Best Winter Vests – 2021 List
Winter vests are a great layer to invest in for the winter months. They look great when worn with other layers, they are extremely durable and will keep you super warm. A winter vest will not hinder your mobility and some of them are water-resistant so will keep you dry if you get caught in the rain. They are soft, lightweight, and come in a variety of materials, colors, and designs so you can pick your favorite!
With so many options to choose from, we have picked and reviewed a selection of the best winter vests on the market. Enjoy shopping!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 9 hrs of research
Features a 100grams of polyester insulation
Has a defender water repellent fabric finish
Features a variety of pockets
- Carhartt Gilliam
- The North Face Nuptse
- Arc'teryx Cerium LT
- Columbia White Out Omni-Heat
- Eddie Bauer CirrusLite
- SmartWool Corbet
- Outdoor Research Transcendent
- North Face Thermoball Eco
- Goodthreads Sherpa
- Columbia Sportswear Flash Forward
- Carhartt Artic-Quilt
- Legendary Whitetails
- Outdoor Ventures Polar Fleece
Top 13 Picks
1. Carhartt Gilliam
Features a 100grams of polyester insulation
Has a defender water repellent fabric finish
Features a variety of pockets
Some reviewers found that the pockets were backward, with the flaps open forward
This durable and water repellent Carhartt Gilliam vest is exactly what you need to keep yourself warm and dry when working outside in the cold and rain.Read more
This winter vest is made from 100% nylon and weighs 1.75-ounces.
The shell has a nylon lining that has been quilted with a 100gram polyester insulation. To keep the cold air out, the vest features an adjustable drawcord hem at the bottom of the piece. The vest also has a drop tail design that provides extra coverage and helps to keep you warm.
The winter vest has a defender water repellent fabric finish that works by pushing the water off the surface of the garment, keeping you dry. This piece is lightweight, warm, and exceptionally durable so can withstand a lot of harsh cold weather. The vest has a left-chest map pocket, two lower-front pockets, and two inside pockets that have one zipper closure and one with a hook and loop closure.
2. The North Face Nuptse
Super warmth and high-quality construction make
Ethically and humanely sourced
Stay more than warm with The North Face Nuptse vest. Top-of-the-line and well-made, it’s great to have on hand when temperatures begin to drop. It’s versatile and stylish enough to wear anywhere and everywhere.Read more
It’s constructed with a tough 50 denier x 50 denier shell that’s 100% nylon, making it resistant to tears, abrasions, wind, and stains. While the average weight of the Nuptse, at 16.23 oz., is greater than some other options that made the list, it’s a super lightweight vest that will compress and easily pack away for wintry trips. It’s a standard fit with a comfortable hip length that averages 27” in the back.
The Nuptse is filled with 700-fill goose down that’s responsibly sourced, has a double layer of taffeta on the shoulders and a high collar to preserve core warmth. It's nice, the updated fit will ensure you are kept warm and comfortable in some of the most uncomfortable elements.
This cold weather vest has two deep pockets that are zippered for ultimate security and an internal pocket at the chest for storing small items. The vest includes a hem cinch-cord for making simple adjustments to length and fit.
3. Arc'teryx Cerium LT
Comes with a drawstring stuff sack
Nice fit with a long cut
Higher price than other options
Zipper durability could be improved
It performs well as an extra warm middle layer as well as a stand-alone top layer. It provides non-constricting comfort and outstanding warmth.Read more
The Cerium LT is crafted with an Arato 10 shell that’s 100% nylon with a DWR finish for moisture resistance. It has a sewn-through construction to decrease weight while increasing tight packability. The Arc’teryx Cerium LT is one of the lightest vests available, coming in at a minuscule 6.5 oz. It has a trim fit and the hip length is an average 69.5 cm for a size small back.
Arc’teryx uses a most impressive 850-fill good down in the Cerium LT. Also utilized for insulation is Coreloft 80 (80 g) and Coreloft 100 (100 g) synthetic insulation. It’s placed in areas more prone to moisture exposure by a technology called Down Composite Mapping, creating a user-beneficial partnership between down and synthetics.
