Best Insulated Jackets
Goosebumps, goose-pimples, goose-flesh, the shivers… who likes them? It’s never a welcomed feeling. To avoid an uncomfortably cold winter, you’ll need an insulated jacket. There are different styles of insulation, each with their benefits and drawbacks. An insulated jacket will be your first line of defense when facing inclement weather. Depending on your climate, you may want to also pay attention to the materials of the outer shell. Some are impermeable and great for rain or snow. Already, with just this bit of information, finding the perfect insulated jacket can feel overwhelming. To go ahead and start heating things up, we have researched high and low to bring the current top 10 best insulated jackets on the market.
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Top Ten Insulated Jackets
1. Arc'teryx Atom AR
Comfortable to wear
Not suitable for colder weather
This lightweight insulated jacket is a great choice for those situations where you need just a little bit more warmth without sacrificing mobility. It offers a lightweight and breathable option when it comes to cooler weather of the fall and early winter. While it’s not suitable for playing around in the snow, it’s a great choice for those who lead active lives all year round.Read more
This jacket offers Coreloft synthetic insulation material that is not only lightweight and comfortable but also quick drying as well. So if it gets wet, it won’t stay that way for very long. Some found that the insulation didn’t provide enough warmth overall, especially during the rainy season.
Most people found this jacket very comfortable to wear, with only a small percentage indicating that the insulated jacket was a bit larger than they expected it to be.
The shell of this jacket is primarily made of nylon with jersey cuffs. There were some instances where the jacket didn’t protect well from rain and snow, and that was one of the major complaints.
Overall the breathability of this jacket is fairly good, with the mixture of nylon and taffeta material in the shell allowing for a good bit of ventilation overall.
This insulated jacket features a fairly straightforward and simple design. It features a front zipper, an insulated lined helmet, two hand pockets, and an internal chest pocket as well.
2. Columbia Mighty Lite
Has an interior security pocket
Runs a bit small
If you’re looking for a fashionable insulated jacket that will help to keep you warm in an urban environment, this one from Columbia is a great overall choice. If you’re looking for a nice looking jacket that will keep you relatively warm during fall excursions, this one will do the trick. Just keep in mind that it does run a little small.Read more
This coat features synthetic insulation that is surprisingly light and compact. Although we would have liked to see a little more insulation for those colder days, for a fall day in the city or a hike through the woods, this lightly insulated jacket serves quite well.
Unfortunately for people of larger stature, this insulated jacket tends to run a little small by design. It’s a snug fit, and an average person may have some trouble moving in it. It would definitely be advisable to buy a size or two larger than normal for a more comfortable fit.
The shell is made from a wind and water-resistant synthetic nylon and polyester material.
Overall the breathability is all right, but definitely could be better. When the coat is closed, it is difficult for moisture to move from your skin to the outer air.
This jacket features zip closed pockets, as well as an inside pocket where you can securely keep your valuables.
3. North Face Apex Elevation
Good overall fit
Both wind and water-resistant
Could be thicker
The Apex Elevation Jacket from The North Face provides a versatile insulated jacket that can easily operate during the game on a cool Friday night or a brisk walk through a winter forest on the weekend. If you’re looking for a great go-to coat when things start to get a little cold, this is one that should be on your list.Read more
This jacket features Primaloft Silver insulation with a thicker amount being found in the body of the jacket and a slightly less amount in the sleeves. While it was found to be more or less perfect for most normal situations, some found the insulation to be slightly thinner than they expected. For the most part, we found this insulated coat to be great for autumn or the beginning of winter, but not for very frigid temperatures.
Most people found this insulated jacket to be extremely comfortable to wear, and a great overall fit. Only about 9% found that it was a bit smaller than they would have liked.
The shell is made from a softshell polyester material with a breathable membrane and an outer nylon shell that is both highly wind-resistant and water-resistant as well.
In truth, breathability is the area where this jacket truly shines. Not only does it keep you relatively warm and dry, but the softshell combination helps to pull moisture away from your body as you move around.
This insulated jacket features a relaxed fit, an attached and adjustable insulated hood, and zippered hand pockets as well as a Napoleon chest pocket as well.
