We looked at over 80 options before purchasing the top 10 for our side-by-side comparative testing process. While most of these jackets now use some form of hydrophobically treated down coupled with external DWR applications to add water resistance, people who are concerned about their jacket getting wet should also check out our Best Men's Synthetic Insulated Jackets Review. We didn't score for style, but after a day in the mountains in the more "technical" looking options in this review, we always grabbed the Down Sweater when heading out on the town.
Compare Top Products
Down is measured by the amount of space taken up by an ounce of down feathers. Because down insulates by trapping air and holding it in place for your body heat to warm up, the more loft you can get, the better. This means a higher numbered fill power is of higher quality. For example, fill power down fills cubic inches for every ounce of down. This also means that a fill jacket, like The North Face Aconcagua can be just as warm as an fill jacket — it'll just be bulkier.
But the most common misconception is that a higher number means warmer when in reality a fill jacket can be warmer than a super thin fill ultralight jacket. But the slimmer Rab Microlight Alpine.
Most of the jackets in this review are designed to be lightweight, technical insulating layers. Most of them have down in the fill power range and provide excellent warmth and loft for the weight.
These jackets are optimized for the mountains, which is a challenging balancing act of lightweight, durability, and warmth. Depending on your top priority, you will likely find a good match among our award winners, and we encourage you to view the ranking chart and each review.
You will probably always remember your first down sleeping bag; did it revolutionize the way you felt about carrying gear on your back? For many, the investment in lightweight down products correlates to increased happiness in the backcountry. The Arc'teryx Cerium SV is even more impressive for its warmth to weight ratio. It weighs 10 ounces and is the warmest in the bunch. If you're looking for a good around-town down jacket, the weight may not be a critical factor in your decision. However, since down is one of the best materials for lightweight, warm jackets and sleeping bags, quilts, booties, etc.
The best jackets were those with the highest quality fill power down and above , which also overlaps with our next rating metric. One of the main reasons to buy a down jacket, other than the stellar warmth to weight ratio, is the compressibility. For many outdoor activities, space is a huge commodity along with weight.
This may be because you're carrying all your gear on your back, cramming it into a small bike commute bag, or stuffing it into dry bags. Whatever the adventure, it's pretty nice to have everything you need in a compact and lightweight kit. The first aspect we look for when searching for a highly compressible down jacket is the down fill power.
A higher number means more loft, and that means more warmth to weight, and a higher level of compressibility; this is the best stuff. Generally, anything above fill down is considered high quality, but we rarely consider anything below fill anymore.
Next, the rest of the jacket's materials will factor into the compressibility of the jacket. A sturdier fabric will be bulkier, as will a jacket with other materials, like fleece or soft shell, integrated into it.
And last, we also considered the size of the stuff sack or stowable pocket that the jacket stuffs into. This is not a direct reflection of how compressible the jacket actually is, but since it does affect how big the jacket is when stuffed, we thought this was worth at least some consideration.
Excessively large stuff sacks or oblong, large pockets made for annoying carrying when stuffed, while too-small stuff sacks or pockets could be challenging and slow to stuff.
The two end up very different sizes when stuffed, however, because the SV is designed for colder temperatures and therefore has bigger baffles and more down.
The LT is designed for more mild temperatures and is, therefore, lighter weight with less down insulation overall. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer was one of the most compressible. It's thin and light to begin with, like the Cerium LT , and the high quality down allows it to get super small. A small compressed size is ideal for climbing, backpacking, or even bike commuting where pack space is a commodity. If compressibility is not as important to you as some of the other metrics in our test, we'd suggest taking a look at the Rab Microlight Alpine or Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody.
This category is a catch-all for the little things we liked or didn't like about the jackets, from pockets and hoods, to draw cords and well-placed soft fleece patches. In general, we like models with durable plastic zippers that don't bend or kink over time counter-intuitive, but plastic zippers are much more durable than metal ones. Hem drawcord cinches are key to keeping cold drafts out. A little fleece or creative baffling in the right place goes a long way in promoting freedom of movement.
