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10 Best Hiking Vests Reviewed and Compared

last updated Sep 26, 2019
When it comes to the great outdoors, you need to make sure you have the gear you need. The best hiking vests are a must-have—especially for those of you who love to hike frequently. Honestly, the right hiking vest can be a life-changer.

The best hiking vests should be lightweight, comfortable, and breathable. They should also be compatible with the weather and terrain you will be hiking in, so if you like to hike in a different place you may need more than one!

For the most part, the hiking vests we found were really packable and easy to take with you wherever you go. The best options also typically have pockets for storage, so you can easily bring your stuff along with you without sacrificing being hands-free.

Check out our top 10 picks below to learn more!

In a Hurry? The test winner after 11 hrs of research

icon
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
96.6/100 our score
Weather Resistance
98
Comfort
98
Breathability
95
Use
96
Materials
96
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Why is it better?
  • Super warm, but not bulky
  • Lightweight and packable
  • Looks great and has an athletic fit
  • Mid-range price
In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Test Winner: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Amazon Link
Researched Sources
4
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
2.3k
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
11
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
16
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
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By Giselle Killebrew:

For our most recent update, we have updated each of our product reviews to make them easier to sift through and compare. We have also added more pictures to each of our product reviews and more information throughout our entire buying guide—so make sure to read through the end to get all of the information you need.

Sorting Options
Weather Resistance Comfort Breathability Use Materials By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
96.6
Weather Resistance
98 %
Comfort
98 %
Breathability
95 %
Use
96 %
Materials
96 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.10.19)
Amazon Link
$349.00
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.8
Weather Resistance
97 %
Comfort
95 %
Breathability
95 %
Use
93 %
Materials
94 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.10.19)
Backcountry Link
$45.14
See Deal
Amazon Link
$54.77
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92
Weather Resistance
93 %
Comfort
93 %
Breathability
92 %
Use
90 %
Materials
92 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.10.19)
Backcountry Link
$124.97
See Deal
Amazon Link
$228.95
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Weather Resistance
90 %
Comfort
90 %
Breathability
90 %
Use
90 %
Materials
90 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.10.19)
Backcountry Link
$199.98
See Deal
Amazon Link
$249.00
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.4
Weather Resistance
89 %
Comfort
87 %
Breathability
87 %
Use
88 %
Materials
86 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.10.19)
Amazon Link
$267.67
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.6
Weather Resistance
87 %
Comfort
85 %
Breathability
85 %
Use
86 %
Materials
85 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.10.19)
Amazon Link
$248.95
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85
Weather Resistance
86 %
Comfort
85 %
Breathability
85 %
Use
83 %
Materials
86 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.10.19)
Backcountry Link
$175.00
See Deal
Amazon Link
$259.00
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
80
Weather Resistance
80 %
Comfort
80 %
Breathability
80 %
Use
80 %
Materials
80 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.10.19)
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
76.6
Weather Resistance
78 %
Comfort
78 %
Breathability
77 %
Use
75 %
Materials
75 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.10.19)
Amazon Link
$99.00
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
73.8
Weather Resistance
75 %
Comfort
75 %
Breathability
73 %
Use
73 %
Materials
73 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (19.10.19)
Amazon Link

10 Best Hiking Vests

1. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
96.6
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Amazon Link
Weather Resistance
98
Comfort
98
Breathability
95
Use
96
Materials
96
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$349.00
Pros:
  • Super warm, but not bulky
  • Lightweight and packable
  • Looks great and has an athletic fit
  • Mid-range price
Cons:
  • Black color is a little shiny
  • Fit can be too long in torso length for some

The Ghost Whisperer is a high-performance hiking vest that has all the main features and functionalities needed. First and foremost, it is lightweight so won’t weigh (or slow) the wearer down for those fast treks or longer trips.

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Weather Resistance

This is one of the warmest hiking vests on the market, equipped with 800-fill Q.Shield down that resists moisture to keep the consumer warm even when it's wet outside.

