The Best Winter Hiking Jackets with Synthetic Insulation for 2017


Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket

Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket

Cold weather is no obstacle for hiking as long as you dress appropriately to stay warm and comfortable. An insulated jacket is one of the most important pieces of winter clothing for hiking as it significantly reduces heat loss by trapping the body-warmed air within its insulation fibers. Insulated jackets also offer some basic protection against rain, snow and wind – depending on the insulation material (down or synthetic materials). Jackets that use synthetic insulation differ from down jackets by providing good warmth even when exposed to moisture (rain, snow, high humidity etc.) – which makes them more versatile. They also dry faster and are less expensive. However, down jackets offer a better weight-to-warmth ratio and compressibility (they can be packed really small). Therefore, down jackets are recommended for very cold but dry conditions while jackets with synthetic insulation are recommended for cold to very cold conditions, no matter the humidity.

Here we selected the best winter hiking jackets with synthetic insulation in order to make your buying decision a little easier. We were especially looking for products that provide a good weight-to-warmth ratio. If you are planning to mostly hike in very cold, but dry conditions, we recommend that you instead check out our selection of the Best Down Jackets. For those who are looking for an insulation layer for moderate temperatures we also made a selection of the Best Fleece Jackets.

This selection was updated on the 17th of January 2017.

1. Buying a Winter Hiking Jacket with Synthetic Insulation – What is important?

Insulation:

Synthetic insulation is in most cases made of fluffy polyester fibers that mimic the structure of down clusters. The polyester fibers are of different sizes to create loft so that the body-warmed air can be efficiently trapped into small air pockets between the fibers. As polyester absorbs very little moisture (maximum 0.4 % of its own weight), polyester-based synthetic insulation retains its loft (and warmth) even when exposed to rain/moisture. Some manufacturers develop their own synthetic insulations – for example Arcteryx (Coreloft) and Mountain Hardwear (Thermal.Q) while others use high-quality insulations from brands such as PrimaLoftG-Loft and Climashield.  Normally a high-quality synthetic insulation can provide similar warmth to a 600 fill-power goose down. For more information about insulation materials, check our article Comparison of Mid-layer Materials.

Outer Layer:

The outer layer of an insulated jacket has to provide good abrasion-resistance as well as basic protection against the rain and wind. Therefore, the outer layer is usually made of nylon which is treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellant) so that it repels water instead of absorbing it. Nylon can have different denier values – the higher the number, the heavier and more durable the fabric. Some insulated jackets also include a wind-blocking or waterproof/breathable membrane in their outer layer for increased weather protection. Read our article Comparison of Shell Materials for more information about outer layers. To learn how to properly layer your clothes for hiking check out our Hiking Clothing Guide.

Weight:

The weight of an insulated jacket greatly depends on the quality of the insulation (warmth-to-weight ratio) because if the insulation is of low quality, more of it is required to provide the same warmth as that of quality insulation. In this review we only selected jackets with a good warmth-to-weight ratio as lightweight clothing and equipment enable you to be more efficient on your hiking trips.

Hood:

When it comes to choosing between an insulated jacket with or without a hood, you need to consider how much you would actually use it. A hood offers additional insulation while not increasing the weight of the garment significantly. However, hooded versions are usually slightly more expensive.  In this review we included three hooded jackets and two jackets  which are available with and without a hood.

Pockets:

A winter hiking jacket should be equipped with well-placed pockets for storing essential items. Pockets should allow easy access even when wearing a backpack or a climbing harness.

2. The Best Winter Hiking Jacket with Synthetic Insulation Review

The Best Winter Hiking Jackets with Synthetic Insulation

The Best Winter Hiking Jackets with Synthetic Insulation

  1. Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket
  2. Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody
  3. Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket
  4. Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket
  5. Black Diamond Access Hoody 

Comparison:

Feature/Product Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket
Arcteryx Atom LT HoodyOutdoor Research Cathode Hooded JacketPatagonia Nano-Air JacketBlack Diamond Access Hoody
Average Weight9.2 oz. 12.7 oz. 13.3 oz. 12.5 oz. 11.6 oz.
Average Weight (Metric)261 g360 g 377 g 354 g330 g
Insulation Thermal.Q Elite CoreloftPrimaLoft GoldFullRangePrimaLoft Gold
Insulation Weight 60 g/m260 g/m260 g/m260 g/m260 g/m2
Outer Layer Material15D Nylon 20D Nylon 22D Nylon 20D Nylon 20D Nylon DWR
Pockets23333
HoodNo YesYesNo Yes
Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket

1. Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

The Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic jacket is highly appreciated among hikers and mountaineers as it offers great warmth while being very compressible and light (it weighs merely 261 g). The jacket uses Thermal.Q Elite synthetic insulation (60 g/m2) that has a superb warmth-to-weight ratio. The Thermal.Q Elite insulation consists of thick polyester fibers that create a grid structure and thin fibers that fill in the gaps in the structure. This construction efficiently traps the body-warmed air and thus provides great warmth. The insulation layer is protected against the abrasion by the outer layer which is made of 15-denier ripstop nylon.  The jacket also features two hand pockets, elastic cuffs and an adjustable hem. As it is relatively thin it can be worn under another outer layer such as for example a rain jacket. For easy transport the jackets stows into its pocket. The Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic jacket is all in all a great lightweight jacket that is perfect for those who prefer lightweight hiking and mountaineering.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Warmth/weight ratio
  • Compressibility

Cons:

  • /

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Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody

Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody

2. Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

The Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody is a little heavier than the Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic jacket but on the other hand it also offers slightly better functionality. It has an outer layer made of DWR- treated 20-denier nylon which offers good weather protection and abrasion-resistance. On the sides of the jacket there are panels made of Polartec Power Stretch material for increased breathability and mobility. The insulation layer (60 g/m2) uses Coreloft polyester fibers of different sizes for the best performance. The Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody is also equipped with a fully adjustable (drawcord at the back) and helmet-compatible hood for increased protection in bad weather. Additionally, the jacket features two hand pockets, internal check pocket, adjustable hem and articulated elbows that allow great freedom of movement. As the jacket is not bulky, it can be worn under another outer layer. For easy transport the jacket can also be stored inside its own pocket. The Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody is a great piece of insulation wear that offers good versatility. Therefore it is highly appreciated among hikers, mountaineers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

 

Pros:

  • Functionality
  • Design
  • Freedom of movement

Cons:

  • /

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Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket

Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket

3. Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

The Outdoor Research Cathode jacket offers very similar performance (warmth, weight) to the Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody. The jacket has an outer layer made of Pertex Quantum (22-denier nylon) which is windproof, soft to the touch and offers great weight-to-strength ratio. Between the outer and inner layer there is PrimLoft Gold insulation (60 g/m2). PrimaLoft Gold insulation is extremely thoroughly developed material and thus known for being light, breathable, packable and warm. Additionally, the jacket features side panels made of breathable and stretchy Schoeller material which additionally increase the breathability and allow better freedom of movement. The Outdoor Research Cathode jacket is also equipped with a fully adjustable hood, elastic cuffs, adjustable hem, two zippered hand pockets and a zippered chest pocket. It can be compressed inside its own pocket for easier transportation. The Outdoor Research Cathode jacket is another great choice for mountaineers and hikers who need versatile insulation wear for their adventures.

 

Pros:

  • Freedom of movement
  • Functionality
  • Pockets

Cons:

  • /

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Best Buy!

Video

Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket

Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket

4. Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

The Patagonia Nano-Air is a great lightweight jacket for hiking, mountaineering and other outdoor activities. The jacket features FullRange synthetic insulation which was developed by the well-known Japanese company Toray. FullRange insulation (60 g/m2) offers great stretch and recovery properties and uses hydrophobic fibers so that it does not lose its ability to retain warmth when wet. The insulation is covered by an outer layer made of DWR-treated ripstop nylon. Therefore, it also offers good protection against rain and wind. As this fabric is extremely stretchy the jacket provides great freedom of movement and comfort. The Patagonia Nano-Air jacket is also equipped with elastic cuffs, drawcord hem, two zippered hand pockets and a zippered chest pocket. The pockets are well-placed and allow easy access but they are rather small. Therefore, it is pretty limited what can you store into them. The Patagonia Nano-Air is best for those who need comfortable insulation wear that offers great freedom of movement.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Stretch
  • Freedom of movement

Cons:

  • Small pockets

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Black Diamond Access Hoody

Black Diamond Access Hoody

5. Black Diamond Access Hoody

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

The Black Diamond Access Hoody is another super light jacket that is perfect for mountaineering and hiking. The jacket features an outer layer made of DWR-treated Pertex Microlight material (20-denier nylon) which provides good abrasion-resistance and also offers some basic protection against rain and wind. Like the Outdoor Research Cathode jacket, the Black Diamond Access Hoody uses PrimaLoft Gold insulation (60 g/m2) which is constructed with two different sizes of fibers for high thermal efficiency and great loft. The PrimaLoft Gold insulation is also known for retaining up to 85% of its original warmth when exposed to water due to the hydrophobic nature of its fibers.  Additionally, the jacket has a fully-adjustable and helmet-compatible hood, underarm gussets, two-way zipper, stretch cuffs and two zippered hand pockets. The jacket can be packed into the internal chest pocket for easy stowing in your backpack. All in all, the Black Diamond Access Hoody is a great choice for hiking and mountaineering in cold weather.

 

Pros:

  • Freedom of movement
  • Functionality

Cons:

  • /

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