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The key to staying warm in cold conditions? Try the ‘onion method’, and get layering.
Wearing multiple layers is a great way to trap in body heat effectively, and one of the most useful pieces you can add to your wardrobe is an insulated jacket. A warm insulated mid layer is ideal for wearing under a thick coat in winter or with a waterproof shell in a storm, and can be worn alone once spring comes.
What insulated jacket is the right one for me?
You’ll see a range of insulated jackets for women on the market, from lightweight, packable down jackets to thicker padded coats.
The former are best for active sports such as hiking and climbing, and the latter are ideal for dog walking, camping and keeping cosy when the temperature really drops below zero.
What features does it need to have?
Some insulated jackets pack down into a small stuff sack or into their own pocket – these are ideal for carrying in your backpack or popping in a bicycle pannier bag so you can sling a jacket on and off as you go.
Look for a jacket with zipped pockets and an adjustable hood, and that feels snug enough around the body to trap in heat but still leaves space to wear base layers underneath. Insulated jackets aren’t usually fully waterproof – you’ll need to pop a waterproof shell over the top in heavy rain – but water-resistant jackets are handy for wearing in light rain.
Should I choose animal or synthetic down?
Insulated jackets either use animal down or synthetic down as warm padding. Animal down, which usually comes from ducks or geese, is very warm and very lightweight. The downside is that it is useless if it gets wet – plus, cheaper down is sometimes harvested unethically from live animals.
Stick to brands that use traceable down (look for the R.D.S, or Responsible Down Standard), or just avoid animal down all together and pick synthetic insulation. Synthetic is rapidly catching up with traditional down when it comes to warmth and performance, and it’s also quicker to dry and still provides some warmth when wet.
Key specs – Insulation: Animal down; Weight: 706g; Size range: XS-XL; Colour options: 3
Pull on this larger down jacket and you can instantly feel it cocooning you in welcome warmth.
This smart puffer jacket uses Columbia’s own-brand Omni-Heat technology to line the inside – these tiny silver dots reflect back your body heat very effectively when coupled with animal down insulation.
We also like the inner sleeves with thumb holes, which are great worn under gloves, and the stiffened peak of the adjustable hood, ideal for windy or wet weather.
This jacket fits on the slim side, and we recommend going a size up from your usual.
Reflect360 Down Jacket
Key specs – Insulation: Animal down; Weight: 600g; Size range: 6-18; Colour options: 1
This bright and beautiful down jacket will be the new best friend of anyone who regularly goes out adventuring after dark. We’ve tested out the Reflect360 cycling jacket in the past and found it highly effective for being seen by cars at night, and this down jacket is simply a warmer, insulated version.
Both offer 100% reflective visibility in light such as car headlights, and make you impossible to miss even in bad conditions.
This down jacket is brilliant in its own right – it’s deliciously warm and comfortable, and has a great longer boxy cut. Ideal for night cycling, dog walking or working outdoors in low light.
Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Key specs – Insulation: PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation; Weight: 284g; Size range: XS-XL; Colour options: 4
We’ve been using Patagonia’s ever-popular Nano Puff for years now – it’s a seriously handy jacket to have around.
The lightest jacket we tested at just 284g, it stuffs down easily into its own pocket and is super portable when hiking or cycling.
Wear it alone, under a waterproof, for skiing, when walking – it’s brilliant for layering. The Nano Puff is water-resistant and uses Primaloft’s new P.U.R.E polyester insulation, which is recycled and uses less emissions in manufacturing.
The new white colourway of the Nano Puff is great for making cyclists more visible, but we prefer the darker hues for general outdoor use, as they don’t show dirt.
Helly Hansen Odin Stretch Hooded Jacket
Key specs – Insulation: Primaloft Gold; Weight: 460g; Size range: XS-XL; Colour options: 9
The Odin Stretch is inspired by its namesake Norse god and designed with mountains in mind – we reckon it’s an easy jacket to wear everywhere from the city to the countryside.
It provides good warmth from Primaloft Gold synthetic insulation and its slimmer cut makes it ideal for layering under a waterproof shell.
What stood out on test is the great comfort the Odin provides, thanks to a soft brushed interior material – it’s much nicer to wear than more plastic-y padded coats, and feels lovely to wear all day long.
Decathlon Mountain Trekking Trek 100 Jacket
Key specs – Insulation: part-recycled polyester; Weight: 365g; Size range: XS-2XL; Colour options: 5
Looking for a smart and lightweight insulated jacket that won’t break the bank? We rate Decathlon’s Trek 100.
While Decathlon aim this model at tough mountain trekkers, we reckon this light and packable jacket is best suited to more casual days out.
It has a nice slim fit that won’t bulk you out to much, plus a well-fitting hood, and it packs away neatly into its own pocket.
For a smidge under £30 it’s a no-brainer buy as a spare mid layer for winter or for wearing alone on spring adventures. 70% of the insulation is recycled.
Lands’ End ThermoPlume Packable Jacket
Key specs – Insulation: Recycled polyester; Weight: N/A; Size range: XS-XL; Colour options: 4
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of insulated jackets on the market, Land’s End’s ThermoPlume is a fuss-free choice, and great value for money at its current reduced price of £54.
This jacket ticks the technical boxes – it packs down small, has a well-fitting hood and zipped pockets and is stuffed with ever-reliable recycled Primaloft.
Finisterre Transition Reversible Jacket
Key specs – Insulation: Recycled synthetic insulation; Weight: 550g; Size range: 8-16; Colour options: 1
You get two good-looking jackets for the price of one with Finisterre’s new Transition Reversible – a subtle black side that’s ideal for everyday use and a brighter orange side, ideal for being seen easily when you’re walking or cycling.
This is one of the lighter, more breathable jackets we tested, so we’d save it for autumn and spring use.
The Transition jacket is very comfortable and easy to wear, and is water repellent enough to deal with light showers.
Like all Finisterre clothing, there is planet-friendly attention to detail here – the materials are recycled and even the packaging the jacket arrives in is water-soluble.
CimAlp Morzine Jacket
Key specs – Insulation: Primaloft; Weight: 325g; Size range: XS-XXL; Colour options: 3
French brand CimAlp’s technical insulated jackets are inspired by adventures in the Alps, and the Morzine is ideal for wearing in its namesake ski resort.
This is a lightweight jacket at 325g but still offers a great warmth to weight ratio, instantly trapping heat when you need it but packing down into its own pocket for transportation when you don’t.
The Morzine was one of the more breathable jackets we tested, so it’s ideal for sports where you are alternating between working up a sweat and cooling down, such as ice climbing and snow sports.