The best insulated walking jackets reviewed (2022)

Whether worn as a mid-layer underneath a hard shell on harsh winter days, or as a standalone outer layer in milder climes, a lightweight insulated jacket is a versatile piece of kit.

The best lightweight insulated jackets reviewed

by James Forrest |

Key features to look for in lightweight insulated jackets

Weight: We’ve defined a lightweight jacket as 200-400g (men’s S). This weight strikes a nice balance, with enough insulation to keep you warm in most conditions, yet light and minimalist enough to work well as a mid layer and feel comfy with good freedom of movement.

Thickness: A thick, puffy jacket will offer the most warmth. But it’ll feel restrictive and cumbersome underneath a shell, and may prove far too toasty when you’re moving. Thinner jackets will fit more comfortably, work better for layering, and can be worn all day – but they won’t trap as much heat. Think carefully about your warmth needs and buy accordingly.

Down vs synthetic: Traditional wisdom states that down offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio, but it loses its loft and performs poorly when wet, while synthetic insulation offers better value for money and retains its properties better when damp, but is heavier and bulkier. This still holds true, yet constant advancements in synthetic fibres have blurred the performance distinctions between the two.

How to care for your insulated gear

Technical stats - fill power, fill weight, and GSM: Fill power is a measure of the loft or ‘fluffiness’ of the down, and how much air it can trap. The higher the fill power, the warmer it’ll be. Fill weight is the amount of down in a jacket in grams and, of course, more grams equals more warmth. Overall warmth is determined, therefore, by both the fill power and fill weight. Synthetic jackets, conversely, are graded in GSM (grams per square metre). The higher the figure, the thicker, heavier and warmer the insulation will be.

Sustainability and ethics: It’s best practice to ensure any DWR coatings are PFC-free and any goose or duck down adheres to the Responsible Down Standard. For better eco credentials, choose a jacket with recycled materials.

Draught exclusion: Insulated jackets work by trapping warm air inside the jacket, next to your body. If air escapes at weak points – the hem, cuffs or zip – the warmth is lost. Elasticated or adjustable cuffs, hem drawcords and zip baffles help avoid this problem.

Outer shell: Insulated jackets are never fully waterproof, but many have a water-resistant and windproof outer shell, such as Pertex with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating. This helps to keep the insulation dry and thus retain its warmth. When it’s torrential, however, you’ll still need a hard shell on top.

Hood: Some hillwalkers prefer a hoodless insulated jacket. Such an approach avoids the awkward scenario of multiple overlapping hoods, and if your head gets cold you can simply pull on a hat. Others prefer an integrated hood for extra warmth and cosiness. A good hood will be adjustable for a fine-tuned fit, with a wired or stiffened peak.

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The best lightweight insulated jackets

Decathlon Forclaz Men’s Down Jacket MT100 (RRP £50)

Verdict: A basic, lightweight down jacket at a bargain price – but it’s not that warm.

Decathlon Forclaz Men’s Down Jacket MT100

Features 3/5 | Fit 3/5 | Comfort 3/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 5/5

Overall score: 72%

Pros: Incredible value for money

Cons: Not the warmest, budget quality, low fill weight

This no-nonsense, basic down jacket proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to kit yourself out for the hills. At £50, it’s £80 cheaper than this list’s next cheapest jacket and a mere 20% of the cost of pricier options.

For this bargain basement price-tag, you get RDS-certified, 800 fill power down housed within narrow horizontal baffles. This provides a wonderfully light (278g, the third lightest jacket on test) and thin layer of warmth, which works well underneath a hard shell. The flaw is that the density (35g/m2) and amount of down (76g fill weight) are very low, so this certainly isn’t a jacket for the height of winter. But you can’t really complain at this price. You also get a non-adjustable hood, so it either fits or doesn’t (it worked perfectly for me), two handwarmer pockets, and waist hem drawcord. The cut is quite athletic but rather unnecessarily tight around the waist, so size up or try before you buy.

Compressibility is impressive – the jacket packs away into the left-hand pocket, sized slightly larger than a 1L Nalgene bottle – and all-round comfort is good. For many, this jacket won’t be technical or premium enough, but for the budget-conscious hiker this is a money-saving revelation.

Insulation 90% grey duck down, 10% grey duck feather, 800 fill power | Sizes Men’s S-XXXL Women’s XS-XXL | Weight 278g (men’s S)

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Montane Prism Jacket (RRP £130)

Verdict: An excellent and robust – if a little heavy – synthetic jacket that’ll give many years of use for your money.

Montane Prism Insulated Jacket

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 5/5 | Value 5/5

Overall score: 88%

Pros: Excellent hood, comfort, warmth, features

Cons: Heavy, only PrimaLoft Silver, no body mapping

The Montane Prism is a strange beast. In some ways, it’s all a bit mid-range and underwhelming: at 385g it’s the heaviest jacket in this review, the materials are good but not class-leading (PrimaLoft Silver rather than Gold), and it’s certainly not super-technical. You don’t get body mapping or stretch panels, and it’s arguably too warm for higher-intensity activities. Yet there is something about this jacket – a certain je ne sais quoi - that just hits the nail on the head, and it’s difficult not to fall in love with it.

