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The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024

Whether for winter climbing, hiking, skiing, or everyday cold-weather use, we put a variety of different layers through the wringer to find the best synthetic insulated jackets for every activity.
Testing synthetic jackets in the N. Cascades.The Helly Hansen Odin Stretch Hood Insulator 2.0 thrives in chilly alpine environments; (photo/Heather Rochfort)
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Synthetic insulation avoids the main weakness of down insulation by remaining functional and warm when wet. When caught unaware by stormy weather, synthetic insulated jackets will not lose their loft, as opposed to down, which will clump up and lose a lot of its insulating properties.

Additionally, synthetic insulation is significantly cheaper than down, is vegan-friendly, and tends to be more breathable. The benefits of synthetic insulation remain tempered by a few significant drawbacks, though — synthetic materials are often heavier and less warm than down, and they’re not quite as compressible.

However, as new insulation innovations hit the market with each passing season, the marginal differences between down and synthetic are quickly disintegrating. Many synthetic insulated jackets now rank among the best insulative clothing on the market.

Our team collectively tested a plethora of these puffies for the creation of this guide, with current author and Senior Editor Chris Carter having put over 25 different models through grueling tests in the past year alone. He dangled off jugs thousands of feet in the air, post-holed through sludgy snow, and huddled around countless campfires with these synthetic layers to bring you the streamlined selection you see today.

While testing each product we focused on a number of key metrics. We evaluated each jacket based on fit, comfort, and durability. Breathability, pack size, and overall value were also important considerations in our testing process.

While there isn’t a single jacket for everyone, we’ve highlighted useful features of each of our recommendations to help you find the best jacket for your needs. At the end of our list, be sure to check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide, as well as our comparison chart. And if you have some questions, take a look at our list of frequently asked questions.

Editor’s Note: This Buyer’s Guide was updated on April 18, 2024, adding the lightweight Stio Dawner Hooded Jacket, which features the unique Octa Lightweight Knit Insulation that has a raised diamond grid texture.

The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024

Best Overall Synthetic Jacket

Arc’teryx Atom Hoody


  • Insulation Coreloft 60 (60 g/m²)
  • Weight 13.05 oz.
  • Key features 2 hand pockets with hidden zippers, zippered chest pocket, gusseted underarms for mobility
  • Pockets 3 (2 zippered handwarmer pockets, 1 internal zip pocket)
  • Shell fabric Tyono, 100% nylon 20 denier shell with DWR treatment
Product Badge The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Breathable but still warm
  • Durable fabrics that move well during activity
  • Stylish look with a great, comfortable fit


  • Expensive
  • No integrated stuff sack
Best Budget Synthetic Jacket

Cotopaxi Teca Cálido Hooded Jacket


  • Insulation 100% recycled polyester (60gsm)
  • Weight 13.5 oz.
  • Key features Colorful funky design, reversible
  • Pockets 5 (2 zippered handwarmer, 2 internal drop-in, 1 zippered chest)
  • Shell Fabric Repurposed polyester taffeta with DWR finish & 600mm PU backer
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Sleek and stylish with tons of fun color combos
  • Reversible with two different styles
  • Packs into chest pocket
  • Sustainable construction
  • Affordable


  • Not the most premium insulation
  • Not the softest next-to-skin feel
  • Subpar mobility
Runner-Up Best Synthetic Jacket

Black Diamond Vision Hybrid Hoody


  • Insulation PrimaLoft Gold Crosscore synthetic insulation with Aerogel (100% Polyester, 60gsm)
  • Weight 15.4 oz. (men’s medium)
  • Key features Aerogel technology boosts warmth, over the helmet hood, harness-compatible zippered hand pockets, breathable fabric on underarms and back panels
  • Pockets 3 (two zippered handwarmer pockets with left pocket functioning as a stuff sack, one zippered chest pocket)
  • Shell Fabric 20 denier Pertex Quantum Air nylon with Liquid Crystal Polymer Ripstop and DWR finish
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Extremely versatile
  • Warm yet breathable
  • Thoughtful features that boost comfort


  • On the heavy side
  • Hood is floppy if not wearing a helmet
Warmest Synthetic Jacket

