10 Best Synthetic Insulated Hiking Jackets of 2022

10 Best Synthetic Insulated Hiking Jackets

An insulated hoodie or lightweight synthetic jacket can be used for hiking or backpacking as an outer layer or mid-layer during spring and autumn when mornings and nighttime temperatures stay cool. Our preference is to use jackets that have hoods because we think that’s a must-have layering feature for hikers and backpackers. This lets you use them in camp or for extra warmth at night under a quilt or sleeping bag. Here are synthetic jackets we recommend across a variety of price points. Be sure to check out our buyer’s guide and recommendations below, so you choose the right synthetic insulated jacket for your needs.

Make / ModelInsulationWeightGender
Patagonia Nano Puff Insulated HoodiePrimaloft Gold Insulation Eco12.8 ozM | F
Arc'teryx Atom LT Insulated HoodieCoreloft Compact13.2 ozM | F
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow Insulated HoodyPrimaLoft Silver Hi-Loft Ultra11.7 ozM | F
Enlightened Equipment Torrid JacketClimashield Apex8.4 ozM | F
KUIU Kenai Hooded Jacket3DeFX+15.5 ozM | F
Outdoor Research Superstrand LT Insulated HoodieVerticalX Superstrand10.9 ozM | F
The North Face Thermoball ECO HoodieThermoball ECO15.9 ozM | F
Montbell UL Thermawrap ParkaStretch Excelloft9.3 ozM | F
Rab Xenair Alpine Light Insulated JacketPrimaloft Gold Active+10.3 ozM | F
Cotopaxi Teca Calido Hooded JacketRecycled Polyester11.4 ozM | F

1. Patagonia Nano Puff Insulated Hoodie

Patagonia Nano Puff Insulated Hoodie
The Patagonia Nano Puff Insulated Hoodie is a warm, windproof, and water-resistant synthetic hoodie that looks good on the hill or in town. It’s also made with 100% recycled materials including Primaloft Gold Eco insulation with a 100% recycled polyester shell and lining. The hood is designed to be worn under a helmet, so it’s less awkward and oversized than on other jackets. It comes with two zippered handwarmer pockets and an internal zippered chest pocket which serves as a stuff sack. A drawcord hem and drop-tail hem seal in the heat. A women’s model is also available.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry | Patagonia

2. Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Hoodie

Arcteryx Altom LT Hoody
The Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Hoodie is a lightweight insulated jacket that can be used by itself or as a mid-layer. It’s insulated with Arc’teryx’s Coreloft non-woven polyester insulation which dries quickly and retains warmth when it gets damp or wet, with stretch polyester fleece side panels for increased mobility. The Atom LT has a volume adjustable, helmet-compatible hood, two handwarmer pockets, and an internal zippered chest pocket. It has stretch knit cuffs and a drawcord hem to seal out drafts. The cut is slim. A women’s model is also available.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry | Arc’teryx

3. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow Insulated Hoody

MH Ghost Shadow Insulated Hoody
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow Insulated Hoody can function as an outer layer on chilly days or as a layering piece when the weather gets colder. It is insulated with Primaloft Silver Hi-Loft Ultra insulation (70% recycled) with a PFC-free recycled nylon shell. The jacket has two zippered handwarmer pockets and stuff into one of them. It has elastic wrist cuffs and a simple stretch hood with a single-pull hem drawcord to seal in the heat. A women’s model is also available. 

REI | Mountain Hardwear

4. Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket

EE Torrid Jacket
The Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket is a purpose-built synthetic jacket made for hiking and backpacking. It is insulated with Climashield Apex, which is also used by Enlightened Equipment to insulate its synthetic quilts. The Torrid has two zippered handwarmer pockets, elastic wrist cuffs, and an adjustable hood opening to block side drafts. The construction is not sewn-thru to eliminate drafts through needle holes, which is a significant enhancement and departure from the norm for jackets in this class. Its raglan sleeves are designed to be used with a backpack and its ultralight nylon exterior fabric has a durable water repellent finish to repel mist and light precipitation. A women’s model is also available.

