This is why most vests are casual first and performance second. Next, determine what characteristics matter the most to you, and then use this review to help narrow down your search. Super warm and well built. It wasn't the warmest hoody in this review, and the fill down means it's heavier than most without being warmer.
Canada Goose has been constructing high-quality cold weather gear since it was founded in a Toronto warehouse in , so you know anything you buy from them is going to stand up to the elements. Featuring cotton twill canvas panels and water-resistant polyester panels, this is the vest that you can wear to work on Friday and motor straight into your weekend in the country once 5pm rolls around.
Posted in Style By Amanda Waas. Buyer's Guides , Editors Picks , Vests. Matador Beast Packable Technical Backpack. Statgear Pocket Samurai Titanium Knife. Olight S1 Baton Flashlight. And all of the small features are there: Impressive warmth to weight ratio. Mimicking the structure of down, PlumaFill is also packable—more so than other synthetic insulations—and maintains the same loft and warmth that we love about feathers, even when wet.
Our main gripe with the Micro Puff—and depending on your activity of choice, it could be a large one—is the extremely thin, 10D face fabric. Furthermore, if weight is not our main concern, the Patagonia Nano-Air and OR Ascendant are both warmer and more breathable. But considering its minimal weight and bulk, not to mention windproof and water repelling face fabric, the Micro Puff is a high performance layer that excels in mountain environments. The bargain basement price. There are no frills here: But Columbia is a respected company in the outdoor gear world and the Steens Mountain Vest should help add some warmth to your core.
Who should steer clear of the Columbia? This fleece vest will add only a fraction of the warmth compared to a down or even a synthetic model. The fleece eventually will show wear, especially after a number of washings. Super warm and well built. Overkill for most uses. Enter the Helios from down specialist Feathered Friends, which is extremely warm with 4. Realistically, the Helios has limited appeal.
But if you run cold, live somewhere frigid, or spend a lot time outdoors in the winter, give the Helios a serious look. See the Feathered Friends Helios Vest. If the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer above was just too heavy for you at a hefty 5 ounces, perhaps the 3. This is not a misprint: For serious alpine climbers or those who just want to brag about their down vest that weighs less than an average deck of cards, this is your ticket.
There are two major factors that may make you think twice about buying the Montbell Plasma The first is the ultra-thin 7D nylon shell, which realistically will tear far more easily than most people would like.
The second is the fill weight—despite the 1,fill power down, you only get 1. Creative yet functional design for those on the go. Very much a specialty vest for cold weather running and biking. Smartwool is synonymous with wool socks, but the company makes some pretty cool layering pieces, too.
The Corbet is a very unique vest: For weather protection, the Corbert has a DWR finish to help repel light moisture.
Throw it over a lightweight or midweight baselayer and you have yourself a workable cold weather system. Keep in mind that the Smartwool Corbert is a specialty piece. Some people are surprised to unbox the vest and find that it only contains a thin panel of merino blend fabric on the back, offering little warmth to those standing still. And the casual appeal is there but still fairly limited due to the performance nature of the vest.
It is, however, a solid vest option for hardcore runners and bikers who need to spice up their cold weather gear quiver. In addition to casual use, some people wear vests for aerobic activities like hiking, biking, and climbing, or as a midlayer for skiing both resort and backcountry. For serious forays into the backcountry, however, a jacket provides maximum coverage and warmth and therefore often makes the most sense. This is why most vests are casual first and performance second.
Down Without a doubt, down is the warmest insulation type. However, down is less breathable than synthetic insulation and retains more moisture when wet, which can cause problems in rainy or snowy weather. When evaluating the quality of down inside a particular vest, fill power is the most commonly provided specification. The higher the fill number, the warmer and fluffier the down will be at a given weight. The vests on this list peak at a whopping 1,fill power for the Montbell Plasma this is an anomaly , while most high-end down layering pieces use or fill down.
Not all synthetic insulation is created equal, however, and industry leader PrimaLoft is dependable and has been innovative of late. For a complete breakdown of the topic, see our article on down vs. Merino Wool Along with down, merino wool is one of the premier natural forms of insulation. For a little background, merino sheep are a specific breed highly prized for soft and finely crimped wool.
Merino wool gear is known for its next-to-skin comfort, warmth, temperature regulation, and ability to wick moisture and stay dry. Merino vests are popular too, with wool specialists like Ibex, Smartwool, and Icebreaker all having a number of models. Keep in mind that most merino vests and products in general consist of simply the fabric itself instead of clusters of down or synthetic insulation, and therefore are less substantial and warm.
But for a performance vest or baselayer for aerobic activities, merino is a very viable option. Fleece Fleece is pretty much synonymous with coziness and has been for years. This simple polyester fabric is soft, decently warm depending on the thickness, and offers great next-to-skin comfort.
