The 9 Best Outdoor Vests of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

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Keep warm through every adventure, no matter the weather

<p>People / Brian Kopinski</p>

People / Brian Kopinski

When you need some extra warmth, a cozy vest is an easy addition to your cold-weather outfit. Vests are super versatile — you can throw one over a sweater or sweatshirt for a little extra warmth when you need it or layer one under a heavier winter coat to help retain core heat to help you face very cold temperatures in comfort.

So, if you’re in the market for a vest to keep you cozy through any weather, you have a lot of options. From down-filled puffer vests to synthetic waterproof shells, it can be hard to determine which vest is right for your purposes. That’s why we ventured out into the great outdoors to put 20 different vests to the ultimate test, rating each one on warmth, fit, and durability. We tested vests across a wide range of prices and materials to discover the nine best outdoor vests. We learned a lot about vests in our testing process, like the importance of well-placed pockets and that not all filling is created equal.

Keep reading to discover the nine best outdoor vests to keep you warm and cozy wherever you go.

Best Overall: L.L.Bean Mountain Classic Fleece Vest

$45 at Llbean.com

Pros

  • This soft yet sturdy fleece vest feels cozy to the touch and still looks brand new even after five cycles in the wash.

  • The flattering side-cinch waist allows you to tailor the vest to your desired size, and deep zippered pockets can hold your belongings safely.

  • It’s very moderately priced for the quality compared to other vests we’ve tried.

Cons

  • It’s more of a mid-to-lightweight layer and is not suitable for super cold conditions.

Fleece vests are multi-season staples, and the L.L.Bean Mountain Classic is better than any other vest we’ve tried (and trust us, we’ve tried a lot). The fleece is lightweight enough for fall and spring temps and adds an extra boost of warmth to shut out the winter chill. The material feels soft yet sturdy and looks good as new even after five wash cycles.

The fleece vest has adjustable cinches on both sides of the waist so that you can tailor the vest to your proportions. The fit felt true to size, and we were able to layer under it comfortably without feeling squeezed in. It has two deep zippered pockets on the front, which are the perfect size to stash your keys, wallet, and lip balm. The front of the vest zips up and also looks adorable when unzipped and open.

The cozy Mountain Classic Vest is an incredible mid-weight choice, but keep in mind that it’s not insulated, so if you’re looking for a heavy-duty winter vest, check out one of our warmer top picks. If you’re looking for a cozy vest that you can wear through multiple seasons and will last wash after wash, then this L.L.Bean option has our vote.

Insulation: None | Materials: Fleece, recycled polyester | Care: Machine wash and dry | Sizes: XS-XL

Best Technical: Arc’teryx Women's Atom Vest

$200 at Amazon.com

See at Arcteryx.com

Pros

  • This vest is incredibly warm with Coreloft™ insulation that helps retain body heat while still allowing the vest to be lightweight and slim.

  • It’s made with thoughtful details like a fleece collar to keep your neck warm and a cinchable hip draw cord.

Cons

  • It may run slightly small, so if you want to layer heavier clothing under this vest, we recommend ordering a size above your usual one.

From mild-weather runs to winter ski runs, the Atom Vest from Arc’teryx proves that vests don’t need to be super bulky to keep you warm and cozy. This vest is lightweight and thin, but don’t let that deceive you — it’s also shockingly toasty. The high-tech insulation is made from Coreloft™ Compact material that masterfully catches onto the heat and holds it in, while a breathable shell protects from wind and light weather.

The vest is best able to hold body heat inside when it’s tighter to the body, and reviews claim that the vest runs a little big, so we sized down and found that gave us a better fit. Even with one size smaller than our usual size, we were able to a long sleeve layer comfortably under the vest.

Although the Arc’teryx vest is more expensive than most others on our list, the smart details (like a fleece collar to keep your neck warm and cinchable hip cord) make it feel luxurious and, overall, worth the price if you’re willing to splurge on warmth and quality.

