It's tough to beat a great down jacket, whether it’s for casual use or tearing around the backcountry. This cozy insulation type offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio on the market and packs down smaller than synthetics for easy storage. Below are the best down jackets of 2021, including leading down sweaters, ultralight models, and winter-weight designs for cold weather. You’ll find a healthy range of options from budget choices to specialized alpine pieces for serious adventures. For more background information on warmth, weight, denier and more, see our down jacket comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Weight: 13.1 oz.
Fill: 3.4 oz. of 800-fill-power down
What we like: Extremely versatile and looks great.
What we don't: A bit heavy for backcountry use.
The down jacket market ranges from performance to casual and everything in between, but you won’t find a more versatile option than the Patagonia Down Sweater. With 3.4 ounces of 800-fill-power down, the jacket is light and packable enough for backpacking and travel yet offers enough warmth to use as a midlayer for skiing. In addition, it looks great for everyday use—few outdoor companies can match Patagonia in crossover appeal. And we can't help but love the build quality. Of all of the brands we've tested, Patagonia jackets consistently last longer and end up winning us over with their longevity.
What are the shortcomings of the Down Sweater? At just over 13 ounces, it's a far cry from ultralight and you can shave significant weight with a number of the more backcountry-centric options below. Moreover, the fit isn’t as tailored as some of the performance designs on this list (the upside is that layering either over top or underneath is easy, which isn't the case with some technical pieces). Lastly, Patagonia products don't come cheap, although again, we love the sleek styling and you should get a very healthy lifespan out of this jacket... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Patagonia Down Sweater See the Women's Patagonia Down Sweater
Best Ultralight Down Jacket
Weight: 8.8 oz.
Fill: 3 oz. of 800-fill-power down
What we like: Incredible warmth for the weight and good feature set.
What we don’t: Fit is a bit boxy; non-elasticized cuffs don’t do a great job at sealing out the cold.
Mountain Hardwear finally revamped one of the original ultralight down jackets: its popular Ghost Whisperer. Now the “2,” the latest model features a small increase in weight (about 1 ounce for the men’s hoody), but comes with a number of notable upgrades. To start, there’s a little more 800-fill down stuffed inside and the new recycled shell is a bit thicker, which translate to modest increases in warmth and durability. But the jacket stays true to its roots with excellent packability and a simply phenomenal warmth-to-weight ratio, while including important features like zippered hand pockets, a hem adjustment, and decent wind and water resistance. For fast-and-light missions, the Ghost Whisperer/2 remains a go-to choice.
Unfortunately, two elements that have not changed with the Ghost Whisperer/2 are its fit and cuff design. Unlike the tailored cut that you get from Arc’teryx Cerium LT or Feathered Friends Eos, the Mountain Hardwear is boxy and awkwardly large in the torso. It still layers reasonably well under a shell, but we’re surprised they haven’t given it a better performance fit considering its intended use. Further, the cuffs are loose and don’t provide a very solid seal, which can let cold air sneak through unless you throw on a pair of gloves. Despite these nitpicks, the rebooted Ghost Whisperer is very light, warm, and a favorite among serious outdoor adventurers... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer See the Women's MH Ghost Whisperer
Best Budget Down Jacket
Weight: 11 oz.
Fill: 4.2 oz. of 650-fill-power down
What we like: Fantastic price for a well-rounded, lightweight design.
What we don’t: No hem adjustment (men's version).
REI’s original 650 Down Jacket was our top budget pick for years, and their latest “2.0” sticks to the winning formula. The jacket is reasonably light at 11 ounces, provides solid warmth with over 4 ounces of 650-fill-power down, and stuffs into its own hand pocket. REI honed in the design for the newer version by adding recycled shell fabric, box-like baffling, and a nice variety of good-looking colorways. Importantly, they didn’t change the price by much (it went up by 45 cents), which easily undercuts competitors like the Marmot Ares and Outdoor Research Transcendent below by $75 to $100. For daily use, travel, light adventuring, and as a midlayer for resort skiing, you just won’t find a better deal.
Budget-oriented products almost always come with compromises, and REI’s Down Jacket 2.0 does fall short for serious performance use. The 650-fill down isn’t quite as warm or compressible as the 800-fill Patagonia Down Sweater above, and the standard nylon shell isn’t as durable as the ripstop constructions you get on more expensive alternatives. In addition, the REI lacks a hem adjustment, which is limiting for dialing in fit (the hem is fairly stretchy, however). But circling back to value, the 650 Down Jacket’s combination of warmth, build quality, and price are simply unmatched. We even dedicated an article to breaking down why we think the REI is the best cheap down jacket currently on the market... Read in-depth review
See the Men's REI 650 Down Jacket See the Women's REI 650 Down Jacket
Best Heavyweight Down Jacket for the Cold
Weight: 1 lb. 5.3 oz.
Fill: 8 oz. of 800-fill-power down
What we like: Tons of premium down at a reasonable price point.
What we don’t: A bit heavy for a performance piece and the left-hand zip can take some getting used to.
