Simply put, we want our jacket to be ready for any activity, and no matter what we are doing — ice climbing, skiing, scrambling — we are likely to be moving our arms about and sometimes swinging them over our head. A sudden rainstorm during an October climbing trip to Smith Rock proved to be a great chance to test the Down Sweater Hoody against the elements. Not batting an eye, it has an oily feel that allows water to bead up and roll right off.
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We were able to rock climb in this jacket without snagging or worrying about abrasion. It also held up very well over time, where some of the lighter weight fabrics literally started to disintegrate, getting thinner over time.
The Ghost Whisperer comes with a hefty price tag, it looks fairly "outdoorsy" making it less versatile, and it is very lightweight which means it is not intended for the coldest temperatures. As such, it is not likely to be your quiver-of-one. However, if you're looking for a great jacket for cool autumn temperatures in the desert or as a midlayer for cold winter activities, this will be a trusty companion.
The jacket has a collection of useful features: This was our favorite for sunset ascents of desert towers when speed and low weight are critical to getting to the rappels before dark—and you still want to look outdoor-chic for those beautiful sunset summit shots.
If you're looking to ditch the hood, this hoody is also available in the Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket - Women's. It is extremely light weight for how warm it is—in fact, it puffs up so much that we had a hard time believing it was really as lightweight as our scales reported. Some of this warmth comes from the thoughtful design, too. The jacket features a storm collar that seals weather out and warmth in, making it fit more like an expedition parka—except, again, for the extreme light weight.
This was our go-to jacket for frigid days wandering around our favorite winter wonderland, and especially for technical ice climbs where warmth is paramount, lightweight a close second, and abrasion is not an issue. Speaking of abrasion, over the long term, this is not the most durable model. The very lightweight fabric also comes with a limit to its durability, and over months of rigorous use, the threads started to run thin.
This is not an everyday use type of jacket, but if you value lightweight and warmth above all else, this is a good investment. Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody. The Rab Microlight Alpine is one of the most durable pieces we've ever reviewed. Now, with a few detail-oriented updates, it's even more comfortable and functional than before.
With the new polymer instead of wire hood brim, you don't look ridiculous when you forget to bend it into shape. The folks at Rab have also updated the jacket's fit, expanding the chest box and tapering the sides. This makes the jacket a little less boxy, which helps it flow from mountain to town activities.
In this year's round of field tests, we noticed a lot of compliments around town, as well as in the mountains. It is sleek and sharp. This jacket is a bit heavier for its size, but it seals out weather so well we think it's worth the few extra ounces. Plus, the outer fabric was among the more durable when compared to similarly lightweight jackets in the review. We love the slightly longer arms, and the taper ensures the sleeves stay out of your way, even when rock climbing.
The Microlight is light and compressible with fill power hydrophobic down and stands up to light rain and wet snow better than most with its Pertex exterior fabric.
We appreciated the new stuff sack, which makes it easy to travel with, but we would have preferred it if it were girth hitched to the pocket so it won't fall out when we open the pocket like the clever design featured in both the Arc'teryx Cerium LT and SV in this review. This model will be reliable from town to summit. This great hoody is also available in a jacket!
Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's. The deeper in the woods or the mountains you go, the more important the things you carry with you become and how much those things weigh. Having the appropriate gear and clothing in the mountains is imperative to having a good time, and an insulated jacket can be the difference between summit and surrender, celebrating and suffering.
Down jackets range broadly from lightweight and packable to heavy-duty expedition parkas. In this review, we focus on the technical lightweight category. The jackets in this review are typically great stand-alone insulation for milder climates, like spring and fall in the desert or brisk mornings on foggy northern beaches.
They may also serve as an insulating layer for light aerobic activities in frigid environments, or to wear under a shell jacket in inclement weather.
This review aims to help you find the right jacket for your uses, but also to equip you with the knowledge to evaluate jackets for yourself the next time you're browsing at an outdoor store. While value isn't taken into account when ranking via our metrics, we consider value to play an important part in the purchasing of a product. While some hunting for a new down jacket may want the cream of the crop, others are more interested in the model that offers a high performance to value ratio.
With that in mind, we have crafted a value chart which pinpoints the models that do just that. Take a look at the chart below; you'll notice that those toward the bottom of the line and to the right offer up a high performance to value. The down versus synthetic question will probably never be an easy one to answer. Even the best synthetic fibers are no match for the warmth-to-weight ratio of natural down feathers. But when down gets wet, it might as well be a pasta meal when you've run out of white gas--it's pretty much useless.
We talk more about synthetic, down, and hydrophobic down in our Buying Advice Article. After years and months of using these jackets, wearing them across continents and for many different activities, we have come up with an evaluation of which jackets are best at what, and we have awarded some for outstanding performance.