Comfort

It is comfortable because of it's down, fit and moisture-wicking features. This hiking vest is sleek and has that down puffy jacket look without being bulky. It is form-fitting with an athletic fit and has a hem drawcord for adjustment. It reaches the hips and features pockets on each side. Consumers will be impressed with how warm it is while being lightweight at just 5 oz.

Breathability

It’s Q.Shield down is infused with water repellent. It is more than breathable, but with moisture-wicking properties, sweat slicks away. However, it is packed with 800-fill-power Q.Shield down that provides more than enough warmth. And this down, in particular, is treated with a water repellent to make it ward off moisture and dry quickly.

Use

It is lofty and stays that way even when wet, yet compressible and can be stuffed into its pocket when not worn. It’s not super puffy, ideal for layering or using as an outer shell when the weather starts to drop on the trail.

Materials

The Ghost Whisperer Down Vest features super lightweight fabric that is tightly weaved. While this helps to make it light and compressible, it also makes it windproof and water-resistant. The fabric itself is wind- and rain-resistant, has higher pockets on the waist, allowing for a hip belt to be worn comfortably, and it folds away into its pocket.

2. Columbia Silver Ridge

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.8
Columbia Silver Ridge
Columbia Silver Ridge
Columbia Silver Ridge
Columbia Silver Ridge
Columbia Silver Ridge
Amazon Link
Weather Resistance
97
Comfort
95
Breathability
95
Use
93
Materials
94
best offer for today
more shops
Amazon Link
$54.77
Backcountry Link
$45.14
See Deal
Pros:
  • Super lightweight and vented
  • Moisture-wicking and sun protection to prevent sunburn
  • Lots of pockets
  • Affordable
Cons:
  • Not ideal for colder weather as an outer layer

This hiking vest is ideal for trekking along the trails comfortably, with enough pocket space to store all personal items when going for that hike. It’s ultra-lightweight and provides lots of ventilation when the sun is beaming down. It has moisture-wicking capabilities, provides UPF sun protection and has a great fit.

Read more

Weather Resistance

With OMNI-Shade protection, being out in the sun all day isn’t a problem when wearing this vest with its UPF 50 sun blocking feature.

Comfort

This is one of the most comfortable options for those milder weather hikes. It is made of nylon Silver Ridge ripstop fabric that is durable, with recycled polyester and mesh. This allows the wearer to stay nice and cool when working up a sweat on their hike.

Breathability

This vest features OMNI-Wick fabric that pulls moisture away from the body so that sweat can evaporate more quickly. It provides lots of ventilation and is lightweight, making it super breathable.

Use

Stylish with its outdoorsy appearance, the Silver Ridge Vest is available in two different neutral colors. It is all about the pocket space with this vest. It has zippered hand pockets, a zippered security pocket, and a pocket with a hook and loop closure. There is plenty of room for a wallet, phone, trail mix and more. This makes it a great option for hitting the trails hands-free for a good workout.

Materials

This jacket is made of durable and high-quality materials that is built to last. It offers a seamless fit that is comfortable and functional for hiking.

3. Patagonia Down Sweater

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92
Patagonia Down Sweater
Patagonia Down Sweater
Patagonia Down Sweater
Patagonia Down Sweater
Patagonia Down Sweater
Amazon Link
Weather Resistance
93
Comfort
93
Breathability
92
Use
90
Materials
92
best offer for today
more shops
Amazon Link
$228.95
Backcountry Link
$124.97
See Deal
Pros:
  • Lightweight, yet very warm
  • Water-resistant and durable
  • Comfortable with a great fit
Cons:
  • Might be too warm for warmer weather

Patagonia’s Down Sweater Vest is all about the warmth. It is stuffed with 800-fill-power goose down, keeping the consumer toasty warm when hiking or casually trekking the trails. Complete with a ripstop and water-repellent shell, it is durable, and light rain isn’t a problem. It has a great fit, not being boxy or overly puffy. It has zippered pockets and an internal pocket that doubles as a stuff sack.

