This crucial layer keeps your core insulated by trapping precious body heat. Plus, the right down jacket simply makes winter endeavors more enjoyable. Throw it on at camp after a day of backpacking, during a snack break on your ski tour, or when you’re strolling around the local dog park.
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite down jackets for an array of uses. To choose the following jackets, we looked at a variety of features on each, then compared a breakdown of features to weight to cost. That’s the technical side. We also examined how each jacket is performing in the industry, whether it’s best suited for the intended use, and feedback from real users.
Additionally, 100 percent of down used in each of these products is certified to an animal welfare standard. The down used in Patagonia products is certified to the Global Traceable Down Standard (Global TDS) and the down used in REI, Arc’teryx, Mountain Hardwear and MONTANE’s products is certified to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS).
Keep the following in mind when buying a jacket: Will you be active in this garment, or is it to keep you warm while stationary? What is your intended activity? How much does weight matter to you? And once you have the jacket, don’t forget to take care of it! Down garments need to be washed (and done so properly) to maintain loft.
When choosing a down jacket, a key way to determine the quality of the down is to look at the fill power. This is the volume (in cubic inches) that one ounce of the down will fill. Higher-quality down lofts to a higher volume, so 800-fill power will insulate better for the same weight than 600-fill power. Fill power ranges from about 450 to 900. The fill weight is how much total down is used in the garment.
Weight: 8 oz.
Fill: 800-fill-power Q.Shield™ down certified to the RDS
Shell Fabric: Nylon
Best For: Light-and-fast ounce-counters
This has been a go-to layer for the weight-conscious outdoor adventurer since it debuted in 2012. The Ghost Whisperer has a performance fit, low-profile quilting and a hood that won’t blind you when you turn your head. If you’re looking to save weight with a jacket that disappears in your pack but deploys for instant warmth, this is the one. Pair it with a cozy base layer if you tend to run cold. We’ve listed the specs for the men’s hooded version. It is also available in women’s, and without a hood in men’s and women’s.
Insider Tip: Heading somewhere wet? Protect your insulation. According to DownTek™, its water-resistant (treated) down absorbs 30 percent less water than untreated down and dries 60 percent faster. It also maintains much of its loft when wet (before saturation) which helps preserve insulating properties. Treatments to look for include Q.Shield, DownTek™, DriDown™, and HyperDRY™. The right shell fabric can also help protect the down. Look for materials with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish.