Mid-layers can be hard to navigate, so we’ve decided to help. Here is your guide to some of our favourite mid-layer jackets!
We have honed in on two different categories; down, and everything else! The “everything else” category is mostly synthetic, but we have also tossed in a merino based piece as well.
The Atom LT is a classic Arc’teryx piece — it seems like everybody at Live Out There owns one. Insulated with 60 g/m² Coreloft™, the Atom has uninsulated, fleece-lined stretch panels at the sides and up into the armpits to help vent heat. While the panels and cuffs are stretchy, the jacket itself doesn’t have a whole lot of give. The fabric rustles a bit, but is quite lovely and soft. The inside is a bit slippery, making it easy to slide on and off, even if you’re wearing lots of layers.
The cut is great, and well executed so the exterior of the jacket has fairly few seams. The sheet of insulation on the back is anchored through the lining, leaving the back of the jacket quite clean, seam-wise. The pockets are lined with a soft, low-loft fleece, which is lovely on cold days.
We prefer the Atom LT most for fairly high output activities in reasonably cold (up to -10°C weather), like cross country skiing. It’s also a good choice for travelling, and makes a lovely pillow on airplanes!
The winner of the 2015 Gear of the Year award from Outside Magazine, and a pretty stellar piece. Designed to be an insulated jacket you can wear straight through on again/off again activity, this jacket is warm and extremely breathable. As part of the extra breathable feature, the face fabric is really soft and quiet. This piece feels comparable to a sweater and is extremely stretchy. The only down-side about the Nano Air is that it does not break wind very well—breathability is a two way street, and a stiff breeze will go straight through this jacket.
The Nano Air is insulated with 60 g/m² FullRange™—the same amount of insulation as the Atom LT, although we would argue that this jacket is warmer—potentially because the side panels are insulated.
Thermoball™ insulation was developed by The North Face and Primaloft®, and they boast that it is as warm as 600 fill down. It is made from little ball-like clumps that you can actually feel when you pinch the baffles, which we think is pretty neat. Aesthetically this is a very flattering and well designed jacket.
The Thermoball jacket is surprisingly warm (considering how light it is), especially if you are moving. We love it. It traps heat brilliantly, and packs up really well. It is perfect for activities like winter hiking, but also makes a lovely sweater and a great under a shell. It packs really nicely, and is quite thin (still warm, though!) making it a great layering piece, even under shells that are a little closer cut. The Thermoball is a solid mid-layer all-around.
This one isn’t purely a synthetic insulation; it’s mostly merino, with some added synthetic for more stable loft and 100% merino lining (MerinoLoft Insulation). Icebreaker’s merino tech is solid, and we would never hesitate to recommend it—especially to people who want a natural insulation, but don’t want down (or want the warm-when-wet aspect of synthetic). The Helix LS jacket was designed for cold, high-output days. It is meant to be worn for activities like skiing, climbing, snowshoeing, or hiking.
The lining of this jacket is lovely, soft merino that brings all its no/low-stink benefits along with it. The face fabric made out of 100% recycled polyester and features a DWR that easily fends off light precipitation. Not only is this jacket great technically, but it also provides safe storage for all of your go-to belongings (phone, wallet, lip chap…etc) with easy to access zippered pockets.
This 850-fill down jacket is beautiful. We love this jacket. The baffles are almost magical, the styling is fantastic, and despite being a particularly puffy jacket, it has a great cut and fit. As an added bonus, one of our favourite features is the addition of synthetic insulation around the wrist area—an area where we often find other down jackets flatten out and lose loft quickly.
The Cerium LT doesn’t have a ton of features, but that is fine. It’s not necessary to have a powder skirt or pit zips in a down jacket. It has two hand pockets and comes with a stuff sack that loops into one of the hand pockets. The stuff sack is a great little detail; most companies tell you to stuff a jacket into its pocket, however, Arc’teryx decided to add the stuff sack to avoid straining the pocket. And no worries if you are not a fan of this feature, it can easily be unlooped and left at home until you need it.
The amazingly light Ghost Whisperer Jacket is in our opinion the number one Mountain Hardwear high-end, lightweight down sweater. It is the worlds lightest full-featured hooded down jacket and can be compressed into its own pocket for easy storage.
Having been designed with the essentials in mind: Q. Shield™ DOWN 800-fill the insulation easily resists moisture and maintains a warmth and dryness. The quilted pattern is not only an aesthetic plus, it also functions as a heat trapping down channel for extra added warmth. This jacket also offers extra attention to the wrist area elastic binding cuffs to help seal off cold and moisture.
Marmot makes the Quasar (a 850 fill insulated layer) as a jacket, and a hoodie—I have the vest. Both are nice and lofty, and we feature subtly angled baffles. It’s light and stuffs into its pocket nicely, making it a great choice for summer trips to the mountains, or to the cottage. Layered over a light sweater, it adds a serious punch of warmth without any sacrificed arm mobility. Although this jacket is not waterproof it is a great match to wear under a waterproof shell. On its own it provides warmth and durability. One of the best features about this jacket is it’s use of durable ultralight 10-denier Pertex® Quantum® fabric making the jacket over all soft to touch, lightweight, and windproof.