Read more

Weather Resistance

It has an inside chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack for packing when not in use It has zippered pockets on each side to keep the hand warms and store goodies. The consumer can also just the hem but pulling the drawcord located inside the pocket for a closer to the body fit.

Comfort

This is a super comfortable and warm option, thanks to its 800-fill-power traceable goose down. It also has nylon-bound elastic armholes that seals out the cold. It provides more than enough insulation, keeping the cold away and retaining heat to the torso so that chilly hikes don’t have users running back to their cars or campsite.

Breathability

The quality of the down, plus its fabric and construction are of high quality, and this vest won’t lose its shape or loft over time. Even though it is very warm, it is still lightweight and compressible, able to fold up into its pocket when the temperature warms up.

Use

This vest looks great, available in many colors. It has a minimalist design with a fit that contours well to the body. Its center zipper has an interior storm flap and a zipper garage at the chin.

Materials

The quality of the down, plus its fabric and construction are of high quality, and this vest won’t lose its shape or loft over time. Even though it is very warm, it is still lightweight and compressible, able to fold up into its pocket when the temperature warms up.

4. Arc’teryx Cerium LT

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Arc’teryx Cerium LT
Arc’teryx Cerium LT
Arc’teryx Cerium LT
Arc’teryx Cerium LT
Arc’teryx Cerium LT
Amazon Link
Weather Resistance
90
Comfort
90
Breathability
90
Use
90
Materials
90
best offer for today
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Amazon Link
$249.00
Backcountry Link
$199.98
See Deal
Pros:
  • Warm for cooler weather, yet thin enough to be worn underneath a shell for colder temps
  • Compressed down and is extremely packable
  • Form fitting with hem drawcord
  • Moisture wicking properties
Cons:
  • Slim fit isn’t for everyone
  • Shoulders can be a bit boxy compared to slimmer torso fit

This is one sleek and stylish looking hiking vest, and it performs just as well as it looks. It has a combination of goose down and synthetic insulation that strategically keeps the body warm in all the right places while retaining warmth and drying quickly when wet. The shell is durable, and it has a great, form-fitting, athletic fit. The only downside is its higher price tag.

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Weather Resistance

The Cerium LT’s outer Atom 10 shell is durable, wind-resistant, and most importantly, is treated with a durable water repellent finish so that rain just rolls off.

Comfort

This vest is lightweight, yet performs well in the warmth department. It features an 850-fill-power goose down that makes this one of the warmest options.

Breathability

Even though it is a bit puffy, it is lightweight. However, it isn’t as breathable as other options.

Use

Not only does the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Vest look good, but it also fits well, too. It has a form-fitting and is slim enough to wear as a mid-layer underneath a shell. It is lightweight, yet is longer to hug the entire torso, with its hem drawcord allowing for a snug fit.

Materials

It also features Coreloft synthetic insulation that is mapped in all the right places, especially where moisture may be to ensure that the consumer won’t be damp and cold. It also has a hem drawcord that further seals out the cold. The goose down also ups the comfort factor, making this one of the most comfortable options.

5. Fjallraven Keb

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.4
Fjallraven Keb
Fjallraven Keb
Fjallraven Keb
Fjallraven Keb
Fjallraven Keb
Amazon Link
Weather Resistance
89
Comfort
87
Breathability
87
Use
88
Materials
86
best offer for today
more shops
Amazon Link
$267.67
Pros:
  • Lightweight, thin and stretchy
  • Stylish and functional
  • Water- and wind-resistant
Cons:
  • No insulation properties

This hiking vest is all about mobility, being lightweight and non-restricting thanks to its stretchy fabric. The Keb Vest protects the chest and back from winds, but without heavy insulation making it ideal for warmer weather. It provides lots of ventilation and has water-resistant properties. One of its main selling points is its large chest pockets and overall is a stylish option.

