testing cold weather hiking clothes

Best Cold Weather Hiking Clothes At REI

The highest warmth-to-weight-ratio insulating apparel stocked at REI Co-op

September 27, 2023 – As folks gear up for fall and winter, we combed the digital shelves at REI to pick out the coziest, lightweight, cold weather hiking clothes, in stock now. This list speaks to high impact insulative apparel like down jackets and pants, fleece-wear, and merino wool base layers. We’ll cover shells, winter camping gear, and accessories in future content, so stay tuned!

Wear your merino base when hiking in cool temps, add on your fleece when it changes from cool to cold, and top it off with a puffy jacket whenever you stop moving. As always, our recommendations emphasize lightweight insulation that carries well in a daypack or backpacking pack. We’re ultralight hikers at heart, and prioritize insulation with high warmth-to-weight ratio above all else. But for mid and base layers, breathability, comfort, and quick dry are also important.

This content is sponsored by REI Co-op, but you make Adventure Alan & Co possible. When purchasing through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Here’s why you can trust us. Now back to Cold Weather Hiking Clothes.

Cold Weather Hiking Clothes Gallery

Cold Weather Hiking Clothes: Down Jackets

Wear these during breaks, stoppages, or while at camp in cool-to-cold temperatures

REI Magma 850 Down Hoodie

12.3 oz | $249

The REI Magma 850 Down Hoodie exemplifies the notion of premium-basics-done-well. This is a durable workhorse puffy with good quality, ethically sourced materials for a fair price. Similar models from most mainstream outdoor brands cost $50-100 more. Our hands-on testing indicates that Magma is a bit warmer than average.

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 Down Jacket

8.8 oz | $360

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket is the best selling ultralight down jacket of all time, now in its second edition and made with 100% recycled fabric. It achieves its low, low weight by combining 10d Pertex Quantum Ripstop and 800 fill power down. It is an effective and easy choice for a great down jacket.

REI 650 Down Jacket

10.9 oz | $129

It’s really difficult to find a down jacket from a reputable outdoor brand for this price. Yet the REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket is still lighter than average. Sure, it uses low fill power down, has no hood, and isn’t exactly the warmest puffer, but it certainly gets the job done without breaking the bank. Plus, it’s 100% recycled.

Black Diamond Approach Down Hoodie

Black Diamond Approach Hoodie

10.7 oz | $380

800-fill-power HyperDRY down, long lasting brand-name Empel DWR, and ultralight 10d ripstop nylon keep the BD Approach Hoodie ultralight, and ultra premium. This is their lightest weight down hoodie, and one of the very lightest sold at REI, making it a top choice for hikers and backpackers.

Cold Weather Hiking Clothes: Parkas

Wear these during breaks, stoppages, or while at camp in cold-to-frigid temperatures

Patagonia Fitz Roy Hoodie

Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Hoodie

17.1 oz | $399

Choose the Patagonia Fitz Roy for a versatile midweight parka that hits all the right notes, from sustainability to warmth-to-weight ratio. Compared to their traditional down sweater, this has ~50% more down. The 20d pertex exterior fabric paired with 10d liner saves weight, and happens to be made from recycled fishing nets. A win-win for your warmth, and the ocean.

Arcteryx thorium Down Hoodie

Arc’Teryx Thorium Down Hoodie

18.2 oz | $500

The Thorium Down Hoodie is Arc’teryx’s take on the midweight puffy, bridging the gap between summer and winter. It’s warmer, puffier, and has more down than their sweater-weight Cerium line. The clever use of synthetic insulation in high wear/weather-exposed areas like the shoulders is a nice touch. 750 fill power down is good-not-great, and we’d love to see this upgraded to at least 850 given the price point. We also note the bio based liner, derived from 60% castor oil, and use of 80% recycled polyester. Innovative and sustainable!

marmot guides hoodie

Marmot Guide’s Down Jacket

24.3 oz $275

It’s hard to argue with the Marmot Guides Down Hoodie, a midweight puffy for just $275. Add in REI’s Outlet discount, and it’s just over $200. Top value for sure. At 24 ounces and stuffed with 700 fill power down, Marmot Guides Hoody is not the lightest parka available, but it’s certainly warmer than the average puffy. And designed for the rigors of guiding, you just know it’s going to be durable.

