A few winters ago I got an insulated skirt and it was a game-changer. (I’m not exaggerating!) My puffy skirt meant I could keep my butt warm on the trails – I simply put it on over my pants when I was cold and took it off when I wasn’t.
In this guide, I’ll break down how to choose the best insulated skirts for snowshoeing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, hiking, and running.
I’ve got everything you need to know about insulated skirts including:
- Why would you want an insulated skirt? Why are puffer skirts great for winter sports?
- Best insulated skirts in several categories: Which puffy skirts are best for downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, budget shoppers, ultralight freaks, and more?
- How to choose an insulated skirt: What insulation type and features should you look for?
Hey there: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support. -Taryn
- Most comfortable insulated skirt: Smartwool Smartloft Pull-On Skirt
- Best synthetic-insulated skirt: The North Face ThermoBall Hybrid Insulated Skirt
- Best down-insulated skirt: Skhoop Mini Down Skirt
- Best Super-Warm Down Insulated Skirt: Outdoor Research Coldsnap Down Skirt
- Best ultralight insulated skirt: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Skirt
- Best insulated skirt for running and cross-country skiing: Craft Storm Thermal Skirt
- Best insulated skirt for downhill skiing: La Sportiva Warm Up Primaloft Skirt
- Best budget insulated skirt: Little Donkey Andy Lightweight Puffer Sports Warm Quilted Skirt
- Best Plus-Size Insulated Skirt: Backcountry Stansbury Allied Down Skirt
Why Should You Wear an Insulated Skirt?
The first time I saw an insulated skirt I laughed. They seemed like a frivolous item you’d wear for fashion reasons.
But then a few outdoor women in my life started raving about them. They said no matter what they wore, they often found that their butt and thighs got cold when they were skiing, snowshoeing, or winter running. And an insulated skirt solved that problem.
I was skeptical, but also hate having cold thighs so I got a puffy skirt. Having owned one for two winters now, I can honestly say I can’t imagine going without one. I love being able to slip on extra warmth when I’m cold, then take it off when I warm up.
You can layer an insulated skirt over ski pants, hiking pants, leggings, or even your base layer, so they work in lots of situations. Every time I wear my quileted puffer skirt, other women ask me about it, so I figured it was time to take the answers to all those questions and combine them into one article.
How I Picked
I’ve been hiking for close to two decades. I also spent three years working in an outdoor store and six years writing marketing materials for a large outdoor retailer. I spent a ton of time learning from their design team so I got really familiar with the properties of outdoor fabrics and garment construction.
For this guide, I drew on my outdoor industry experience as well as my personal experience with trying out insulated skirts. But since I haven’t tried all of the skirts in this guide, I also talked to friends, asked the members of several large women’s outdoor Facebook groups, and read dozens of online reviews.
There are lots of puffer skirts out there, so it can be difficult to choose. Lots of insulated skirts are designed for fashion or city use. But in this article I’m going to focus on puffy skirts designed for winter sports, specifically downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, running, and hiking.
The skirts I chose are all made with outdoor-ready materials that are water-resistant, wind-resistant, and warm. They are also designed for movement with waistbands that stay in place and stretchy panels to allow for long strides. All of these insulated skirts are also easy to take on and off when the temperature changes.
Most Comfortable Insulated Skirt: Smartwool Smartloft Pull-On Skirt
Features: Insulated wool front and back panels. Stretchy fleece side panels and waistband. Merino wool lining. Side pockets.
This pull-on style insulated skirt from Smartwool is my go-to warm layer. My favorite part is the stretchy fleece side panels. They move with me so well that I forget I’m wearing it!
The cozy merino wool lining is super soft and adds a bit of warmth too. It’s such a nice contrast from the slippery nylon fabric that most skirts use.
The quilted front and back panels use unique recycled wool insulation that holds its warmth even when wet. Compared to other skirts on this list, it has a moderate amount of insulation. However, the wool insulation isn’t the lightest or most compressible compared to down or even synthetic.
This skirt also has two deep side pockets that are big enough to hold my phone. The wide waistband is comfortable and has a drawstring adjustment.
