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With over 30 of the best insulated jackets for women tested over the last 8 years, our experts have been hard at work. This review features 12 of this year's latest and greatest, tested side-by-side in all types of weather. We know the benefit of a synthetic jacket that will keep us warm even when wet, and we have traveled across the world to test them. We've sailed the raging North Seas, climbed big walls in Las Vegas, snowshoed through the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains, and trail ran through rainy weather in the Pacific Northwest. We scrutinized materials, wore them in the shower, and investigated every feature. After hours of putting each contender through our tests, we offer our professional and unbiased insights to help you find the best insulated jacket for your needs.
Weight: 12.1 oz | Insulation: PrimaLoft Silver (100% recycled)
REASONS TO BUY
Warm but not bulky
Protective and comfortable cuffs
Microfleece lined pockets
REASONS TO AVOID
We love the Rab Xenon 2.0 for pretty much every errand and errant adventure. It's an excellent all-around insulated jacket that's warmer than its midweight construction might suggest. It has excellent coverage, including longer sleeves with insulation extending beyond the elastic cuff to warm the backs of your hands, an elongated torso that fully covers the butts of some of our shorter testers, and a well-fitted balaclava-style hood to keep your face and head warm. The interior of the hand pockets offers microfleece for the backs of your hands, adding even more comfort and warmth.
We have just one minor complaint about this impressive jacket — it runs a bit large. Not so much that we felt the need to size down or had issues layering over it, but it has plenty of space left over inside. Considering this coat beat all the others in our lineup, it's wowed us once again with its very affordable price tag. Unless you're after a more specific type of jacket with limited coverage or exceptional breathability, we'd recommend the Rab Xenon 2.0 to pretty much everyone.
The Columbia Heavenly Hoody is a stylish hooded jacket with lavish cozy features. The faux fur lining inside the hood feels decadent, while the extended stretch-knit cuffs with thumbholes are both soft and protective. The shell handily cuts the wind and repels rain and snow, with plenty of room for layering. Over the years, our entire team of testers continues to rave about how stylish this coat looks. To top it off, it's very affordable.
With its thicker insulation and sturdier materials, breathability and compression are inherent trade-offs. It's one of few jackets we tested that doesn't pack into its own pocket (though we packed it into a stuff sack with relative ease), and it's by far the heaviest model in our lineup. Yet we love the warmth, comfort, and vibe when wearing this coat to hit the slopes at the ski resort all day. It's a high-value and stylish jacket with a price tag and performance that make it a great deal.
Weight: 11.5 oz | Insulation: 65g Plumafill (100% recycled polyester)
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent wind and water resistance
Lofty and warm
Large, helmet-compatible hood
REASONS TO AVOID
Not very breathable
The Patagonia DAS Light Hoody continues to be one of our favorite insulated jackets. It features a baffle-free design, with a roomy fit throughout the arms and torso that leave just the right amount of space for layering. The hood is huge, with enough volume to easily accommodate a helmet, hat, or pompom-style beanie. The exterior offers better weather resistance than any other model we tested, beading and repelling water in sleet, rain, and snow. The Plumafill insulation is airy and warm, yet still packs down to the size of a one-liter bottle. Designed for alpine adventures, with climbers in mind, it's built to go anywhere.
While this jacket is near perfect for our day-to-day uses, breathability and durability are not its strong suit. The Pertex Quantum fabric is crinkly and not particularly breathable in seriously sweaty endeavors. Also, the exterior fabric is just 10D in thickness, making it a bit fragile — it cut easily when we held a sharp snowboard edge close to the fabric. While this airy jacket is quite compressible, we found it impossible to actually fit into its intended packed pocket. But if you're looking for a warm and weather-resistant jacket that's versatile enough for all seasons, this is it.
Weight: 10.5 oz | Insulation: Coreloft 60 (100% recycled polyester)
REASONS TO BUY
Very soft and comfortable
Easy to layer
REASONS TO AVOID
No stuff pocket
Hood is loose without a helmet or hat
Unlike most insulated jackets, the Arc'teryx Atom Hoody feels and fits differently. It trades out the swishy exterior for a soft, pliable material that feels more like wearing a weather-resistant sweatshirt than a coat. Breathable side panels help to regulate your body temperature when you're putting in the effort, and the jacket is cut and designed for enhanced shoulder mobility. It has enough space underneath for bulky baselayers and is very easy to layer under a shell or a parka to create a truly comprehensive expedition-worthy layering system.
