Best Midlayers

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
The North Face Thermoball
Test Winner: The North Face Thermoball
Amazon Link
The cold is here; have no fear! WIth a midlayer, you’ll have your own, private, sort of insulation system on your very own body. Think of it as a warm winter comforter that you don’t have to share with anyone else. The key to staying warm as you venture outside all winter long is layering. The midlayer is the insulation layer. It is typically the warmest piece of clothing you have on. Making the midlayer the warmest is key to comfort while doing high cardio adventure sports in the outdoors because this layer can be taken off if it starts to become too hot. Insulated outer-layers cannot be removed since this top coat is also what keeps you waterproof in the snow. Check out our top picks below.

Standout Picks

Marmot Flashpoint
The Marmot Flashpoint is a nicely fitted fleece. The thinner fabric this jacket is made from means it a streamlined mid layer that won’t make you feel bulky.
Helly Hansen Regulate Lightweight
This Helly Hansen Regulate Lightweight midlayer jacket has a shell and a lining that is made from 100% polyester to keep you warm. It is a versatile jacket that works as a stand-alone wind protection and as a heat regulating mid layer.
Amazon Link
The North Face Thermoball
The North Face Thermoball is made with synthetic insulation but has the look of a down puffy. It is another lightweight option for a midlayer that will keep you warm but won’t let you overheat. It is also water resistant, and its synthetic insulation will stay warm even when wet.
Arc'teryx Cerium LT
The Arc'teryx Cerium LT is a premium down jacket that is warm, especially for how lightweight it is, well-designed, and with a beautiful construction. This jacket isn't the most budget-friendly, but we assure you that it is well worth the price tag.
Amazon Link
Backcountry Link
$349.00
See Deal
Gear Coop
$379.00
See Deal
Outdoor Research Ascendant
The Outdoor Research Ascendant is a softshell jacket that does a good job of blocking rain and wind. It is also breathable and lightweight while providing ample warmth, making it a great choice for a midlayer on chilly days.
Arc’teryx Atom LT
The Arc’teryx Atom LT is a tried and true midlayer jacket. It has a rain and wind resistant outer shell, warm synthetic insulation, and an attractive, slim fitting look that has been perfected over the years.
Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man
The Mountain Hardware Monkey Man provides more breathability than jackets that have insulated linings, however, that also means that it lets the wind in. This makes it an excellent midlayer though, with warm and soft fleece insulation, and lightweight, thin material.
Amazon Link
Backcountry Link
$131.24
See Deal
Black Diamond First Light
The Black Diamond First Light is a warm midlayer that offers more protection from the wind and rain than other jackets on this list. However, it remains breathable, although the tougher outer material of this jacket makes it a bit excessive under a shell on more mild days.
Patagonia Nano-Air
The Patagonia Nano-Air is a truly top of the line midlayer. This jacket regulates body heat like nothing else while also providing sufficient warmth on days when the temperatures dip into the teens or lower.
Smartwool Corbet 120
The Smartwool Corbet 120 has a versatile design that concentrates insulation where you need warmth the most – on your chest. The fabric used on the back and arms is a stretchy knit that is still warm but allows for easier movement.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Features

Some jackets have extra features that greatly add to their utility. One of the most crucial to look for is hand gaiters. These are a small hole that can be found at the end of each sleeve that is supposed to be worn around your thumb. This feature extends the sleeve down, over your hand and has two purposes. The first is to provide your hands with extra warmth. These gaiters basically act like fingerless gloves, keeping the lower half of your hand covered if you have to take your gloves off for any reason. They also keep your sleeve in place and make the process of layering up much simpler.

Although almost all midlayer jackets have two hand pockets, there are some extra bells and whistles that your pockets can have that you should watch out for. The first are zippers, which is an almost ubiquitous feature at this point. Zippers add a level of security to your pockets that is important while adventuring in the backcountry. An extra pocket, typically located on the outside or inside of the chest, can also be extremely helpful. Finally, if you like to listen to music as you exercise, look for a media port located in one of your jacket’s pockets. This helpful hole allows you to thread your headphones through the inside of your coat while keeping all your pockets tightly shut.