It seems to strike a lovely balance between weight, warmth, features and performance. The adjustable hood, in particular, is excellent, with rear and front drawcords and easily the best peak on test (it’s stiffened with a wired peak). The fit is neither loose nor super-slim. Instead it’s nicely in the middle, ensuring high levels of comfort. The articulated arms are cut nicely too, the dropped hem keeps your waist (and top of your bottom) warm, and the 30-denier, windproof Pertex Quantum shell feels tougher than many others. You can’t argue with the price too.

A similar women’s version – the Prismatic – has the same fill and costs the same, but has some design differences.

Insulation PrimaLoft Silver 100% recycled insulation polyester, 40gsm | Sizes Men’s S-XXL Women’s (Prismatic) 8-16 | Weight 385g (men’s S)

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Jack Wolfskin JWP Down (RRP £130)

Verdict: A fluffy, cosy down jacket with a good warmth-to-weight ratio – but it’s not great as a mid-layer.

Jack Wolfskin JWP Down jacket

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 5/5 | Value 5/5

Overall score: 88%

Pros: Good value, comfort, excellent warmth-to-weight

Cons: Durability, risk of down becoming patchy, no hood

The down in this jacket feels loftier than all others on test, courtesy of the slightly wider baffles, which give the down more space to plump out and trap air, and the high fill weight of 110g (men’s M). The result is an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio and a slightly stouter, thicker feel – a combination that kept me warm during a bitterly cold day of Borrowdale hiking during Storm Arwen.

The trade-off for all this plush downy loft is that the JWP Down jacket doesn’t fit as seamlessly under a hard shell as other options, and there’s also a risk over time that the down may become patchy in those wider baffles. The shell material feels a tad flimsy too, and may be vulnerable to rips.

Nonetheless, this jacket still ticks all of the boxes: it’s impressively warm, very light (266g), super comfy and pretty breathable, with good features including a PFC-free DWR coating, Stormlock windproof shell, and separate pack bag (7g) into which the jacket compacts down to 20x11cm.

There’s no hood (a positive for some), the elasticated waist is non-adjustable (but the fit is spot-on), and 700 fill power is good but not spectacular. At £130, however, this minimalist jacket is very well-priced for such warmth.

Insulation 90/10 duck down, 700 fill power |Sizes Men’s S-XXXL Women’s XS-XXL | Weight 266g (men’s S)

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Alpkit Filoment Hoody (RRP £150)

Verdict: A well-priced down with good features and an eco-friendly design – but the fill power isn’t the best.

Alpkit Filoment Hoody insulated jacket

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 5/5 | Value 4/5

Overall score: 84%

Pros: Good value for money, high fill weight

Cons: Only 630 fill power, relatively heavy

You always get value for money with Alpkit and the Filoment Hoody is no exception – it’s cosy with a good warmth-to-weight ratio and a nicely articulated cut, all for a very reasonable £150.

Now in its fourth generation, the Filoment’s design and spec have evolved and improved over the years, and for 2021 the jacket has had an eco overhaul. The face fabric is now 100% recycled, as is the down fill, while the DWR treatment is PFC-free – making this a greener version of the popular jacket. The down itself has a rather disappointing 630 fill power, but there is a lot of it (150g fill weight in a men’s S, almost double the amount of down in the Decathlon MT100, for example), so warmth isn’t compromised. In fact, it’s one of the warmer jackets on test. The high fill weight and low down quality, however, mean the jacket is relatively heavy (378g, men’s S).

With narrow ‘micro baffles’ and an athletic, slim cut, the Filoment works well underneath a hard shell, and feels comfy and non-restrictive when active. Features are good too. You get an adjustable hood, dropped hem (for coverage over the top of the backside), insulated zip baffle, soft chinguard, and ample pockets.

Insulation 100% certified recycled down, 80% down, 20% feathers, 630 fill power | Sizes Men’s S-XXL Women’s 8-18 | Weight 378g (men’s S)

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Rab Xenair Light (RRP £150)

Verdict: An ultra-light jacket that works excellently as a mid layer – but too thin for colder conditions.

Rab Xenair Light insulated jacket

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 5/5 | Value 4/5

Overall score: 84%

Pros: Excellent as a mid layer, very lightweight, breathable

Cons: Not the warmest, no hood

Rab’s new synthetic Xenair range features three models: the Xenair Alpine, Xenair and Xenair Light. The latter is the lightest (and cheapest) of the trio, and it works better as a streamlined mid layer than any others on test. This is because the synthetic fill is like a sheet of flat, low-profile, wadded insulation, rather than a plumper, loftier, cluster-like fill in baffles. Consequently the Xenair’s baffle-free design and flush-to-the-body cut fits more comfortably underneath a hard shell. Another nice feature are the thumb loops on the stretchy wrist cuffs.

The jacket is the lightest here (264g) and has been carefully designed to improve breathability, enabling it to be worn all day even when active. PrimaLoft Gold Active+ insulation aids climate control; body mapping means there’s no insulation across high-heat areas including the armpits and sides; and the Pertex Quantum Air shell’s ‘open woven structure’ allows air to flow through it freely.