Check out the chart above to see where each down competitor in our review ranked in overall performance. Down is measured by the amount of space taken up by an ounce of down feathers. Because down insulates by trapping air and holding it in place for your body heat to warm up, the more loft you can get, the better. This means a higher numbered fill power is of higher quality. For example, fill power down fills cubic inches for every ounce of down. This also means that a fill jacket, like The North Face Aconcagua can be just as warm as an fill jacket — it'll just be bulkier.
But the most common misconception is that a higher number means warmer when in reality a fill jacket can be warmer than a super thin fill ultralight jacket. But the slimmer Rab Microlight Alpine. Most of the jackets in this review are designed to be lightweight, technical insulating layers. Most of them have down in the fill power range and provide excellent warmth and loft for the weight. These jackets are optimized for the mountains, which is a challenging balancing act of lightweight, durability, and warmth.
Depending on your top priority, you will likely find a good match among our award winners, and we encourage you to view the ranking chart and each review. You will probably always remember your first down sleeping bag; did it revolutionize the way you felt about carrying gear on your back? For many, the investment in lightweight down products correlates to increased happiness in the backcountry. The Arc'teryx Cerium SV is even more impressive for its warmth to weight ratio.
It weighs 10 ounces and is the warmest in the bunch. If you're looking for a good around-town down jacket, the weight may not be a critical factor in your decision.
However, since down is one of the best materials for lightweight, warm jackets and sleeping bags, quilts, booties, etc. The best jackets were those with the highest quality fill power down and above , which also overlaps with our next rating metric. One of the main reasons to buy a down jacket, other than the stellar warmth to weight ratio, is the compressibility.
For many outdoor activities, space is a huge commodity along with weight. This may be because you're carrying all your gear on your back, cramming it into a small bike commute bag, or stuffing it into dry bags.
Whatever the adventure, it's pretty nice to have everything you need in a compact and lightweight kit. The first aspect we look for when searching for a highly compressible down jacket is the down fill power. A higher number means more loft, and that means more warmth to weight, and a higher level of compressibility; this is the best stuff. Generally, anything above fill down is considered high quality, but we rarely consider anything below fill anymore.
Next, the rest of the jacket's materials will factor into the compressibility of the jacket. A sturdier fabric will be bulkier, as will a jacket with other materials, like fleece or soft shell, integrated into it. And last, we also considered the size of the stuff sack or stowable pocket that the jacket stuffs into. This is not a direct reflection of how compressible the jacket actually is, but since it does affect how big the jacket is when stuffed, we thought this was worth at least some consideration.
Excessively large stuff sacks or oblong, large pockets made for annoying carrying when stuffed, while too-small stuff sacks or pockets could be challenging and slow to stuff. The two end up very different sizes when stuffed, however, because the SV is designed for colder temperatures and therefore has bigger baffles and more down.
The LT is designed for more mild temperatures and is, therefore, lighter weight with less down insulation overall. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer was one of the most compressible. It's thin and light to begin with, like the Cerium LT , and the high quality down allows it to get super small. A small compressed size is ideal for climbing, backpacking, or even bike commuting where pack space is a commodity.
If compressibility is not as important to you as some of the other metrics in our test, we'd suggest taking a look at the Rab Microlight Alpine or Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody. This category is a catch-all for the little things we liked or didn't like about the jackets, from pockets and hoods, to draw cords and well-placed soft fleece patches. In general, we like models with durable plastic zippers that don't bend or kink over time counter-intuitive, but plastic zippers are much more durable than metal ones.
Hem drawcord cinches are key to keeping cold drafts out. A little fleece or creative baffling in the right place goes a long way in promoting freedom of movement.
But a jacket didn't have to have a lot of features to score highly in this category. The Ghost Whisperer has very few features, but Mountain Hardwear kept the ones that count for a high functioning climbing layer.
It got high marks for careful selection of key features. In general, we love hoods because they add warmth. We also appreciate chest pockets for ease of access while climbing—and because it helps keep essential items, like snacks or electronics, warm and accessible.
The streamlined design also makes the jacket look sleek, easily sliding with you into Happy Hour or your favorite Apres Ski venue. Arc'teryx stole the show again in this category with details such as a separate stuff sack girth hitched into the chest pocket.
This feature meant we could cram it into our luggage or carry it on the back of our harness without fear of snagging the jacket's material while chimneying up a long rock route. And when wearing the jacket, if we unzipped that chest pocket to retrieve our phone or snacks, the stuff sack wouldn't fall out.
The Cerium was the highest scorer in the bunch with the Rab Microlight placing second. Fabrics are, in general, very durable these days, but there are a few things to pay attention to.
