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

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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