You Need The Best Hiking Vest! – Stay Snug And Look Great Out On The Trails

For sure, when the sun is shining and the weather is hot, you can wear a t-shirt; when it’s icy cold and snowing, a good jacket is always your go-to attire. However, during those in-between transitional seasons when the weather can’t make up its mind, a vest can be the wisest choice.

Maybe it’s to wear over an under layer to keep your core body temperature up or maybe it’s to wear with other layers to give you a bit more warmth – whatever you want to use it for, this guide will help you choose the best hiking vest to stay warm and look great out on the trails.

**You'll find our more detailed reviews below, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

Buyer’s Guide

If you are thinking of buying a vest for hiking, there are a couple of things you need to take into consideration. First of all, you need to think about the advantages of a vest relative to a jacket and secondly you need to decide which style to buy.

Fleece Or A Jacket?

Hiking Jackets and Vest

The main advantage of a vest is that it can keep your core warm while giving your arms more freedom of movement and allowing better airflow. If the weather is not cold enough to warrant a full jacket, a vest might be a practical and more comfortable solution.

Another advantage of a vest is that it can be packed down smaller than a jacket and won’t take up too much space in your bag which means if you want to take it off, it will be easier to carry. Finally, vests are generally cheaper than jackets and so also better for your wallet.

For these reasons, vests are generally a better solution when the weather is not so cold but is also unpredictable. They can keep you warm and protect you from the cold and the wind if the temperature drops but are easy to pack up and carry if the weather becomes warmer.

Vests are a good choice for spring and fall when the weather is changeable – but if you want to keep warm in the dead of winter, a jacket is a much better option.

Features To Look For In Hiking Vests

1. Down, Synthetic Or Fleece?

There are two basic styles of vest that are suitable for hiking, either filled with insulating material or fleece-style. The ones filled with insulating material can be divided into down vests, ones filled with down from ducks or geese, and synthetic ones, ones filled with synthetic materials.

Girl Wearing Synthetic Vest For Hiking

Synthetic Insulation Vest

The advantage of a filled vest is that it keeps you warmer than a fleece making it better in colder weather.

Man Wearing Fleece Vest

Fleece Vest

The advantage of a fleece is that it forms a thinner layer on the body since it isn’t puffed up with insulating material.

2. What Kind Of Insulation?

Of the two kinds of material used to provide insulation in a filled vest, each has associated advantages and disadvantages.

A down vest provides better insulation and is lighter and packs down smaller but the drawback is that it loses its insulating properties when wet.

The advantage of using synthetic material is that it can retain its insulating properties even when wet but won’t keep you as warm as a down-filled vest. Synthetic vests are also generally cheaper than down-filled versions.

This means that as a general rule, down vests are the better choice in colder, dryer conditions and synthetic vests are better if there is a likelihood of rain.

3. Down Fill Power

This is a rating that tells you about the insulating properties of the down in a vest compared to its weight – the higher the number, the better at insulating the down in the vest will be.

It is still possible for a vest with a lower rating to provide better warmth if more down is used to fill the vest. The higher the down fill power rating, the more expensive a vest will be – so if you want a lightweight vest that will keep you very warm, you will have to pay more.

4. Down Type

Rab Microlight Hydrophobic Vest - Men's

Hydrophobic Vest - Via

As mentioned above, regular down loses its insulating properties when wet. However, a kind of down called hydrophobic has been developed that can keep its insulating properties even when wet. This could be another choice if you are likely to be hiking in the rain.

5. Design Features

Woman In Teal Hiking Vest Taking Selfie Photo

You may also wish to consider other design features such as weight, how small a vest is when packed away, the different pockets it has, if it has elastic cuffs to keep warmth in, if it is supplied with its own stuff bag for when it is packed away and so on.

6. Noise

One final point to consider might be how noisy a vest is. Some of the materials used to make insulated vests can make a loud rustling noise when you move about and if this is likely to bother you, you may wish to take this into consideration.


**You'll find our more detailed reviews below, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

#1. Arc'teryx Cerium LT Vest Men’s

Arcteryx Cerium LT Vest - Men's



Our Rating

This Arc’teryx men’s vest features ‘Down Composite Mapping’ which means it uses a mixture of natural and synthetic filling. In areas prone to a build-up of moisture, it uses synthetic whereas in other areas features 850 fill goose down. It is designed for cool, dry conditions.

The first thing to say about this vest is that it is incredibly warm for the weight. The 850 fill down is very lightweight but still keeps you well insulated. This vest is available in several different colors and I just love the way it looks – it’s a very stylish hiking vest.

This vest is clearly very high quality and a lot of thought has gone into its design, making it comfortable and a real pleasure to wear.

On the downside, this kind of quality and performance comes at a price and this vest is not cheap so some people might be put off by the price tag. I think the fabric is also a little delicate and I would be worried about snagging it on branches while out hiking.

This is a stylish, high-quality garment that will keep you warm when the temperature drops. It’s comfortable and looks great – but might not be the option for somebody who is on a tight budget.

I Like

  • Looks great
  • Excellent warmth to weight ratio
  • Intelligent use of Down Composite Mapping
  • Good color options

I Don't Like

  • Expensive price tag
  • Seems a little delicate

#2. The North Face Thermoball Vest Men’s

The North Face Thermoball Vest Mens



Our Rating

This men’s vest from The North Face is a slim-fit garment featuring Thermoball synthetic filling, high breathability and water-resistant finish. When you’re not wearing it, it folds up very small and packs away into its own pocket.