We were surprised to learn the Atom Hoody doesn't stuff into its own pocket, as most others do. But it's still lightweight and compressible — and we often found ourselves just wearing it rather than packing it. The oversized hood easily fits a helmet but is rather loose and boxy without at least a thick beanie underneath. Though it still offers great protection against the wind and snow, this lightweight model isn't quite as warm as some others. But it's a great choice for mild days or — our favorite use — as a midlayer in our all-day-adventure layering system.
Weight: 9.7 oz | Insulation: 80g (body, sleeves), 60g (hood, side panels) partially recycled synthetic
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to pack and very lightweight
Great cuffs and solid coverage
Good warmth-to-weight ratio
REASONS TO AVOID
Hood is a bit large without a beanie or helmet
Oblong stuff pocket takes some practice
Living up to its name, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow Hoody is one of the lightest and most packable jackets we tested. Despite being so featherweight, this coat is much warmer than others vying for the same title. Its sleeves are nice and long, with the final insulated baffle extending beyond the elastic cuff inside, and a longer torso with an adjustable drop hem offers additional coverage. With no baffling along the bottom several inches of this jacket, it's designed for wear with a backpack's hip belt or a climbing harness without compromising its integrity.
Stuffing away into its hand pocket (it has no chest pocket) took some practice, as it becomes a rather oblong shape. But once we got the hang of it, it proved to be easy, with plenty of space to fit and a large enough zippered opening to accomplish quickly. The hood is roomy, meant to be worn over a beanie or helmet, and can be a bit drafty worn over your bare head. At the end of the day, we are very impressed by the warmth and weather resistance of the very lightweight, comfortable Ghost Shadow.
Unique pockets are perfect for wearing a pack or harness
Very comfortable cuffs
REASONS TO AVOID
Slim fit runs snug
Weather resistance weak points
The Ortovox Swisswool Piz Boè is built for the adventurer who "can't stop, won't stop" even as the snow continues to fall. It's the perfect layer for any activity that typically includes a stop to remove a jacket. Expansive stretch panels span the area under your arms and extend back onto your shoulders. Lined with fleece inside, they remain warm while allowing exceptional venting. With elongated stretch-knit cuffs, your wrists find themselves comfortable while the bottom side of your forearms can breathe. Its pockets are located along the midline of the jacket, opening in the opposite direction — so your left pocket is accessed by your right hand. This arrangement is not only an ideal placement for on-the-go access, but as the pockets are lined with mesh, they also make for excellent ventilation when you need even more breathability.
While the main body of the jacket is very weather resistant, all four of the breathable panels and areas are not. It's a thin jacket that isn't warm enough for standing around doing nothing on a cold, blustery day. It runs much smaller than other jackets we tested — it's meant to be worn over very thin base layers only, but that fit can be a bit limiting for many body types. The Piz Boè also doesn't pack into its own pocket, which we don't mind because we just wanted to keep wearing it. This is the jacket that succeeds in regulating body temperature when all others fail. From snowshoeing uphill to winter runs and cross-country skiing, the Ortovox Swisswool Pix Boè is our favorite active winter layer.
Over the years, we have researched well over 80 different insulated jackets to select contenders for this review. After carefully reading their descriptions, we selected the best and most promising models available. Paying for each at retail cost, we then tested them comparatively, side-by-side for months at a time. We wore each jacket for 60+ hours while hiking, backpacking, skiing, split boarding, running, snowshoeing, and more. We tested them in the high deserts of Nevada, the mountains of Colorado, Canadian forests, and the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains. In addition to field testing, we put each jacket through objective tests at home, checking their wind resistance and water repellence.
