October 26, 2016
Patrick Brown

Technical Hoodies Buyer's Guide

Active Junky testers pulled together nine of the best technical hoodies on the market from seven top-of-the-line brands. Have a look at our top picks.

Editor's Pick Stio Second Light Alpha Jacket

Stio Second Light Alpha Jacket

Best for – Numerous situations and activities from alpine skiing to cool-weather hiking to wearing around town
$299.00 + 8% Cash Back
Buy Now
Also Great Black Diamond First Light Hoody

Black Diamond First Light Hoody

Best for – Pursuits from mountaineering and alpinism to ice climbing when weather can be extreme and unpredictable
$248.95 + 12% Cash Back
Buy Now
Also Great Ortovox Merino Fleece Hoody

Ortovox Merino Fleece Hoody

Best for – Midlayering for mountaineering and climbing pursuits, outer layer for moderate weather
Product no longer available
Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody

Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody

Best for – Skiing, boarding, layering up on especially cold days when extra warmth keeps you going
$259.00 + 12% Cash Back
Buy Now
Helly Hansen Ullr Midlayer Jacket

Helly Hansen Ullr Midlayer Jacket

Best for – Backcountry skiing and touring when performance can’t be compromised by an ill-fitting or underperforming hoody
$174.99 + 10% Cash Back
Buy Now
Stio Gannett Peak Hooded Jacket

Stio Gannett Peak Hooded Jacket

Best for – Versatile – go anywhere layered with outer or alone in mild conditions or casual settings
$159.00 + 8% Cash Back
Buy Now
Columbia Northern Comfort Insulated Hoody Jacket

Columbia Northern Comfort Insulated Hoody Jacket

Best for – Resort skiing, keeping warm on icy chair lifts and exposed, windy ridges when insulation is a necessity
$90.00 + 8% Cash Back
Buy Now
Helly Hansen Vertex Stretch Hooded Midlayer

Helly Hansen Vertex Stretch Hooded Midlayer

Best for – Three season moderate weather training, or paired with waterproof/windproof shell for stormy conditions
$108.79 + 4% Cash Back
Buy Now
Ibex Shak Hoodoo Hoody

Ibex Shak Hoodoo Hoody

Best for – Cool-weather running, cycling and hiking in moderate conditions with no inclement weather
$175.00 + 12% Cash Back
Buy Now

The venerable hooded sweatshirt has come a long way. No longer a casual piece of clothing, the hoody has climbed the ranks and is regularly seen worn under a blazer by icons of style. The hoody is firmly cemented in our culture as both functional and fasionable attire.

Innovations in design, fabrics and fit from today’s leading outdoor and active lifestyle brands offer technical hoodies for nearly every conceivable use and they look good doing it. As the weather cooled, Active Junky took the opportunity to don a few favorites and some newcomers to put together this guide for your cool weather purchases to come. 

Hoody Brands evaluated by Active Junky

  • Arc’teryx
  • Black Diamond
  • Columbia
  • Helly Hansen
  • Ibex
  • Ortovox
  • Stio

How We Tested

To test the mettle of each and its best attributes, we wore the hoodies in lingering summer heat and humidity, cool evenings, fits of rain and downright cold mornings on hikes, mountain bike rides and morning runs. 

Taking notice of technical attributes, style, form, fit and function, some hoodies can knockout a number of uses with one punch, while others are fit for a specific use. In either case, we’ve included a number of options to help lead you to one you’ll love. 

As you read through to make an informed purchasing decision, keep in mind versatility and performance and your desired use. Additionally, we’ve included a section on how to buy and that informs the what to buy section. Armed with the knowledge you’ll be ready to make sound buying choices as the weather shifts this fall.

How To Buy Your Technical Hoody

In the inevitable race to create the newest and most innovative gear on the market, outdoor brands and their suppliers (think fabric and insulation companies) are constantly tinkering to maximize versatility or increase specialization. This process — whether as a result of the newly developed material, like Primaloft Active of Polartec Alpha — leads to the birth of new gear we never knew we needed. But we do. 