Lower denier ratings typically translate to lower weight but less durability, but fabric is not the only durability concern. In our tests, the lightest fabrics ended up being the most fragile. If it is important to you to have a lightweight jacket, it might be worth sacrificing a little durability. 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.
DWR coatings are chemical applications designed to repel water before it has a chance to be absorbed by the face fabric and, subsequently, the down inside. By helping to keep the face fabric dry, DWR coatings allow a jacket to breathe better should moisture accumulate on the inside from sweating. The only downside to DWR coatings is that they vary widely in quality and durability. Once a DWR coating has worn off, you must reapply. Unfortunately, this can happen in as little as a few uses. Water resistance can also come by using treated down that has a DWR coating.
Because we do not have access to the down inside a jacket, we found it difficult to test how useful these DWR applications are at creating hydrophobic down. In years past we only reviewed a couple down jackets with hydrophobic down used inside, while this year there were four that made our selection of the ten best, suggesting that this is a technology that companies think improve the performance of down that comes in contact with water. Never-the-less, despite soaking these jackets in the shower, we found it difficult to accurately compare the performance of the treated down versus regular down.
In general, our scores in this metric were a reflection of the performance of the DWR coating and the face fabric, although we chose to award bonus points to jackets that used hydrophobic down. The most water resistant down jacket was, without doubt, the Columbia Outdry Ex Gold , specifically designed to be waterproof on the outside.
This model was like combining down insulation on the inside with a rain slicker on the outside, and while it came with a few drawbacks, water resistance certainly was not one of them. While we can think of a few improvements we would make, we think this jacket is an intriguing start to the niche of waterproof down jackets. Our Top Pick for Wet Weather is the Rab Microlight Alpine , which combines water-resistant Pertex microlight shell fabric with an impressive DWR coating, Nikwax treated down, and a hood that keeps the rain out of your face.
While it wasn't wholly water proof , this is the down jacket we would want to take to wet climates, with the caveat that we would still do all we could to keep it as dry as possible. And with its combination of Q. Shield water resistant down and a durable and high-quality outer DWR coating, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded also received high scores for water resistance. This metric accounted for 15 percent of a product's final score. Unlike heavy overcoat-style down parkas, these mid- and lightweight down jackets are designed to be worn while you recreate.
Whether you wear them over the top of your other clothes, or as a warmth layer underneath a shell jacket, the fit needs to be conducive to movement. For this reason, we prefer jackets that are sleeker fitting and not excessively baggy, although your specific body type will dictate what constitutes a good fit. For us, an ideally fitting jacket is one that mimics the shape of the body, so that it moves as we do, but is also large enough to wear a layer or two beneath.
We try to avoid jackets that are overly baggy in the torso, as we find them to be annoying when we are wearing a pack or trying to look down at our feet when skiing or climbing.
There's also the fact that they have more dead space that needs to be warmed up using your body heat. We are also very particular about the length of the sleeves, as well as the shape of the jacket through the shoulders and upper back and chest.
Simply put, we want our jacket to be ready for any activity, and no matter what we are doing — ice climbing, skiing, scrambling — we are likely to be moving our arms about and sometimes swinging them over our head. Some jackets have sleeves that are too short, causing them to ride up above our wrists when our arms are outstretched.
Likewise, we found some the jackets to have constrictive fits around the shoulders, upper back, and chest that impede our freedom of movement, and affect the overall fit. Other areas that we paid attention to the fit were the collar, the hood, and the length of the hemline at our waist. In particular, we loved how the sleeves were plenty long and the cut of the shoulders spacious enough for us to perform any conceivable movement without impingement. While it was big enough to layer beneath, the cut was also sleek enough not to impede our motion.
For us, it fits very close to the body with virtually no dead space. We felt this fit perfectly complemented its lightweight design, as we most often wore it as a stand-alone jacket in cool weather, or as a close to the body warmth layer in frigid weather. The Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody was among a small handful of other jackets that also fit nicely , offering versatility and a wide range of movement.
Regardless of whether you are hiking, alpine climbing, or skiing, when you are working hard you will likely get too hot to wear a down jacket. Except when the weather is frigid, or we are doing a lot of hanging out, we typically only wear our down jacket during breaks in the activity, and then take it off and stuff it in the top of the pack again before we get moving.
Since a down jacket typically spends so much time in the pack, it is important to consider how easy it is to compress and how small it is once fully packed up. It is worth noting that down is superior to synthetic insulation when considering compressibility. Every time you stuff a synthetic jacket away, the insulation breaks down and loses its heat retention capacity. Down can handle many more compressions and expansions than synthetic insulation, and is also smaller when compressed and is lighter weight than synthetic materials.
The down used in the construction of the jackets reviewed is high quality and resisted degradation throughout testing. Consequently, the stratifying characteristic for this metric tended to be how small they were when compressed.
The jackets with few features, lightweight fabric, and high fill-power down compressed the most, while the jackets with heavy and bulky face fabrics or low fill-power down tended to compress the least. Some jackets easily fit into one of their own pockets and could be zipped up with an attached clip-in loop.
Others included a dedicated lightweight stuff sack that lives in the breast pocket. Unfortunately, some of the jackets in this review did not have a specialized method of compression, and so to get them as small as possible, we rolled them up inside their hood.
Not surprisingly, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded was the highest scorer when considering compressibility. It is the thinnest and lightest weight of the jackets we tested, and its high fill-power down means that it easily stuffs into its pocket in a tiny little package that can be clipped and taken anywhere.
Despite offering the most warmth of any jacket we tested, the Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody also stuffs down extremely small, a testament to the fill-power down used inside.
The only downside was that it uses a dedicated stuff sack rather than stuffing into its pocket, which adds a tiny bit of weight and bulk, not to mention the possibility of losing the stuff sack. A handful of other jackets, including the REI Co-op Magma , also stuff down pretty small in their own pockets. With so many companies producing high-quality clothing, it often comes down to the little things that make all the difference when deciding on a jacket.
This means a zipper that out-performs another, pockets a few inches higher, or a hem a few inches lower might make or break your choice. We've tested plenty of jackets that got away with elastic instead of a drawcord in the hood with varying results. However, only one attempted to do away with the drawcord at the waist, and we did not like this design.
There are a few things that you can do without, but some features are essential. When testing for features, we first set out to identify each of the features present on a jacket, and then tested them intensively while wearing the jacket out in the field.
The most important thing to consider was whether the features present worked well. We would way rather have a simple model with bomber performance, than a jacket full of bells and whistles that don't work. If a jacket's particular features are of interest to you, be sure to read the individual reviews where we give a full breakdown of what features each jacket has, and how well they worked.
The top scorers were two jackets whose features worked exceptionally well. The Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody has dual internal stash pockets, three drawcords for adjusting the hood precisely, and fleece-lined hand pockets, all of which endeared it to our hearts. The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, on the other hand, had fewer features that worked just as well. Our favorites were the hem drawcords that lived inside the hand pockets so they wouldn't dangle below our waist, a soft fleece-lined chin guard on the inside of the collar, and a perfectly fitting hood that can be tightened with a single drawcord.
Although it was a low overall scorer, we thought the dual interior stash pockets and the hem drawcord buckles recessed into the fabric were a nice touch for the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded jacket. There are so many insulated jackets available on the market today that choosing the right one can be quite a challenge. The first step is being sure that you would prefer down instead of synthetic insulation. Next, determine what characteristics matter the most to you, and then use this review to help narrow down your search.
Our expert reviewers have spent countless days in the mountains wearing and testing these jackets so that they can give you the very best advice. We hope that you find it helpful, and no matter where you live or what you do, you find a jacket to keep you warm this winter! The Best Down Jackets for Men of Displaying 1 - 5 of Updated April Getting ready for summer backpacking trips and need a warm layer for cold nights under the stars?
We've revamped our review to bring you the top 10 jackets on the market today. We also have two budget recommendations below, and a Top Pick for Wet Weather, because yes, you can wear some down jackets in a drizzle and still stay warm and dry. See all prices 4 found. The warmest in our review. See all prices 3 found. Combination of Pertex shell with DWR coating and Nikwax treated down leads to optimal water resistance.
The Ghost Whisperer moves as you move and was an ideal choice for chilly evening hikes in the fall, as we took here with Chip the dog to the backside of Smith Rock State Park, OR. The North Face Morph Hoodie is a warm down jacket that scored roughly average in our comparative review. Here contemplating testing its water resistance in a cave behind the Cascade Falls. With its very high quality fill power down, the Cerium LT Hoody had unrivaled amounts of loft and was also the warmest jacket in this review.
It uses sewn-through baffles to keep the jacket light. Responsibly Sourced Down In the past few years, most companies have begun using responsibly sourced down. Since down is an animal product — duck and goose feathers — it is important that it is harvested for use in your jacket in a way that does not unduly torture the animal.
Shop UNIQLO for women's Ultra Light Down Choose from our signature styles including jackets, coats, parkas, and vests. UNIQLO US. Ultralight Down Jacket Unlike ordinary down that soaks up moisture, ours absorbs 33% less moisture and dries 66% faster so it stays light, lofty and warm. On the outside, the game-changing Pertex Quantum nylon shell is tightly woven for exceptional durability. Product Features Men's hooded down puffer jacket ideal for daily wear in chilly, damp conditions.