10 Best Down Jackets of 2024

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A backpacker standing by a mountain lake in a teal down jacket
A good puffy is worth more than its weight in the backcountry. – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

Our team has tested more than 50 of the best down jackets while backpacking 20,000 miles on trails all over the world. We’ve carefully scrutinized every detail when it comes to warmth, comfort, weight and packability, and weather resistance. This guide features the best of the best from brands like Patagonia, Rab, Mountain Hardwear, REI, and more – so you can choose the right one for your next adventure.

And though down jackets have come a long way, but you may want to stick with a tried and true fleece jacket, which will retain its insulating properties when wet. If you’re set on down (and we love a good puffy), you’ll want a solid rain jacket to layer over it for extra protection in windy, wet, and cold conditions. And if you’re headed into especially cold weather, combine your down layer with a top-tier winter jacket (women’s or men’s) for superior warmth.

Quick Picks for Down Jackets

Zip through this list of the best down jackets out there, or cozy up with our in-depth reviews below.

Best Down Jacket Overall: Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie – Men’s ($329) / Women’s ($329)

Best Ultralight Down Jacket: Rab Mythic Alpine Light Down Jacket – Men’s ($330) / Women’s ($330)

Best Budget Down Jacket: Decathlon Forclaz MT100 – Men’s ($100) / Women’s ($100)

Best Down Jacket for Everyday Wear: Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Jacket – Men’s ($295) / Women’s ($295)

Highly Compressible Ultralight Down Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoodie – Men’s ($360) / Women’s ($360)

Best Midweight Down Jacket: Katabatic Tincup – Men’s ($299) / Women’s ($299)

Best Value Down Jacket: REI 650 Down Jacket – Men’s ($129) / Women’s ($129)

Technical Down Jacket with a Sleek Look: Fjallraven Expedition Pack Hoodie – Men’s ($275) / Women’s ($280)

Best Down Jacket for Technical Use in Winter Conditions: Rab Neutrino Pro – Men’s ($400) / Women’s ($400)

Best Warmth-to-Weight Ratio: Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Parka – Men’s ($479) / Women’s ($479)

Best Waterproof Down Jacket: REI Stormhenge Down Hybrid – Men’s ($279) / Women’s ($279)

Premium Down Jacket with Excellent Warmth-to-Weight Ratio: Feathered Friends Eos – Men’s ($275) / Women’s ($275)

Warm & Lightweight Down Jacket: Arc’teryx Cerium Down Hoodie – Men’s ($400) / Women’s ($400)

Stylish & Comfortable Down Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Hoodie – Men’s ($300) / Women’s ($300)

What’s new

Our team has been hard at work comparing the top-performing new down jackets against our time-tested go-to’s. As a result, our list has seen some significant updates:

  • The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie (men’s / women’s) takes our top spot overall thanks to its adjustability, practical design, and durable materials that make it technical enough for backcountry but strong enough for daily wear.

  • We welcome the Rab Mythic Alpine Light Down Jacket (men’s / women’s) to the top of our list as a stellar ultralight down jacket that’s warm, feature-forward, and stylish.

  • The Decathlon Forclaz MT100 (men’s / women’s) makes the cut as a simple, warm layer and one of our top budget picks.

  • The Katabatic Tincup (men’s / women’s) is one of the warmest down jackets we tested, perfect for retaining heat during low-exertion activities in cold weather.

  • We added the Fjallraven Expedition Pack Hoodie (men’s / women’s) due to its excellent style and mindful design.

  • The Feathered Friends Eos (men’s / women’s) earns a spot on our list as a super warm, comfy, and high-quality jacket for frigid weather.

Stock image of Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie

Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie

Best Down Jacket Overall

Price: $329

Weight: 14.8 oz. / 12.1 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 800

Fill Weight: – / –

Pros

  • Great quality for the price
  • Warm
  • Packs into its own pocket
  • Hood & hem adjustments
  • Wind / weather-resistant
  • Layers easily
  • Durable construction

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • Heavy
  • Bulky

The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie (men’s / women’s) has been a go-to for our CleverHiker team for years and takes a top spot for its versatility. From gearing up at the trailhead to winding down at the taphouse, the Down Sweater is a warm, durable, and well-rounded jacket that’s stylish and practical.

This model is CleverHiker Founder Dave Collins’ favorite jacket for around town, camping, and mellow hiking. He’s put hundreds of days of use and over 1,000 miles of backcountry adventure on his jacket, using it in the San Juan Islands, Boise National Forest, and Olympic National Park. Gear Analyst, Ian Krammer, has also put his through the wringer, having hiked over 300+ Colorado peaks above 13,000’ in his Down Sweater over the last five years.

We love this model because it hits the sweet spot for features and fill power, making it one of the most handy and warm jackets we’ve tested. The hood is adjustable, the collar is tall and snugs right up under your nose for cold days, and two zippered hand warmer pockets (plus a zippered internal pocket) can hold whatever you need. And, it packs into a convenient and small package the size of a water bottle.

The 800-fill is immediately warm and cozy. In fact, it’s a bit too warm for high-output activities, so if you’ll be spending a lot of time sweating and trying to catch your breath, you’ll get toasty pretty quickly. That said, for moderate and slower-paced adventures, or when you need to stay warm while stationary, the Down Sweater is one of our go-to’s for warming up fast.

The Down Sweater is not the most technical jacket on our list, and it’s heavier than our ultralight picks. But, the same features that add weight also make it considerably more durable for the long haul. The 20D ripstop nylon exterior is burlier than most other shells on this list, and we can attest that it lasts… and lasts. We’ve put a collective 13+ years of use and several thousands of miles on our Down Sweaters, and they continue to perform. 

The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie is a great value as a stylish and warm jacket for all-around use. It is a bit on the pricey side, but you get an incredibly high-quality coat that’s built to last. We recommend the Down Sweater as a staple for any cool-weather adventures, from day hikes and camping to traveling and short backpacking trips.

Stock image of Rab Mythic Alpine Light

Rab Mythic Alpine Light

Best Ultralight Jacket

Price: $330

Weight: 8 oz. / 8 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 900

Fill Weight: 2.1 oz. / 2.1 oz.

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Packs small
  • Comfortable & soft on skin
  • Excellent for layering
  • Synthetic insulation in shoulders, sides of hood & wrists for fast drying / added durability
  • Outstanding warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Good value

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • No hood adjustments
  • Not as durable as some

 The Rab Mythic Alpine Light Down Jacket (men’s / women’s) is our favorite ultralight jacket. Featuring a layer of synthetic insulation where you need it most combined with super warm 900-fill down, this jacket is made for backcountry adventures. If you’re a weekend warrior, backpacker, or thru-hiker on the hunt for an ultralight jacket that’s comfy, warm, and fast-drying, this is the one for you. 

At a mere eight ounces, the Mythic Alpine is one of the lightest jackets out there. And, it compresses to a very small package, so it’s easy to stuff away in your pack and forget about, making it the perfect companion for day hikes, backpacking, and beyond.

