Best Down Jackets
Being cold is never fun, and fun fact; it can even make some irreparable damage to your health! But ducks and geese seem to be A-OK floating around semi-frozen lakes without a care in the world. How is that possible? The answer is Down – the small fluffy feathers found next to the skin of various waterfowl species. Us humans have been aware for hundreds if not thousands of years that Down has some serious insulating properties. It’s light and fluffy and traps loads of air, forming an air barrier between the cold and yourself. The problem has always been if it gets wet it loses almost all of its insulating properties. Which is why you will see ducks preening their feathers, to maintain their natural waterproofing oils on their feathers and down feathers. And now with better waterproof materials and even waterproof coating on the down itself, down jackets are a viable winter outdoor option.
In this guide, we’re going to break down the top rated down jackets for outdoor use.
6 Best down jackets
The North Face Corefire
Down Fill power
550 fill power down
The Corefire jacket from The North Face has been designed to keep you warm in extreme conditions. It is lightweight at just over 1 kg in weight. They have used wind stopper and waterproofed the fabric to reduce the effects of wind chill. This jacket is an excellent choice for skiing and being out in the cold in general. The hood has a dual adjustment system to enable it to be compatible with a helmet, which is certainly a nice touch. A number of other handy features are present, such as the dual brushed hand warmer pockets, underarm vents and internal media pocket for your phone. They have also spent some time thinking about what you may need if skiing, such as a four snap powder skirt, internal goggle pocket and wrist pocket with a goggle cleaning cloth.
The Corefire is the warmest jacket in this guide. The 500 fill power Down really proves itself here, and really speaks to the quality that The North Face is known for. We found that this jacket layered well with outerwear for colder conditions, working particularly well with a GORE-TEX outer layer for these situations.
We weren’t able to find any complaints about the durability of this jacket online, and in fact, many testers praised The North Face for their much-lauded consistency in terms of build quality. The jacket itself has a reinforced construction that features windproof materials that should hold up well to repeated wear and tear.
- Wind resistant
- Might seem too bulky
The North Face Hauser Triclimate
Down Fill power
550 fill power down
Can’t decide if you need a waterproof down jacket but you want the warmth? Are you all about layering? Then The North Face Hauser Triclimate was made for you. The first thing is this is three jackets in one. First, you have a relaxed fit waterproof jacket with a removable hood. The jacket has two large chest pockets which are big enough to hold a folded map. On its own, it makes a good autumn early/mild winter waterproof jacket. Second is the down inner jacket. This can be worn alone as a very warm jacket in cold but dry conditions or it can be zipped into the outer jacket to form the third option a warm 550 down fill power water and windproof jacket. This is a great all round jacket, and really the only complaints we have is that your movement may be slightly infringed upon compared to some other makes.
The Hauser Triclimate’s unique design means that it is adaptable to nearly any scenario. You can split the layers up, wearing only one to suit you in rainy but warm conditions, or utilize all of them for the situations where you need the extra warmth. This key design philosophy is something unique to the Hauser, earning its spot in this guide.
This is a rugged, durable jacket, to be sure. The three layer system means that only the outermost layer will take the brunt of the abuse as you use it, while the rest are resting comfortably inside. As usual, The North Face’s legendary quality holds up here, and we expect that this is a jacket that will last you many years.
- Comes in two layers
- Two -layered design might not be suitable for some users
Fjallraven Arktis Parka
Down Fill power
500 fill power down
Fjallraven is a brand from Sweden so you would expect them to know a little bit about keeping warm in the cold, and they do. Having a classic parka style of a long coat, it’s not what you want if you plan to go snowboarding or skiing, but if you want to relax and enjoy the beautiful outdoors in Arctic sub-zero temperatures you will be snug. But this parka is not for just lazying around in the snow, it is an adventure jacket. You want pockets! It has many pockets; breast pockets so large they can hold a Thermos, smaller outside pockets perfect for your keys, multi-tool and a compass, and two large bellow pockets at the hem to keep your hands warm, and that’s just the outside. Inside you have two more large mesh stretch pockets and a zippered pocket for your cell phone. The jacket’s hood is fully adjustable with a removable synthetic fur trim that protects against snowstorms. A snow lock and a drawcord hem and adjustable sleeves. The material is a heavy duty polyester/cotton mix and water and windproofed.