U.K.-based Rab is on our shortlist of favorite outdoor clothing brands, and the Neutrino is their beloved down jacket for cold-weather climbing and mountaineering. Updated fairly recently, the jacket now sports a Pertex Quantum Pro shell but retains everything else that has made it a classic. Most importantly, the Neutrino packs in a ton of down—8 ounces of 800-fill hydrophobic down to be exact—at roughly the same price as less warm options from Arc’teryx, Patagonia, and Mountain Hardwear. And its 20D shell has a quality feel and offers surprisingly good weather resistance. Even at $375, that’s a lot of bang for your buck.
What are the downsides of the Neutrino Pro? The first is the total weight at over 1 pound 5 ounces, which is good for serious winter weather but heavy and too warm for mild conditions. Second, Americans may have problems with the European-style left-hand zipper, which can take a while to get used to. Finally, it's overkill for all but the coldest days and isn't as versatile as a midweight option like the Mountain Equipment Senja below. These issues aside, the Rab is an exceptionally warm and comfortable winter piece... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Rab Neutrino Pro See the Women's Rab Neutrino Pro
Best of the Rest
Weight: 10.8 oz.
Fill: 3.6 oz. of 850-fill-power down
What we like: Serious performance chops; premium look and feel.
What we don’t: Expensive and slim fit isn't for everyone.
Oh, the beauty of Arc’teryx products. They generally cost the most, look the best, and perform well enough for seasoned adventurers to put them through the wringer on a consistent basis. The Cerium LT Hoody is the company’s leading lightweight down jacket and one sleek piece of gear. With a total weight of 10.8 ounces, a nearly complete feature set, a silky interior and exterior, and a very clean design overall, the Cerium LT plays and looks the part. We also like the use of Down Composite Mapping, which includes synthetic insulation in areas prone to getting wet. While most jackets on this list are strictly down, Arc’teryx has created a really nice balance of lightweight warmth and functionality.
The most common knock against Arc’teryx products is price. At $379, the Cerium LT is $40 more than the Feathered Friends Eos below, which has more down, a higher fill power at 900, and weighs slightly less, albeit with a more streamlined build. In addition, the fit is on the slim/athletic side, which can be great for performance use but won’t work for everyone and limits how much you can layer underneath. All that said, the Cerium is an exceptionally well-built piece of gear, looks great (we frequently get compliments when wearing it around town), and can more than handle its own in the backcountry... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Arc'teryx Cerium LT See the Women's Arc'teryx Cerium LT
Weight: 1 lb. 0.2 oz.
Fill: 4.1 oz. of 650-fill-power down
What we like: Comfy, durable, and well-priced for what you get.
What we don’t: With 650-fill down, it’s less warm and doesn’t pack down as small as the premium options above.
Outdoor Research jackets aren’t always the absolute best or most performance-oriented on the market, but they are some of the best values. At $225, the Transcendent Hoody is a less expensive competitor to the more premium options on this list. It provides a nice dose warmth with 4.1 ounces of 650-fill down, is comfortable to wear, comes in a number of attractive colorways, and we love features like the soft fleece-lined hand warmer pockets. For everyday use and casual winter adventuring, it’s a great option.
Outdoor Research recently updated the Transcendent with wider baffles, a significantly softer shell and lining, and the insulation is now responsibly sourced, all while adding barely any weight. All told, we like the look of the newest version, which is more modern and less tired while retaining all the fundamentals that have made this jacket so popular over the years. Yes, the Transcendent isn’t quite as warm and won’t pack down as small as the higher-fill-power options above. But for the price, it’s all that many people need in a down jacket and nothing they don’t... Read in-depth review
See the Men's OR Transcendent Hoody See the Women's OR Transcendent Hoody
Weight: 10.6 oz.
Fill: 3.7 oz. of 900-fill-power down
What we like: Superb build quality and warmth-to-weight ratio.
What we don’t: Simple styling isn't for everyone and the shell fabric has a tendency to show wear early.
Feathered Friends doesn’t do splashy marketing campaigns like the big gear brands, but this down specialist gets a whole lot of respect among the alpine community (if you’re in Seattle, the store is across from the REI flagship and makes for a fun visit). Here’s what you get from Feathered Friends: premium construction including some of the highest-fill-power down on the market (900+), local manufacturing in Seattle or Vancouver, and a competitive price for what you get. All in all, you’d be hard-pressed to find better quality.
For 2021, our favorite jacket from Feathered Friends is the Eos, which packs in an impressive 3.7 ounces of 900-fill down. This means that it has a higher fill power and more fill weight than any other lightweight down jacket on this list. Why isn’t the Eos ranked higher? It’s built for performance and the design isn’t quite as appealing for daily wear as competitors like the Arc’teryx Cerium LT or Patagonia Down Sweater. Second, the shell of the Eos tends to show signs of wear quicker than we would like. And a final consideration is availability: in peak season, there can be a delay before the jacket ships out. Feathered Friends has been improving in this regard, but it has been an issue in the past... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Feathered Friends Eos See the Women's Feathered Friends Eos
Weight: 1 lb. 11 oz.
Fill: 850-fill-power down
What we like: Waterproof and very warm.
What we don’t: Heavier and bulkier than a typical down jacket.