Patagonia DAS Parka


  • Insulation 133 and 40g PrimaLoft Gold Insulation with aerogel technology
  • Weight 19.6 oz.
  • Key features Weather-resistant fabric, helmet-compatible hood, two-way front zipper for easy belaying and climbing
  • Pockets 5 (Two zippered handwarmer pockets, one zippered chest pocket, two deep internal dump pockets)
  • Shell Fabric 0.8 oz. 10 denier Pertex Quantum Pro recycled nylon with polyurethane dry coating and DWR finish
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Super warm
  • Phenomenal weather and wind resistance
  • Climbing-specific design


  • Pretty heavy
  • Bulky
  • Expensive
Lightest Synthetic Jacket

Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket


  • Insulation 2 oz/yd² CLIMASHIELD APEX insulation
  • Weight 8.2 oz. (size medium, 7-denier inside and outside fabric, standard torso, standard hood)
  • Key features Zippered handwarmer pockets, no sewn-through seams, shock cord adjustment at the hem, and elastic cuffs
  • Pockets 2 (Two zippered handwarmer pockets)
  • Shell Fabric 7, 10, or 20 denier options for both inside and outside fabric
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Fully customizable
  • Phenomenal warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Packable


  • Long lead times for custom orders
  • Fabric not super durable
  • Boxy, unflattering look
Best Active Insulation Synthetic Jacket

Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody


  • Insulation Migration-resistant PrimaLoft Gold Active Insulation
  • Weight 14.3 oz.
  • Key features Body-mapped insulation, underarm gussets for better range of motion, light and packable
  • Pockets 3
  • Shell fabric 20D nylon ripstop with PFC-free DWR coating
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Highly breathable
  • Great for "start-stop" activities like climbing and backcountry skiing
  • Phenomenal mobility for active use


  • Some premature pilling
  • Not the warmest out there
Best of the Rest

Patagonia Nano Puff


  • Insulation 60g PrimaLoft Gold Eco synthetic insulation
  • Weight 11.9 oz. (men’s medium)
  • Key features Comfortable front zipper garage at chin, elasticated cuffs, stuffs into its own chest pocket, drawcord-adjustable drop-tail hem
  • Pockets 3 (Two zippered handwarmer pockets and one internal chest pocket which doubles as a stuff sack with a harness attachment loop)
  • Shell Fabric 1.4 oz. 20-denier 100% recycled polyester ripstop with a DWR finish
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Stylish design looks good in the mountains and around town
  • Highly compressible given how warm it is
  • Slippery fabric makes layering easy


  • Extensive stitching adds some breathability but also allows rain to soak insulation faster
  • A little heavier than similar lightweight layers
  • Loose-fitting cuffs often let some heat escape

Rab Xenair Alpine Light Jacket


  • Insulation 60gsm Primaloft Gold Insulation Active+ through front, back, top of sleeves, and collar; 40gsm Primaloft Gold Insulation Active+ through sides, underarms, spine, and top of hood
  • Weight 10.3 oz. (men’s medium)
  • Key features Under helmet hood, elasticated gusset at cuffs, stuffs into its own chest pocket, body-mapped insulation to aid in breathability
  • Pockets 3 (Two concealed zippered handwarmer pockets and one internal chest pocket which doubles as a stuff sack with a harness attachment loop)
  • Shell Fabric 20 denier Pertex Quantum Air nylon with a DWR finish
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Super breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Packs down small


  • Hood design makes wearing it under a helmet a little awkward
  • Not the warmest jacket out there

Stio Dawner Hooded Jacket


  • Insulation Octa Lightweight Knit Insulation, 100% Polyester, 100g/m2
  • Weight 12.2 oz.
  • Key features Octa insulation has a slightly raised diamond grid pattern that holds in heat while allowing sweat to evaporate
  • Pockets 3 (two zippered handwarmer pockets with left pocket functioning as a stuff sack, one zippered chest pocket)
  • Shell fabric Stretch Nylon Plainweave with High Air Permeability, 91% Nylon, 9% Spandex, 20 denier, 55 g/m2 with a PFAS-Free DWR Finish
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Lightweight
  • Very breathable
  • Excellent range of motion
  • Packs into its own pocket
  • Simple, classic style


  • Textured lining can catch on other clothing layers
  • Not as warm as heavier jackets

Patagonia Micro Puff Hoodie


  • Insulation PlumaFill
  • Weight 10 oz. (men’s medium)
  • Key features Helmet-compatible hood, elasticized cuffs, stuffs into its own pocket, plentiful zippered and drop-in pockets
  • Pockets 4 (two welted, zippered handwarmer pockets and two internal drop-in pockets; left pocket doubles as a stuff sack with a reinforced carabiner clip-in loop)
  • Shell fabric 10-denier Pertex Quantum 100% nylon ripstop with a DWR finish
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Lightweight
  • Quite wind-resistant for its weight
  • Versatile


