We reviewed best synthetic insulted jackets for men and women 2021. These are high quality top rated synthetic insulated jackets in affordable price.
Advances in fabric technology have created materials that are more breathable than ever, even when insulating or providing weather protection.
Lightweight insulated jacket, stretchier and more packable, they’ve also led to changes in bike style – a bike jacket no longer has to look like, well, a bike jacket.
There’s a huge range that can not only be worn across a range of conditions, but off the bike or for a range of other outdoor activities too.
Why buy two jackets when one will do both jobs? The assumption that you always need a full-on waterproof as part of your kit is now being challenged.
If you’re riding on exposed terrain and will be out all day, then you need to be equipped for the worst weather.
But for most of us, a jacket that keeps all but the heaviest rain off yet is highly breathable and stops you getting drenched in sweat will be a better, more comfortable option.
Before lightweight, more advanced insulation was developed, cold weather meant pairing an outer shell for wind and rain protection with a chunky mid-layer to keep you warm.
Now, all-in-one jackets that repel water but breathe so well you don’t need to shed layers when you hit the climbs are the norm.
Fabrics that have performed well in our testing include Gore-Tex Infinium, designed to combine a high level of weather protection with optimum breathability; Polartec Alpha, which aims to give warmth without making you overheat; and PrimaLoft, which brings warmth without being heavy.
We test 15 jackets that combine water repellent with breath-ability and warmth.
The consistent feature is that they all combine a protective benefit with maximum breathable, because the ability to regulate temperature is what provides the most comfort.
While the latest jackets have more casual styling than traditional waterproofs, the technologically-advanced fabrics mean there’s no compromise on performance for the sake of appearance.
The selection on test encompasses both bike-specific designs and jackets designed for general outdoor or even everyday use.
Ensuring that they work in the saddle means checking that the arms are long enough when outstretched, the back won’t ride up and the collar doesn’t irritate when you’re leaning forward.
Stretch will overcome a multitude of sins, but overly-baggy cuts may irritate you eventually.
Best Synthetic Insulated Jackets
- Nukeproof Blackline Softshell
- adidas Terrex Troy Lee Primaloft
- ION Shelter Softshell
- Madison Flux Super Light Softshell
- Helly Hansen LIFALOFT Hooded Stretch Insulator
- Rab Kinetic Plus
- ASSOS Trail Spring/Fall
- Fox Flexair Pro Fire Alpha
- Arc’teryx Proton LT Hoody
- 7mesh FreeFlow
- Vaude Moab UL Hybrid
- Berghaus Taboche
- Gore C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Hybrid
- Patagonia Dirt Roamer
- Endura MT500 Freezing Point
Nukeproof Blackline Softshell
The Blackline Softshell has been designed to combine a casual style with riding performance. Much of that comes from the fabric, which pairs a DWR-finish outer with a softer waffle inner.
This means it feels warm and comfortable, even against bare arms, but still keeps the worst rain off. The sleeves are a good length and the raglan cut (a construction method with no seam across the top of the shoulder) provides plenty of easy movement through the shoulders.
Add the generous over-helmet hood, and it feels like attention has been paid to the details that matter on the bike. However, we did miss the inclusion of a draw cord to cinch in the waist.
The relaxed cut, while looking good off the bike, means the bottom hem can gape open, potentially creating cold spots or allowing crud inside.
Best Synthetic Down Jacket
adidas Terrex Troy Lee Primaloft
This adidas/Troy Lee collaboration packs down surprisingly well for an insulated style – not tiny, but small enough to throw in your kit bag for when you need some more potent protection from the cold.
It’s good for early starts and hanging out at the trailhead, and there are some neat details that make a difference when riding.
The double zip means you can ventilate from the bottom hem, and also makes it easier to close up the jacket ahead of a long descent.
Both sleeves and body are long enough, and the hood is adjustable. A chill does come in through the front zip, so it works best paired with a windproof baselayer.
On the plus side, this means you can take advantage of the extra warmth without overheating. It’s a good jacket to wear pre-ride, knowing that it can handle the trails if needed.
Best Mens Insulated Jackets
ION Shelter Softshell
ION’s Shelter is another ‘technical hoody’ style that has casual good looks off the bike, but enough functional detail to make it easily at home on the trail.
While only water-resistant, the fabric is windproof and keeps out all but the heaviest rain. The easy fit means you can wear it over anything from a technical T-shirt to a chunkier midlayer.
It goes on easily and the four-way stretch fabric makes it comfortable to move in. The hood is generous enough to go over a helmet and is easily adjusted with one hand.
There’s one chest pocket and two hand warmer pockets – one of which comes with a lens cleaner (one of those items you never know you want until you really need it). Our one gripe is that the sleeves could be a tad lengthier, because they come up a bit short on longer arms.
Best Synthetic Puffy Jacket
Madison Flux Super Light Softshell
Despite being one of the more wallet-friendly jackets on test, the Flux has design details that are usually found on more expensive styles.