It is made with two outer zippered pockets as well as an inner zippered security pocket. Attached to the inner pocket is a drawstring bag for packing up your vest during light travel. The vest includes a bottom hem adjuster for tightening or shortening the hem as you feel comfortable. It is available in sizes S to XXL.
4. Columbia White Out Omni-Heat
Made from 100% polyester
Built using Omni-Heat thermal reflective technology
Comes in 5 different colors
Available in a range of sizes
Sizing not accurate
Columbia is known for making exceptional puffer vests that will keep you warm in cold weather conditions.Read more
This vest is made from 100% polyester, consisting of a 100% polyester shell and polyester lining.
The puffer vest has been constructed using Omni-Heat thermal reflective technology that works by reflecting the heat that your body generates. The design is an extremely clever way of keeping you warm and making this vest a fantastic insulator.
This puffer vest comes in 5 different colors including Olive, Silver Grey/Black, and Blue/Dark Teal. It also comes in a range of sizes varying from Small to XX-Large.
5. Eddie Bauer CirrusLite
Has 650-fill premium down insulation
Features a wind-resistant nylon shell with a StormRepel DWR finish
Machine washable and can be tumble dried
Available in 4 different colors
The shiny material looks a little cheap
Built and tested by world-class guides and athletes, Eddie Bauer is known for producing the best gear and apparel for mountain sports and this Men’s CirrusLite Down vest is a perfect example!Read more
This men’s puffer vest is made from 100% nylon. The vest can be machine washed on a delicate setting, separate from other garments. It is also suitable to tumble dry on a low setting.
The vest has a 650-fill premium down insulation that will keep you extremely warm in colder temperatures. The puffer option also has a high neck that helps maximize warmth, when wearing. The down insulation has been responsibly sourced with a Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified down insulation.
The vest from Eddie Bauer has a wind-resistant nylon shell that has a StormRepel DWR finish that works by shedding moisture, so the fabric does not absorb the moisture. The piece features an outer secure zip side pocket and inner pouch style pocket. The vest is available in 4 different colors and a range of sizes from S-Regular – XL-Regular.
6. SmartWool Corbet
Place for your headphones to come through
Air-drying without odors
Merino wool fabric can start to break down over time
For temperature-regulating comfort, a natural feel and a sharp look, the SmartWool Corbet Vest is a winner. It provides a reliable layer of warmth without the heavy weightiness layers can sometimes have. It’s fully functional for all types of active recreation as well as indoor events. Whether your day involves hunting, camping or business travel, the Corbet Vest won’t let you down.Read more
This vest is made from merino wool, polyester, and elastane. Most importantly, the fill of the vest made from 75% wool and 25% polyester, which has proven to be an incredibly hardy winter material. It can stretch and compress without losing its shape, insulating abilities or comfort. Additionally, it can handle and recover well from any moisture that may saturate it. A wool item is one you can count on for years to come. The SmartWool Corbet Vest is ideally made to be warm without unwanted bulk and heaviness. It weighs just 10.6 oz. and has an average fit with a style that keeps the Merino Wool close to your back, ensuring warmth.
The Corbet vest is made with 75% Merino wool, which is even more comfortable than typical wool. Merino wool, designed to be less itchy to the touch, is finer, softer and quicker to dry. The vest is breathable, as it absorbs and then releases unwanted moisture so that you can stay dry and just the right amount of warm. It is a semi-fit, which is a more relaxed fit so as not to constrain the range of movement in the torso and arm areas.
It is made with a zippered security chest pocket for important items like an iPod or key, a big plus for activewear. This chest pocket also features a media cord routing. The hand pockets can also be zipped closed. The best winter vest is available in a good range of sizes from S to an XXL and in seven different colors.
7. Outdoor Research Transcendent
Offers excellent warmth
Outdoor Research’s Transcendent down vest is super light, compressible and made with goose down for proven warmth in the lowest of temperatures.Read more
A 20 denier 100% polyester ripstop shell and a 44 denier 100% nylon embossed taffeta lining give it a hardy wind and water resistance while you’re out in the elements. It weighs in at light 9.4 oz. with a 70 cm average back length for a lightweight, packable winter vest.