Mountain Hardwear Phantom Down Parka

Mountain Hardwear Phantom Down Parka

21.8 oz | $400

There’s lots to love about the Mountain Hardwear Phantom Down Parka, including premium materials. We note the 800 fill power dry down, which is superior to what’s in the more expensive Arc’teryx Thorium. The 20d Pertex Diamond Fuse ripstop is thin and light, but still quite durable – a great choice for this garment. A double separating front zip, helmet compatible hood, and harness-compatible pockets clearly indicate this is an alpine climbing jacket. But it’s great for backpackers too, and 25% off MSRP thanks to the REI Outlet discount.

North Face Summit Series Pumori Down Parka

The North Face Summit Series Pumori Down Parka

21.8 oz | $650

Behold the puffy perfection of TNF’s Summit Series Pumori Parka, made with 100% recycled 10d/30d nylon. This beast is fully lofted and then some. It’s the warmest parka on our list, arguably the highest warmth-to-weight pick at REI, and certainly the garment we’re most stoked about. We love the minimalist design and “Cloud Down” construction baffles, which help to reduce cold spots by eliminating seams.

Cold Weather Hiking Clothes: Down Pants

Wear these at camp

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Pants

9.6 oz | $275

Coming in at just under 10 oz, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Pants are perhaps the most popular down pants on the market. And some of the lightest! What’s more, they’re fully featured, including hand pockets and ankle zips. Plus the fabric is 100% recycled.

Cotopaxi Fuego Down Pants

Cotopaxi Fuego Down Pants

12 oz | $225

While Cotopaxi is better known for their outdoor lifestyle designs, the Fuego Down Pants hold their own in the backcountry. Made with 800 fill power down and 20d ripstop nylon, they’re reasonably lightweight for a pair of puffy pants. We dig the side zips for easier on/off, and love the flair color baffles. Higher warmth-to-weight ratio options exist, but they certainly aren’t as cool looking.

Mountain Hardwear Stretch Down Pants

12 oz | $260

It’s hard to argue with the comfort of stretchy pants, especially when they’re layered overtop of other legwear. The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Down aren’t the warmest or lightest puffy pants, but they are the most movement-compatible. The 700 fill power down could be higher quality, but we love the 12% elastane fabric construction. If you’re snowshoeing, skiing, climbing, in puffy pants, you’ll be glad to have Stretch Down.

Cold Weather Hiking Clothes: Fleece Tops

Wear these while on the move in cold conditions, or while at camp

Patagonia R1 Air Fleece

10.2 oz | $129

Patagonia R1 Air is the warmest, coziest, and comfiest of the lightweight fleece family and is a nice, nearly strict upgrade to the original R1. Its zigzagging knit pattern is designed to boost breathability in a similar way to how grid fleece functions. We like how the zigzag valleys create less empty space than square grid fleece. This boosts breathability significantly with only a minimal hit to its insulative ability. Read more in our full-length Patagonia R1 Air Review.

The North Face FutureFleece Hoodie

7.3 oz | $170

The North Face FutureFleece Hoodie is a lightweight, all-purpose mid-layer with exceptional breathability and a high warmth-to-weight ratio. It outperforms every fleece except for Alpha Direct, but still trumps that in terms of durability, wind-resistance, and versatility. Its performance is thanks to Octa hollow-core yarn, same as Mountain Hardwear AirMesh, but in a flat face exterior with grided interior. The inside face alternates between voluminous loop clusters that insulate, and channels of empty space to encourage breathability. Read more in our full-length FutureFleece Review.

Mountain Hardwear Summit Grid

Mountain Hardwear Summit Grid

11.5 oz | $90

Sure, it might be another Melenzana knock-off, but the Mountain Hardwear Summit Grid is certainly less expensive and more readily available. This grid fleece is cozy and breathable. And it’s built in the best possible fleece chassis, that is, a pullover hoody with kangaroo pocket. Love this piece!

REI Trailmade Fleece Jacket

12.7 oz | $60

The REI Co-op Trailmade Fleece Jacket is a cozy, affordable, all-purpose midweight fleece jacket, and an excellent piece of cheap backpacking gear. It has hand pockets and spandex at hem and cuff. This is ol’ trusty microfleece, the fuzzy good stuff. But now it’s made with 100% postconsumer recycled polyester.