  • Expensive compared to similar options
  • Minimal stretch
  • Shell could tear easily

Arc’teryx Atom Heavyweight Insulated Hoody


  • Insulation Arc’teryx Coreloft Insulation
  • Weight 1 lb.
  • Key features Athletic fit, helmet-compatible hood, two zippered hand pockets, one zippered chest pocket
  • Pockets 3
  • Shell fabric Tyono 30-denier shell with DWR treatment, 100% nylon
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Relatively breathable for such a warm jacket
  • Stylish
  • Durable
  • Exceptionally warm


  • Runs a bit small
  • No internal dump pockets

Mammut Rime Light IN Flex


  • Insulation 60g Toray stretch insulation
  • Weight 12.8 oz.
  • Key features Zippered front pockets are compatible with pack straps and climbing harnesses, elastic cuffs, adjustable hem
  • Pockets 2
  • Shell fabric 20-denier Pertex Quantum Air
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Very warm for an active midlayer
  • Thoughtful features


  • A bit bulky

Helly Hansen Odin Stretch Hood Insulator 2.0


  • Insulation PrimaLoft Gold Active+
  • Weight 1 lb.
  • Key features 2-way stretch fabric, DWR coating, flat brim hood
  • Pockets 3 (Two zippered handwarmer pockets and one internal chest pocket)
  • Shell fabric 100% Polyamide (shell 1); 95% Polyester, 5% Elastane (shell 2) with a DWR coating
The Best Insulated Jackets of 2024


  • Breathable but durable face fabric and insulation
  • Stellar mobility while climbing or hiking with articulated elbows
  • Vented underarms
  • Extremely comfortable lining fabric


  • On the heavy side
  • Niche, performance-oriented design isn't for everyone

Synthetic Insulated Jacket Comparison Chart

Synthetic JacketPriceInsulationWeightPocketsShell Fabric
Arc’teryx Atom Hoody$300Coreloft 60 13.2 oz.3Tyono, 100% nylon shell with DWR 
Cotopaxi Teca Cálido Hooded Jacket$150100% recycled polyester (60gsm)13.5 oz.5Repurposed polyester taffeta with DWR
Black Diamond Vision Hybrid Hoody$295PrimaLoft Gold Crosscore with Aerogel15.4 oz.3Pertex Quantum Air with DWR 
Patagonia DAS Parka$449PrimaLoft Gold with Aerogel19.6 oz.5Pertex Quantum Pro with DWR 
Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket$200CLIMASHIELD APEX8.2 oz.27, 10, or 20 denier options 
Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody$295Migration-resistant PrimaLoft Gold Active14.3 oz.320D nylon ripstop with PFC-free DWR 
Patagonia Nano Puff
$23960g PrimaLoft Gold Eco11.9 oz.3100% recycled polyester ripstop with DWR
Rab Xenair Alpine Light Jacket$225PrimaLoft Gold Active+10.3 oz.3Pertex Quantum Air with DWR
Stio Dawner Hooded Jacket$229Octa Lightweight Knit Insulation12.2 oz.3Stretch Nylon Plainweave with DWR
Patagonia Micro Puff Hoodie$329PlumaFill10.0 oz.4Pertex Quantum with DWR 
Arc’teryx Atom Heavyweight Hoody$350Arc’teryx Coreloft16.0 oz.3Tyono with DWR 
Mammut Rime Light IN Flex$24960g Toray stretch12.8 oz.220-denier Pertex Quantum Air
Helly Hansen Odin Stretch Hood Insulator 2.0$260PrimaLoft Gold Active+16.0 oz.3100% Polyamide with DWR
Best Synthetic Jackets
Synthetic jackets tend to be more breathable and versatile, making them perfect for activities like multipitch climbing; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

How We Tested Synthetic Insulated Jackets

The GearJunkie team has been huddling together in shiver bivies, tugging on tiny granite crimps, and slogging along skin tracks in synthetic jackets for just about forever. When we say we’ve exhaustively sampled the market’s selection — we mean it. No stone was left unturned in the creation of this roundup, and each jacket had to pass a series of demanding tests to merit any real estate in this guide.