The final feature you should look for is the ability to synch shut the bottom of your jacket. This is done using a drawstring cord that will be located within the hem. This feature is great because it helps to keep your body heat in on cold days. It can also be useful for keeping your jacket in place.

None of these features make or break a jacket, however, they can be important for ensuring that you are the most comfortable that you can be. Think about how you will be using your midlayer jacket, and if any of these features are important to you decide that right away. This will help you weed out jackets, and simplify the entire process.

Fit

Most midlayer jackets are styled with a slim, athletically cut fit. This fit is ideal for a midlayer because it hugs the body, making it easy to fit your jacket under a larger shell. If you want to put more than a thin base layer beneath your midlayer though, the tight fit can be problematic. If that is the goal sizing up for your midlayer is probably a good idea, and as long as you have a spacious shell this shouldn’t make it harder to fit your midlayer beneath it.

Despite offering a slim fit, midlayer jackets should still provide ample movement. If you feel that your jacket is constricting in any way than it is probably too small. If it isn’t too small, try out a different jacket since it’s possible that it just doesn’t work for your needs. If you need extra mobility, look for midlayers that have lighter, stretchy fabric underneath the arms and along the sides, since these are the areas that move the most while you exercise.

Style

Before choosing a midlayer jacket you want to be sure that it comes in the style that you are looking for. Some jackets are only available for men or women, while others can be bought in a style designed for either gender. The shape of a jacket varies greatly depending on which gender it is designed for, so make sure to buy the correct one.

Another important style consideration is whether or not a midlayer jacket has a hood. This is strictly a matter of preference, and almost all jackets that don’t have hoods still have collars to provide extra warmth to your neck. Many hooded jackets are also available in a style that doesn’t have one and visa-versa. This means that if you find the perfect jacket, but it isn’t styled quite right, look around – there may actually be another version on the market.

Insulation

Fleece jackets stand alone in terms of insulation. They don’t have any inner insulation, but rather utilize the fleece material that they are made of for warmth. The thicker the fleece the warmer it is. The number you want to look for is weight in grams per square yard, with the higher weights representing thicker fleece. The thickest fleece jackets are very warm but do not breath well. If this is the type of midlayer you want, go for something that weighted at 200grams or less.

Other midlayer jackets are lined with one of three insulation types: synthetic, down, or Marino wool. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Synthetic insulation is more breathable than the others and retains its heat after becoming wet. However, it is also heavier and not as warm. Down insulation, which utilizes the under feathers of geese and ducks, is much warmer, extremely lightweight, and can be compressed more than the others. This insulation falls short in terms of breathability though and ceases to be warm if it becomes wet. Merino wool, which is the least common type of insulation on this list, which is surprising because in many ways it combines the best of what the other insulation types have to offer. It is more breathable than down and continues to provide warmth after becoming wet. It is also warmer than synthetic insulation. Jackets made with synthetic and wool insulation use the same method as fleece to measure their warmth. Down jackets use fill power, which denotes how much space in cubic inches one ounce of down fills up – higher numbers mean more warmth.

For use as a midlayer, fleece, synthetic, and wool insulated jackets are your best bet. This is because they provide ample warmth, but also release heat more readily ensuring that you won’t overheat. However, if you are looking for a midlayer jacket that will keep you warm in subzero temperatures, down may actually be a better choice.

Top 10 Picks

1. Marmot Flashpoint

Where to buy
Marmot Flashpoint
Amazon Link

The Marmot Flashpoint is a nicely fitted fleece. The thinner fabric this jacket is made from means it a streamlined mid layer that won’t make you feel bulky.

Read more

Warmth

This is not the warmest midlayer on the market. It is made with a microfleece fabric that is moisture wicking and highly breathable, meaning it will keep you dry and cool.

Style & Fit

This jacket comes in blue, black, and white. It has a slim, flattering fit, and a high collar to keep your neck warm. It is only available for women and is available in sizes from XS to XL. All reviewers say that this fleece runs true to size.