But a jacket didn't have to have a lot of features to score highly in this category. The Ghost Whisperer has very few features, but Mountain Hardwear kept the ones that count for a high functioning climbing layer.
It got high marks for careful selection of key features. In general, we love hoods because they add warmth. We also appreciate chest pockets for ease of access while climbing—and because it helps keep essential items, like snacks or electronics, warm and accessible. The streamlined design also makes the jacket look sleek, easily sliding with you into Happy Hour or your favorite Apres Ski venue.
Arc'teryx stole the show again in this category with details such as a separate stuff sack girth hitched into the chest pocket. This feature meant we could cram it into our luggage or carry it on the back of our harness without fear of snagging the jacket's material while chimneying up a long rock route.
And when wearing the jacket, if we unzipped that chest pocket to retrieve our phone or snacks, the stuff sack wouldn't fall out. The Cerium was the highest scorer in the bunch with the Rab Microlight placing second. Fabrics are, in general, very durable these days, but there are a few things to pay attention to.
Lower denier ratings typically translate to lower weight but less durability, but fabric is not the only durability concern. In our tests, the lightest fabrics ended up being the most fragile. If it is important to you to have a lightweight jacket, it might be worth sacrificing a little durability. The North Face Aconcagua topped our charts and provided an incredibly durable fabric made of 50D nylon; the Aconcagua is tough.
The Canada Goose Perren is another top-notch model that offers rugged material that will hold up to some serious abuse. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is an impressively durable jacket for the weight—the fabric resisted snagging and abrasion while climbing. Alternatively, the Rab Microlight Alpine performed very well and earned our Top Pick award for its durability and reliability in combination with weather resistance.
The most durable jackets in this review were not our overall top scoring jackets. This is largely because extremely durable fabrics tend to be heavier. If weight and compressibility are less an issue for you, however, and you want a great around-town jacket that will stand up to years of use, check out the Canada Goose Hybridge Perren , a very stylish urban use down jacket, or the super durable The North Face Aconcagua.
Down is one of the best insulators on the planet. No man-made fiber has managed to replace it for its impressive warmth to weight ratio. However, down has one critical Achilles heel—it cannot get wet. When it does, the feathers get matted together and the jacket, sleeping bag, vest, or whatever the item is, loses its warmth. This is because down traps heat in the air pockets between the down feathers. Most outdoor enthusiasts accept this risk and choose to take good care to keep their down items dry on their adventures, but if you spend a lot of time out in wet climates, you might consider synthetic insulation, at least for some of your insulation pieces—the synthetic fibers have more structure and retain warmth even when wet.
Another way to manage the risk of down getting wet is to encase it in waterproof fabric, or at least materials coated with a durable water repellent finish DWR. Arc'teryx uses a clever Down Composite Mapping technology where they integrate Coreloft synthetic insulation in high-risk areas such as cuffs, shoulders, armpits, and hoods.
In previous reviews, these jackets stayed wetter longer because the synthetic insulation would absorb water which would then leak into the down and the shell fabric. In this round of testing, however, even dripping ice climbs couldn't manage to get the Cerium's cuffs wet which is one of the areas most prone to moisture.
Most of the jackets in this review are treated with a DWR durable water repellent coating on the exterior fabric to prevent water from soaking through the material and dampening the down. It is important to note, however, that these jackets are not designed to be remotely waterproof, so if you will be out in the rain, be sure you can fit your rain or hardshell jacket over your down jacket to ensure those feathers stay dry and lofted.
The KUHL Spyfire took an interesting approach using DWR coated soft shell over the shoulders, which we found very effective for beading up and shedding light rain.
The North Face Aconcagua was a top performer when it came to water resistance. Not batting an eye, it has an oily feel that allows water to bead up and roll right off. We appreciated this when we got caught in storms, and the chill started to creep in. The Arc'teryx Cerium SV and LT both earned the same score when it came to water resistance, and did a spectacular job of protecting us from the elements.
