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Best Mid Layers for Skiing and Snowboarding in 2020

Not getting your layering system right can ruin a day on the slopes. Too hot and you’ll sweat buckets, causing chafing and then a rapid lowering of your body temperature when you stop moving. Too cold, and you’ll run the risk of becoming slowly hypothermic. Both situations are less than ideal and potentially life-threatening. So choosing the best mid layers for skiing and snowboarding is actually a lot more important than you may realise!

The best mid layers for skiing and snowboarding in 2020

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ProductTypeInsulationCost
Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece JacketFleece100% Recycled polyester$$$
Montane Women's Lyra HoodieFleecePolartec Thermal$$
Columbia Steens Mountain Fleece 2.0FleecePolyester MTR filament$
Patagonia R1 Fleece Pullover HoodieFleecePolartec Power Grid$$$$
Outdoor Research Vashon FleeceFleecePolyester and wool blend$$$
Mountain Hardwear Monkey Grid Hooded JacketFleecePolartec High Loft (59% recycled)$$$$
Berghaus Nula JacketHybrid fleece with insulationHydroloft Polyball and fleece$$
Rab Alpha Flux jacketSynthetic insulatedPolartec Alpha$$$
Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid JacketSynthetic insulated40g Full Range$$$$
Black Diamond First Light HoodySynthetic insulatedPrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active$$$$$

Fleece mid layers for skiing and snowboarding

Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece JacketPatagonia Better Sweater details

Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket

Eco-conscious: Fabric is Bluesign approved, made of 100% recycled polyester and dyed with a low-impact process that significantly reduces the use of dyestuffs, energy and water compared to conventional dyeing methods.

Made from 100% recycled polyester, the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket is a superb option for eco-conscious skiers who favour versatility over several scenario-specific items. Though not as technical as some options on our list, it’s the ideal mid layer for casual skiers and snowboarders to wear on and off the slopes. Its classic style and cosy mid-weight warmth also makes it a winter essential for hikers and pub-goers alike. The high collar does an excellent job at keeping the draft out and the extra soft brushed tricot trims prevent abrasion in this sensitive area. Continuing on the cosiness theme, chilly-fingered folk will love the luxury of the large zippered hand pockets. These are best enjoyed without gloves on, which is convenient as there are large internal drop-in pockets to store said gloves!

Pros

  • Zippered arm pocket for ski pass
  • Versatile for everyday wear as well as on the slopes
  • Warm with luxurious details
  • Internal drop-in pockets
  • High collar

Cons

  • Zipper pulls are tough to use with gloves on
  • The outer fabric is susceptible to pilling over time
  • A little on the short side

Find the latest price on:
Snow and Rock | Patagonia | REI


Montane Women's Lyra HoodieMontane Lyra Hoodie details

Montane Women’s Lyra Hoodie

New in 2020, the a Montane Women’s Lyra Hoodie is constructed of Polartec Thermal Pro – a 200 weight fleece which is super warm for its weight (375g for women’s size S). With some well thought through technical features, the Lyra is an excellent mid layer choice for chilly days in the backcountry or big days cruising the groomers. Like the Patagonia Better Sweater, there are internal drop-in pockets for storing snacks, gloves, goggles etc. Plus, the hand pockets boast good sized zipper pulls that are easily grasped with gloved hands. Unlike the Better Sweater, the Lyra has a form-fitting hood, that fits comfortably underneath a helmet, and a high collar that zips right up the chin. Additionally, the well-fitting thumb loops complement the long cuffs, and the extra length on the rear hem further adds to the draft-proof fit of the hoodie.

Pros

  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Thumb loops
  • Good sized zipper pulls
  • Internal drop-in pockets
  • Long rear hem
  • Lightweight for its warmth

Cons

  • Not as packable as other similar weight options

Find the latest price at:
Montane | Amazon


Columbia Steens Mountain Fleece 2.0

Columbia Steens Mountain Fleece 2.0

The Columbia Steens Mountain Fleece 2.0 is a good-old-fashioned frill-free fleece. Made from 100% polyester MTR filament fleece, this full zip jacket is more bulky than the Rab, Norrona and Mountain Hardwear options in this category. It is loose-fitting and there are no thinner panels to streamline the design, making it heavier, too.