Fleece is most commonly found on casual pieces like the ubiquitous Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T. As we covered above, down is the warmest type of insulation for the weight. Synthetic insulation comes in second, with merino wool and fleece tending to be the least warm of the bunch.
In general, a vest should help keep you decently warm as a layering piece in most fall and spring conditions. If the temperatures get frigid or you are standing still for an extended period of time, you will want to consider layering up or wearing a full down or synthetic jacket instead.
For down, fill power is readily available fill, fill, etc. Synthetic pieces often use grams 80g, 60g, etc. The shell, including its material, thickness, and coating, largely determines the degree of weather protection. Most down and synthetic vests have a polyester or nylon shell that should do a decent job at repelling light to moderate wind and precipitation.
Merino does a good job of repelling moisture naturally but will soak through over time, and the same goes for fleece, which is hydrophobic but allows wind and water to penetrate the fabric. Down soaks up moisture and loses the ability to insulate, whereas synthetics are much better in this regard. Breathability can vary significantly from vest to vest, and synthetic insulation is superior to down in this regard.
This low number should not dissuade shoppers though. Using heavier, lower quality down brings the cost down and a casual parka like this doesn't need to be as light and compressible as more technical options that need to fit in your backpack.
The Canada Goose Expedition Parka is filled with average quality fill down , but it has so much of it that it's the warmest model reviewed. It's also pretty bulky. The second warmest jacket earns a Best Buy award. The North Face McMurdo is nearly an expedition parka, with the price tag of a casual jacket. It offers the best value in our test. The Patagonia Jackson Glacier also kept us warm in most wintry conditions.
The Woolrich Bitter Chill deserves mention for being on the warmer side of the fleet. The Woolrich is the warmest non-down insulated piece reviewed. Woolrich insulates the Bitter Chill with a lofted batting that blends wool and synthetic fibers. Overall, jackets with synthetic insulation are not as warm as the down models. The Arc'teryx Fission SV provides less insulation than most of the down models reviewed.
This is likely because the garment has less insulation overall, though it did reinforce the idea that if you are looking for warmth, opt for down. REI's jacket is a down-insulated layering piece that has insulating value a little below that of the Arc'teryx Fission. The fleece jackets are the least insulating products reviewed. Well-suited to more moderate climates, The North Face Arrowood Triclimate is durable, versatile, and affordable, but not incredibly warm. Insulated with synthetic fleece, it just doesn't stack up to the rest of the field, which may be just what you're looking for if you live in a warm climate.
When we talk about weather resistance, we're talking about wind and water. These jackets are thick enough to cut the wind, so you just need to look out for drafts. Longer jackets or those with ribbed hems will protect you from below.
Inner cuffs and hoods will also keep warm air in and cold out. That leaves us with water. Water-resistant outer fabric helps keep you and your jacket's insulation dry in wet winter weather. All of these models have some type of water resistance, from basic nylon with a durable water resistant DWR coating to a fully waterproof membrane layer with taped seams. These strategies provide varying degrees of protection. If your winter precipitation tends to fall as rain or wet snow instead of the West's dry powder, consider a winter jacket with a waterproof outer shell, like The North Face Arrowood Triclimate with its DryVent fabric or the Arc'teryx Fission SV that uses Gore-Tex.
These waterproof and breathable fabrics shed water faster and for much longer than a DWR treatment alone. If a jacket has an inner waterproof membrane, you can be sure the outer face fabric is treated with DWR. This knocked the jacket down in the ratings. If you wear your jacket in lower temperatures where it tends to snow instead of rain, and if that snow is relatively dry you know who you are , then the competitors with DWR treatments such as the Canada Goose Expedition Parka , Patagonia Jackson Glacier , or the REI Co-op Down Hoodie are adequately protected.
It's not incredibly water-resistance due to its untaped seams, but it's warm enough to excel in genuinely sub-freezing conditions.
Luckily, in those temperatures, precipitation is always solid, and the compromised weather protection isn't a problem. However, in our testing, the outer fabric to soaked in more snow and water than the others, making it a bit heavy and uncomfortable. This is the cost of style. The external material is attractive, but not as weather-proof as the smooth face of something like the Marmot Fordham or the Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun.
We dig the Haglofs Torsang Parka's weather protection. This is a fully waterproof, taped-seams rain shell with light insulation. It isn't warm enough for many winter climates, but the wet and sleety corners of North America are just the place for it. In terms of weather protection, it is similar to the Editors Choice and the Patagonia Tres. Wintertime is uncomfortable enough. Don't put on an uncomfortable winter parka, too. Most of the models we reviewed work hard to make braving the cold and wind more forgiving.