It was our favorite model to wear on winter vacations to our favorite snowy wonderlands—especially great for those traveling from warmer climates and who therefore are not as acclimated to the cold. We especially liked the Cerium SV for ice climbing, winter backpacking, and long backcountry ski tours. One of the most intriguing aspects of this review was the continued opportunity to test out some jackets with treated hydrophobic down: Water repellent fabrics still seem to make the most difference in a down jacket's water resistance.
We took all of these jackets ice climbing and ski touring to test the water resistance. Dripping ice climbs offered an excellent real-world opportunity to observe the jackets' water repelling abilities. In the end, most jackets performed to our expectations, with the Marmot Quasar Nova falling behind significantly with how easily the shell material wet out and soaked through to the down.
The jackets in this review use sewn-through baffle construction instead of box-baffles, which are usually reserved for expedition parkas. The sewn-through design is less expensive to produce, lighter and improves ease of movement. Several companies vary the sizes of its baffles to maximize mobility and insulation.
We were very impressed with this solution. Under the arms, they place smaller baffles which eases movement of the arms and torso. Smaller baffles, however, also means more stitches, and therefore reduces its warmth. Since these smaller baffles are only under the arms, the area is often protected from the wind and otherwise covered by the arms themselves. Overall we felt that the fit and the design of the sewn baffles are the primary components of style. No matter what, puffy down jackets make a woman look, well… puffy.
But some look better than others. The shape of the jacket also contributes to Style points. But style cannot trump function, in our reviewers' opinions.
In this review, we appreciated the style of the KUHL Spyfire which was an impressive blend of style while remaining adequately "mountain ready". However, as you know, style is subjective - and if you don't like the look of a particular jacket, you might not be inclined to wear it. So do yourself a favor and peruse the metrics for a model that performs according to your wants and needs, and satisfies your personal taste.
We hope we've been able to help you narrow down your top choices and make a final selection of a jacket for your wintertime activities. Check out the related articles below for more winter inspiration! And while it is warm for the weight, it's not the warmest puffy in our test group.
Think of it more as a layering option for days when an R1 type layer is not enough, but you'll be moving around and don't want something too warm either. We also appreciated the excellent DWR coating and the fact that Mountain Hardwear hasn't messed with the design of this hoody much in the last couple of years, 'cause if it ain't broke…!
There's also a hoodless Ghost Whisperer Jacket to consider should you be in the market for a strickly layering piece. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded. The Magma is another example of REI offering a good quality product at a reasonable price.
Despite its low cost, it's one of only two jackets in our test group to use high-quality fill down. That gave it a lot of warmth for the weight, but it was on the thin site overall and not the warmest option. We preferred instead to use it as part of a layering system on cold days. It works so well in a layering system because there is no hood, but then, there is no hood. This limits the versatility of the Magma a bit.
While it's one of the lightest options that we tested, part of that weight savings comes from the lack of a hood as well. The fit is a little weird and on the boxy side. It's cut large overall we had to size down in this one , and the belly bulges out a bit. Because not all of us have the same body type, and not all bodies fit into the slim, form-fitting models, some might appreciate the relaxed fit of the Magma.
If you are looking for a reasonably priced warmth layer, but don't need the most technically advanced model for a climb up the Matterhorn in winter, we think this is a good option to check out.
REI Co-op Magma It's hard to pass by our award designations without giving a nod to the Patagonia Down Sweater.
This classic model hasn't changed much over the years and is still the best looking option on the market. We didn't score for style, but after a day in the mountains in the more "technical" looking options in this review, we always grabbed the Down Sweater when heading out on the town.
We're sure some people buy this hoody and never head out of the confines of a city with it, but we can assure you that it still performs well in the mountains too. It has great wind resistance, helping us stay warmer on blustery days. We also liked the fit, which was roomy in the shoulders but trim down the sides. The DWR coating keeps water out of the down for a time, but Patagonia does not treat the fill, so its wet weather performance is not fantastic overall.