The few features include zippered hand pockets, a drawcord at the hem and elasticated cuffs. And although it is a decently warm fleece that is ideal for cold days on the mountain worn under a hard shell jacket, it certainly won’t win any prizes for innovative design or technical features. However, it is by far the most affordable option on our list, providing soft, cosy, light to mid weight warmth that really is hard to resist!

Pros

  • Excellent value
  • Comfortable
  • Good warmth for moderately cool conditions

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Not a slim fit

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry



Patagonia R1 Fleece Pullover Hoodie
R1 Hoodie details

Patagonia R1 Fleece Pullover Hoodie

Eco-conscious: Made from 93% recycled polyester

Though hooded mid layers aren’t for everyone, the hood of the Patagonia R1 Fleece Pullover Hoodie is ideal for those super chilly days when wearing an extra layer underneath a ski and snowboard helmet is essential. It fits snuggly over your head and is complemented by a high neck to further increase the cosiness and draft exclusion provided by the hood design. Other highly appealing design features include long sleeves with well-fitting thumb loops, a zippered chest pocket and a long zip at the neck for deep venting.

After 20 years of tweaking, this most recent version of the R1 boasts two fabric thicknesses, like the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Jacket. The core and arms of this lightweight hoodie are made from 6.9oz Polartec Power Grid fleece, which is soft and moisture wicking on the inside. The hood, side panels and lower body are constructed with a lightweighter weight 3.8oz grid that is slightly more stretchy and breathable than the core areas. The result is added comfort when wearing a hardness or backpack, increased mobility and temperature regulation, and overall excellent comfort levels.

It’s versatile and hardwearing. And though a little on the pricey side, we think it’s well worth the investment.

Pros

  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Lightweight (312g / 11oz)
  • Good temperature control
  • Deep venting neck zip
  • Nicely long at the hem

Cons

  • A little on the pricey side!

Find the latest price at:
REI | Patagonia


Outdoor Research Vashon Fleece

Outdoor Research Vashon Fleece

The Vashon Fleece from Outdoor Research gives all the hard wearing durability of polyester fleece with the added bonus of the odour resistant warmth of wool. The result of this balanced mix of fabrics is a highly breathable, extremely cosy jacket with good moisture management. The relatively slim fit means that this super warm mid layer can be worn underneath an outer shell on the extra cold days on the slopes. But it is also suitable as a stand-alone jacket for everyday wear in the shoulder seasons. It’s versatile, it looks great on, and most importantly it will make time on ski-lifts (and everything in between) much more enjoyable.

Pros

  • Moisture wicking
  • Warm
  • Durable
  • Odour resistant
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Heavy

Find the latest price on:
Outdoor Research | Backcountry


mountain-Hardwear-Monkey-Grid-Hooded-Jacket
Mountain hardwear monkey woman mid layer

Mountain Hardwear Monkey Woman Grid Hooded Jacket

Eco-conscious: Made with 59% recycled polyester

The Monkey Woman/Man Grid jacket provides superb insulation and warmth for those pushing their limits in the snow. It performs in a very similar way to the Rab Alpha Freak, providing moisture wicking warmth where needed. And like the Rab, the thinner panels are designed with alpine adventures in mind: harness compatible and providing free movement. Mountain Hardwear use Polartec High Loft as the main insulating fabric, which is made from 59% recycled polyester. And although you’ll have to fork out a few more pennies than for the Rab, you’ll get to enjoy a full length zip, three extra zippered pockets, and peace of mind that you’ll be wearing recycled fabric!

