10 Best Hiking Vests Reviewed and Compared

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Hiking vests are among the best gear when it comes to layering up. Weather can certainly be unpredictable. That’s why having a hiking vest when trekking throughout the changing seasons is a must. From providing warmth to guarding against the wind, the best hiking vests are lightweight and comfortable and have moisture wicking features.

With the arms not restrained, hiking vests allow the athlete to be active with the freedom to move. Some have enough insulation to be warm enough as an outer layer, while also being lightweight enough to also be worn underneath a shell for those colder and rainy conditions. This makes hiking vests a versatile article of clothing for both milder temperatures or when active and when the core needs the insulation.

Most of them fold down easily.  For some, this means in their own pockets. Vests take up less space opposed to full jackets, ideal for camping or longer backpacking trips. Gear up with the best hiking vests that are durable to wear during multiple seasons.

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
  • Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Super Warm
  • Price: See Here
Columbia Silver Ridge
  • Columbia Silver Ridge
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Lightweight & Vented
  • Price: See Here
Patagonia Down Sweater
  • Patagonia Down Sweater
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Water-Resistant
  • Price: See Here

 

10 Best Hiking Vests

 

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

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. 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. 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 own pocket.
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Comfort and Warmth

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

Moisture Wicking and Breathability

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. It’s Q.Shield down is infused with water repellent. It is more than breathable, but with moisture wicking properties, sweat slicks away.

Style and Fit

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.
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

Columbia Silver Ridge

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.
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Comfort and Warmth

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. And 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.

Moisture Wicking and 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.

Style and Fit

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.
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

Patagonia Down Sweater

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.
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Comfort and Warmth

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. 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.

Moisture Wicking and Breathability

The shell fabric is made from recycled polyester ripstop fabric that is treated with a DWR finish that wards off moisture and water. It also protects against the wind, so breezy weather won’t slow down the hiker. Because of its amount of warmth, it is more toasty and cozy then breathable but still won’t cause sweating on those more chilly days.

Style and Fit

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. 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.
Pros
  • Lightweight, yet very warm
  • Water-resistant and durable
  • Comfortable with a great fit
Cons
  • Might be too warm for warmer weather

Fjallraven Keb

Fjallraven Keb
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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Comfort and Warmth

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. 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 really picks up.

Moisture Wicking and 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.

Style and Fit

This is one of the most stylish options on the list. It has a great sporty look adventure seekers and explores will appreciate. This includes a comfortable, relaxed fit and two large vertical chest pockets. It is equipped with a mesh pocket in the left side pocket that is ideal for storing a smartphone. It has large stretch panels, which allows for unrestricted movement.
Pros
  • Lightweight, thin and stretchy
  • Stylish and functional
  • Water- and wind-resistant
Cons
  • No insulation

Arc’teryx Cerium LT

Arc’teryx Cerium LT
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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Comfort and Warmth

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

Moisture Wicking and Breathability

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


Style and Fit

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 in length to really hug the entire torso, with its hem drawcord allowing for a snug fit.
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

Patagonia Nano-Air

Patagonia Nano-Air
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.
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Comfort and Warmth

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. This makes it versatile to wear in various temperatures from mild to slightly chilly weather. The vest’s nylon ripstop shell is stretchy and allows for full range of movement to give it a comfortable wear. It has stretch binding at the armholes as well.

Moisture Wicking and Breathability

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.

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.

Style and Fit

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.
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

Outdoor Research Transcendent

Outdoor Research Transcendent
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.
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Comfort and Warmth

This is one of the warmer options on the list, great for colder weather hikes. It is stuffed with 650-fill-power loose down that makes this vest super toasty and cozy. The down is responsibly sourced, so the consumer can rest easy that they are making an ethical choice. Because it is made of down, expect it to be fluffy and ultra comfortable.

Moisture Wicking and 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.

Style and Fit

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.
Pros
  • Warm and comfortable
  • Lightweight and compressible
  • Mid-range price
Cons
  • Not as breathable as other options

Arc'teryx Atom LT

Arc'teryx Atom LT
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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Comfort and Warmth

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. 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.

Moisture Wicking and 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.

Style and Fit

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

Marmot Reactor

Marmot Reactor
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’s made with Polartex fleece that provides ample insulation when worn as an outer shell for spring and fall temperatures, while still being breathable and not too sweaty. It even has moisture wicking properties to keep the consumer dry. The Reactor Fleece vest looks great and is sold for an attractive price.
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Comfort and Warmth

This is a fleece vest, so it is super comfortable on and does provide a good amount of insulation. However, it is 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.

Moisture Wicking and Breathability

The Polartex 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.

Style and Fit

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

Ibex Shak

Ibex Shak
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. It 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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Comfort and Warmth

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

Moisture Wicking and 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.

Style and Fit

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.
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

 

The Criteria We Used for Our Evaluation

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. 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?

Comfort: 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?

Breathability: 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?

Packability: Hiking vests are often used as an outer layer, but need to be packed away once layers are shed. Is the vest compressible? Can be stored in its own pocket?

Value: Is this a durable option that will last one than one season? Is it versatile to be worn in the spring and fall, and even in the winter as a mid layer? Does it have an attractive price tag, and is the price worth it?

Other Important Factors to Consider

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.

Warmth vs. Breathability

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.

Down vs. Synthetic

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

Vest vs. Full Jacket

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.

FAQ

Q: How should a hiking vest fit?

A: Since there are no sleeves, finding the right fit is easier than jackets. Relaxed and slim fit depends on the preference of the consumer.

Q: Why wear a hiking vest?

A: These are a great mid-layer or outer layer for mild temperatures spent outdoors.

Q: Do hiking vest actually keep you warm?

A: Yes, depending on the insulation it does keep the core insulated.

Q: What temperature do you wear a vest?

A: 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 temperature.

Q: Is this hiking vest for men or women?

A: Many of the options on this list are available for both men and female specific cuts.

Q: Does the hiking vest pack in its own bag?

A: None of these options come with a bag but can be rolled up small and some even into its own pocket.

Sources

  1. Rei, What to Wear Hiking, Outdoor Gear Website,
  2. Scott Dusek, The Science of Warmth, Hiking Website, Dec 05, 2007
  3. Jess Clayton, PATAGONIA DEBUTS REVOLUTIONARY NANO-AIR™ JACKET AND HOODY WITH FULLRANGE™ INSULATION , Company website, Sep 04, 2014
  4. Joe Pasteris, Down vs. Synthetic: Which Insulation is Right for You?, Outdoor Gear Website,
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