It's a little heavy for the warmth it provides, but we loved the features that it has, including an internal chest pocket and a stash pocket, and a high collar that comes up over your nose when fully zipped. As you've read above, other options are lighter or less expensive, but if you're looking for something that is also "outdoor chic," the Patagonia Down Sweater is hard to beat.
We tested a narrow range of down jackets in this review. We focused on the light to mid-weight category and did not include super fat belay or expedition style parkas. These down jackets are lightweight, fairly compact, reasonably affordable, and offer stand-alone insulation down to around 32F, but can be used as part of a layering system to keep you warm in much colder temperatures. The list of potential uses for a highly versatile layer like these is nearly endless.
They are perfect for wearing in the evenings around town or while camping during the shoulder seasons, as an everyday around-town jacket during the winter, or as a warm layer or overcoat for colder seasons in the mountains, regardless of activity. All of these models feature down insulation, long known to provide the best warmth-to-weight ratio, with the caveat that they lose their warmth-trapping loft when they get wet. While most of these jackets now use some form of hydrophobically treated down coupled with external DWR applications to add water resistance, people who are concerned about their jacket getting wet should also check out our Best Men's Synthetic Insulated Jackets Review.
When they were available, we chose to test the hooded versions of all these jackets, because a hood adds both warmth and versatility. Not everyone likes a hood though, or if you are specifically looking for something to layer with, too many hoods in your layering system can get in the way, so we also point out which jackets also come in hoodless versions.
To be able to give you the best possible advice on buying a down jacket, we chose to rate each contender on a scale of for six different metrics: We weighted each of these six parameters based upon how important we felt it was to the overall performance of a down jacket, i. Adding together the scores for each metric gave us a final, overall rating, which you can peruse in the table above. Note that in our ratings we were comparing the products to each other, and not the entire outdoor apparel market as a whole.
So when we say an option is highly water resistant, that is compared to other down jackets, and not to a rain jacket. Most of our testing and scoring took place on adventures in the field, but in some cases, we also devised specialized tests to help us better understand how each jacket scored for a given metric.
Below, we break down the ins and outs of each of the six scoring metrics, including the crucial factors, how we tested for it, what percentage it counts in the final score, and what were the best jackets for that particular metric. In all cases, ratings were given compared to the competition. For that reason, just because a product scored poorly does not mean it is not worth owning or using, as all of these jackets are among the best available on the market today.
For users who have a particular purpose or use in mind, or who place greater importance on a specific metric, we recommend diving deep into the individual reviews, focusing on what is most important to you, rather than looking only at overall scores. One of the metrics that we don't score for but do consider in our reviews is the value of a product.
While we are always trying to find the best products possible, sometimes those can be the most expensive too, which isn't always going to work for everyone. If you need an option that will get the job done without setting you back a ton of money, take a look at our Price vs. We've graphed each model's score X-axis according to its price Y-axis.
Those that lie on the bottom of the graph but towards the right have excellent value. Warmth is the most important criteria when selecting a jacket, because, after all, if not for its warmth, why do we need one? Since it's so important, we decided to weight each model's score for warmth as 30 percent of its total score.
The primary measurement of warmth in a down jacket is down-fill power. Fill power numbers for the jackets we tested range from lowest quality up to highest quality. The fill power represents the ability of the down to loft up and create insulating dead space. Since trapped air within a jacket's baffles is what insulates you from the cold outside, the more loft a jacket has, the warmer it will be.
However, fill power does not translate directly to warmth. To fill a particular space, one company could use a little bit of very high fill down to accomplish the same thing as another company that uses a lot of lower fill power down.
Since most of the jackets in this review have a similar ideal temperature range, using higher fill-power down tends to mean that the jacket will be lighter and also more expensive. Conversely, jackets that use low fill power down will usually be heavier and less costly to provide the same heat-trapping loft.
Lightweight down jackets are typically made using sewn-through baffle construction that helps produce a lighter weight and less expensive contender. The baffles are the individual compartments that hold down and are needed so that it doesn't all sink to the bottom. Sewn-through construction means that the fabric on the outside of the jacket is sewn to the material on the inside, creating a baffle, which is typically oriented horizontally, although some are square shaped.