4. Helly Hansen Berg
Easy to clean
Great protection from the elements
Reflective areas for maximum visibility
Runs a bit small
If you work in the outdoors during the colder months, you know how important having a quality insulated jacket can be. This entry on our list from Helly Hansen is a great example of when form and function meet to make a great workwear coat.Read more
This insulated jacket features 100% polyester insulation that is great at keeping you warm even during the coldest days. A greater amount of insulation is seen in the body than the arms to allow not only for the most efficient use of the insulation and to allow for great flexibility in the arms.
A little under half of the people who reviewed this insulated jacket found it about a size or two too small for their liking, so buying a size or two greater than your usual one might be advisable. Other than that, many commented that the neck was a more snug fit than expected.
The shell is made from a polyester-nylon blend that is great at repelling wind and water while staying easy to care for. Simply wash it as you would your normal clothes.
Overall the breathability of this jacket is good, but not great. If you sweat a lot even in cold weather, this jacket may become uncomfortable for you after a while.
This jacket is certainly designed to be used on construction sites or working outdoors. It features reflective elements, two large zippered chest pockets, and a raised neck collar that can be easily closed to keep out the chill of the wind.
5. Carhartt Sherpa Sandstone Sierra
Warm inner lining
Designed for movement and flexibility
If you can look past the sizing issues and the heavier when damp factor, this is a great overall insulated coat, especially when talking about toughness and durability. It’s little wonder why this coat is often used by construction professionals and those who work outside for a living as their go-to coat for all things outdoors.Read more
This insulated jacket is lined with a generous layer of Sherpa lining in both the body of the jacket as well as the hood and quilted nylon in the sleeve area.
While the majority of the people who reviewed the jacket found it to be a comfortable fit overall, there were a number of problem areas. For some, the chest area was too tight, and for others, the sleeves were too long. Another group found that the jackets were essentially too short and did not cover their waist adequately. If you're considering buying this Carhartt insulated jacket, we would certainly suggest trying it on first or buying from a reputable vendor with a solid return policy.
The shell is made from 12-ounce, 100% cotton duck material, which is great resisting rips and tears, and more or less adequate to repel moderate amounts of snow and water. However, after a point, the cotton duck does start to absorb moisture, making the insulated jacket a bit heavy to wear and uncomfortable.
Generally speaking, this coat has minimal breathability but is excellent at keeping the wearer warm and relatively dry in most situations. However, if you are prone to perspire a good deal, this might not be the best choice for you.
This insulated jacket features an insulated attached hood, fitted cuffs, and waistline, two interior pockets as well as exterior pockets. In addition, the main seams of the jacket are tripled stitched for extra durability, and the back is designed to allow for a maximum amount of flexibility.
6. North Face Arctic Parka
500-fill down goose insulation
Dry clean only
An adjustable waistband would be more versatile and comfortable
The Arctic Parka is a great choice for someone who wants to stay warm and look good while doing it. It provides coverage and warmth from your chin to your knees with 500-fill goose down. Additionally, there is a hidden elastic waistband that helps to give you shape under this big coat.Read more
Goose down really is the king (or queen) of insulation. The Arctic Parka brings us 500-fill of down insulation. The jacket has a regular fit and leaves you some space under the coat for layers. The removable hood is also a great option that provides extra warmth.
If you are looking for ultimate warmth and style, you’ve found it. The Arctic Parka is long. It zips up high enough to cover your chin and hangs down almost to your knees. While some cold air could still creep in from under, that’s only something to worry about on extremely windy days. Additionally, to give you some shape and style, there is a hidden elastic waistband.
Overall, this parka weighs about 2.86-pounds. All fo the materials were specially chosen and provide great warmth, weather protection, and comfort. The waterproof exterior is made from polyester, cotton, and nylon. The taffeta lining feels great against the skin and makes it easy to slide the parka over clothes.
Although this parka has been described as thick and heavy, it still manages to be breathable. The HyVent 2L exterior keeps in warmth, is waterproof, and still maintains breathability.
There’s more than meets the eyes here. The two zippered exterior hand pockets are deep and there is also an internal media pocket with a media loop. The Arctic Parka is available in various colors and looks great on just about anyone.