Our favorite thing about the Mythic Alpine is the strategic use of both down and synthetic materials. Synthetic insulation lines the wrists, shoulders, and sides of the hood where moisture, compression, and abrasion from daily use can be especially hard on the material. Synthetic insulation also dries faster and doesn’t clump when wet, so this design adds a bit of durability too.

The Mythic Alpine has a stellar warmth-to-weight ratio. Rab uses 900-fill down in this model – one of the highest fill powers on our list – to pack the narrow horizontal baffles of the sleeves and box baffles through the torso. Whether you’re caught in an afternoon drizzle during a day hike or you’re backpacking hundreds of miles in unpredictable weather, this thing will keep you warm.

The downside? The Mythic Alpine isn’t as durable as others on this list – but that’s an issue with ultralight gear in general. The 10D nylon exterior is not as robust as burlier options, so we recommend bringing a patch like Tenacious Tape in case the shell snags. Also, the Mythic Alpine comes with a separate stuff sack – which we found a bit annoying to keep track of – instead of packing into its own pocket (like many on this list).

However, the Mythic Alpine is an outstanding value for folks who are counting every gram and want a warm, comfy layer for cool mountain routes. If your hikes involve high altitude passes, alpine lakes, and big summits, the Mythic Alpine Light is a comfy and warm jacket for any size hike.

Stock image of Decathlon Forclaz MT100

Decathlon Forclaz MT100

Best Budget Down Jacket

Price: $100

Weight: 10.2 oz. / 9.7 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 800

Fill Weight: 2.8 oz. / 2.8 oz.

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Excellent value
  • Folds into pocket
  • Comfortable
  • Versatile
  • Hem adjustments
  • 2 hand warmer pockets

Cons

  • Boxy fit
  • No hood adjustments
  • Less warm than others
  • Not as durable

The Decathlon Forclaz MT100 (men’s / women’s) is the best budget down jacket on the market based on comfort, features, and weight. If you need a warm, affordable layer for everything from hiking to picking up groceries, you won’t find a better bang for your buck.

At only 10 ounces, the MT100 isn’t quite ultralight, but it’s close enough for most outings. Plus, its 800-fill-power will keep you plenty warm on cool days.

Don’t be fooled by the low price tag, though. The MT100 has many of the features we look for in a quality down jacket, including zippered hand warmer pockets, narrow horizontal baffles to maximize down coverage, and a simple hem adjustment. It’s also very compressible and packs away into its own pocket. 

Though the fit is a bit boxy and the hood doesn’t have any adjustments, it’s certainly stylish enough to rock at a brewery or a barbeque. 

It’s not our go-to for frigid temperatures or bushwhacking. However, at this price, we highly recommend the MT100 to anyone who needs a warm, simple down jacket for most activities. You could easily outfit a family of four with the MT100 for the price of the top premium jackets on this list. It’s an inexpensive, high-quality option that easily rivals jackets with a price tag two to three times higher.

Stock image of Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded

Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded

Best Down Jacket for Everyday Wear

Price: $295

Weight: 14 oz. / 14 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 800

Fill Weight: 4.2 oz. / 4.2 oz.

Pros

  • Great quality for the price
  • Packs into its own pocket
  • Hem adjustments
  • Weather-resistant (DWR finish)
  • Layers easily
  • Durable materials
  • Inclusive sizing

Cons

  • A bit heavy for backpacking
  • No hood adjustments
  • Wide cuffs

The bright, unmistakable style of the Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Jacket (men’s / women’s) stands out at the ski resort, climbing crag, trailhead, and brewery. We love the Fuego for its high-quality construction and durable materials that make this model feel comfy and warm.

The Fuego offers durability, high quality down, and superior warmth on par with the higher-priced puffies on this list. The 20D ripstop shell will last for years of rough use, from daily wear in town all winter long to day hikes and short backpacking trips. The 800-fill down is plenty warm for most cold weather and it layers nicely.

The Fuego represents a great value. It’s one of the most affordable, fashionable, and inclusive jackets on our list. For right around $300, it’s a stellar investment for years of warmth, and it comes in over a dozen seasonal and rotating colors to match any style. Plus, it comes in sizes XXS to 4X to fit folks of every shape and size.

It offers most of the features that we want in a down jacket, like hand warmer pockets, adjustable hems, and a cozy interior. The Fuego doesn’t have any hood adjustments, though, which we’d like to see included in future versions, especially for a heavier option like this.

At 14 ounces, the Fuego is not the lightest hoodie around, but its weight is still reasonable for backpacking when the temperatures are cooler in spring, fall, and winter. We don’t mind the extra ounces since the Fuego offers exceptional durability and useful features like a zippered internal drop pocket, zippered hand warmer pockets, and durable construction.

The retro-inspired Cotopaxi Fuego has quickly become one of our most reached-for jackets in our gear closet, and we highly recommend it for those looking for a good all-around down jacket with an emphasis on style.

Stock image of Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoodie

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoodie

Highly Compressible Ultralight Jacket

Price: $360

Weight: 8.8 oz. / 7.8 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 800

Fill Weight: 3 oz. / –

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Highly compressible
  • Packs into its own pocket
  • Excellent wind resistance
  • Layers easily

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No hood adjustment
  • No chest pocket
  • Less durable than other jackets

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 (men’s / women’s) has been a favorite of thru-hikers and ultralight aficionados for years. This jacket is everything you need and nothing you don’t for staying warm on fast and light adventures. 

We’re huge fans. Managing Editor, Ben Applebaum-Bauch, has hiked over 6,000 miles in the Ghost Whisperer, including thru-hikes of the CDT, PCT, and numerous shorter long trails. He loves the packability and wind resistance and cites it as one of his all-time favorite pieces of gear. It’s also a go-to for CleverHiker Founder, Dave Collins, who’s put several hundred miles on the Ghost Whisperer on trips through Yosemite, the Sawtooth Wilderness, and beyond.

We love this Mountain Hardwear model for its exceptional balance of warmth to weight. With most sizes hovering around eight ounces, this jacket is plenty warm for brisk mornings on high-altitude routes but still packs incredibly small into its own pocket and takes up minimal space – which is exactly what we want when it comes to a backpacking layer.

The Ghost Whisperer is also a sleek, athletic fit and layer-able design with basic features like high hand warmer pockets and hem adjustments. When supplemented with a lightweight fleece or a burly rain shell, you’re set in most wet and cold shoulder-season conditions. And, because this model is so lightweight, it dries quickly.

The Rab Mythic Alpine Light is the top ultralight jacket – it’s a hair lighter, less expensive, and a bit more durable, but the Ghost Whisperer is a very close contender. It’s a top-of-the-line down jacket that’s well worth the cost for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors and wants to keep their base weight low.

If you’re willing to pay a bit more for even more warmth-to-weight efficiency, check out the Ghost Whisperer UL, which has upgraded 1000-fill-power down.

