My Favorite Insulated Jackets for Hiking

Insulated jackets are a key component in a good layering system for hiking. When choosing jackets, I look for options that are lightweight and pack down small so they are easy to stash in a backpack.

mid layers for hiking

Features to Look for in Insulated Jackets

Packability: Since an insulated jacket might be too warm at times when hiking, it’s important that they fit in a backpack without taking up too much space. All of the jackets shown here can be stuffed into one of the hand pockets to make them more packable.

Lightweight: A good jacket for hiking shouldn’t weigh down your pack. Heavier jackets tend to be more bulky, which impacts packability.

Hoods: I prefer jackets with hoods for keeping my head warm. When I want to take it off, it’s much easier to deal with while hiking. Hoods also keep my neck and ears warmer than when wearing a hat.

Ventilation: Several of these options include ventilation in the arm pits, a great feature to shed excess warmth while wearing the jacket.

Pockets: Great for stashing gloves and other items, pockets are a must for me on jackets. The placement of the pockets will determine how well they work while wearing a pack, with higher pockets making it easier to access without unbuckling a hip belt on a pack, although this can vary based on each individual’s torso length.

Sleeve length: Not often mentioned as an important feature, I prefer jackets with longer sleeve lengths that go over my hands to keep them warm and dry. Thumbholes on jacket sleeves are a nice feature as well. They help when adding layers over a jacket so the sleeve doesn’t get bunched up, but I also like how they can add warmth to your hands without needing gloves.

Type of insulation: Synthetic insulation is good for rainy or humid conditions since it’s not impacted as easily by moisture and retains heat insulating properties when wet. Down insulation tends to be warmer and compresses smaller for stashing in your pack.

My Favorite  Overall Insulated Jacket

Outdoor Vitals Vario jacket review

Outdoor Vitals Vario Jacket

The Vario is an ultralight outer layer tailored for active pursuits with bodymapped synthetic insulation and underarm perforations for ventilation. This jacket is made to go over a base layer or mid-layer, and works especially well with the Ventus Hoodie for the ultimate in flexible warmth. At only 8.3 oz. for a women’s small, this is a super warm jacket at an ultralight weight and that replaces the insulated jackets I used to take on hiking and backpacking trips. I especially like the soft fabric that has a weather-resistant finish, the raglan-sleeve design for comfort, and the sleek look of this jacket. See my full review of the Vario Jacket. Weight: 8.3 oz. (women’s small).

View at Outdoor Vitals: $209.97 

Women’s Vario Jacket    Men’s Vario Jacket

My Favorite Ultralight Synthetic Jacket

Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket

Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket: the lightest of the jackets listed here, the Torrid is extremely warm for the weight. A thru-hiker favorite, the design is very basic, with two hand pockets and a hood but no other extras. After using this jacket on all of last year’s backpacking trips, I think it’s warmer than my Ghost Whisperer, and now it lives in my pack all winter for hiking during the rainy season. Custom order a jacket in the color combination that you prefer. My jacket uses 10 denier fabrics on the inside and outside. For a more durable finish, 20 denier fabric is an option for the outside. Weight: 6.9 oz. (women’s small).

View at Enlightened Equipment: $200

Women’s Custom Torrid  Men’s Custom Torrid

My Favorite Down Ultralight Insulated Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket

The Ghost Whisperer utilizes 800-fill-power down to keep it extremely lightweight. It provides a lot of warmth, and layers well with an outer shell due it’s trim shape. This is one of the most popular insulated jackets used by backpackers. Weight: 7.8 oz. (women’s small).

View at REI Co-op: $360

Women’s Ghost Whisperer    Men’s Ghost Whisperer

My Favorite Budget Synthetic Jacket

Outdoor Vitals Ultralight LoftTek Jacket

Outdoor Vitals LoftTek Synthetic Jacket

The LoftTek jacket is feature-packed at a low price: it has an adjustable hood, pit zips, hand pockets, thumbholes, and a DWR finish to resist rain. And it’s roomy enough to allow for wearing multiple layers underneath. See my full review of the LoftTek Jacket. Weight: 11.5 oz. (unisex x-small).

View at Outdoor Vitals: $99.97

Unisex LoftTek Jacket

Warmest Insulated Jacket

Outdoor Vitals NovaPro Jacket review

Outdoor Vitals NovaPro Jacket

The NovaPro Jacket from Outdoor Vitals is a feature-packed ultralight (and seriously warm) jacket. Utilizing a stitch-less baffle construction to keep out wind and rain, this jacket is made for cold weather adventures. View my full review of the NovaPro. Weight: 12.9 oz. (women’s medium).

View at Outdoor Vitals: $249.97 (use the link below for a 20% discount – limited time offer)

NovaPro Jacket

My Favorite All-Purpose Synthetic Jacket

REI Co-op Flash Hybrid Hoodie

REI Flash Hybrid Insulated Jacket

The Flash Hybrid jacket includes stretchy fleece panels on the sides for ease in movement, thumbholes, and a hood with an elastic brim. With solid fabric panels on the outside of the jacket instead of stitched baffles, less wind gets through to help keep you warmer. The style of the Flash Hybrid makes it a great choice for hiking and wearing around town. Another nice feature of the Flash Hybrid are the multiple pockets: two hand pockets, a chest pocket, and two inside drop pockets. Made from recycled materials in a Fair Trade Certified factory. Weight: 11 oz. (women’s small).

View at REI Co-op: $179

Women’s Flash Hybrid Jacket

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