Warm Jackets for Cold Climbing

Even the most challenging winter climbing has a stop-and-go element about it; climb a hard pitch, get to the belay and wait. Unfortunately, the insulating layers that work well for climbing may be inadequate for staying warm during belays. For this reason, most climbers have a few special clothing items to help bridge this warmth-gap.

Here are some of this season’s best options for staying comfortable when the temperatures drop.

Broad Peak Hoody – $300

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This simple, lightweight and unencumbered jacket, offers climbers exceptional compressibility and warmth.  A wind and water-resistant Pertex face-fabric protects 750-fill down, whereas the close fitting hood and minimalist cuffs reduce heat loss. While Broad Peak Hoody is definitely a stripped down insulating layer, Mammut still adds hand-warmer pocket and a chest pocket. This is a perfect jacket for wearing close to the body or over other layers.


Fission SL – $750

When conditions crap out and the forecast calls for cold, wet weather, climbers should reach for the Fission SL jacket. Built with a Gore-Tex Pro Shell outer fabric, the Fission SL is completely waterproof while retaining some breathability. For warmer conditions or during active situations climbers can vent excess heat and with the low-profile waterproof pit zips. Insulation comes from Arcteryx’s efficient laminated and non-quilted synthetic fill. For extra warmth and weather protection, Arcteryx adds a roomy insulated hood. This is great jacket for subzero conditions.

Gravitor – $280
Mountain Hardwear

The Gravitor is the ideal insulating layer for climbers wanting warm and waterproof weather protection. Mountain Hardwear’s supple waterproof/breathable Conduit shell fabric avoids the crunchy feel of some weatherproof materials while its Thermic Micro insulation offers excellent insulation without unnecessary bulk or weight. Waterproof zippers on the body and exterior pocket reinforce the Gravitor’s foul-weather worthiness. Climber wanting an easy moving, full featured insulated jacket should consider the Gravitor.

Havoc – $260
Outdoor Research

The new Havoc jacket, continues to reinforce Outdoor Research’s position as a leader in functional outdoor clothing. Built with a Windstopper shell and Primaloft insulation the Havoc is the ideal insulating layer for cold windy conditions. But unlike many jackets that feature similar warmth and weather protection, the Havoc avoids any superfluous detailing that would get in the way during actual climbing. A couple of prime examples of this well-thought-out construction include the low-bulk Lycra-binding on the cuffs that prevents unwanted drafts and the simple but effective form-fitting hood. The jacket’s fit is similarly purposeful, allowing for easy layering over and beneath other clothing. This is an excellent jacket that matches or exceeds the performance of significantly more expensive garments.

Infinity Endurance – $ 415

Packed with 210 g of 850-fill European goose down and sporting a highly water-resistant shell, the Infinity Endurance delivers unsurpassed warmth and compressibility in a lightweight package. Rab uses Lycra trim on the hood, hem and cuffs to minimize drafts without the weight and bulk of traditional drawcords or Velcro-style cuffs. The jacket’s form-fitting cut is ideal for layering under a hardshell in harsh conditions or as core warming layer over lighter clothing in less extreme weather. A brilliant and versatile insulating layer.

Light Degree Hoodie – $195

With its high lofting 750-fill down and highly wind and water resistant polyester shell, the Light Degree is a great insulating layer for belays or around camp. Stripped all unnecessary features, the Light Degree packs small and delivers a surprising amount of warmth. Lycra binding tape at the cuffs and hood eliminates the need for more complicated and heavier draft reducing closures. But MEC stops short of completely eliminating any creature comforts; the jacket has two zippered hand warmer pockets and two massive interior pockets for gloves or other bulky necessities. Unlike some of the jackets in this review, the Light Degree’s slightly oversized fit easily fist over other clothes and clearly positions this jacket and an outer insulating layer. This is a great insulating option during stop-and-go climbing or in changing conditions.

Super Zephyrus Hoodie – $220
The North Face

This hybrid-fabric insulating layer offers climbers warmth and weather protection without compromising the breathability required during long approaches and difficult climbing. The North Face mates a thin layer of Primaloft insulation in the core body panels with stretch fleece under the arms, sides and the op of the hood. This careful fabric selection ensures that climber’s cores stay warm while preventing the heat build-up often encountered with more conventionally insulated garments. The rest of the jacket uses a low-profile fleece covered with a lightweight nylon for good wind protection and breathability. Throw in thumb-loop wrist cuffs which effectively reduce drafts and increase hand warmth and climbers have one of finest technical climbing jacket available.