Check for the latest price at:
Enlightened Equipment

5. KUIU Kenai Hooded Jacket

Kenai Hooded Jacket
The KUIU Kenai Hooded Jacket is a lightweight insulated jacket designed for ultralight backpack hunting where adventurers travel off-trail in wilderness areas for days at a time. This jacket is insulated with KUIU’s siliconized polyester which is highly water repellent and so quiet that archery hunters recommend it. The hood has a swept-back design, so it doesn’t block your peripheral vision, an elastic front with a visor, and a back adjust cinch. There are 2 pit zips for ventilation (nice!), 2 zippered handwarmer pockets and a zippered chest pocket, 2 interior drop pockets, a hem cinch, and elastic cuffs. Raglan sleeves make it comfortable to wear with a backpack and the exterior is treated with DWR for water resistance. A new women’s model is also available! Non-camo colors are also available.

Check for the latest price at:
KUIU

6. Outdoor Research Superstrand LT Insulated Hoodie

OR Superstrand LT Insulated Hoodie

The Outdoor Research Superstrad LT Insulated Hoodie is a lightweight jacket insulated with OR’s VerticalX insulation sewn in a discontinuous quilting pattern that reduces stitching and lets the insulation loft as much as 700-800 goose down. The jacket has an adjustable volume hood, elastic cuffs, and a drawcord hem. There are two zippered handwarmer pockets and the jacket stuffs into one of them for easy storage. A women’s version is also available. 

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry | Outdoor Research

7. The North Face Thermoball ECO Hoodie

The North Face Thermoball ECO Hoodie is made with 100% recycled fabric and Thermoball polyester insulation. It’s pretty basic with two zippered handwarmer pockets, an internal zippered chest pocket, a nonadjustable hood, and elastic wrist cuffs. It is sized for layering. A women’s model is also available. 

REI | Backcountry | The North Face

8. Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Parka

 
The Montbell UL Thermawrap Parka is a parka that’s misnamed (in our opinion) because it’s best used as a mid-layer or outer layer down to freezing and not for full-on winter use. It’s insulated with Montbell’s lightweight synthetic insulation and has two zippered handwarmer pockets and an external chest pocket. The hood has an elastic opening with a slight front brim and a rear volume adjuster. Elastic wrist cuffs and hem adjusters hidden in the pockets are included. A women’s model is also available.

Check for the latest price at:
Montbell

9. Rab Xenair Alpine Light Insulated Jacket

Rab Xenair Alpine Light Insulated Jacket
The Rab Xenair Alpine Light Insulated Jacket is an insulated hoody with a highly breathable 20D Pertex Quantum exterior. It is insulated with 60g Primaloft Gold Active+ insulation over the core, with 40g insulation along the sides, back, and under the arms to reduce perspiration in areas where it tends to accumulate. The hood is designed to fit under a helmet rather than over, which is good for hikers and runners who don’t need to wear one. There are two handwarmer pockets and a zippered inner pocket, good for keeping a Smartphone or a snack bar warm. The fit runs slim. A women’s model is also available. 

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry | Amazon

10. Cotopaxi Teca Calido Hooded Jacket

Cotopaxi Teca Calido Jacket
The Cotopaxi Teca Calido Hooded Jacket is a reversible insulated hoody so you can change colors like a chameleon! It’s insulated with 60g recycled polyester and made from 100% repurposed fabric with two zippered handwarmer pockets and drop-in hand pockets on the reverse side and a zippered chest pocket. There is elastic binding on the hood, hem, and cuffs that keep the warmth in. The sizing runs slim around the middle so size up for layering. A women’s version is also available.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry

Synthetic Insulated Hoodie and Jacket Buying Guide

Best Use: Mid-layer vs Outer-layer

As a hiker or backpacker, you’re likely to use a lightweight synthetic jacket while eating dinner in camp, at night as secondary insulation in a sleeping bag or under a quilt, or as a warm layer when you stop to take a hiking rest break during the day and feel a chill.