7. Outdoor Research Transcendent
May run a bit small
This insulated jacket from Outdoor research is designed to be lightweight and comfortable to wear when the temperature starts to drop. Whether you’re making camp at your favorite spot or skiing across the snowy plains, this jacket is a great thing to have along. If you’re looking for a lightweight but very warm insulated jacket to wear alone or as part of a larger ensemble, this is a great overall choice. While there are some issues with fit, for the most part, this jacket will certainly keep the chill away.Read more
This insulated jacket offers 650+ goose down insulation that is both lightweight and extremely warm overall. Many people chose to use this insulated jacket as their only cold weather jacket, but it was also shown to be lightweight enough to wear as a warm underlayer.
For the most part, people found this insulated to be well-fitting. However, it should be noted that there were complaints about the jacket being ill-fitting for men, especially in the waist area, or overall too small in the arms and shoulder area.
The shell material is made of a two-layer combination of nylon and polyester material that is designed to be both lightweight and extremely breathable.
This insulated jacket is fairly breathable overall, and the two-layered shell provides ample ventilation in most situations.
This insulated jacket also features a drawcord hem, two zippered hand pockets, a zippered Napoleon pocket, and the left-hand pocket doubles as a stuff sack, so you can literally take this coat just about anywhere.
8. Black Diamond First Light
The stretchy hood can accommodate a helmet
Small hand pockets
Can feel a little bulky
The First Light is a great versatile jacket that can be used around town or for a number of adventurous sports. The hood is stretchy enough to accommodate a helmet and the material is abrasion-resistant. Additionally, the mesh nylon interior also provides impressive breathability.Read more
While the First Light is warm on its own, it’s also a great layering piece. There is room for base or mid layers underneath if you want to add an extra layer of warmth. The jacket itself features migration-resistant PrimaLoftAR silver insulation. This means that the insulation will stay in place throughout any activity and when you wash it.
This lightweight jacket provides a regular fit and weighs just under one pound. It features underarm gussets for great mobility. Aside from the gussets, the jacket is stretchy all around. Most reviewers found that it ran true to size, with only a handful agreeing that runs slightly small.
The main materials of the First Light are Bluesign approved. The outside of the jacket is finished with NanosphereAR technology which repels water, dirt, and oil. The synthetic polyester insulation will continue to keep you warm even if it gets wet.
Black Diamond stated that the First Light is one of their most breathable jackets. The interior is made from woven mesh nylon. It’s a great option for climbing, hiking, or even just running around town.
There are two concealed zippered hand pockets and one stretchy internal mesh pocket. The hood is versatile and features an elastic band that will accommodate a helmet. To top it all off, the jacket can be folded into the internal chest pocket and carried anywhere with ease.
9. North Face Apex Bionic
Comfortable to wear
Easy to layer with other clothing
Not much insulation
This insulated jacket from The North Face offers a lightweight option that can be easily layered into a winter weather ensemble or worn by itself on the cool autumn evenings around the fire. If you want versatility, this is a great choice for an insulated jacket.Read more
This jacket features a relatively thin layer of fleece insulation that moves easily with you and provides great overall coverage. While we certainly would have liked to see a thicker overall layer of fleece, this is a great choice when just a little bit more warmth is needed.
This insulated jacket was found to be a bit large on average, so ordering a size or two down may be a prudent choice overall.
The shell is made from polyester material that is both windproof and water-resistant.
The combination of polyester shell, fleece lining, and elastane materials make for a very breathable and lightweight insulated jacket overall. In fact, many people have used this jacket for a layer within their heavier coat simply because of its lightweight and breathable nature.
This jacket features a relaxed fit, a center front zipper, and a hem cinch-cord. There are also two side pockets that are zippered.
10. Mountain Hardwear Dynotherm
Could have a better fit
This last entry on our list from Mountain Hardwear is a great choice for keeping warm on a snowy and blustery day. Between the wind and water-resistant nylon shell and the down insulation, it’s difficult for Old Man Winter to make a dent in this one.Read more
This insulated jacket features 650 down fill insulation. It also easily keeps its loft and therefore warming capabilities even if it becomes wet.
Most people found this jacket to be well-fitting overall, but there were a few problem areas. First, many people found the sleeves too long. Second, the waist area was difficult to cinch close using the available drawstrings. And lastly, some found that the hood restricted visibility a little too much.
The shell is made from a tough but breathable nylon material and features double-needle stitching for added strength and durability.
Generally speaking, the breathability of this coat is quite good, although far from perfect. While it certainly can keep you warm on a cold winter’s day, you can expect to perspire somewhat while wearing it.