Insulation: Synthetic Coreloft Compact | Materials: Nylon, polyester | Care: Machine wash gentle low, tumble dry gentle low | Sizes: XXS-XXL

Best Design: Aritzia The Little Puff Vest

See at Aritzia.com

Pros

  • The stylish, oversized fit looks great layered over sweaters and feels more office-appropriate than some other options we’ve tried.

  • It’s filled with a super warm down fill that feels soft and lofty.

  • It packs down into an internal pocket to make the vest more convenient for travel.

Cons

  • Folding the vest down into the pocket creates some wrinkles and takes some time for the vest to fluff back up to its original shape.

Style and function — the Aritzia Little Puff Vest melds both into one warm, fashionable garment. The brand is known for its stylish workwear and elevated basics, so we thought of them as the underdog in this technical outdoorsware competition. That’s why we were shocked at just how well the Aritzia vest performed in all of our testing.

The down filling is lofty and soft, tucked inside a water and wind-repellent shell. We felt warm and cozy while wearing the Little Puff, and we even wore it in the rain and stayed comfortable and dry. We found that it fits true to size and fits slightly oversized so that we can fit layers underneath or a big jacket over the top if needed.

The feature that makes this vest the most unique compared to others we’ve tested is that the Little Puff can tuck into an internal pocket, folding down to a small zippered package that makes it easy to pack and travel with. The only downside we could find is that the folding process leaves some wrinkles in the vest that take time to flatten out once the vest puffs back up to its original shape. Overall, we think the Aritzia vest is a great choice for anyone looking for a stylish piece of outerwear that’s also warm and functional.

Insulation: 100% responsibly sourced goose down | Materials: Goose down, nylon | Care: Hand wash | Sizes: XXS-XXL

Related: The 7 Best Heated Jackets of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Best Quilted: Athleta Women's Whisper Featherless Vest

See at Athleta.gap.com

Pros

  • This quilted vest is designed for a flattering fit with a longer length that covers the butt and a sliding bungee cord cinch waist for a custom fit.

  • It’s filled with 3M™ Thinsulate™ insulation, which provides moderate warmth without much extra bulk or weight.

Cons

  • This vest is not quite as warm as some of the other more technical options on the market.

The Athleta Whisper Vest offers the elegant style of a riding vest and moderate warmth, making it a great layering piece for casual or dressier outfits when the weather turns cold. The vest is slightly longer than most others we’ve tested, reaching down to the mid-butt area, which is great for those who are looking to cover up their bottom. Its quilted design is perfectly preppy with a cinch bungee cord at the waist to customize it to your most comfortable (and flattering) fit.

Just because it’s beautiful on the outside doesn’t mean you’ll have to sacrifice a lot on the vest's features. It’s filled with slim 3M™ Thinsulate™ insulation that helps keep you warm without the extra bulk and features secure pockets to hold your stuff. While it’s not quite as warm as some of the more technical vests on the market, we think that the Athleta Whisper is a stylish option that we’ll likely reach for on any crisp day to layer over a sweater when running errands, going to PTA meetings, or taking brisk walks.

Insulation: 3M™ Thinsulate™ | Materials: Recycled nylon | Care: Machine wash and dry | Sizes: XXS-3X

Best Packable: L.L.Bean PrimaLoft PackAway Vest

$149 at Llbean.com

Pros

  • This vest is super warm and yet shockingly lightweight and slim, thanks to an innovative filling with NASA-developed Aerogel.

  • The vest folds down into its own stow pocket, creating a small package that’s easy to throw into a suitcase or backpack.

  • Adjustable bungee cords at the bottom of the vest allow you to customize the fit and lock in warmth.

Cons

  • A slimmer design means you may need to size up if you’re planning on wearing thicker layers under your vest.