REI isn’t known for pushing the boundaries of jacket design, but we really like what they’ve come up with in the Stormhenge 850. It features premium 850-fill down, a fully waterproof 2-layer shell (a rarity in the down jacket world), and nice touches like pit zips and a two-way front zipper to regulate heat. Unfortunately, REI does not provide the fill weight, but the Stormhenge is one of the warmest options on this list. We’ve been comfortable wearing it over a thin baselayer down into the low 20s Fahrenheit.
The Stormhenge’s unique waterproof construction helps it stand out among other winter-ready down jackets like the Rab Neutrino Pro and Patagonia Fitz Roy. Both of those models have DWR treatments, but fall well short of the REI in terms of weatherproofing. However, the Stormhenge is the heaviest jacket on the list at 1 pound 11 ounces and doesn’t pack down very small. As a result, it lacks in versatility for uses like backpacking or climbing, but the waterproofing and warm build make it viable for everything from cold winter walks to downhill skiing. Of note, the current Stormhenge is on discount and stock is fairly limited, but REI plans to release a revamped model for fall 2021... Read in-depth review
See the Men's REI Stormhenge 850 See the Women's REI Stormhenge 850
Weight: 1 lb. 1.1 oz.
Fill: 5.6 oz. of 800-fill-power down
What we like: Warmer and more feature-rich than the Down Sweater.
What we don’t: More expensive than the Rab Neutrino Pro and with less down.
For a step up in warmth from the Patagonia Down Sweater above, the Fitz Roy Down Hoody takes the same quality and sleek design but is built for colder winter conditions. In terms of insulation, you get approximately 5.6 ounces of 800-fill-power down along with a Pertex Quantum shell for moisture protection. The jacket has small baffles that resemble a puffed-up Down Sweater, and the 20-denier shell fabric is roughly the same strength. The Fitz Roy, however, offers significantly more warmth while the Down Sweater is designed more for shoulder seasons and layering. It’s worth noting that 5.6 ounces of down fill is less than the cheaper Rab Neutrino Pro above (8 oz.), which hurts the Fitz Roy in our rankings.
In many ways, the Patagonia Fitz Roy Hoody is a hybrid performance/casual piece. It has some advanced features like a helmet-compatible hood and elasticized cuffs that do a good job staying out of your way during physical activity. But the jacket still looks the part for city wear in the colder months, making it a nice option for just about any type of winter use (although we’ve found the shell on other versions of the Fitz Roy gets dirty and stains pretty easily). That said, while we appreciate Patagonia build quality and styling, $400 is a lot to pay for this much down, and we prefer the warmer and cheaper Rab... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Patagonia Fitz Roy See the Women's Patagonia Fitz Roy
Weight: 1 lb 1.3 oz.
Fill: 4.6 oz. of 700-fill-power down
What we like: Thicker shell fabric than the Cerium LT above and a bit more warmth.
What we don’t: Decently heavy for a down jacket.
The Arc’teryx Cerium LT above is an ultralight backcountry piece with a thin 10-denier shell, but that doesn’t come without sacrifices. For a bit less of a specialized down jacket from Arc’teryx, the Thorium AR is considerably more durable with a 30-denier shell, has more down (although it uses 700-fill-power down instead of 850), and costs $50 less. For all types of outdoor activities including everyday use around town, the Thorium arguably is the more versatile option and one that you won’t have to worry about as much.
The most notable downsides of the Thorium AR come with the increased weight and size. At just over 1 pound, it’s less attractive for uses like backpacking and climbing when every ounce counts, and it won’t pack down as small as the Cerium. Also, keep in mind that Arc’teryx jackets have a very athletic fit in general, and given that the Thorium often is used as a midlayer, you may want to size up if you are on the fence. But with a touch more warmth than the Cerium LT and a more hardwearing build for less money, there is a lot to like about the Thorium... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Arc'teryx Thorium AR See the Women's Arc'teryx Thorium AR
Weight: 1 lb. 1 oz.
Fill: 5 oz. of 750-fill-power down
What we like: A nice level of warmth with a water-resistant build.
What we don’t: A tad heavy for the backcountry.
Like the heavyweight Neutrino Pro above, Rab’s popular Microlight Alpine Jacket pays tribute to the brand’s climbing heritage. To start, it's built to handle wind and light moisture thanks to a tough Pertex Quantum shell, DWR coating, and hydrophobic down. Further, we found the rigid structure of the jacket’s wire-brimmed hood has a hardshell-like feel, offering great all-around coverage and protection. You’ll still want to don a waterproof layer if the skies open up, but the Microlight Alpine stands out as one of the more weather-resistant midweight down jackets we’ve tested.
Packing 5 ounces of 750-fill-power down in a men’s large, the Rab is warmer than competitors like Patagonia’s Down Sweater Hoody (3.7 ounces of 800-fill down) and Feathered Friends’ Eos (3.4 ounces of 900-fill down). But like the Feathered Friends, it can’t match the Patagonia in terms of everyday appeal. The jacket’s slim fit is polarizing (especially in the men's version), and the European-style left-hand zipper takes some getting used to. And for hauling in a pack, it’s on the heavy side at 1 pound 1 ounces, but that extra weight does come with a boost in insulation. Overall, we think the Rab’s combination of warmth, weather resistance, and reasonable $280 price make it a well-rounded backcountry piece.
See the Men's Rab Microlight Alpine See the Women's Rab Microlight Alpine
Weight: 1 lb. 1 oz.