I have to say, I really love this vest. It’s very light but at the same time, provides a high degree of insulation to keep you nice and warm. The Thermoball filling doesn’t quite match natural down for warmth but it comes pretty close.

It’s windproof and at the same time, it isn’t too noisy which is a big plus. It’s available in a wide range of colors which means you can choose the best one to suit your style – and I also really like the way it folds away into its own pocket for ease of carrying.

I really can’t find too much wrong with this vest but if I had to choose one thing, I think the pockets are huge. Actually, this doesn’t bother me but I can imagine some people might like to have such enormous pockets.

This is a wonderful vest for hiking and at a reasonable price too. It’s perfect for anyone looking for a vest for when the weather doesn’t quite warrant a full jacket. The only reason you wouldn’t want this is that you prefer natural down or a fleece – or if you don’t like big pockets.

I Like

  • Good insulation
  • Packs into own pocket
  • Very light
  • Good selection of colors

I Don't Like

  • Big pockets

#3. Columbia Women's Benton Springs Vest

Columbia Women's Benton Springs Vest



Our Rating

This machine-washable 100% polyester fleece vest from Columbia includes a zipper at the front, zippable pockets on the side and is available in a very extensive range of colors. It uses the thermal reflective omni heat system which means it provides more insulation than regular fabric.

This vest is warm and cozy – the material it’s made from is soft and pleasant to touch. I think it looks good and I like all the different color choices, and at this price, it could make a good addition to your hiking equipment.

The main problem with this vest is that it doesn’t really provide the same level of warmth as a filled vest and works better when the weather isn’t too cold or when used as an extra layer. It is a very slim fit so if you are trying to hide any bulges, it’s probably not going to be the most flattering vest.

Overall, this is a nice-looking vest if you have the figure for it and works well as an extra layer but if you want something for colder conditions, you may wish to look elsewhere. If you need something for colder weather, you should consider a filled vest instead.

I Like

  • Looks cute
  • Many color options
  • Light and easy to pack down small
  • Feels good to touch

I Don't Like

  • Not as warm as filled vests
  • Not a good shape for everyone

#4. The North Face Thermoball Vest

The North Face Womens ThermoBall¿ Vest



Our Rating

This 100% nylon women’s vest from The North Face is filled with Thermoball synthetic insulation which keeps you warm, even when wet. It is lightweight, compresses down small and stows in its own pocket. The material is water-repellent and it is available in many colors and patterns.

I found this vest to be a good shape that fits well – although that also depends on the shape of the wearer. It has more stitching which means it’s not as puffy as some other vests and the insulation works really well meaning it will keep you warm.

For style-conscious ladies out there, this vest would be great choice, especially with all the color options and different patterns available. You’ll be able to look great while you’re out there hiking the trails. I also love the way it compresses down small so it’s practical to take if you’re not sure of the weather.

I think this is a great vest for the price but it doesn’t seem to be so durable. I’d be worried about snagging it on a branch or something – and that would make me sad as I love the way it looks.

This is a great option to keep you warm and looking good while out hiking. It comes at a reasonable price for this quality of garment – just make sure you don’t catch it while you’re out walking.

I Like

  • Looks great
  • Reasonable price
  • Good insulation
  • Keeps you warm even if wet

I Don't Like

  • May be easy to tear

#5. Columbia Men's Cathedral Peak Front-Zip Fleece Vest

Columbia Men's Cathedral Peak Front-Zip Fleece Vest



Our Rating

This 100% polyester machine-washable fleece vest from Columbia features a front zipper, a fold over collar and zippable side pockets. It is available in several colors.

This is a really cozy and comfortable fleece vest made of material that is pleasant to touch. I think it looks good, too – and there are several color options meaning you can look stylish on your hikes while keeping warm. It also comes at a very reasonable price.

The main problem with this vest is that it is made of thin material and doesn’t provide much warmth. If you need something for colder hikes, you might want to look at other options. I also don’t think the quality is the highest.

This fleece vest is a good standby for in-between weather and would also work well if you are wearing layers. It’s not thick enough to keep you warm in lower temperatures. It’s also not suitable for those with a bit of a belly at it’s quite a snug fit.

I Like

  • Pleasant material
  • Look stylish
  • Good for wearing as a layer
  • Very reasonable price

I Don't Like

  • Not super-high quality
  • Not warm enough for cold weather


These vests are all excellent choices – and I really like the way they look too. The two Columbia fleeces are good for adding an extra layer or to keep the cold off in milder weather but not ideal if it gets chillier. The two North Face vest are better options if you need something when the temperatures drop.

However, for me, the outright winner of best hiking vest is the Arc’teryx option. I love the way it is so warm and cozy and really help maintain your core body temperature. On top of that, I think it’s the best looking of the whole bunch – so I recommend the Arc’teryx as the best hiking vest available.

Do you have a vest? Do you prefer insulated or fleece vests? Which is your favorite brand? I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment – and if you enjoyed my article, please don’t forget to share!

Julie McClain

Chief editor here at Outdoorzer. I'm an outdoor lover and ever since I was a little girl, I've worked hard to learn all I could from my Dad about Camping, Hiking, RVs and surviving in the woods.

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