Note: The older version of this skirt is called the Smartwool Smartloft 60 Skirt. The only thing that has changed is the name.
Best Synthetic-Insulated Skirt: The North Face ThermoBall Hybrid Insulated Skirt
Features: Lots of warm synthetic ThermoBall insulation. Full-length side zipper. Wind resistant fabric.
The North Face ThermoBall Hybrid Insulated Skirt is stuffed full of synthetic ThermoBall insulation. Unlike normal synthetic insulation which comes in sheets, ThermoBall is made of little clusters that mimic the insulation properties of down by trapping heat. It also makes the skirt much more compressible when you stow it in your pack.
The full-length side zipper makes it easy to take on and off since you can wrap it around you instead of stepping into it. You can also ease the zipper up a few inches to give you better range of motion.
A stretchy panel at the back of the waist ensures a comfortable fit and also has a small zippered pocket that holds snacks, keys, or lip balm.
Curvier people may need to size up because this quilted insulated skirt is slim fit.
The Original Down-Insulated Skirt: Skhoop Short Down Skirt
Features: Insulated with 600-fill power down. Water-resistant fabric. Full-length side zipper.
Sweden’s Skhoop invented the insulated skirt back in 1999 and today they make over a dozen different styles. The Short Down Skirt is a great option for cold weather activities. It’s stuffed full of 600 fill-power down that meets the Responsible Down Certification for animal welfare.
It has an elastic waist with an internal anti-slip strip so it stays in place. The full-length side zip makes it easy to take on and off on the go and you can also open it up for venting or more range of motion.
A zippered pocket on the right side is large enough for a phone.
Best Super-Warm Down Insulated Skirt: Outdoor Research Coldsnap Down Skirt
Features: Insulated with lots of 700+ fill-power down. Water resistant fabric. Thermo-regulating waist band material
This insulated skirt from Outdoor Research uses lots of 700+ fill-power down to make it super warm. The down is responsibly sourced too.
The exterior fabric is Pertex Quantum Eco, which is water and wind resistant, for extra weather protection.
This puffer skirt also has a jersey knit waist band made of a thermo-regulating material that wicks sweat and keeps you from overheating.
The two-way side zip makes it easy to vent or get it on or off. And there’s a small zippered side pocket too.
Best Ultralight Insulated Skirt: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Skirt
Features: Filled with 800 fill-power hydrophobic down. Ultralight wind-resistant fabric. Side pockets.
This ultralight down skirt is made with the same DNA as Mountain Hardwear’s popular Ghost Whisperer puffy jackets. The premium materials are insanely light while still delivering tons of warmth.
The Ghost Whisperer puffy skirt uses high-end 800 fill-power hydrophobic down. The high fill-power means Mountain Hardwear can use less down to achieve the same warmth, which saves weight.
A hydrophobic treatment on the down ensures that it resists water to keep you warm in damp conditions. The down is also RDS certified for animal welfare.
This insulated skirt is also the only one on my list with a center-front zipper. This makes taking it on and off even easier than with a side zip. It also means that the skirt is harness compatible, which is great for climbers and mountaineers.
Two big drop-in pockets on the side hold your phone, warm your hands, and double as a stuff sack. When you pack the skirt into its pocket, it shrinks down to the size of a paperback book.
Best Insulated Skirt for Runners and Cross Country Skiers: Craft Storm Thermal Skirt
Features: Synthetic insulation. Stretchy side panels. Full-length side zip and half-length vent zip.
Craft is a Swedish cross country ski brand, so they understand how to make clothes that work when you’re working hard. The Craft Storm Thermal Skirt moves with you, even if you’re taking long strides.
It has stretchy jersey side panels for lots of range of motion. You can also unzip the half-length zip on the left side and open up the full-length zip on the right to give you more room to move. The elastic waist helps it stay in place and the inside of the waistband is a soft, brushed material.
The skirt uses synthetic insulation that stays warm when wet, which is great for sweaty sports like nordic skiing and winter running. It uses a moderate amount of insulation since this skirt is designed to be worn during aerobic activities.