Although this coat is heavy compared to many down jackets, 450g of that weight is the down. Imagine how many feathers you need to weigh half a kilo. That a lot of down and therefore a lot of insulation. If you’re thinking of a trek to the south pole to see the penguins, then take a look at this parka.
Fjallraven has long been known for creating products that are almost too durable – as if there were such as thing. This jacket is no different, showcasing the best of what the brand has to offer.
- Many pockets
- Swedish production
Canada Goose Expedition Parka
Down Fill power
625 fill power down
Known as the “big red” to the men and women who have worn them in Antarctica, but now available in a selection of colors including red. The hood is vertically adjustable with an adjustable bracing wire for extra protection in high wind conditions, and a coyote fur ruff to protect the face during snowstorms. Velcro storm flaps over zipper, and elasticized nylon snow skirt. You may have realized I like pockets, this has pockets. Four exterior fleece lined and zippered hand warmer pockets with Velcro flaps, Utility pocket on left sleeve and flap pocket on right sleeve, two interior pockets one with security zipper and other a drop pocket. And a lifetime warranty against material defects. Value for money, hell yeah, this jacket has been to Antarctica, its been up Everest.
So now, we are not playing anymore, you want to go to some place cold, -30oC cold, – 40oC cold. Then you need this. Originally designed for scientists working at the Monroe station in Antarctica, this jacket is standard issue. Using textiles proven to stay dry in the most extreme conditions and climates, water resistant, wind resistant.
This coat has saved lives. It is without a doubt the most durable jacket in this guide, and it is really only recommended for those who will venture to areas where human survival is generally not possible. Expect the durability to match.
- Extremely warm
- Many pockets
- Lifetime warranty
- Limited selection of colors
Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket
Down Fill power
800 fill power down
OK maybe I got a bit carried away with the last two, you want an adventure in the cold, but the south pole is a bit extreme than a UK and Alpine winter, light ascent mountaineering, then Rab Neutrino Endurance jacket might be for you. Incredibly lightweight at just over half a kilo. The outer shell in water resistant, but in prolonged rain exposure you might get a bit wet. The jacket is designed to make movements easy in lightweight ascents. The down filled helmet compatible hood can be rolled down for easy storage. The jacket is filled with 800 fill power hydrophobic down, meaning it has the highest quality down available and the down has also been treated to repel water. A very good jacket, that not only serves the purpose of an adventure jacket but will also look good just running down to the shops to get a pint of milk on a cold winter morning.
Rab is no stranger to making clothing for cold conditions, and this is no exception. This jacket is comfortable and works very well as a layer. It also works perfectly on its own, thanks to the fantastic hood tech on display.
The only area of concern here is the zipper hardware, which we found a few reviews noting was a bit finicky and fragile for some. Other than that, Rab’s time-tested materials hold up here, and this jacket should keep you moving for several years to come.
- Wind resistant
- Fragile zippers
Mountain Hardwear Nilas Jacket
Down Fill power
850 fill power down
The Nilas Jacket is a warm lightweight and windproof jacket. It was designed and used by the speed climber Ueli Steck. So with Mr. Steck’s knowledge of what a mountain climber needs this jacket has some nice features. The 850 fill power down has been treated with their Q. Shield in which they infuse a permanent water repellent to the down fibers enabling the down to maintain its loft and insulating properties even when wet. The main jacket fabric is wind and water resistant. The hood and hem drawcords have been designed to be used one-handed for quick adjustments, so if you need to adjust the hem draw cord whilst holding onto the rock face with one hand you can. The hood is insulated with down and has a low profile but can not be removed. On the price side, it is a little more expensive that others, but the quality of the down used and the other nice features would make the money well spent.
The wind resistant material really pays off here, as this is one extremely versatile and warm jacket. The 850 fill power down is as heavy duty as it gets, and it provides enough warmth for even the most insane conditions.
