Down jackets are a winter staple but are functional year-round in certain climates. They provide top-level warmth while packing down fairly small. But with so many options on the market, it can be hard to choose.
Our group of testers donned dozens of down jackets in the elements at work and exploring the outdoors. We tested these outer layers while ice climbing, backcountry skiing and splitboarding, snowmobiling, running errands around town, shoveling snow, camping, rock climbing, hunting, and more. While there isn’t a perfect jacket for every single activity, we’ve found a variety of the best down jackets for women to keep you warm all season.
Though we mostly focus on jackets with natural down fill in this guide, there are also some synthetic fill options that are very warm and packable. To understand how these two types of insulation differ, as well as other details about down jacket construction, check out our buyer’s guide, FAQ, and comparison chart lower in the article.
This collection of layers features functional hip-length puffy jackets. If you’re interested in lengthier jackets and parkas for everyday use, read our women’s winter jackets buyer’s guide. Otherwise, keep scrolling through our top picks of women’s down jackets for 2023-2024.
Editor’s Note: We updated our Best Women’s Down Jacket guide on November 17, 2023, to include freshly tested products plus educational sections to support readers and field imagery.
The Best Women’s Down Jackets of 2023-2024
- Best Overall Women’s Down Jacket: Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody
- Best Budget Down Jacket for Women: Duluth Trading Women’s AKGH Eco Puffin Hoodie Jacket
- Runner-Up Best Women’s Down Jacket: Eddie Bauer MicroTherm 2.0 Down Jacket
- Most Sustainable: Paka Apparel Women’s PAKAFILL Midweight Puffer
- Best Stretch Down Jacket for Women: Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Hoody
- Best Waterproof Down Jacket for Women: Rab Valiance Waterproof Down Jacket
- Weight 371 g
- Fill 800 FP down (RDS certified by Control Union)
- Waterproof No. Water-resistant shell and liner with PFC-free DWR finish
- Best use Dry to mildly wet winter conditions, everyday, around town
- Key features Interior chest pocket doubles as a stuff sack with carabiner loop, two zippered hand pockets and drop-in interior pockets, fixed hood
- Nice amount of stretch for movement
- Really soft liner inside chin guard
- Not waterproof
- DWR finish is not fluorocarbon-free
- Weight N/A
- Fill Synthetic
- Waterproof Water resistant
- Best use Dry to wet winter conditions, general wear, downhill skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing
- Key features Two zippered hand pockets, one internal zippered chest pocket, waist cinch, fixed and insulated hood
- Great pliability and range of movement
- Resistant to precipitation
- No hood cinch (on hem or back of hood)
- Could use a soft chin guard
- Weight 289 g
- Fill 800 FP down
- Waterproof No. Features a DWR treatment to repel water off surface
- Best use Dry to mildly wet winter conditions, general wear, hiking, camping
- Key features Two interior stash pockets (for goggles or gloves), packs into its chest pocket and has carabiner clip-in loop, zippered chest pocket, hand pockets with zip closures, Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified, 50% recycled ripstop polyester shell
- Great fit
- Stretch side panels increase overall range of motion, comfort, and breathability
- Hood-free (lessens bulk)
- Not waterproof
- Some ladies might be looking for a bulkier, cozier option for everyday use
- Weight 600 g
- Fill 100% Alpaca from Peru
- Waterproof Water resistant — treated with PFAS-free DWR
- Best use Everyday errands and travel
- Key features Bluesign-certified polyester in shell and liner, two zippered hand pockets, one internal zippered chest pocket, fixed and insulated hood
- Super-soft brushed tricot chin panel
- Works with the The International Alpaca Association to ensure herds are cared for and healthy
- Hire local Peruvians and compensate quadruple the average living wage
- No hood cinch
- Lacks integrated brim on hood
- Shoulder seams and fabric are not the most stretchy
- Weight 396 g
- Fill 700 FP down
- Waterproof No. But the Q.Shield goose down resists moisture
- Best use Dry to mildly wet winter conditions, climbing, biking, shoveling snow, everyday
- Key features Fabrication removes the need for stitching and glue, chest pocket, two zippered hand pockets, fixed hood, RDS certified down, fluorine-free water resistance treatment on down
- Excellent freedom of movement thanks to stitch-free design
- Durable face fabric is pliable and soft
- Not waterproof
- Hood is streamlined which could be a drawback for some
- Weight 682 g
- Fill 700 FP down
- Waterproof Yes. Goose down features Nikwax fluorocarbon-free hydrophobic finish. Inner and outer fabric is treated for waterproofness and features fully taped seams. Plus there’s synthetic insulation in the hood and around the cuffs.
