Climbers, hikers, and outdoor adventurers of all types have enjoyed Patagonia’s Down Sweater for years. It’s a go-to piece that has defined a jacket category, as any new down sweater is compared to this legendary benchmark. It’s warm enough to be used as a comfortable midlayer during wintertime skiing, but also plenty compressible to bring along on summer alpine adventures. And though we wouldn’t call it a bargain, the price is still competitive for what you get: quality down, dependable construction, and reasonable weight—not to mention the whole Patagonia brand cachet. Below we break down the Down Sweater's warmth, weather resistance, weight and packability, fit and sizing, and more. To see how it stacks up to the competition, check out the comparison table below, and see our articles on the best down jackets and best midlayers.
Lightweight and comfortable warmth is what the Patagonia Down Sweater is all about. It’s a slightly warmer jacket than even its more expensive sibling, the Micro Puff, and stacks up very well to the other down sweaters on the market. Worn as an outer shell, the windproof fabric performs well, keeping you warm even in inclement weather. Throw it on under a shell and it’s a near-perfect resort skiing midlayer, provided you keep it protected from moisture.
The warmth-to-weight ratio is where this jacket excels in the down sweater group. Patagonia stuffs high-end 800-fill-power goose down into the Down Sweater, giving it great loft and compressibility relative to its weight. Fill weight is the actual amount of down used inside the jacket, and the Down Sweater has 3.4 ounces, which, for a non-hooded jacket, is solidly in the middle of the pack. Outdoor gear companies are quick to promote fill power but less so fill weight, and you really need both pieces to get an accurate indication of how warm the jacket will be. As an example, the Outdoor Research Transcendent has an additional 0.2 ounces of down, but the lower 650 fill-power contributes to making it less compressible and warm as the Down Sweater.
The Down Sweater’s shell and lining are both treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. While this allows the jacket to withstand light precipitation, the Down Sweater is by no means waterproof. In sustained precipitation, down wets out and begins to clump, losing its insulating power. And in heavy wind, the stitched baffling allows gusts to sneak through. Simply put—especially with the host of more weather-resistant alternatives out there—we don’t recommend this jacket for use in wet or severe weather without a shell overtop. Patagonia’s synthetic alternatives like the Micro Puff, Macro Puff, and Nano Puff are better options. That said, whether you opt for the Down Sweater or a synthetic alternative, it’s always smart to bring an outer layer that’s designed specifically for harsh conditions.
Weighing in at 13.1 ounces in a size medium, the Down Sweater is competitively lightweight. We tested the Down Sweater alongside a large group of over a dozen down jackets, and while it’s not ultralight by any means, it does fall in the middle of the down sweater category. For comparison, the less-insulated REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0 is 11 ounces and the updated Outdoor Research Transcendent is similar to the Patagonia at 13.7 ounces. The Patagonia Micro Puff shaves off a few more, weighing 8.3 ounces, but again sacrifices the warmth of real down and its thin shell is more prone to tearing. If you’re looking for a true ultralight piece, the Arc’teryx Cerium LT weighs less than 10 ounces for the non-hooded version.
Patagonia keeps the packing process simple, using the interior chest pocket that has a two-sided zipper. Thicker fabrics and the inner liner do make the stuffed size a bit larger than hooded ultralight jackets, but it’s still a plenty respectable size of approximately 9.5 x 7.25 x 4.5 inches (LxWxH). And as with all down products, try not to store the Down Sweater stuffed for extended periods of time, as it will compromise the down’s loft and longevity.
Construction and Durability
Fit and finish is a Patagonia hallmark. A down sweater that’s likely to be worn on a daily basis, backcountry or not, should be warm and inviting. Soft-touch materials are a plus, and the construction needs to be reliable. These are the pillars that have made the Patagonia Down Sweater such a longtime favorite. Both the shell and interior lining have a nice feel, and the top part of the zipper is covered by a small flap of fleece for comfort against your face when the collar is up. A DWR coating sheds snow and light rain and is well-integrated into the fabric, not affecting its soft feel. The horizontal stitching for the quilted-through construction is very straight and shows good workmanship. We’ve experienced very minimal down shedding throughout years of use.