When your suitcase is already packed full, the last thing you want is to stuff another bulky outer layer inside. That’s why we love the L.L.Bean PrimaLoft Packaway Vest — the light and fluffy vest packs down inside its own stow pocket, making a small 11-by-6-inch packet that’s easy to toss in your backpack or carry-on. The vest kept us exceptionally warm, and we were shocked by how lightweight it felt. It retains heat with PrimaLoft Gold insulation and Aerogel, a material developed by NASA to be incredibly lightweight. When we wore this vest out in particularly cold temperatures, we appreciated the bungee cord on either side of the hem, which we used to tighten the fit and trap in warmth.

As far as pockets go, this vest offers two zippered ones for your hands, one zippered chest pocket, and one internal pocket that also doubles as the stow pocket when you pack the vest up. This vest has a slimmer fit, so it may be difficult to put thick layers on underneath unless you size up. If you’re looking for a super lightweight vest to bring with you on your adventures — whether you’re headed around the world or to the supermarket — this one is our top pick.

Insulation: PrimaLoft Gold insulation, aerogel | Materials: 100% recycled ripstop polyester | Care: Machine wash and dry | Sizes: XXS-XL

Best for Hiking: Montbell Women’s Thermawrap Vest

See at Montbell.us

Pros

  • This vest is incredibly warm yet slim and lightweight thanks to heat-retaining insulation.

  • The boxy fit is roomy enough to fit thicker layers underneath.

Cons

  • It’s not as slim or waist-flattering as some of the other vests we’ve tried.

Don’t let the cold weather stop you from enjoying your hike. The Montbell Thermawrap Vest provides enough warmth to keep you comfortable while you trek the trails with heat-retaining insulation and a breathable shell to prevent you from overheating. We wore the Thermawrap Vest on multiple hikes, from short walks to an 11-mile hike, and remained incredibly impressed with this vest’s performance through it all. It’s super lightweight and has a boxier fit that gives you room for layers.

To put the vest to the test, we tried wearing it under a jacket on a cold day and then tried wearing the jacket alone without the vest underneath. The results? We were shivering in the cold with our coat alone, but as soon as we layered this vest underneath, we felt perfectly warm and shockingly comfortable, even in 30-degree weather. It also has an adjustable bungee cord hem to keep all that warmth inside. The boxier fit feels more functional than fashionable, but for outdoors enthusiasts or people who love to layer, this ultra-warm vest is a great pick.

Insulation: EXCELOFT synthetic insulation | Materials: Nylon | Care: Not listed | Sizes: S-XL

Best Down: Quince Women's Responsible Down Puffer Vest

See at Quince.com

Pros

  • The responsibly sourced down filling is super fluffy and lightweight, providing a cozy warmth and squishy feel.

  • The oversized fit allows you to fit layers underneath, and a detachable hood and adjustable bungee drawcord allow you to customize to your preferences.

Cons

  • Water droplets leave splotches on the light-colored vest that stay visible for a few minutes before they dry off.

Quince is known for offering high-end products for a fraction of what they’d normally retail for, so we were thrilled to try their Responsible Down Puffer Vest. And, after rigorous testing, we can proudly report that it lived up to our (high) expectations. Not only is it designed to look sleek and stylish (we received multiple compliments while wearing it), but it’s also very warm and cozy. It offers a more oversized fit that makes this a great layer over sweatshirts and sweaters. It’s also super puffy, thanks to a soft, responsibly sourced down filling.

Even after sitting on the vest during a long car trip, the vest fluffed back up to its former shape. We also appreciated the matte finish on the outside of the vest, which feels nice and sturdy to the touch and looks more stylish than some of the more technical vests we’ve tried. The only aspect of the vest that we found slightly frustrating was the way water splotches showed on the fabric. Though we never felt wet inside the vest, the little splotches detracted from the vest’s sleek look. At a fraction of the cost of other stylized down vests, we still think this one is an incredible value.