The trade-off for all this breathability is that the Xenair Light is far from the warmest. It might prove insufficient on sub-zero days, necessitating carrying extra layers, while wind-resistance isn’t the best.

Insulation PrimaLoft Gold Active+ synthetic insulation with 55% recycled content, 40gsm | Sizes Men’s S-XXL Women’s 8-16 | Weight 264g (men’s S)

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Adidas Terrex Techrock PrimaLoft Jacket (RRP £180)

Verdict: A stylish, very warm and light synthetic jacket for men – but it has some flaws.

Adidas Terrex Techrock PrimaLoft insulated Jacket

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 4/5

Overall score: 80%

Pros: PrimaLoft Gold, very warm neck collar, waist heat seal, overall warmth

Cons: Slightly over-priced, slightly heavy, men’s only

Another jacket using the classic combo of a Pertex Quantum shell with PrimaLoft synthetic insulation, the Adidas Terrex Techrock delivers impressive warmth and has some nifty features.

It traps in warmth really well, thanks to the super-stretchy, spandex-nylon material used at the wrist cuffs, waist and at the back of the neck. The insulation itself is premium-rated PrimaLoft Gold insulation, with a mix of baffled and sheet construction, and it feels particularly plush in the neck collar.

All of these features and materials make this a really warm jacket for the weight. This has pros and cons. For colder days and as a standalone outer layer, it hits the spot, but on the other hand it’s difficult to dump heat when required and it can feel a tad bulky as a mid layer. Other little gripes include the arms being a little too baggy and the fact it’s probably £30 over-priced because of the street cred the Adidas logo brings. But there are many other positives too. The internal liner feels silky soft, the main zip’s stormflap is robust, and the jacket stashes compactly into the internal pocket (25x10cm). It comes in three different colours if you don’t like yellow!

Insulation PrimaLoft Gold, 55% recycled | Sizes Men’s XS-XXL Women’s n/a | Weight 372g (men’s S)

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OMM Rotor Hood (RRP £200)

Verdict: Super-comfy with a fleece-like interior and premium materials – but it’s pricey.

OMM Rotor Hood insulated jacket

Pros: Very soft and comfortable, premium materials

Cons: Price, designed for runners (not hillwalkers), durability

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 5/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 4/5

Overall score: 84%

This jacket is a maverick with a unique approach. The first time you pull it on, you’re immediately struck by how different it feels to others. It has more of a fleece-like texture across the hood and arms. This comes from the use of 125g of PrimaLoft Active, an intricate mesh grid topped with fluffy polyester tufts – a special type of synthetic insulation that might polarise opinion. Personally I find it wonderfully comfy and soft; others may disagree.

As well as PrimaLoft Active, the Rotor Hood features 80g of PrimaLoft Gold Cross Core over the chest and torso. This cutting-edge material fuses PrimaLoft fibres with a highly-porous, ultralight ‘aerogel’ (originally developed by NASA) that’s composed of over 95% air and is the lightest solid material known to man. The result is superb warmth-to-weight and good overall breathability for high-intensity activities.

You also get an adjustable hood, two handwarmer pockets and a shower-resistant PointZero shell. The latter is very light and flimsy, so long-term durability is questionable, while the main zipper has a tendency to catch (on my sample at least).

Insulation PrimaLoft Active 125g (64% recycled), PrimaLoft Gold Cross-Core, 80g (35% recycled) | Sizes Men’s XS-XL Women’s XS-XL | Weight 327g (men’s S)

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Salomon Outline Down (RRP £250)

Verdict: A warm, comfy hybrid jacket with down and synthetic insulation – but it’s overpriced.

Salomon Outline Down insulated jacket

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 3/5

Overall score: 76%

Pros: Body mapping, hybrid down-synthetic design, freedom of movement

Cons: Overpriced, non-adjustable

This striking-looking jacket features a hybrid construction: 700 fill power down (with a fill weight of 85g) across the chest, torso and top of the arms, and synthetic insulation (100% polyester) across the shoulders, hood, sides and under the arms. This body mapping enables the jacket to adapt better to your exercise levels (and body temperature), and delivers greater freedom of movement. For fast hiking and strenuous ascents and descents it works really well. But it still packs a reasonable punch in terms of warmth, particularly thanks to the stretchy elastane waist hem, which seals in warmth.

The non-adjustable hood is great: well-shaped with a little peak, a soft and smooth chinguard, and an integrated stretchy forehead lip that ensures the hood moves seamlessly with you. The Pertex Quantum shell, meanwhile, is showerproof, wind-resistant, and soft and cosy – a well-respected material with a long-standing reputation.

Cons of this jacket are the absence of a full-length zipper stormflap, the non-adjustability of the hood and waist hem, excessive stitching (which may lead to leakage of down over time), and the rather hefty price tag. If it’s in your price range though, it’s a nice jacket.

Insulation 90% down, 10% feather, 700 fill power | Sizes Men’s S-XXL Women’s XS-XL | Weight 360g (men’s S)

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