The weight of a thread is measured in denier (abbreviated with a “D” or “d”), and the lower the number, the lighter the weight at the compromise of durability. The outer shell of the Down Sweater has a blend of 20x30D fabric—within the down sweater category, that’s on the lighter side. The jacket has a bit more of a delicate feel as a result. However, compared to jackets made with ultralight 7D and 10D fabrics (like the Patagonia Micro Puff), the Down Sweater feels much more ready for vigorous use. The interior of the jacket has a separate, sewn-in 20D liner, which nicely balances lightweight and sufficient protection if you happen to have a zippered layer underneath. Topping it off are nice and burly zippers for the main zip and two hand pockets. They’ve been consistent performers over our entire time with the jacket, and have a smooth and positive action even in freezing conditions.
Our previous Down Sweater had a boxy fit, but Patagonia seems to have refined the cut with this latest version (purchased in 2018). We ordered a medium, and our two testers (5’10” and 6’1” with slim builds) felt the fit was spot-on for its intended use. The jacket isn't bulky or loose and layers nicely under a shell, but it also doesn't have the trim, athletic cut that you get with a jacket like the Arc’teryx Cerium LT. This multifunctional fit had us grabbing the Down Sweater for snow sports or as an extra layer for cold-weather hiking, as well as over a dress shirt (or a suit coat—it’s been done!) in the city.
The back length measures 26.25 inches in a medium—long enough to be worn by itself and doesn’t ride up if you’re doing something active, but isn’t so long that it pokes out the bottom of a hardshell jacket. Two front cinches pull the hem in evenly, and can be adjusted from inside the two hand pockets so your freezing digits don’t need to be outside for even a moment. It’s not our favorite system because the string pulls take up space in your hand pockets—if we’re nitpicking, we prefer an unobtrusive cinch system at the sides of the hem, like that on the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2. The cuffs have a little stretch, and, while fitting a little loose over smaller wrists, are plenty comfortable and glove-friendly.
Other Versions of the Patagonia Down Sweater
You can get the Down Sweater in four varieties: hoodless, hoody, pullover, or vest. We had the non-hooded jacket for this test and prefer this style for casual use, although we've also been very impressed with the vest design (see our article on the best vests). The jacket’s primary uses as a midlayer for skiing or as an around-towner aren’t as conducive to a puffy hood that gets in the way, although this largely comes down to personal preference. The hoody version also means a jump in price, tacking on an additional $50, which is a little much in our opinion. The newest option in the lineup is the Down Sweater Hoody Pullover, which is very similar to the regular hoody but with a half-length front zipper and kangaroo-style hand pocket. All are available in women’s-specific versions and colors at the same prices. For comparison, the women’s Down Sweater weighs in at 12.2 ounces and boasts the same materials, fill, and features.
Sustainability: Traceable Down and Bluesign-Approved Fabrics
Patagonia uses responsible sourcing for their down products, and the 800-fill-power goose down found in the Down Sweater is 100-percent traceable. This means Patagonia can show that all the down used in the jacket is from birds that were not force-fed or live-plucked. Instead, they were raised humanely, and the feathers were collected after the birds were slaughtered for food. The Down Sweater also uses recycled polyester and bluesign-approved fabrics, which means that Patagonia took steps to reduce negative impacts on the environment, workers, and consumers during the jacket’s production. These practices are not industry-wide (although more brands are jumping on board), and we applaud Patagonia for taking a leading role here. It’s the kind of ethos Patagonia is well-known for and has led to brand loyalty, with folks willing to spend a little more for a heightened level of transparency.
What We Like
- It’s the best down sweater on the market. Excellent materials, high-end build quality, and cozy 800-fill down warmth.
- Reasonably light and packable for backpacking and climbing (although you can go much lighter with true backcountry-focused pieces).
- Classic styling and a lot of color options.