This design makes them lighter, thinner, and less expensive. On the downside, sewn-through baffles create thin places near the seams where there is no down, and trapped heat can escape. There are a few different alternative techniques for generating baffles besides the sewn-through method, but the only other one used by jackets in our review is the welded or bonded baffle construction. These two names describe a similar technique where the outer and inner fabrics of a model are "bonded" together using chemicals or glue free from any stitching.
The Columbia Outdry Ex Gold and the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded are the two jackets that use this method , which in general offers better water and wind resistance, as no holes or threads are compromising the outer layer of the jacket. However, we also noticed that this style has more massive gaps between baffles where there is no insulation, and so doesn't automatically lead to a warmer design. Though thickness, loft, and method of construction have a lot to do with warmth, it's not only about fill quality and amounts.
The design and features of a jacket, such as a hood and drawcords, the thickness and quality of the outer material, how well the jacket fits, etc. How well you keep the cold out is as important as how well you keep the heat inside.
To test these jackets for warmth we used them each countless times on adventures during the late fall and early winter: We also tested them side-by-side on a frigid, windy morning in the mountains to best tell how they compare against each other. Although they do not come with temperature ratings like sleeping bags, we feel these jackets offer good-to-adequate stand-alone warmth down to freezing and can help you stay warm in much lower temperatures used as part of a layering system.
However, in our testing, a few jackets stood out for their warmth. The Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody uses super high fill down to create a thick, cozy, and very lightweight jacket that was warmer than all the others. Likewise, the Rab Microlight Alpine provided top of the line warmth, in no small part because it did an excellent job of sealing off all the openings to keep the heat in and the cold out. Although not as good as those two jackets, the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody was also among the most comfortably warm jackets in this review.
The higher, further, and steeper we take ourselves, the more important the weight of what we take becomes. The utility of an object comes in measuring how much use you get out of it for how much energy is expended carrying it. The warmth-to-weight ratio of a jacket is a key measure of value, and a down jacket has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any technical insulated jacket.
Additional ounces are added or subtracted to a jacket's weight by the fabric and design features. Frequently, durability and other critical features such as a hood are sacrificed on the altar of ultra-light design, to the detriment of the final product. An ultra-light jacket that doesn't keep you warm or that falls apart after limited use doesn't have a lot of value. To test weight, we weighed jackets on our scale as soon as they arrived.
In the cases where a contender came with an included stuff sack for compression, we included that in the item's overall weight, since weight tends to matter more when it's being carried than when it's being worn. To find the best fit for our head tester, some of the jackets we ordered were size Large, while others were size Medium. Despite their differences in stated size, they all fit our head tester pretty much ideally, so we compared weights straight across the board, regardless of jacket size.
From our testing, we noticed that weight seems to be a product of three factors: Using a higher fill-power down means that you get the same loft with less filling, so higher fill jackets tend to be lighter, and there is a little trade-off here except for added expense.
Similarly, using a thinner fabric can make a jacket lighter, with the compromise, in this case, being durability. Lastly, to save weight, some models have far fewer features, such as pockets, zippers, or draw cords, while others use much lighter and smaller zippers to shave half an ounce here and there. The trade-off for using less or lighter features can again be durability in the case of super small gauge zippers or the lack of ability to fine-tune the fit if a jacket eschews the use of drawcords.
The lightest jacket in this year's review was once again the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded , which came in at 7. Despite its low weight this jacket had a hood, zippered pockets, and a hem drawcord, and was surprisingly warm given how light it was.
The insulating capacity of untreated down is almost completely negated by water, so jackets insulated with down have historically had a bad reputation in wet environments. While a down jacket is never an excellent idea for a rainy day, having some level of water resistance is important simply to protect the down.