Many manufacturers will try to sell you on the idea that these jackets can be used as a mid-layer under a shell. That may be true if you’re standing around waiting for the ski gondola or belaying a climbing partner, but you’ll sweat too much, and soak your baselayers if you try to wear them under a rain jacket/shell while you’re hiking vigorously.

Compared to Fleece Jackets

Synthetic insulated jackets and hoodies tend to be warmer than fleece jackets and provide much better wind protection. They also tend to weigh slightly less. But fleece by itself is much more breathable. There are pros and cons to both garments for active use.

Polyester Insulation

Most of the synthetic insulation used in the jackets above is polyester, although it can differ in form. Some manufacturers try to mimic the compressibility of down with it by combining different lengths of polyester in a single garment while others simply sew bats of it between the outer fabric and jacket liner. In general synthetic insulation is less compressible than down, but it maintains its warmth better when it gets damp or wet. However, polyester does break down faster than down with repeated stuffing (compression).

Thermal Insulation Value

Unlike down insulation, it is difficult to compare two lightweight synthetic jackets in terms of warmth because most manufacturers use their own proprietary insulation and don’t tell you how much of it has been used to insulate the jacket. Manufacturers do tend to assign temperature ratings for their jackets, which can be somewhat helpful in determining their relative warmth although there is no standard method for assigning these either. When reading jacket specs, many manufacturers will list the weight of the insulation they use, as in 40 grams/sq meter and so forth. This reflects the weight of the insulation when sold in bulk, not the actual amount of insulation in the jacket, and is pretty meaningless from a consumer standpoint.

Sewn Thru vs Baffled Construction

With very few exceptions, lightweight synthetic jackets and hoodies have what is called a sewn-through construction where the front and back of the jacket are sewn together, mainly for appearance’s sake, although it can prevent certain types of polyester insulation from shifting. However, warm air can leak through the needle holes resulting in a slightly cooler jacket.

Shell Fabrics and DWR

Most of these jackets have nylon shells that have a DWR (durable water repellent) coating applied to them to repel mist and light rain. Where they differ is in the thickness of the external fabric, expressed in denier. Generally speaking, a 20D nylon fabric will be more durable than a jacket with a 10D shell fabric. While a 10D will be lighter weight and more compressible, it’s likely to hole more quickly or show wear and tear, particularly at the wrist cuffs than a jacket made with heavier fabric.

Hood Controls

The hoods on many lightweight or ultralight synthetic hoodies and jackets are quite rudimentary, with elasticized hood openings that may be too large to prevent cold drafts from entering around your ears. It really depends on the size of your head and the specific jacket. Hoods that are 1-way adjustable have volume controls in the back that let you shrink the size of the hood to provide a better fit. Hoods with 2-way adjustability go one step further and add neck cords that allow you to size the opening to just fit your face and block out any drafts. This level of function is pretty rare on lighter-weight synthetic jackets and hoodies, though.

Pockets

When shopping for lightweight insulated jackets, you’ll want a pair of zippered handwarmer pockets at a minimum for storing gloves and other items you want close-to-hand. A chest pocket is also desirable if you use a Smartphone for navigation. While it’s nice to have a pocket that you can stuff your jacket into, it really is a nice-to-have, that’s more useful for climbers to attach to a sit-harness than backpackers or hikers who have backpacks to carry stuff.