What We Don’t
- For the warmth, you can find cheaper options.
- Patagonia's synthetic Micro Puff outperforms it in terms of packability and wet-weather protection.
- These jackets are really, really popular, so it’s likely you won’t be the only one sporting a Down Sweater.
|Patagonia Down Sweater||$229||13.1 oz.||800-fill down||3.4 oz.||20Dx30D|
|Patagonia Micro Puff Jacket||$249||8.3 oz.||PlumaFill synthetic||65 g/m2||10D|
|Patagonia Macro Puff Jacket||$349||13.2 oz.||PlumaFill synthetic||135g & 90g/m2||10D|
|Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket||$199||11.9 oz.||PrimaLoft Gold||60g/m2||20D|
|Arc'teryx Cerium LT||$349||9.9 oz.||850-fill down & Coreloft||3.2 oz. & 80g/m2||10D|
|Outdoor Research Transcendent||$199||13.7 oz.||650-fill down||3.6 oz.||20D|
|REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0||$100||11 oz.||650-fill down||4.2 oz.||20D|
Patagonia offers three synthetic alternatives to the Down Sweater that are impressive for their weight and performance: the Micro Puff, Macro Puff, and Nano Puff. The Micro Puff uses PlumaFill (65g), an admirable down substitute but one that’s not as warm as true down. Further, the Micro Puff’s 10D shell is noticeably thinner than most other jackets, although you do get impressive packability and a Pertex Quantum shell that is both water-resistant and windproof. Next up, the new-for-2019 Macro Puff offers a step up in warmth with high-loft 135g and 90g PlumaFill, although it foregoes the weather-resistant shell and is rather pricey at $349. Finally, the Nano Puff doesn’t breathe nearly as well as the Down Sweater, but like the Micro Puff, performs better in wet conditions thanks to its PrimaLoft insulation. Its 20D shell is similarly durable, and it shaves off about an ounce and $30 compared to the Down Sweater. All things considered, all four options have their strong suits and synthetic insulation wins out in wet weather, but nothing beats the warmth-to-weight ratio and coziness of real down.
Moving onto a more performance-oriented piece, the Arc’teryx Cerium LT is one of our favorite down jackets on the market. It’s lightweight at 9.9 ounces, and the use of Coreloft synthetic insulation in areas prone to getting wet is a nice addition. The Cerium's 3.2 ounces of 850-fill down in all other areas kept us warm throughout all our testing, and we can’t argue with the look and feel of Arc’teryx products. That said, they do come at a price—$349 for this one, to be exact. If you need a down jacket for everyday wear and weekend skiing or hiking trips, the Down Sweater is an excellent choice. But for the highest levels of performance and design for the weight, the Cerium LT is tough to beat.
We’ve also mentioned the Outdoor Research Transcendent throughout this review, and that’s because it’s a solid competitor at a good price. At $30 cheaper and weighing nearly the same as the Down Sweater (13.7 ounces), we think it’s a great value. However, the Transcendent uses 650-fill down (3.6 ounces) compared to the Down Sweater’s 800-fill (3.4 ounces). While this isn’t truly comparing apples to apples, it amounts to similar warmth but a drop in packability. This doesn't have much of an impact on everyday wear, plus the updated Transcendent's shell material is arguably plusher than what you get on the Patagonia. But performance-wise, we give the nod to the Down Sweater.
For those looking to save, REI Co-op’s 650 Down Jacket 2.0 is a final option to consider. At $100, it’s one of the most budget-friendly down jackets on the market and doesn’t sacrifice a ton in the way of performance. It’s reasonably light at 11 ounces, packs down into its own pocket, and like the Patagonia, uses recycled and bluesign-approved fabrics along with responsibly sourced down. In terms of down fill, the REI has 4.2 ounces of 650-fill-power down, which is step down in compressibility and warmth for the weight. For daily use and light adventuring, it’s hard to beat the value of the REI. But for a considerable bump in build quality, looks, and packability, we give the edge to the Down Sweater.
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