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Best Insulated Jacket: Don’t Be Left Out in The Cold

Best insulated jackets
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Skiing, alpine hiking, sledding, snowball fights, ice-skating…it’s tough not to join in the fun. In the cold, the crux to staying warm is layering your cold-weather attire with the appropriate insulation. With the mind-boggling types of insulation out there, how do you choose the best insulated jacket?

Synthetic insulation or Down Feathers?

These are the two main types of insulation for cold-weather jackets: synthetic and down. While they both have advantages and disadvantages and no one type of insulation is more superior than the other, which one should you choose?

The answer usually depends on where you’re going. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each type of insulation so you’ll have a better idea of which type of jacket to choose for your cold-weather adventure.

Down feathers Insulated Jacket

Down feathers: Down are the soft, fluffy feathers found underneath the tougher exterior feathers of geese and ducks. Pros of down include:

  • being very compressible
  • lightweight
  • excellent air-trapping ability: this means the down can yield a stellar warmth-to-weight ratio

Cons of down include:

  • losing insulation capabilities when wet
  • it’s difficult to care for: it requires special washing and drying care in order to maintain its air trapping capabilities.

Hey wait! There’s water-resistant down

Getting wet and losing its insulation capability seems to be the Achilles heel of down. So smart cold-weather wear engineering invented water-resistant down. You guessed it. Water-resistant down is down treated with a water-repelling/water-resistant coating, thereby protecting itself from its nemesis – water.

So if you can’t resist the super warmth and softness of down even when you’re headed to a cold area where it’s likely to rain or snow, water-resistant down may be the way to go.

Water-resistant down is known variously as hydrophobic down, DriDown, DownTek or Q.Shield down.

Synthetic Insulated Jacket

Synthetic insulation: can be referred to as down wannabe. It usually consists of polyester spun to mimic the texture and consistency of down. While synthetic insulation may not be as warm or as compressible as down, it’s still traps air effectively and can be fantastic at offering warmth as well. Pros of synthetic insulation include:

  • remains warm even when it’s wet: could be your best jacket for cold weather if you’re going to a place where it’s not only cold, but rain, snow or ice melt is expected.
  • dries quickly: synthetic fibers don’t absorb water, which is crucial when you’re maneuvering challenges outdoors in cold weather.
  • is very affordable

Cons of synthetic insulation include:

  • definitely not as warm as down. Technology is constantly improving this, however.

Will My Jacket Keep Me Dry?

For optimal protection against the elements outdoors, you want your insulated jacket for cold weather to be able to protect you from the rain or snow, keep you warm, and allow sweat to escape.

If your jacket is made with a waterproof/breathable membrane, it would repel water and allow water vapor to pass through (breathe) should you sweat, all while keeping you toasty. Look out for Gore-Tex (or other similar technology) while shopping for insulated jackets to determine if they’re engineered with waterproof/breathable membranes.

Alternatively, some jackets are treated with a DWR (Durable Water-Repellent) to make it water-resistant. However, unlike waterproof/breathable membranes which are completely waterproof, the effectiveness of DWR could be limited.

Will My Jacket Keep Me Dry

Generally, DWR can keep the wearer dry in drizzles and light snow. However, its water-repelling functionality could be weakened by dirt, smoke, grease and bug spray, requiring that the coating be reapplied on a regular basis.

Layering and Size

The trick to staying warm in cold weather conditions is layering. If you’re mostly going to wear your insulated jacket as a stand-alone layer in clear, chilly weather conditions, it’s good to have a snug fit.

However, if you’re intending to wear your insulation jacket over layers of other thermal wear, an M or L size would be more versatile. As some jackets have the tendency to ride up your arm if you stretch above, it’s good to ensure that the arm length fits well by moving your arms around or reach above when shopping for an insulation jacket.

Now that you’re aware of the features to look for, it’s time to see what customers are rating highly in the marketplace.

Top Products of 2017

The North Face ThermoBall Jacket

The North Face ThermoBall Jacket

Price: $101.30 – $302.99

Shipping Weight: 2 pounds

Specific Features: Thermoball insulation technology, features the light weight, warmth and compressibility of down and wet-weather insulating ability of synthetic insulation, internal elastic cuffs, zippered hand pockets, packs neatly into zippered pocket

Best Use: winter camping, skiing, snowshoeing, outdoor activities in cold weather

Description: Featuring Thermoball insulation technology, which is touted as the synthetic alternative to down, you can expect supreme warmth and functionality from the best of both worlds.

