Choosing the right midlayer depends entirely on what you need it to do. From an extra layer of insulation to a sweat-wicking performance piece designed to regulate your thermostat when you’re working for your turns, the appropriate second layer can make or break your day. Here are the SKI’s editors’ favorite midlayers for whatever your days might hold.
Top Men’s Midlayers of 2022
Black Diamond Vision Hybrid Hoody
Black Diamond designed this insulator for high-output days in the high alpine, where it will move and breathe with you to optimize your performance. Packed with 60-gram PrimaLoft Gold with Cross Core technology—which uses NASA-developed Aerogel for the best warmth-to-weight ratio in the industry—the Vision also employs Japanese Liquid Crystal Polymer in high-abrasion areas for added durability. Nice-to-have features include harness-compatible pockets and an internal drop pocket. Also available in women’s.
- Black Diamond Vision Hybrid Hoody MSRP: $279
Scott Insuloft Superlight PL Hoody
Scott’s new midlayer is noticeably light in hand. At 300 grams, this jacket stuffed with PrimaLoft Gold with Cross Core technology is one of the most feather-weight synthetic midlayers on the market. So what’s it for? Scott designed this piece for active skiers hitting the skin track or boot pack who still want some level of protection from the elements. Squish it down and throw it in your pack. Also available in women’s.
- Scott Insuloft Superlight PL Hoody MSRP: $240
Black Crows Freebird Wool Cordura Jacket
With the rise of the technical midlayer, it’s easy to overlook the OG wool jacket. Black Crows’ Freebird Wool Cordura is here to remind you why that’s a mistake. Wool is still one of the most naturally regulating and odor-resistant fabrics there is, plus the Freebird, a full-zip jacket with a high collar, has an outer Pertex Quantum Air fabric that’s wind-, water-, and abrasion-resistant for added protection and durability. Plus, the French never miss on style. Also available in women’s.
- Black Crows Freebird Wool Cordura Jacket MSRP: $220
Arc’Teryx Kole Down Jacket
Arc’Teryx thought outside the box for this street-friendly versatile midlayer. It’s a down jacket with 750-fill-power beneath a nylon/Spandex face fabric and stretchy side panels that make it easy to move around in. It has no hood, so it layers easily underneath your shell. And it has an urban cut and look to it that helps it pull double duty as a knock-around jacket all winter long. A smart midlayer for minimalist guys who prefer a couple of smart pieces of gear to a closet full of stuff. Also available in women’s.
- Arc’Teryx Kole Down Jacket MSRP: $340
Shop for the women’s Kole Down Jacket: evoSection divider
Top Women’s Midlayers of 2022
The North Face Steep 5050 Down Jacket
The North Face trained its sights on creating a truly breathable, technical midlayer for high-output activities this season. The 5050 Jacket is the result, with its down baffles sewn into a highly air permeable outer fabric that let the piece conserve or dump heat as your body thermostat requires. It’s also considerably less bulky than other down midlayers on the market so it’s easy to pack as a backup layer. Also available in men’s.
- The North Face Steep 5050 Down Jacket MSRP: $350
Flylow Calypso Micropuff
We love puffers with hoods, but double—sometimes triple—hooding on your ski kit can be bulky and downright uncomfortable. Which is why we dig the sleek and slim Flylow Calypso. This synthetic insulator—packed with 60-gram PrimaLoft Eco recycled insulation—sports a nice high, tricot-lined collar sans hood, plus a feminine silhouette that looks great on the way to après. Being synthetically insulated, it won’t get wetted out after a little exertion and dries fast in damp weather.
- Flylow Calypso Micropuff MSRP: $200
Shop the Flylow Calypso Micropuff: evo
Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Light Pullover
What sets the Stretchdown Pullover apart from the bazillions of other down insulation pieces? Mountain Hardwear integrated the 700-down-fill insulation into one single piece of stretchy face fabric, ensuring that this layer moves exactly how you move. It’s also what makes this quarter-zip pullover easy to get on and off, which is always nice. Plus, it’s super lightweight, so you can ball it up and stash it in your pack or throw it in your duffel as an extra insulation piece without weighing yourself down.
- Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Light Pullover MSRP: $250
Picture Organic Lixi Tech Sweater
Holy amazing pullover, Batgirl. If you’re anything like the women of the SKI staff, this adorable midlayer will be your go-to for ski days, yoga days, remote-working days, and couch days. It’s made from a cozy brushed fleece that integrates panels of 100-gram PrimaLoft Black Eco synthetic insulation down the front, with a silhouette that clings to your torso in all the right places. Bonus: It comes in black or pale pink, and you can’t go wrong with either. Also available in men’s.
- Picture Organic Lixi Tech Sweater MSRP: $100
Top Men’s and Women’s Midlayers of 2021
Gear of the Year: Scott Superlight Jacket
Great warmth-to-weight ratio in a sleek, modern layer.
With a solid tech story and modern styling, Scott’s Superlight Jacket is an impressive addition to the brand’s outerwear portfolio. Lightweight warmth and packability are the key concepts here, and Scott employs PrimaLoft Gold insulation with Cross Core technology—which uses NASA-engineered Aerogel to get as much warmth to weight as possible—to check those boxes. What’s more, the jacket is made from 25-percent recycled materials. [$220, scott-sports.com]
Check out all of the Gear of the Year Selections for 2021
Rab Cirrus Alpine Jacket
100-percent recycled synthetic insulator for cold resort days.