REI Swiftland Half-Zip Pullover

7.5 | $90

REI Co-op Swiftland Half-Zip Pullover is a classic, name brand Polartec Power Grid fleece that does it all for less than a hundred bucks. The exterior is flat faced, the interior is gridded. The fabric is stretchy, breathable, comfortable, cozy, and soft. You will want to wear this fleece everywhere. See field shots and read more in our full-length REI Swiftland Pullover Review.

Cold Weather Hiking Clothes: Fleece Pants

Wear these while on the move in cold conditions or at camp

Patagonia R1 Daily Bottoms

Patagonia R1 Daily Bottoms

9.7 oz | $129 

Patagonia’s R1 line is arguably the most famous fleece of all time, but you may not have worn the R1 Daily Pants. This is a flat faced exterior version of R1, with a fuzzy, brushed interior. Note, it’s still stretchy, but it’s not grid fleece. That means increased warmth at the expense of decreased breathability. These slim-fit pants are great for wearing around camp, or on cold mornings. Use them as a base-layer when temps drop really low.

REI Trailmade Fleece Pants

11.2 oz | $60

Made with 100% post-consumer recycled polyester, you can’t fault the REI Trailmade Fleece Pants which deliver midweight warmth for just $60. The relaxed fit and fuzzy, soft warmth is perfect for hanging out around camp on a crisp fall night. We love the addition of hand pockets, and the minimalist drawcord cinch waist. At 11.2 ounces, they aren’t the lightest, but they’re almost certainly the most affordable.

The North Face FutureFleece Pants

TNF FutureFleece Pants

6.4 oz | $130

For the technical and ultralight crowd, we strongly recommend The North Face FutureFleece Pants. Made with hollow core Octa yarns with a terry loop grid fleece interior, these have exceptional warmth-to-weight, quick dry, and breathability. And for just 6.4 oz, they’re roughly 60% of the weight of a typical pair of fleece pants. They have large hand pockets, and even feature a zippered thigh pocket. FutureFleece pants fit slim, and are bordering on tights, so you can wear them as a cold-weather base layer, or by themselves. These aren’t just the best ultralight fleece pants at REI, some of the best fleece pants anywhere.

Cold Weather Hiking Clothes: Base Layers

Wear these in cool, cold, or frigid temperatures

Smartwool Intraknit Thermal Merino Quarter Zip

Smartwool Intraknit Thermal Merino Quarter-Zip

7.7 oz | $140

For cool-weather base layering, choose the Smartwool Intraknit Thermal series. The Intraknit fabric is constructed with a 53% merino, 44% polyester, 3% elastane blend that derives performance benefits from each. You get the warmth, comfort, and odor-resistance of merino with the quick dry and durability of polyester. You know these base layers are made to move because they even added knit mesh ventilation panels on the mid back and underarm.

Smartwool Intraknit Thermal Merino Base Layer Bottoms

Smartwool Intraknit Thermal Merino Base Layer Bottoms

6.5 oz | $130

For winter hikes, snowshoeing, and high movement cold weather activity, we choose the Smartwool Intraknit Thermal Merino Bottoms. They’re quick-drying, stretchy, breathable, and warm-not-too-warm, thanks to the merino, polyester, elastance blend. Find knit mesh panels for ventilation on the back of knee and above the seat where back sweat drips. These are versatile, comfy, and perfect for fall.

Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Quarter Zip

Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Quarter Zip

10.5 oz | $120

For cold-weather base layering, choose the Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino (formerly the 250 weight series). These garments toe the line between midweight and heavy weight, and are made with 100% merino for maximum coziness, softness, and odor-resistance. We recommend Classic Thermals for winter camping, and the quarter zip top for added ventilation when overheating on the move.

Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Bottoms

Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Bottoms

8 oz | $115

For winter camping and other cold temp, low-to-moderate movement activities, we recommend the Smartwoold Classic Thermal Merino Bottoms (formerly the 250 weight series). These are made with 100% merino for maximum warmth retention, and layer exceptional well underneath a pair of standard hiking pants.

wearing cold weather hiking clothes

Cold Weather Hiking Clothes Conclusion

Thanks for reading our cold weather hiking clothes gear list! REI stocks some really cozy kit, and we highly recommend cranking up the warmth dial on your winter-wear. We will be covering cold weather accessories, shells, and camp gear in future articles, so stay tuned! -Adventure Alan & Co

This article was sponsored by REI Co-op.