These types of jackets are very popular for three-season alpine use and in cities for everything but the heart of winter. Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody.
Using the highest loft fill goose down to ensure both optimal warmth and lighter weight, the Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody was the highest scorer in our review. Warmth is the most important consideration when purchasing a down jacket, and the Cerium LT Hoody was the warmest that we tested. We were also happy to find that it was among the lightest in our review, a side-effect of the high quality, high-loft down used throughout. It was not only light and warm but was also far less constricting in the fit than many of the other jackets we tested, allowing complete range of movement, especially in the shoulders, while still hugging the body close enough that it didn't feel baggy or loose.
The main area that the Cerium didn't impress us in was its water resistance. The down isn't treated with any hydrophobic application, and the DWR coating on the shell quickly wore off in some places. While there are Coreloft Synthetic insulation patches on the shoulders, if you get stuck in a downpour in this model it's not going to work that well. Look to our Top Pick for Wet Weather below if you're looking for something to perform well in a rainy climate.
But, if you are looking for the best combination of insulation, materials, and design for a lightweight down jacket, the Cerium is where it's at. Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody. With substantial dual internal stash pockets, a three-adjustment-point hood, and comfortable fleece-lined pockets, the Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody has the best selection of features in this review.
It was one of the most compressible options that we tested, packing down to the size of a Nalgene in its own pocket. It wasn't the warmest hoody in this review, and the fill down means it's heavier than most without being warmer.
While we'd love to see fill in the Transcendent , that would probably up the price beyond our Best Buy category, so it does hit the sweet spot of performance vs. If you want attention to detail and warmth on chilly belay ledges, while backcountry skiing, or around camp in the evenings, this down hoody is an optimal choice. Check out the Transcendent Sweater. Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody. We all know that wet weather is the Achilles heel of down insulation, but many companies have made a concerted push in the past few years to develop down with hydrophobic properties, thereby preventing it from losing its heat-trapping loft when wet.
The Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket combines super tightly woven Pertex microlight fabric that is naturally water resistant with a superior external DWR coating to keep water from soaking in from the outside. It also uses fill Nikwax hydrophobic down to prevent loss of loft due to water that has already managed to seep inside this jacket, providing the best overall defense against water available in a down jacket today. As much as we love the added versatility that comes with such attention placed on water resistance, we also appreciate the fact that this jacket is incredibly warm, which is the primary reason to shop for down in the first place.
Rab used slightly less lofty fill down in the Microlight , but it was still one of the warmest ones in our test group because they added 3 ounces more down compared to the Arc'teryx Cerium. That extra down does make it slightly heavier than the Cerium though. The weather resistance is impressive though, and the Rab Microlight Alpine can handle some rain without ending up soggy and useless. We don't suggest that you ditch your rain shell altogether, but if you're the type of person who often forgets a rain shell on day missions, then this layer might save your hide once or twice.
We've tested a lot of down jackets over the years, and none is more distinctive than the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded. Simply put, it offers the warmth and comfort of a thick puffy jacket in a sleek, lightweight package reminiscent of an under-layer.
If wearing the other down jackets in this review are akin to driving a beat-up pickup truck, then wearing the Ghost Whisperer makes one feel like they are taking the inside line in a sports car. Our size medium weighed in at a measly 7. We enjoyed wearing it pretty much all the time, using it as an outer-layer for cool fall evenings while camping, and also as a mid-layer while backcountry skiing.
To save on weight, the Ghost Whisperer skimps on features a little. There are no internal stash pockets, and the main zipper is small and prone to catching on the fabric. And while it is warm for the weight, it's not the warmest puffy in our test group. Think of it more as a layering option for days when an R1 type layer is not enough, but you'll be moving around and don't want something too warm either. We also appreciated the excellent DWR coating and the fact that Mountain Hardwear hasn't messed with the design of this hoody much in the last couple of years, 'cause if it ain't broke…!
There's also a hoodless Ghost Whisperer Jacket to consider should you be in the market for a strickly layering piece. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded. The Magma is another example of REI offering a good quality product at a reasonable price. Despite its low cost, it's one of only two jackets in our test group to use high-quality fill down.
That gave it a lot of warmth for the weight, but it was on the thin site overall and not the warmest option. We preferred instead to use it as part of a layering system on cold days. It works so well in a layering system because there is no hood, but then, there is no hood.
This limits the versatility of the Magma a bit. While it's one of the lightest options that we tested, part of that weight savings comes from the lack of a hood as well. The fit is a little weird and on the boxy side. It's cut large overall we had to size down in this one , and the belly bulges out a bit. Because not all of us have the same body type, and not all bodies fit into the slim, form-fitting models, some might appreciate the relaxed fit of the Magma.