Questions to Ask

It’s vital to know your way around the technical details of what makes insulation breathable or fabric water repellant, lest you be wet when it’s raining or too clammy when being active. Additionally, your use will inform your decision on what type of hoody you need. Does it need to be highly packable, is weight a character of concern, or is versatility your bottom line? 

Where are you using it
As trite as it may be, the adage that there is no bad weather just bad equipment rings true. Especially, in climates with constantly shifting and wild swings in weather like the Northeast or the Pacific Northwest. With that in mind, knowing what you’re buying is critical to it serving you well. Arizonans likely don’t need a rain shell, but the winds in the desert can be brutal so a windproof hoody is a sound option. 

What are you using it for
Flatwater paddlers, peak baggers, trail runners and weekend hikers all need something different. Do you need to stay warm in cold environments. Is moisture management critical to happy outings? Bottom-up zippers are an added benefit for climbers when belaying. Take your needs and pair them up with the fabrics and designs that tackle those problems.

Universal Attributes

Fit

Perhaps the most important of all the points of distinction. If a hoody doesn’t fit well, it doesn’t perform well. This is most critical. Most outdoor brands size their gear true to fit. Meaning they are designed to be worn by athlete during active pursuits. Having a bunch extra fabric getting in the way of backpack straps or snarling on trees is a detriment to performance.

Materials/Fabrics

Have a problem, find a solution. The increase in specialized fabric technologies and insulation strategies leads to a plethora of options in the technical hoody market. To state the obvious, get windproof fabrics when you're dealing with winds, water resistance for rains, down insulation for cold climes, active insulations for high exertion cold weather sports. Conversely, there are trusted standby including merino wool, which is incredibly versatile, and the tried and true polyester fleece in a myriad of piles and finishes.

Design

Perhaps the single most overlooked aspect is design. Weight and size conscious backpackers may need to count grams and packability. Those built for rock climbers need extra length or an elastic capability in the back and side body to keep coverage when making extended reaches. Hone in on the design features to match your use.

Purpose/Versatility

These days there’s so much specialization in design that one could end up with a closet full of hoodies. Not that it’s a bad problem. Purpose-built designs are the trend with gear manufacturers and they could be right for you. On the other hand, a quiver killer, do anything, go anywhere hoody is the ultimate piece of gear that you will get years of use out of.

Function

Where the rubber hits the road. Fabric design briefs, manufacturing claims and intents are one side of the coin, the other is how the hoodies actually perform in the wild. This is where our real world test come in to help you make a more informed decision. Our favorites are those with specific functions built right into the design making the most of the technology and design combination. 

Technical Hoodies Reviews

Stio Second Light Alpha Jacket Stio Second Light Alpha Jacket

Best Overall Technical Hoody

Stio’s hooded jacket may be named Second Light, but it was first place in our testing, Active Junky's Editor's Pick for Best Overall Technical Hoody. This hoody does double duty with reversible sides. Polartec Alpha insulation is lightweight and breathable to regulate heat and moisture while Meridian Stretch Ripstop nylon treated with a DWR coating sheds water in inclement weather, making it an overall solid choice.

Tester Comment: “Testing included hiking in the Green Mountains, everyday wear and fall bike rides. The folks at Stio made an extremely versatile, technology-packed hoody that has become my everyday, every activity favorite. The premium branded materials add to the quality and will ensure the Second Light is around for years of hard use”

Looking for more information about Stio Second Light Alpha Jacket? Read the full review

Buying Options

8% Cash Back
$299.00
Before Cash Back
$275.08 After Cash Back
Black Diamond First Light Hoody Black Diamond First Light Hoody

Best Outer-Layer Technical Hoody

For an outer-layer jacket, we recommend the Black Diamond First Light Hoody, Active Junky’s named Best Outer-Layer Technical Hoody. Loaded with tech to keep you warm on extreme pursuits like alpinism and ice climbing with its PrimaLoft insulation, it kept testers warm even on high peaks with 40-degree temperatures and added wind chill. Its generous hood provides enough room for climbing helmet with elastic on the peripheral to hold it in place. It weighs in at just over a pound for lightweight packability.

