Camping during the winter months is thrilling, beautiful and down right cold! You need layers to be comfortable even when you aren’t huddled around the campfire roasting marshmallows, sharing stories about the good old days. If you’ve been following my blog, you know the importance of layering. The art of layering involves a base layer, mid layer and an outer shell.
When you have the appropriate layers, made out of the right material, all three layers will work in unison- like a well-rehearsed orchestra- to keep you warm, dry and cozy all day and all-night long. In this article I am going to go over my pics for the top 29 mid-layers for winter camping.
The mid layer is in charge of keeping you insulated. If the mid-layer had a business card it would read: chief insulation officer or something to that effect. The mid-layer insulates your body, keeping your body heat where it belongs and prevents your core temperature from dropping into the danger zone- cue the Top Gun music.
The right mid-layer for you will depend on your activity level, where you are setting up camp, and how far the mercury drops! A down vest might be a great option if you are prone to overheat and you don’t want any extra bulk in your arms. However, a fleece jacket may be a better option if you are setting up camp and you need your arms protected from the impeding blizzard.
When it comes to mid-layers, you want to pay attention to the insulation value. Fleece, down and synthetic down all make great mid-layers. Personally, I’m partial to down only because it keeps you really warm, it’s lightweight and not bulky. However, down tends to be more expensive than synthetic materials. And if down gets wet, it loses its insulation value- this is where an outer shell comes in!
Fleece is a synthetic material that is equally wonderful for a mid-layer. Fleece tends to be breathable, lightweight and incredibly warm. Fleece is also typically less expensive that down or even synthetic down. However, wind can whip right through fleece and steal your body heat. A windproof outer shell can solve that problem pretty fast. Fleece also dries out really quickly- so if you get too sweaty- it won’t be long before you are nice and dry.
When shopping for a mid-layer, remember it’s all about the insulation. What is going to keep you the warmest in your tent, hiking around your camp site and sitting around the fire at night. What’s great about mid-layers is that they are typically lightweight and easy to pack. So, you could have a few different mid-layers in your pack, to adjust to the weather! Down jacket’s pack well and don’t take a lot of room, so when in doubt take a couple different mid-layers!
1. Fortress Hybrid Hoodie
The Fortress Hoodie is like the unicorn of mid-layers. It’s a one of kind, revolutionary hoodie that provides exceptional warmth and comfort while winter camping. Fortress is a Utah based company that developed a patented insulation that keeps you warm even if you get wet. It’s called AERIS insulation and it’s used in just about every garment the company sells.
This mid-layer is lightweight, with a polyester mesh lining to keep water away and insulate you at the same time. This hoodie is like a base layer and mid-layer in one! The outer shell of the jacket is made with a windproof and water repellent material to keep the weather away while you are setting up camp. It’s rated to keep you warm and dry between -5 degrees and 70 degrees F. Pros: well insulated, warm, comfortable, versatile, wicks away moisture. Cons: seams don’t hold up to wind. Price: about $230
2. Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket
This lightweight, synthetic filled jacket is designed to trap your body heat and keep it from escaping into thin air. The jacket is made to move with your body. Chopping firewood? This jacket is moving right there with you. Hiking to that special camp spot near the base of Mt. Rainier? The Nano-Air is all about it. Everything about this jacket has been well designed and impressively executed.
The patterns and quilting create an even distribution of insulation- so you never have to worry about cold zones near your core. The jacket is slim fit, making it easy to add an outer shell without all that bulk. Pros: well insulated, lightweight, stretches so it moves with your body, breathable, left pocket is also a stuff sack! Cons: fabric piles. Price: about $250
3. REI Co-Op Magma 850 Down Jacket
The Magma is made for your next adventure. It’s packed with 850-fill goose down- but it’s far from bulky. In fact, this jacket fits close to the body, but not so close that it restricts your movement. In this mid-layer you’ll be able to set up a tent in under ten minutes- no problem. Even that stubborn rain fly- you got this!
The jacket is also treated with a durable water repellent to prevent moisture from seeping through to the down insulation. Even with all that insulation, this jacket is lightweight- only 10.8 ounces. Pros: 850 fill down, lightweight, special quilting to keep insulation where it belongs, slim fit, low bulk. Cons: not warm for extreme cold. Price: about $ 180.
