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Five Lightweight Insulated Jackets We Love

Lightweight, Comfortable, and Ready for Anything

Lightweight down jackets used to be all you saw people wearing around the Backcountry offices, with perhaps the exception of jackets from the venerable Arc’teryx Atom line. But with the arrival in the past few years of technologically advanced, high-performance synthetic insulation jackets, this changed. Suddenly, everyone seemed to be sporting jackets with synthetic insulation; we asked around our Park City HQ to find out what people are wearing, and why.

The North Face Ventrix

The North Face introduced its Ventrix line in September of 2017, and it wasted no time in becoming a favorite around here. If there is one jacket that everyone seems to be able to agree on, it’s the Ventrix. Morgan Bramble, Associate Buyer for women’s softgoods, told us what she liked about her Ventrix jacket:

“I love this jacket! I haven’t had it that long but I’ve used it for everything, as a layer under a shell on cold ski days, for hiking, for shoveling snow, and definitely casually. I can’t wait to add it to my camp and backpacking packing lists too as it packs down (and would also make a great pillow).”

Morgan likes details on the jacket like the slim fit and venting through the pockets, “for when things really heat up.” Her favorite features, though, are probably the feel and overall design: “It’s one of the softest jackets I’ve ever owned—I mean, it just feels comfy, it just begs to be worn. I really like that key areas have been reinforced to avoid snags or abrasion; I can already tell it’s going to help extend the fabric life. Its super lightweight and the styling is super clean—nothing there without a reason, nice tight little package.”

Morgan recommends this jacket as a midlayer for skiers and snowboarders, and for climbers, hikers, and runners.

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Patagonia Nano Air Light Hybrid Jacket

Jesse Johnson, Assistant Brand Manager, is fond of his Patagonia Nano Air Light Hybrid jacket. He says, “I love the feel of the fabric on the insulated portion. It is buttery soft, windproof, and remarkably warm for how light it is. I also really appreciate the stretchy knit back and underarms of this jacket—they’re great for dumping heat quickly and effectively during high-exertion activities. The cut is very trim, reducing bulk or the possibility of catching it on a passing branch.”

Jesse says he used the Nano Air hybrid jacket for cold-weather trail running in the winter and during the shoulder season. “The windproof insulated front and arms keep me warm as I begin the run and protect me from most gusts. But once I start to heat up, the knit fabric allows great heat transmission, meaning I can keep my jacket on for the whole run and stay comfortable and dry even during the toughest uphill climbs.”

Jesse recommends this jacket for running, ski touring, snowshoeing, and even rock climbing, “due to the incredibly stretchy nature of the knit panels.”

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Arc’teryx Atom SL

The Arc’teryx Atom line has been around for a while, with outstanding jackets in different weights. They’ve recently added a new version, the SL (for Super Light). Nicole Sumner, our Digital Brand Manager, tells us why she loves hers:

“Last season, I was on the hunt for a lightweight, breathable, packable midlayer to add to my ski touring kit. After trying a few different options, I decided to splurge on this Arc’teryx jacket, and I could not be happier with my decision. I wear it over a merino baselayer whenever I go ski touring. It is quite light, so it’s not great for those looking for a really warm insulation layer. But it’s perfect for touring and keeps me warm enough during uphill travel, without the bulk and sweat I associate with bigger insulated jackets. The hood is great for windy ridges, and it zips over your chin and mouth for added protection and comfort. I love the length and fit: slightly tapered at the waist, and hits just below my hips.”

In addition to ski touring, Nicole uses her Atom SL for shoulder-season and alpine hiking, as well as mountain biking. She says, “I would recommend this for anything who tours or hikes and is a looking for a versatile, high-quality layer.”

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Patagonia Nano Puff

Teresa Nguyen, Staff Accountant, is a fan of her Patagonia Nano Puff jacket, another perennial staff favorite. “I like that it’s lightweight and packable. I always bring this jacket if I’m doing anything outside—it’s light enough that I don’t even notice it’s in my bag. Climbing is the main activity I use this for; I love that it stuffs into the chest pocket and has a loop on it so I can clip it to my harness on long multi-pitch routes. Super important in the desert because when the sun goes behind the cliffs the temps drop really fast!”

Teresa really appreciates the Nano Puff’s versatility: “It regulates pretty well if I’m layering it on a 10-degree day or wearing it alone on a 40-degree day; during high-output activities, I don’t feel like I’m overheating when I’m wearing this jacket.” Teresa’s put her jacket through the wringer, and appreciates that “it can take a beating but also looks great for daily casual wear.”

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Black Diamond First Light

The above jackets came up again and again as we asked around the office, but there was one that was also mentioned as well that we weren’t expecting. Merchandise Planner Ryan Collins told us why he likes his Black Diamond First Light:

“What really sets the First Light apart is its Schoeller face fabric, which is burly enough you could wear it over a shell, like a belay jacket. It provides plenty of warmth and cuts wind well.”

Ryan also likes the styling of the jacket: “It looks good in the backcountry, but the styling also works well to wear around town. It stands out from both down sweaters and other synthetic insulation thanks to wider baffles in the body and smooth sleeves.”

He recommends the First Light for anyone who is very active in the outdoors and needs a super durable jacket. “I love synthetic insulation for anything where I thrash gear and don’t want to worry about damaging an ultralight down jacket. This includes rock climbing, skiing, and hanging out around the campfire. I would say it’s not my go-to for outings where weight or space are considerations, since it doesn’t pack down as much as other insulation options out there.”

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