Protect yourself from the cold with these cruelty-free vegan insulated jackets – also includes a buying guide to help you pick the perfect one for you!
Find the right insulated jacket and you’ll likely become inseparable. They’re the perfect outer layer to keep you feeling warm with minimal weight and to protect you from the elements. It’s an invaluable piece of kit which should be on every outdoors packing list – it’s always on ours!
Nowadays the variety of synthetic insulated jackets is huge, with different styles designed to handle every type of use and environment. You’ll find simple budget options going all the way up to technical masterpieces used for Arctic exploration.
The problem was, most high-quality coats were stuffed with down feathers, which are cruelly plucked from birds (we’ll get more into that below). It was actually really hard work finding a jacket that was cruelty-free, top quality and wouldn’t blow the bank. Thankfully, that is no longer the case.
Nowadays you can find 100% vegan insulated jackets from all the best outdoors brand, which completely rival their competitors, are environmentally friendly and come at a great price. There are actually so many options it can be hard to know which to pick, that’s why we put this guide together.
In this article, you’ll find:
- What is down insulation? Are down insulated jackets cruel?
- Introducing synthetic insulation!
- How to spot synthetic insulated jackets (vegan) vs. down insulated jackets
- What synthetic insulation to look for?
- Insulated jacket buyers guide incl. what to look for, costs, materials, size and weight
- The best vegan insulated jackets on the market (jump to the jackets here)
Where possible we’ve given links to companies we use and trust: Amazon is a very reliable option for the UK and Europe whilst REI is a great choice for North America. Some of these links may be compensated which means if you make any purchases we may earn a small commission. This will never be of any extra costs to you but helps Veggie Vagabonds keep running.
If you’ve got any questions or thoughts about the article make sure to drop us a comment at the bottom!
What is a down jacket? Are down insulated jackets cruel?
Despite being used in many household and clothing items, often people are not aware of down and how it is obtained.
Whether it’s the lining of pillows, duvets, cushions, sleeping bags, coats or even gloves, there’s a whole host of products that use down feathers for insulation. Down is generally the underlayer of insulated feathers birds use to keep warm, which is ripped from them. To be most cost-effective, the birds are sometimes kept alive (unless they die from shock) to be plucked as soon as new feathers have regrown.
So yes, down insulted jackets are very cruel. That’s why we wholeheartedly recommend switching from down to synthetic products. If you want to find out a bit more then check out this post on down feather from Your Daily Vegan.
Introducing… synthetic insulation!
With the HUGE rise in veganism and demand for sustainable outdoors gears, plenty of research and resources have gone into synthetic insulation. This has meant that high-performing insulated jackets are both vegan-friendly and easy to find.
Brands that are really pioneering is are Patagonia, Arc’teryx, North Face, Marmot and Vaude, each with their own line of insulation technology (more info below!) and plenty of vegan down jackets to boot!
The high-tech vegan materials that are now available can completely rival down filling, often providing jackets which are:
- Better in wet conditions
- Faster drying
- Often much cheaper (yes!)
Insulated jackets are not only an essential part of an outdoors trip, but they can also be used as a warm, lightweight and practical winter coat. So, now that there’s a huge vegan selection available it’s great news for us ethical adventurers!
Note. these awesome items of outdoor clothing may be labelled as vegan insulated jackets, synthetic insulated jackets, vegan down coats or maybe just insulated jackets – don’t be thrown off by the different names!
How to spot synthetic insulated jackets (vegan) vs. down insulated jackets
Fortunately, as down insulation is usually more expensive most brands will clearly label them. This makes finding the right jacket a whole lot easier. Even so, there still can be some variations to the names or labels used.
If you’re shopping for insulated jackets online you can normally select insulation type in the search options and then opt for synthetic. If you’re on a product it will normally show the insulation type under the fill or insulation section.
If you’re shopping in-store then it’s best to ask the advice of one of the shop works and clearly say you’re looking for a vegan insulated jacket.
Down insulation may be called – down fill, down insulation, power down, 700-fill-down (number relating to how much down the jacket has). Outdoor companies may also have their own down branding, however, it should always be labelled as down.
