Don’t you hate it when you’re out on a hike and you just can’t make up your mind about what layers to wear? You end up stopping every five minutes to take your sweater off and then put it on again a few minutes later… such a pain!
Hiking vests are a great way to avoid this problem. They keep your core warm while letting hot air escape from under your arms – so they’re perfect for when it’s too hot for an extra layer and too cold without one!
There really are hiking vests made for all occasions – some are filled with heavy-duty insulation and are designed for seriously cold conditions, while others are built for summer and designed to be super breathable.
At A Glance: Our Top 3 Hiking Vests
Overall, the type of hiking vest you want will depend mainly on the conditions you’ll be hiking in. But seeing as there are so many options out there, we’ve put together this list of the best ones currently on the market to help you find the one that’s right for you – enjoy!
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We’re kicking off our list of the best hiking vests strong with the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Vest. This is one high-performance vest designed for cool conditions, and it’s absolutely packed full of features that we love.
Thanks to its 850-fill power white goose down filling, this vest offers an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. What’s more, the down compresses fantastically, so you can pack this vest no problem.
Despite these huge benefits of a product stuffed with down filling, we all know that the major problems with such products occur when they get wet – they don’t insulate well when damp and they’re slow to dry.
That’s why we can’t get enough of the clever design of this vest – Down Composite Mapping has been used to add Coreloft synthetic insulation in moisture-prone areas AND the outer facing fabric has been treated with DWR to repel moisture.
This means that, while hardly adding to the weight or reducing packability, this jacket can operate far better in moist conditions than an ordinary down vest – it really is the best of both worlds.
It also features two zippered hand pockets as well as an interior pocket that doubles up as a stuff sack (yep, it really does pack down that small). The zipper pulls themselves are super quiet and corded so you can pull them even with gloves on.
What’s more, this vest is available from size S to XXL plus it features an adjustable hem drawcord to make sure you get the perfect fit. The chin guard makes you feel nice and snug, and the entire collar is insulated and lined for added warmth and comfort.
Overall, this is one excellent vest for anyone who’ll be hiking in cooler conditions – it’s warm, yet folds away into a tiny bundle, and can even stand up to some rain despite its down filling – what a winner.
Next up we have The North Face ThermoBall Eco Vest, a vest that’s as good for the world as it is for you.
Not only is this jacket constructed from eco-friendly materials, making it a great option sustainability-wise, but it also features an excellent down-alternative filling. The PrimaLoft synthetic insulation isn’t as bulky or heavy as traditional synthetic fills, so means this vest still features a great warmth-to-weight ratio and can pack down into its own interior pocket.
What’s more, the synthetic fill will keep you warm even when damp, and the outer fabric has been treated with DWR too for added water protection.
The outer shell, although it feels super soft, is actually constructed from durable ripstop nylon. What’s more, this jacket comes with a lifetime limited warranty too (although believe me, you probably won’t need it – mine is still going strong after 5 years of constant use).
Ideally, we’d like to see an inner pocket added to the next model, but there are two zippered hand pockets on the exterior that feature durable zippers. The hem is also adjustable thanks to the cord, so you can get a nice, snug fit. While this jacket will keep you warm, it’s retained a sleek design overall.
This, combined with the fact it folds down so small, means you’ll likely end up wearing it as much off the trail as you will on it.
Overall, this vest is extremely packable and well-suited for hiking, yet its stylish and compact design makes it a great option for all-round use too (oh – and it’s available in some snazzy color schemes too).
Okay, we’re departing from the realm of down-/synthetic- filled vests now to bring you the super snuggly Columbia Men’s Steens Mountain Vest.
This vest is constructed from the 250g MTR filament fleece that will not only keep you warm but will also make you feel incredibly cozy. This softness extends right the way up to the raised collar, which also helps to trap warm air when out in cold conditions.
Its warmth and comfort make this vest the ideal mid-layer – it’s the perfect barrier between you and a not-so-comfy rain jacket. Plus, when it’s not raining, it can be used as an outer layer that will keep your core warm but also allow some hot air to escape (just bear in mind that it’s not waterproof at all so keep your eyes on the weather!).
What’s more, because it lacks down filling, you can simply pop this vest in the wash at the end of your sweaty hiking trip, winning.
It lacks inner pockets, (but how often do you really use inner pockets on an inner layer anyway?) but it does feature two external zipped pockets. It’s available in a range of sizes and almost every color you can think of too.
Overall, you’re getting an incredibly comfortable, surprisingly durable, vest that can be used solo or as a mid-layer, all at a fraction of the price we’d expect to see.
If you love hiking but aren’t so keen on looking like a typical ‘hiker’ when you’re out on the trail (we all know that hiking gear can sometimes look a little lame), then you should definitely check out the Carhartt Sherpa Vest.
This stylish vest is available for both men and women, and, although it’s great for life in the outdoors, it’s so stylish you’ll definitely end up wearing it out and about in your day-to-day life too.
This cozy vest is constructed entirely from cotton on the outside yet its interior is lined with Sherpa fabric (a blend of polyester and acrylic) for added insulation and comfort.
Although this vest isn’t waterproof, it’s one durable vest that can handle getting wet and can even be machine washed at home. This durability means that this vest is definitely designed to be an outer rather than a mid-layer, and we’re very happy to inform you that a well as the usual dual exterior pocket, this vest also features two interior pockets for all your bits and bobs.
What’s more, you can see Carhatt’s usual high-quality craftsmanship in every detail, including the heavy-duty brass zipper.
Designed to be an outer layer, this vest doesn’t pack down as well as other models. However, if you’re looking for a durable vest that will keep you warm, comfy, and stylish when you’re out in the wilderness (or even around town), then this rugged vest is definitely worth considering.