Editor-at-Large Seiji Ishii curated our initial selection of 11 jackets for this guide in January 2020. A prolific climber, hiker, and all-around outdoorsman, Seiji has spent many a mile roughing it out in these synthetic puffies, and knows the importance of a solid jacket in the backcountry.

Author and Senior Editor Chris Carter took over this guide in August 2022, and has been combing through his closet, and scouring the internet ever since to bring you the most current, deserving selection possible. As an ultralight thru-hiker and endurance backpacker, the functionality-to-weight ratio of each item he carries on his back is of utmost importance, and every element of the gear he packs is considered.

Chris has thru-hiked the Triple Crown of long trails (the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail) and continues to pursue long-distance hiking around the world.

He’s had the chance to test a range of different synthetic jackets on these trails and has found synthetic insulation to be the best choice for versatility, breathability, and weather protection on long journeys. He knows what makes a synthetic jacket worth its mettle for different adventures, and has been fastidiously choosy about what ends up in this guide.

We know the competition for the synthetic podium is fierce and constantly evolving, which is why we’ve slotted this guide into a regular update schedule. As soon as fresh technology or new designs hit the market — we’re scoping them out, testing them in the wild, and deciding whether they deserve attention. Rest assured, every jacket in this guide has been vetted by our stone-cold pros and has proven to be worthy.

IMG_1413 1
Senior Editor Chris Carter putting the EE Torrid through its paces in the snowy San Juans on the CDT; (photo/Chris Carter)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Synthetic Insulated Jacket

Synthetic insulation has become a popular alternative to down over the years, and the market now offers a wide range of high-quality synthetic-filled jackets. On this list, some of our recommendations highlight puffy jackets that prioritize warmth, while others are best used during high-output activities like running or skiing where breathability is key.

Synthetic midlayers that focus on warmth stress thermal efficiency for lower-output activities such as walking, belaying, fishing, and so on. Puffy synthetic midlayer jackets prioritize maximum warmth over breathability.

On the other hand, active insulation jackets offer more breathability for high-output pursuits such as backcountry skiing, jogging, and climbing. Synthetic jackets designed for active use are more breathable and better at regulating temperature.

Beyond these two broad categories, there are many other factors to consider as you narrow down your synthetic jacket search. In this buyer’s guide, we aim to prepare you to make an informed and confident purchase.

What Is Synthetic Insulation?

Synthetic insulation is designed to replicate the qualities of down. It’s made from polyester fibers arranged into intertwined filaments that trap warm air in millions of tiny pockets.

Compared to down jackets, synthetic insulated jackets have both pros and cons. Importantly, synthetic insulation is able to retain its warmth when wet. This is a huge advantage over down and a key reason why synthetic insulation is often preferred in wet and cold environments.

Warm yet breathable, active insulation jackets like the Arc’teryx Atom LT are perfect for cold ascents at the crag; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Unfortunately, synthetic insulation cannot quite match the miraculous warmth-to-weight ratio of down. In other words, synthetic jackets need to be a little heavier to achieve the same level of warmth.

There are many different types of synthetic insulation on the market now, and various companies have their own proprietary types of insulation that they either fill their own jackets with or sell to other companies. A few of the most common types of insulation are PrimaLoft, Thinsulate, and PlumaFill.

PrimaLoft, one of the most widely used types of synthetic insulation, is made with 100% polyester microfiber that mimics the fluffiness of natural down, and comes in a few different categories. The most popular are PrimaLoft Gold, PrimaLoft Silver, and PrimaLoft Silver Eco (which is made of 70% recycled fibers).

PrimaLoft Gold is the most performative and sought-after insulation in their lineup, and is comparable to a 550-fill power down jacket. Each of the categories, to varying degrees, is highly breathable, water-resistant, and compressible.

Weather-resistant, breathable, and comfy, the Xenair impressed us on multiple fronts; (photo/Emily Malone)

Thinsulate insulation is considered to be one of the warmest thin apparel insulations on the market. Its incredibly thin fibers retain a surprising amount of warmth, and the nature of its tight construction makes it a prime material for ultralight insulating layers, or small clothing items such as gloves.

Though every type of synthetic material will lose at least some of its insulating properties when wet, Thinsulate boasts excellent moisture-wicking abilities, allowing it to dry quickly. Other types of fill, such as Polartec Alpha and FullRange insulation (used by Patagonia in the Nano-Air series of jackets), offer arguably the most breathable options out there.