Vegan insulated jackets may be called – synthetic insulated jacket, synthetic down jacket, vegan down jacket – or brands may use their own type of synthetic insulation. Either way, it will be labelled as vegan or synthetic. Keep reading the next section to find out about the synthetic filling.
Also, be careful of synthetic/down blends, which are also not vegan-friendly.
6 types of synthetic insulation to look out for
As mentioned, there are many big brands with their own trademark synthetic technology. Below are 5 of the very best, with examples of the outdoor clothing brands that use them. Further down you’ll also find our pick of some of the best vegan insulated jackets available now!
1 . PrimaLoft
Originally developed for the US army, PrimaLoft is a high-performance synthetic technology, with great warmth to weight ratio. They also make a conscious effort to use environmentally friendly materials which are all 100% vegan – awesome. This is in the jacket I use and I love it.
Used by Patagonia
Polartec is another brand which is not only innovative in vegan insulation but also pioneers sustainable and recycled materials. They have a variety of different insulated products, ranging from lightweight warmth for milder conditions to hard-wearing insulation designed for the harshest of weather.
Used by The North Face
A seriously durable insulation for the harshest conditions, even after it’s stretched, compressed or washed. Some of the best outdoors brands use Climashield technology with an outstanding international reputation.
Used by Arc’teryx
4. Thermal R
A polyester-based insulation which is great at providing warmth even when wet. They also have the Thermal R Eco, which is made out of completely recycled materials!
Used by Marmot
Another polyester-based technology with a heat-reflective lining to help insulate heat inside the jacket. Sarah currently uses this and think it’s ace!
Used by Columbia Outdoors
6. 3m Featherless
Designed to mimic down insulation when dry and outperform once weight. 3m materials are found in brands all over the world, just make sure it’s the 3m Featherless range, as others aren’t vegan-friendly.
Used by Rab
Looking at an insulated jacket which doesn’t use these types of insulation? Don’t worry!
Using the big names in insulation comes at a higher cost so many budget brands won’t use them. To make sure your insulated jacket is vegan-friendly check the label for:
- 100% Polyester
- 100% Nylon
- Doesn’t say down, down fill, down feather, basically anything down or feather related!
If you’re going camping you might also want to check out our guide to vegan sleeping bags too!
Synthetic Insulation and Sustainability
At Veggie Vagabonds we’re always on a mission to highlight the most ethical outdoor gear possible. Many vegan winter clothes contain synthetic insulation which can be a big contributor to microplastics found in water sources – a big nasty for our natural world.
It’s awesome to see that many of the leading outdoor clothing brands are making their synthetic products much more eco-friendly. This is being done by finding natural polyester alternatives or by working towards 100% recycled polyester in existing products.
We’ve tried to highlight the more eco-friendly jackets below. Personally, we think it’s important to support companies making moves towards greener products. Veganism and sustainability go hand in hand, so, the ultimate ethical insulated jacket will be environmentally-friendly AND cruelty-free!
Vegan insulated jacket buyer’s guide
Are you wanting a lightweight layer to keep with you at all time? Looking for extreme warmth in harsh conditions? Maybe you just want a warm vegan winter coat to keep you cosy around the house? With so many options now available to us happy herbivores it can make picking the right vegan coat quite time-consuming. The buyer’s guide below to help you know exactly what to look for and find the right thing.
In honesty, a vegan insulated jacket isn’t going to be the cheapest item on your kit list but it’s worth buying the best product within your price range. It’s not actually the vegan aspect that makes it more expensive, they’re generally cheaper than down equivalents.
When warmth and safety are involved it’s crucial to get something which suits your environment and use. Picking the right coat for your conditions will not only make your time in the outdoors more enjoyable but will last for years and save you money in the long run.
This doesn’t mean you have to spend lots of money but if you are going to spend more on outdoor gear, it’s worth spending it on a good coat and saving on less important items.
Generally, these are the kinds of prices you can expect to pay for reliable insulated coats
- Budget – £60 or less
- Midrange – £110 or less
- Top range – £160 or less
- Arctic expedition – £200+
If you’re not sure what else to take hiking or outdoors trip, our packing guide might be useful!
