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Out of all the clothes in my arsenal, a down or synthetic insulation layer is a must-have on every outing. This layer is a make-or-break piece of clothing that provides critical warmth during long days in the field. These insulated hunting jackets are packed with either down or synthetic insulation, and can be worn under a shell if it's raining, or as an outer layer during a cold, dry day.
A lightweight, packable down jacket can be stashed in your pack to throw on at camp or during long glassing sessions. Heftier models for waterfowl hunting or treestand days are meant to be worn throughout the day, and some models with synthetic fill can be worn during hard hikes, as they breathe well and won't saturate like down.
Like anything with hunting apparel, choose your layers based on style of hunting, anticipated conditions, and terrain. A bulky late-season whitetail jacket will feel pretty miserable in an early-season archery pack, and an early-season archery layer won't keep you warm in a late-season whitetail stand.
1. Best Mid-Layer Down Jacket for Hunting
The Ghar Jacket from Kryptek is a versatile midlayer option. This jacket can stand on its own during dry, cold days, but works just as well under a parka or other waterproof shell when you need insulation and weather protection. This jacket is filled with a blend of Primaloft Gold synthetic insulation and natural goose down, combining the two insulation materials for ideal lightness without the risk of losing all heat if the insulation gets wet. This jacket weighs just over 12 ounces, packs into its own pocket, and the shell is a treated water-resistant polyester for even more protection.
2. Best Insulated Jacket for High-Output Hunts
The Kelvin Active Jacket is an insulated layer, but it breathes like a midlayer and functions as activewear. I've worn this on my most high-output chases and rarely feel the need to shed it as a layer, plus it wicks sweat so well I don't get clammy once I stop moving. This jacket is packed with a sheeted, fully synthetic insulation that is air permeable while still being wind resistant. This is the most breathable jacket in their insulated big game line, and has a durable 20-denier nylon shell with a soft, brushed face to avoid rasping and rubbing sounds at close range.
3. Best Winter Concealment
As the temperatures drop and the snow flies, I always wish I had more options for late-season concealment. Forloh's "Snowfall" concealment pattern is a brilliant take on patterning for snowy environments, and this high-end down jacket seals the deal. This is a highly breathable layer that will keep you comfortable during long sessions of glassing, but you won't sweat through it during the hike in. The jacket is made with treated duck down that won't lose all loft if it gets wet, and the shell fabric uses Forloh's "Perf-Weld" technology, creating a breathable material that lets water vapor (sweat) out while keeping a solid seal against the rain.
4. Best for Variable Conditions
For a do-it-all jacket, this versatile piece from Under Armor makes it work. This jacket has a brushed face fabric for stealth in the field, a fleece interior, and the brand's "ColdGear" infrared technology that helps keep your microclimate warm, retaining body heat without too much energy expenditure. This jacket has a durable outer layer, moderate quilting, and a tall collar with a fitted hood to protect from drafts. You can layer over or under this jacket, and the breathability makes it a good option for active pursuits.
5. Best Wallet-Friendly Down Jacket
This is the only jacket on the list that isn't hunting-specific, which just means it doesn't have a concealment pattern printed on the face fabric. This style works really well as a midlayer thanks to the insulation around the core and stretchy, breathable paneling on the sides and sleeves. This type of construction leaves plenty of flexibility for layering without bunching fabric, and you won't feel tangled up getting into position with a firearm or bow. Since this only comes in solids, it'll work best in the field as a midlayer anyway, functioning like a down vest with a little extra protection through the arms. Baleaf makes a wide range of athletic layers at very reasonable prices, with durability and design that holds up against name-brand apparel.
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