4. Arc-Teryx Cerium
The Arc’Teryx Cerium is an excellent, durable and warm jacket that can be worn alone or as a mid-layer on extremely cold days. It’s packed with 850 fill down- making this jacket a great way to keep your body insulated. Even with all that down, this jacket is surprisingly nimble and lightweight. Synthetic insulation is added in key zones where moisture tends to camp out. Pros: 850 fill down, moves with body, can be worn alone or as a mid-layer. Cons: isn’t water-resistant or water-proof. Price: about $350
5. Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer
Shh. Hear that. It’s the whisper of your jacket telling you everything is going to be okay. This jacket is so light and warm- you won’t even know you are wearing it. This jacket is packed with 800-fill power down-making it one of the best mid layers for camping. It’s sleek fit also makes it easy to wear a base layer and add an outer shell when the wind picks up and the snow starts to fly. The high collar keeps your neck and chin protected without feeling claustrophobic.
This jacket is so amazing National Geographic gave it a gear of the year award. The elastic stretch cuffs keep cold weather out and your precious body heat right where it belongs. The jacket is just eight ounces- making it comfortable and effortless to pack with you and throw on when you are sitting around camp or calling it a night. Pros: designed for extreme cold, moves with your body, cuffs keep cold out, slim fit for layering, 800-fill down. Cons: fabric may tear easily. Price: about $325
6. Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket
The Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket will keep your body insulated and warm when the temperature drops. I mean sub-zero type weather. This jacket is packed with an impressive 800 fill goose down. In general, the higher the fill count, the warmer the garment. The quilted pattern keeps the feathers from shifting around-which means you get a consistent coverage all day long.
The outer shell is treated with a durable water repellent finish to keep water away! Pros: 800 down fills, made for extreme cold, lightweight, low bulk and comfortable. Cons: runs small and sleeves are too long. Price: about $230
7. Patagonia Micro Puff
The Micro Puff is made for conquering mountains, camping under the stars and creating memories to last a life time. In this mid-layer you will be able to camp for days on end and never worry about the cold. The shell is water-resistant and windproof. It’s insulated with a special synthetic down material. It’s feels like down, it has the warmth of down- but it’s not!
This synthetic insulation is designed to keep you warm even if it gets damp. How about that? The quilting keeps the synthetic down from shifting while you’re in your sleeping bag or hiking to the next trail head. Pros: synthetic down, breathable, made for extreme cold, elastic cuffs keep heat from escaping. Cons: runs small. Price: about $250.
8. Arc’Teryx Atom LT Jacket
This synthetic insulated jacket is made to keep your body heat where it belongs no matter what the weather! Bitter cold, blinding blizzards and fierce winds… there isn’t a storm this jacket won’t take on. This jacket is only concerned about keeping your core warm and that means you’ll be free to do what you love: camping, cooking over an open fire, conquering that next mountain peak.
The jacket is like wearing a sleeping bag-without the weight. It’s comfortable, warm and moves with your body. The outer shell of the jacket keeps wind and light rain away. Plus, if you get hot- this jacket will help move sweat from the base layer so you stay dry! Pros: lightweight, warm, made for extreme cold, windproof, comfortable, versatile. Cons: prone to snagging. Price: about $280
9. Arc’Teryx Thorium AR Hoody
The Thorium Hoody is packed with 750 fill-goose down. This jacket is made for your next camping adventure. Whether you are car camping or trekking three miles along a snow-covered creek to reach that special spot- this is the mid-layer for you! It’s warm, like really warm. Sunshine and palm trees kind of warm. It also has a durable water repellent finish to keep fresh flakes from seeping into the down insulation. This is repellent is crucial If you’re not wearing your outer shell.