Extra Features

This midlayer fleece has two zippered pockets in the front. It also has a zippered pocket on the left am which has a media hookup. The sleeves on this jacket have gaiters which provide extra comfort by holding the sleeves in place. Additionally, the hand pockets double as handwarmers!

Price

This fleece is cheaper than most other options for midlayers. The reason for this could be the fact that it isn't quite as warm as some of the other options we have, but it is, undoubtedly, a great layering piece.

Summary

The Marmot Flashpoint is an economical choice for a women’s midlayer. It is not the warmest jacket, so if you need something for consistently frigid days this may not be the best choice. However, it does the job on warmer days and offers a flattering fit with some great features.

2. Helly Hansen Regulate Lightweight

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Helly Hansen Regulate Lightweight
Amazon Link

This Helly Hansen Regulate Lightweight midlayer jacket has a shell and a lining that is made from 100% polyester to keep you warm. It is a versatile jacket that works as a stand-alone wind protection and as a heat regulating mid layer.

Read more

Warmth

This jacket has an impressive warmth-to-weight ratio for a lightweight down jacket. It has the ability to change in all types of weather conditions and add an extra layer for in times of colder weather conditions.

Style & Fit

This Helly Hansen Regulate Lightweight midlayer jacket features the awarded HFlow technology as well as works with the Helly Hansen CIS system. Which makes it possible to zip together with several of our shell jackets.

Price

This midlayer comes at a price that is much lower than other similar products. It is a great jacket for the cost.

Summary

This Helly Hansen Regulate Lightweight midlayer jacket has four front zip up pockets
and a zip up front closure to help hold all of your belongings safely. It is a great high quality jacket with wonderful reviews.

Amazon Link

3. The North Face Thermoball

Where to buy
The North Face Thermoball
Amazon Link

The North Face Thermoball is made with synthetic insulation but has the look of a down puffy. It is another lightweight option for a midlayer that will keep you warm but won’t let you overheat. It is also water resistant, and its synthetic insulation will stay warm even when wet.

Read more

Warmth

This is not the warmest jacket on this list, however, the synthetic insulation that it is made with does a great job of balancing heat and breathability. As a midlayer, this jacket should keep you cozy even on very chilly days.

Style & Fit

This midlayer is meant to be fitted but lacks the athletic cuts that give many fitted jackets their attractive, slim look. Because of this, it can appear a bit boxy on. Still, it is an attractive jacket overall and comes in many different style and colors. It is available for both men and women and can be purchased with or without a hood.

Extra Features

This jacket has two zippered hand pockets as well as an internal chest pocket that can also be zippered shut. The hem includes a synch cord, that can be tightened to keep heat in.

Price

This jacket is priced right on par with what one should expect to pay for a midlayer jacket.

Summary

The North Face Thermoball jacket comes in many different colors, including fun patterns that can’t be found on other similar jackets. It does not have the most flattering look, but fits well and will do a great job of keeping you warm underneath your shell.

4. Arc'teryx Cerium LT

Where to buy
Arc'teryx Cerium LT
Amazon Link

The Arc'teryx Cerium LT is a premium down jacket that is warm, especially for how lightweight it is, well-designed, and with a beautiful construction. This jacket isn't the most budget-friendly, but we assure you that it is well worth the price tag.

Read more

Warmth

The Cerium LT uses a hybrid insulation with high quality down fill around the core and synthetic fill under the arms, around the sleeves, and along the shoulders. This jacket has a great deal of warmth, though slightly less than the heavier down sweaters. That being said, the amount of warmth in comparison to their packability is great. The only time you might feel this jacket is lacking is in ultimate frigid and wet conditions. The jacket's insulated hand warmer pockets are a great addition.

Style & Fit

This jacket is described as a trim fit. While sizes will run true to standards, the cut is more athletic than other down similar jackets. The adjustable waist cinch is a nice touch to better cater to your size. This jacket moves with you, as opposed to feeling bulky.

