The Best Down Jackets for Cold-Weather Adventures

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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).

 

Expert Advice: How to Choose Insulated Outerwear

 

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.

Best Ultralight: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded Down Jacket - Men's
MSRP: $350
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.

Best Classic: Patagonia Down Sweater

Patagonia Down Sweater

MSRP: $229
Weight: 12.2 oz.
Fill: 800-fill-power certified Traceable Down goose down
Shell Fabric: Recycled ripstop polyester, DWR finish
Best For: The go-to layer hanging near the door all winter

A versatile shape and fit, the Down Sweater works as a warm mid or outer layer. Minor updates on the newest iteration include a more contoured fit as well as a longer hemline, which means more efficient heating and less draft. The generous hip pockets fit your essentials, and the interior zippered chest pocket doubles as a stuff sack. Available in women’s (above), men’s, and with a hood in women's and men’s.

Insider Tip: Many insulated garments utilize sustainability attributes and certifications—know what to look for! Check the specs for recycled materials, bluesign® certification, responsibly-sourced down certifications (including the RDS and Global TDS), and more.

 

Expert Advice: How to Choose Sustainable Clothing and Gear

 

Best Bang for Your Buck: REI Co-op Magma 850

REI Co-op Magma 850

MSRP: $189
Weight: 8.8 oz.
Fill: 850-fill-power goose down certified to the RDS
Shell Fabric: Pertex® ripstop nylon
Best For: High-quality construction and design at a reasonable price

This jacket has a pretty great resume—from high-lofted down to a sub-9-ounce weight (for women’s; men’s is 10.8 oz.), you can’t go wrong. Boasting 850-fill and sleek, articulated patterning, this jacket fits well under a shell. The zippered hip pockets sit high, which means they’re accessible under many hipbelts—a huge bonus for anyone wearing this jacket on the move. Available in women’s (above) and men’s.

Best For Seriously Cold Weather (Women’s): Arc'teryx Cerium SV

Arcteryx Cerium SV

MSRP: $525
Weight: 13.6 oz.
Fill: 850-fill-power goose down certified to the RDS; Coreloft™ polyester fibers
Shell Fabric: Nylon
Best For: Frigid winter expeditions, exposure to severe weather

You’ll be hard-pressed to feel the chill in this heat-trapping workhorse. The DWR-treated shell surrounds insulation mapped for the most efficient heating, with Coreloft™ in areas prone to moisture and high-loft down where you need the most warmth. Everything from hood to hem was designed for maximum heat retention—the insulated StormHood™ can be adjusted with gloves on, pleated baffle placement helps eliminate cold spots and the longer length keeps drafts at bay. The Cerium SV is highly packable, which means it will be ready to pull out when you break tree line during high-elevation expeditions, on the coldest ski tours, or arrive at base of the ice routes after a grinding approach. Note that this is a slimmer fit, which allows it to slip under a shell. If you want more room, consider sizing up.

Best For Seriously Cold Weather (Men’s): MONTANE Deep Heat

Montane Deep Heat

MSRP: $400
Weight: 1 lb. 11.25 oz.
Fill: 800-fill-power water-resistant goose down certified to the RDS
Shell Fabric: Pertex Quantum Pro ripstop nylon
Best For: Staying warm while stationary in the coldest temperatures

This classically designed jacket will keep you warm into extreme lows. With 300 grams of high-loft, water-resistant goose down, the Deep Heat packs a serious hit of warmth. An internal mesh pocket keeps your water bottle from freezing, and the helmet-compatible hood is perfect for ice belays. Constructed for maximum layering, the jacket is cut slightly larger through the chest and biceps, with extra articulation in the arms so you can be mobile without lifting the hem.

Insider Tip: Baffle/quilting patterns do more than just hold the insulation in place. On many jackets, the amount of insulation varies based on location of the baffle—i.e., we need more warmth around our core than our lower arms. Strategic placement also allows greater freedom of movement, as well as saving weight and increasing packability.

Best Synthetic: Patagonia Nano Puff

Patagonia NanoPuff

MSRP: $199
Weight: 11.9 oz.
Fill: PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco
Shell Fabric: Recycled polyester ripstop, DWR finish
Best For: Shoulder-season outerwear, versatile winter mid layer

Yes, we know this isn’t down insulation. But synthetic has a lot of benefits: It’s quick-drying, insulates even if wet, and is typically less expensive than down. The Nano Puff is a versatile insulating layer that works as a shoulder-season belay jacket, a winter hiking insulator, a ski touring layer, and anything in between. It has a classic fit and windproof face fabric, and is built with eco-friendly recycled materials. Pair it with an outer shell for layered comfort all winter long. This jacket comes in men’s (above), women’s, and a hooded version in women's and men’s.

Insider Tip: Synthetic insulation is becoming increasingly comparable to down. Along with utilizing more recycled materials, insulation juggernaut PrimaLoft unveiled a “blown” insulation called ThermoPlume last year. This is a synthetic insulation that mimics the properties of down, as opposed to the original “sheets” of synthetic insulation.

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