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Weather Resistance

This vest is ideal for milder temperatures. It will protect against winds that can cause a chill, yet won’t be too warm and heavy for those hikes under the warm sun.

Comfort

It is equipped with a mesh pocket on the left side pocket that is ideal for storing a smartphone. It has large stretch panels, which allows for unrestricted movement.

Breathability

With that said, it does have moisture-wicking properties that help keep the consumer dry. Not only is it water-resistant, but it also performs well against winds. The Fjallraven Keb Vest also provides lots of ventilation, making it light and airy.

Use

This is one of the most stylish options on the list. It has a great sporty look adventure seekers and explorers will appreciate. This includes a comfortable, relaxed fit and two large vertical chest pockets.

Materials

It’s made of G1000 Eco recycled polyester and organic cotton, making it comfortable and stretchy with ample freedom to move. Since it is thin, it can even be worn as a mid-layer over a shell when the rain picks up.

6. Patagonia Nano-Air

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.6
Patagonia Nano-Air
Patagonia Nano-Air
Patagonia Nano-Air
Patagonia Nano-Air
Patagonia Nano-Air
Amazon Link
Weather Resistance
87
Comfort
85
Breathability
85
Use
86
Materials
85
best offer for today
more shops
Amazon Link
$248.95
Pros:
  • Thin, lightweight and breathable
  • Just enough insulation and warm to keep a slightly chill away
  • Great fit and comfortable
  • Ideal a a spring outer layer or winter mid layer
Cons:
  • Slightly more expensive than other options

This is one of the best options for hiking in the spring and fall when the weather is much milder. Although it does include synthetic insulation, this is a much more lightweight and airy option. The Nano-Air is breathable, ideal for those uphill climbs, but can be used as a mid-layer when the temperatures start to drop when backpacking. It’s comfortable, durable and has a great stretch for unrestricted movement.

Read more

Weather Resistance

Versatile to wear in various temperatures from mild to slightly chilly weather. The vest features a DWR finish that repels precipitation to keep the consumer dry in the light rain. This makes it great to wear as an outer layer when hiking (or can be worn as a mid-layer for colder days). The FullRange insulation maintains its warmth and loft when wet, and dries fast.

Comfort

The vest’s nylon ripstop shell is stretchy and allows for a full range of movement to give it a comfortable wear. It has stretch binding at the armholes as well.

Breathability

Best of all is its breathability. The Nano-Air vest is one of the best in this category, allowing airflow up to 40 cubic feet per minute. This makes it an option for those who plan to work up a sweat when trekking.

Use

This vest has a nice relaxed fit that is a bit closely fitted and not too loose or baggy. It stretches nicely and is thin enough to be worn as a mid-layer. It features the company’s Nano Puff brick quilting on the sides panels which adds to its shape. It has a storm flap and zipper garage at the chin, a chest pocket, and two handwarmer pockets.

Materials

The NanoAir Vest is thin and lightweight, and like its name suggests, nice and airy. This makes it one of the best options to wear on those early spring and fall hikes when looking for a little bit of warmth. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t provide any form of insulation. It includes 60g of FullRange insulation, a multi-denier synthetic fill insulation made from several different types of polyester fibers.

7. Arc'teryx Atom LT

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85
Arc'teryx Atom LT
Arc'teryx Atom LT
Arc'teryx Atom LTArc'teryx Atom LT
Arc'teryx Atom LT
Arc'teryx Atom LT
Amazon Link
Weather Resistance
86
Comfort
85
Breathability
85
Use
83
Materials
86
best offer for today
more shops
Amazon Link
$259.00
Backcountry Link
$175.00
See Deal
Pros:
  • Great amount of warmth, yet breathable; great for chilly to milder weather
  • Comfortable and stretchy
  • Durable fabric with water repellent finish for bad weather
Cons:
  • Trim fit can be too tight, thus less comfortable for some

Made with Coreloft synthetic insulation and fleece side panels, this option from Arc’teryx is cozy and warm, even when wet. The fabric is stretchy, and overall it has a slim fit that looks great on with a full range of motion.