The Transcendent vest has 650-fill goose down insulation throughout. It’s a standard snug fit for technical and casual wear that will keep the cold out but won’t hinder your movement. It pairs well with a hoodie and can also serve as your light mid-layer underneath a sturdy shell.
It’s made with two secure zippered pockets and a zippered chest pocket. It packs down simply into one of the pockets for multi-day adventure trips. It includes a carabiner loop for easy attaching, an internal front storm flap and an elastic drawstring adjustable hem. As with most of the other options, it’s available in a variety of sizes from S to XXL.
8. North Face Thermoball Eco
Wind and water resistant
Available in sizes XS- XXL
Many colors and prints to choose from
The North Face brand is no stranger to cold weather. This vest is a perfectly packable item to bring with you everywhere. The neck of the vest is high enough to keep you warm without feeling restraining.Read more
Depending on which color and style you choose, the materials can differ slightly. The lining for the shiny and matte styles is made from Nylon taffeta. The shell of these styles is made from Nylon and has a DWR finish. However, the lining and the shell of the printed vests are made from polyester and also has a DWR finish. The classic styles are made with ripstop Nylon, also with a DWR finish.
Inside, you’ll find 13g Primaloft synthetic insulation. The synthetic fibers have a close similarity to down clusters and work together to retain heat and leave you with fewer cold spots. In a University test, the Thermoball showed that it has equivalent warmth to 600 fill goose down.
Most styles come with zippered hand pockets. There have been a few complaints about the pockets themselves being too big, but if they were smaller, how would the vest fold into itself for easy carrying? With most styles, there is also an internal zippered chest pocket.
9. Goodthreads Sherpa
Made from 100% polyester
Features a high collar
Has multiple zips
Comes in a variety of colors and sizes
Sizing not accurate
The vest is not as warm as some of the others in our collection
The Goodthreads Sherpa Fleece vest is a performance vest that provides maximum comfort and mobility.Read more
This fleece vest is made from 100% polyester and is machine washable.
Made from 100% polyester, this fleece style vest is warm but does not offer a good amount of insulation in comparison to some of the other vests in our collection.
This option features a high collar with a full zip front. The vest has zippered side pockets and a chest pocket. The fleece vest comes in 7 different colors including Navy, Tan, and Olive. The piece also comes in a variety of sizes ranging from X-Small – 3X-Large Tall.
10. Columbia Sportswear Flash Forward
Excellent price for the quality
Filled with less down and thinner than other options
Its sleek trim cut is slim-fitting and stylish so that you can throw it on for frosty morning commutes, stops at the coffee shop or evening runs and feel totally comfortable without a heavy bulk weighing you down.Read more
This vest is made with a 100% polyester lining and a 100% polyester taffeta shell, creating a durable, water-resistant and wind-resistant addition to your winter wardrobe. The Flash Forward vest is made with a long torso and a snug fit so that it hugs your core comfortably and attractively.
Stuffed with 650-fill down and made with a collar that rises up on the neck, it will keep you snug and cozy. It has an active fit with hem and armhole binding to provide a sleek look and feel.
It includes two zippered hand pockets at the sides for ideal warmth and storage, as well as two large interior pockets that can store a cell phone, gloves or other small items you may need to have on hand. There are bright and vivid color options available.
11. Carhartt Artic-Quilt
Made from 12-ounce, firm-hand, 100% ring-spun cotton duck
Has a rib-knit collar
Features a drop tail
Only available in 2 colors
If you need a reliable vest that is ultra-durable and will keep you warm in the cold weather, you can count on Carhartt to have your back.Read more
This vest is made from a 12-ounce, firm-hand, 100% ring-spun cotton duck. The piece can be machine washed in cold water.
The Carhartt vest features a nylon lining and artic-weight polyester insulation. The vest also has a rib-knit collar that will keep your neck warm and a drop tail, keeping your waist warm.
