PHOTO: Franklin Towers
PHOTO: Franklin Towers

The Best Vests for Shoulder Season

A vest is an ideal layer for teetering temperatures and unpredictable weather

Vests may be the most underrated layer in skiing, especially on spring days when you're on the fence about wearing anything but base layers under your shell. They keep you warm at night during summer months, will roll right into fall, and before you know it, the first snow is falling. Here are six of our favorite vests for shoulder season.

The North Face, Harway Vest
$89
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The North Face Harway Vest, women’s

Available in both men's and women's cuts, this midweight vest adds a light layer of insulation without the bulk, thanks to 100 grams of synthetic fill. Sans hood, the Harway vest is easy to layer under a jacket, while the high collar blocks out wind and is soft against the skin. The snap button front, however, is a bit more tedious than a quick zipper. Decently water repellent, it'll do as an outer layer if a spring squall rolls in.

The North Face, Campshire Vest
$99
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The North Face Campshire Vest, men’s

This ultra-soft vest makes me nostalgic for my college days when everyone on campus lived in fleece zip-ups. Your mom will love this thing. Made with 300-weight Sherpa fleece, this throwback is the most comfortable vest in the group and belongs on your next camping trip. Just don't wear it skiing in the rain--there's nothing waterproof about it. Available for men and women.

Arc'teryx, Atom SL Vest
$149
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Arc’teryx Atom SL Vest, women’s

The most versatile vest in this group, I discovered this piece midwinter as the perfect touring layer to wear over a light base layer. It's durable and wind resistant, dries quickly, and the breathable side panels let it breathe. I run hot and sweat even on cold days, so the Atom SL vest offered enough insulation and protection that I didn't feel exposed, but I rarely if ever felt overdressed in it. For resort days, this has become my go-to for wearing under my shell. It's not the commitment of a full mid-layer, but not the risk of going out without a little bit of warmth either. The Atom SL vest fits long and slim. Available for men and women.

Picture Organic Clothing, Holly Vest
$139
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Picture Organic Clothing, Holly Vest

Made from 49 percent recycled polyester, the Holly Vest is a streetwear piece with technical features like 10K/10K waterproof-breathable membrane that is PFC-free. True to the brand story, this warm vest is also certified by the Fair Wear Foundation which ensures good working conditions in the textile industry. The stretchy waist cuff allows some room for curvier hips and the faux fur trim is removable. Hand-warmer pockets sit a bit high, and I recommend sizing up.

Patagonia, Micro Puff Vest
$199
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Patagonia Micro Puff Vest, men’s

Patagonia's Micro Puff jacket made waves when it came to market last season for being the lightest, most packable mid-layer available. The vest is no different and serves as a great option if the full jacket proves to be too much insulation under your shell, or if you're looking to wear it as an outer-most piece on the uphill. It's windproof to a fair degree, water-resistant, and filled with an ultra-light synthetic down called PlumaFill. Shoving it in your pack no matter what you're doing in the mountains is a no-brainer; it won't take up space because it packs into one of its four pockets. Available for men and women.

Patagonia, Bivy Hooded Vest
$179
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Patagonia Hoody Bivy Vest, women’s

This is the vest to wear on the drive to the trailhead and in the parking lot while you're psyching yourself up to "be bold, start cold," then leave in the car until you've made it back down in time for happy hour margaritas. The Bivy Hooded Vest (available without the hood and reversible for men) is a 600-fill-power recycled down canvas vest that is wind- and water-resistant like a good pair of Carhartts. It's not lightweight--it's big, bulky, and cozy in all the right ways. The high collar, fitted hood and deep hand-warmer pockets make it easy to stay warm in inclement weather. Thanks to classic color blocking and drop tail, it's an obvious "for town" piece that doesn't scream GRANOLA.