something, and stuff into their own pocket or stuff sack. As such, we regard compression and weight as one of the most important metrics. When temperatures rise or while you're hiking in warm weather, it's important that your jacket can stow away with ease. To test each comparatively, we noted stowaway systems, weighed each jacket, and compressed each until they couldn't compress anymore. We also took them running, rock climbing on long routes, and backpacking. The highest scores are compressible, packable, and light.


Here we scope out Crestone Peak, a Fourteener located in Colorado...
Here we scope out Crestone Peak, a Fourteener located in Colorado. We strap the Patagonia Micro Puff to our running pack.
Photo: Jonnah D

If you're looking for the lightest and most compressible jacket, the Patagonia Micro Puff is it. Weighing only 8.7 ounces, it's one of our favorites for fastpacking missions because of its ample warmth (65 grams of polyester), relatively good level of breathability, and packability. The Rab Xenon weighs just a tad more, at 8.75 ounces and packs to an even smaller size than the MicroPuff. The MicroPuff offers more breathability, but not as much warmth as the Xenon. Both earn excellent scores in this category are a favorite amongst our testers for different reasons.


The Arcteryx Nuclei FL and Patagonia Das Light Hoody are two other options that we have to recognize. Both feature a continuous shell design with a similar amount of insulation and both packing to a similar size. The Das Light is a little easier to stuff into its sack than the Arc'teryx Nuclei FL. Both are a little heavier than the Rab Xenon and Patagonia MicroPuff, but not by much. Both are warmer than these options, with the Patagonia Das Light offering a better warmth to compression ratios.

The Arc&#039;teryx LT packs into a very small package.
The Arc'teryx LT packs into a very small package.
Photo: Amber King

Baffled jackets like the The North Face ThermoBall Jacket and Amazon Essentials Insulated also have excellent warmth to compression ratios. The Thermoball and Essentials pack down to relatively the same size. The Amazon Essentials comes with a stuff sack while the Thermoball packs into its own pocket. Both weigh about the same, with the ThermoBall offering better warmth for its small, compressible package. The Amazon Essentials is a much higher value though, given its super low price tag. The Marmot Avant Featherless is a much heavier jacket (14.75 ounces) with superior warmth that still packs down to a relatively small package, making it an excellent super warm layer that you can pack while winter camping.

We have our tiny rock packet stuffed with two sets of gear and the...
We have our tiny rock packet stuffed with two sets of gear and the ultra-compressive Rab Xenon. This jacket is perfect for long multi-pitch climbs as it is packable and warm. A great insulative layer.
Photo: Nolan A

Breathable, mobile-faced jackets typically don't come with this own stash system and aren't as packable. However, the Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid breaks the mold weighing only 9.40 ounces, and packing into its own pocket! The Arc'teryx Atom LT is another technical, breathable jacket that packs into a super tiny package (10.85 ounces) but doesn't have a compression sack or pocket. Instead, we roll it up into its hood.

The Outdoor Research Refuge Air compresses quite small but weighs...
The Outdoor Research Refuge Air compresses quite small but weighs more than any of the breathable jackets tested.
Photo: Amber King

Comfort & Coziness


Looking to burrow down while the comforts of your coat surround you? In this metric, we look at the comfort and coziness of each jacket. Think fur-lined collars, fleece-lined interiors, those compatible with helmets, and pulls that are easy enough to use with a set of gloves. Some jackets offer the ability to remove different parts, while others don't. We also consider how easy it is to layer underneath the jacket, based on its fit, liner construction, and more.


Hands down, the most comfortable and featured jacket are those constructed by Columbia. The Heavenly Jacket is fully loaded with a hi-pile fleece hood and chin wrap that makes burrowing into it during cold weather, super comfortable, and cozy.