Fill: 3.5 oz. of 700-fill-power down
What we like: Super comfortable and one of the best-looking jackets on this list.
What we don’t: Pricey for a casual piece.
Mountain Hardwear launched its Stretchdown line a few years ago, featuring a flexible polyester shell material with welded seams. The goal was to increase range of motion, durability, and heating efficiency by reducing the amount of stitching in the construction. We still think that the performance chops of the Stretchdown collection are limited, and especially when you take into account the 700-fill-power down in the Super/DS, which has less loft than the true backcountry pieces listed above, along with the relatively high weight. But we’ve really come to appreciate the comfort and design of this hooded jacket, which frequently gets compliments.
At the end of the day, the Mountain Hardwear Super/DS Stretchdown excels as an everyday jacket. The knit shell fabric is very tough, and the clean styling wears well around the city—even the logo is understated. Additionally, the stretchiness gives it a plush feeling that you typically don’t get from a down piece. At $275, the Super/DS is fairly expensive for a casual item, and those focused on limiting weight will be better off with Mountain Hardwear’s own Ghost Whisperer/2 or Phantom. But for a premium down jacket for causal use and light adventuring, the Super/DS Stretchdown is a winner... Read in-depth review
See the Men's MH Super/DS Stretchdown See the Women's MH Super/DS Stretchdown
Weight: 10 oz.
Fill: 3.2 oz. of 1,000-fill-power down
What we like: Ultra-premium down in a surprisingly durable package.
What we don't: You still can go lighter in this category.
Eddie Bauer has been in the outdoor gear business for over 100 years, and the MicroTherm 1000 Down Jacket is part of their celebratory "centennial" collection. Its most noteworthy feature is the down fill: like the Montbell Plasma below, the MicroTherm uses class-leading 1,000-fill-power down—and a healthy amount of it at 3.2 ounces. Additionally, you get a super soft and cozy interior that slides nicely over baselayers. And while most ultralight options are ultra-thin (like the 7D Montbell), we’ve worn the MicroTherm 1000 while hiking and even rock climbing multiple times without issue. Unfortunately, Eddie Bauer doesn’t list the exact fabric thickness, but it has been surprisingly durable in practice.
At 10 ounces, the MicroTherm 1000 is pushing our definition of “ultralight,” and you certainly can shave ounces with a more specialized piece. However, you get significantly more warmth with the Eddie Bauer (double the amount of down in the Montbell, to be exact), as well as notable upgrades like two-way stretch panels under the arms for mobility and a nicely sized, elasticized hood. Last but not least, fit might be a deciding factor for many: the Plasma was a short and unshapely for us, while the MicroTherm has a more flattering cut. Both are good ultralight options you can’t beat the incredibly low weight of the Montbell, but we appreciate the added warmth and durability of the Eddie Bauer.
See the Men's Eddie Bauer MicroTherm 1000 See the Women's MicroTherm 1000
Weight: 15.7 oz.
Fill: 7.7 oz. of 700-fill-power down
What we like: Clean styling and tremendous warmth.
What we don't: Availability can be limited as the winter wears on.
In the past, we had the Mountain Equipment Lightline on this list, which is a winter-ready piece built for frigid temperatures. But the truth is that in most places, that burly of a jacket will stay in your closet the majority of the time waiting for those Arctic blasts. Enter the Senja, which has a midweight build with less down but ends up being much more versatile overall. In practice, we’ve worn prior renditions of this jacket with just a t-shirt underneath in temperatures down to around 15 degrees Fahrenheit and stayed comfortable. And at $275, the Senja is a steal compared to the midweight down jacket competition.
How does Mountain Equipment manage to keep the price so low? That’s a good question, but it isn’t by cutting too many corners in terms of quality. The UK-based company uses 700-fill-power down instead of the 800-fill or higher used by brands like Patagonia and Arc’teryx, which does impact weight and packability. But for the price, the Senja is cheaper than many competitors that offer considerably less warmth. All in all, the Senja isn’t quite as packable as a jacket like the Patagonia Fitz Roy above, but it’s a nice option for everyday use, winter hiking, and even as a midlayer for those who run cold.
See the Men's Mountain Equipment Senja See the Women's Mountain Equipment Senja
Weight: 14 oz.
Fill: 800-fill-power down
What we like: Retro styling with premium down fill.
What we don’t: Not everyone likes the striped colorways.
Many down jacket brands keep their styling fairly close to the cuff, but Cotopaxi stands out with its fun, retro designs. The Utah brand’s leading down jacket is the Fuego, which was updated for 2020. With the Fuego, you get premium 800-fill down (we were unable to track down the fill weight from the company), along with a versatile 20-denier shell that is reasonably tough while keep weight down. Of course, the retro styling is what stands out most and Cotopaxi currently is offering the jacket in eight colorways, all but one with the signature multi-colored baffles on the front. Throw in responsibly sourced down and the fact that Cotopaxi is a certified B Corp, and the Fuego is an easy jacket to get behind.