Our women's insulated jacket testing is divided into five rating metrics:
Warmth (25% of total score weighting)
Comfort (25% weighting)
Weather Resistance (20% weighting)
Weight and Compressibility (15% weighting)
Breathability (15% weighting)
This review is led by two long-time Senior Review Editors, Maggie Nichos and Amber King. Maggie worked as a backcountry guide for over 15 years, leading backpacking, rafting, kayaking, and hiking trips across the world from the Ecuadorean Andes to the Drakensberg Mountains spanning South Africa and Lesotho. She grew up in frigid Midwestern winters and now calls the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Nevada high desert home. Amber lives and plays in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, exploring new trails and ridgelines around her hometown. She can frequently be found sailing the cold north seas with friends, split boarding all throughout Colorado, climbing wherever she can, and trail running in her area. These two women have over a decade of combined experience testing and writing for GearLab.
We tested these synthetic insulated jackets in all kinds of trying conditions.
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 five important metrics, including warmth, comfort, weather resistance, weight/compressibility, and breathability. Though their overall scores show how they compare across the board, we will dive into the specific metric performances of this lineup. If you dig details, keep reading.
At GearLab, we care about high-value products. Not only does our selection include top-of-the-line options, but those that we think might offer good performance for a reasonable price. The Columbia Heavenly is a high-value stylish jacket that's less technical and full of super cozy features that we love. It's our favorite option when warmth and comfort are key, and it performs well in trying weather — all for a lot less than many others. The Rab Xenon 2.0 is another outstanding contender. It outperformed all the rest to quickly become our favorite go-to jacket for nearly any outdoor pursuit, and it comes at a reasonable price. The Amazon Essentials insulated jacket is also worth mentioning. It's far less expensive than others, yet provides reasonable performance for infrequent and non-technical use, making it a good choice for those who don't often need a puffy jacket or ever-growing teens.
Look for deals on last season's colors.
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 base 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.
Without a doubt, the warmest jacket we tested was the Columbia Heavenly Hoody. This thickly insulated coat has Columbia's Omni-Heat lining to reflect your body heat back at you, a faux fur-lined hood that wraps around to nuzzle your chin as well, and elongated stretch-knit cuffs with thumbholes that can be worn inside gloves to keep your wrists protected. It's cut slim and fits well; easily sized up for adding extra base layers. The Patagonia DAS Light Hoody is another impressive jacket. It has plenty of insulation inside its baffle-free body, and its Pertex Quantum shell traps air very well, keeping you comfortable and warm inside. It's cut long in the torso and sleeves, adding extra coverage to ensure toastiness.
The Rab Xenon 2.0 is a lightweight jacket with great warmth. It's thin but still poofy, helping to more effectively insulate against the cold. This model has the best coverage of any we've tested. The torso is long enough that our shorter testers could completely cover their butts with it, and long sleeves end with the final baffle overhanging the interior elastic cuff, which adds warmth to your hands. We're also impressed by the Arc'teryx Atom. This lightweight model is the most breathable option to land itself on the "warmest insulated jackets" list, which is no easy feat! It maintains warmth despite being so thin, in part by a baffle-free construction that offers no weak points for wind or water to make it through. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow is another impressively warm jacket, especially for its weight. It feels fluffy and airy, yet warms like a midweight jacket. The North Face Thermoball Eco 2.0 also packs warm, dense insulation into its thin exterior.
The Amazon Essentials Lightweight Water-Resistant hoody is thick and puffy, with warm insulation. It lacks some of the other features we look for, though, like cuffs that keep our wrists warm and an adjustable hem. But the body of the jacket itself is well-insulated and quite warm. The Patagonia Nano Puff is in a similar boat, though it's a thinner jacket overall. It's decently warm for its weight but doesn't have the coverage in the torso or sleeves that would help it stand out.
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. We also consider how easy it is to layer underneath the jacket based on its fit, liner construction, and more. We consider pockets and their usability as well as how fabrics feel against the skin. We also examine the fit of each jacket and how adaptable it is to a range of body shapes.