We found that Mountain Hardware knows their niche very well, and that means that their jackets cater strongly to hikers in need of something durable enough to make the long haul.
- High quality down
Criteria used for the evaluation
So you are going to go out in the cold, and you need a lightweight warm jacket. Down is the way to go. But there are a few things you need to know. Not all down jackets are equal. What is best for backpacking might not be best for skiing or mountaineering. Let’s take a look at a few factors you should be keeping in mind when purchasing a Down jacket.
Down and Down Fill Power
As mentioned earlier down is the fluffy clusters of filament that form the undercoating of waterfowl. it is incredibly light and yet because of the 3-dimensional structure and its ability to “loft”, each filament traps more air for its weight than any synthetic material. On average every ounce of quality down has around two million filaments that overlap and form a protective layer of air that insulates the cold out and the warmth in. Due to its structure, it is difficult for it to be compressed and flatten, if it does you can just shake it like your pillow on your bed.
Fill power is a measurement of how fluffy the down is, it is not really related to its insulating value. But that said a higher fill power number the more air it traps and will provide more insulating ability when compared to the same weight of a lower fill power down. Down fill power is measured from 300 to 900. 400 to 450 is medium quality, 500 to 550 good quality, 550 to 750 very good and 750+ excellent quality. Almost all commercial down come as a secondary product from geese reared for meat consumption. Most geese raised for meat consumption are around 4 months old, meaning the down is smaller and with a 400 to 500 fill power. The higher fill power down of 700+ comes from mature birds. These are usually birds which are kept for breading purposes, these geese or duck will molt their down in the spring where it is collected. This makes it rarer and as such more expensive.
There are a lot of downs which have been treated with a durable water-repellent (DWR), the idea is to help the down repel water if you happen to be caught in a heavy downpour. If down gets wet no damage is done to the down its self however it will increase in weight and become a less effective insulator. By coating the down with a DWR the hope is that it will repel the water and this combined with a good level of waterproofing on the jackets materials has made down jackets more and more practical for outdoor and adventure uses.
The main material of the jacket will have a major impact on the jacket, its water resistance, its weight, and its durability. Are you going to get very wet? Do you really need the lightest jacket available? The weight of the jacket included zippers and buttons. The more zippable pockets the heavier the jacket. Is there a possibility that you may be brushing against a rock face or tree branches, if so are these going to rip the jacket. A hole in your down jacket and it will leak some down, not normally enough to affect your warmth, but worth considering.
Do you need a hood? If you don’t need a hood the don’t buy a jacket with a hood it will save you some money. But if you want a hood, will you be wearing a helmet, some hoods are designed to go over a helmet and some are designed to go under a helmet, the preference is really up to you. How much face coverage do you want, do you fur to protect from high winds.
If you are going to be mountaineering at high altitude or chilling out on a glacier you should be looking at an expedition jacket or parka type, they will be heavier and have more pockets and other features but they are warmer and suited for the task. Whereas if you are backpacking or skiing a lighter jacket maybe better, it can be used as a mid-layer or an outer layer and removed and packed when not needed.
I am sure this have given you plenty to think about. Whenever possible try on as many as you can, think about what you will be doing in the jacket and try to imagine if it will suit your needs. Down jackets are not the cheapest of jackets, but most certainly they are the warmest and lightest.
RDS Down (Responsible Down Standard)
All the jackets I have reviewed state that they use RDS down. Why is this important, it’s a personal choice. RDS down means that the down comes from ducks and geese that have been treated well throughout their farm life. These animal have not been subjected to the pain of fear. RDS Down is always identified with a label, and every stage of the supply chain can be audited and traced. If the down is not RDS then the ducks and geese may have been force feed, or even hand removed their feather whilst they were alive (live plucking).
Live plucking is done to be able to gain more down feather from the same bird. A duck or goose may have feathers ripped from its skin every 6 to 7 weeks. In our opinion, this is a cruel and unnecessary method of obtaining down. For more information check the RDS website http://responsibledown.org/.