Hoodies, Jackets, Sweaters, Anoraks, and Parkas

Manufacturer product names are very inconsistently applied when it comes to lighter-weight down hoodies and jackets. In general hoodies, sweaters, anoraks, weigh close to one pound. Look for ones with hoods, as they provide the most head and neck insulation. When it comes to jackets, some are lightweight and some are heavier and meant for winter use in harsh conditions. You really have to look at the overall jacket weight to determine which is which. Anything up to or slightly over 16 oz will be good for transitional weather in spring or autumn down to freezing by itself or layered under a shell, while heavier jackets will be more appropriate for winter use. Parkas are almost always intended for very cold winter conditions.

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13 comments

  1. I ended up with a Swisswool insulation jacket by Ortovox and I’m super happy with it. Zebru jacket. I am still blown away at how thin it is, and how warm it is for its lack of thickness. No hand pockets, and one chest pocket, also packable into the chest pocket. It manages to wick sweat coming from my baselayers as well. Not cheap, but also wildly effective. Loved it as a mid layer under the shell for a Mt. Washington ascent last winter.

    • Layering is just one of those things that’s hard to make formulaic since everyone’s metabolism is so different. People like synthetic jackets and hoodies because they’re usually ligter weight than fleece or wool midlayers and because you don’t have to take them off and put them back on as much as more traditional multi-layer system because they combine a certain element of windproofness with insulation.

    • Me too, the Zebru jacket is an absolute gem! I also own the new iteration of Ibex’s Aire jacket and this is also lightweight, soft and very warm although not so stretchy. You have to wait for a sale though as super expensive. They also highlight IMO how poor Icebreaker insulated jackets are – they have a lot of work to do.

  2. I’ve had the OR Superstrand for a few months. I was impressed by the marketing I suppose, but also by the development of what seemed like the best new down alternative. I think it’s great for packing 1/2 of the year, thin but warm, and nice to stuff into a pillow-sack if the night doesn’t require it be worn. It’s basic/minimal, and I’d like to point out that it doesn’t have a drawcord waist, something that I noticed immediately but I see what the goal is. OR says “Low-Pro™ Elastic Binding Cuffs and Hem”.

  3. On maybe more budget side, many years ago I grabbed an Eddie Bauer Ignilite40 during one of their perpetual sales. Around 15oz and not the warmest but at probably less than half the price of these and I’ve been quite impressed by its versatility. From being soaked in the Anza-Borrego desert during their annual rain yet drying on me quite fast, to skiing in warmer weather and hiking, it’s an excellent jacket for active endeavors. Very breathable and with a DWR shell.

    The North Face Thermoball that I gave away had quite a boxy fit for whatever it’s worth.

  4. A superb review article. It would be nice though is women’s models were also up front rather than being a “woman’s models also available” afterthought give that women are as good at hiking as men and their monies are of same value. Imagine if it was in all reviews “men’s model also available”.
    Just a constructive criticism.
    Keep up the great work.

    • Philip…I’ve been reading your website religiously now for several years and really appreciate the female oriented content you put out, especially the female gear reviews and FAQs. I know it takes extra effort and probably cost, but I just wanted to say that I’ve noticed it and I know others have too!

  5. My go to is increasingly my EE Torid Pullover. Lightweight and very comfortable. I have used it to get more range out of my MLD quilt

  6. I’ve had and used the Outdoor Vitals’ Ultralight Lofttek Jacket for a while and it works great in all weather conditions. It is less expensive and lighter than several of the jackets in this article. I’d recommend to give it a try for anyone looking for a good lightweight insulation layer.

  7. Sadly, none of them fill my one and only criteria other than warmth and that is WATERPROOF.

    Water Resistant and Water Repellant mean absolutely NOTHING AT ALL. As I have said for years, “A SPONGE is partly water Resistant and Repellent to some degree… So I would not buy any of these….

  8. Kudos for including the excellent KUIU hooded jacket. KUIU makes expensive gear that is so because it is of the highest quality with thoughtful design. I like all my KUIU garments.
    Two years ago I asked KUIU to make more of their garments in solid colors (as opposed to just camo patterns) to appeal to non-hunters. To their credit they did so.

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