Best Insulated Skirt for Downhill Skiing: La Sportiva Warm Up Primaloft Skirt
Features: Filled with Primaloft Silver synthetic insulation. Two full-length side zippers. Stretchy side panels.
This puffy skirt from La Sportiva is sized for layering over your ski pants. Wear it to keep your butt warm in the lift line or on extra cold days on the slopes. It’s also cute enough to wear with tights for apres ski.
The Warm Up skirt is made with water-resistant outer fabric and premium Primaloft synthetic insulation that retains warmth even when wet. Stretchy panels on the sides and at the waistband ensure it moves with you as you ski.
It has two full-length side zippers so it’s easy to get off from either side. You can also open up the zippers for more venting and range of motion. They’ve also made the zippers different colors so you can put the skirt back on again easily.
Best Budget Insulated Skirt: Little Donkey Andy Women’s Lightweight Puffer Quilted Skirt
Features: Lightweight synthetic insulation. Stretchy side panels. Available in both pull-on and full-zip styles.
If you’re not sure if an insulated skirt is right for you, this budget-priced option available on Amazon is a good way to try it out. It uses synthetic insulation that is quilted in place, but it doesn’t have that much of it so this skirt isn’t as warm as others on this list.
There are actually two versions of this skirt sold under the same name. The pull-on version uses a grid quilt pattern and has wide side panels and a wide waistband made of stretchy material. This skirt also comes in a side zippered version that has one stretchy side panel and an elastic band inside the waist.
Reviewers say that the side zippered version has a more insulation so it’s a little warmer.
Best Plus-Size Insulated Skirt: Backcountry Stansbury Allied Down Skirt
Features: 600 fill-power down insulated. Water resistant fabric. Stretch side panels.
The Backcountry Stansbur Allied Down Skirt is my pick for the best plus size insulated skirt. But I have to be honest with you – it won by default. There are almost no plus size puffer skirts on the market! But in 2021, I couldn’t find a single plus sized insulated skirt, so the fact that there is one is a small improvement.
This skirt is available up to size XXL, which their size chart says fits a size 20 or 22. However, the reviews say that it runs small, so you may find it snug if your measurements are on the upper end of the size chart.
In general, it’s a great down skirt at a reasonable price. It uses ethically sourced, high quality 600 fill-power down for warmth. The exterior fabric is water resistant too.
Stretch side panels and a wide elastic waist band ensure a great fit. There’s also a side zip for venting or easy on/off. A small back pocket holds keys.
How to Choose an Insulated Skirt
Not all insulated skirts are created equal. Here’s a quick run-down on what to look for when you’re shopping for a puffer skirt.
Understand the Insulation
Synthetic insulation is made with polyester fibres that retain warmth when wet. It is less expensive than down, but it is also heavier and bulkier to achieve the same warmth as down. Some higher-end synthetic insulations like ThermoBall and Primaloft can mimic the properties of down, but they cost more.
Down insulation is made from the fluffy fibres found underneath the feathers of geese and ducks. Down is lighter and more compressible than synthetic insulation, which means you can use less of it to achieve the same warmth. But down is much more expensive.
If you are purchasing a down garment, choose ones that are Responsible Down Certified for animal welfare.
Regular down is useless once it gets wet. Look for down skirts with water-resistant fabrics or hydrophobic treatments that protect the down from moisture.
Down is also available in different qualities, known as fill-power. The higher the number, the fluffier it is, and therefore, the warmer it is. The most premium skirts use 800 or 900 fill-power down.
Wool insulation is another option. It is made of loose wool fibres that retain warmth. It is heavier than down or synthetic, but it provides warmth when wet.
It can be tough to tell how warm an insulated skirt will be. But some brands publish specs for their insulation, which can help.
For synthetic insulated skirts, 60g insulation provides moderate warmth, while 100g insulation provides lots of warmth.
For down skirts, it’s a bit more tricky. In general, skirts with higher fill-power down will be warmer. BUT you can also achieve a warm skirt by using lots of lower fill-power down.