Stock image of Katabatic Tincup

Katabatic Tincup

Best Midweight Down Jacket

Price: $299

Weight: 11.4 oz. / 10.4 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 850

Fill Weight: 5.5 oz. / 5 oz.

Pros

  • Extremely warm
  • Durable materials
  • Excellent construction
  • Very high fill-to-weight ratio
  • Great value
  • Packs small
  • Hood adjustments

Cons

  • Too hot for warm temperatures
  • Material is loud
  • Sizes run a bit small

The Katabatic Tincup (men’s / women’s) is an outstanding choice for cold-weather backpackers and weekend warriors who want the warmest of the warm down jackets. If you’re looking for a puffy to use while belaying or hiking in piercing cold weather, the Tincup is a game changer.

This Katabatic model is a great value thanks to one of the highest fill-to weight ratios on our list. Nearly half of the Tincup’s total weight comes from its extremely generous fill. In fact, it has two to three times higher fill weight than other similar jackets – meaning you’ll stay incredibly warm well below freezing.

We were won over by the Tincup’s attention to detail. The combination of its flattering fit, drop tail hem, and slanted hand warmer pockets make it comfortable and easy to love on cold days. The two-way adjustable hood is packed with down as well. The hood is so warm that we often use it in place of a hat. And, it packs fairly small, so it’s an easy layer – or an excellent shell – to keep ready in your pack when the mercury is dropping.

The high fill weight is too warm for many high-output activities like hiking, or actively climbing. However, this level of responsive insulation is perfect for staying warm while stationary, so it’s our first pick for car camping or belaying. We also love the Tincup for slower activities and mellow day hikes when the wind is howling.

The outer fabric of the Tincup is louder than other options on this list. When it’s cold out and the wind is blowing we barely notice, but when the trails are quiet, the swishing noise stands out. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it is tough to ignore.

The Tincup represents a stellar bang for your buck, and it’s our go-to for keeping warm during slower movement in cold weather. You won’t find many jackets that offer such excellent construction, warmth-to-weight ratio, or attention to detail like this one, and it’s built to last for years of adventuring in really cold temperatures.

Stock image of REI 650 Down Jacket

REI 650 Down Jacket

Best Value Down Jacket

Price: $129

Weight: 10.9 oz. / 10.2 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 650

Fill Weight: 3.2 oz. / –

Pros

  • Excellent value
  • Lightweight
  • Highly compressible
  • Packs into it own pocket
  • Layers easily
  • inclusive sizing

Cons

  • Not as warm as some jackets
  • Simple
  • Less durable than some jackets
  • No hood
  • No chest pocket

The REI 650 Down Jacket (men’s / women’s) is one of the best bangs for your buck on the market. It’s a no-frills, lightweight, compressible option for almost any situation where you need a simple, warm extra layer.

The 650 Down has all the features we want, and nothing more: a cinch cord at the hem, two hand warmer pockets, two internal drop pockets, and a burly zipper. The nylon is comfortable against the skin, and at just over 10 ounces, it’s awesomely lightweight compared to other options on this list. 

This jacket is one of the most bare bones options we tested, but that’s why it’s also one of the most versatile. The 650 Down doesn’t have a two-way zipper, chest pocket, or even a hood – but that’s precisely what we love about it. A down jacket like this is a key layering piece for daily wear.

The 650 Down is made with lower-fill-power down, so it’s not quite as heat-efficient as some of the more technical jackets on our list. That said, the 650 down isn’t meant to be a technical jacket, but a go-to option for day-to-day use. Our team rocks this jacket constantly as a lightweight, compressible layer. And, for the price, it performs extremely well.

Stock image of Fjallraven Expedition Pack Down Hoodie

Fjallraven Expedition Pack Down Hoodie

Technical Down Jacket with a Sleek Aesthetic

Price: $275 / $280

Weight: 1 lb. 0.3 oz. / 15.3 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 700

Fill Weight: 3.8 oz. / 3.5 oz.

Pros

  • Very warm
  • Thick loft
  • Synthetic patches on shoulders add durability
  • Roomy collar for burrowing
  • Hood adjustments
  • Packs into its own pocket

Cons

  • A bit heavy for backpacking
  • Large packed size
  • Arms are a bit long

The Fjallraven Expedition Pack Hoodie (men’s / women’s) is a gorgeous technical down jacket for cold weather backpacking, trekking, and day hiking. If you’re heading into a frigid shoulder season or winter adventure and want the perfect mid-layer or shell, this is the one for you.

We’re big fans of all the durable, well-thought-out details on the Pack Hoodie. A dual zipper allows you to dump air from both the bottom and the top of the coat and accommodate backpack straps or a harness. Extra long zippered hand warmer pockets are easily accessible with a backpack on, and an internal zippered pocket is perfect for a wallet or keys.

We love the brushed fabric inside the collar, which feels great against the skin, and the collar itself is baffled and oversized to retain heat. And, the hood and hem are adjustable with long, simple pull tabs that are easy to use even with thick winter gloves on.

Thanks to the heavier nylon blend, the Pack Hoodie is more resistant to rips, tears, and snags versus other jackets on this list. We’ve bashed through some tough forested routes in this jacket, and it’s held up where thinner, lighter options would spill their feathers. Synthetic insulation on the shoulders adds a bit of durability and resists pressure, moisture, and abuse from long days on trail with a pack.

The Pack Hoodie transitions way beyond the trail, though. Its athletic fit is so sharp we regularly reach for it in town, too. Unlike some options on this list, we wouldn’t hesitate to wear this jacket out for an evening on a patio or a night out at a show – plus it comes in a variety of colors to match any style.

The downsides? At just over a pound, the Pack Hoodie is a bit heavy for hiking season. And, though it compresses into its own pocket, it’s large compared to others on this list. However, this jacket is meant for use in seriously cold weather, so weight and bulk are no issue when we’re warm in a winter storm.

If you’re looking for an outstanding, burly technical down jacket for playing outside in shoulder seasons and winter, this Fjallraven model is a great choice. Its enduring design and savvy features guarantee you’ll make a statement both on and off the trail.

Rab Neutrino Pro

Best Down Jacket for Technical Use in Winter Conditions

Price: $400

Weight: 1 lb. 5.5 oz. / 1 lb. 1.7 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 800

Fill Weight: 7.48 oz. / 7.5 oz.

Pros

  • Very warm
  • Lightweight & compressible
  • Breathable
  • Outstanding hood design
  • Top-tier materials & construction
  • Two-way zipper
  • Deep, soft hand warmer pockets
  • Comfortable against skin

Cons

  • Below average water resistance
  • A bit heavy for backpacking
  • Too warm for high-output activities

The Rab Neutrino Pro (men’s / women’s) is a technical coat loaded with top-quality 800-fill-power down for maximum heat retention – but with less bulk. For adventurers who want an ultra-compressible but toasty-warm option for seriously cold adventures, this is one of our team’s favorites.

Gear Analyst, Ian Krammer, has summited over a dozen Colorado 14ers in winter and early spring conditions wearing this jacket. The Neutrino Pro kept him cozy and warm above treeline, including howling 50+ mph winds with a -15°F windchill and blasting snow at over 14,000 feet.

The Neutrino Pro features excellent craftsmanship, including solid hardware, durable high-tech fabric, and outstanding attention to detail. Simple pull-tabs on the hood make it highly adjustable even with bulky gloves on, and the oversized, built-in hood brim acts like a small cap, blocking both wind and sun. We also love the two-way zipper for easy ventilation, deep and soft hand warmer pockets, and adjustable Velcro tabs on the wrists for blocking out cold.

Despite the Neutrino Pro’s enormous loft, it packs down very small. That’s why it’s one of our favorite winter coats for backcountry trips: this model is awesomely warm, yet compresses to the size of a one-liter water bottle. From snowshoeing in a white-out to staying warm while belaying at your favorite crag in fall, this jacket is built to keep you toasty on any chilly adventure, season after season.

The biggest con of the Neutrino? It’s too warm for high-output activities like climbing, backpacking, or trekking, which is exactly the problem we want in a jacket with such warm fill. But, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Neutrino for medium or lower-output activities. 

This one is a bit heavy for backpacking. But when it comes to very low temps, weight is negligible since this jacket is so adept in bitterly cold conditions. The Neutrino Pro is a stellar choice for anyone who wants a top-tier feature-rich down jacket to thrive in the coldest temperatures.

MontBell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka

Best Warmth-to-Weight Ratio

Price: $479

Weight: 8.4 oz. / 7.9 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 1000

Fill Weight: 3.4 oz. / 3 oz.

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Outstanding warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Highly compressible
  • 1000-fill-power down
  • Hem & hood adjustments
  • Layers easily

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Less durable than non-UL jackets
  • No chest pocket

The MontBell Plasma 1000 (men’s / women’s) has one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios of any jacket we tested. If you’re an ultralight backpacker looking for the lowest weight for the most warmth, you can stop scrolling here.

At around eight ounces, the Plasma 1000 is perfect for long carries and packs super small for big adventures. It’s an all-time favorite of CleverHiker Founder, Dave Collins. He’s put over 500 miles on his Plasma 1000 including treks in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, Washington’s Olympic National Park, and Patagonia.

The Plasma is the only jacket on this list using 1000 fill down. This jacket is in a class of its own for warmth and loft – a dreamy combination for backpacking. It may weigh about the same as some of the other ultralight jackets on our list, but it certainly feels warmer. The Plasma is an ideal layer when sleeping on sub-freezing nights, while making coffee in the morning, and staying warm just before bed.

This jacket doesn’t skimp on features. We like the two-way hood adjustments, two zippered hand pockets, and that the hem can be adjusted from within the pockets. 

The biggest con of the Plasma 1000 is its extremely high price tag. However, if you’re a thru-hiker or backcountry traveler looking for truly top-of-the-line, ultralight warmth for 3-season trips, the Plasma 1000 is worth every penny for unrivaled comfort and huge weight savings.

You also sacrifice a bit of durability with a jacket this light, so the 7D Nylon exterior is more prone to rips and tears than heftier options. But this is an issue with ultralight gear in general – not specifically the Plasma 1000 – so we always recommend carrying repair tape for patching in the backcountry.

The MontBell Plasma 1000 is a trailblazer in the world of ultralight gear and leads the pack for its low weight and exceptional warmth. This jacket is a must-have for those whose top priority is weight savings – without compromising on comfort.

REI Stormhenge Down Hybrid

Best Waterproof Down Jacket

Price: $279

Weight: 1 lb. 15.8 oz. / 1 lb. 10.1 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 850 + synthetic

Fill Weight: – / –

Pros

  • Less expensive
  • Fully waterproof
  • Very warm
  • Deep, fleece-lined pockets
  • Pit zips add breathability
  • 2-way zipper
  • Hem & 3-way hood adjustments
  • Durable
  • Inclusive sizing

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Bulky / not compressible
  • Enormous hood size
  • Less versatile than a separate down jacket & rain shell

The REI Stormhenge (men’s / women’s) is a unique waterproof shell that uses both down and synthetic insulation. It’s an impressive two-in-one jacket that can withstand the rigors of snow sports, climbing, and the absolute worst winter conditions.

REI’s Stormhenge is the only truly waterproof option on our list, and we’ve put it through the wringer in brutal winter and spring conditions to make sure. Gear Analyst, Ian Krammer, has spent dozens of hours snowshoeing and hiking in sub-freezing temperatures above 11,000’ in the Colorado Rockies rocking the Stormhenge, and it’s offered unrivaled protection from the elements in sudden rain, pelting graupel, and whiteout blizzards.

While it’s not as versatile as two separate jackets for backcountry trips, we found the Stormhenge has lots of details that make it an easy choice from fall til spring. Synthetic insulation lines the hood, underarms, and cuffs for faster drying. We also love that it has pit zips to dump excess body heat when on the move, and a two-way zipper for easy access to a belay loop for climbing. And, the fleece-lined hand warmer pockets are among the deepest, softest, and warmest on this list.

The Stormhenge is as cozy as jackets come. The interior fabric feels great against the skin and we love the giant, comfy neck baffle that retains heat when zipped up all the way. It’s a comfy and convenient choice for everyday outdoor wear in chilly, wet conditions whether you’re staying warm at an outdoor sporting event or on a summit.

Our biggest complaints about the Stormhenge come down to fit and weight. The hood is a bit large, even with a helmet on, and the general bulkiness of the jacket isn’t as flattering as many other down options we tested. And, at a hair shy of two pounds, this is one of the heaviest jackets on the list, so we wouldn’t recommend this one for backpacking or trekking – but it’s a stellar choice for lower-heart rate adventures.

Still, this REI jacket is a no-brainer for day-long winter activities and represents an awesome value. The Stormhenge is worth every penny for those who prefer an all-in-one insulated, waterproof jacket for frontcountry or backcountry fun on icy cold days.

Stock image of Feathered Friends Eos

Feathered Friends Eos

Premium Down Jacket with an Excellent Warmth-to-Weight Ratio

Price: $410

Weight: 10.8 oz. / 10 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 900

Fill Weight: 4 oz. / 3.7 oz.(Men’s/Women’s)

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Versatile
  • Durable shell
  • 900-fill down is very warm
  • Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Well made
  • Adjustable hood & hem

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Stitching can be chunky / abrasive
  • Possible long lead times

The Feathered Friends Eos (men’s / women’s) is a durable, top-quality down jacket that’s incredibly warm for how lightweight it is. If you’re looking for a jacket that will keep the base weight of your pack down, but will still keep you toasty warm over thousands of miles and season after season, this is the one for you.