In terms of competitors, Patagonia’s Down Sweater uses the same 800-fill down and has a slightly thicker 20x30D shell, but is 1 ounce heavier and costs $279 (without fill weight, it’s difficult to make a more exacting comparison). And a jacket like the Black Diamond Access (no longer included on this list) weighs just under 1 pound and costs less at $229, but uses lower-quality 700-fill-power down. In the end, the Cotopaxi Fuego hits a nice balance of performance chops, casual appeal, and value, which is why it’s included here.
See the Men's Cotopaxi Fuego See the Women's Cotopaxi Fuego
Weight: 1 lb. 4.7 ounces
Fill: 3.9 oz. of 700-fill-power down
What we like: Extremely soft and cozy design that excels for everyday wear.
What we don’t: Not a backcountry-ready piece.
The Patagonia Down Sweater and Fitz Roy above both can toe the line between performance and daily use, but many people want a good down jacket and aren’t counting ounces or taking it into the backcountry. Enter the Silent Down, which has a decidedly casual slant. With this jacket, you get a healthy amount of 700-fill-power down, a truly luxurious polyester shell and lining (that’s 70% recycled), and very clean styling that is a far cry from the more technical-looking models above. In addition, the shell minimizes the “swish-swish” sound common among lightweight down pieces (hence the name), and the hood can be zipped into the collar when not in use, which we found to be a handy feature when layering under a shell. For everyday winter and shoulder-season wear, the Silent Down is another strong option from Patagonia.
As we touched on above, the main limitation of the Silent Down is its around town-focused build. The soft shell fabric prioritizes stretchiness and a plush hand feel over packability, and its taffeta construction doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence around sharp equipment (it seems pretty easy to tear). Further, the jacket is on the heavy end of the spectrum at well over 1 pound, and it doesn’t include a stuff sack or pocket. But these are easy tradeoffs considering its intended use, and the Silent Down strikes us as the kind of jacket you’ll want to grab every day for months on end (we certainly did). For a similar casual option with even more down fill for frigid temperatures, check out Patagonia’s Jackson Glacier... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Patagonia Silent Down See the Women's Patagonia Silent Down
Weight: 4.8 oz.
Fill: 1.6 oz. of 1,000-fill-power down
What we like: Incredible warmth-to-weight ratio—the best on the market.
What we don't: Super thin shell fabric is lacking in durability.
Among serious alpinists, you won’t find an outdoor brand with more street cred than Montbell. This Japan-based company makes gear for those who depend on it, and doesn’t spend much on paid athletes or splashy marketing campaigns. But the proof is in the pudding: Montbell makes some of the most well-respected ultralight insulation on the market, and their most unique offering is the Plasma 1000. With ultra-premium 1,000-fill-power down (that is not a misprint) along with a paper-thin 7-denier shell, it’s by far the lightest down jacket on this list at an incredible 4.8 ounces all-in.
Why isn’t the Montbell Plasma 1000 ranked higher? First, the 1.6 ounces of down fill is pretty meager—it may work for warm-weather backpacking on a route like the Appalachian Trail, but on its own, may not provide enough insulation even for summer nights in the mountains. Second, the 7-denier shell is extremely thin and requires extra care to prevent holes and snags. Last but not least, the fit of the jacket felt quite short on us. It’s listed as having a 27-inch length down the center back, but certainly didn’t feel that way in person (the medium was way too short while the large was too baggy). Nevertheless, the Plasma is an impressive technological feat, and for the right person, a fun jacket to have in your quiver.
See the Men's Montbell Plasma 1000 See the Women's Montbell Plasma 1000
Weight: 1 lb. 1.3 oz.
Fill: 3.9 oz. of 700-fill-power down
What we like: High-end look and feel; athletic fit.
What we don’t: Heavier than the lightweight competition.
Swedish brand Fjallraven does a nice job of marrying premium design with performance, as evidenced by their Expedition Pack down jacket. We’ll start by noting that you don’t get the 800-fill-power down or higher that brands like Arc’teryx or Patagonia offer, but for casual use and done-in-a-day adventures, it’s a quality option. The jacket has a healthy amount of 700-fill down for warmth, synthetic insulation in the shoulders for extra weather resistance and toughness, a terrific hood, and an athletic fit that is less baggy than many options on this list. All in all, we like the premium looks and versatility of the Expedition Pack.
In terms of competitors, the Fjallraven offers a similar level of warmth as of our top picks like the Patagonia Down Sweater and Arc’teryx Cerium LT above, but it’s not quite as light or packable, limiting its backcountry appeal. This said, we appreciate the durability of Fjallraven products in general, and the synthetic insulation in the shoulders makes wearing a pack for extended periods more feasible (it’s a nice option for hiking and snowshoeing). And for those interested in using the Expedition Pack as a midlayer, Fjallraven makes a non-hooded version for $250.
See the Men's Fjallraven Expedition Pack See the Women's Expedition Pack
Weight: 15.5 oz.
Fill: 3.6 oz. of 600-fill-power down
What we like: Retro looks at an affordable price.
What we don’t: Not a great warmth-to-weight ratio; only made in a men’s version.
Marmot has directed a lot of attention to their Featherless synthetic jacket collection, but they still offer a quality down piece in the Ares. What immediately stands out is its retro styling, which features the layered, multi-colored look that’s gaining traction in mountain towns like Boulder, Colorado. Outside of the 90’s-inspired design, the jacket is stuffed with 600-fill down that includes a hydrophobic coating, and there’s sufficient storage with two hand pockets and an interior zippered chest pocket. Considering the price, we’d like to see a higher grade of down, but the Ares’ overall build plays well for use in the city and as a midlayer for downhill skiing.