If you are looking for a reasonably priced warmth layer, but don't need the most technically advanced model for a climb up the Matterhorn in winter, we think this is a good option to check out. REI Co-op Magma It's hard to pass by our award designations without giving a nod to the Patagonia Down Sweater. This classic model hasn't changed much over the years and is still the best looking option on the market. We didn't score for style, but after a day in the mountains in the more "technical" looking options in this review, we always grabbed the Down Sweater when heading out on the town.
We're sure some people buy this hoody and never head out of the confines of a city with it, but we can assure you that it still performs well in the mountains too. It has great wind resistance, helping us stay warmer on blustery days. We also liked the fit, which was roomy in the shoulders but trim down the sides. The DWR coating keeps water out of the down for a time, but Patagonia does not treat the fill, so its wet weather performance is not fantastic overall. It's a little heavy for the warmth it provides, but we loved the features that it has, including an internal chest pocket and a stash pocket, and a high collar that comes up over your nose when fully zipped.
As you've read above, other options are lighter or less expensive, but if you're looking for something that is also "outdoor chic," the Patagonia Down Sweater is hard to beat. We tested a narrow range of down jackets in this review. We focused on the light to mid-weight category and did not include super fat belay or expedition style parkas. These down jackets are lightweight, fairly compact, reasonably affordable, and offer stand-alone insulation down to around 32F, but can be used as part of a layering system to keep you warm in much colder temperatures.
The list of potential uses for a highly versatile layer like these is nearly endless. They are perfect for wearing in the evenings around town or while camping during the shoulder seasons, as an everyday around-town jacket during the winter, or as a warm layer or overcoat for colder seasons in the mountains, regardless of activity.
All of these models feature down insulation, long known to provide the best warmth-to-weight ratio, with the caveat that they lose their warmth-trapping loft when they get wet.
While most of these jackets now use some form of hydrophobically treated down coupled with external DWR applications to add water resistance, people who are concerned about their jacket getting wet should also check out our Best Men's Synthetic Insulated Jackets Review. When they were available, we chose to test the hooded versions of all these jackets, because a hood adds both warmth and versatility.
Not everyone likes a hood though, or if you are specifically looking for something to layer with, too many hoods in your layering system can get in the way, so we also point out which jackets also come in hoodless versions.
To be able to give you the best possible advice on buying a down jacket, we chose to rate each contender on a scale of for six different metrics: We weighted each of these six parameters based upon how important we felt it was to the overall performance of a down jacket, i. Adding together the scores for each metric gave us a final, overall rating, which you can peruse in the table above.
Note that in our ratings we were comparing the products to each other, and not the entire outdoor apparel market as a whole. So when we say an option is highly water resistant, that is compared to other down jackets, and not to a rain jacket. Most of our testing and scoring took place on adventures in the field, but in some cases, we also devised specialized tests to help us better understand how each jacket scored for a given metric. Below, we break down the ins and outs of each of the six scoring metrics, including the crucial factors, how we tested for it, what percentage it counts in the final score, and what were the best jackets for that particular metric.
In all cases, ratings were given compared to the competition. For that reason, just because a product scored poorly does not mean it is not worth owning or using, as all of these jackets are among the best available on the market today.
For users who have a particular purpose or use in mind, or who place greater importance on a specific metric, we recommend diving deep into the individual reviews, focusing on what is most important to you, rather than looking only at overall scores. One of the metrics that we don't score for but do consider in our reviews is the value of a product. While we are always trying to find the best products possible, sometimes those can be the most expensive too, which isn't always going to work for everyone.
If you need an option that will get the job done without setting you back a ton of money, take a look at our Price vs. We've graphed each model's score X-axis according to its price Y-axis. Those that lie on the bottom of the graph but towards the right have excellent value. Warmth is the most important criteria when selecting a jacket, because, after all, if not for its warmth, why do we need one?
Since it's so important, we decided to weight each model's score for warmth as 30 percent of its total score. The primary measurement of warmth in a down jacket is down-fill power. Fill power numbers for the jackets we tested range from lowest quality up to highest quality. The fill power represents the ability of the down to loft up and create insulating dead space.
Since trapped air within a jacket's baffles is what insulates you from the cold outside, the more loft a jacket has, the warmer it will be. However, fill power does not translate directly to warmth.
To fill a particular space, one company could use a little bit of very high fill down to accomplish the same thing as another company that uses a lot of lower fill power down. Since most of the jackets in this review have a similar ideal temperature range, using higher fill-power down tends to mean that the jacket will be lighter and also more expensive. Conversely, jackets that use low fill power down will usually be heavier and less costly to provide the same heat-trapping loft.
Lightweight down jackets are typically made using sewn-through baffle construction that helps produce a lighter weight and less expensive contender. The baffles are the individual compartments that hold down and are needed so that it doesn't all sink to the bottom. Sewn-through construction means that the fabric on the outside of the jacket is sewn to the material on the inside, creating a baffle, which is typically oriented horizontally, although some are square shaped.
This design makes them lighter, thinner, and less expensive. On the downside, sewn-through baffles create thin places near the seams where there is no down, and trapped heat can escape.
There are a few different alternative techniques for generating baffles besides the sewn-through method, but the only other one used by jackets in our review is the welded or bonded baffle construction. These two names describe a similar technique where the outer and inner fabrics of a model are "bonded" together using chemicals or glue free from any stitching.
The Columbia Outdry Ex Gold and the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded are the two jackets that use this method , which in general offers better water and wind resistance, as no holes or threads are compromising the outer layer of the jacket. However, we also noticed that this style has more massive gaps between baffles where there is no insulation, and so doesn't automatically lead to a warmer design. Though thickness, loft, and method of construction have a lot to do with warmth, it's not only about fill quality and amounts.
The design and features of a jacket, such as a hood and drawcords, the thickness and quality of the outer material, how well the jacket fits, etc. How well you keep the cold out is as important as how well you keep the heat inside. To test these jackets for warmth we used them each countless times on adventures during the late fall and early winter: We also tested them side-by-side on a frigid, windy morning in the mountains to best tell how they compare against each other.
Although they do not come with temperature ratings like sleeping bags, we feel these jackets offer good-to-adequate stand-alone warmth down to freezing and can help you stay warm in much lower temperatures used as part of a layering system. However, in our testing, a few jackets stood out for their warmth. The Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody uses super high fill down to create a thick, cozy, and very lightweight jacket that was warmer than all the others. Likewise, the Rab Microlight Alpine provided top of the line warmth, in no small part because it did an excellent job of sealing off all the openings to keep the heat in and the cold out.
Although not as good as those two jackets, the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody was also among the most comfortably warm jackets in this review. The higher, further, and steeper we take ourselves, the more important the weight of what we take becomes. The utility of an object comes in measuring how much use you get out of it for how much energy is expended carrying it.
The warmth-to-weight ratio of a jacket is a key measure of value, and a down jacket has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any technical insulated jacket. Additional ounces are added or subtracted to a jacket's weight by the fabric and design features. Frequently, durability and other critical features such as a hood are sacrificed on the altar of ultra-light design, to the detriment of the final product.
An ultra-light jacket that doesn't keep you warm or that falls apart after limited use doesn't have a lot of value. To test weight, we weighed jackets on our scale as soon as they arrived. In the cases where a contender came with an included stuff sack for compression, we included that in the item's overall weight, since weight tends to matter more when it's being carried than when it's being worn.
To find the best fit for our head tester, some of the jackets we ordered were size Large, while others were size Medium. Despite their differences in stated size, they all fit our head tester pretty much ideally, so we compared weights straight across the board, regardless of jacket size. From our testing, we noticed that weight seems to be a product of three factors: Using a higher fill-power down means that you get the same loft with less filling, so higher fill jackets tend to be lighter, and there is a little trade-off here except for added expense.
Similarly, using a thinner fabric can make a jacket lighter, with the compromise, in this case, being durability. Lastly, to save weight, some models have far fewer features, such as pockets, zippers, or draw cords, while others use much lighter and smaller zippers to shave half an ounce here and there. The trade-off for using less or lighter features can again be durability in the case of super small gauge zippers or the lack of ability to fine-tune the fit if a jacket eschews the use of drawcords.
The lightest jacket in this year's review was once again the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded , which came in at 7. Despite its low weight this jacket had a hood, zippered pockets, and a hem drawcord, and was surprisingly warm given how light it was. The insulating capacity of untreated down is almost completely negated by water, so jackets insulated with down have historically had a bad reputation in wet environments.
While a down jacket is never an excellent idea for a rainy day, having some level of water resistance is important simply to protect the down. All of the jackets reviewed accomplish this to some degree by applying a Durable Water Resistant DWR coating to the jacket.
Performs like a high-end down jacket but with better water resistance. A little heavy; poor cuff design. The Black Diamond Cold Forge breaks from tradition with a hybrid down and synthetic blend, but earns a spot on our list because it delivers what you want in a premium down jacket: The use of synthetics also means the Cold Forge will continue insulating when wet and dry much faster than pure down fill. At 20 ounces, there are lighter and more packable options that deliver similar levels of warmth.
Besides these minor complaints, the Cold Forge is a fantastic down piece, and the unique insulation is a major selling point for those in wet climates. More expensive and no warmer than the cheaper Rab Neutrino Endurance. You get approximately 8 ounces grams of fill down along with a Pertex Quantum shell for moisture protection. It has some advanced features like a helmet-compatible hood, a two-way main zipper for belaying, 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 frigid months, making it a nice option for just about any type of winter use. Patagonia also offers a standard Fitz Roy jacket, but we recommend steering clear as it only has 4. Impressive warmth for the weight. Thin 7D shell is too fragile for our tastes. Montbell is at the forefront of lightweight warmth, and you will have a hard time finding down jackets with a better ratio of fill weight to total weight Western Mountaineering and Brooks Range are contenders.