Insulation: Responsibly sourced goose down and feathers | Materials: Goose down, nylon, elastane | Care: Machine wash on cold, gentle cycle, tumble dry low | Sizes: XS-XL

Best Splurge: The North Face Women’s 1996 Retro Nupste Vest

See at Ruelala.com

See at Backcountry.com

Pros

  • The drawcord hood can be stowed away in a hidden pocket in the collar so you can’t misplace it as you might with a detachable hood.

  • The super warm, squishy down filling makes this vest super comfortable, and the high-quality water-repellent fabric looks as good as new even after wearing it in the rain.

Cons

  • It’s more expensive than most other vests we’ve tried but might be worth it for its ability to combine design and technicality into one sleek vest.

If you’re willing to spend a little more on a vest that offers a sleek fit, superior warmth, and hidden techy features, then the 1996 Retro Nuptse Vest from The North Face is worth every penny. The fit is stylishly cropped with a high-cut neck and oversized logo that gives it a more retro feel. It’s filled with an ultra-warm goose down that retains warmth and feels super squishy and soft. The external fabric also feels super high-quality, and it held up perfectly through multiple wears in the rain.

Now, for one of the most unique features that we’ve come across: the hood. More specifically, the hood storage. If you decide you’d rather wear the vest without the drawcord hood, you can tuck it away into a hidden compartment in the collar. Although it’s on the pricier end compared to other vests on the market, we think this high-quality, durable vest is worth it if you’re okay with spending a little more.

Insulation: Responsible 700 goose down | Materials: Goose down, recycle nylon ripstop | Care: Not listed | Sizes: XS-3XL

Related: The 8 Best Men’s Winter Coats of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Best Warm: On Challenger Vest

See at On-running.com

Pros

  • This vest is super warm with heat-locking technology and a recycled plastic bottle fill that feels super soft and comfortable.

Cons

  • It’s one of the more expensive options we’ve tried.

To keep you warm throughout the day, we recommend the On Challenger Vest. It’s made with heat-locking woven chambers to help your body retain warmth, and it’s insulated with recycled plastic bottles that create a cozy and clump-resistant stuffing that feels similar to down fill. The exterior feels thick and durable and is made from a polyamide that still looked as good as new after our testing.

The vest is also packed with technical features, like a ventilation zipper on the back to prevent overheating, easy-grab zippers and cords, and well-placed pockets that easily fit a phone inside. The biggest downside we could find was the price, which is higher than most other vests we tested. If you’re looking for a super warm layer that’s not too slim and not too fluffy, then this medium-puffer vest might be just what you’re searching for.

Insulation: Recycled plastic bottles | Materials: Polyamide, elastane, recycled plastic bottles | Care: Machine wash gentle low, tumble dry low | Sizes: XS-XXL

Other Outdoor Vests We Tried

Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Vest : The classic Patagonia fleece vest is a great lightweight layer with a cozy feel that is great for layering over long-sleeved shirts. We wish that it was as warm as some of the other vests we tried, but if you’re looking for something soft and thin to keep you a bit warmer, then this is a great option.

Things to Consider When Buying an Outdoor Vest

Filling

The filling of a vest is one of the most important factors in determining its level of warmth. Some of the most common types of filling that you’ll come across in your search for an outdoor vest are down and synthetic filling.

  • Down filling is typically made from the plumage found under a goose’s feathers (not the feathers themselves) and creates a lofty appearance that feels fluffy like a soft pillow. Down fill is often used in coats and vests because it’s durable, super lightweight, and airy yet adds impressive warmth thanks to its ability to retain heat. The downside to down (pun intended) is that it takes longer to dry than synthetic materials might when it gets wet, and it also tends to be more expensive than man-made filling.

  • Synthetic filling is mostly made from polyester and is often made from recycled materials. Synthetic filling typically dries faster than down, which is a huge plus if you’re planning on wearing your vest outside in the elements. “Synthetic will keep you warmer if the conditions are wet,” says Maxine Maroun, product manager at Cotopaxi. Synthetic filling is also typically less expensive than down and is still very durable. But synthetic filling is also typically heavier than down filling, so it creates less of a light and lofty feel.