The Eos has a stellar warmth-to-weight ratio. Sitting between 10 and 11 ounces with around 4 ounces of 900-fill-power down, this model will keep you warm when the temps begin to dip on the trail. We’ve found it layers well, making it a great choice for long hikes: zip it over a fleece to retain your body heat in a chilly morning breeze, or wear the Eos underneath a rainproof shell in the harshest snow squalls.

This jacket has all the details we want, but we’re especially smitten with the hood adjustments. While many puffies don’t include a two-way adjustment, Feathered Friends is the exception, including a drawcord around the face as well as on the top of the head. Plus, it has hem adjustments, two zippered hand pockets, and a zippered chest pocket. And, it still packs down very small into a separate stuff sack

The biggest downside of this jacket is the price, which is why it’s further down our list. But, keep in mind Feathered Friends is a cottage company building all of its gear in Canada and the US, and has one of the most transparent down sourcing programs around. Because of the attention to detail, impressive warmth and loft, and the very low weight of the Eos, this truly premium jacket is worth every penny.

Stock image of Arc'teryx Cerium Down Hoodie

Arc’teryx Cerium Down Hoodie

Warm & Lightweight Down Jacket

Price: $400

Weight: 11.8 oz. / 10.2 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 850

Fill Weight: 4 oz. / –

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Warm
  • Highly compressible
  • Sleek & stylish
  • Wind/Weather-resistant (DWR finish)
  • Layers easily
  • Hood & hem drawcords

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Less durable than other jackets
  • Long arms with looser cuffs

The Arc’teryx Cerium Down Hoodie (men’s / women’s) is a stylish, lightweight, and streamlined jacket made with top-quality materials. It’s the perfect addition for day hikes, backpacking, or anytime you need a sharp-looking and super warm jacket.

We love the Cerium because it offers impressive loft and warmth, but is still very compressible. It packs down astoundingly small, making the Cerium a great choice for travel, backpacking, and day trips where saving space and weight are top priorities.

Gear Analyst, Ian Krammer, has relied on this Arc’teryx model as a staple layering piece during gnarly spring storms in the Colorado Rockies. The Cerium kept him plenty warm climbing to 9,000 feet during massive spring snows in the Denver foothills, but it also layered well beneath a sturdy rain jacket during rainy, blustery, icy days above 12,000 feet.

We find the Cerium a bit simple for such a high price point. It fits wonderfully for slim and athletic types, but folks with larger builds may want to keep searching. We found the arms run a bit long, and the cuffs are wide. And, we wouldn’t recommend this one for daily wear – the external fabric is a bit thin for backcountry adventuring, so it’s not our first pick if the route is heavily forested or the material could snag.

That said, this jacket will keep you warm and is the perfect layering piece for when the cold creeps in. It’s stylish, simple, and checks every box we look for in a down jacket. As long as you don’t mind the price tag, the Cerium is an excellent addition to your kit.

Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Hoodie

Stylish & Comfortable Down Jacket

Price: $300

Weight: 1 lb. 1.7 oz. / 14 oz.(men’s / women’s)

Fill Power: 700

Fill Weight: 4.6 oz. / –

Pros

  • Less expensive
  • Warm
  • Soft & stretchy material
  • Comfortable
  • Packs fairly small
  • Layers easily

Cons

  • A bit heavy for backpacking
  • Bulky / less compressible than other jackets
  • More delicate hardware

If you’re looking for a warm layer for spring through fall with a cozy fabric on the interior and exterior, look no further than the Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Hoodie (men’s / women’s). This jacket has been on our list for years because of its exceptional comfort and unique style. 

The rugged stretch fabric makes it easy to move freely in the Stretchdown during athletic activities. What we love most is its burly external material, which is far less likely to catch or tear than lighter, thinner options. That’s a big deal when we’re bashing through thick woods, or rock climbing on chilly mornings. 

The Stretchdown Jacket contains 700-fill-power down. We’ve found this jacket is enough for chilly weather down to about freezing, and works well for higher-heart rate activities like hiking and climbing. It isn’t the warmest jacket on our list when stationary, but if you keep moving, it’s a solid choice for cool shoulder seasons and alpine hiking.

This Mountain Hardwear model makes for an excellent warm layer since it’s less bulky than higher-fill options and fits perfectly under a waterproof shell. However, the fit is also roomy enough to accommodate base layers when the cold creeps in, and we’ve used it as a reliable and warm shell on countless cold evenings.

The biggest downside of the Stretchdown is that it’s not as compressible as other down options we tested and it’s also a bit heavier. At just over one pound, we would still take it backpacking in a pinch, but there are certainly lighter and warmer jackets out there.

We also found its components were not as durable as others on this list. It’s worth noting we encountered an issue with both the hem cord and zipper failing before our first test. We tested a second unit and did not have the same issues.

However, the Stretchdown is one of the most comfortable jackets we’ve found for casual everyday wear, and it’s our top choice for everything from chilly conditions on the trail, to rock climbing and tough outdoor jobs.

A backpacker standing near granite-lined lake in a yellow Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL down jacket
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is one of our absolute favorite ultralight down jackets for extended backcountry trips. – Photo credit: Dave Collins (CleverHiker.com)

Product Comparison Table

Product Price Weight Fill Power Fill Weight Comfort Warmth Weight & Packability Weather Resistance Breathability
Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie
View Men's View Women's
Editor's Pick
$329 14.8 oz. / 12.1 oz. (men’s / women’s) 800 – / – 9 8.5 8 8.5 7.5
Rab Mythic Alpine Light
View Men's View Women's
Editor's Pick
$330 8 oz. / 8 oz. (men’s / women’s) 900 2.1 oz. / 2.1 oz. 8.5 9 10 9 9
Decathlon Forclaz MT100
View Men's View Women's
Budget Buy
$100 10.2 oz. / 9.7 oz. (men’s / women’s) 800 2.8 oz. / 2.8 oz. 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.5 8
Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded
View Men's View Women's
$295 14 oz. / 14 oz. (men’s / women’s) 800 4.2 oz. / 4.2 oz. 9 8 8 8 8
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoodie
View Men's View Women's
Editor's Pick
$360 8.8 oz. / 7.8 oz. (men’s / women’s) 800 3 oz. / – 8.5 7.5 9.5 8.5 9
Katabatic Tincup
View Men's View Women's
$299 11.4 oz. / 10.4 oz. (men’s / women’s) 850 5.5 oz. / 5 oz. 8 9.5 8.5 9 7.5
REI 650 Down Jacket
View Men's View Women's
Budget Buy
$129 10.9 oz. / 10.2 oz. (men’s / women’s) 650 3.2 oz. / – 8 7.5 9 8 8.5
Fjallraven Expedition Pack Down Hoodie
View Men's View Women's
$275 / $280 1 lb. 0.3 oz. / 15.3 oz. (men’s / women’s) 700 3.8 oz. / 3.5 oz. 9 7.5 7 9 7.5
Rab Neutrino Pro
View Men's View Women's
$400 1 lb. 5.5 oz. / 1 lb. 1.7 oz. (men’s / women’s) 800 7.48 oz. / 7.5 oz. 9.5 9.5 9 9.5 8
MontBell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka
View Men's View Women's
$479 8.4 oz. / 7.9 oz. (men’s / women’s) 1000 3.4 oz. / 3 oz. 8 8.5 9.5 8 9
REI Stormhenge Down Hybrid
View Men's View Women's
$279 1 lb. 15.8 oz. / 1 lb. 10.1 oz. (men’s / women’s) 850 + synthetic – / – 7.5 9.5 6 10 8.5
Feathered Friends Eos
View Men's View Women's
$410 10.8 oz. / 10 oz. (men’s / women’s) 900 4 oz. / 3.7 oz. (Men’s/Women’s) 8 9 8.5 8 7.5
Arc’teryx Cerium Down Hoodie
View Men's View Women's
$400 11.8 oz. / 10.2 oz. (men’s / women’s) 850 4 oz. / – 8.5 8.5 7.5 8 7.5
Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Hoodie
View Men's View Women's
$300 1 lb. 1.7 oz. / 14 oz. (men’s / women’s) 700 4.6 oz. / – 7.5 8 7.5 8.5 8.5