The jacket also features key zones of synthetic insulation to keep you extra warm and worry free from moisture. The down insulation is focused on the core section of the jacket- to keep you warm where it really matters most. Pros: down insulated around core, really warm, can be worn alone or with a shell, lightweight, full hood coverage. Cons: slim fit, fits on the small side. Price: about $ 400
10. Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket
This is a classic and should be in the pack of any serious winter camper. The jacket made with 100% polyester fleece! But, it’s not just any fleece. It looks and feels like your favorite sweater, except it’s fleece. This is called sweater-knit face. It’s dense and keeps body heat from escaping. The jacket is really warm and made for extreme temperatures. Great high quality basic mid layer.
When you’re back from your camping adventure, you can wear this around town or taking your dog for a walk- it’s that versatile. Pros: sweater-knit fleece, warm, comfortable and well made. Cons: runs small and piles quickly. Price: $ about $140.
11. REI Co-Op Fleece Jacket
This basic, budget friendly mid-layer is a great choice for camping, hiking and walking your dog around the neighborhood. It’s a medium weight fleece, which is designed to keep you warm when the snow starts to fly.
12. Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man Jacket
Mountain Hardware isn’t monkeying around with this jacket. Made with soft and cozy Polartec fleece, this jacket is designed to keep you warm, comfortable and ready for adventure. You’ll go bananas for the extra stretch in key zones- like your arms and back. This extra stretch keeps you moving and able to enjoy the great outdoors- without anything holding you back.
The slim fit makes it easy wear a nice base layer and outer shell for added protection. If the weather changes and you no longer need that shell, peel off a layer and wear the fleece jacket alone! The fleece is designed to wick away moisture and keep sweat moving away from your body. Pros: lightweight, warm, great for layering, water resistant, dries easily. Cons: isn’t windproof. Price: about $ 160
13. Columbia Titan Ridge
The Columbia Titan Ridge is a great addition to your winter wardrobe. It’s packed with 800 fill down insulation, keeping you warm and comfortable all day and all night! The jacket is incredibly versatile- you can wear it by itself or as a mid-layer. It’s warm, lightweight and water resistant. The inside of the jacket is lined with Omin-Heat reflective material. This special material is deigned to reflect body heat back to you! Pros: down insulated, water resistant, warm, comfortable and lightweight. Cons: Runs large. Price: about $125.
14. Columbia Heatzone 1000 Turbodown
The snow is flying and you’re inside your tent. You can grab one jacket to stay warm. What do you grab? The Heatzone 1000 Turbodown jacket, of course. This jacket is packed with 900-fill water resistant goose down. How about that? The baffle like quilting throughout the jacket keeps the insulation in place, so you won’t be cold-ever. The nice hood provides excellent coverage around the face and up around the neck. Pros: 900- water resistant down, made for extreme weather, comfortable. Cons: bulky. Price: about $225.
15. Columbia Voodoo Falls
No magic tricks here, just straight up warmth, comfort and incredible durability. This jacket is a slim fit and lightweight, making it easy to layer without the added bulk. This mid-layer boosts an impressive 550-fill-down. Say what? In addition to the incredible down insulation, this jacket also lined with Omni Heat Thermal Insulation.
The inside of the jacket is basically lined with tiny silver dots. Those dots attract body heat and reflect the warm air back to you. How nice. It’s the jacket that just keeps in giving. In addition to incredible warmth, this mid-layer is treated with a water-resistant material to keep you dry no matter what the temperature. Pros: down insulation, warm, water resistant, lightweight, great basic mid layer. Cons: sells out quickly. Price: about $150
16. Mountain Hardwear Down Hooded Jacket
When the mercury drops, drop everything and put on this jacket. It’s packed with a special blend of down designed to repel water. Down naturally absorbs water- so this revolutionary water-resistant down is a big deal. The outer shell of the jacket is made with a nylon material to keep wind and water away.
This jacket is specifically designed to sit around the campfire on cold nights roasting marshmallows! The hood is low-profile, making it easy to wear underneath an outer shell when needed. The cuffs keep cold weather out- making sure you stay warm and insulated! Pros: 650-fill down, water resistant, breathable, moves with body, slim fit for layering. Cons: down feathers tend to come out easily. Price: about $220
17. Columbia PHG Stealth Shot Insulated Jacket
The Stealth Shot Jacket is what you want to take with you on your next quest to take an Elk. This jacket is designed with the hunter or fisherman in mind. It’s packed with synthetic down, which will keep you warm with the snow starts falling around you. It’s also wind and water resistant- keeping your body heat where it belongs- close to you! When you’re hunting things a can get messy and stinky pretty fast- this jacket keeps those odors and stains away with the Omni-Shield Blood n’ Guts advanced repellency. Pros: warm, lightweight, comfortable, special odor and stain guard. Cons: limited sizes. Price: about $120.
