Our Favorite Insulated Jackets for Women
There are a lot of options out there for choosing the right insulated jacket for a backpacking trip, and while the best option will be up to the individual hiker, there are a few things to take into consideration.
The two main insulation options are down or synthetic. Down fill has a higher warmth to weight ratio, which means you get more bang for your
buck ounce. It’s also generally more expensive, and you have to be careful to not let it saturate, as down loses insulating properties when wet. However, there are now many choices for water-resistant down, which helps the fill stay lofted up to 60 times longer than untreated down. Synthetic fill, while heavier and less compressible than down, is quickly catching up to natural fill. The biggest appeal for synthetic fill is that it maintains insulating properties when wet, which can be a literal lifesaver on humid or wet trails.
Choosing a lighter-weight jacket with a lower fill power and fill weight will save ounces in your pack, but you could wind up wishing you had something warmer. Opting for a higher fill power and weight will likely be enough to stay warm for a variety of conditions in moderate climates.
Women-specific down or synthetic jackets will fit better through the waist, shoulders, and hips. This allows the jacket to be worn under a shell or over base layers while fitting comfortably under a pack if necessary. It also means you’ll have less empty space to heat up, which saves energy and keeps you warmer longer.
Here are our picks for the best insulated jackets for women.
The Best Insulated Jackets for Women
Patagonia Down Sweater
This is about as simple as it gets. 800-fill down, DWR-treated face fabric, a classic cut, and a mid-range weight of 12 ounces keeps this jacket in style and on the shelves year after year. Patagonia updated the fit for this jacket last year with a more contoured cut through the waist, meaning it layers well under a shell and doesn’t bunch up as much as previous iterations. – Editors
Mountain Hardwear Women’s Ghost Whisperer
This is a longtime favorite of long-distance hikers for a reason. The Ghost Whisperer weighs less than seven ounces, is warm, comfortable, and packs down to almost nothing. The cut is fitted enough to be comfortable and functional, but has enough room to layer underneath. It is not tight in the armpits or back, which is so important to women with athletic builds. The front zipper zips up high enough to keep your neck warm, but doesn’t irritate your chin or choke you with the zipper. Also available in a hooded version. – Lexi
MSRP: $299 (Last season’s colors on sale for $148)
Synethic jackets can be more convenient and easier to take care of than down, and the Nano-Air is one of the most popular options out there. It weighs 11.6 ounces, and you can hike in it, wash it, not worry about getting it wet, and it will perform as well as down jackets at a lower cost. The jacket is built with 60 grams of synthetic insulation and a water-shedding face fabric. The material is stretchy yet durable, giving this jacket an extended range of motion perfect for wearing on the move. – Editors
Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Hoodie
The Arc’teryx Atom LT jacket is probably my favorite jacket that I have ever owned. It is super lightweight and surprisingly warm considering how thin it is. The synthetic fill and durable shell let you throw it in the wash with regular detergent and not worry about a thing. It is easy to move around in and it is unbelievably durable. I was finally convinced to shell out the cash for one after seeing two friends complete AT thru-hikes with their Atom LT’s in mint condition, despite having worn them every day on the trail and having them for five-plus years prior to the trail. Bottom line- this jacket is amazing. – Jess
REI Co-op Magma
With 850-fill down, articulated patterning through the sleeves, body-mapped quilting, and pockets high enough to be accessible while wearing a hip belt, we firmly believe this jacket can do no wrong. The sleek, women’s-specific design fits well under a shell, and is also a protective standalone piece. It weighs just 8.8 ounces and is barely over $200. – Editors
Patagonia Nano Puff
I’ve had the Nano Puff for three years now, and I look forward to getting to wear it every season. The jacket is lightweight yet extremely versatile and can be part of your layering system in a multitude of weather situations. In early fall and late spring, this jacket rocks as a lighter layer to throw on when the temperature starts to drop. It keeps you warm, but never hot so you don’t have to do the good ole “take the jacket off while you are working it on the uphill, put it back on during the downhill.” During the winter, the jacket is thin enough that I have been able to use it under my heavier down jacket as another layer when it really starts to get cold. The Nano Puff is easily worth the investment and with the free repairs from Patagonia, it will keep you warm for years to come. – Colleen
Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket
Built with function in mind, this jacket is a sleek, minimal piece of gear. Hydrophobic 750-fill down is kept in place with low-profile baffles, and the Pertex Quantum face fabric helps keep the insulation safe. This jacket also works well for mountaineering pursuits, with a helmet-compatible hood and slim mid-layer fit. Not the lightest jacket on the list, but a solid, unfussy insulation layer from a trusted company. – Editors
Arc’teryx Cerium LT Down Hoodie
Yes, it’s Arc’teryx, yes you’ll drop some coin on this jacket. But for higher-elevation, lower-temperature trips where you need more insulation and protection but don’t want to lug a beastly jacket around, this is your best option. Weighing under ten ounces and filled with top-of-the-line 850-fill goose down, this jacket is longer than other models and will help prevent cold blasts from getting under the layer. Insulation is body-mapped and incorporates synthetic fill in areas more prone to moisture accumulation. Shell is windproof and breathable, and the hem has a drawcord for added draft protection. – Editors
The North Face Summit L3 Down Hoodie
The color blocking is… unique, we’ll put that right out there. But the construction and fit more than make up for the color choices. The Summit L3 is insulated with 800-fill RDS goose down and protected with a DWR-finished shell fabric. The cut is moderate, allowing for easy layering over and under. This jacket will do fine crammed into a backpack for long trips as well as worn on technical outings, featuring a packable design and a helmet-compatible hood. The hood is high-coverage and the zipper comes right up to your chin for when you can’t handle anything except your nose poking into the air. – Editors
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