Polartec Alpha, or Alpha Direct, was manufactured out of a military request to develop a synthetic and incredibly breathable alternative to down that could be used in high-intensity activities. The insulation eventually found its way into the outdoor industry and is used by many different brands today.

Testing synthetic jackets in the Northern Cascades
Different terrain and levels of activity demand different types of synthetic insulation. The Helly Hansen Odin Stretch thrives in the cold alpine; (photo/Chris Carter)

Intended Use

Take a few moments to envision how you’ll use your insulated jackets. Do you need something for winter climbing or long-distance backpacking? Or will this be a jacket that does it all? There’s no right or wrong answer. But being clear about your intended use will help you prioritize certain factors such as breathability and durability.

In each of the product reviews above, we have highlighted a variety of different features that the jackets are known for, in addition to ways they could be improved. Take a look at both the pros and cons of the layers, and focus on what activity you will be using it for most.

If you are setting out on a 5-month thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, you will need an insulated jacket that keeps you protected and warm in a vast range of ecosystems and climates.

If you want a layer that keeps you cozy while belaying at the crag, or walking the dog downtown, you may not want the most feature-packed, versatile shell on the market.

The Arc’teryx Atom shines on high-output, chilly activities like rock climbing; (photo/Honey McNaughton)


Each of the jackets above is either a regular synthetic jacket or an active insulation jacket, and the main difference between the two types is breathability. Generally, there’s a tradeoff between breathability and waterproofness. Fully waterproof jackets are less breathable than active-use softshell options.

If you’ll regularly wear your jacket as an outer layer, it’s worth investing in a bit more waterproofing. But if you’ll use it mainly for high-output activities, look for a jacket that maximizes breathability.

In general, synthetic insulation is more breathable than down, since it doesn’t trap the body’s heat as effectively as down does. The level of breathability of a jacket varies, though, and has to do with the type of insulation it uses, along with its shell material and design.

Jackets such as the Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody, or the Salewa Ortles Hybrid Tirolwool Jacket maximize breathability due to the nature and construction of the insulation used, but also the strategic placement of breathable material used in the shell.

Using your synthetic jacket as an element of your layering system, you can weather most conditions with even a more ventilated model. Pairing a breathable jacket with a burly rain jacket or hardshell when Thor’s hammer strikes gives you a power combo of thermal efficiency. If it’s just burly wind you’re worried about, throw a thin windbreaker jacket over your insulator for an ultralight, ultra-mobile barrier against the elements.

EE Torrid
Rocking the adequately breathable Torrid through mid-May snow on a thru-hike of the CDT; (photo/Chris Carter)


Durability is particularly important if you plan to wear your jacket as an outer layer in rough and rugged environments. Most jackets on this list stand up great to the rigors of bushwacking or climbing on rough rock. But some need a bit more care than others.

The durability of synthetic insulation versus down insulation is somewhat of a debated topic, as there are a number of factors to consider. Synthetic insulation doesn’t have to be babied as much as down insulation, but also loses its form and breaks down faster over time, especially if you are compressing the jacket a lot. Down tends to leak from the jacket more, however, and therefore slowly loses its warmth.

Not all synthetic insulation is created equal, though, and the different types of insulation will vary in how long they hold up to harsh conditions. When thinking about the durability of a jacket, the type and quality of the insulation (such as PrimaLoft Gold versus PrimaLoft Silver) and the construction of the outer shell (such as what denier and material is used) need to be taken into consideration.

A durable synthetic jacket is key for cold night romps up sharp rock; (photo/Chris Carter)

Additionally, it’s important to remember that often the more durable a jacket is, the heavier it is. So, if an ultralight setup is your main concern, you may need to go with a more fragile layer.

A shell like the Patagonia DAS Parka offers increased durability, but may weigh your pack down too much for quick missions in the mountains. If you want to thrash about without concern, something like the thinner Patagonia Micro Puff Hoodie may not be the best choice, but could lend itself as the optimum layer if light and fast is your main goal.

Water Resistance

Where synthetic insulation really trumps down is in its ability to insulate when wet. Down absorbs water, and clumps up, thereby losing its loft, as opposed to synthetic insulation which retains its loft. Water sits between the fibers, allowing the insulation to keep its shape, maintain warmth, and dry faster than down.