We found a general correlation between cost and comfort. More expensive jackets use softer materials and more thoughtful tailoring to achieve maximum comfort. A parka's cut has a significant impact on its comfort. A meticulously designed jacket like the Arc'teryx Camosun Parka fits most bodies better than a generic square-cut design. A longer hem, which many of these parkas use, also keeps the waist from riding up and exposing you to drafts. A notable exception is our Best Buy Marmot Fordham.
Despite its bargain price, every tester who tried on the Fordham was impressed to find that it's more comfortable than the competition. There is also something of a correlation between comfort and warmth. The biggest jackets we tested are the warmest, but they are also the most confining.
Lots of insulation and an extended cut keep the heat in and make for a large package. This bulky package limits your range of motion, also impeding your comfort. The more comfortable parkas reviewed, like the Arc'teryx Camosun , also have elastic rib knit cuffs, which seal out drafts and snow.
Unless you cinch them down around your gloves, velcro-closed cuffs aren't as protective and comfortable as the elastic versions. The rest employ velcro cuffs. We love the cozy feel of fleece lining, especially when it lines pockets and chin covers.
When cinched tight, it works as intended to hold in warmth, making you feel like you're at home in front of the fire, albeit with some tickles to your cheeks. The soft, down-sweater style construction of the OR Whitefish is far more comfortable than it appears. It looks like a rigid "barn coat" style jacket. However, the construction is tailored and materials selected such that you have all the range of motion you need and a light feeling sort of insulation. Hoods, multiple hand warmer pockets, two-way zippers, and cuff closures work together to protect you from frigid environments.
A hood is mandatory in nasty winter weather, and while it is not a substitute for a warm hat, it certainly makes life a lot nicer. Ideally, these hoods will be highly adjustable to allow for a customizable and secure fit. The best hood in our test is found on the chart-topping Canada Goose Expedition. The hood is warm, large, and can be cinched down securely and comfortably. The stiff brim also keeps the hood almost out of your field of view.
This is unfortunate, as the latest hood is compromised enough that warmth and weather protection suffers. If you leave the removable fur ruff on and don't have to move your head much, the McMurdo's hood effectively seals out the weather.
Otherwise, the more sophisticated hoods of the Arc'teryx and Patagonia jackets are at the head of the pack, literally. The Woolrich Bitter Chill has a roomy and cozy hood. Only the interior layers of the 3-in-1 jackets do not come with any hood, meaning that a warm hat is necessary. Insulated handwarmer pockets are an excellent place to keep cold hands or gloves, and most have a fleece-like liner.
The Arc'teryx jackets have the best hand warmers. All of these feature wrap-around fleece lining. This not only means that your hand is insulated while in the pocket, but that there is no draft when the pocket is open. The next best hand warmer pockets, like those on the REI Down Hoody , put the user's hand between the outer insulation and the wearer's body.
The pockets are uninsulated, but they are fleece-lined, and there are four of them! With a set at chest level and waist level, there is a hand warming option for every posture.
The latest version still has four fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, but the upper, chest-level ones are now situated further from the center zipper. This means that you have to contort your shoulders and elbows to get your hands into them. So much so, that these pockets aren't comfortably usable.
Nonetheless, the jacket is incredibly worthy. We wish that the jackets featuring a single layer of fabric protecting the hands in a warming pocket had a more sophisticated design. The Canada Goose models, for instance, both have uninsulated hand pockets. When wearing a trench-coat-length parka, the need for two-way zippers becomes apparent.
The extended length can inhibit stride, and wearing a long coat while seated can be awkward and uncomfortable without this feature. The Haglofs Torsang Parka is a long coat with a separating zipper on the bottom. Getting this zipper started is annoying, but once rigged it runs smoothly. Cuff closures can be simple elastic closures, a snap closure, or Velcro, but a good winter parka needs them. They seal out the snow and cold and integrate well with gloves.
Open cuffs with internal gaskets, like those on the Arc'teryx Camosun and Woolrich Bitter Chill , combine fashion and function. The Haglofs Torsang has soft inner gaskets with velcro closed outer cuffs.
Box baffle construction sometimes makes vest heavier and more expensive, but the advantage is the vest will be much warmer. The best down vests will feature box baffles or . Their Puffer Vest (available in navy, burgundy, or black) is one of the brand’s best offerings, made with durable nylon ripstop fabric and filled with Primaloft insulation. Purchase: $ Bonobos Banff Vest. Bonobos is known for its variety of colorful summerwear, but it does make apparel for the colder months, too. Named after the gorgeous Banff National Park in Canada, this is a vest made for the outdoors. The Nike vest range is one to aspire to, the selection of gym vests are some of the best workout vests for men. The fabrication and breathability makes them ideal for those sweaty sessions in the gym lifting weights and what not.