One disappointment with the Ares is that there isn’t currently a women’s-specific version of the jacket available. In addition, the Marmot is pretty heavy at 15.5 ounces when you factor in the modest 3.6 ounces of down inside. Stacked up to the REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0 above, the Marmot uses lower-quality down yet costs $75 more. On the other hand, you get extras like the aforementioned hydrophobic down (the REI’s is untreated), a hem adjustment, and one additional pocket. In the end, we think the REI is a better value, but the Ares’ combination of styling and features earns it a spot on our list.
See the Men's Marmot Ares
|Patagonia Down Sweater||$229||13.1 oz.||Lightweight||800||3.4 oz.||20Dx30D||Chest pocket|
|MH Ghost Whisperer||$325||8.8 oz.||Ultralight||800||3 oz.||10Dx10D||Hand pocket|
|REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket||$100||11 oz.||Lightweight||650||4.2 oz.||20D||Hand pocket|
|Rab Neutrino Pro||$375||1 lb. 5.3 oz.||Heavyweight||800||8 oz.||20D||Stuff sack|
|Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody||$379||10.8 oz.||Light/ultralight||850||3.6 oz.||10D||Stuff sack|
|OR Transcendent Hoody||$225||1 lb. 0.2 oz.||Lightweight||650||4.1 oz.||20D||Chest pocket|
|Feathered Friends Eos||$339||10.6 oz.||Light/ultralight||900||3.7 oz.||12Dx20D||Stuff sack|
|REI Co-op 850 Stormhenge||$249||1 lb. 11 oz.||Heavyweight||850||Unavail.||20D/40D||No|
|Patagonia Fitz Roy||$399||1 lb. 1.1 oz.||Midweight||800||5.6 oz.||20D||Stuff sack|
|Arc'teryx Thorium AR||$325||1 lb. 1.3 oz.||Light/midweight||700||4.6 oz.||30D||Stuff sack|
|Rab Microlight Alpine||$280||1 lb. 1 oz.||Light/midweight||750||5 oz.||30D||Stuff sack|
|MH Super/DS Stretchdown||$275||1 lb. 1 oz.||Lightweight||700||3.5 oz.||Unavail.||No|
|Eddie Bauer MicroTherm||$399||10 oz.||Ultralight||1,000||3.2 oz.||Unavail.||Chest pocket|
|Mountain Equipment Senja||$275||15.7 oz.||Midweight||700||7.7 oz.||40D||No|
|Cotopaxi Fuego||$250||14 oz.||Lightweight||800||Unavail.||20D|
|Patagonia Silent Down||$279||1 lb. 4.7 oz.||Light/midweight||700||3.9 oz.||Unavail.||No|
|Montbell Plasma 1000||$329||4.8 oz.||Ultralight||1,000||1.6 oz.||7D||Stuff sack|
|Fjallraven Expedition Pack||$275||1 lb. 1.3 oz.||Lightweight||700||3.9 oz.||Unavail.|
|Marmot Ares||$175||15.5 oz.||Lightweight||600||3.6 oz.||Unavail.||No|
- Down Jacket Categories
- Shell Fabric Durability (Denier)
- Compressibility and Packed Size
- Hydrophobic Down and DWR
- Hood or No Hood?
- Women's-Specific Down Jackets
- What About Synthetic Jackets?
The lightweight down jacket category is the industry’s most popular and what most folks are in the market for. Warmth and wearability are top priorities, and you won’t find technical features like helmet-compatible hoods, slim fits, and ultralight shells. But they perform well for everyday use, travel, light adventuring, and layering for winter sports. The temperature range for these jackets depends on factors like layering and exertion, but we find that lightweight models are typically suitable for approximately 35 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (more on this in “Our Estimated Temperature Scale” below). Leading models include the Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0, and Outdoor Research Transcendent.
Ultralight down jackets are focused pieces designed for backpacking, climbing, backcountry skiing, and other outdoor pursuits where every ounce matters. These down jackets generally have similar fill weights as lightweight down sweaters, but are ultralight due their use of premium down (fill power), thin shell fabrics (denier), and minimalist zippers and pockets. Interestingly, we frequently see this category of down jacket worn as daily layers around cities, including the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 and Arc'teryx Cerium LT (which lands in between the light and ultralight styles). They are high quality jackets in general, and if you are willing to take a little extra care to avoid damaging the shell, they offer a great combination of warmth relative to their weight and athletic fit that's easy to layer.
Midweight and Heavyweight
Down jackets in mid and heavyweight categories represent a significant step up in warmth from lightweight and ultralight models, and are intended for serious winter conditions and uses like alpine climbing and mountaineering. Most notably, you’ll see the fill weights go up from the 3- to 4-ounce range (Patagonia Down Sweater) to 7.7 ounces (Mountain Equipment Senja) or more. They also are far puffier than the other categories with more down, and as a result take up quite a bit more space in your pack. Because of this, we only bring them along if the extra warmth is absolutely necessary. We’ve included a number of our favorite mid and heavyweight options in this article, but for a deeper dive into the market, see our round-up on the best winter jackets.
