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.
Our Top 3 Picks
- The North Face Corefire
- Light weight construction
- The North Face Hauser
- 3 jackets in 1
- Fjallraven Arktis Parka
- Extremely warm
10 Best Down Jackets
The North Face Corefire
Weather Protection: We found that this jacket layered well with outerwear for colder conditions, working particularly well with a GORE-TEX outer layer for these situations.
Durability: 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.
Features: 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.
- Wind resistant
- Might seem too bulky
- Could breathe better
The North Face Hauser Triclimate
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.
Weather Protection: 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.
Durability: 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.
Features: 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.
- Comes in two layers
- Two -layered design might not be suitable for some users
- Can feel bulky
Fjallraven Arktis Parka
Weather Protection: 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.
Durability: Fjallraven has long been known for creating products that are almost too durable – as if there were such a thing. This jacket is no different, showcasing the best of what the brand has to offer.
Features: 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.
- Many pockets
- Swedish production
- Could come in more styles and colors
Canada Goose Expedition Parka
Weather Protection: 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.
Durability: 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.
Features: 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.
- Extremely warm
- Many pockets
- Lifetime warranty
- Limited selection of colors
- Can feel bulky
Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket
Weather Protection: The outer shell is water resistant, but in prolonged rain exposure you might get a bit wet. The jacket is designed to make movements easy in lightweight ascents.
Durability: 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.
Features: The down filled helmet compatible hood can be rolled down for easy storage. This is 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.
- Wind resistant
- Fragile zippers
- Can run small
Mountain Hardwear Nilas Jacket
Weather Protection: 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.
Durability: 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.
Features: 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 cannot 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.
- High quality down
- Can feel bulky
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Weather Protection: Mountain Hardwear’s Hooded Ghost Whisperer Jacket is made with a DWR coated nylon shell, which helps make it very water resistant. Plus, it uses hydrophobic down insulation, meaning the insulation in this jacket does a great job of combatting water.
Durability: Made to be very durable, the combination of the outer nylon shell and strong insulation on the interior of the jacket makes this jacket long-lasting. You’ll get several seasons of use out of this jacket.
Features: Made to be a lightweight jacket that can keep you warm on all of your mountain adventures, you get several pockets with this jacket. Also, you’ll be able to wear this jacket for long periods of time because of its comfort level.
No adjustable hood
No internal pockets
Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody
Weather Protection: The exterior shell of this jacket is made with 20 denier ripstop polyester, which makes this jacket wind resistant and water resistant. This jacket is not totally waterproof, but it does offer a decent amount of weather protection.
Durability: This jacket has performed very well when taking a lot of abuse outside, so no matter what sports you like to do in the winter, this jacket will keep you going strong. You’ll get several seasons of use out of this jacket.
Features: This jacket gives you some oversize zip pulls, and you can easily adjust layers without having to remove your gloves. You also get several large-sized pockets to help you stash your things.
Easy to compress
Could be lighter
Could be more waterproof
Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody
Weather Protection: Made with a 10D outer exterior shell, this jacket is water resistant and does shed water, but water can still build up inside it if you get trapped in a pouring rainstorm. Also, the down on the interior of this jacket is hydrophobic, so it helps to repel water better.
Durability: This jacket is designed from several high-quality materials that make it very long-lasting. So, while it is on the expensive side, you will get a lot of use out of this jacket.
Features: Made as a lightweight jacket, you still get a lot of pockets in this design. You’ll also get some over-sized zippers and thumb loops, which can keep your hands warmer.
Can hold water if it is pouring outside
Marmot Guides Down Hoody
Weather Protection: The exterior shell of this jacket is designed with a DWR coating to help repel water. Also, the hydrophobic down designed in the interior of this jacket is designed to be fast drying, and will also repel water.
Durability: The Marmot Guides Down Hoody is designed to be very durable, and features strong materials and a good design that makes this jacket long-lasting. So, for the money, you’ll get a lot of use out of this jacket.
Features: Made with fleece-lined hand pockets, you’ll get plenty of opportunity to organize your items and keep your hands warm. Also, you get a two-way zipper and a dual hood pull cord for easy adjustability.
Can feel bulky
Difficult to compress
The Criteria We Used To Find The Best Down Jackets
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.
Comfort & Warmth: 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.
Most down jackets have some kind of water resistant material on the exterior shell of the jacket. Down has been well known for many years to have difficulty insulating well when it gets wet, and down can also take a long time to dry out once it traps moisture in. Some jackets come with hydrophobic down, but most down jackets also feature some type of water-resistant coating features over the shells.
One of the types of coatings you’ll find on many down jackets is a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating on the jacket. DWR coatings are a treatment that goes over the exterior of the shell, and helps to repel water off of the jacket before it can enter the fabric area or make it to the down. DWR also helps to make jackets water-resistant while still keeping them comfortable with a good ventilation system. However, not all DWR treatments are created equally, and some manufacturers use better DWR treatments than others. Also, DWR coatings can break down and wear off over time, so you need to make sure you pay attention to the performance of your DWR coating as your jacket ages.
