What started as an alternative to down, synthetic insulation has evolved to span the spectrum of loft, warmth, packability, and weight. Here are six mid-weight synthetic puffy jackets we skied in last winter.
Salomon Drifter Hoody
Though not the warmest of the bunch, the Drifter gets bonus points for being the most affordable of the jackets we tested without skimping on features. A mix of Primaloft and Advanced Skin Shield insulate and protect against wind while still maintaining breathability, meaning body temps stay regulated on wet spring days. The low-volume design of the Drifter makes it fit perfectly with alpine-inspired outerwear.
Arc'Teryx Proton AR Hoody
Whether booking it uphill, trying to stay warm at a backcountry lunch spot, or entering that blissful space known as the white room, the Proton keeps you happy and focused on the job at hand. Coreloft Continuous insulation adds warmth and breathability while abrasion-resistant face fabric offers durability, resulting in a part-softshell, part-insulated hybrid.
The North Face Desolation ThermoBall Jacket
A little stretch makes a big difference when it comes to comfort. The four-way stretch panels on the ThermoBall's shoulders and underarms enable freedom of movement and help with airflow on uphill missions. PrimaLoft ThermoBall insulation—a synthetic designed to mimic down clusters—traps body heat to warm your core (even when wet), and a water-resistant finish provides just a touch of extra protection. The form-fitting cuts mean less dead space between your body and the fabric, increasing the Desolation's warmth-to-weight ratio.
Black Diamond First Light Hoody
Built with durable Schoeller face fabric for the constant stop-start action you find in the backcountry, the First Light practically begs for adventure. PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active (ideal for high-output activities) is super breathable but doesn't leave you hanging on the descent when it comes to warmth. But watch the smell factor: the First Light picks up your B.O. and doesn't let go.
Outdoor Research Razoredge
The Razoredge has a durable, moisture-resistant exterior fabric (Ventia), active insulation (PrimaLoft Silver), and windproof lining (Pertex Microlight). Translation: It keeps you warm, dry, and comfortable. A slightly roomier cut gives a boxy appearance but leaves room for layers. The two spacious interior pockets are the perfect place for skins.
Eider Pulse Alpha
We love the Pulse for its easy, go-with-the-flow style that stays comfortable no matter how hard you're working. A mix of Polartec Alpha insulation (think warmth and breathability without the weight) and Thermostretch side panels keep the Pulse versatile.