Scores for each characteristic (i.e. comfort, warmth, weight & packability, weather resistance, breathability) are rated 1-10 as follows:
> 9 = Exceptional; 8-8.5 = Very good; 7-7.5 = Good; 6-6.5 = Average; 5-5.5 = Slightly below average; < 5 = Below average

How We Test & Methodology

Our review process to find the best down jackets includes an in-depth look at their warmth, comfort, fit, weight and packability, weather resistance, and breathability.

COMFORT

To measure comfort, we meticulously test the fit, fabric, and mobility through hands-on, real-world evaluations. We look for a balance between snugness and flexibility and wear jackets with and without base layers or shells during various activities to test range of motion. We assess fabric quality by wearing the jackets for long periods to identify any potential for chafing or discomfort.

WARMTH

To evaluate the warmth of down jackets, we spend all year long testing from chilly summer nights above 10,000 feet to day hikes, camping, and even weekend backpacking trips in the depths of winter. We examine important elements like fill power (the loft and insulating efficiency of down – i.e. quality) and fill weight (the actual amount of down in a jacket, regardless of its quality). We scrutinize the jacket’s construction, including baffle design, which prevents down from shifting or settling and creating cold spots.

WEIGHT & PACKABILITY

We test weight and packability by carrying these jackets during hikes, bike rides, and daily wear in our bags and backpacks and seeing how much space they take up and how heavy they are. We check the weight to ensure a jacket is light enough for extended hiking trips and then test how compactly the jacket can be packed into its stuff sack or a backpack. Top performers here are usually ultralight and pack very small. We also evaluate the ease of packing and unpacking, noting any difficulty or convenience in the process.

WEATHER RESISTANCE

Down jackets are our first layer of defense when cold wind is howling, snow squalls are moving in, or we need a layer of warmth beneath our rain jacket when it’s drizzling all day. Although we almost always wear a rain shell over a puffy jacket, we conduct water penetration tests to assess how well the jacket repels water under simulated rainy conditions. And, we perform wind resistance tests in the field by hiking along high mountain ridges, open deserts, and rough weather days to gauge the jacket’s ability to block cold air in rough, blustery conditions. We assess the outer shell material for water repellency as well as windproofing capabilities. Additionally, we test the hood and collar design for adequate coverage and protection during snow, rain, and wind, and evaluate the cuffs, hem, and adjustable features to ensure they seal out drafts and moisture.

BREATHABILITY

To test breathability, we wear our puffy jackets on high-intensity hikes, including long ascents. We focus on how well moisture escapes while staying comfortable. We examine the fabric’s breathability and construction to gauge how well it wicks away sweat and prevents clamminess. We look for ventilation features like zippered underarm vents and mesh-lined pockets to facilitate airflow. We also evaluate the jacket’s design, considering the hem, wrists, and neck to ensure adequate ventilation without compromising weather protection.

Nothing beats the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer for weight and packability. – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

Why Trust CleverHiker

The CleverHiker team has clocked over 1,000 days navigating downpours across diverse landscapes, from frigid nights in the Utah desert to the wet and cool nights in the Cascade Mountains. Gear Analyst and lead tester, Ian Krammer, has climbed more than 400,000 feet of vert as he’s climbed over 600+ Colorado peaks during the last decade. The high alpine of the Rocky Mountains is a stellar place to stress-test jackets in high-elevation terrain that’s known for unforgiving elements and unexpected storms. Fueled by a love for the outdoors and fortified by years of hands-on experience, Ian’s eye for quality, value, and performance, ensures that only the best jackets earn our seal of approval.

Having a comfortable jacket that allows you mobility for high-stretch activities is an important consideration. – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

Analysis & Results

In this section, we delve into our findings and highlight the down jackets that excel for their comfort, warmth, weight and packability, weather resistance, and breathability.

VALUE

When we talk about value, we are looking at the actual price of a product compared to its performance. There are inexpensive models that exceed our expectations as well as pricier options that turn out to be well worth the investment after all is said and done in our extensive field testing.

The Decathlon Forclaz MT100 is one of the most affordable jackets on our list, making it a great choice for budget-conscious hikers but its value extends way beyond the price tag. This jacket has a decent warmth-to-weight ratio and durability, making it a reliable choice for most outdoor adventures. Its water-resistant outer fabric and high-quality down insulation offer optimal performance from cool to cold conditions, maximizing its value for hikers. And, it has all the features we look for in a quality down jacket, like an adjustable hem, articulated elbows, and multiple pockets, adding functionality and convenience to this simple, affordable option.

The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie is our top choice overall and represents an excellent value: it’s as durable as puffy jackets come, uses ethical sourcing practices, and offers one of the most versatile designs on our list. Its use of recycled polyester and traceable down insulation reflects Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability. Its highly adjustable hood, deep pockets, stylish fit, and competitive pricing make it a stellar investment for those seeking quality and sustainability in their gear. Plus, it compresses fairly small, making it a practical option for travel and backpacking.

The Rab Neutrino is a top-value option among down jackets due to its superior performance, outstanding warmth-to-weight ratio, and technical features. Its hydrophobic down insulation and weatherproof shell provide reliable protection against the gnarliest snow storms and iciest wind, ensuring warmth and comfort in challenging conditions. Handwarmer pockets are positioned higher on the jacket for access while wearing a harness or backpack, the extended visor on the hood adds a bit of extra protection in the elements, and the generous fit is ideal for layering. This model comes with a higher price tag, but it’s a winning investment for folks who want the best of the best when it comes to functionality, versatility, and performance.

