What's the best backpacking jacket?

What jacket do you recommend for a great backpacking experience? I am looking for something synthetic (I'm allergic to down) that stuffs into a small bag, and keeps me warm.
—Austin
Burlington, North Carolina

Sherpa Women's Mantra Jacket     Photo: Courtesy of Sherpa

Sherpa Women's Mantra Jacket

Sherpa Women's Mantra Jacket

There are plenty of warm synthetics out there. Made in Nepal and tested by Sherpa athletes, the Sherpa Mantra ($159; sherpaadventuregear.com) is a beautifully functional jacket. The body is made from DWR-treated PrimaLoft insulation, keeping you snug and dry at the core. The arms, neck, and hood are 100 percent Merino wool, which make the jacket feel like a cozy sweater. The Mantra is ideal for hiking in cool weather with a heavy pack, but be sure to bring a lightweight waterproof shell to throw over it in case of a downpour. Added bonus: A portion of every sale goes toward organizations that benefit Sherpas.

Right now Helly Hansen's Odin Isolator Hooded Jacket ($230; hellyhansen.com) comes only in men's sizes, but if you don't mind a less-refined fit, this may be the last jacket you'll ever buy for backpacking. The ripstop nylon is tough stuff and the super-compressible PrimaLoft insulation will keep you warm without taking up precious space in your pack. The good news: For winter 2011-12, Helly Hansen is coming out with a women's version, available in stores mid-August.

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