The fleece-lined hood of the Columbia Heavenly makes it one of the...
The fleece-lined hood of the Columbia Heavenly makes it one of the most comfortable pieces that we've tested so far.
Photo: Amber King

Other jackets with a continuous shell and baffled design are quite easy to layer but come with far less features. Offering sleeping bag-like comfort includes the Patagonia Das Light, Arc'teryx Nuclei FL, and Rab Xenon. All score high because they feature airy fabrics that wrap the body like a big cozy sleeping bag. Of them, our favorite is the Patagonia Das Light for its looser fit, larger pockets, and hood. It also features a chest pocket, a feature that's hard to come by on women's insulated jackets these days. This functional feature makes stashing a phone or snack easy when wearing a harness or backpack. Both the Rab Xenon and Arc'teryx Nuclei lack this feature but are still cozy and comfortable.

We also like the baffled design of the The North Face ThermoBall, Amazon Essential Insulated, and Marmot Avant. These jackets have hi-loft insulated construction which translates to superior coziness. All are easy to layer as the interior fabrics are almost frictionless. The Thermoball has the loosest fit while the Marmot and Amazon Essentials have a more narrow fit through the chest and back. We wish the Amazon Essentials had a chest pocket like these other two baffled contenders which would make it more functional while wearing a harness or hip belt.

The North Face Thermoball is quite cozy and layers nicely with other...
The North Face Thermoball is quite cozy and layers nicely with other bulkier layers.
Photo: Nolan A

Those with a softshell construction have softer fabrics that are nice and stretchy. Both The North Face Ventrix Summit Hoody, and Patagonia Nano Puff are soft to the touch and feel good right against the skin. The Ventrix has more and larger pockets with elasticized cuffs while the Nano Puff has fewer, with tapered cuffs and a shorter fit. The Arc'teryx Atom LT offers similar performance, and is a little more comfortable than both, but with three pockets, instead of four like the Ventrix. The Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody is also quite comfortable with three pockets and mobile face fabrics. These fabrics aren't as stretchy or tight as the Nano Puff or Ventrix Summit, but are a little looser, making it easier to layer thicker layers underneath. This adds to its comfort. All have hoods that are helmet compatible with excellent pockets for sufficient storage on the trail.

Some jackets simply don&#039;t work with backpack straps as the pockets...
Some jackets simply don't work with backpack straps as the pockets get covered up. That said, the Ortovox (pictured here) is reversible. The other side has a chest pocket, offering storage for when you wear a harness or backpack.
Photo: Eddie Kemper

Weather Resistance


To assess weather resistance, we went outside when mother nature offered soul-crushing weather, and went hiking, skiing, or simply stood out in it. This includes conditions like howling winds, snow, sleet, rain, and more. When bad weather didn't present itself, we sprayed each down in the shower for two minutes to determine how each piece performed during a simulated heavy rainfall and light sprinkle. After each test, we assess the fabric to see how each comparatively performs.


Water Resistance
An insulated jacket does not serve as a substitute for a rain jacket or hardshell, but many of the products that we review are treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish. With differences in fabric and stitching, each repels water a little differently. Be sure to carry a shell with you if you intend on using any jacket in especially wet conditions.

The Patagonia MicroPuff is a mid-weight jacket option that stacks...
The Patagonia MicroPuff is a mid-weight jacket option that stacks beautifully under a layer. A perfect combination when encountering potentially rainy weather while climbing at the end of summer.
Photo: Amber King

The most weatherproof jackets are those with a thicker construction, to cut the wind and a face fabric that beads water and doesn't absorb. Those with more water-resistant shells do the best. Of the jackets tested, the Marmot Avant, Patagonia Das Light Hoody, Arc'teryx Nuclei FL, and Amazon Essentials Baffled Insulated do best in this category. Each completely repelled wind and water in our tests, without absorbing into the material or pooling. Each left our cores completely dry and pockets holding our essentials, untouched.

We actually get out in snowy weather! The Patagonia Nano Air Hoody...
We actually get out in snowy weather! The Patagonia Nano Air Hoody offers breathable protection on this super snowy day in the mountains of Colorado.
Photo: Amber King

Thicker jackets like the Columbia Heavenly also did amazingly well in these tests. Their thicker materials are impervious to cutting winds. While the shells on these jackets aren't as technical and absorb more water than our top contenders, the material didn't hold the water in our shower tests, once again, offering excellent weather protection.