It all starts with that lofty and premium warmth that can only be found in a down-filled product. Down insulation functions so effectively because the loose clusters of feathers are great at trapping body heat. But unlike down sleeping bags, which have an official EN rating system that tests and measures their warmth on a concrete scale, down jackets are more like the Wild West. Below is information that should help you fill in the gaps.
Fill power (600-fill, 700-fill, 800-fill, etc.) is how the quality of down is measured, and the higher the fill the better the down. The number is calculated based on how much space one ounce of down clusters takes up in a cylindrical tube. This is known as the amount of loft, and the more loft a jacket has, the more body heat it traps and the warmer you will be. Put another way, achieving the same amount of warmth with a lower fill power requires more down, adding weight and bulk to achieve the same comfort goals.
For jackets, 550 to 650-fill down is what you’ll find on most entry and mid-level models, which is perfectly respectable for daily wear but falls short for performance use. Premium down is 800-fill and above, which is what Arc’teryx, Patagonia, and Mountain Hardwear use for their high-end down jackets. At this level of quality, you reap the highly touted benefits of down insulation: lightweight and ultra-compressible warmth. Some high-end climbing brands like Feathered Friends and Montbell use 900-fill down, but that high of a number is a rarity and 800-fill is considered premium. In 2013, Patagonia experimented with a 1,000-fill down jacket, the Encapsil, but hasn’t yet brought it back to market. Montbell currently offers the 1,000-fill Plasma Down Jacket and Parka with thin 7D shells, and Eddie Bauer recently released their MicroTherm 1000 series.
Fill power gets the most press, but fill weight is perhaps the most important factor in determining a down jacket’s warmth. Fill weight is the actual amount of down stuffed into a jacket, measured in ounces. For example, if Jacket A has 6 ounces of 800-fill down and Jacket B has 3 ounces of 800-fill down, you can expect that Jacket A will be significantly warmer (we estimate that it would increase comfort levels in low output activities by approximately 10-20 degrees). Lower fill power down offers less warmth per ounce, so to compare apples to apples you should use similar fill powers.
We find it interesting that fill weight is much less publicized than fill power, which leads to a lot of confusion for shoppers who associate higher fill power as always meaning more warmth. Apparently the fill power numbers are far sexier, and as a result, we sometimes have to call the manufacturers to track down fill weight as it’s not always listed (for more information, see our article: Down Fill and Insulation Explained).
Our Estimated Temperature Scale
It’s tough to pinpoint an exact temperature range in which you will feel comfortable wearing a down jacket (there’s a reason no one has attempted to create a standardized rating system). Factors like fit, layering, your levels of exertion and circulation, and wind all play a role.
Generally, we think of down sweaters and ultralights—which usually have between 2 and 4 ounces of fill weight—as providing solid warmth in conditions ranging from around 35 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 15 degrees Celsius) with low levels of exertion, such as puttering around a campsite. More fill will help you move toward the bottom end of the range and less will push you toward the middle. A cozy baselayer can buy you an extra 5 to 15 degrees depending on its thickness and quality. These types of jackets are very popular for three-season alpine use and in cities for everything but the heart of winter.
When the mercury drops below freezing, you will be more comfortable wearing a true midweight or heavyweight down jacket for winter. The fill weight of these jackets should be 4 ounces at the absolute minimum and often is in the range of 5 to 6 ounces or more (the Rab Neutrino Pro, for instance, has more at 8 oz.). For bitter cold and climbing the highest peaks, an even heavier down parka may be in order.
For uses like backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, ski touring, or whenever you have to lug around your own gear, the total weight of your down jacket should play a significant role in your buying decision. Jackets like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 (8.8 oz.) and Feathered Friends Eos (10.6 oz.) weigh very little for the warmth they provide and compress down extremely small in your pack. As a result of all the fun tech, they also cost considerably more than your typical down sweater. On the other hand, if you just need a layer for around town and occasional outdoor uses like downhill skiing, you'll be completely fine with a somewhat heavier and more affordable build like the 13.1-ounce Outdoor Research Transcendent. Finally, winter-ready jackets will obviously be the heaviest options, including the 1-pound-11-ounce REI Co-op Stormhenge 850.
“Ultralight” is a buzzword of sorts that you will inevitably run into when shopping for a down jacket, and it’s worth noting there aren’t hard-and-fast rules as to what qualifies. We keep a close eye on the ratio of fill weight to total weight to see what lengths the manufacturer went to trim weight (the shell denier is a good hint too, and more on that below). At the extreme end of the spectrum is Montbell's Plasma 1000, which packs 1.6 ounces of down inside a superlight 4.8-ounce package. When gear companies really prioritize cutting weight, you’ll see changes to zippers, a trim fit, and a lack of pockets. Some even opt for a pullover style to cut out half of the zipper. No matter what the manufacturer names a jacket, keep a close eye on fill weight and total weight to make your own determination.
Denier (D) is the measurement of the weight of a thread, and the lower the number the lighter the weight. A lower denier rating means the material is less durable and more prone to tears or punctures. Much of the difference in weight of an ultralight jacket is trimmed by using a lower denier fabric for the shell. Other factors like premium down (it provides the most warmth for the least amount of weight) and ultralight zippers play a role as well, but the shell fabric is most important.