Tester Comments: “Black Diamond knows how and what to build for its core customers. This is hooded jacket means business and is ready for serious activities. Purpose built, the First Light will be praised by ice climbers and mountaineers. High end materials put this hoody in performance category second to none.”

Looking for more information about Black Diamond First Light Hoody? Read the full review

Buying Options

12% Cash Back
$248.95
Before Cash Back
$219.08 After Cash Back
12% Cash Back
$249.00
Before Cash Back
$219.12 After Cash Back
Ortovox Merino Fleece Hoody Ortovox Merino Fleece Hoody

Best Midlayer Hoody

A combination of style and quality material, the Ortovox Merino Fleece Hoody was our top choice of Midlayer. A polyester outer combined with 100% Merino wool inner for surprisingly soft hand feel, warmth and quick-wicking. A great choice by itself in moderate temperatures. Throw in thumb holes to keep it in place, and you have a top performer when paired with a shell to keep you toasty warm.

Tester Comments: “Where has Ortovox Mountainwear been all my life. The quality of the build and top-quality materials match the functional performance of this hoody. It’s hard to tell that there is merino wool in this piece. I know there is because it performs as such but the feel is not the typical feel of Merino. I think this is the one of the most comfortable hoodies in the test.”

Looking for more information about Ortovox Merino Fleece Hoody? Read the full review
Product no longer available
Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody

Arc’teryx has established itself in the outdoor industry for top-quality gear. The Atom LT Hoody lives up to that reputation, a midlayer comprised of material like Polartec Power Stretch, and Hardface side panels and Coreloft insulation to keep you at the ideal temperature by regulating body heat, not to mention feathery and extremely comfortable. Lightweight and packable, wind and moisture resistant, this midlayer doubles as an outer-layer in many situations.

Tester Comments: “It’s hard to say anything bad about this jacket. It performs as it’s designed to, fits well, keeps you warm without overheating and is equally suited as an outer layer or layering under a hard shell. Versatile and well built, you really can’t go wrong with the Atom LT Hoody.”

Looking for more information about Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody? Read the full review

Buying Options

12% Cash Back
$259.00
Before Cash Back
$227.92 After Cash Back
7% Cash Back
$259.00
Before Cash Back
$240.87 After Cash Back
6% Cash Back
$259.00
Before Cash Back
$243.46 After Cash Back
4% Cash Back
$259.00
Before Cash Back
$248.64 After Cash Back
4% Cash Back
$259.00
Before Cash Back
$248.64 After Cash Back
Helly Hansen Ullr Midlayer Jacket Helly Hansen Ullr Midlayer Jacket

Based out of Norway, Helly Hansen knows how to make a warm and quality product, such as the Ullr Midlayer Jacket, and with water-repellant fabric on shoulders and hood, it performs well as an outer-layer in light rains and misting, keeping you warm with body mapping insulation around the core to help regulate heat: PrimaLoft insulation and Lifa Flow fabric hold in enough body heat to keep you warm, but remains breathable so you don’t over heat. A tighter yet stretchy Euro-fit is optimal for performance in activities like backcountry ski touring.

Tester Comments: “Although we weren't able to test the Ullr Midlayer in its natural snowbound Norwegian environment, this piece performs for backcountry skiers. Perfectly suited to be worn under a minimalist shell, the Ullr Midlayer Jacket is perfect for skinning and other cold weather activities when you’re working up a serious sweat."