Other jackets constructed of a continuous shell like the Patagonia DAS Light Hoody and Ortovox Piaz, does quite well when it comes to cutting the wind and repelling water. The Rab Xenon uses a lightweight Atmos shell material, which is very similar to the Pertex Quantum used in the Piaz. When standing on mountain tops, with sufficient layers underneath, both jackets adequately cut the wind and repelled water. Neither is waterproof, but the thicker nature of the Piaz offers more warmth when wet, which we appreciate. In our shower tests, both repelled water for a whooping 30 seconds (which is good) before absorbing completely. Both absorbed the water within the layers of the jacket, with no water going through the material.

Here we conduct water tests on this ultra-weatherproof jacket, the...
Here we conduct water tests on this ultra-weatherproof jacket, the Marmot Avant Featherless Hoody. Two minutes in the shower under full water and it's completely dry. Similar to other high scoring contenders!
Photo: Amber King

Of the lightweight quilted competitors, the The North Face ThermoBall offers some of the best weather resistance. Its baffled design allows some airflow, but it does not make it impervious to a sharp wind. It does a better job than both the thinner Patagonia Micro Puff because of its tighter stitching patterns. And, 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 that more breathable, soft-shelled competitors scored lower than other jacket designs. Thicker jackets like The North Face Ventrix 2 offer a little better wind resistance than thinner designs like the Arc'teryx Atom LT and Patagonia Nano Air. The Ventrix Summit and Nano Air offer a similar amount of water resistance, keeping the jacket pretty dry after 2 minutes in the shower. The Atom LT did the worst of the breathable contenders but still left the interior nice and dry.

Breathability


Breathability is an important metric to consider, as it's important to discuss if each model has the affinity to be used for exercise throughout the seasons. The more breathable options we tested have soft, thin 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 best for aerobic activities like hiking or running in cold weather. Sadly, they typically sacrifice warmth and weather resistance as a trade-off. A more breathable jacket offers the chance for moisture to escape from a layered system, effectively keeping the body drier and warmer while on the move. If you are going to be exercising in an insulated jacket this winter, be sure to prioritize breathability.


The most breathable insulated jackets are those with mobile face fabrics that resemble softshell materials. The Mountain Hardwear Kor Cirrus Hybrid Hoody is the thinnest and most breathable contender we've tested thus far. It recently just stole the podium from the Outdoor Research Refuge Air. The entire jacket is quite thin with panels of ventilation through the arms and sides of the jacket. The Refuge Air is a warmer jacket that also has ample ventilation through the back. However, it's not as mobile and harder to layer and absorbs water, where the Kor Cirrus Hybrid simply wicks it away. Both can be worn close to the skin, with the Kor Cirrus offering better wicking power and more comfortable wear against the skin. Both are excellent choices for activities like winter running or cross-country skiing. The Mountain Hardwear can also be worn in super warm temperatures as a minimal insulative layer that you can wear on the move.

Here we take a winter run in the Outdoor Research Refuge Air, a...
Here we take a winter run in the Outdoor Research Refuge Air, a heavier and warmer jacket that offers excellent breathability.
Photo: Amber King

The Arc'teryx Atom LT and Patagonia Nano Air are two other breathable, mobile-faced jackets that you can wear while climbing, backpacking, and hiking. They're designed to stay on the body, especially in colder weather. They aren't as warm as the OR Refuge Air or The North Face Ventrix 2 but provide better breathability. Between the two of them, the Patagonia Atom LT is a little more breathable, with fleecy panels down the side of the jacket that wicks away moisture. It's also thinner than the Nano Air, which allows for better passive breathability through the fabrics.

The Patagonia MicroPuff women&#039;s jacket offers excellent...
The Patagonia MicroPuff women's jacket offers excellent breathability that performs while we descend the Crestone Peaks. We also used this layer while fastpacking in Iceland for its excellent warmth, packability, and breathable fabrics.
Photo: Amber King

We also love the Patagonia Micro Puff — a quilted contender with good breathability. While the jacket is loaded with insulation and is surprisingly breathable, given its thinner and lighter design. We took it fast packing and running in rainy climates like Iceland, and it kept us warm by keeping us dry. We typically kept it on while backpacking and hiking, without it heating up too much in these colder climates. Of the baffled (aka quilted jackets) options out there, it's by far the most breathable option.

