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GEAR SHOP: Roundup

Top Picks in Trail Warm Wear

Whether you’re heading out for a shoulder-season romp in the woods, or a summertime trek on the PCT, a good, insulated jacket will serve you well. And as one of hiking’s Ten Essentials, having an insulated jacket on (or in your pack) will not only keep you warm on frosty mornings or while making dinner in camp, but will also help you be prepared for when the Northwest’s fickle weather throws an unexpected curveball. We recently hit the trails around Oregon—from the Coast to the Crest—with some of the latest offerings in insulation wear. We hiked in the cold, in the rain and in the wind to see how each kept us warm and comfortable when out in the elements. Here are our top picks for trail warm wear, as well as a handful of honorable mentions. 

1. Montbell UL Thermawrap Parka

Of all the insulated jackets we tried, we put the UL Thermawrap Parka  at the top of our list. Not only does this jacket look and feel great, it does an amazing job at retaining heat both on the move and at rest. The outer shell is a combination of ballistic airlight fabrics with a unique, brushed texture that makes it stand out from the typical puffy jacket. It’s exceptional heat retention is provided by 40 grams of Stretch Exceloft synthetic insulation. This pliable, hydrophobic material moves with the wearer to eliminate thin spots, while maintaining excellent breathability and quick-drying capability. The UL Thermawrap Parka features an insulated hood, two hand pockets, one chest pocket, water repellent zippers and a standard DWR treatment, which performed well in light rain. It comes with a tiny stuff sack for stashing away. $210

PROS: Sleek style for wearing both on the trail and around town.
CONS: Very compressible, but requires a separate stuff sack (included).

STYLE: Men’s & women’s   •   FIT: Standard   •   WEIGHT: 9 oz.   •   INSULATION: Synthetic   

2. Big Agnes Farnsworth Hoody

The Farnsworth Hoody takes second place for our favorite insulated jackets. This under-one-pound puffy is constructed with a wind- and water-resistant, 100% recycled polyester shell material and 60 grams of Pinneco Core synthetic insulation. This space-age material features a multilayer membrane that reflects heat while extracting moisture to keep the wearer warm and dry. It also makes the jacket extremely compressible, which is an advantage when stuffing it into its small chest pocket. We especially liked the fit on this jacket, which let us add a midlayer on the really chilly days, or a rain shell on the wet days, without feeling over-bulky. The Farnsworth features five pockets (two hand pockets, two internal mesh pockets and one chest pocket), a standard-sized hood and glove-friendly zipper pulls. $180

PROS: Super-small when stuffed; made with recycled materials.
CONS: Stuffing into the chest pocket can be challenging.

STYLE: Men’s; women’s Yarmony   •   FIT: Standard   •   WEIGHT: 15 oz.   •   INSULATION: Synthetic

3. Mountain Hardwear Escape Pullover

Rounding out our top three warm wear selections is this lightweight layering piece. The Escape Pullover provides a comfortable layer that can easily go on over a hiking shirt or under a shell jacket that doesn’t feel bunchy or bulky. Warmth is provided by 60 grams of stretch synthetic insulation under a Mech Stretch Ripstop outer shell. We found this pullover to offer just the right amount of warmth on cool mornings and evenings, as well as breezy afternoons. Despite it being zipperless and lacking any vents, its exceptional breathability kept us from getting overheated, even when temps started to climb. The Escape Pullover features a quarter-length snap-front placket, a large, pass-through hand pocket and reflective trim for low-light visibility. It also stuffs nicely into its own pocket for convenient packing away. $185

PROS: Lighter and less bulky than comparable fleece and wool midlayers.
CONS: Pullover design limits venting options.