This North Face ThermoBall Jacket boasts the lightweight and supreme warmth characteristics of down while still retaining its outstanding insulating functionality even when it’s wet. This means the jacket is versatile enough for both cold and wet weather conditions.

Best thing is, this jacket is so compressible that you can easily pack it into the zippered pocket – saves precious space in your luggage bag.

This North Face jacket comes with thoughtful design details too. The zippered hand pockets keep your valuables safely when you’re in the swing of action and its internal elastic cuffs keeps out the chill to help you stay warm all the time.

However, not all is perfect with this popular insulated jacket. Some users claim that the stitched paneling allows warm air to escape while the nylon material can be very cold to the touch. Besides the somewhat prohibitive price, there are also complaints that the zippers used for the pockets are of low quality and their stitching isn’t great to begin with.

Columbia Sportswear Men’s Mighty Light Hybrid Jacket

Columbia Sportswear Men's Mighty Light Hybrid Jacket

Price: $37.30 – $105.51

Shipping Weight: 2 pounds

Specific Features: durable and water-resistant shell (100% shadow ripstop nylon; lining (100% Omni-HeatTM reflective Microtex light polyester; insulation (Omni-HeatTM thermal insulation), Omni-ShieldTM water and stain repellent, hybrid for breathability and stretch, zippered hand pockets, internal security pocket, chin guard, drawcord adjustable hem

Best Use: winter camping, skiing, snowshoeing, alpine climbing, outdoor activities in cold weather

Description: You can expect this Columbia Sportswear Men’s Mighty Light Hybrid Jacket to pack a punch in its lightweight body. Its hardy and water-resistant shell is crafted from shadow ripstop nylon that stops tears from spreading.

Coupled with Omni-HeatTM heat body moisture management system, this lightweight jackets reflects and maintains heat that the body generates, dissipates heat to keep the wearer comfortable all while minimizing heat loss.

Its Omni-ShieldTM water and stain repelling ability ensures that you’re adequately protected in the event of rain or snow and has a significantly shorter drying time, which means that the jacket remains lightweight even when it’s wet.

Besides top-notch fabric engineering, the Mighty Light jacket has other design details such as zippered hand pockets and a drawcord adjustable hem to make sure that cold doesn’t have a chance to seep in.

Though the Mighty Light jacket turns out to be the best lightweight insulated jacket for many users, others claim that it doesn’t hold heat a well as advertised and makes a comfortable windbreaker at best.

Canada Goose Men’s Carson Parka

Canada Goose Men's Carson Parka

Price: $629.95 – $983.99

Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds

Specific Features: can withstand up to 5°F/-15°F, outer shell is made from proprietary Arctic Tech fabric for warmth and dryness in the most extreme climates, water and wind resistant, 625 fill power white duck down, quilt-through design to minimize pack size, heavy-duty center front 2-way locking zipper with insulated windguard, fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, brushed tricot fabric on back of neck and cuffs for extra warmth

Best Use: winter camping, skiing, snowshoeing, alpine climbing outdoor activities in cold weather

Description: Planning a cold weather expedition of a lifetime? Remember to bring along your trusted buddy in cold weather insulation.

Created from Canada Goose’s proprietary Arctic Tech fabric with 625 fill power white duck down, this Canada Goose Men’s Carson Parka can withstand extreme climates and is water and wind-resistant to keep you safe from the elements.

In fact, every detail is designed to keep the chills at bay. The 2-way locking center front zipper is reinforced with insulated windguard; handwarmer pockets are lined with fleece; the soft brushed tricot fabric on the back of neck and cuffs and stylish mid-thigh cut ensure that you’re toasty all the time.

Many people love the clean line and snug fit of the parka though the sizing tends to run on the small side even if they had ordered their size. The jacket is also a pain to zip up, especially when you’re in a hurry.

Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket

Price: $59.99 – $200

Shipping Weight: 1 pound

Specific Features:  warm and lightweight synthetic insulation, easily compressible and stows in its own pocket, has a low profile which works well under an outer shell, water and wind resistant,  2 handwarmer pockets, single chest pockets, elastane cuffs, dual hem drawcards

Best Use: alpine climbing, winter camping, skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking, hiking, outdoor activities in cold weather

Description: Ladies, style and adventure can finally go together in this Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket. Sporting a classy diamond quilt pattern, this jacket is about functionality as much as it’s about style.