Size and weight
Most synthetic insulated jackets are designed to provide the most warmth with the smallest size and weight. The more money you pay the better warmth to weight ratio you’ll find, generally.
With that said, most of the jackets on this list weigh less than 500g and are designed to be easily compressed and stowed away when not being used.
Think about the conditions you’re likely to be in. If you’re heading into the extremes it’s seriously important to pick a jacket with the right level of insulation. On the other hand, is it worth paying more money and carrying more weight if you’ll only be experiencing mild conditions?
Almost all of the insulated coats on this list are windproof and have a DWR finish (Durable Water Repellent Finish) but it’s also possible to get waterproof ones. This normally comes at a high price and you might be better off wearing an insulated jacket and a waterproof layer over the top.
Hoods and Pockets?
If you want to keep as warm as possible then a hood is a must. Activities may need a helmet (climbing, mountaineering etc) so make sure the hood is large enough to go over a helmet or is designed to go underneath. If your activity requires lots of gear then maybe it would be useful to have multiple pockets to keep things in?
What’s your colour?
Do you want to be seen? Do you want to be hidden? Are you going to be in green woodland areas or white snowy areas?
Need some footwear? These are our favourite vegan hiking shoes!
The Best Vegan Insulated Jackets on the Market
These are some of the most popular insulated jacket options available right now, chosen from leading outdoor brands, all with pioneering vegan insulation technology.
As you’ll see when you look through, they seriously rival the warmth and weight of down insulated jackets, just without the cruelty.
Click through the links to find more colour options, choose models with/without hoods and different variation to suit your adventure.
Note. the weight displayed is for the men’s jacket so the women’s will be lighter. Prices were taken at the time of writing but are subject to change.
Sarah currently wears: Columbia Powder Pillow Hybrid Synthetic Jacket
Weight – 500g
Insulation – Omni-Heat™ synthetic insulation
Best for – Overall outdoor adventures in mild to cold weather
Cost – £60
Sarah has been rocking this for the last 6 months and is a big fan. It’s been used cycle touring, hiking, camping and climbing and has been pretty damn perfect. The water-resistant outer shell is very useful and deals with even heavier rain easily, all whilst keeping you warm and dry. It’s very comfortable and hard-wearing; after tearing through bushes and scraping along rocks, there are no tears or snags.
“It’s not designed for extreme cold but it’s perfect up to -5°C and as soon as you’re moving it retains all the heat. If you’re on a budget, I’d say it’s one of best insulated jackets for hiking and the outdoors you’re likely to find – a killer option for round-the-year active insulation”, Sarah.
Josh currently wears: The North Face Thermoball Insulated Jacket
Weight – 450g
Insulation – PrimaLoft™ Thermoball™ synthetic fibres
Best for – Lightweight warmth for every everyday action – perfect under a waterproof!
Cost – £90
For me, this is another awesome option for an active insulated jacket. Before we left on our RTW cycle tour I wanted something lightweight to use as a thermal mid-layer with a waterproof on top.
The Thermoball has been great because it’s incredibly practical. The jacket is very small and lightweight, with good ventilation and compresses down to a tiny size, so when you’re not overly active it can be worn in warmer climates too. As soon as you start moving the jacket really insulates well and keeps you warm even through harsh conditions.
I love it, have barely taken it off, and highly recommend it to anyone looking for 3-season warmth, or the ultimate mid-layer. You can find our full review here!
Arc’teryx Atom LT
Weight – 415g
Insulation – Coreloft™ 60 Insulation
Best for – High-performance outdoors jacket for the toughest conditions, designed for serious adventurers
Cost – £180
This really is a top bit of kit and a favourite amongst outdoors people. The Atom LT is the most expensive insulate jacket on this list but the products from Arc’teryx never disappoint, gaining them the reputation of providing the highest quality, outdoor performance products.
The Coreloft™ synthetic insulation is groundbreaking, lightweight and high functioning even once wet, this combines with Tyono™ 20 lining for added breathability. Together with an adjustable Storm Hood™, a No Slip Zip™ and super water-resistant shell mean it’s ready to take on pretty much anything you’re prepared to throw at it.
Check out a whole bunch of their other vegan coat options on the links below too!