Insulation pro Rab brings the brand’s first 100-percent recycled synthetic insulation to market this season with the Cirrus line of jackets. Cirrus HL (high-loft) is 100-percent recycled, made from re-purposed down comforters and pillows, while the Pertex outer fabric is also fully recycled and treated with a DWR waterproof agent. A snug, under-helmet hood adds warmth on the coldest days, while zippered hand pockets, comfy stretch cuffs, and an adjustable hem make the Cirrus a great layering piece on cold days at the resort or early mornings on the way to the slopes. [$200, rab.equipment.com]
Columbia Peak Pursuit Midlayer Hybrid
Packable midlayer jacket that’s also weather-resistant.
When you need a light midlayer piece that’s also wind- and water-resistant, the new Peak Pursuit Hybrid is a solid option. With a little extra insulation throughout the front of the jacket and Columbia’s Omni-Shield Advanced for weather protection, the Peak Pursuit gets the job done when both warmth and moisture protection are must-haves. Wear it on its own on milder days or under a shell. More pluses: A lightly insulated hood that fits easily under a helmet, zippered chest and hand pockets, and a comfort-stretch fabric that makes it so easy to move in. [$140, columbia.com]
Norrøna lofoten hiloflex200 Hood
Versatile midweight insulator with built-in balaclava.
With a wind-resistant face fabric and a highloft polyester fill on the inside, the hiloflex was conceived as a midweight insulating layer that will retain heat when needed and dump it when you don’t. It can also be worn on its own in milder conditions thanks to a water-resistant outer fabric. Niceties include thumb-holes, lined pockets, and an integrated facemask and balaclava in the collar that can be used as a light hood beneath a helmet or pulled down to offer a bit of added chin/upper-neck protection when the wind picks up. [$169, norrona.com]
Shop for it at REI: Norrøna lofoten hiloflex200 Hood
Houdini Mono Air Houdi
Light and versatile midlayer with a promising eco story.
Born from a desire to reduce the garment shedding that contaminates our precious water supply, Polartec’s Power Air is the technology behind the Mono Air, Houdini’s new full-zip midlayer made of recycled and recyclable materials. Using a construction that traps air in tiny pockets, Power Air reduces microfiber shedding by up to 80 percent. The Houdi, which is also available in a half-zip, is stretchy, lightweight, and offers great warmth to- weight ratio, ideal for sliding beneath a shell for a little added insulation accompanied by zero guilt. [$200, houdinisportswear.com]
Gear of the Year: Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Reliable insulating layer now with an even better eco story
The Nano Puff is no stranger to these pages. For the last decade, Patagonia has been improving upon its workhorse insulator—increasing its recycled content, reducing its material waste, now slashing its carbon emissions by transitioning to PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco with P.U.R.E. (Produced Using Reduced Emissions). By inventing a new way to manufacture synthetic insulation, PrimaLoft P.U.R.E. eliminates the use of thermal ovens, thus reducing carbon emissions by 48 percent. The Nano Puff’s features, warmth-to-weight ratio, and even price all remain the same, but now you can feel—and look—good wearing it. [$199, patagonia.com]
Check out all of the Gear of the Year Selections for 2021
Kari Traa Eva Hybrid Jacket & Capri
Down insulation on top and bottom plus stretch panels for added mobility.
Layering pieces designed for active days in the mountains, the Eva Hybrid Jacket and Capri are down-insulated for warmth and breathability, but are mapped with a stretch fleece fabric at key movement areas, including the sides, under the arms, shoulders, side of the legs, and below the knees. You’ll reach for this set on cold resort days when you just need a little more warmth, under a shell to add a splash of cozy, or at the cabin on chilly mornings by the fire.
Holden Down Hybrid Pullover
Stylish and cozy midlayer with extra pop of warmth where you need it.
Stretchy, warm, and stylish, Holden has hit the trifecta for women’s midlayers with this one. The body is made with Polartec Power Stretch Pro, an incredibly pliable and easy-to-wear material ideal for resort-skiing, après, or even throwing on en route to the yoga studio. A front panel lined with 750-fill responsibly sourced down adds warmth while the dropback hem and performance fit ensure you’ll look as good as you feel on the slopes and beyond. [$300, holdenouterwear.com]
Find it on evo: Holden Down Hybrid Pullover
Strafe Alpha Hooded Insulator
Incredibly lightweight hoody for all conditions.
Strafe went and made a good insulator great when they swapped Polartec Alpha Direct for the better temperature-regulating Polartec Alpha insulation, stuffing this soft and cozy piece with 80-gram Alpha in the body and 60-gram in the hood and sleeves. It’s so lightweight and easy to wear you won’t want to take it off, thanks in part to the two-way stretch outer fabric that’s incredibly breathable. This is a win-win for resort and backcountry skiers alike—it insulates, breathes, and packs down nice and tidy. [$269, strafeouterwear.com]
Shop for it on evo: Strafe Alpha Hooded Insulator
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL Jacket
Ultralight down layer stuffed with limited-availability down fill.
How did Mountain Hardwear make its classic Ghost Whisperer down jacket warmer and more lightweight than ever? The 6.7-ounce insulator is packed with 1,000-fill RDS-certified down sourced from Hungary, using only the highest-quality plumes from the down selection process. The brand states that this jacket is its lightest full-featured down jacket ever, which, if you’ve ever owned this classic insulator, is saying something. [$375, mountainhardwear.com]
Shop for it on Backcountry: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL Jacket