Pros

  • Moisture wicking
  • Warm
  • Contains recycled polyester
  • Has 4 zippered pockets
  • Has thumb loops

Cons

  • Not as versatile as the classic fleece options

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry


The best insulated mid layers for skiing and snowboarding

Berghaus Women's Nula Jacket
Berghaus Mid Layer details

Berghaus Nula Hybrid Jacket

Eco-conscious: Contains Bluesign approved fabrics and PFC-free DWR coating.

The new Berghaus Nula Hybrid Jacket provides exceptional warmth around the core of your body thanks to the Hydroloft Polyball insulation panels on the front and back of the jacket. The synthetic insulation feels incredibly lightweight on and also contains water resistant fibers to provide greater levels of weatherproofing. The rest of the jacket (hood, shoulders, arms and underarms) are constructed of a thin and lightweight knitted fleece that is soft to the skin and super breathable in all the right places. It also features a high collar and streamlined hood that works well underneath a helmet. The Nula really comes into its own, however, during high intensity activities in cold weather, like ski touring and splitboarding, when the body temperature fluctuates often. Plus, if it gets too warm to wear if packs down well into a pack and weights only 370g (13oz).

Pros

  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Good sized zipper pulls
  • Fleece-lined, zippered hand pockets
  • Long rear hem
  • Lightweight for its warmth

Cons

  • No thumb loops
  • Fleece section is susceptible to pilling over time

Find the latest price at:
Berghaus | Cotswold Outdoor | Amazon


RAB Alpha Flux JacketRab Alpha Flux Mid Layer details

Rab Alpha Flux Jacket

The Rab Alpha Flux Jacket is another superb offering from Rab, who have once again teamed up with Polartec. This highly versatile mid layer is ideal for skiing and snowboarding in a variety of condition and a top choice for splitboarding and ski touring when movement, breathability and wind protection are key. The exposed Polartec Alpha fleece on the inside of the jacket feels fabulously soft against the skin and does an excellent job at wicking away moisture from the body. The non-insulated underarm stretch panels are treated with odour resistant Polygiene, and ensure that this slim fitting jacket provides plenty of freedom when moving. Plus, the lightweight nylon shell does an excellent job at beading water away in light snowfall or drizzle when wearing as a standalone layer in milder mountain conditions, or when touring. The jacket fits very nicely under an outer shell on colder mountain days, but is also a highly effective jacket for many active adventures at all times of the year (I run in it during the coldest days of the year).

Pros

  • Moisture wicking
  • Lightweight warmth
  • Good weather resistance
  • Versatile
  • Has thumb loops

Cons

  • Not as warm as the fleece options

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry | Cotswold Outdoor


Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Jacket

Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Jacket

The Nano-Air Light Hybrid Jacket is an inexplicably lightweight Patagonia mid layer that is made for skiers and snowboarders who value versatility, high performance, and the feeling of wearing nothing for warmth! The front panel and arms are filled with 40g Full Range synthetic insulation which is protected by a ripstop nylon shell that is also DWR coated. The back, sides and underarms, however, adopt a different fabric style altogether: Polygiene treated polyester waffle knit that is highly moisture wicking and controls odour. This hybrid design makes the Nano-Air an ideal mid layer underneath an outer shell on cold mountain days, as well as a standalone jacket for ski touring, spring skiing and year-round adventures in cool conditions.

Pros

  • Moisture wicking
  • Very lightweight
  • Good weather resistance
  • Versatile
  • Has thumb loops

Cons

  • Not as warm as the fleece options
  • No hood

Find the latest price at:
Patagonia


Black Diamond First Light Hoody

Black Diamond First Light Hoody

Eco-conscious: Contains Bluesign approved fabric

For those that struggle with the idea of wearing down insulation in potentially wet conditions, the Black Diamond First Light Hoody is an excellent alternative. This mid weight mid layer features PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active, which lets the jacket breathe during even the toughest days on the slopes. It boasts a stretch-woven nylon outer that is lightweight and durable, and NanoSphere durable water repellent (DWR) coating, making it ideal as a standalone layer for ski touring or charging hard in the backcountry. Other features include zippered hand pockets, an internal chest pocket that the jacket stows into, an insulated hood and elasticated cuffs.