Here again, the Columbia Heavenly Hoody is full of cozy features that many of the more technically focused models in our lineup don't. The wrist-warming cuffs with thumbholes and the fuzzy hood lining not only add warmth but make us feel all snuggly inside this jacket. The Rab Xenon 2.0 isn't far behind. Though it's not as decadent as the Heavenly Hoody, the Xenon is very soft, with overly pliable insulation that's far more comfortable than most to wear. The Arc'teryx Atom is also impressively comfortable. Ditching the classic swishy exterior and adding stretch-knit cuffs increases the sweatshirt-like feel of this moderately stretchy jacket, as well as its ability to be very easily layered both over and under other garments. It's also one of the only ones we tested that has removed the seams from the armpit area, making it more comfortable to move in.
In a similar vein, the Ortovox Swisswool Piz Boè is a joy to wear and move in — if its slim build fits your frame. Though it still has armpit seams, it also incorporates extremely stretchy (and breathable!) panels that extend back across your scapulae. That level of mobility is not something we see in any other jacket. On top of that, the Piz Boè has stretch-knit cuffs that are silky smooth and feel just fantastic on your skin. The Patagonia DAS Light is another very comfortable jacket, though in a different way. It's puffy and poofy and is somehow joyful in its slightly marshmallow-like feeling. A longer torso and sleeves add to its coziness.
The Patagonia Nano Air Hoody is similar in its comfort to the Arc'teryx Atom. It, too, is made of softer material that's quieter and more pleasant to wear than the average puffy jacket. Its stretch-knit cuffs feel great on the wrists, though it lacks the seam-free armpits and the same level of stretch that the Atom offers. When it comes to that "classic puffy jacket feeling", the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow, The North Face Thermoball 2.0 and the Outdoor Research SuperStrand LT all bring plenty of traditional comforts. The Ghost Shadow and SuperStrand are both very lightweight, thin, and flexible, making them easy to layer over bulky baselayers. The Thermoball is thicker and stiffer, and we appreciate it as a more standalone coat for everyday use.
To assess weather resistance, we went outside when mother nature offered soul-crushing weather, and went hiking, skiing, and even just stood outside in it. This includes conditions like howling winds, snow, sleet, rain, and more. We then brought our testing indoors to objectively compare their resistance. We stood in front of high-powered fans and sprayed, poured, and rubbed water into the fabric of each jacket. Though none of these jackets are meant to be a standalone layer against all-day rain, some of them do a pretty solid job keeping us dry. And though we don't recommend getting them soaked, that is one of the biggest benefits of synthetic insulation over down — it will still insulate you even if it's fully saturated.
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.
When it comes to both wind and rain, the Patagonia DAS Light takes the cake. This insulated jacket is entirely baffle-free, eliminating the lines of weakness that other jackets have. Over time, the stitching to create baffles nearly always becomes minute holes that let wind and water seep in. Not so with the DAS Light. We wore this coat all day skiing while wet heavy snow pelted us non-stop, and we never saw a shred of evidence that any of the water made it through to the insulation. Nearly as impressive is the Columbia Heavenly Hoody. The Storm-Lite DP II polyester exterior of this jacket repelled wind with ease and lasted for a long time against a downpour. Even as the fabric eventually allowed water to soak in, it never reached our inner layers, ensuring we remained toasty warm within. The Rab Xenon 2.0 also held its own handily in ridgetop gusts and intensive water testing. It has an adjustable bottom hem to seal out the cold, which the previous two don't offer.
The Arc'teryx Atom is another baffle-less model we tested. Though this jacket is much thinner than other top-scoring models, that lack of baffling proved its worth when pitted against both wind and water. Snug cuffs keep your arms sealed from the cold, while a dually-adjusted hem easily closes the jacket against any weather. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Hoody also cinches shut along the hem and does a great job repelling water from its exterior. Longer sleeves with well-fitted interior cuffs bring additional protection. The Patagonia Nano Puff is also quite weather resistant. It features an adjustable hem and snug cuffs — though its sleeves don't extend past the cuffs, leaving your hands moderately more exposed to the elements.
The North Face Thermoball provides similar protection to the Nano Puff, but with even less coverage both in the hem and the cuffs, leaving more of you to face the weather. The Cotopaxi Teca Calido is a baffle-free jacket whose surface handily repels both wind and water. It loses some points here, however, for its loose-fitting cuffs and hem that aren't adjustable against gusts, and because it's a reversible jacket, it has no wind guard behind the main zipper, which proves to be a weak point on windy days.
