Gear review: Synthetic insulated jackets

When it comes to keeping warm on the hill, there are three main options. A traditional fleece offers warmth but very little protection from the wind, and so is best as a mid-layer. Down jackets offer the most warmth for the weight and pack the smallest, but lose most of their insulating properties when wet. Synthetic insulated jackets offer warmth but also protection from wind, and perform much better than down when conditions are wet.

Highlander Lewis insulated jacket

Recommended Price: £99
Manufacturer Weight: 350g

Livingstone-based Highlander Outdoor produce a range of outdoor gear towards the lower end of the price range, so how does their Lewis insulated jacket match up? Pretty well, I think – this represents solid value for money and a good alternative to a fleece.

The nylon outer encloses TechLoft filling, providing a fair amount of warmth for the lightweight. The cut is rather straight and the sleeves tend to ride up a little when you raise your arms. The hood is good, with volume adjusted by means of a velcro flap on the rear whilst it can be pulled tight with toggles, but there is no way to adjust the hem of the jacket. There are two good handwarmer pockets. The Lewis comes in grey or forest green and 6 sizes (XS – XXL) for men, and maroon or forest green and 5 sizes for women (XS – XL). I found the sizing to be true.

Salomon Outpeak insulated hoodie

Recommended Price: £230
Weight: 335g

Insulated with Primaloft this slim-fit jacket has a lot to like. There’s a good amount of stretch in the whole garment and movement is aided by the side and shoulder panels. The Pertex water repellent outer does shed water well and can be worn for longer showers and light drizzle without the rain breaking through and it’s worn very well so far. The elastic cuffs at the wrists are not too tight and the hood which is elasticated at the back, has a small stretchy fabric panel below the peak to keep it off your face – it fits well and is comfortable but I really like the uninsulated panel across the top of the head – so often you pull on a hood just to keep your ears warm, this keeps you snug without overheating. The chest pocket is on the small side, it won’t fit some of the larger phones, and for me, the lack of handwarmer pockets outweighs the neat look this provides. The fit is on the snug side, the lack of padded bulk means it fits under a waterproof well. Overall warm and breathable, a useful bit of kit for colder days, just give me more pockets!

It comes in 5 women’s sizes (XS – L) in green or dark blue, and in 5 men’s sizes (S – XXL) in dark blue or orange colours.

Berghaus Affine insulated jacket

Recommended Price: £200
Manufacturer weight: 464g

With a tapered cut, a lovely soft feel to the polyamide/elastane outer fabric, and a good amount of stretch, the new Affine jacket is supremely comfortable out on the hill. The insulation here is Berghaus’ own Hydroloft rather than Primaloft, but it’s made from recycled materials and I’ve found it performs very well. The Affine is highly breathable – which is a good thing as it’s warmer than the lighter jackets on test here.

The hood is well-designed, with a volume adjuster toggle, and there are two large hand-warmer pockets. It comes in 3 colours and 7 sizes for both men and women (XS to XXXL for men, 8-20 for women) and I found the sizing to be towards the snug end. It’s an extremely solid choice and one which will be seeing alot of use from me.

Patagonia Nano-Air hoody

Recommended Price: £219.95
Manufacturer weight: 289g

With a similar soft feel to the Affine, this jacket uses Patagonia’s own FullRange polyester-based insulation used in their Nano-Air range. This includes four-way stretch to improve breathability and movement. It’s certainly extremely comfortable with a good amount of stretch. I’ve found it to be warm but not overly sweaty even under a waterproof. There are two hand warmer pockets and the chest pocket is large enough to double as the stuff sack although it’s doubtful I’d want to carry much beyond a very slim phone in that pocket due to the fairly snug sizing. The hood is not adjustable but is not overly tight with elastic at the sides and the stretchy fabric adding to the comfort. The top of the front zip is covered when done up to make it comfortable on the chin.

The outer fabric is treated with a PFC-free water repellent coating which has worked well in short showers so far. The lower section of the cuffs is made from a tougher uninsulated fabric which is probably a good design choice as I have found the outer fabric has been snagged on undergrowth and in general it needs to be treated with some care.

It comes in 5 men’s and women’s sizes (XS to XL), 5 colours and is Fair Trade certified sewn and made with a large proportion of fabric made from recycled materials. The fit is slim and it packs down very small into it’s own stow pocket.

Alpkit 0Hiro jacket

Recommended Price: £159.99
Manufacturer weight: 690g

The OHiro is by far the warmest and heaviest of the jackets on test. It lends it a different snug feel too – with something of the bulk and comfort of a traditional parka, with better performance.

Like several of the others, the OHiro uses Primaloft filling – in this case PrimaLoft® Silver Hi-Loft which is said to better withstand being repeatedly compressed than other types of Primaloft. This adds to the durability, which is backed up by the tough nylon outer – no chance of leaking insulation here. It’s also made of 70% recycled fabrics. The wired peaked hood has a drawcord adjustment, and there’s a 2-way zip allowing for ventilation, two large handwarmer pockets and an additional concealed chest pocket. It comes in 2 colours – Spruce or Black – and 5 sizes for men (XS to XXL) and 6 for women (8-18); I found the cut pretty generous. An additional feature is a 5K/5K waterproof membrane – it won’t keep out persistent rain, but you can get away with leaving your hardshell in the pack longer than with the alternatives featured here.

I tend to run cold, but in middling conditions many might find the OHiro to be too warm when heading steeply uphill. Unlike the alternatives, it would be ideal as a jacket for a winter camp, or for exceptional cold days on the hill. The OHiro also works great as just a general jacket for heading out and about on lower level winter and woodland walks. It should last well and the price is very reasonable – especially as it’s currently on sale.

Enjoyed this article or find Walkhighlands useful?

Please consider setting up a direct debit donation to support the continued maintenance and updates to Walkhighlands.

Share on 


You should always carry a backup means of navigation and not rely on a single phone, app or map. Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is every walker's responsibility to check it and to navigate safely.