This jacket features quite a few details, and in this case, it may be a case of a little too much refinement for some. It features an attached drawstring hood, drawstring waist, elastic cuffs, two-pack compatible side pockets, a Napoleon pocket, and a shielded zipper closure. A number of people found the features to be harder to use in colder weather.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When it comes to insulated jackets, there are essentially three different types of insulation that are commonly used today. The first type is what is considered natural material such as down, wool or fleece. These natural fibers have a few advantages as well as disadvantages. For example, down insulation is great for trapping heat among the fibers, and are usually very easy to compress. However, down also has a tendency to clump up and become uncomfortable over time. Wool and fleece insulation can both offer lightweight layers that have great breathability, but people with sensitive skin often react to them unfavorably.
The second type, of course, is synthetic insulation. Synthetic insulated jackets, as the name implies, contains material that is man-made, often polyester, rayon, or some blend of materials. Synthetic insulation is often easier and cheaper to make, so the overall price tag is a little less, and for most people, there isn’t a high risk of an allergic reaction, which you can find in some natural fabrics. However, they do tend to be much bulkier than their natural equivalents, and they have been known to be less durable overall.
Finally, quite a few manufacturers are coming out with natural and synthetic blends for their insulated jackets, trying to find something with the advantages of both. While they often succeed in making insulated jackets that are more water-resistant and lighter in weight and less expensive than down or synthetic alone, they also fail on a regular basis as well. For the outdoor enthusiast, it truly is a trial and error situation when it comes to a synthetic and natural blend.
What good is a jacket that doesn't fit well? Some styles don't even allow you to lift your hands over your head without exposing your midriff. We have researched the brand's reputation and customer reviews to determine the overall fit of each jacket. Perhaps you are looking for an insulated jacket that covers your behind, or a jacket that has extra long sleeves. Knowing more or less how each jacket will fit is incredibly useful. Of course, there are some styles that have different opinions all over the place. In this instance, we can just warn you to purchase from a retailer with a great return policy. This even gives you the option to order a couple of different sizes and form your own opinion.
Of course, all the insulation in the world won’t do a person any good if the weather can make its way into your jacket and make you colder from the inside out. This is why having a protective layer, or shell is so important. The shell material of the best-insulated jackets is often made of materials such as nylon, polyester, or cotton duck. These materials are designed to not only repel rain, snow, and dampness from the jacket but also allow for good breathability overall. However, if you want to take it a step further, you should look for jackets with a DWR (durable water repellency) finish. When water or snow hits this treatment, it will bead off. Whether you like to be prepared for anything, or know specifically that you will be in rain or snow, this is a great feature to look for.
Have you ever worn a jacket that made you sweat more than anything else? Or one that felt stuffy or uncomfortable? Chances are if that happened to you, the insulated jacket that you were wearing didn’t have good breathability. While it’s important to keep warmth near your body, it’s also important to allow for good air circulation around your body as well. That’s where the insulated jacket’s breathability comes into play. With many jackets, the weave of the fabrics provides breathability.
If that is not the case, some also feature ventilation vents. A jacket will also tend to feel much more comfortable and breathable depending on the internal fabric. Certain fabrics, such as polyester and nylon, are naturally moisture-wicking. This means that even if you do over-heat, the material will quickly absorb and evaporate the moisture.
Last on our list, but certainly not the last thing we considered for the best-insulated jackets is the idea of the jacket features included. While they may not carry the same importance as the insulation or the overall fit, it really is the little things that make us fall in love. In an insulated jacket, things such as a hood, easy to access pockets, a zipper that is easy to use, as well as a drawstring waist may all be contributing factors that can turn a well-insulated jacket into a great one.
It’s important to consider how and when you’ll be using the insulated jacket. Depending on how it will be used, added features such as a hood, larger pockets, or reflective bands may be needed or even a flaw. For example, if you need increased visibility overall, a hood may block your peripheral vision too much. However, if you are in extreme temperatures, a hood may be vital to keeping your ears warm and preventing frostbite.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
There are a number of things to consider when buying an insulated jacket, and choosing the right one for your needs can be difficult at times. There are certainly quite a few to choose from on the market today. While the look and fashion of the jacket should be taken into consideration, for the most part, you’ll want to look at how the insulated jacket can keep you warm and dry even on the coldest days.