The Mirage Parka weighs less than 13 ounces yet packs an impressive 5. What makes the Mirage Parka undesirable for generalists is the 7D shell, the thinnest on the list. This means that you really have to be careful when wearing the jacket for everything from avoiding snags on protruding twigs to tearing the shell on a climbing harness. And if you are the careful type who babies their gear, go for it.
But there is a sacrifice with this kind of warmth at this low of a weight, and that generally is a shortened lifespan for your jacket. See the Men's Montbell Mirage Parka. Innovative design and very comfortable feel. Down jackets are known more for warmth than range of motion, but Mountain Hardwear is aiming for a game changer in this regard.
The StretchDown line was launched a couple years ago, featuring a flexible polyester shell material with welded seams for comfort that is reminiscent of a synthetic layer. In our testing, however, it became clear that the jacket is not a backcountry piece. Despite good looks and comfort, we found that the StretchDown falls short of the options above in terms of warmth to weight and packability.
Where the StretchDown excels is as an everyday jacket. The knit shell fabric is very tough, and the clean styling wears well around the city even the logo is very understated. Stylish design and burly shell fabric. Low quality down and expensive. As mentioned above, the Ovik Lite has a decidedly casual build that limits its appeal for backcountry use. Waterproof and very warm. Heavier and bulkier than a typical down jacket, which makes it less versatile.
It features premium 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. As with the Magma above, REI does not provide the fill weight here, but the Stormhenge is one of the warmest options on this list. 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. High-end look and feel.
For commuting, urban use, and après-ski, the Lodge Jacket is a very attractive option. See the Men's Canada Goose Lodge. Can feel drafty in cold conditions and the fit is a bit trim. At less than 7 ounces total, the SL is an ultralight jacket for fair-weather spring, summer, and fall backpacking trips, as well as a midlayer for winter sports.
We recently took the new hoody version on a trekking and bikepacking adventure through Mongolia and came impressed with its packability and build quality. Keep in mind that the Cerium SL does have its limitations. Given the meager 1. A casual piece from Marmot at a reasonable price point.
Low fill power and sheds feathers. Marmot is known for outerwear, and rain jackets in particular. With fill down, it does have one of the lowest fill powers on this list competitors like the REI Co-op Down Jacket and Outdoor Research Transcendent use fill down. Aside from price, the Marmot Tullus is pretty bare bones. But if you can find it on sale, the Tullus is one of the cheaper down jackets available from a top brand. Down Sweaters The down sweater is the most casual category of down jacket.
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 down sweaters are suitable for approximately 35 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit 2 to 15 degrees Celsius. Ultralight Down Jackets Ultralight down jackets are designed for backpacking, climbing, backcountry skiing, and other outdoor pursuits where every ounce matters. These down jackets generally have similar fill weights as down sweaters, but are ultralight due their use of premium down fill power , thin shell fabrics denier , and minimalist zippers and pockets.
They are high quality jackets in general, and if you are willing to take a little extra care to avoid damaging the shell, we prefer ultralights over down sweaters due to their warmth-to-weight ratio and athletic fit that's easy to layer. They still look great too, although the designs do have more of a performance cut. 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.
At the warmest end of the spectrum are heavyweight winter jackets and parkas. 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 Fill power fill, fill, fill, etc. 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.
At this level of quality, you reap the highly touted benefits of down insulation: Some high-end climbing brands like Feathered Friends and Montbell use fill down, but that high of a number is a rarity and fill is considered premium. Fill weight is the actual amount of down stuffed into a jacket, measured in ounces. For example, if Jacket A has 6 ounces of fill down and Jacket B has 3 ounces of 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 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.
Down Fill and Insulation Explained. 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 Endurance and Montbell Mirage Parka. 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.
As a result of all the fun tech, they also cost considerably more than your typical down sweater. 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.
Three of our ultralight picks have healthy amounts of premium down and are relatively light at around 10 ounces or less for the hooded versions. 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 abrasion. 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 Mirage Parka, which has a very fragile 7D shell, and the thickest is the Mountain Equipment Lightline , which has a 40D shell.
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 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. 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 absolutely dominates synthetic insulated jackets. Down feathers unfortunately lose much of their ability to insulate when wet, turning into a clumpy and soggy mess.
Recently, gear manufacturers have started treating down to make it more water resistant. Another way that gear manufacturers fight moisture is a DWR Durable Water Repellant treatment on the outside on the jacket.
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