Insulated Vest Review

TNF Thermoball Vest 2-min

Let’s chat about vests…insulated adventure vests. Personally I find vests to be an essential for trail running because they’re so versatile. When you’re out exploring the trails you need to keep your core warm, but don’t necessarily need your whole upper body to stay toasty. This is where vests come into play — they’ll keep you warm + give you pockets without restricting your arm movement!

Each vest was used for trail-ventures in the Colorado Rockies in the midst of a few bouts of epic snowstorms. These storms brought us feet of snow with days of sunshine in between…the perfect time to be out and about in insulated vests! Beyond the actual warmth provided by the vests we’re also going to talk a bit about the fit and functionality of each vest.

La Sportiva Serenity Vest

The La Sportiva Serenity Vest has a unique design that allows it to fit almost as snug as a second skin while still providing a warm windbreaker. The Taltec Fiber material that makes up the majority of the vest provides a lightweight quilted barrier against the wind and cold. The vest also has a true collar as well as a hood (with ponytail hole!) so your neck can be protected even when you don’t need the hood.

Best For: An light layer to keep your core warm without adding any bulk.

You’ll find two exterior pockets and two interior pouches (against the front pockets) in this lightweight vest, so you’ll have plenty of space to stash your snacks, gloves, phone, etc. The pockets fit smooth against the vest as does the zipper, making it an all around very sleek layer. The bottom seam of the vest has a strip of tacky material to help keep the vest in place when you’re on the move — a great idea, made even better by the fact it truly works!

Trail Sisters Honorable Mention
  • Fit + Feel: Measured to a medium and the medium is a good fit with the smooth, sleek fit that doesn’t restrict or inhibit any movement.
  • What We Loved: The collar/hood combination as it offers up more versatility while out on the trails.
  • What We Would Change: Add a small, secured pocket inside one of the larger pockets to stash keys/cards and make the ponytail hole on the hood a bit higher (or get used to lower ponytails while running?).

Adidas Terrex Agravic Alpha Vest

The Adidas Terrex Agravic vest is designed to be a transitional layer by providing a lightweight shell as well as breathable insulation. The Polartec Alpha padding offers warmth, even when wet, while the Pertex Quantam GL fabric offers protection against the elements. The vest has only two pockets at the front, secured with zippers.

Best For: Spring adventures when you’d rather wear a versatile vest than repeatedly stopping to swap layers.

This is a very lightweight vest that will surprise you with the protection it provides. A feature we loved is the back panel — it is not insulated, which is great if you wear a hydration vest because this light layer of protection on your back lets your body breath rather than overheat. There is also a drawstring at the waist to help cinch the vest into place.

  • Fit + Feel: Measured to a medium, but a small would have been better. The vest is so light you’ll forget you’re wearing it.
  • What We Loved: The deep pockets, the lightweight feel, the fitted arm holes, and the ability to cinch the waist.
  • What We Would Change: Aside from the fit, this is a great vest of spring running, but it may not provide enough warmth for the days when the sun is shining but the temperatures are still low.

Under Armour ColdGear Reactor Puffer Vest

The Under Armour ColdGear Reactor Puffer Vest is a mouthful to name, but also offers a lot. The ColdGear Reactor insulation adapts to your activity to provide warmth without overheating while the UA Storm technology offers up protection against the elements (including water!). The vest also has a puffy collar to keep your chin warm and fleece lined pockets to reheat your fingers mid-run.

Best For: Winter running when it’s just warm enough to leave the jacket behind, but not quite warm enough to go without anything puffy!

You’ll find this UA Puffer Vest to be a great addition to your winter running wardrobe, offering up protection from the chill on the trails and while you venture to/from the trails. The fit is cozy without being constricting (or, “next-to-skin without the squeeze”, as Under Armour says). It even has a magnet to assist with the zipper if you’re fingers are frozen — an interesting concept that does take some getting used to, but also comes in crazy handy when desperately needed.

  • Fit + Feel: Measured a small, but a extra-small may have been better as this small did not provide the “next-to-skin” feel. The vest itself is lightweight and very warm!
  • What We Loved: The fleece lined pockets, puffy collar and overall versatility for most weather on the trails.
  • What We Would Change: The pockets aren’t very deep, so an interior or chest pocket secured with a zipper would be a great addition as a place to stash keys/cards.