18. Columbia Mighty Benton Vest
Sometimes it’s nice to keep your arms wild and free. This vest is all business- keeping your core nice and warm. After all, that’s all that really matters anyway: keeping your core temperature from dropping! This is a classic mid-layer fleece vest that you can wear over a base layer for incredible warmth. This is a great vest to wear around the campfire or inside your sleeping bag at night. It’s warm, soft and durable. A vest is a great way to prevent overheating! Pros: soft fleece, slim modern fit, warm, comfortable for hiking and camping. Cons: sells out quickly. Price: about $30
19. Harborside Diamond Quilted Vest
Style and function in one mid-layer! The Diamond Quilted Vest is made with synthetic material, designed to mimic down. What’s great about this material is that is holds up under wet weather. So, if you forget your outer shell or don’t feel like putting it on, you will still stay dry and warm. The fun polka dot pattern adds a little flare around the campfire. The vest is also ideal for running errands, walking the dog or camping! This vest should be in everyone’s backpack! Pros: warm, synthetic material, water resistant, rod holder for fishing. Cons: not ideal for extreme cold weather. Price: about $50
20. Columbia Steens Mountain Full Zip
This soft, cozy fleece jacket is just want you’ll want to put on when the temperature starts to drop around the campfire. It’s one of Columbia’s best-selling garments. It comes in a variety of sizes to match any body style: standard, bigger and taller. So, if you have a long torso and short legs- this is the fleece jacket for you.
The jacket is lightweight and designed to be worn as a mid-layer in the winter months. It will keep your body heat where it belongs! You won’t have to worry about getting chilled in this fleece jacket. The full zipper makes it easy to get on and off! Pros: soft fleece, warm, lightweight, quality zipper pockets. Cons: nothing to complain about here. Price: about $ 35
21. Columbia Glacial Fleece
The high collar on this soft and cozy fleece keep wind from whipping inside your jacket and stealing all that precious body heat. It’s comfortable enough to sleep in on a cold winter’s night and durable enough to keep you warm while hiking. When you aren’t camping, this is a great jacket to wear to the grocery store or running errands around town. Fleece is a great mid-layer because it’s warm, dries quickly and it’s breathable. Pros: 100% polyester fleece, pockets adjust for ventilation, warm, dries quickly. Cons: fleece is thin. Price: About $30
22. The North Face L2 Fleece
This fleece is more than just a jacket. It’s going to be your best friend when the temperature drops and you’re inside a tent for 12 hour-waiting out that next winter storm. It’s made with a FuseForm Polartec- which moves with your body. The added stretch makes sure the jacket is always covering your arms, torso and back.
This mid-layer is designed to keep you dry and warm- no matter what! The jacket is made with climbers in mind, but it’s also great for camping, hiking and hanging around the house on a cold winter day. Pros: athlete fit, high-performance fleece, breathable, lightweight, and comfortable, reflective seam tape for visibility, full neck coverage. Cons: runs small. Price: about $250
23. The North Face Campshire
This heavyweight fleece is specifically designed with the winter camper in mind. You know that friend who always wants to go camping when the snow starts to fly. This is the jacket to take with you when he asks if you want to go to! The jacket is made with 300 weight Sherpa fleece- so it’s extra cozy, warm and oh-so comfortable. The extra big pockets allow plenty of room for snacks, your cell phone or kindle. Pros: Sherpa fleece, heavy weight, designed for extreme cold. Cons: runs big. Price: about $130
24. The North Face Apex Chromium
This mid-layer jacket is designed to not only keep you warm- but keep water and wind away too. It’s durable enough to be worn alone or as mid-layer. It’s a soft-shell jacket designed to move with your body. The jacket is also lined with Sherpa fleece to trap your body heat and keep it where it belongs. The big pockets make it easy to take your tunes with you! The adjustable Velcro tabs prevent wind from creeping up your sleeves and stealing your body heat. Pros: breathable, warm, soft, Sherpa fleece lined, Velcro cuffs. Cons: poor fit. Price: about $160.
