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 0.1 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, the 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—we don’t recommend this jacket for use in wet or severe weather. Patagonia’s synthetic alternatives, the Micro Puff and Nano Puff, are better options—the Micro Puff uses a Pertex Quantum shell which is water-resistant and windproof, while the Nano Puff’s PrimaLoft Gold insulation maintains more warmth when wet. That said, whether you opt for the Down Sweater or a synthetic alternative, it’s always best to add 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 13 down jackets, and while it’s not ultralight by any means, it does fall right in the middle of the down sweater category. For comparison, the less-insulated REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket is 10.5 ounces and the updated Outdoor Research Transcendent matches the Patagonia at 13.1 ounces. The more expensive 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.
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 shell 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. 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 Down Sweater
You can get the Down Sweater in three varieties: vest, hoodless, or hoody. We had the non-hooded jacket for this test and prefer this style, 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 performance midlayer or 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. But Patagonia clearly likes to keep their pricing simple: no matter the model of insulated jacket, the spread is $50 between vest, non-hooded, and hoody styles. The vest, hoodless, and hoody versions are all available in women’s fit, sizing, and colors as well, which are offered at the same prices. The women’s Down Sweater weighs in at 12.2 ounces but boasts the same materials, fill, and features.
100% Traceable Down Fill
Patagonia uses responsible sourcing for their down products, and the 800-fill-power goose down found in the Down Sweater is 100% 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. This practice is not industry-wide, 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 incredible 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.
- 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|
|Outdoor Research Transcendent||$199||13.1 oz.||650-fill down||3.5 oz.||20D|
|REI Co-op Down Jacket||$100||10.5 oz.||650-fill down||Unavail.||20D|
|Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket||$199||11.9 oz.||PrimaLoft Gold||60g/m2||20D|
|Patagonia Micro Puff Jacket||$249||8.3 oz.||PlumaFill synthetic||65 g/m2||10D|
|Arc'teryx Cerium LT||$349||9.9 oz.||850-fill down & Coreloft||3.2 oz. & 80 g/m2||20Dx10D|
Patagonia offers synthetic alternatives to the Down Sweater that are impressive for their weight and performance—namely, the Micro Puff and Nano Puff. The Micro Puff uses PlumaFill (65g)—an admirable down substitute, but not as warm as true down. Further, the Micro Puff’s 10D shell is noticeably thinner than most other jackets, and in our experience it shreds in the mere presence of rock. The Micro Puff does however offer impressive packability and adds a Pertex Quantum shell that’s both water-resistant and windproof, although there’s really no substitute for a burly hardshell in harsh conditions. The warmer Nano Puff doesn’t breathe nearly as well as the Down Sweater, but—like the Micro Puff—does perform 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, we think all three options have their strong suits, 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 tops our down jacket round-up for a reason. It is lightweight at 9.9 ounces, and its 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 for the weight, we prefer the Cerium LT.
Finally, we’ve mentioned the Outdoor Research Transcendent Sweater throughout this review, and that’s because it’s a solid competitor. At $30 cheaper and weighing the same as the Down Sweater, we think it’s a great deal. However, the Transcendent uses 650-fill down (3.5 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, and 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.
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