Have a look at the product description and reviews. Some puffer skirts are designed to be worn while doing aerobic activities like cross-country skiing, so they don’t need to be super warm. Others are ideal for staying warm while walking or standing still.
Get a Good Fit
Skirts can be tough to fit since they have to fit both your waist and your thighs and stay in place while walking, running, or skiing. Look for puffer skirts with stretch panels and comfortable waistbands. Zippers you can open to create a slit and get more range of motion are also great.
The beauty of an insulated skirt is that it functions as part of your layering system. You want it to be easy to put on when you get cold and take off when you warm up.
For really easy on/off, consider a skirt with a zipper closure. That way you don’t have to take off your skis or snowshoes to get it on.
The only disadvantages to zippered skirts is that some people find that the top of the zipper is uncomfortable at the waist or the zipper opens up while they are moving.
I wear a pull-on Smartwool skirt that has stretchy side panels – I find it easy enough to step into with my boots on (although I do have to take my snowshoes off).
So that’s everything you need to know to find the best insulated skirts for snowshoeing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, running, and hiking. If you have any questions or alternative recommendations, leave them in the comments.
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Monday 30th of January 2023
This was unbelievably helpful. Believe it or not I had no idea until last week that insulated skirts even existed. My husband saw someone wearing it at the grocery store and said "you'll never believe this unusual skirt..." and as he described it, we simultaneously realized how helpful this skirt would be for me - I'm a pretty active manual wheelchair user, but winter poses a unique challenge. Coats that are long enough to cover over my hips are harder to get on when I'm already sitting, but coats that hit the top of my hip don't cover the sides of my clothes enough, and I wind up with multiple layers of wet, cold clothing that gets my skin soaked to the bone and ice cold, which is dangerous to anyone, but especially someone with difficulty regulating temp. I tried two (the little Andy donkey one, as well as another inexpensive one from Amazon - LAD just didn't work for me, and the cheap one broke immediately...). Where I'm struggling is that I DON'T want stretchy side panels, or at least, panels that aren't waterproof/water resistant. That's exactly the spot where I need protection the most! Those panels and a secure zipper are my biggest needs, and I've got a cartful of Skhoop skirts, plus a Smartwool on the way. Any insight into those randomly specific needs?
Thank you so much for so much detail!!
Monday 30th of January 2023
All of the skirts are going to be water resistant, not waterproof so you'll be a bit limited there. Smartwool makes two skirts - the one I have, with stretch side panels, and another one with a zipper called the Smartloft Zip Skirt. You might also want to look at skirts designed for backcountry skiing as they are for people who will see the wildest weather - on my list, that would be the La Sportiva skirt. Also, if insulated skirts are new to you, then maybe you also haven't heard of rain skirts or rain kilts? They are a pretty niche piece of rainwear popular with long distance hikers. If you are worried about getting wet while out in your wheelchair, you could layer a rain skirt over an insulated skirt or whatever else you have on.
Tuesday 6th of December 2022
Disappointed so few plus size options. Every single one on the list including the plus size were at least one size too small. I can never find outdoor clothing in my size. Why is everything built for tiny women? People over a size 12 like to go outside too! It’s just insulting that manufacturers ignore us. Please, try and find something a little more inclusive!
Tuesday 6th of December 2022
Hi Tricia. As a plus-size person, I definitely feel you on this one. I'm on the small end of plus size so I can squeeze into the largest size that most brands make, but I know that's not the case for most people. I tried hard to find plus sized insulated skirt options to include in this guide, but unfortunately I came up short. (I include plus size options in every gear guide I write whenever possible.) Insulated skirts are still a newer item for a lot of brands, so it seems like they are unwilling to offer them in an extended size range right now. As I said in the article, the Backcountry Stansbury Skirt I included was the only one I could find. I wish I had been able to include more. Fingers crossed that when I update this post for 2023 there are more options to include.
Friday 25th of November 2022
So happy to find these reviews but disappointed there were no maxi's or full lengths...
Friday 25th of November 2022
Sorry to disappoint Maria. I wrote the guide for people who want to hike, ski, or snowshoe in their skirts and for most people, a long, maxi-length skirt wouldn't work for that.