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Best Insulated Jackets for Backpacking

Backpacking, trail running, and hiking often last long enough to require layering or at least considering further clothing than what you start in. Especially in the shoulder seasons, the temperatures can range wildly from day to day and even hour to hour. A puffy jacket (insulated down jacket) is a great and packable option for a variety of activities. It is a piece of gear that specializes in insulating the body but not in repelling weather. I often use an insulated layer and pair it with a rain or wind jacket.

Comparison Table for insulated puffy jackets for trail running, hiking, and backpacking

Best insulated jackets for thru-hiking, backpacking, and trail running

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 insulated puffy jacket for backpacking and hiking


  1. Lightweight

  2. Warm for weight

  3. Very well filled


  1. Loose hood that falls down easily

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 is one of the best down jackets out there, and I have thrown it in my bag for several adventures. It is super light and thin. I was pleasantly surprised with the level of warmth for something so lightweight. I use it for long days in the mountains and summer backpacking. For shoulder season adventures, I usually pair this with another layer, such as a rain jacket, and provides enough warmth down into the 20s. 

Overall, the Ghost Hardwear Whisperer 2 is a great layer that can be incorporated into many activities and seasons.


  1. Affordable

  2. Reliable/Durable

  3. Cross stitching keeps the down fill even


  1. Runs a little baggy

  2. Does not have a hood

  3. Less quality fill than competitors

The REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0 is a solid jacket at an affordable price. It holds up well, is warm enough, and can be versatile enough for various activities. Mine lives in the car, and I use it for everything from car camping to trail running. It doesn’t specifically fit any activity best but is “good enough” for every activity. It is a really good option if you want one down/puffy jacket that works for everything.

The main drawback is the lack of a hem cinch and a hood. But for the price, the REI Co-op 650 Down 2.0 is a great deal.


  1. Affordable for the quality

  2. Comfortable feel

  3. Quality construction

  4. Synthetic insulation that works even when wet


  1. Less durable

  2. Compromises some warmth by being synthetic and lighter

Enlightened Equipment produces a quality ultra-thin jacket that doesn’t compromise on warmth and comfort. The comfort of the Torrid Apex is unmatched, especially for the weight. Against the skin, the fabric is very soft and smooth. The jacket is very versatile and packable too.

This jacket is warm even when wet, thanks to the synthetic fill, and the price is great compared to competitors. However, the ultrathin design compromises a bit on durability.


  1. Name brand and proven jacket

  2. Good Durability

  3. Stuffs into its own pocket for compact storage


  1. Less warm than competitors

  2. Expensive

The Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody has been around forever and is unsurprisingly among the most popular insulated jackets on the market. We like that this jacket is lightweight and very small when packed into its pocket. The Nano Puff Hoody manages to excellently combine weather resistance and breathability.

The main drawback is that newer insulated jackets are a bit lighter and warmer than the Nano Puff Hoody. But the versatility, stylish design, and durability of this jacket make it a great buy.


  1. Great fit

  2. Amazing warmth for people that run cold

  3. Compact and packable


  1. Expensive

  2. Hood doesn’t stay up very well

The Arc’teryx Cerium LT Down Hoodie is considerably warmer than many of its competitors’ thanks to the Arc’teryx combining premium high-quality 850-fill power down in a sewn-through design. It is a quality design and a premium fit that still performs at a high level in the coldest weather you will encounter on the Pacific Crest Trail. It is a solid option for a thru-hike or backpacking trip and packs down very small in its own carry bag.

RAB Microlight Jacket - Men's insulated jacket for hiking and backpacking review


  1. Athletic fit

  2. Sleeves are very quality and keep arms warmer than competitors

  3. Chest pocket is very handy for a phone


  1. Does not have a hood

  2. Expensive considering the features

The RAB Microlight jacket is an insulated jacket that provides great comfort and warmth in a lightweight design. We were impressed with the durability of the Microlight jacket and the athletic fit design makes this jacket more enticing. It is a solid choice on the list but comes with the drawback of lacking a hood.

Amazon Essentials Lightweight Hooded Puffer insulated puffy jacket for backpacking and hiking review


  1. Affordable

  2. Has all necessary components and features


  1. Lower quality all around

  2. Wears down easily

A down jacket can be a top-end piece of gear, but there are also budget options out there too. This budget option is good enough to get through the Pacific Crest Trail. This incredibly affordable option lacks the quality fill, adjustability, and snug athletic fit of some of the more premium jackets on the list. But, this affordable option has worked successfully for many thru-hikers and backpackers.

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