Price

This mid layer jacket is expensive, but with so many wonderful features and such high-quality insulation is worth the price.

Summary

The Arc'teryx Cerium LT makes wonderfully warm mid layer underneath your shell. It comes in a few attractive colors. Coupled with its slim fit, this jacket will have you looking great while it keeps you cozy.

Amazon Link
Backcountry Link
$349.00
See Deal
Gear Coop
$379.00
See Deal

5. Outdoor Research Ascendant

Outdoor Research Ascendant
Amazon Link

The Outdoor Research Ascendant is a softshell jacket that does a good job of blocking rain and wind. It is also breathable and lightweight while providing ample warmth, making it a great choice for a midlayer on chilly days.

Read more

Warmth

This midlayer jacket has synthetic insulation that is exposed to the inner part of the jacket. This gives it an extra cozy feel. The synthetic insulation dries quickly and provides ample breathability, making this jacket a great midlayer on days with variable weather conditions.

Style & Fit

This is a slim fitting jacket. As a midlayer is hugs your body, meaning you avoid any extra bulk. It is available in styles for men and women. It has a high collar and can be bought with or without a hood that is large enough to accommodate a helmet. It comes in a variety of attractive colors.

Extra Features

This jacket has three pockets, two hand pockets, and one chest pocket. The hand pockets do not zip shut while the chest pocket does. Thumb loops at the end of the arms help to keep the jacket in place. The hem on this jacket has a drawstring that allows it to be sealed off.

Price

This midlayer comes at a price that is on par with other similar products.

Summary

The Outdoor Research Ascendant is an all-around great jacket that works especially well as a midlayer. It provides ample warmth but lets your body breath if you begin to sweat. It also happens to be one of the lightest weight jackets on the market.

6. Arc’teryx Atom LT

Where to buy
Arc’teryx Atom LT
Amazon Link

The Arc’teryx Atom LT is a tried and true midlayer jacket. It has a rain and wind resistant outer shell, warm synthetic insulation, and an attractive, slim fitting look that has been perfected over the years.

Read more

Warmth

This jacket is warm, and with its moisture-resistant outer fabric, this jacket can work well as a stand-alone on more mild days. On cold days it fits snuggly under a shell. Lightweight fleece material under the underarm and inside of the sleeve coupled with the general breathability of this midlayer’s insulation make sure you don’t overheat though.

Style & Fit

This jacket is very slim fitting. If you are looking to place layers beneath it, going a size larger than you normally do may be a good idea. It comes in a large variety of colors, and in styles for both men and women. It has a high neck and can be ordered with a hood.

Extra Features

This midlayer has two hand pockets that can be zippered shut.

Price

This jacket is quite expensive, coming at a price that is well above the average for high-quality midlayers.

Summary

The Arc’teryx Atom LT is a wonderfully warm midlayer jacket. It has a flattering look and comes in a large number of colors, which means you will be able to pick the one that fits your style just right. This jacket represents quality, and although it is pricey it is well worth it.

7. Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Backcountry Link
$131.24
See Deal
Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man
Amazon Link

The Mountain Hardware Monkey Man provides more breathability than jackets that have insulated linings, however, that also means that it lets the wind in. This makes it an excellent midlayer though, with warm and soft fleece insulation, and lightweight, thin material.

Read more

Warmth

This fleece jacket is soft and warm and will do a great job of keeping you cozy when worn as a midlayer. The material is thin and easily releases heat when you become hot. It also includes lightweight side panels to increase breathability and mobility.

Style & Fit

The fuzzy material that this jacket is made from hugs your body to create a slim, athletic look. It is available in many colors, and there are styles for men and women. Be aware that the women’s version is called the “Money Women”. Synched cuffs and waistband as well as a high collar help to keep you cozy in this midlayer.

Extra Features

This midlayer has three zippered pockets, two for your hands and a third above your left breastplate. All pockets can be zippered shut.

Price

This jacket is inexpensive compared to the average prices for midlayers.