Pros

  • Very warm
  • Good weather resistance
  • Durable
  • Versatile
  • Breathable

Cons

  • Not as moisture wicking as Polartec mid layers

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry

baselayers gear guide

What is a mid layer?

A mid layer, believe it or not, is the layer that you wear over the top of a base layer, and underneath an outer layer. Simples! It is usually slim fitting, comfortable, moisture wicking and breathable. But first and foremost the best mid layers for skiing and snowboarding are designed to provide warmth and insulation.

While an outer layer will help keep out the rain, snow and wind, and a base layer will wick moisture away from your body, a mid layer provides warmth.

The properties of mid layers for skiing a snowboarding

  • Insulation and warmth

    This is the most important property of mid layers for skiing and snowboarding. Insulation is provided by varying fabrics that cleverly trap air within their fibers. The tiny pockets of air trapped between the fibers create a cosy layer of insulation.

  • Fit

    Most mid layers are usually slim fitting so as not to create too much bulk beneath an outer layer. That’s not to say that they are restricting in any way. Quite the opposite. They provide high levels of movement by using flexible or stretchy fabrics that move with the body.

  • Breathability and moisture wicking

    Another important property of mid layers is the ability for moisture build up to be moved away from the body and clothing. Good base layers, that sit directly on the skin, will wick away the moisture from the body. This moisture then needs to be transferred out of the layering system altogether. Mid layers made with breathable fabrics enable this to happen. Synthetic fabrics are especially good at this, and the whole process speeds up the drying process, preventing fabrics from becoming saturated and uncomfortable.

  • Packability

    Although not a deal breaker, a mid layer that is lightweight and packable is a definite plus. On days when you’re not sure how the conditions will turn out you don’t want to be lugging around a bulky and heavy mid layer in your pack, should you need to shed a layer. This is especially important when ski touring. Down mid layers are the most compressible and packable of all the options.

  • Weather resistance

    On warmer, drier days in the mountains, it can be a big bonus if your mid layer can also provide enough protection to be worn as an outer layer. Many mid layers have outer shells that are made from durable fabrics and are treated with a DWR (durable water resistant) coating. This makes them wind and water resistant and adds more versatility to layering systems.


What are the different types of mid layers for skiing?

Fleece mid layer

Features: Moisture wicking, breathable, warm, quick drying, durable, inexpensive, holds onto odour, can be bulky.

    • Fleece mid layer
      Probably the most common type of mid layer for skiing and snowboarding is a synthetic fleece. Usually made from polyester, fleece mid layers are a durable and relatively inexpensive option. They are available in different weights/thicknesses for a variety of conditions. There are also technical versions of synthetic fleece, like Polartec Alpha, that perform better than regular fleece fabrics.

Down insulation

Features: Very warm, highly compressible, lightweight, durable if cared for well, expensive, lose insulation when wet.

    • Down insulation
      Down insulated mid layers are hands down the warmest type of mid layer on offer. They are also the most expensive and don’t provide warmth when wet. Ideal for those super chilly bluebird days. The level of warmth is measured by the weight of the down (how much down is in the jacket), and the fill power (how lofty/dense the down is). For more information on this, read our down vs synthetic article.

Synthetic insulation

Features: Warm, breathable, quick drying, stays warm when wet, highly durable, lightweight.

  • Synthetic mid layer
    Mid layers with synthetic insulation offer more warmth than fleeces, but can never compete with the warmth offered by down jackets, relative to their weight. They also sit between the two when it comes to price. However, they do offer excellent insulation when wet, and impressive warmth, breathability and protection against the elements. Filled with fibers that mimic the properties of down, technical synthetic insulation like Primaloft also offer superb durability and are an excellent option in wet/moist conditions.

Whether you charge hard in the backcountry or enjoy cruising the groomed runs, there’s certainly something that is perfect for you on our list of the best mid layers for skiing and snowboarding.

About the author

author-joey

Joey Holmes is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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