The men’s vest features a front zipper that has a wind flap. It also has two front hand-warmer pockets and an inside patch pocket with a hook-and-loop closure. The vest comes in a variety of sizes ranging from Small to XX-Large, however, it only comes in a brown color.
12. Legendary Whitetails
Made from 100% polyester
Has a feminine princess cut
Features a suede-lined three toggles opening
Comes in 3 colors
Wearing a Legendary Whitetails women’s quilted vest will certainly take the chill out of being outdoors!Read more
This quilted vest is made from 100% polyester.
The vest features quilting that makes this vest warm to wear. However, the piece is not as warm as some of the other pieces in our collection.
The vest displays a feminine princess cut and has a suede-lined three toggles opening. The piece has a variety of pockets including two front pockets and one chest pocket. It has a lined collar and snaps closure on the top and bottom of the zipper. The vest comes in three colors including the army, black, and rusty maroon.
13. Outdoor Ventures Polar Fleece
Made from 100% ultra-soft polyester
Has a stand-up collar
Features a range of pockets
Comes in 19 different colors and designs
Fleece is not as durable as some other materials
For ladies that enjoy outdoor adventures like hiking, climbing, and rock climbing, the Outdoor Ventures vest is a great layer to wear to keep you warm.Read more
This fleece vest is made from 100% ultra-soft polyester and has a 4-way stretch.
The fleece vest is soft and thick making it a great item for layering and keeping you warm in colder weather.
The fleece zipper vest features a stand-up collar that keeps your neck warm. The piece is lightweight and has elasticized arms and a smooth SBS zipper for a casual sporty design. It has two large exterior zip pockets and two interior patch pockets to store personal items in. The vest comes in 19 different colors and designs, giving you plenty to choose from.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
You want to choose a vest that’s made of soft but durable material. Shells made of polyester and/or nylon are commonly used, as they are versatile, comfortable and strong.
Also, make sure you’re choosing one that has strong zippers that will last a long time. You don’t want to trade sturdy zippers for an item that’s light in weight. If it no longer zips, it isn’t going to help you stay warm!
And finally, you’ll probably want some pocket space for your snacks, keys and cell phone. Interior and zippered pockets are absolutely a plus for maximum security on all your winter ventures.
Down is a high-performance insulator proven to perform well in extreme cold. It is usually sourced from geese and ducks around the world. It can compress tightly, allowing for greater fill at a lightweight. Its easy compression also makes it packable, a perfect option for extended journeys, low-key trips, and distance backpacking and climbing. It is a long-lasting insulator, with the ability to be compacted and misshapen over and over again while maintaining its original shape, fluff, and insulating properties.
For many who live active, outdoor lifestyles, caring for the planet and animals we share our outdoor spaces with is important. Sometimes, to obtain down feathers, the animals are live-plucked, a painful and cruel process. In addition, the waterfowl are sometimes force-fed for fattening, as they are primarily raised for meat. Feather gathering is, after all, a byproduct of the large meat industry.
Patagonia and The North Face, for instance, now have ethical standards in place to ensure that the down clothing you purchase from their companies is responsibly sourced. Waterfowl connected to these brand names are now humanely treated and traceable. If these are important factors for you and you are willing to pay the price for higher standards, you’ll get what you pay for.
Synthetic insulation is a man-made fine fiber that is manufactured to be very similar to down. They don’t have quite the insulating power of down, as it’s hard to replicate what nature has done so naturally, but they come in close behind when it comes to warmth retention. This type of insulation will lose shape a bit more quickly than down, and therefore, it won’t be as long-lasting. However, synthetic does outperform down when it comes to moisture.
While down clumps when wet, synthetic doesn’t. If your wintry conditions are going to be icy or snowy ones, synthetic could be the way to go unless you have really great shell protection over your insulating material.
Furthermore, articles of clothing stuffed with synthetic insulation are typically less expensive than those with down insulation. It’s a good choice to have on hand if you plan to spend any time outdoors this winter.
Winter puffer vests are lightly stuffed with a fill that insulates, trapping body heat and keeping warmth right where it needs to be, snugly against your body on chilly days.