Looking for more information about Helly Hansen Ullr Midlayer Jacket? Read the full review

Buying Options

10% Cash Back
$174.99
Before Cash Back
$157.50 After Cash Back
4% Cash Back
$174.96
Before Cash Back
$167.97 After Cash Back
1.5% Cash Back
$174.96
Before Cash Back
$172.34 After Cash Back
Stio Gannett Peak Hooded Jacket Stio Gannett Peak Hooded Jacket

A more traditional looking hoody that is at home in casual situations or as a warm and wicking midlayer when conditions get chillier. Stio’s Gannett Peak Hooded Jacket is made with performance Karuishi fleece that’s lightweight and breathable while also durable. Its regular fit is more relaxed than Stio’s trim fit, but still tight enough to allow for athletic performance while offering enough extra room for a baselayer if needed. It’s available in six heathered colors.

Tester Comments: “The Gannet Peak Hoody easily layers up for skiing and other cold weather activities. The lofty interior of the fleece kept me warm on a chilly fall hikes and strolls around town. It’s good looking enough to wear in causal situations, toeing the line between lifestyle and performance wear.”

Looking for more information about Stio Gannett Peak Hooded Jacket? Read the full review

Buying Options

8% Cash Back
$159.00
Before Cash Back
$146.28 After Cash Back
Columbia Northern Comfort Insulated Hoody Jacket Columbia Northern Comfort Insulated Hoody Jacket

The Northern Comfort Insulated Hoody is a perfect example of Columbia style and tech. This hybrid offering takes the comfort of a hoody in sleeve and hood, and added duck down insulation to the torso to regulate core heat. With water-resistant fabric that’s incredibly warm and bonded seams, it’s a solid choice for hitting the mountain slopes, especially on chilly days. With regular fit, you can add a baselayer for additional warmth.

Tester Comments: “If you run cold and are always needing to add a layer, or break for coffee midmorning to warm up, the Northern Comfort is your ally in the battle to ward off the cold. No longer will long lift lines or icy chair rides up keep you off the mountain. Layering along with the body mapped duck down in the Columbia Northern Comfort gives you all day comfort.”

Looking for more information about Columbia Northern Comfort Insulated Hoody Jacket? Read the full review

Buying Options

8% Cash Back
$90.00
Before Cash Back
$82.80 After Cash Back
7% Cash Back
$90.00
Before Cash Back
$83.70 After Cash Back
Helly Hansen Vertex Stretch Hooded Midlayer Helly Hansen Vertex Stretch Hooded Midlayer

Lightweight but not lacking on features, Helly Hansen went no-holds-barred with the Vertex Stretch Hooded Midlayer. Performance slick fleece that shrugs off light rain and an interior honeycomb structure that keeps pockets of warmth and make for quick drying are just a few features that make this midlayer a solid purchase. The tight fitted design and flatlock stitching pair well with an outer shell jacket for inclement and stormy conditions.

Tester Comments: “When all you need is a small amount of added warmth on mild days, the Vertex is just the right amount of protection. Not too warm, and with moisture management properties on the inside and out, the Vertex is capable of crossover use from summer summits to winter powder days, whether over a t-shirt or layered up under a storm shell.”

Looking for more information about Helly Hansen Vertex Stretch Hooded Midlayer? Read the full review

Buying Options

4% Cash Back
$108.79
Before Cash Back
$104.44 After Cash Back
Ibex Shak Hoodoo Hoody Ibex Shak Hoodoo Hoody

Another excellent hoody to offer the comfort and performance of Merino wool is the Ibex Shak Hoodoo Hoody. This piece of technical apparel uses Merino wool to create a microclimate, holding in your natural body heat to keep you warm while also wicking away moisture. A great choice to throw on when you’re heading out for a cool-weather morning or evening run. A fit that doesn’t constrict but is tight for optimal performance is key in this Ibex hoody.

Tester Comments: “Ibex tailors their gear. It’s attention to detail you can feel when you are wearing the Ibex hoody, and is evident in performance and aesthetics. We tested the Shak Hoodoo on Vermont dirt road runs covered with fall foliage – the ideal proving grounds. We liked the close fit, which is a welcome snug everywhere from the waistline to the closely fit hood, keeping us comfortable as we could be.”

Looking for more information about Ibex Shak Hoodoo Hoody? Read the full review

Buying Options

12% Cash Back
$175.00
Before Cash Back
$154.00 After Cash Back