25. The North Face Kilowatt Thermoball Jacket
Training for the next winter Olympics? Me neither. Don’t worry, you can still take this training inspired jacket with you on your next winter adventure. The jacket is agile, moving with your body and keeping up with your every step.
It’s warm and packed with ThermoBall synthetic insulation. The shell is treated with a durable water repellent finish-keeping light rain away. This makes it ideal to be worn alone or as a mid-layer. It’s light weight yet keeps you oh-so-warm all the time. Not sure how they do it! Pros: warm, insulated, keeps you dry, nice oversized hood for added protection around the face and neck, great for training or camping. Cons: limited color selection. Price: about $160.
26. The North Face Borod Hoodie
The Borod Hoodie is like wearing your favorite sweatshirt into the great outdoors. Of course, you would never wear your favorite sweatshirt because it’s made out of cotton and you know cotton kills. So, this is the next best thing.
This midweight fleece fits close to your body, keeping your core and arms insulated from the cold, harsh weather. It’s designed to have an active fit- so it can move with you while you’re setting up camp or when it’s time to hit the hay. Pros: midweight, designed to keep you warm in cold weather, moves with your body, great hood for added protection and warmth. Cons: sleeve length longer than needed. Price: about $100.
27. The North Face Denali Jacket
This jacket put The North Face on the map. This is a new take on the 1988 classic Denali Jacket. It’s a thicker fleece, putting it in the heavyweight category. Even though it’s heavyweight, it doesn’t feel heavy when you are hiking or camping in it. It’s easy to wear and comfortable even on the longest days.
The top portion of the outer shell is made with a nylon material, while the bottom portion of the jacket is made with a soft, recycled fleece material. With key zones like the shoulders, arms and chest reinforced you don’t have to worry about early wear and tear. This is a jacket you will have for decades to come. Pros: warm, cozy, well made, high quality durable fleece, intuitive pockets, versatile. Cons: no complaints here- this jacket is solid. Price: about $199
28. SmartWool Double Corbet Hoody Jacket
SmartWool isn’t just for base layers and socks any more. The well-known, trusted brand is expanding into the mid layer market too. To make this jacket so incredibly warm, SmartWool infused a wool and synthetic fibers to create a durable garment ready to take on Mother Nature during the winter months. The insulation on this jacket is focused on the core and back- right where you need extra insulation. The jacket is lined with wool, adding extra warmth and comfort all the way around.
The insulation breaks down like this: 75% wool and 35% polyester. How about that? Wool is also great at wicking away moisture, so when you wear this with your favorite base layer- you’re layering will be working together to keep sweat from building up! A soft merino lined hood is icing on the cake. Pros: merino wool and polyester fill, made for extreme cold, comfortable, stretch at arms, durable water repellent to repel light rain and snow. Cons: sells out quickly, limited sizes. Price: about $100
29. Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody
Finally, a mid-layer as brave and bold as you are. Everyone else declined to trek three miles into the deep wilderness for an overnight camping trip. This hoody? It’s made for adventures and cold weather. It’s made for you. It lightweight- just 13 ounces and incredibly warm. It’s insulated with Polartec Alpha Direct Insulation- which is a fancy way of saying it’s really, really warm. Like campfire warm. Sipping hot cocoa warm.
The jacket is designed to move with your body- no restrictions here- just the freedom to go where you want, when you want. The jacket is also breathable- which keeps sweat moving up from your base layer and into the blue yonder. The well-designed hood keeps your head, ears and neck protected when the temperature drops and the wind picks up. It’s an all around excellent choice to take with you on your next winter camping adventure. Pros: breathable, lightweight, insulated, water and wind resistant, thumb loops keep sleeves from shifting and protects wrists, excellent hood, comfortable. Cons: outer shell is thinner than I’d like to see, sells out quickly, limited sizes. Price: about $ 250