Down and synthetic insulation both trap air in the free space between the fibers, thereby providing extra warmth. Both are effective insulators, however, there are some differences to take into account.
The higher the fill power, the lighter and fluffier the fibers. The lighter the fibers, the more that can be packed into a given space without increasing the weight. For instance, 800-fill down and 600-fill down may both weigh one ounce. However, the 600-fill down will take up more space, thereby decreasing the number of fibers it takes to reach that one ounce. The 800-fill down will pack in more compactly, providing more insulating coverage in that same one ounce.
In order to achieve the same coverage as the 800-fill, the item with 600-fill would need to increase its amount of down. This would increase the weight, making an item that’s a bit heavier and, perhaps, bulkier. While all down is an incredible insulator, the very best choice (if it’s within your budget and needs) would be that with a fill power of 800 or more. However, as down is the best fill insulator, lower fill power is still a good one.
Fill in Grams
The amount of insulation placed into a vest can vary among models. The greater the amount of filling, the heavier and warmer the vest will be. For instance, a vest filled with 200 grams of 650-fill down will be thicker and cozier than a vest filled with just 50 g of the same fill power down. Check the number of grams of down placed into a vest if possible, in addition to the fill power of the down in the vest. A lighter fill will be ideal for early spring or fall weather, whereas you’ll need a larger amount of fill for deep wintertime activities.
The features of a winter vest are another important criterion to look into. For one, pockets are always something to check out.
It's useful to know if you'll be able to store your phone or keys on your body, or if you will need a purse. Also worth noting, is if the pockets have a secure closure. Additionally, if you are planning to travel with your vest, you'll want to know how easily it packs down and if it is susceptible to wrinkles. A few of the vests featured on this list can actually fold up into the pocket of the vest. Even if your luggage for traveling is filled to the brim, you could attach the vest to your backpack with a carabiner and not worry about space.
Another feature that some of these vests feature is a collar. If you don't plan on wearing a scarf or a turtle neck, a vest with a collar will help to keep you warm. Another way to keep warm is with the cinch cord of a vest. Some vests have cinch cords around the bottom which not only helps with the fit but also to hold in warmth.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
When investing in a winter vest, it is important to do your research and worry more about the quality of the item than the price. It is much more useful to have one or two great vests in your wardrobe rather than six mediocre vests. Personally, I have one vest for the below-freezing temperatures, and one vest for brisk days.
Vests are an imperative layer in layering. Many people don't think about putting on a vest under a ski jacket but it's actually a brilliant idea. A vest will keep your core warm while still providing a full range of motion for your arms. Additionally, vests are an easy layer to shed and most pack up into their own pocket for easy storage.
Other Factors to Consider
The weight of your vest may not be an issue for you, and that’s fine. Some vests are a little heavier and have more bulk to them while others, like those on our list, are light in weight and effortless to wear. If you’re expecting to wear it for outdoor activities, like cycling, running or hiking, you may want to consider a lightweight version. Those that are lighter will be easier to pack as they compress down very small, they will be easier to maneuver in and they’ll remain breathable and comfortable whether you’re in or out of doors.
Layers on top of layers in winter time can become cumbersome and constricting, but we don’t want to be confined to the indoors when those temperatures are dropping just to stay reasonably comfortable. For the most desirable winter vest comfort, you will want to look for a vest that won’t hinder your range of movement. It will be one that will allow you to move freely during all types of activities. You want a fit that’s snug enough to keep you warm, but plenty flexible and giving enough so that you have ample room to climb, run, cast a line, paddle, lift a rifle, or whatever it is that you do. There are many options out there that will suit these needs perfectly.
The length of your vest is another factor to consider. A vest that’s too short will allow torso heat to escape and it may decrease the amount of middle coverage during high movement activities. You don’t want to suddenly feel an icy draft as you set up your tent for the night, or as reach for that next high rock ledge. Checking the back length and knowing your own torso length would be wise before making a good winter vest investment.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Are vests good for winter?