These include a hood that rolls up and fastens so it doesn’t flap when not in use, and gripper print on the shoulders to stop your pack shifting around.
We like the fit – the cut feels slim but still has room to accommodate extra layers, with a dropped rear hem to keep your lower back covered.
The softshell fabric gives jersey-like comfort, and sealed seams make it fully waterproof. Living up to its Super Light name, you hardly know you’re wearing this jacket.
Pairing it with the appropriate combination of base and/or midlayers, we’ve worn it in all kinds of conditions, from milder days to frosty starts, and it always provides a good balance of warmth and protection.
Best Insulated Winter Jackets
Helly Hansen LIFALOFT Hooded Stretch Insulator
During winter testing, this jacket became the one we picked up almost every day – but not always for riding.
The LIFALOFT insulation is a combination of LIFA and Primaloft technologies, resulting in incredibly lightweight insulation that’ll keep you warm even when wet.
On the trail, while there are stretch panels at the sides that make it very comfortable, the lack of bike-specificity in the cut makes the sleeves short with arms outstretched.
It comes into its own when worn as a midlayer underneath a hardshell jacket on freezing, wet days, when the outer layer fills in the wrist gap and the lightweight, breathable, thermal qualities of the Insulator really shine.
If you need a warm jacket for everyday outdoor activities that can double-up as a performance midlayer on the most miserable days, this is a good option.
Rab Kinetic Plus
An all-rounder of a jacket, Rab say the Kinetic Plus is designed for just about everything from skiing to climbing and mountain biking.
Much of its versatility has to do with the comfort of the fabric, which has a high degree of stretch, so the jacket will move with you, whatever you’re doing.
While it feels and wears like a softshell, it’s fully taped and waterproofed, making a nice change from the hardshell approach of most rain jackets.
It layers-up well, managing not to feel too baggy when just paired with a T-shirt, but going over bulkier tops easily when the weather gets cooler.
We like the pared-back lines of this adaptable style, but on the bike, the lack of a drawcord to cinch in the hem means than on most rides a fair amount of mud got in/onto our shorts or jacket.
ASSOS Trail Spring/Fall
Deceptively simple, the Trail is anything but an average hoody. Much of the performance comes from the combination of fabrics.
A brushed finish on the inside of the front, shoulders and sleeves is paired with a more open, wicking knit across the back, to prevent overheating.
It’s designed as a transition-season jacket, and on milder autumn and spring days it performs well, thanks to the fabric, the protectively high collar formed by the hood and the double-ended front zip, which can be unfastened for climbs.
The slim fit and articulated sleeves mean that it also works as a midlayer in colder weather, when the zip-to-the-top cosiness of the hooded collar gives additional protection.
ASSOS say the hood isn’t helmet compatible, but we were able to wear it under a lid for extra warmth on really chilly days.
Fox Flexair Pro Fire Alpha
The Flexair Pro Fire is nearly perfect. Utilising Polartec Alpha fabric as its foundation, it’s warmer and keeps out more weather than you’d expect, and breathes better too.
We found that you can start and end a ride with the same layers, and don’t overheat or cool down too much when you stop working.
The details that make the difference are there too – a zipped side entry so you can easily get into jersey pockets underneath, and an inner stash pocket within the two hand-warmer pockets.
Strategically-placed vents pull in cool air and allow heat to escape. It’s protectively long at the back too, ensuring that you’re covered in the wettest trail conditions.
The less-than-perfect element is the armholes, which feel slightly tight on the bike. That’s probably a personal fit issue, so check if it works for you.
Arc’teryx Proton LT Hoody
Arc’teryx designed the Proton LT as a climbing jacket, but the movement and protection required for scrambling up rock faces works on a bike too.
It feels warm from the moment you put it on, but doesn’t seem to get too hot, even when pedalling hard. We’d even go so far as to say it’s the most breathable insulated jacket we’ve ridden in.
The outer has an abrasion- and water-resistant finish that makes it suitable to be worn as a shell as well as a midlayer.
It isn’t that windproof as an outer, so we paired it with a Gore Windstopper base and that was the perfect combination.
The quality of construction – with angled cuffs, a high neck and a back that sits perfectly under a hardshell when you wear it as a midlayer – will convince you of the wisdom of your not-insubstantial investment.
Canada’s 7mesh have established a well-deserved reputation for high quality and attention to detail, and the Freeflow doesn’t disappoint.
It uses Polartec Alpha (a recurring theme in the jackets here that work across a range of conditions) on the front and sleeves.
Where you need warmth and protection the most – and lightweight, windproof, ripstop nylon elsewhere, which allows heat to escape.
The fit is slim – more XC ‘go-faster’ styling than casual – but shaped so it feels right in the riding position. So right, in fact, that you’re hardly aware you’re wearing it.
A close-fitting neck and elasticated hem with a gripper at the back help seal the warmth in and keep the wet out.
One note of caution though – the fabric is delicate and an altercation with a bramble bush required an iron-on patch repair.
Vaude Moab UL Hybrid
Despite its bike-specific design, this insulated jacket has such good breathability that we’ve been wearing it for other high-energy outdoor pursuits too.
