insulated jacket reviews

A backcountry skier in Idaho's Boise Mountains.

The Best Clothing Layers for Winter in the Backcountry

By Michael Lanza

There’s one certainty about the clothing layers we use in winter: We get our money’s worth out of them. While a rain shell or puffy jacket may rarely (or even never) come out of our pack on a summer hike or climb, we almost invariably wear every article of clothing we carry when backcountry, Nordic, or downhill skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, climbing, or trail running in winter. That’s money spent wisely to make us more comfortable and safer.

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Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket.

The 10 Best Down Jackets of 2022

By Michael Lanza

Whatever you need an insulated jacket for, there’s a down or synthetic puffy for your needs, within your budget. And whether you want a puffy jacket for outdoor activities like backpacking, camping, and climbing, or just to keep you warm around town or at outdoor sporting events, this review will help you figure out how to choose the right jacket for your needs, and it spotlights the best down and synthetic puffy jackets available today.

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Backpackers on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2022

By Michael Lanza

The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. The Wonderland Trail. The Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Glacier National Park. The Ruby Crest Trail. The Pasayten Wilderness. Yellowstone. The Wind River Range. The North Cascades. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear you see reviewed at The Big Outside. I treat gear roughly in places that are hard on outdoor gear and apparel so that I can give you brutally honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you make the best gear choices for your adventures.

And that’s exactly how I came up with these picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

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The Black Diamond Vision Down Parka.

Review: Black Diamond Vision Down Parka

Down Jacket
Black Diamond Vision Down Parka
$450, 1 lb. 4.5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
moosejaw.com

On a morning in the first week of March, with the temperature a blood-thickening 17° F at a campsite on the edge of The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, this fat down parka felt like my best friend. That followed a night in the teens spent inside a sleeping bag not rated for temps that low, when I spread the parka over my torso and hips inside my bag and felt an immediate infusion of warmth that enabled me to enjoy a comfortable night of sleep.

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Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket.

Review: Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket

Water-Resistant Down Jacket
Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket
$280, 15 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XXS-XXL, women’s XS-XXL
moosejaw.com

Although it wasn’t the weather we’d hoped for in the Wind River Range, the rain and chilly wind whipping through our campsites seemed like the perfect testing conditions for Rab’s Microlight Alpine Down Jacket. And it passed the test, thanks to features designed to fend off wet and raw conditions—giving this puffy jacket strong appeal to backpackers, climbers, and others with a knack for getting themselves into that kind of weather in any season.

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