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Weather Resistance

This is a great option for slightly cooler days as the weather starts to warm up. It is stuffed with 60g of Coreloft insulation in the torso that provides enough warmth without being too toasty once the beaming sun is at its peak.

Comfort

It isn’t bulky and provides lots of stretch for easy movement.

Breathability

Because this option uses Coreloft insulation, it dries quickly when it gets wet. This means getting caught in some light rain won’t be a problem. The fabric features a water-repellent finish that wicks away water to keep the consumer dry. Even though the side panels are fleeced lined, they venture really well. This makes it a great option for the changing seasons.

Use

The Atom LT is available for both men and women in a few color options. It has a sooth color that won’t cause irritations and features an internal zippered chest pocket, as well as zippered hand pockets. It falls hip length and has a trim fit.

Materials

It does have Polartec fleece on the side panels and underarms that adds to its insulation when the temperatures do drop. This fleece is stretchy so moving around isn’t a problem. It also helps to make this vest soft.

8. Outdoor Research Transcendent

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
80
Outdoor Research Transcendent
Outdoor Research Transcendent
Outdoor Research Transcendent
Outdoor Research Transcendent
Outdoor Research Transcendent
Amazon Link
Weather Resistance
80
Comfort
80
Breathability
80
Use
80
Materials
80
best offer for today
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Pros:
  • Warm and comfortable
  • Lightweight and compressible
  • Mid-range price
Cons:
  • Not as breathable as other options

Staying warm isn’t an issue in the Transcendent Vest since it features 650-fill-power goose down that makes it almost as warm as the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Vest. More cost-effective, it also if lightweight and compressible, perfect for backing up when the weather is warmer. It is durable, wind- and water-resistant and comes in various color options.

Read more

Weather Resistance

This is one of the warmer options on the list, great for colder weather hikes. It is stuffed with 650-fill-power goose down that makes this vest super toasty and cozy.

Comfort

Because it is made of down, expect it to be fluffy and ultra-comfortable.

Breathability

This option is made of durable polyester ripstop fabric that can withstand abrasions and has water-resistant properties. This further helps the goose down keep its loft when wet. It is not the most breathable option, better suited for colder adventures when staying warm is the key.

Use

The Transcendent Vest looks good on, having a stylish appearance that comes in standard Black, Dusk/Night and Agate/ Hot Sauce color options. It does have that puffy coat look but compresses down into its own pocket to easily be packed when not needed. It has a front zipper with a storm flap, two zippered side pockets, and a lined collar.

Materials

The down is responsibly sourced, so the consumer can rest easy that they are making an ethical choice.

9. Marmot Reactor

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
76.6
Marmot Reactor
Marmot Reactor
Marmot Reactor
Marmot Reactor
Marmot Reactor
Amazon Link
Weather Resistance
78
Comfort
78
Breathability
77
Use
75
Materials
75
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$99.00
Pros:
  • Super soft fleece is very comfortable
  • Moisture-wicking properties
  • Very affordable price
  • Looks great on
Cons:
  • Might be too warm for milder spring days
  • Might be best as a mid layer for very cold days

This fleece vest is among the less bulky options on this list, while still providing warmth for those chilly, early morning hikes or once the sun starts to set. It even has moisture-wicking properties to keep the consumer dry. The Reactor Fleece vest looks great and is sold for an attractive price.

Read more

Weather Resistance

It isn’t baggy or bulky and looks nice on. It has an elastic drawcord hem for that tighter fit if desired. It has zippered pockets to store goodies and warm the hands. It also has a wind flap behind the front zipper, along with a chin guard.

Comfort

This is a fleece vest, so it is super comfortable and does provide a good amount of insulation. However, it is a lighter material than one would expect. With that said, it isn’t bulky and is nice and warm to be worn as a mid-layer for the colder weather, or by itself when the temperatures start to increase.

