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Best Mid Layers for Skiing and Snowboarding in 2019

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 2018

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ProductTypeInsulationWeightCost
Rab Alpha Freak Pull-On JacketFleecePolartec Alpha Direct425g (15oz)$$$
Columbia Steens Mountain Fleece 2.0FleecePolyester MTR filamentNot available$
Outdoor Research Vashon FleeceFleecePolyester and wool blend643g (22.7oz)$$$
Mountain Hardwear Monkey Grid Hooded JacketFleecePolartec High Loft (59% recycled)470g (16.5oz)$$$$
Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw Zip HoodieFleecePolartec Alpha277g (9.8oz)$$$
Rab Alpha Flux jacketSynthetic insulatedPolartec Alpha315g (11.1oz)$$$
Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid JacketSynthetic insulated40g Full Range286 g (10.1 oz)$$$$
Mammut Alvier Flex Down JacketDown insulated750 fill down470g (16.6oz)$$$$$
Black Diamond First Light HoodySynthetic insulatedPrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active439g (15.5oz)$$$$$

Fleece mid layers for skiing and snowboarding

Rab Alpha Freak Pull-On Jacket

Rab Alpha Freak Pull-On Jacket

The unique and innovative combo of Polartec Alpha Direct 200 and Polartec Power Grid make this lightweight and highly technical hoody one of the best mid layers for skiing and snowboarding in harsh conditions. The Alpha insulation provides moisture wicking warmth at the core, whilst the Power Grid panels under the arms and around the waist reduce bulk and allow for free-flowing movement, much like the Monkey Grid Hoody, below. However, the Rab Alpha Freak offers a little extra in terms of its suitability as a mid layer in fast moving alpine environments: the hood uses quick drying, windproof Quantum Pertex for protection against the elements, and the half-zip reduces the overall weight of the jacket. The half-zip can be an inconvenience to some wearers and is certainly not for everyone.

Pros

  • Highly moisture wicking
  • Warm when moving fast
  • Windproof hood
  • Lightweight
  • Slim fitting
  • Has thumb holes

Cons

  • Half-zip isn’t for everyone
  • Not as versatile as the classic fleece options

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry


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


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 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 that 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 | REI | Backcountry


Norrona-Lofoten-Alpha-Raw-Zip-Hoodie

Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie

Eco-conscious: Bluesign certified fabric and contains recycled fabrics

Polartec insulation is truly rocking the mid layer scene this year. And the Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie is another superb mid layer for skiing and snowboarding that has adopted the seemingly faultless fabric. Somehow, Norrona have created an incredibly lightweight jacket (the lightest on our list) that includes three zippered pockets, a hood, and thumb loops. It also manages to provide excellent warmth when charging hard on the downhills without leaving you dealing with cooling sweat on the chilly lifts back up the mountain. Like the other Polartec Alpha jackets on our list, the Lofoten Alpha Raw is exceptionally good at wicking away moisture from the body. Plus, the non-insulated stretch panels keep weight down and help with temperature control.

Pros

  • Highly moisture wicking
  • Warm when moving fast
  • Very lightweight
  • Slim fitting
  • Has thumb holes

Cons

  • Thinner than its previous version

Find the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry


The best insulated mid layers for skiing and snowboarding

RAB Alpha Flux Jacket

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 spring skiing, ski touring and alpine adventures that are on the warmer side of freezing! 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.

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


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 | Amazon | REI | Backcountry


Mammut Alvier Flex Down Jacket

Mammut Alvier Flex Down Jacket

Eco-conscious: Contains responsibly sourced down

If you’re after something really warm for those extra cold days in the snow then look no further than the Mammut Alvier Flex Down Jacket. Insulated with 61g (2.1oz) of 750 fill power down this is a mid to lightweight down jacket that is one of the warmest mid layers on our list. It has two hand pockets and a fleece collar that can be folded up to keep out the chill, and can be worn as a standalone outer jacket on dry days. But what makes it one of the best mid layers for skiing and snowboarding, aside from its superb warmth to weight ratio, is its hybrid construction. The underarms, side panel and cuffs are constructed with a thinner polyester fabric that ensures optimal movement, prevent overheating and providing excellent moisture management.

Pros

  • Very warm
  • Good warmth to weight ratio
  • Responsibly sourced down
  • Versatile

Cons

  • No hood
  • Not as moisture wicking as Polartec mid layers

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry


Black Diamond First Light Hoody

Black Diamond First Light Hoody

Eco-conscious: Contains Bluesign certified 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


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.

baselayers gear guide

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 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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