Columbia Explorer Falls Hooded Vest

The Columbia Sportswear Explorer Falls vest is the extra puff of warmth you need to get yourself outside on the cold days. Columbia’s HEAT SEAL technology works to keep you even warmer as it eliminates the stitches throughout the vest, keeping the warm air in and cold air out. This, combined with the 700 fill down, scuba hood, and secure hems, the cold isn’t going to touch you! There are two exterior pockets (without zippers) as well as one interior chest pockets (with zipper) that the entire vest fits into when you want to pack it away. When you need to pull it back out to layer up give it a minute or so and all the lofty warmth will be back in the vest.

Best For: Really cold adventures when you need warmth and want to feel cozy.

This vest is crazy warm, making it a solid choice for the cold winter runs when one layer just isn’t enough. It can easily be layered over a long sleeve base or under a protective shell, depending upon the weather you’re headed into. The hood is also there to provide extra warmth and protection without restricting any movement.

  • Fit + Feel: Measured for a size small and it fits well, although an extra-small would have probably worked as well. The vest itself is cozy without getting in the way and the hood is amazing.
  • What We Loved: The puffy warmth is great while the cut of the vest is such that the puff doesn’t get in the way.
  • What We Would Change: Larger exterior pockets, with zippers, and a way to secure the hood.

Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata Vest

The Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata vest used PrimaLoft technology to provide a breathable, flexible of insulation protecting you against the chill of winter. The exterior of this vest boasts a Nylon Ripstop which works to protect both you and the insulation from the weather, including wind and rain. There are three exterior pockets, two at the waist and one at the chest, all secured with zippers.

Best For: Hitting the trails as seasons transition and you need a bit of protection without an insane amount of warmth.

You’ll find that this vest to be lightweight yet protective with a snug feel. The cut of the vest is comfortable without restricting any movement and the chest pocket is just the right size the hold essentials without bouncing about. All seams are made of a soft material so you won’t be irritated, especially when you have your collar popped. The waist of the vest has an elastic cord you can cinch down to keep the vest in place or just to keep the wind out.

  • Fit + Feel: Measured for a small and the small is a perfect fit. The overall feel of the vest is comfy and sleek.
  • What We Loved: The zippered pockets, the cinch-able waist, and the soft feel of the nylon exterior.
  • What We Would Change: A bit more space in the neck (it started to feel tight after being zipped up for a while), but otherwise, it’s a really solid design for spring weather.

The North Face Thermoball Vest

The North Face created the Thermoball Vest as the perfect layer for a sunny run on snowy trails…or a snowy run on snowy trails. The Thermoball Insulation is designed to provide warmth, even when wet, making this vest a solid choice when you know you may run into some moisture on the trails. This vest also has three pockets, two exterior and one interior, all with zippers. As an added bonus the entire vest can be zipped into the exterior pocket that has a dual zipper.

Best For: Having available as a “three season” layer to add warmth to a variety of layering scenarios.

Available in an array of colors this vest is sure to keep your visible and warm on the trails. It has a slim fit to keep your warm without feeling boxy and a cord in the waist hem to cinch tighter for colder days. Deep pockets will provide a place for you to stash gloves and snacks while the interior pocket is great for keys, cards, and such.

Trail Sisters Editors Pick
  • Fit + Feel: Measured for a small and the small is a good fit. The cut of this vest lets your feel great while staying warm.
  • What We Loved: The overall design of the vest which makes it versatile both how you wear it and when you wear it.
  • What We Would Change: A bit more length in the torso would be great for those of us long-waisted and a bit of fabric to protect your chin from the zipper when it’s fully zipped.

As you can see…you have options when it comes to adding a vest into your running wardrobe. What will work best for you? It really comes down to the weather you’ll be running in and how you like to wear your layers. No matter your decision, every vest we reviewed offered something worth loving!

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Heidi Berghammer

Heidi Berghammer

Heidi Berghammer is a trail runner, world traveler, mountain climber, and all around adventure enthusiast. As a trail runner she has covered thousands of miles in the Colorado Rockies and beyond training for and running races from the half marathon distance to the one hundred mile ultra. Heidi is so stoked about finding adventure on trails that she has made it her career as the owner of Adventure Feet First, a travel company that focuses on getting people outside to explore the world as they travel. Over the past years Heidi has spent months living abroad, volunteering around the world, living out of a van/car/truck, and finding new ways to explore on foot, by bike or with a backpack. She has learned the ins and outs of self propelled exploration the hard way, so she’s here to help us learn from her mistakes and to help us become more informed on how to make your own mistakes…safely.


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