Warmth

Determining where and how you plan on wearing your vest will help you figure out how warm you need your vest to be. Some vests, like the Arc’teryx Atom Vest, offer extra heat-trapping abilities, which makes it a good choice for hikes in the cold or as an extra layer under your winter coat. Other vests will offer more of a moderate warmth, like the L.L.Bean Mountain Classic Fleece Vest, which makes it a good layer when you’re feeling slightly cold and is great for daily wear in the office and otherwise. A lot of a vest’s warmth is determined by its weight and fill, as well as the external materials and heat-trapping capabilities.

How We Tested Outdoor Vests

To figure out which outdoor vests are the best of the best, we tested 20 of the most popular vests on the market. These are the factors that we tested each vest for and how we determined our ratings.

  • Comfort: After putting on our vests, we took careful note of the fit, whether or not we could fit layers underneath, and if it ran true to size. We wore the vests in a variety of temperatures and conditions, including while on a hike in the cold, in the rain, and while lounging indoors. We wore each vest at least three times for two hours at a time to determine how warm and comfortable the vests were to wear for extended periods.

  • Breathability: We took note of the vests’ breathability, including whether we felt comfortable doing moderate exercise in the vest without overheating.

  • Durability: While we wore our vests throughout the test, we marked down how each vest held up against daily wear and tear, including exposure to water splashes and rain, sweat, and movement. Once we wore each vest, we also tested how well each one held up in the cleaning process. We followed the care instructions included in each vest’s online description and noted whether this changed the texture, feel, or fit of the vest.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is down filling? Is it ethical?

Down filling is made from the soft plumage under a duck or goose’s feathers and is known for its ability to provide warmth and fluffiness to a variety of goods with minimal weight. Although down’s signature loftiness makes for a very effective outdoor vest filling, it also has its drawbacks. For one, down takes longer to dry than synthetic filling, so if your jacket’s shell isn’t effective at keeping out moisture, it may not be advisable to wear a down vest in the rain or snow.


Down fill has come under fire from animal rights organizations like PETA, who have called out the inhumane practice of live-plucking animals for their plumage. In response, the Textile Exchange, a “global non-profit working closely with every sector involved in the fashion and textile supply chain,” created the Responsible Down Standard, or RSD for short. Manufacturers of down-filled goods can get their product certified as “responsibly sourced” if they meet RSD’s standard, which prohibits live-plucking and force-feeding.

Can you wear a vest while exercising?

The right vest can help keep you warm during athletic activities. You’ll want to make sure that the vest you choose offers you full arm mobility if that’s important for your exercise of choice, and make sure to check whether your chosen vest is waterproof, water-repellent, or water-resistant before wearing it in the rain or snow. Maroun recommends wearing a warm vest for a winter run because “it's important to be insulated” and suggests “looking for a slimmer fit” in a vest you’ll be active in.

How do you wash a down vest?

When it comes to cleaning any vest, we recommend checking out the manufacturer’s care instructions before you do anything else. Washing down items can be a particular challenge, Liz Peixoto, vice president of product design at Cotopaxi, says. “Sometimes, [down] takes a little bit longer for drying.” Peixoto also says that some people put tennis balls in the dryer with their down coats to help maintain the fluff.

Why Trust PEOPLE?

Cai Cramer is a shopping writer at PEOPLE and has written about beauty, health, lifestyle, and celebrity since 2021. Cai grew up skiing, hiking, and rock climbing in her hometown outside of Boulder, Colo., and regularly visits home to test out the newest outdoor gear. She wrote this story based on real-world insights from PEOPLE Tested, which included notes on the comfort, durability, and value of each vest by real testers who wore the vests in a variety of conditions. Cai also collected insights from outdoor gear experts Lix Peixoto and Maxine Maroun, who share what to look for in an outdoor vest.



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