Our experts Jen and Sim Benson seek out the best outdoor gear with outstanding ethical credentials.
Buyer’s tips for a good insulated jacket
A good insulated jacket makes cold weather a joy to be out in, but which one you choose depends on how and when you’ll be using it. Down is a great choice for cold, dry conditions and offers unbeatable warmth for its weight and pack size. Always check it’s Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified. In wet weather, down loses its ability to trap warm air – also called ‘lofting’ – while synthetic and wool alternatives will continue to keep you cosy, even on rainy days. Gear on test prices quoted are all RRPs, so it is worth shopping around. Many shops also offer members an extra discount – log in to your account for full details.
Buyer’s tips for gloves
Buying gloves tends to come down to a choice between warmth and dexterity. Lightweight, fitted gloves are great for photography, smartphones and fiddly zips, while big padded mitts offer more warmth. For the best of both worlds, a slim-fitting liner glove can be worn on its own in cool weather, but boosts the effectiveness of your warm gloves when it’s really cold. Many shops offer a discount for members – log in to your account for details.
Kathmandu Epiq Hooded Down Jacket V2
+ A warm jacket that’s ideal for easy walks in cold, dry conditions. It’s made of a recycled Pertex polyester outer and RDS-certified 550-fill power duck down, and has a warm hood, zipped hand-warmer pockets and an internal zipped pocket.
– It’s relatively bulky and heavy for its warmth.
VERDICT 4/5 A good-value, entry-level down jacket made with responsibly sourced materials.
Montane Prism Jacket
+ This updated version of Montane’s classic lightweight insulated jacket has an improved cut and recycled PrimaLoft Silver Eco insulation. The Pertex Quantum outer is windproof and water-resistant. It has two large zipped hand pockets and a chest pocket.
– Adjustment toggles on the hips are tricky with a waist belt.
VERDICT 4.5/5 It’s lightweight and durable, and offers good-value protection, warmth and packability.
Salwea Sesvenna Polartec Alpha Jacket
+ The tough, stretchy, weather-resistant outer and recycled Polartec Alpha insulation in this jacket make it comfortable, breathable and protective. Great for wearing all day when you’re working hard, as the athletic cut offers great freedom of movement and the hood is effective.
– Less warmth for its weight than others on test. No hand-warmer pockets.
VERDICT 4/5 A top choice for fast and light hiking. Its technical fabrics and features make it a joy to wear.
Icebreaker Helix Hooded Jacket
+ Innovative MerinoLOFT utilises the warmth, comfort and breathability of Merino wool
which, unlike down, keeps you warm even in wet conditions. This smart, hooded jacket with zipped hand-warmer pockets has a recycled, PFC-free polyester outer, stretch side panels and responsibly sourced wool insulation and lining. Good on its own or as a mid-layer under a waterproof.
– Less warmth for its weight than down.
VERDICT 4.5/5 A smart jacket that makes the most of the comfort, warmth and breathability of wool. This is a good, sustainable choice for year-round walking.
Mountain Hardwear Super/DS Down Jacket
+ This smart, warm and lightweight down jacket is perfect for walking in cold, dry weather or as a cosy layer for lunch stops and chilly evenings. The outer is a lightly brushed stretch Nylon with a clever super-flexible stitch-free baffle construction. The 700-fill power RDS-certified goose down offers a nice balance of warmth and breathability.
– Not suitable for
VERDICT 4.5/5 Stylish, technical and comfortable down jacket that’s a real pleasure to wear. Perfect for crisp, cold winter days in the hills.
Vaude Freney Jacket IV
+ A great-looking jacket combining a durable Nylon outer with recycled polyester PrimaLoft insulation. The windproof fabric with a PFC-free water-repellent finish offers excellent weather protection for the low weight and small pack size. It has an adjustable hem, deep hood, zipped chest and hand-warmer pockets. Fair Wear Foundation certified.
– The hood isn’t adjustable.
VERDICT 5/5 BEST IN TEST Lightweight insulation with an inspired design and responsible manufacture. The ideal choice for a mid-layer or standalone jacket.
Rab Xenon Glove
+ Warm, while also being lightweight and packable, these gloves have a breathable, water-resistant Pertex shell with PrimaLoft Gold insulation. The palm is reinforced with grippy and durable PU. Ideal for stashing in a pack for emergencies or to wear all day on cold walks. A clip keeps them together, and they also come with a handy stuff sack.
– Not waterproof.
VERDICT 4.5/5 BEST IN TEST Warm, comfortable, light, packable and insulated.