Breathability

The Polartec fabric uses has moisture-wicking properties, which keeps the consumer warm and dry. Since it’s made of fleece it isn’t the most breathable option on this list, but as a vest, in general, there is ventilation.

Use

With its flatlock construction, the Marmot Reactor Fleece Vest has a regular fit that is comfortable and more relaxed than some of the other options.

Materials

It’s made with Polartec fleece that provides ample insulation when worn as an outer shell for spring and fall temperatures, while still being breathable and not too sweaty.

10. Ibex Shak

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
73.8
Ibex Shak
Ibex Shak
Ibex Shak
Ibex Shak
Ibex Shak
Amazon Link
Weather Resistance
75
Comfort
75
Breathability
73
Use
73
Materials
73
best offer for today
Amazon Link
Pros:
  • Thin, yet warm
  • Provides lots of movement
  • Breathable despite its warmth
  • Soft and comfortable
Cons:
  • Shoulders can feel too boxy compared to its slimmer fit around the waist

This hiking vest has an athletic fit that is form-fitting and one of the least bulky options on this list. It’s only downsides include that the fabric is not as durable as other options on this list and for it to be too thin for colder temperatures.

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Weather Resistance

This vest does an extremely great job at regulating temperatures, a great combination of keeping the chill away while having enough breathability to not make the consumer too hot and sweaty when hiking.

Comfort

The merino wool fabric is plush to the touch, making this one of the most comfortable hiking vests on this list.

Breathability

Made of merino wool, the fibers of this vest are moisture-wicking, pulling sweat away from the skin and to the outside of the fabric. Merino wool is also a very breathable fabric, so the Ibex Shak Vest performs well in these two categories.

Use

This vest fits a bit snug compared to relaxed fits, but not as tight as fitted options. This makes it a Goldilocks vest fit wise. It has a full front supper along with a zippered chest pocket. It has an interior chin guard that eliminated chafing.

Materials

This hiking vest is unique because it is made from 100 percent merino wool. This makes it warm yet breathable, soft and comfortable to wear, along with having moisture-wicking and anti-odor properties.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Weather Resistance

At its core, hiking vests are designed to protect against the outdoor elements--but not all of them are designed to handle the same weather and terrain, so make sure to choose wisely.

As you can see, there are a lot of different types of hiking vests to choose from and they each have their own unique features to offer--but the best hiking vests must perform well when it comes to many of its most important features. We used a set list of criteria to see how each vest performs and compares to its competition. The criteria are detailed below:

Warmth:

The amount of insulation is the most important feature. Hiking vests must keep the hiker warm. It should retain heat for the core of the body while also allowing the arms to move freely. The ideal vest is warm without being bulky. What type of insulation is used? How warm is this option? Does it perform better as a mid-layer for warmth?

Water Resistance

This is important because when you are outdoors you need to expect the unexpected. When it comes to hiking gear, the last thing you want is to end up with a hiking vest that weighs you down when it gets wet. Not all of the vest on our list are waterproof or resistant to water, so make sure to look closely if this is a feature you definitely need.

Comfort

There is little point in buying hiking clothes if they are not comfortable and easy to wear.

Because hiking is a physical activity, comfort is key. The hiking vest should be comfortable to keep on when hitting the trails, climbing and descending. What kind of fabric is the vest made of? Is it soft? Is it cozy? Does it include moisture-wicking properties to keep the athlete comfortable and dry? Thes questions need to be answered to find the vest that is just right for you and your needs.

These are all questions we asked ourselves while we researched and reviewed the best hiking vests out there--and we encourage you to do the same when looking for the perfect hiking vest for you. This also means you need to consider your own needs and preferences to ensure you are getting the perfect option for you.

A comfortable hiking vest should be lightweight and flexible. It should allow for a full range of motion, even when buttoned or zipped up, so you can move freely without restriction. At the end of the day, however, only you can decide what is comfortable for you since we all have our own personal preferences.