Summary

The Mountain Hardware Monkey Man is a wonderfully comfortable fleece that is designed to work perfectly as a midlayer. This jacket offers the right combination of warmth and breathability all at a very reasonable price.

Amazon Link
Backcountry Link
$131.24
See Deal

8. Black Diamond First Light

Black Diamond First Light
Amazon Link

The Black Diamond First Light is a warm midlayer that offers more protection from the wind and rain than other jackets on this list. However, it remains breathable, although the tougher outer material of this jacket makes it a bit excessive under a shell on more mild days.

Read more

Warmth

This jacket is lined with warm, synthetic insulation. The outer fabric is a soft-shell that repels water and dirt but is not waterproof.

Style & Fit

This jacket has a simple, flattering look. It is designed in styles for both men and women, with the women’s version having a slightly more unique look. It comes in a variety of very attractive colors. All versions of this jacket have a high collar, and some include a hood that can snuggly fit a climbing helmet beneath it.

Extra Features

This jacket has hidden hand pockets that can be zipped shut. It also has an inner mesh pocket that doubles as a stuff sack.

Price

This midlayer jacket is expensive compared to many similar products.

Summary

The Black Diamond First Light jacket is a versatile choice for a midlayer. Because it has some waterproof capabilities it can also work well as an outer layer in somewhat severe weather. It is breathable and warm, making it perfect as a midlayer on chilly days.

9. Patagonia Nano-Air

Where to buy
Patagonia Nano-Air
Amazon Link

The Patagonia Nano-Air is a truly top of the line midlayer. This jacket regulates body heat like nothing else while also providing sufficient warmth on days when the temperatures dip into the teens or lower.

Read more

Warmth

This jacket is made with Patagonia’s brand new FullRange insulation that allows for greater breathability without losing any of its warmth. This means that this midlayer simultaneously traps heat but won’t let you get too hot when you start working up a sweat.

Style & Fit

This midlayer jacket is available with or without a hood. It can also be purchased in a style tailored to men or women. It has a high neck for increased warmth and purposeful paneling that increases the quality of fit and makes it more durable.

Extra Features

This midlayer jacket has three pockets, two for your hands and one on the chest, all of which can be zippered shut. It also has an adjustable drawstring hem that allows you to seal in warmth.

Price

This jacket comes at a premium price point. However, with the quality guarantees and lifetime warranty that come are included with the Patagonia brand, it is worth the price.

Summary

The Patagonia Nano-Air is a fabulous, versatile midlayer that will keep you warm when you need it to but will also never let you overheat. Although it is very expensive, this jacket represents the top of the line and deserves its premium price.

10. Smartwool Corbet 120

Where to buy
Smartwool Corbet 120
Amazon Link

The Smartwool Corbet 120 has a versatile design that concentrates insulation where you need warmth the most – on your chest. The fabric used on the back and arms is a stretchy knit that is still warm but allows for easier movement.

Read more

Warmth

This midlayer uses a 3 to 1 blend of Merino wool and polyester to insulate your chest. The back and arms are made with a stretchy knit fabric that is lined with Marino wool as well. This makes for a jacket that is warm but also very breathable, which is important in a midlayer.

Style & Fit

This jacket uses two types of fabric that together create a unique and stylish look. The chest and high neck are insulated, while the back and arms are knit. In most styles of this midlayer the two types of fabric are different, contrasting colors. This jacket is available for both men and women in a wide variety of colors.

Extra Features

This midlayer jacket has three pockets, two for your hands and one inside which is compatible with a media player. All pockets can be zippered shut. The sleeves on this jacket include thumb holes.

Price

This jacket is not cheap, however, it is not that much more expensive than the average price for a high-quality midlayer.

Summary

The Smartwool Corbet 120 is one of the nicest midlayers on the market. It is highly breathable, yet its strategically placed insulation will keep you very warm. It also has a unique and stylish look that will ensure you turn heads everywhere you wear it.

Sources

  1. Mike Harper, BEST MIDLAYERS OF 2018-2019, Article