Yes. Vests provide a lot of warmth, more warmth that some people may think. Therefore, wearing a short-sleeved vest in the winter, along with your other layers will keep you warm in cold temperatures.
q: What temperature should you wear a vest?
A vest can be worn in all temperatures. Vests will be worn with other layers, allowing you to take off layers if you become too warm or put-on extra layers if you get cold.
q: What are the warmest and hardiest types of insulation for active winter wear?
Wool is a stand-alone material that effectively traps dead air and uses it to insulate the body. Wool handles moisture, humidity and wet conditions exceptionally well. It absorbs moisture from the body and then releases it to the outside dry environment as your body warms, maintaining just the right amount of interior heat and dryness. However, if it becomes overly saturated it would need to dry out before being comfortable to wear outdoors again.
It is a quick-drying material. It is odor-resistant, due to its moisture-wicking properties. Bacteria that create odors cannot thrive where there is a lack of moisture. Furthermore, wool has incredibly strong fibers that can be stretched and pulled many times over without damage or becoming misshapen. Merino wool is higher-end wool that is finer than typical wool, creating a softer, less itchy fabric. Its fine fibers also make it even quicker to dry.
Fleece is another stand-alone material. It is warm, similar to wool, but it is much lighter and thinner. It is non-bulky, soft and lightweight. Fleece is versatile and easy to use as a mid layer in colder temperatures or as an outer layer in milder ones.
Down and Synthetic Down
Down and synthetic down is not a material, but fine fibers used as the inner insulation in clothing and other items such as coats, vests, and blankets. They are warm, desirable insulation for winter days. Down tends to be more warm than synthetic, but it does clump without easily returning to its natural shape when wet. Synthetic is not as warm as down but doesn’t clump when moisture saturates it. Both are incredibly effective and highly used insulators in winter wear.
q: How do you properly wash and dry a down vest?
Because down feather fibers can clump and become uneven in a garment, it is wise to be mindful of the washing process to prevent issues. Most vests, though, are made with a quilted pattern that helps to maintain an even spread of down throughout, even with washing.
To ensure your vests last for seasons and cold climates to come, machine wash your down vest with warm water and on a gentle cycle without fabric softener. The soapy softener can saturate the feathers inside, potentially causing odor problems and/or longer drying time. Use a front-loading machine if possible, or a top-loading machine without a middle agitator. The agitator could damage the vest. You want to avoid a washing machine full of feathers.
If using a top-loading machine that does have an agitator it is best to place the vest in a mesh bag before washing. Tumble dry on a low heat setting with sock balls or tennis balls. The balls basically beat the garment back into shape for an effective and even dry and well-maintained shape. The drying time could take longer than the drying time of a load of typical clothing items. Do not iron your down vest.
q: How do you properly wash and dry a vest made from wool or fleece?
Wash by hand in cold water or separately on a gentle cycle in a washing machine. This will prevent pilling, which can occur in these types of fabrics due to frequent washes and heavy friction against other materials. Lie the vest out flat to dry.
q: What can I do if my vest already has some pilling in the fabric?
Pilling can occur in your fleece and wool fabrics. It happens when pieces of the fabric pull away from the garment and collect together in tiny clumps on its exterior in a noticeable manner. It typically happens when there is friction between the piece of clothing and another item, like a backpack or an outer shell layer.
It can also occur with frequent or rough washing, use or handling. However, your vest can recover from pilling. A pill shaver or sweater stone, which can be purchased in many stores and online to remove those excess small balls of fabric that have worked themselves up in a most unappealing way on your favorite vest. In the future, wash and dry carefully as described above.
q: Is a vest or a jacket better for outdoor winter exercise?
Really, this depends on how cold the outdoors is in your region. Typically, a vest is great for outdoor exercise in cold climates because it keeps your core warm while still lending breathability to your armpits. With a vest, you still have a full range of motion to do jumping jacks, push ups, run, and lift weights. With a jacket, these routines can be more challenging because the arms of the jacket can be restricting and the jacket can get bunched up around your waist.
If you live in a windy winter environment, a windbreaker over your vest is a great idea. Windbreakers are typically looser and allow for more breathability through the jacket as well.