Its low profile makes for a fantastic mid-layer under an outer shell as well as an excellent water and wind-resistant jacket to wear on its own when you’re taking on outdoor challenges in cold weather.

The Thermostatic’s synthetic insulation is as warm and as easily compressible as down – in fact, it’s so space-saving that it compresses and stows away into its own pocket. Fasten the compressed jacket onto your backpack with the carabiner and you’re good to go.

There are elastane cuffs to keep out the cold and double-hem drawcords to let you do easy adjustments while on the go.

Though there are rave reviews about the Thermostatic, some people feel that the jacket fits a tad small even though they had ordered the correct size. The zippered pockets also get caught a lot which is rather annoying. It also makes a lot of noise when you wear it, so that could be embarrassing.

Marmot Men’s Ridgetop Component Jacket

Marmot Men's Ridgetop Component Jacket

Price: $235 – 285

Shipping Weight:  2 pounds

Specific Features: 2-in-1 layering system, outer layer is 100% seam taped 2-layer construction made of waterproof/breathable Marmot MemBrain fabric, inside is a removable fleece liner, removable hood, DriClime-lined chin guard, pitzips ventilation zippers, zippered hand pockets, chest pocket with water-resistant zipper, internal zip pockets, elastic drawcord hem

Best Use: alpine climbing, winter camping, skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking, hiking, outdoor activities in cold weather

Description: This Marmot Men’s Ridgetop Component Jacket has been thoughtfully-designed to help you get the most out of your cold-weather adventure. Created to withstand harsh climates, it’s also designed to be versatile enough for moderate temperatures.

It features a 2-in-1 layering system with the outer layer consisting of a 100% seam taped 2-layer construction made of waterproof/breathable Marmot MemBrain fabric and the second layer is a removable fleece liner which provides extra warmth on very cold days and can be worn on its own on milder days.

Its storm hood is removable when you don’t need it and you may unzip the pitzips for ventilation when you’ve worked up a sweat but it’s still cold enough for you to keep your jacket on.

While many people love the Marmot jacket for its great style and greater versatility, there are some minor issues that irked some users. The collar of the fleece liner is too short to fold over properly and its sleeves became undone only after a few wears.

Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody

Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody

Price: $229.99 – $286.05

Shipping Weight: 12.8 oz

Specific Features: FullRangeTM insulation that’s warm, breathable and stays warm even when wet, 100% nylon ripstop shell with DWR (durable water repellent) finish, stretchy, soft hoody for optimal freedom of movement, center-front zipper has storm flap and zipper garage at chin for extra comfort, elastic cuffs, dual adjustable drawcord hem

Best Use: alpine climbing, winter camping, skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking, hiking, biking, running, fly fishing outdoor activities in cold weather

Description: Be it belaying in the cold or hiking in the mountains, the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody  protects you from the elements and keeps your focus on the task with its specialty design for cold-weather sports. Its ultra-stretchy, breathable and warm FullRangeTM insulation keeps the heat in.

The nylon ripstop shell with DWR (durable water repellent) finish is lightweight while letting raindrops roll off its surface. To let you enjoy optimal freedom of movement, its stretchy hood with binding lets you effortlessly pull on or off while offering supremely comfortable and soft cushioning.

To ensure that chills and moisture don’t get to you in the most inconspicuous places, there are elastane cuffs, dual adjustable drawcord hem, storm flap-protected center-front zip and zipper garage at the chin.

The downsides of the Nano-Air is that it has the tendency to pill quite easily despite light wearing. Some people feel that the cut is rather weird as the jacket fits only at the shoulders and chest and becomes too tight around the hips. There’s also some unhappiness over the zipper which pulled off only after a few wears.

Moosejaw Men’s Mt. Elliott Insulated Waterproof Jacket

Moosejaw Men's Mt. Elliott Insulated Waterproof Jacket

Price: $195.30

Shipping Weight: not available

Specific Features: 2 layers of breathable, seam-sealed, waterproof outer, PrimaLoft® Silver insulation, zippered forearm stash pocket, zippered chest and hand pockets with brushed fleece lining, stretchy cuffs with thumbholes, 2-way adjustable and removable hood, articulated fit for freedom of movement, lightweight stretch balaclava included

Best Use: alpine climbing, winter camping, skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking, hiking, biking, running, fly fishing outdoor activities in cold weather

Description: If you’re looking for supreme functionality without a hefty price tag, consider the Moosejaw Men’s Mt. Elliott Insulated Waterproof Jacket.