Weight and Compressibility
We appreciate jackets that compress into the bottom of a backpack, clip to something, and stuff into their own pocket or stuff sack. When temperatures rise or while you're hiking in warm weather, it's important that your jacket can stow away with ease. We weighed every jacket and noted how heavy or light they feel to wear and carry. We packed them away into themselves and crammed them into backpacks and suitcases to see how compressible they are.
If light weight and packability are your number one priorities, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow is our top pick. Not only is it nearly the lightest jacket we tested, but it also has other features that make it easier to tote around. Many jackets in our lineup can be stuffed into one of their pockets and zipped shut, but the Ghost Shadow does this with ease, thanks to a long zipper and wide opening. Once closed, it forms an elongated package with a carabiner clip on one end, both of which make it even easier to attach to a backpack or harness. The Outdoor Research SuperStrand is the lightest jacket we tested. It's fairly easy to fit into its pocket and forms a similar oblong shape. However, it loses a point in our weight and compressibility metric for its lack of a carabiner loop. You could, of course, clip it to the zipper pull hanging off one end, but as that's just a segment of knotted cord, it could easily come untied along your route, dumping your puffy without you ever noticing it was gone.
While none of the other models we tested are designed quite as specifically to be so portable, many more are reasonably so. The Rab Xenon and Patagonia Nano Air are both fluffy and light, easily packed into their own pockets for quick transport. The Ortovox Swisswool Piz Boè doesn't pack into itself but is lightweight and so useful that we find it easy to stuff into our bag or suitcase for any applicable adventure. The Patagonia DAS Light is also light and fluffy and readily compresses into the small corners of your pack. It is technically able to pack into its own pocket, but despite testing several iterations of this jacket over many years, we have never been able to get it in all the way and close the zipper.
Breathability is even more important when recreating in cold weather. If you become soaked with sweat underneath your jacket, your base layers will no longer keep you warm — a recipe for potential hypothermia. We tested every jacket's breathability by doing hard work while wearing them. We went backcountry splitboarding, resort skiing, running, climbing, snowshoeing, and more in each. We noted how their fabrics handle excess body heat and what features they have (or lack) that make them more breathable.
By far, the most breathable jacket in our lineup is the Ortovox Piz Boè. We can't imagine a more breathable option out there, and it earns our extremely elusive perfect score in this metric. Extensive breathable panels comprise the armpit area, extending back across the scapulae. Stretch-knit cuffs continue nearly seven inches up the insides of your forearms, effectively helping to regulate your body temperature. Already, these features make it more breathable than every other insulated jacket, but the Piz Boè has more up its sleeves. The unique pockets — appreciated for their easy access and superb location while wearing a backpack or harness — open along the midline of the jacket and are made of very fine mesh. This lets them double as vents very effectively, as the mesh allows airflow, and the central location of the pocket openings encourages even the slightest breeze from forward motion to enter the jacket. We've worn the Piz Boè for dozens of highly active outdoor winter adventures, and we love it a little more each time.
Though it can't match the ridiculous breathability of the Piz Boè, the Arc'teryx Atom does a pretty great job. It also features knit side panels (though not extending onto the shoulders) to offload excess body heat and stretch-knit cuffs (though not spreading up the forearm as far) that ventilate and can be pulled up if need be. The Atom is a great option for stop-and-go activities where you need breathability while moving but extra protection while standing still. The Patagonia Nano Air has some similar features to the Atom, with a softer exterior that breathes more easily than any swishy model we've tested. It also has small stretch-knit cuffs that help. It's another good option for intermittent sweaty winter activities. The only "classic" puffy jacket we tested with notable breathability is the Outdoor Research SuperStrand. It's the thinnest, least insulated jacket in our lineup, with comfortable elastic cuffs that can be pushed up like a sweatshirt sleeve.
A jacket built with synthetic insulation offers many great advantages, like the ability to stay warm even when wet. With many options out there, sifting through the market can be tough. We hope that our unbiased selection process and intensive testing for months (and in some cases, years) has helped you to determine which insulated jacket is the right one for your lifestyle and budget.
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