Almost every jacket on this list is made with reasonably lightweight shell fabrics. The thinnest jacket is the Montbell Plasma 1000 , which has a very fragile 7D shell, and the thickest (at least among those that report this spec) is the Mountain Equipment Senja, which has a 40D shell. 10D is pretty standard for ultralights and a more substantial 20D is what you’ll often find in an average down sweater. Don’t underestimate the importance of denier: even the difference from 10D to 20D can play a significant role in the total weight and potential lifespan of your jacket. If ounces matter and you intend to use the jacket in the backcountry, treat yourself to an ultralight. If most of your use will be in the city, a down sweater is sturdier and should save you money in the process.
Down enthusiasts love its compressibility and for good reason. An ultralight jacket like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 can be stuffed into its own pocket and end up much smaller than a Nalgene bottle. The tiny packed size means you have little reason to leave it behind, and can fit it easily into either a daypack or overnight backpacking pack.
Keep in mind that the higher the fill power the more easily it will compress. This is noticeable when you get into premium levels of down (800-fill and above), which pack down to seemingly impossible sizes yet bounce back after only a few minutes out of the bag (as long as you don’t store it compressed too long). Fabric thickness also plays an important role, and thinner denier fabrics logically pack down smaller. Along with warmth for the weight, compressibility is an area where down dominates the vast majority of synthetic-insulated jackets.
Down feathers unfortunately lose much of their ability to insulate when wet, turning into a clumpy and soggy mess. This makes them a serious liability in wet conditions or if you’re sweating heavily, which is why some prefer a synthetic jacket that continues to insulate when wet.
Recently, gear manufacturers have started treating down to make it more water resistant. They do this by adding a polymer to the down before filling the jacket, and the result is that it resists water better and you don’t have to worry as much about light precipitation. Even though it still doesn’t match the wet weather performance of synthetics, we love the hydrophobic down movement. If you’re headed out in a wet area like the Pacific Northwest or New Zealand, a jacket with hydrophobic down like the Ghost Whisperer/2 (and a waterproof shell) is a smart choice.
Another way that gear manufacturers fight moisture is a DWR (durable water repellant) treatment on the outside on the jacket. This treatment helps prevent water droplets from forming and entering your jacket—essentially the water has a harder time staying on the fabric and beads up and rolls off instead. Neither a DWR finish nor hydrophobic down will keep your down completely dry, but they make nice lines of defense against light to moderate precipitation.
Fit is jacket-specific, but there are two main considerations here. First, down sweaters have a more casual fit than ultralight or performance jackets, including boxier torsos, arms, and hoods (when available). Fit also varies significantly by brand. From our experience, Arc’teryx jackets like the Cerium LT Hoody fit the slimmest of all, which we refer to simply as the “Arc’teryx fit.” Guides and ultra-athletic folks who frequently use the gear are a key contingent for Arc’teryx, which helps explain the fit. We also like the athletic cuts on layers from Mountain Equipment and Rab. Brands like Patagonia, Outdoor Research, and Mountain Hardwear often have more accommodating shapes that balance everyday comfort with performance. And finally, we’ve found that REI Co-op and Marmot fall on the roomier end of the spectrum, and we occasionally need to size down (including with our REI 650 Down Jacket 2.0).
Most down jackets on this list are offered in hooded and non-hooded versions. The non-hooded version is slightly cheaper and weighs less, but you don’t get the advantage of the extra warmth and comfort. For casual use or as a midlayer for skiing, many people opt for a down vest or go without the hood and carry a separate beanie instead. For backpacking and climbing, many people get the hood and don’t regret it. You’ll notice that in our picks above, we listed down sweaters in the non-hooded versions (when available), which are the most commonly purchased, and the ultralights with hoods, also the most common for that variety of jacket. For a deeper dive into the topic, see our article: Does Your Down Jacket Need a Hood?.
This article is unisex in nature and we have both men and women gear testers getting outdoors in all seasons and types of conditions (and you’ll notice that whenever possible, product buttons are provided for both the men’s and women’s versions). In addition, we have created a round-up of the best women’s-specific down jackets covering that category in particular. Many of the models are the same but the names and colorways sometimes vary. On occasion, a specific design feature or the fit will differ. And there are products that are only available for women or vice versa. Regardless, we hope that it’s helpful for those who prefer to see how the women's-specific designs stack up.
There is a lot to be said for synthetic insulated jackets, which insulate better than down when wet, are more breathable, and cheaper. However, down still has no replacement (at least for now). The warmth-to-weight ratio is unparalleled, as are compressibility and comfort. We’ve tested a number of synthetic jackets like the Arc’teryx Atom LT and Patagonia Micro Puff, both are which are very comfortable and reasonably light, but the warmth just isn’t the same. We often reach for synthetics for everyday use and light outdoor activities in the fall and spring, but they take up too much space in our packs for extended backcountry trips and most don’t provide quite enough warmth for truly cold days. Optimally you would have both, but if you’re only in the market for a single jacket, there’s simply no better insulator than down. For a more detailed explanation of this topic, see our article on down vs. synthetic insulation.
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