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Insulated Jackets: Hood or No Hood?

Should you get an insulated jacket with a hood or without one?
Should you get an insulated backpacking jacket with a hood or without one?

When purchasing an insulated jacket for backpacking, should you buy one with a hood or without?

I think it really depends on how you plan to use it with the other clothing you carry. In three-season weather, I bring a hoodless insulated jacket on all of my trips which layers easily under a hooded rain jacket when I am active and hiking. The nice thing about a hoodless jacket is that the hood doesn’t bunch up under a rain jacket so you look and feel like a hunchback. If my head is cold I simply put on a fleece beanie.

In cooler weather like early spring or autumn, I’ll bring an insulated jacket with a hood since I always use it as an outer insulation layer when I’m not active, either resting or in camp.

In addition to insulating your head, a hood insulates your neck, something that most hats don’t do, unless you wear a balaclava. The downside of a hood is that it can restrict movement, block out sound and your peripheral vision, but these things are less important when you’re inactive.

Perhaps a clearer way to state the difference is that a hoodless jacket is more like a mid-layer that you’d wear when hiking and that a hooded one is more like an outer layer for when you’re not moving. They have different functions although they have many similar attributes.

Updated 2016.

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  1. I think your right. I have a PHD jacket with a removable hood which works in all scenario’s.

  2. Most outdoor gear in UK is insane when matched against the dollar price. Unfortunately for some reason we have all sorts of add on costs when we buy from the US but nothing gets added on when we buy from China or other far eastern nations. I doesn’t make sense and it penalises the US.
    PHD is top quality gear and although i cannot afford to pay for it all the time, sometimes on special occasions, ie birthdays, Xmas etc i can take the plunge.

  3. Just like any piece of gear it has to be a part of a system. I carry a hoodless jacket because I also carry a fleece cap or down hood as part of my sleeping gear.


  4. I like the hood on the jacket – just as an option and I like the added material around the back and side of my neck when it is cooler.

  5. Hooded jackets in Winter, and hoodless in Summer.

  6. I’m with you. I recycle a lot of my golf sweaters for layering. A waterproof outer layer with removable hood.
    I have hats that have drop down flaps for ear and cheek protection and a small vizer
    I also carry a long scarf…wrap it around neck and face to protect from bug critters sun and wind.. seen more use in pulling people and tying up things though

  7. My down jacket does not have a hood, I prefer not to have hoods for insulation, so I just stick with a hat to keep my head warm, and a neck gaiter or something if I need additional warmth and wind protection. If it is sleeting or raining, my hard shell rain jacket does have a hood, because without one it would be pretty pointless. I’d say hood for outer most layers, and no hood for inner layers. I have a cotton hooded sweatshirt that I wear around the house occasionally. That I don’t mind having a hood, it’s nice once in a while and doesn’t really get in the way. I never wear it hiking though. Because cotton.

  8. Seems like a jacket with a packable simple hood is preferable to one without it… weight difference would be insignificant.

  9. I prefer having a hood. To me, it makes the jacket more flexible. I can pop up the hood when I’m cold or leave it down when I’m not. My down puffy and my everyday jackets have hoods. I also have a hoodless jacket, but it’s so old and beat up, I use it as my outdoors work jacket and I don’t care what happens to it. If I have to crawl under a car in the wintertime, that’s the jacket I wear.

  10. I picked up the ee hood for use with a quilt – and because it opens fully at the front seems to offer the most versatility, it’s also not made with down so if it got a little damp it should be too much of an issue. The jacks r better hood would offer a warmer down alternative and comes with a Velcro strip for attaching to a jacket.

  11. sounds like a slow day on the blog front. just saying.

  12. It is what it is . If using jacket to keep you warm a hood is the way to go.If you are backpacking with a down hooded jacket on then I would think that i would be in a fleece and a shell would be what you would be wearing . Only the coldest expeditions would one be is a down jacket a hiking .

  13. I find a hood is always nice to have unless I am using it as a running layer. In that case a hood can bounce around and be annoying.

  14. I actually have, thanks to the kindness of family, one of each – a Patagonia Nanopuff pullover (no hood) and a Rab Xenon with hood. For most spring/summer/fall backpacking I use the puffy as insulation for breaks, camp, etc. For that I much prefer the hooded Xenon; as Andrew Skurka pointed out, a lot more warmth for just a couple ounces. The only times I seem to use the Nanopuff is as a very light and packable mid-layer for winter trips. Even for that I’m reluctant to use it because it’s not nearly as breathable as a fleece layer would be.

  15. This sentence “The downside of a hood is that it can restrict movement, block out sound and your peripheral vision, but these things are less important when you’re inactive”. Plus I am deaf so that helped me to determine what kind of jacket I need. Thank you.


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