All of the jackets reviewed accomplish this to some degree by applying a Durable Water Resistant DWR coating to the jacket. DWR coatings are chemical applications designed to repel water before it has a chance to be absorbed by the face fabric and, subsequently, the down inside.
By helping to keep the face fabric dry, DWR coatings allow a jacket to breathe better should moisture accumulate on the inside from sweating. The only downside to DWR coatings is that they vary widely in quality and durability. Once a DWR coating has worn off, you must reapply. Unfortunately, this can happen in as little as a few uses. Water resistance can also come by using treated down that has a DWR coating. Because we do not have access to the down inside a jacket, we found it difficult to test how useful these DWR applications are at creating hydrophobic down.
In years past we only reviewed a couple down jackets with hydrophobic down used inside, while this year there were four that made our selection of the ten best, suggesting that this is a technology that companies think improve the performance of down that comes in contact with water. Never-the-less, despite soaking these jackets in the shower, we found it difficult to accurately compare the performance of the treated down versus regular down.
In general, our scores in this metric were a reflection of the performance of the DWR coating and the face fabric, although we chose to award bonus points to jackets that used hydrophobic down. The most water resistant down jacket was, without doubt, the Columbia Outdry Ex Gold , specifically designed to be waterproof on the outside.
This model was like combining down insulation on the inside with a rain slicker on the outside, and while it came with a few drawbacks, water resistance certainly was not one of them. While we can think of a few improvements we would make, we think this jacket is an intriguing start to the niche of waterproof down jackets.
Our Top Pick for Wet Weather is the Rab Microlight Alpine , which combines water-resistant Pertex microlight shell fabric with an impressive DWR coating, Nikwax treated down, and a hood that keeps the rain out of your face. While it wasn't wholly water proof , this is the down jacket we would want to take to wet climates, with the caveat that we would still do all we could to keep it as dry as possible.
And with its combination of Q. Shield water resistant down and a durable and high-quality outer DWR coating, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded also received high scores for water resistance.
This metric accounted for 15 percent of a product's final score. Unlike heavy overcoat-style down parkas, these mid- and lightweight down jackets are designed to be worn while you recreate. Whether you wear them over the top of your other clothes, or as a warmth layer underneath a shell jacket, the fit needs to be conducive to movement.
For this reason, we prefer jackets that are sleeker fitting and not excessively baggy, although your specific body type will dictate what constitutes a good fit. For us, an ideally fitting jacket is one that mimics the shape of the body, so that it moves as we do, but is also large enough to wear a layer or two beneath.
We try to avoid jackets that are overly baggy in the torso, as we find them to be annoying when we are wearing a pack or trying to look down at our feet when skiing or climbing. There's also the fact that they have more dead space that needs to be warmed up using your body heat.
We are also very particular about the length of the sleeves, as well as the shape of the jacket through the shoulders and upper back and chest. Simply put, we want our jacket to be ready for any activity, and no matter what we are doing — ice climbing, skiing, scrambling — we are likely to be moving our arms about and sometimes swinging them over our head.
Some jackets have sleeves that are too short, causing them to ride up above our wrists when our arms are outstretched. Likewise, we found some the jackets to have constrictive fits around the shoulders, upper back, and chest that impede our freedom of movement, and affect the overall fit.
Other areas that we paid attention to the fit were the collar, the hood, and the length of the hemline at our waist. In particular, we loved how the sleeves were plenty long and the cut of the shoulders spacious enough for us to perform any conceivable movement without impingement.
While it was big enough to layer beneath, the cut was also sleek enough not to impede our motion. For us, it fits very close to the body with virtually no dead space.
Shop UNIQLO for women's Ultra Light Down Choose from our signature styles including jackets, coats, parkas, and vests. UNIQLO US. Ultralight Down Jacket Unlike ordinary down that soaks up moisture, ours absorbs 33% less moisture and dries 66% faster so it stays light, lofty and warm. On the outside, the game-changing Pertex Quantum nylon shell is tightly woven for exceptional durability. Product Features Men's hooded down puffer jacket ideal for daily wear in chilly, damp conditions.