STYLE: Men’s & women’s   •   FIT: Relaxed   •   WEIGHT: 11 oz.   •   INSULATION: Synthetic

Fjallraven Keb Padded Hoodie

We’ve come to find that many European trail apparel brands are sized a bit differently than their US counterparts. For this puffy jacket, we had to size up an extra size to get the room and comfort we like in our outerwear—without feeling like an overstuffed sausage. What we really like about the Keb Hoodie is its soft, silky outer shell material, which just makes you want to cuddle up with it. Under the hood, it employs 60 grams of G-Loft Supreme partially-recycled, synthetic insulation, which kept us nice and warm, even in damp, drizzly conditions. The Keb Padded Hoodie features a two-way front zipper, two large hand pockets, a zippered chest pocket, an internal mesh pocket and a cinchable hood. It can easily be stuffed into one of its hand pockets and makes a delightfully comfy camp pillow. $250

PROS: Longer length provides a nice amount of extra coverage.
CONS: Sizing up gave us sleeve openings that were a bit too big.

STYLE: Men’s & women’s   •   FIT: Slim   •   WEIGHT: 18 oz.   •   INSULATION: Synthetic

Mammut Broad Peak Light IN Jacket

Similar to the Fjallraven Keb, we had to size up for a comfortable fit with this sleek, down puffy, but once we did we were pleased with its comfort and performance. Underneath its water-repellent Pertex Quantum outer shell, 50 grams of 850-fill goose down provides excellent warmth against chilly days and frosty nights on trail and in camp. While this jacket is a bit more spendy than some of the other options we sampled, we like that Mammut is a proud member of the Fair Wear Foundation and participates in the Responsible Down Standards program. To us, that’s worth a little extra to feel good about the gear we choose. The Broad Peak Light IN features two pack-friendly hand pockets (it can be stuffed into one of these), one chest pocket, a two-way front zipper, and weighs in under a pound. $285

PROS: Uber-warm 850-fill down insulation; responsible down sourcing.
CONS: Extra-trim fit may not appeal to larger wearers.

STYLE: Men’s; women’s Miva Light IN   •   FIT: Slim   •   WEIGHT: 11 oz.   •   INSULATION: Down

Patagonia Micro Puff Vest

Sometimes, we may not always want to pack along a full puffy jacket, especially on warm summer trips or when we may have a heavy or insulated midlayer along (e.g., Mountain Hardwear’s Escape Pulloever). That’s when the Micro Puff Vest really comes in handy. This featherweight insulated vest keeps the core heat in with 65 grams of PlumaFill insulation, a synthetic, down-like material that maintains its loft and insulating performance even when wet. On the outside, a Pertex Quantum wind- and water-resistant shell keeps the elements at bay. When it’s time to pack away, the vest stuffs neatly into one of its zippered hand pockets. The Micro Puff features two oversized hand pockets, two large internal pockets and elasticized arm openings and waistband for keeping heat from escaping. $200

PROS: Makes an excellent pillow when stuffed into its pocket.
CONS: None—we love this vest!

STYLE: Men’s & women’s   •   FIT: Standard   •   WEIGHT: 6 oz.   •   INSULATION: Synthetic

prAna Zion Quilted Jacket

This is not your typical puffy jacket, and not one we would likely pack on a PCT trek—but is so comfy we loved wearing it on urban trails, then heading to lunch or the pub. On the outside, the Zion sports a stretchy, abrasion-resistant, all-weather shell, which provides a stylish appearance and excellent range of motion. On the inside, it provides warmth with 100 grams of Primaloft ECO synthetic insulation. When the temps really dropped, we were able to add a heavy midlayer and still be comfortable thanks to its relaxed sizing. The Zion Quilted Jacket features two microfleece-lined hand pockets, a zippered chest pocket and an internal zippered pocket with media port. Unfortunately, this jacket has been discontinued, so look for it on clearance and grab one while you can. SALE $100

PROS: One of our favorite trail-to-town jackets.
CONS: Too heavy and bulky for packing long-distance.

STYLE: Men’s only   •   FIT: Relaxed   •   WEIGHT: 27 oz.   •   INSULATION: Synthetic
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2 thoughts on “Top Picks in Trail Warm Wear”

  1. BOOOO!
    While it is great to see Fjallraven Keb on a list finally, I am surprised to see the Arc’teryx Cerium jackets are not on your list.

    1. We agree, Arc’teryx has some great jackets! Unfortunately, we couldn’t get one of theirs into this sampling lineup. Perhaps next time.

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