The Best Winter Hiking Jackets with Synthetic Insulation of 2017


Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket

Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket

Cold weather is no obstacle for hiking if 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 body-warmed air within its fibers. Insulated jackets also offer some basic protection against rain, snow and wind – depending on the insulation material (down or synthetic) and face fabric. Jackets with synthetic insulation differ from down jackets by providing good warmth even if they get 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 pack smaller. Therefore, down jackets are recommended for dry conditions while jackets with synthetic insulation are recommended for humid conditions.

Here we selected the best winter hiking jackets with synthetic insulation. We were especially looking for products that have 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 more moderate temperatures we also selected the Best Fleece Jackets.

This selection was updated on the 19th of October 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 which 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 them. As polyester absorbs very little moisture (maximum 0.4 % of its own weight), polyester-based synthetic insulation retains its loft (and thus warmth) even if it gets 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, Polartec 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 out our article Comparison of Mid-Layer Materials. If you are not sure whether to buy a jacket with synthetic insulation or down jacket, check out our article Down vs Synthetic Jackets.

Face Fabric:

The face fabric of an insulated jacket should provide good abrasion-resistance as well as basic protection against the rain and wind. Therefore, the face fabric is usually made of nylon which is treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellant) so that it repels the 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 utilize a wind-blocking or waterproof/breathable membrane in their face fabrics for increased weather protection. Read our article Comparison of Shell Materials for more information about face fabrics. 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) – if the insulation is of low quality, more of it is required to provide good warmth. In this review of the best winter hiking jackets we only listed jackets with a good warmth-to-weight ratio as lightweight clothing and equipment allow you to hike faster and more efficiently.

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 the hood. A hood offers additional insulation and does not increase the weight of the garment significantly. However, hooded versions are usually slightly more expensive.  This review of the best winter hiking jackets includes three hooded jackets and two jackets which are available with or 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

Best Winter Hiking Jackets

Best Winter Hiking Jackets

  1. Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody
  2. Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket
  3. Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket
  4. Black Diamond First Light Hoody
  5. Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

Comparison:

Feature/Product Arcteryx Atom LT HoodyMountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket
Outdoor Research Cathode JacketBlack Diamond First Light Patagonia Nano Puff
Average Weight12.7 oz. 11.6 oz. 13.3 oz. 17.9 oz.11.9 oz.
Average Weight (Metric)360 g 328 g377 g 510 g 337 g
Insulation CoreloftThermal.Q Elite PrimaLoft GoldPrimaLoft SilverPrimaLoft Gold
Insulation Weight 60 g/m260 g/m260 g/m260 g/m260 g/m2
Outer Layer Material20D Nylon 22D Nylon 22D Nylon Schoeller22D Nylon
Pockets33333
HoodYesNo (hooded model is available)YesYesNo (hooded model is available)
Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody

Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody

1. Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody

Suitable for:

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

The Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody is a warm and highly functional winter jacket. It has a face fabric made of DWR- treated 20-denier nylon which offers good weather protection and abrasion-resistance. The jacket has panels made of Polartec Power Stretch material on the sides 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 and helmet-compatible hood (drawcord at the back) for increased protection in bad weather. Additionally, the jacket features two hand pockets, an internal chest pocket, adjustable hem and articulated elbows which allow great freedom of movement. As the jacket is not bulky, it can be worn under a shell layer. For easy storage the jacket can also be stowed into its own pocket. The Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody is a great insulated jacket as it 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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Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket

2. 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 packable and light (it weighs merely 11 ounces). The jacket uses the Thermal.Q Elite synthetic insulation (60 g/m2) which has a superb warmth-to-weight ratio. The Thermal.Q Elite insulation consists of thick polyester fibers which 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 face fabric which is made of 22-denier ripstop nylon.  The jacket also features two hand pockets, one chest pocket, elastic cuffs and an adjustable hem. As it is relatively thin it can be worn under shell layer such as rain jacket. For easy storage the jackets stows into its own 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. It has been updated in fall 2017 and now features a more durable face fabric.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Warmth/weight ratio
  • Compressibility

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 a very similar performance (warmth and weight) to the Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody and the Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic jacket. The jacket has a face fabric made of Pertex Quantum (22-denier nylon) which is windproof, soft to the touch and offers great weight-to-strength ratio. Between the face fabric and lining 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 for increased breathability and freedom of movement. The Outdoor Research Cathode jacket is 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 storage. The Outdoor Research Cathode jacket is another great choice for mountaineers and hikers who need a versatile insulation garment for their adventures.

 

Pros:

  • Freedom of movement
  • Functionality
  • Pockets

Cons:

  • /

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Black Diamond First Light Hoody

Black Diamond First Light Hoody

4. Black Diamond First Light Hoody

Suitable for:

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

Black Diamond First Light Hoody is slightly heavier than the jackets reviewed above but it is also warmer. The jacket features face fabric made of the well-known Schoeller softshell material (93% nylon, 7% elastane) which is not only super lightweight but also provides great tear-resistance and weather protection. The face fabric is DWR-treated which additionally increases the protection against rain. The Black Diamond jacket uses PrimaLoft Silver insulation (60 g/m2) which is constructed with two different sizes of fibers for great loft and high thermal efficiency. The PrimaLoft Silver 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 and two zippered hand pockets. The jacket can be packed into the internal chest pocket for easy transportation in your backpack. All in all, the Black Diamond First Light Hoody is a great choice for hiking and mountaineering in very cold weather.

 

Pros:

  • Warmth
  • Durability
  • Face fabric

Cons:

  • /

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Patagonia Nano Puff

Patagonia Nano Puff

5. Patagonia Nano Puff

Suitable for:

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

The Patagonia Nano Puff is a super lightweight (it weighs merely 12 ounces) jacket for hiking, mountaineering and other outdoor activities. The jacket features PrimaLoft Gold insulation which is highly compressible and has a down-like touch. However, unlike down, the PrimaLoft Gold insulation retains warmth even if it gets exposed to moisture or rain. The insulation is covered by 22-denier nylon face fabric which is treated with DWR. Therefore, the jacket also offers protection against rain and wind. As this fabric is very stretchy the jacket provides great freedom of movement and comfort. The Patagonia Nano Puff is also equipped with elastic cuffs, an adjustable hem, two zippered hand pockets and an internal zippered chest pocket. The internal zippered chest pocket doubles as a stuff sack. The Patagonia Nano Puff is best for those who need comfortable insulation wear that offers great freedom of movement.

 

Pros:

  • Freedom of movement
  • Weight

Cons:

  • /

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Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

Best Buy!

Also available at:

REI | Backcountry

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