Designed to keep you warm and dry when you’re tackling challenges outdoors in unfriendly climates, its 2 layers of breathable/waterproof seam-sealed outer, PrimaLoft® Silver insulation and stretchy cuffs with thumbholes keep out cold, rain and snow where they shouldn’t be.

It lets you shed some bulk too when you don’t need to be so covered up with a 2-way adjustable and removable hood and removable stretch balaclava. Its many zippered pockets keep your valuables safe while you’re in action and an interior zipper pocket even comes with a media port to let you access your favorite music when you need it.

The jacket sports an articulated fit that allows for maximum freedom of movement. And if you’re tall, you’d be happy to know that there are tall sizes available just for you.

According to some users, the Mt. Elliot jacket seems to be made for warmth and more warmth only. There are no vents to let warm air escape and this could lead to over-warming in some instances. The hood can be saggy and doesn’t keep out of the face. The lack of really soft material around the chin also makes the jacket a little uncomfortable to wear.

Rab Xenon X Hoodie

Rab Xenon X Hoodie

Price: $146.22 – $224.99

Shipping Weight: 12.8 oz

Specific Features: Pertex Quantum fabric that’s soft and lightweight yet very strong and durable, PrimaLoft® Gold insulation that offers superior warmth without the bulk, over or under helmet hood, front zip with internal insulated baffle and chin guard, zippered handwarmer pockets, elastane cuffs, drawcord hem

Best Use: alpine climbing, winter camping, skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking, hiking, biking, running, fly fishing outdoor activities in cold weather

Description: The Rab Xenon X Hoodie may be your best lightweight insulated jacket yet. Featuring Pertex Quantum fabric that’s soft and lightweight but yet very strong and durable, its PrimaLoft® Gold insulation offers superior warmth, water-resistance and easy packability.

In fact, it’s very compressible and you can stow it away in the chest pocket. The X Hoodie has other features that seals in the warmth and keeps out the rain and snow while staying comfortable enough for you to wear too.

From the front zip with internal insulated baffle and chin guard, zippered handwarmer pockets, elastane cuffs to drawcord hem, all these features keeps you warm and comfortable outdoors.
While many people like the X Hoodie for great warmth without the bulk, its sizing could be a little odd for others, especially for the tall people.

There are several comments that the jacket isn’t really made for tall people as the sleeves and length can run a little short. Others mention that they expect quality zippers given the jacket’s expensive price.

Final Words

Don’t get stuck out in the cold this winter. Consider investing in an insulating jacket that will provide you with the warmth and comfort that you need.

Choose your Insulated Jacket

Hypothermia is a real problem while you’re hiking, and can become life-threatening especially when you’re so far away from civilization. There’s nothing to lose when you bring an insulating jacket with you on your camping or hiking trip.

Do you have a product that you’d like to share with us or other readers? Leave it in the comments section below. We’d appreciate it!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Beatris Bronson

    RAB xenon is an amazing coat! It will keep you warm, but your skin won’t really breathe that well (but if you want to stay warm, and I mean really warm, you’ll have to pay with a little sweat). It’s so compact, comfy and easy to pack down. Also, it has roomy hand warmer pockets, that I really like 🙂

  • Mark Foster

    You’re paying good money for this jacket and it won’t disappoint. It has the features that you need to stay warm – the PrimaLoft Gold will see to that. The material is superior and offers comfort that other jackets can’t give. I’m glad that you made this wise choice! 🙂

  • Lee Williamson

    The Canada Goose Carson is, by far, the warmest coat I have ever owned – and yet it’s stylish too. A lot of outdoor brands seem to prioritise one of either ‘style’ or ‘function’ but Canada Goose consistently seems to be able to do both. The parka is perfect for both winter treks and treks to the pub! Only issue I’ve had with the coat is the zip. It’s very temperamental. You can forget about trying to zip this up in a rush… Despite that, I would definitely recommend anything by Canada Goose, but especially this parka. Quality speaks for itself.

  • Mark Foster

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the Canada Goose. Great choice!
    For pesky zippers, I usually use the graphite point of a pencil and rub it on the teeth of the zipper. If that doesn’t work, try a little Windex. My friend swears to lip balm and a bar of soap.

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