Patagonia is a huge name in the outdoor gear industry, so it should come as no surprise that one of their vests, the Patagonia Down Sweater Vest, has made it onto our hit list.
While it might look soft and snuggly (and, well, it is), the outer shell of this vest is actually constructed from ripstop polyester… but not only that, it’s made from 100% recycled polyester… and not only that, it’s also been treated with a DWR finish – durable, eco-friendly, and water-resistant, nice.
But what about warmth? You don’t need to worry about that front. This jack is stuffed with premium 800 fill-power Advanced Global Traceable Down, which means that the down has come from somewhere that treats animals responsible and can be traced.
On top of that, the central zipper features an interior storm flap to keep those pesky drafts out, and the hem at the waist and arms can be tightened to trap in that precious warmth.
The down insulation provides a great loft, which means that this vest can be packed down excellently – in fact, it stuffs inside its own interior pocket for ease of transport (there are also two exterior pockets).
Overall, while it might be a tad expensive, if you’re after a down-filled hiking vest that will stand up to the test of time, then this is one of the best you’ll find.
After a hiking vest with enough pockets for all of your gear? Sounds like the Flygo Men’s Outdoor Vest could be the one for you!
Whether it’s fishing gear, dog-walking equipment, or bits and bobs for hunting, there are tonnes of things you might want to take with you on a hike. If you hate carrying big packs and would rather keep things close at hand in your pockets, then you’re going to love this vest and all of its 16 pockets.
The pockets themselves come in a range of shapes and sizes, and some have flap seals while others feature zippers. The rest of the jacket is constructed from poplin (cotton and polyester) and mesh, making it one durable, yet incredibly breathable and surprisingly comfortable, vest – perfect for those summer hikes.
This design also ensures that the vest is quick-drying, which is great if you plan on hiking to and from a fishing spot and there’s a risk of you getting wet during the day.
While it might not be the coolest-looking vest out there, it does extremely well in terms of practicality. Plus, it comes in a huge range of sizes, so you can be sure to get your perfect fit, and there are plenty of color options to chose from, so at least it has that going for it aesthetically.
Next up we have another vest designed for hiking in cooler weather, the Little Donkey Softshell Vest.
This sleek little vest is constructed from a blend of polyester (95%) and spandex (5%), and it features a clever TPU membrane that helps to keep moisture out and let air flow – perfect for when you’re hiking your way uphill on a hot summer day.
What’s more, the fabric itself has been designed to stretch in four different directions, making this an excellent vest to wear for highly active hikes (like when you end up scrambling for some of it).
Despite being sleek in appearance, this vest comes with three zippered pockets on its exterior, which is enough for your phone, keys, and some backs.
Although best used as an outer layer on hot days or for highly strenuous activities, this vest can also be worn as a mid-layer on cooler days (it won’t keep you very warm on its own if things turn chilly). plus, it’s extremely lightweight and packable, so you won’t regret putting it in your bag just in case you need it.
Last, but by no means least on our list of the best hiking vests is the Amazon Essentials Packable Vest.
…Yes, we were surprised too (what does Amazon know about hiking after all), yet these vests have a surprising amount to offer at a very low price point.
This vest is constructed from a nylon water-resistant shell and features a down filling as well as a stand-up collar to keep your core warm while you hike.
Plus, thanks to the loft of the down, it can be packed down into its included carry bag for ease of packing and transport – this makes it a popular choice for families as you can pop one of these for every family member in your bag yet barely know you’re carrying anything.
It features two zipped exterior pockets, yet it lacks an interior on, unfortunately, and it comes at a very reasonable price. While we’ve described the women’s model here, there’s a very similar one available for men too.
Okay, so there you have it, our list of the best hiking vests around. As we’ve seen, they come in all shapes, sizes, and styles but what is it you should really be keeping an eye on when you’re shopping around?
Obviously, this will depend on where and when you’re hiking. If it’s in frosty places, then you’ll want either a big bulky vest (probably packed with down or synthetic insulation) to wear as an outer layer, or a thin fleece one to wear as a mid-layer. For summer hiking, a slim down-filled vest might be better as it will pack down nice and small and you can pop it on if things get chilly.
This will depend on how you want to wear your vest – if it’s as an inner layer then this is pretty irrelevant. However, if you want a super warm bulky vest to wear as an outer layer, then you’ll want at least a DWR coating. Bear in mind that while down fillings are better for warmth, synthetic ones are generally better in soggy conditions as they dry faster.
Again, this will come down to how you’ll be wearing your vest. If it’s as an inner layer, you might not mind so much about pockets, but an outer vest should have a range of pockets available so you don’t have to keep rummaging in your pack every time you need something. Plus, if you want a vest for a specific kind of hiking, like while you’re fishing, there are options out there with heaps of pockets too.
Still struggling to decide which hiking vest is right for you? Here are our top three to help you choose:
Our top pick if you’re on a budget just has to be the Columbia Men’s Steens Mountain Vest.
For a very reasonable price, you’re getting an awesome fleece vest that can be worn as a mid-layer in cold conditions or as an outer layer when things are warmer. Plus, it’s so snuggly you’ll probably end up wearing it around the house too!
Our top allround hiking vest is hands-down The North Face ThermoBall Eco Vest.
It’s warm enough to take the edge off when things get frosty, but it’s not so warm that you’ll overheat when the sun pops out.
On top of that, it packs down incredibly small, is surprisingly durable, and is constructed from recycled materials too – what’s not to love?
But what’s our absolute favorite hiking vest? It just has to be the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Vest.
This high-end vest is oozing quality from top to bottom – it offers an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, packs away inside its own pocket, is super adjustable…. and, it combines both down and synthetic filling to bring you the best of both worlds – could it get any better?!