Some manufacturers also add extra water resistance to their jackets by treating their down with some kind of DWR coating in the actual insulation, making the down hydrophobic and able to repel water. However, it can still be difficult to tell even how strong the DWR coating is on the down insulation, so you need to pay attention to customer reviews to find out how well the jacket performs when you are out in the winter weather.
Durability: Jacket Materials
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.
Down jackets come with a bevy of features attached to them, depending on the style of jacket you purchase and the brand. The products we’ve provided on our list all come from well-known manufacturers that all make high-quality products, so selecting what type of down jacket you really want to buy can sometimes come down to the features the jacket has.
Some jackets have zippers that are waterproof or easier to use. Also, some jackets include more pockets on them than others. Some jackets might have a longer hem or a shorter hem. You’ll find some jackets that have excellent drawcord hoods and great insulated pockets.
Depending on what you really need to get out of your jacket, consider the features you really want before you select the jacket you want to purchase. The more features your jacket offers, typically the more expensive that jacket will be. So, if you are shopping on a budget, you want to try and remember this, and try to focus on getting a jacket that offers the features you really need and want.
Other Important Factors To Consider
Some jackets on our list state that they use RDS down. 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/.
Depending on what you are planning to accomplish while you wear your jacket, you’ll need to think about how much weight you can carry along with you each time you put your jacket on. If you’re going to be using a lot of energy and performing some highly aerobic outdoor activities during the winter, then you want to make sure you purchase a jacket that can keep you warm while still remaining lightweight. So, what you’ll need is to check out the warmth-to-weight ratio of any jacket you want to select.
When a jacket has good fabric and an excellent design, it can get rid of some weight and still give you a warm, durable, highly functional jacket that can assist you with all of your cold weather adventures. Some jackets that are designed to be ultra-light will subtract other features from the jackets to cut back on weight. So, if you are going for a super light jacket, remember it probably won’t offer as many features, and the jacket will seem simpler in design. Some ultra-light jackets, however, aren’t very durable, so you need to make sure you wind up with a jacket that can withstand your planned winter weather activities.
The products we’ve provided on our list all use high-quality materials to make their jackets. However, all of the jackets here vary greatly in their weight and how thick they are. Remember that when the material is heavier, it’s usually more durable, and lightweight materials won’t be as strong.
When trying to figure out the weight and durability of a jacket, you’ll need to consider the denier of the fabric, or the thread count. The denier tells you how durable and heavy your jacket will be. Typically, the higher the number of the denier on the jacket, the heavier and more durable the jacket will be.
When you are trying to make your choice about how light you want your jacket to be, remember you can still sacrifice some durability when you go for a lightweight jacket. So, consider what you will really need before you make your purchase.
Q: Is down better than synthetic materials with compressibility?
Compressibility helps tell us how well a jacket will pack down when you carry it along with you, and it also lets us know how well the materials in the jacket can resist damage after it has been compressed. Down is far better than synthetic insulation where it comes to compressibility, since it can recover and retain its features better when compared to synthetic insulation. Also, another benefit is that down is lighter when you compress it and carry it along.
Q: Do I need a hood?
Some down jackets come with hoods, and others come without hoods. If you purchase a down jacket without a hood, it’ll be more lightweight and cost less, but you’ll lose out on the extra comfort and warmth a hood can provide you. If you’re going to be outside doing your sports often during the winter weather, it’s almost always best to just spend the extra money and get the hood. You won’t regret it, since you’ll be able to stay much warmer with your hood.
Q: What do I need to know about jacket fit?
Fit is something that is up to personal preference and can also depend on the style and brand of the jacket you select. If you wind up with a down sweater, it’ll fit and appear more casual. But ultralight and jackets made for sports will have more options for warmth and flexibility, including hood features. No matter what type of down jacket you wind up with, you need to know that how the jacket fits can vary a lot depending on the brand. For instance, Arcteryx jackets tend to have a slim fit and can run small, so that’s something to consider if you are purchasing a jacket from that manufacturer.
Q: What is hydrophobic down?
Hydrophobic down is a type of down that is treated with some type of water-resistant technology. Sometimes, brands will use a DWR coating on the down insulation as well as the exterior shell of the jacket to help make the down hydrophobic. However, depending on the brand, different types of technologies might be used to treat the insulation in the jacket, and not all treatments work as well as others. It can be difficult to test out or know how well hydrophobic down will work until you’re outside and it gets wet, but just keep in mind you might need to do some research and read reviews regarding the hydrophobic down in your jacket.
Q: What is DWR treatment?
A DWR treatment on a down jacket helps to repel moisture, giving your jacket some element of water protection. DWR is also known as Durable Water Repellant, and helps water drops from making it through into the interior area of the jacket, which can make you wet through your insulation, creating a very miserable day. With DWR treatment, you’ll have less of a chance of experiencing misery since you’ll be protected against the water. DWR treatments are not fully waterproof, but they do offer some element of water protection.
Q: What is denier?
Denier (D) tells you how much a thread weighs. Typically, the lower the denier count, the more lightweight your jacket is. On the other hand, the higher the denier count, the heavier and more durable the jacket will be. Lightweight jackets with low denier counts will be more prone to abrasions.