The front and shoulders incorporate PrimaLoft Eco insulation for warmth; the rest is Pertex Quantum, which keeps wind and rain off.
Not only is the combination warm and comfy to wear, but it’s incredibly lightweight and packs down to a tiny size.
As a bonus, the underarm panels are made from wool to help prevent sweat build-up. The cut is slim but shaped for the bike, so it never feels restrictive.
We’ve worn it alone and as an insulating midlayer on freezing days in the Scottish Highlands.
It works for both and is worth chucking in a pack to pull on for tea stops in spring or autumn, or as an extra layer in exposed terrain.
While the Taboche wasn’t designed for bike use, the cut is so good that you don’t feel like you’re having to make any compromises.
In common with many of the jackets on test, it uses a combination of materials – in this case, Gore-Tex Infinium to provide insulation and protection where you need it, and a more breathable woven fabric where heat needs to escape.
The features are bike-friendly – a hood that cinches in so it doesn’t interfere with peripheral vision; a double zip with a popper at the base so you can vent without any flapping; and long zip-pulls that are easy to find with gloved hands.
Coming back to the cut, it’s the articulated shape – which means you can move your arms and the body of the jacket won’t shift – that makes this all-rounder work so well on a bike.
Gore C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Hybrid
Gore-Tex Infinium is a fabric we’re seeing more of in higher-end jackets. It was developed to provide the best combination of protection and breathability when a full-on waterproof isn’t needed.
We’ve worn the C5 Hybrid on mixed-weather days and it’s given enough protection from showers to keep us dry, but is noticeably less sweaty than a typical hardshell waterproof.
While the jacket is cut to sit quite close to the body, the slight stretch in the material combined with clever shaping means it articulates to fit well when in the riding position.
The hood fits under a helmet and can be adjusted so it doesn’t get in the way. When not in use, it secures in place and forms part of a high collar when zipped up. This is a great jacket for riding, and also running or hiking, but it is expensive.
Patagonia Dirt Roamer
This is one very nice packable jacket. It keeps off enough rain to not have to worry about showers, but is so breathable that it easily transitions from cooler starts to warmer finishes.
With just a baselayer underneath, it’s perfect for spring and autumn rides. The slim fit prevented us from layering it over a chunkier midlayer for winter use, although you could size up to do this.
As you’d assume with a five-star score, the cut is bang-on, dropping properly low at the back with sleeves that are long enough for the tallest rider and an over helmet hood with simple one handed adjustment.
Bonded seams add to the quality feel. Add the understated styling, and it’s hard not to covet the Patagonia jacket. It definitely isn’t cheap, but at least it’s Fair Trade Certified sewn.
Endura MT500 Freezing Point
The Freezing Point has become our cold-weather riding jacket of choice. Constructed using PrimaLoft Gold insulation on the front and sleeves, together with a thermal stretch fabric on the back.
It keeps vulnerable areas warm but lets you shed heat fast when you need to. The generous front pockets also act as vents and there are long pit zips to allow maximum airflow.
We’ve worn this on frosty starts, opening the zips when the sun came out, and on long cold days, when nothing’s been opened.
The hood goes over a helmet and has the same insulation as the body, so it adds instant cosiness, and when folded down it creates a high collar.
No detail is forgotten, from a comfortable zip garage to long, easy-to-grab pulls and a zipped stash pocket.
The fit is slim but has room for extra layers and is casual enough for it to work as an everyday winter jacket.
Matching trousers are available as well – we have a pair and won’t be taking them off until April! A worthy winner and outstanding value too.
Synthetic Insulated Jackets Types
A high neck seals in warmth. Look for those that zip up and over the chin for chilly early-spring tarts.
Little triangle of fabric that stops the zip-pull from irritating your skin – crucial on high-neck designs.
Vents / PIT Zips
Sections that can be opened up to allow air in and out. If you get hot easily, or want a jacket that can be used in warmer as well as cooler weather, make sure it has vents.
Mountain bike jackets tend not to have exaggerated ‘tails’ at the back like roadie ones, but make sure that the rear hem is lower than the front to avoid cold spots.
Over Helmet Hood
Under-helmet hoods have their fans, but the joy of being able to simply flip your hood up when conditions change quickly should not be underestimated.
Terms We Used:
Durable Water Repellent finish – used on the outside of jackets for water resistance. Most jackets will need reproofing after washing. Look for eco versions that don’t contain PFCs.
Fabrics don’t actually breathe, but this term is used as shorthand to denote how well sweat, in the form of moisture or vapour, is dispersed.
Jackets that are cut to follow your active shape on a bike. They’re usually slimmer in profile, because they don’t need to allow you additional room to move.
Term used to differentiate the softer weatherproof fabrics from traditional ‘hardshell’ waterproofs. They’re usually highly water-resistant rather than waterproof, but more breathable as a result.
Four Way Stretch
Fabric that stretches in every direction. Combined with a good cut, this allows for movement and additional layering.
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