Breathability

Breathability is essential to staying comfortable and dry on your long hikes. To prevent uncomfortable chafing, blisters, and hot spots you need to make sure you stay cool and dry--which is why breathability plays a key role in determining what is the best hiking vest for you.

Even though a hiking vest is designed to keep the consumer warm, it should also provide enough ventilation to not cause them to overheat or get too sweaty. Having free arms does provide ventilation, but how breathable is the fabric? Hiking vests are often used as an outer layer but need to be packed away once layers are shed. Is the vest compressible?

Here you should also consider the weather you will be hiking in. Just because you are heading out in the winter doesn't mean you don't need breathability--but you will need a little less of it. There are a lot of options on our list that are designed for either season, so make sure you get the option that provides the right amount of breathability.

To prevent chafing and blisters, breathability is really important. Look for vented features on the vest as well as the materials used. Many of these vests are both breathable and moisture-wicking, so you can trust your hiking vest to keep you both cool and dry--and all of the options on our list offer excellent breathability.

Use

The hiking vest is a versatile piece of clothing that is ideal for layering.

It is designed to make the consumer comfortable for those mild to chilly weather days outside. It seems contradictory that the best hiking vest should be warm, yet also breathable and light. But the best options are a good combination of all these features. Hiking vests are designed without sleeves to allow full range of motion for hiking while keeping the body cozy and toasty.

Then again, some are super lightweight to provide slight protection with breathability more important. In general, insulated hiking vests won’t keep the consumer warm in the cold winter temperatures when worn alone. Depending on the insulation, it should provide ample warmth to keep the body free from chill when braving the great outdoors.

Synthetic insulation and merino wool often are the most breathable in terms of insulation--so these materials will keep rally warm. On the other hand, there are lightweight hiking vests made specifically for the summer--so if you need one for every season, you can definitely get more than one if you need to have one for each season.

Materials

It is important to pause and give some thought to the materials that are used in your vests and jackets because they determine the overall durability, comfort, and effectiveness of the vest.

Not all hiking vests are made of the same materials, so before you hit your favorite trails make sure to take a look at the materials it is made of. We made sure to pick a well-rounded selection, so you will have a lot of options to choose from, no matter what your needs are. Check out the factors we took into consideration below.

There are two types of insulation: down or synthetic.

Down is generally sourced from geese, made from its plumage underneath the feathers. It is warm and lofty, trapping heat while being compressible. The higher the down fill power number, the warmer the option is. Synthetic insulation is made of polyester that is threaded together to copy down.

Synthetic is generally cheaper than down, yet thicker and more durable. It has water-resistant properties, retaining heat even when wet.

Polyester and moisture-wicking materials

If you want to make sure your hiking vest is breathable and moisture-resistant, polyester is a great way to go. It ensures the vest is able to keep you cool and dry, so you won't have to worry about it holding in moisture or water and weighing you down.

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Rain or shine--can I wear my vest all the time?

While some are versatile enough to be worn during all seasons, that's not the case for all vests. If you need something that's waterproof, has storage pockets, or offers special features, make sure to take that into consideration before making your final decision.

Waterproof VS water resistant

Although some vests are waterproof or water-resistant, not all of them are. It's important to keep in mind that these two terms do not mean the same thing.

Water-resistant means the vest can handle some exposure to water but if the vest is waterproof then that means it repels water altogether. If you know you need something waterproof just remember that a water-resistant vest will not work for you.

Invest in quality from the start

When you are looking to add new gear to your running and hiking collection or wardrobe, it is important to get the best quality that you can right from the start!

Everyone has a budget, especially when it comes to what they can afford to pay for gear, but you do need to invest as much as you can at the start and get quality gear.

Paying for a $75 vest now will mean it will laically last longer than a cheaper vest and it is also likely designed better so it will be more comfortable and functional and will also keep you warmer than a cheaper option would!