Update: in autumn 2019 I moved to the Atom LT and so far it’s been completely faultless. Keep your eyes peeled for the full review, or sign up to our mailing list to find out as soon as it’s published!
Marmot Featherless Synthetic Insulated Hoodie
Weight – 498g
Insulation – 3M Thinsulate Recycled Featherless™ synthetic fibres
Best for – Getting really cold? A 4-season jacket designed for the coldest extremes
Cost – £150
It’s not the lightest jacket but boy is it ready for the cold.
The 3M Thinsulate Recycled Featherless™ insulation is as warm as 700-fill-power down but still performs whilst wet. That’s more than enough to keep you toasty even when the temperatures plummet. This still comes at a respectable weight and with 75% recycled materials make it a brilliant piece of sustainable outdoors gear.
Marmot has a number of different models, featuring slightly different cuts, colours, hoods and features, so check out the links below to find out more!
Patagonia Nano Puff Vegan Insulated Jacket
Weight – 340g
Insulation – 60-g PrimaLoft™ Gold Insulation Eco
Best for – Go-to jacket for ethical adventurers
Cost – £150
Patagonia make real efforts to produce first-rate products which are made in an ethical way, shown by the Nano Puff.
These guys are only 340g, pack a thermal punch and are an eco-friendly insulated jacket. An impressive 55% is made from premium recycled materials whilst still being the highest quality. The water-repellent finish and highly compressible 60-g PrimaLoft™ Gold Insulation Eco keep you warm when the going gets tough and it retains 98% of warmth even when wet.
It’s Fair Trade™ Certified, Bluesign™ approved, comes in a variety of colours with the option of a hood or not and it’s light enough to stuff in a bag if the weather changes.
Online you’ll find plenty of different designs, colours and models, including larger puffer jacket coats and insulated vests – nice!
Rab Cirrus Flex
Weight – 360g
Insulation – 3m Featherless Insulation™
Best for – Convenient warmth, flexibility and stylish design
Cost – £95
Top marks for style and design while still being practical for outdoor pursuits.
3m Featherless insulation balances and regulates body temperatures so you won’t overheat on the move but you’ll maintain warmth once you’ve stopped – clever ey?
The Thermic™stretch materials are designed to move and adjust with your body and the outer shell sheds water and dries fast. All this packs down conveniently into the coat pocket.
Check out some of the other colour combinations, they’re pretty flash!
Outdoor Research Deviator Insulated Jacket
Weight – 304g
Insulation – Polartec Alpha Synthetic Insulated
Best for – Working hard? Perfectly designed for seriously active adventures
Cost – £120
This awesome jacket won the Backpacker Magazine’s Editor Choice award for good reason. The Polartec® Alpha® insulation, originally designed for the military, is very lightweight and allows airflow whilst maintaining insulation – a winning combo for active pursuits.
In the hood, sleeves and back panel, the Polartec® Power Grid™ helps to wick moisture, again making it perfectly suited when the going gets tough.
Altogether, the elements and materials are carefully designed to ensure warmth and comfort throughout your adventure. A sure choice if you’re planning a tough challenge in tough weather.
Montane Icarus (M) and Phoenix (F) Vegan Coat
Weight – 540g
Insulation – PrimaLoft® ThermoPlume
Best for – A lot of bang for your buck!
Cost – £120
Montane is a top brand but still not widely known worldwide, despite producing amazing quality outdoor products at reasonable prices.
The PrimaLoft® ThermoPlume insulation is of the highest standard (the equivalent of 550 fill-power down) and Pertex® Quantum Eco outer layer is windproof and water-resistant.
A good choice for the serious cold or higher alpine adventures or just a kick-ass winter coat, plus we love that the lining is made from 100% eco-fabrics.
Thinking of buying a vegan insulated jacket and want some more advice? Have one that you love that isn’t on the list? Tell us in the comments below!
The Best Vegan Synthetic Insulated Jackets + Buyer’s Guide
As you can see, there really is no more need for down products when you have such fantastic synthetic options. There are the highest quality vegan insulated options to suit every adventure, from expeditions in harsh conditions, to round the house comfort and warmth when walking the dogs. You can help support this progress by supporting vegan products and encouraging outdoors brands to move away from down!