REI Stormhenge – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

COMFORT

The most comfortable down jackets we tested are the Rab Neutrino Pro, Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie, Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded, and the Fjallraven Expedition Pack Down Hoodie. These jackets all prioritize comfort thanks to elements like adjustable hoods and hems, that allow you to customize the fit by sealing out cold drafts and enhancing warmth and protection. These top performers have ergonomic designs like articulated sleeves and stretchy side panels that allow for plenty of flexibility as well.

We rate the Rab Neutrino Pro highest for comfort due to its adjustable hood and cuffs, plush down fill, and soft brushed lining at the collar that feels excellent against the skin. Similarly, the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie boasts a soft and cozy feel thanks to its recycled polyester shell, excellent loft, and soft, stretchy wrist hems.

We also love the Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded, which stands out for its slightly larger fit and articulated sleeves, making for easy layering, unrestricted movement, and lightweight comfort during hikes and climbs. And, the Fjallraven Expedition Pack Down Hoodie is one of the coziest models we tested because of its slim styling, super high collar featuring a luxurious brushed polyamide collar lining, and 3-way adjustable hood, making it feel super warmth and protective when the temperatures are freezing.

WARMTH

When it comes to warmth, we have a three-way tie between the REI Stormhenge Down Hybrid, Katabatic Tincup, and the Rab Neutrino Pro. All three jackets excel in this dimension thanks to their high fill power down insulation, which provides excellent loft and impressive thermal efficiency. They all feature a high-quality shell material, burly construction, and strategic insulation placement to keep you warm and comfortable no matter the weather.

The REI Stormhenge Down Hybrid and Katabatic Tincup both contain 850 fill power down, offering superior warmth-to-weight ratios and compressibility. The REI Stormhenge features synthetic and down insulation that adds extra warmth in key areas. Plus, its thick outer shell means it excels at cutting the cold wind, rain, and snow, even in the gnarliest weather, to keep you toasty no matter how hard the winds are blowing.

That said, the Katabatic Tincup has one of the highest warmth-to-weight ratios of any jacket we tested, with around 48% of its total weight coming just from down, making it incredibly warm and light. The Rab Neutrino Pro utilizes 800 fill power down, slightly lower than the others, but still provides outstanding insulation in the coldest temperatures, with around 35% of its total weight coming from down.

This list as some great budget picks like the REI 650 Down. – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

WEIGHT & PACKABILITY

Unsurprisingly, the jackets that pack down the smallest are the ultralight models. The top performers for low weight and incredible compressibility are the Rab Mythic Alpine Light, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2, and the MontBell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka. As the lightest jacket on our list, the Rab Mythic Alpine Light earns a top spot, weighing in at only 8 ounces for both men and women. As one of the most compressible jackets on our list (packing down to the size of a grapefruit), its emphasis on minimalism and high-quality down makes it a top choice for climbers and fastpackers.

The MontBell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka is a very close second, weighing in at 8.4 oz. for men and 7.9 oz. for women, with an impressive warmth-to-weight ratio thanks to its 1000-fill power down – the highest quality down available. Even though it’s slightly heavier than the Mythic Alpine Light, it’s still one of our favorite recommendations for everything from thru-hikes to tough summer peak bagging trips.

Rounding out our top three is the incredibly light Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2, coming in at 8.8 oz. for men and 7.8 oz. for women. Like the others, it also packs down extremely small into its own pocket for easy carrying, making it ideal for those prioritizing warmth without bulk. All three jackets employ lightweight but durable shell materials to maintain a balance between weight and longevity. They collectively highlight the importance of high-fill power down, durable lightweight fabrics, and smart design.

WEATHER RESISTANCE

The REI Stormhenge Down Hybrid is our top performer for weather resistance due to its completely waterproof shell, made from a durable, water-resistant fabric with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish that effectively sheds rain and snow. The fully sealed seams prevent water from seeping in, and the adjustable, oversized hood and drawstring hem completely seal out wind, making it highly effective in the gnarliest weather. It combines 850-fill power down and synthetic insulation but uses the synthetic in areas prone to moisture like the shoulders and cuffs – guaranteeing excellent performance in heavy snow, driving sleet, and relentless rain.

The main difference between these two is that the REI Stormhenge is the most weatherproof option on our list, since it features synthetic insulation in strategic areas around the cuffs, on the hood, and through the underarms, as well as a 2-layer waterproof, breathable nylon shell with fully sealed seams. 

The Rab Neutrino Pro is also designed for extreme weather. Although its shell isn’t nearly as waterproof as the Stormhenge, the Neutrino holds its own when weather is at its worst thanks to a burly Pertex Quantum Pro outer fabric that’s both windproof and water-resistant. With its 800-fill power hydrophobic down, treated to resist moisture absorption, combined with its baffle construction cold spots are all but eliminated. We also love the large brim on the hood that offers protection against wind and snow. And, reinforced areas add durability, making the Neutrino Pro a reliable choice for harsh winter conditions.

Another Rab model we love is the Mythic Alpine Light. Don’t be fooled by its ultralight design – this one has impressive weather resistance as well. It shares the same Pertex Quantum fabric as the Neutrino Pro, which is highly windproof and water-resistant, but it uses 900-fill power down that maintains insulating properties even when soaked. Synthetic fill on the shoulders and wrists guarantees more durability and weather resistance in prone areas, and the close-fitting hood makes it a solid choice for alpine adventures with unpredictable weather.

BREATHABILITY

The Rab Mythic Alpine Light, Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2, and MontBell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka are our top picks for breathability. The Rab Mythic Alpine Light uses Pertex Quantum fabric, which is lightweight and allows moisture to escape, preventing overheating on long hikes. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 features an ultralight 10D ripstop fabric, balancing durability and air permeability. Both jackets offer high-fill power down – 900 for the Rab and 800 for the Ghost Whisperer/2 – which offers excellent warmth and permeability, as well as strategically placed baffles and box-wall construction that help with even insulation distribution and airflow. The MontBell Plasma 1000 is also a stellar choice when it comes to fabric, using a ripstop nylon fabric and 1000-fill power down. All three are efficient at moisture transfer to reduce sweat buildup without sacrificing heat. Stretch cuffs, adjustable hems, and elasticated hoods in all three jackets allow for additional airflow to dump heat or moisture as you move.

Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown – Photo credit: Dave Collins (CleverHiker.com)

How to Choose a Down Jacket

WHAT IS DOWN?

Down is the soft, fluffy plumage beneath the thicker external feathers on ducks and geese that keeps them warm in freezing temperatures. It’s used in jackets, sleeping bags, and other outdoor gear to provide insulation by trapping warm air to keep you toasty warm in cold weather. The majority of down comes from the meat industry, with more than 70% of the world supply originating from China.

the Rab Neutrino Pro is super comfortable, puffy, and warm and is great for cold weather. – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

WHAT IS FILL POWER?