Icebreaker Oasis Glove Liners
+ These gloves are made from 96% responsibly sourced superfine Merino wool, with a little Lycra for stretch. They make a comfortable, breathable liner, while
also working well as a lightweight standalone glove. They fit well and benefit from Merino’s properties of natural temperature and moisture regulation.
– Not as durable as some.
VERDICT 4.5/5 Good fit, lightweight and comfortable and with all the benefits of natural Merino wool. Great as a liner or a standalone glove.
Columbia Birch Woods Gloves
+ These cosy stretch fleece gloves have a thinner palm for better dexterity. The palm has silicon strips for enhanced grip and touch-screen compatible fingertips. They have a snug elasticated cuff and a small clip to hold them together.
– Expensive for a simple polyester glove.
VERDICT 4/5 Warm and with features to make them phone user-friendly.
Berghaus Nula Micro Jacket
+ Clever synthetic Hydroloft Polyball insulation feels almost down-like, while a PFC-free wind- and water-resistant outer and a slim, longer cut for extra warmth make this a great choice for cooler days on the hills. There’s a snug, adjustable hood and two zipped hand-warmer pockets.
– Feels a little stiff compared with down equivalents.
VERDICT 4.5/5 Well-priced, protective and with innovative insulation.
Dark Peak NESSH Lightweight Down Jacket
+ With its neat styling and 850-fill power RDS-certified down filling, this jacket packs lots of warmth without looking bulky. It has a helmet-compatible adjustable hood, integrated mitts and zipped internal and external pockets. Great for everyday winter wear from town to trail. For every jacket bought, Peak District-based Dark Peak donates another to a person affected by homelessness.
– Not suitable for wet weather.
VERDICT 4.5/5 Well-priced, high-spec down jacket from a new, UK brand. Great technical credentials.
Finisterre Nimbus Insulated Jacket
+ This comfortable, versatile, great-looking jacket is a perfect choice for year-round cool-weather walking, worn under a waterproof in the wet or over warmer layers when it’s cold. The main fabric, cosy synthetic insulation and even the zips are all 100% recycled. There’s an adjustable hood, two fleecy hand-warmer pockets and an inside zip pocket that doubles as a stuff sack.
VERDICT 5/5 BEST IN TEST A versatile, packable, light but warm jacket for all-round, year-round adventures. Well made using sustainable materials from Cornwall-based Finisterre.
Mammut Rime IN Hybrid Flex Jacket
+ This hybrid jacket combines a durable, lightweight PFC-free Pertex Quantum outer with stretchy side panels and a cosy layer of synthetic insulation. There’s no hood, so it’s ideal as part of a layering system. There’s an adjustable hem and three zipped pockets.
– Not that warm for the price.
VERDICT 4/5 Athletic-fit jacket designed for working hard in the mountains.
Rab Infinity Light Jacket
+ Designed for mixed conditions in the mountains, this jacket has a durable Gore-Tex Infinium wind-stopper face fabric for excellent weather protection. The 800-fill power RDS-certified goose down is hydrophobic, keeping you warmer for longer even when wet.
– Expensive but a lot of jacket for the price.
VERDICT 4.5/5 Gives great protection, even in harsh conditions.
Fjällräven Singi Wool Padded Parka
+ This jacket’s hefty price tag reflects its outstanding performance, manufacture, materials and sustainability. It’s incredibly protective, teaming a durable eco polycotton outer with insulation made from Swedish wool and corn starch.
– Heaviest and most expensive.
VERDICT 4.5/5 Beautifully made and with excellent eco-credentials.
Gore GTX Infinium Stretch Gloves
+ You can type wearing these lightweight, windproof gloves, which use 3D-shaped technology for a perfect fit. They’re snug without being restrictive, and the windproof fabric is protective but not sweaty. Well-placed grips on the fingers allow for good dexterity.
– The seam around the tips of the fingers slightly reduces dexterity.
VERDICT 4.5/5 Light, weatherproof gloves with well-positioned grips.
Outdoor Research PL 400 Sensor Gloves
+ These smart, touchscreen-compatible, dual-layer gloves are made with a protective and durable outer and a soft lightweight fleece liner. Great either as a warm liner under a waterproof glove or mitt, or as standalone gloves.
– They may be a little stiff and bulky if you’re using them as a liner.
VERDICT 4/5 Warm and cosy, versatile touchscreen-compatible gloves.
Extremities Vortex GTX Gloves
+ These gloves feel tough and protective with Gore-Tex waterproofing, PU-coated palm and fingers for extra durability and grip, and a soft, fleecy lining for warmth and comfort. The longer, elasticated cuff sits snugly under a waterproof jacket sleeve for great protection.
– A little baggy, particularly around the palm. Expensive.
VERDICT 3.5/5 Protective, durable and with touch-screen technology.