While all synthetics will generally repel moisture better than down, the degree to which a jacket will insulate you in damp conditions varies from brand to brand. Most manufacturers are adding a DWR (Durable Water Repellant) treatment to the outer shell of their insulated jackets, which beads up water in light precipitation, allowing it to roll off and not soak into the insulation. This only works to a certain degree, however, and in constant rain, you’ll want to add a rain jacket to your layering system.

Testing synthetic jackets in the rain
A primary selling point of synthetic insulation: reliable warmth when the weather takes you by surprise; (photo/Emily Malone)

Pack Size

Sure, you plan to wear the jacket, not just pack it around. But for those times you need to ditch a layer or bring it just in case, the pack size and weight matter. Synthetic insulation doesn’t tend to pack as small as down (although synthetic fill technology is rapidly improving).

While the Patagonia Micro Puff may not be the most durable jacket, it wins big on the packable scale. The Rab Xenair Alpine Light and the Stio Dawner Hooded Jacket are other easy-to-pack choices.

Key Features: Pockets, Hoods, and More

Depending on your intended use and general needs, you’ll want to choose a jacket with the right array of features.

Pockets, hoods, adjustable hems, and elastic cuffs are all examples of common synthetic jacket features. Each of these has a unique purpose and value.

Pockets come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. From zippered hand-warmer pockets to low-profile chest pockets, the recommended jackets on this list offer a wide range of configurations.

The Patagonia DAS Parka excels in freezing temps and has features catered toward rock climbers and alpinists; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Many synthetic jackets are available in either a hoodie or non-hoodie style. The best choice for you depends on your use. Hooded jackets are great in frigid or stormy conditions and for people who tend to feel cold in the ears, head, and face. Unhooded options are generally best for everyday use around town or in-bounds resort skiing.

Price and Value

At the end of the day, you want to get a good deal. More than just the lowest price tag, a jacket’s value stems from its usefulness and bang for the buck.

Carefully consider how you’ll use your jacket and then look for features that fit your needs. Helmet-compatible hoods, pockets, and materials become important considerations.

Also, if you plan to wear your jacket regularly, it’s worth investing more. Spending a few extra bucks now will afford you many seasons of warmth and comfort outdoors.

On the lower end of the spectrum, budget picks like Cotopaxi Teca Cálido hover in the $150-200 range. These jackets will get you around town, and perform about average on light adventures, but won’t have the same level of mobility, breathability, and performance as pricier models in the $250-300 range — such as Black Diamond’s First Light Stretch Hoody, or Arc’teryx’s Atom Hoody. These will last for years of abuse and will help regulate temperature while keeping pack weight down on truly technical backcountry missions.

Consider the full range of conditions you plan to encounter on your trip, and choose a jacket that will hold up to whatever you plan on putting it through.

The revolutionary EE Torrid fits perfectly with an ultralight backpacking setup, keeping pack weight to an absolute minimum; (photo/Emily Malone)


What are synthetic jackets used for?

Synthetic jackets are used in all sorts of situations where comfortable and reliable warmth is needed. From the ski hill to the jogging path, synthetic jackets are a modern and effective tool in the fight to stay warm.

Compared to down jackets, synthetic jackets tend to be slightly heavier and less vulnerable to moisture-related warmth loss. Elite mountaineers use synthetic jackets, as do city dwellers on their way to buy groceries.

On this list, we’ve divided our recommended jackets into two unique categories. For maximum warmth, check out our synthetic insulated jacket category. If you’re looking for a jacket that can regulate your temperature and breathe during active use, check out our active insulation category.

Testing synthetic jackets in the N. Cascades
While synthetic jackets may not be as light and packable as down jackets, they don’t have to be babied quite as much; (photo/Heather Rochfort)
What’s the difference between synthetic and down?

Compared to down, synthetic insulation is slightly heavier, slightly cheaper, and less likely to lose its effectiveness in a rainstorm. Unlike down, synthetic insulation is able to retain its warmth when wet.

When dry, however, synthetic insulation cannot quite match the miraculous warmth-to-weight ratio of down. In other words, synthetic jackets need to be a little heavier to achieve the same level of warmth.

Do I need a synthetic jacket for skiing?

Many skiers wear synthetic insulated jackets as a midlayer beneath their waterproof outer shells. On cold days at the resort, a warm and puffy jacket can be the difference between comfort and misery.

For backcountry skiing, breathable layers are the way to go. During uphill hikes along the skin track, you’ll want layers that can let some of your body heat escape in order to stay cool and prevent sweating.

A reliable active insulation synthetic jacket offers warmth and breathability during high-output activities; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

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