Perhaps one of the most important tips we can give you is to know the climate that you'll be using the jacket in. If you will be in a climate where rain or snow is likely, goose down fill is not your friend. While it is super fluffy and comfortable, it doesn't provide warmth when wet and also takes a long time to dry. Synthetic insulation is much better for these environments. Synthetic insulation can continue to provide warmth, even when wet.
Other Factors to Consider
Let’s face it; you’re not going to be wearing your insulated jacket all the time. Therefore, you’ll need to take into account what you’re going to do with it when you’re not wearing it. How much room do you have available for storage? Are you going to need to keep it in a backpack or sack while you’re hiking or hunting in the great outdoors? Often, the weight and the bulkiness of the jacket will play an important part in determining how and where you store it when not in use. So if you have a limited amount of space, it’s important to make sure that the insulated jacket you use has good compressibility overall.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Why would I choose a synthetic insulated jacket rather than a down one?
The choice between a synthetic or a down insulated jacket is a personal one. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. For many people, making the choice to use a synthetic material for their insulated jacket stems from a few factors.
First, many synthetic materials are hypoallergenic, meaning that there is a lower risk that someone could have an allergic reaction to the material. Some individuals can have a reaction, even to the insulating layer of a coat, especially if it is close to the skin. Second, synthetic material is often much easier on the wallet than quality down material. Synthetic material is usually of a comparative quality as well, so often you don’t have to sacrifice quality for affordability in the case of an insulated jacket.
However, synthetic insulation is often heavier and bulkier than natural fibers, meaning that the jacket will be heavier and bulkier as well. In addition, synthetic fibers, by their very nature break down faster than natural fibers, meaning they will lose their effectiveness faster.
q: How breathable are these insulated jackets?
If an insulated jacket has decent breathability, the jacket shell itself will often have two layers. The first, or face material is made from the shell material and is designed to prevent water and the elements from reaching further. This is often the nylon or polyester material that you see on the outermost portion of the jacket. The second layer usually made up of a thin synthetic layer that has a series of very tiny holes that are large enough to allow for air to circulate, but not large enough to allow water, dirt, or other material through. Essentially the air from the outside travels through this membrane gets warmed by the body, and passes out, creating a circulation of air. This circulation of air also allows for the overall circulation of moisture as well, which can help to keep you relatively comfortable and dry.
q: How easy is an insulated jacket to use in extreme weather?
Another factor that quite a few people overlook when it comes to buying an insulated jacket is how easy or hard it will be to use the jacket in extreme weather. While the jacket is certainly designed to keep you warm overall, sometimes the features of the jacket make it a little bit hard to use, especially in situations where extreme cold may be a factor. For example, if you know that you are going to be using the jacket in a place where temperatures often dip into the negatives, having a zipper that is easily engaged rather than buttons that can be hard to fasten may be a better option overall.
q: How do you get the perfect fit for a insulated jacket?
Another thing to consider when buying an insulated jacket is how well it fits overall. While a snug fit isn’t what you want to see necessarily depending on the jacket style, you still want to make sure that you can keep the colder air out and the warmth of your body heat close to your body. After all, that is essentially the point of insulation, right? To this end, there are a few things when it comes to overall fit that you’ll need to take a look at.
The overall size is important since an ill-fitting jacket can often leak heat out into the environment. Plus it is really uncomfortable. Next, you’ll want to take a look at how it fits at the wrist, neck, and waist. It’s best to look for elastic bands that help to trap the heat in next to your body.
q: How should I care for my insulated jacket?
The way that your insulated jacket is cared for depends greatly on the material it is made from, and whether or not it has been treated to help withstand the weather. First, it is important to follow the directions provided by the manufacturer in regards to the care and use of the jacket. This will help to ensure that your jacket remains the best-insulated jacket for you for years to come.
Generally speaking, though, cleaning an insulated jacket made from down material is best left to the professionals. It’s important to make sure that the temperatures are set precisely while cleaning, something that can be difficult to do in a home washer. However, if you want to give it a try, make sure you set the temperature as close to the temperature provide on the label, and tumble dry on a gentle cycle, taking it out every fifteen minutes or so to shake out any lumps or clumps of down that may have occurred.
Insulated jackets made with the synthetic material can be usually treated like normal clothing and washed and dried in a home system, provided that they are removed from the dryer regularly to shake out and make sure that the synthetic insulation isn’t clumping together.