Washing tips you should know

While you should always follow the care label on the vest you are looking at in particular, that is not always an option.

If you do not have the care label any longer or you cannot follow the recommended washing method, here is something you can do to help keep your vest clean and fresh until you are able to appropriately wash it.

You can wipe down your vest with a damp soft cloth that has some mild soap on it or that is damped with a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water. Gently wipe the surface of the vest to remove any dirt and grime and to keep it smelling and looking fresh.

If you are able to you can also hang it in the sun for a bit after the wipe down to dry it and keep it fresh smelling while you are out hiking or camping!

Other Factors to Consider

Bottom Line

At its core, hiking vests are designed to protect against the outdoor elements. But the best hiking vests must perform well when it comes to many of its most important features. We used a set list of criteria to see how each vest performs and compares to its competition. When looking for warmth, why not just wear a hiking jacket?

Jackets can be more restricting and offer less ventilation compared to vests. Think of vests are a layering piece that can be worn casually or for hiking, biking, camping, traveling or other activities. With that said, the consumer must take into consideration what is worn underneath. Base layers and long sleeves must be required to be warm enough for cooler temperatures.

At the end of the day, you need to make sure you prioritize your own needs and preferences to ensure you are getting something that works best for you and your needs. That being said, be open to features you aren't sure you needed--you might find that you would benefit from additional storage or adjustable features.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: How should a hiking vest fit?

a:

Since there are no sleeves to worry about when fitting a vest, finding the correct fit is usually much easier than with full jackets. Relaxed and slim fit depends on the preference of the consumer and either one can be effective for keeping you warm and comfortable while you are out hiking.

You will, of course, want to make sure your hiking vest is big enough so there is at minimum enough room to bend and twist and move freely. Your vest needs to be comfortable for you and for some people that means a snugger fit and for others that means a looser fit so be sure to know your size and get the size vest that will feel the most comfortable for you!

q: Why wear a hiking vest?

a:

The hiking vest makes a great mid-layer or outer layer for mild temperatures and is a quick and easy way to add a layer of protection. These vests are designed to keep you warm, and depending on the insulation that is used in the particular vest you are wearing, it will go a long way in helping preserve body heat retention.

A vest is not as bulky and cumbersome as a heavy jacket and you will not be as weighed down or restricted in your movements with a vest. They are also easier to carry with you for an added layer later on during your hike. These are just a few of the reasons many runners prefer a vest over a jacket.

q: At what temperature do you wear a vest?

a:

There is no magic temperature where you should put on a hiking vest- it is up to your personal preference and when you feel the temper get chilled enough to warrant putting one on. Hiking vests with goose down are ideal for chilly weather in early spring or late fall, or even as a mid-layer in the winter.

Lightweight options are great for mild temperatures. They work well as an added layer any time the weather changes and the temperature dips. You can have both a heavy and light vest on hand so you can grab whichever one best suits your needs on that particular day. Many runners have at least two different weight vets to choose from for this very reason.

q: Is this hiking vest for men or women?

a:

Many of the best hiking vests on this list are available for both men and female-specific cuts. In most cases, the cut will need to be different for a male or female hiker so it is important to ensure you are buying the right style and cut for your needs.

There are some unisex vests but they are generally very basic in their design so if you want something with a lot of styles and design features you would be better off to buy one specifically made for your sex to ensure the best looking fit possible. In general, male and female hiking vests cost about the same and the only difference in price will come down to styling preferences.

Sources

  1. Rei, What to Wear Hiking, Outdoor Gear Website
  2. Scott Dusek, The Science of Warmth, Hiking Website
  3. Jess Clayton, PATAGONIA DEBUTS REVOLUTIONARY NANO-AIR™ JACKET AND HOODY WITH FULLRANGE™ INSULATION , Company website
  4. Joe Pasteris, Down vs. Synthetic: Which Insulation is Right for You?, Outdoor Gear Website