We find that the Rab Xenon is an okay choice for this wintery hike...
We find that the Rab Xenon is an okay choice for this wintery hike. It offers warmth and enough breathability for us to keep it on, even when tackling super steep slopes.
Photo: Amber King

Continuous shell insulated jackets like the Rab Xenon and Ortovoz Piaz aren't nearly as breathable as mobile or quilted contenders. However, if they're thin in construction, they're better than thicker options. For example, the Rab Xenon is super thin and offers more breathability than other continuous shell options. When in warm weather, we find ourselves taking it off and the fabrics get sticky against the skin. The Piaz is more breathable than the Xenon because it uses breathable wool insulation in its core, with more ventilation throughout its construction.

Style & Fit


As in many of the women's clothing reviews that we do here at OutdoorGearLab, style is an important consideration. We recognize that many women are looking for an insulated jacket with a flattering and feminine fit that will accommodate the length of their torso and arms. More importantly, the fit is probably the most important part of a jacket, and one of the hardest to test and report on. That said, we don't actually score fit, but we do score style in this section, but not with much weight. We analyze the fit of each jacket using a large group of ladies and report on any issues, relative length, fabric strength, and roominess.


The Arc&#039;teryx Atom LT is a favorite amongst alpinists and mountain...
The Arc'teryx Atom LT is a favorite amongst alpinists and mountain women for its super cute look, awesome colors, and long arms. It's both stylish and functional.
Photo: Amber King

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 an insulated jacket that will actually fit you. 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 insulated jackets provide different fits based on the body types testing them. In this metric, we used some different women to gain an opinion on each piece. Some of these jackets fit tighter than others, while others lend a more versatile fit. Boxier fitting jackets like Patagonia DAS Light Hoody, The North Face ThermoBall, and Rab Xenon will offer more room throughout the body, than a slim-fitting piece like the Patagonia Nano Air.

It&#039;s important to make sure the jacket fits! Be sure to read about...
It's important to make sure the jacket fits! Be sure to read about each jacket to learn about how it might work for you. The OR Refuge, for example, is longer and great for those with longer limbs.
Photo: Amber King

Style

Some women love the outdoorsy look of shiny baffled jackets, while others simply aren't into it. Of the insulated jackets tested, the ones that offer the most versatile style include those made by Columbia. The Heavenly Hooded jacket has a super cute design and various colors that many of our testers love.

If you don't mind the outdoorsy look, the Arc'teryx Atom LT is one of our favorites. Its got many color options and continuous face fabrics with flattering lines that aren't too technical looking. The Ortovox Piaz Jacket is another that stands out as it is reversible! You actually get two different color options in one jacket. The colors are bright and stand-out, and the jacket has a slim fit that is a little short in the torso.

We love this reversible merino wool jacket that is basically two...
We love this reversible merino wool jacket that is basically two jackets in one! Check out its cool color options.
Photo: Eddie Kemper

More technical pieces like the Patagonia Nano-Air, OR Refuge Air, and The North Face Summit Ventrix frequently receive reactions like, "Oooooooh! It's so cute". Many of our testers also like the soft face fabric feel on the skin. There are a variety of styles, so take a look at the pictures to see which you like the best. Other jackets have a technical baffled look, like the Marmot Avant, which has become quite popular. This puffy look is made to transcend the barrier between town and trail.

Layered appropriately, even jackets like the Patagonia Micro Puff...
Layered appropriately, even jackets like the Patagonia Micro Puff can provide enough warmth for cold days. Pictured here is our main tester at Glacier Beach in Iceland.
Photo: Amber King

Conclusion


A jacket built with synthetic insulation offers many great advantages, like the ability to stay warm, even when wet. With many options out there, the selection process can be tough. The first step is to decide what you're looking for to help slim down the options. This jacket is an integral part of any woman's outdoor wardrobe, and a big decision like this should be made with care. Enjoy the process, using this guide as a means for finding the best option out there for you.

Amber King