Fill power is a measurement of the quality of the down. Specifically, it’s the volume (in cubic inches) of one ounce of down. The higher the number, the more efficient the down is at insulating – that is, it takes less down (and therefore less weight) to provide the same insulating power as down with a lower fill power. The greater the fill power, the loftier the fibers are, so you need a smaller amount of high-quality down to trap the same amount of body heat that a larger amount of low-quality down would. High-fill-power jackets are usually slimmer, lighter, and more packable.

The Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Parka has very high-quality down and is super lightweight. – Photo credit: Casey Handley (CleverHiker.com)

WHAT IS FILL WEIGHT?

Fill weight is the amount of down (regardless of fill power) that is in a particular garment. The warmth of a jacket depends on how much down it’s stuffed with – measured in ounces – so it’s important to note both fill power and fill weight. The warmest down jackets will also have design elements to keep that heat trapped, like hoods, cinches at the cuffs and hem, and wind-proof fabric to help retain maximum body heat.

Two of the lightweight contenders – the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 and Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Parka. – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

WHEN HIGH FILL POWER MATTERS

800+-fill-power-down products like jackets, quilts, and sleeping bags tend to be more expensive than lower-fill-power products – sometimes, a lot more expensive. For example, a 1000-fill-power jacket might have similar specs like weight, fabric, and pockets to a 600-fill-power option, but the former will cost more. For activities like backpacking, alpine climbing, and ultralight travel where keeping weight and bulk to a minimum is super important, it makes sense to spend more money for high-fill-power down that compresses easily to fit into a backpack and fluffs back up when you need it. When packability and weight aren’t as important, like everyday use, layering, and milder weather, a puffy jacket stuffed full of lower-fill-power down will keep you just as warm and will be more budget-friendly.

Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Jacket – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

WEIGHT & PACKABILITY

Keeping weight to a minimum is critical for activities like hiking and backpacking where you’re carrying everything mile after mile. Ultimately though, weather conditions will dictate what gear will work best. If you’re in the backcountry during summer months, a no-frills jacket that packs down small and weighs as little as possible will likely be the best way to go. If you’ll be spending time in cold shoulder season or winter, then bulk and heft aren’t as big of a deal, since you’ll need the insulation to stay warm.In our experience, down jackets are significantly warmer than fleece jackets of the same weight. Plus, they make plush pillows for backpacking trips and can increase the warmth of your sleep system (sleeping bags / pads) on extra chilly nights.

DURABILITY

Down jackets are not the most durable gear in your kit. Many are made with thin nylon, polyester, or Pertex fabrics that lower the weight, but make them more susceptible to tears and punctures. If you tend to be accident prone, rough on your gear, or you often adventure in particularly rugged places, you may want to consider a down jacket with more durable and thick shell fabric. That said, even the hardiest down jackets can get torn or develop holes, so it’s wise to keep a roll of Tenacious Tape in your trail kit for field repairs.

Rab Neutrino Pro – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

HOOD OR NO HOOD

Most down jackets are designed with hoods, but there are a few awesome non-hooded options out there too. Hooded down jackets trap heat more efficiently because you can cover your head and neck, but they’re typically more expensive. Non-hooded down jackets need to be paired with a warm hat in really cold conditions, but they tend to be a little more compressible, and they’re easier to utilize as a mid-layer as well.

DOWN SOURCING STANDARDS

It’s not uncommon for inexpensive jackets to be filled with materials other than down, or for manufacturers to use down as just a fraction of the filler. That’s why it’s important to look for coats with 100% duck or goose down to get the best insulating value and the highest warmth-to-weight ratio. When a manufacturer doesn’t list the fill power of a jacket, be wary: it’s possible the jacket’s fill is not top quality, and won’t compress well as a result. Often, ultra-affordable jackets use unethical sourcing methods to save money. The best way to make sure your down isn’t coming from a source that practices force feeding, live plucking, or poor living conditions for animals is to purchase from a company using traceable down or that complies with the Responsible Down Standard. Brands that are proactive about how and where they source materials from will regularly and proudly share it on their websites and labels so customers know the quality of their products. For us, it’s worth every penny to know that we’re supporting brands that care about minimizing their negative impact when building their products, even if it costs a bit more upfront.

Many of the jackets in this review like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 have a DWR coating that helps water bead on the surface and protect the down. – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

HYDROPHOBIC DOWN & DWR

Goose and duck down are naturally hydrophobic to start with. The problem is that unwashed down smells and can rot if it’s not stripped of the majority of its natural oils, so it gets thoroughly cleaned which reduces its hydrophobic properties. Some outdoor apparel companies choose to treat their down with chemicals to make it absorb less water and dry out faster if exposed to moisture. To make the down more hydrophobic again after washing, PFC-based, silicone-based, or wax-based coatings can be applied, but the jury is still out on whether or not they make much of a difference. As far as we can see, hydrophobic treatments don’t hinder the performance of down, however, they do increase the environmental impact of manufacturing. If you really want to make sure your down jacket stays dry, the best defense is a good water-repellent shell and taking care to keep it out of conditions it’s not intended for.

Durable water repellent (DWR) is a treatment applied to the exterior of a down jacket so water beats off instead of soaking into the fabric. While DWR doesn’t grant the jacket full waterproofing, it does shield the jacket a bit more against moisture. DWR will eventually wear off, but reapplying it is fast and easy.Modern down jackets are often made with tightly woven fabrics and DWR coatings that repel water for hikes where you are inevitably caught in light precipitation. However, most down jackets are not waterproof enough to stand alone in heavy rain and will eventually start to absorb moisture. We usually recommend buying a down jacket that’s compatible with your favorite rain shell, but there are exceptions, like the 2-layer REI Stormhenge (men’s / women’s).

Nikwax Down Direct & Woolite are two great options for cleaning your puffy. – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

WASHING & STORAGE

Down is durable and lasts for many years with minimal maintenance, but like most gear, it becomes less effective over time as it gets grimy and oily. For everything you need to know about how to care for your down jacket, head over to our guide on How to Wash a Down Jacket.

The Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded is a solid (and colorful) option that comes in men’s and women’s sizes. – Photo credit: Casey Handley (CleverHiker.com)

Honorable Down Jacket Mentions

REI Magma 850 Down Hoodie – If you’re looking for an awesome value, the REI Magma 850 Hoodie (women’s / men’s) has been one of our top recommendations for years. Its warmth, comfort, and efficiency are on par with competing jackets that cost hundreds of dollars more and it weighs only a few additional ounces. The Magma shines brightest for summer trips but also layers well for cooler seasons, and has a huge array of sizes, making it a great option for most people.

Lots of down jackets on a rod in front of a snowy outdoor scene
We’ve tested a lot of down jackets over the years. – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

Conclusion

Selecting the right down jacket doesn’t have to be a hassle, and our detailed guide simplifies the process. By focusing on attributes like warmth, comfort, weight and packability, weather resistance, and breathability, you’ll quickly narrow down the best puffy for your next hike. Equip yourself with the perfect jacket and tackle your next adventure with confidence.