- Best use Dry to the wettest coastal winter conditions, working on the snowmobile and trailer, cold campouts, traveling outside in blizzard or gusty conditions
- Key features Fully taped seams, helmet compatible and insulated fixed hood, drawstring cord for hood rim and back-of-hood for overall snugness, wide Velcro wrist cuff closures, plus YKK zippers used on front, two hand pockets, and internal chest pocket
- Extremely warm
- Super durable face fabric
- Blocks wind and water like a superhero
- Not as athletic-fitting as other down jackets
- Pricier option
- Weight 216 g
- Fill 850+ FP down
- Waterproof No. But the down and face fabric are DWR-treated to prevent moisture absorption
- Best use Dry to moderately wet winter conditions, hunting in the mountains, backpacking, backcountry skiing, skiing (especially while going slower and teaching the kiddos)
- Key features DWR-treated down, left-hand pocket doubles as stuff sack, fixed hood, YKK zippers, adjustable hood with drawstring along hem and in center back for overall tightening
- Extremely warm
- Very quiet fabric
- Pricier choice
- DWR treatment is not eco-friendly
- Weight 306 g
- Fill 650 FP down
- Waterproof No. DWR-treated to repel moisture off surface
- Best use Dry to mildly wet winter conditions, everyday, camping, hiking
- Key features Two zippered hand pockets, recycled nylon taffeta shell fabric, Bluesign certified nylon taffeta liner, RDS certified
- Includes plus sizes in 1X, 2X, and 3X
- No hood
- Those feathers sneak out of the seams
- Weight 600 g
- Fill 700 FP down (plus synthetic fill in the tops of the shoulders)
- Waterproof No. Water-resistant
- Best use Dry to mildly wet winter conditions, sailing, ski touring, resort skiing, everyday
- Key features Bluesign-approved materials, 53% recycled polyester shell and lining, 85% recycled polyester insulation in tops of shoulders and wrist cuffs, wrist gaiters with thumb loops, fixed hood, RDS certified
- Size range is from XS to XXXL
- Wind- and water-resistant
- Heavier jacket
- Slightly longer design compared to our other options — a con for some
- Not a streamlined-looking silhouette
- Weight 558 g
- Fill Wool
- Waterproof No. Water-repellent
- Best use Dry to mildly wet winter conditions, everyday use, freeride skiing, and snowboarding
- Key features PFC-free, Fair Wear certified, climate neutral, two-way front zipper, wrist gaiters, one interior chest pocket, two large exterior hand pockets, extra zippered pocket on arm for ski pass or keys, insulated fixed hood, drawstring cord on back of hood snugs up the fit
- Four pockets
- Down alternative
- Not the most packable
- Pricier choice
- Weight 397 g
- Fill 800 FP down
- Waterproof No. Treated with DWR
- Best use Dry to mildly wet winter conditions, casual, layering beneath a rain coat
- Key features Two interior stash pockets, two zippered hand pockets, jacket stuffs into its own pocket, fixed hood, adjustable drawcord waist
- Fun color options
- Sheds light precipitation
- Ideal for cooler conditions when you don’t want to overheat
- Little too boxy for some
- Not ideal for extreme winter use
- Lack of chest pocket
- Weight 377 g
- Fill 700 FP down
- Waterproof No. But the down is treated for water resistance
- Best use Dry to mildly wet winter conditions, everyday, camping, hiking, layering beneath ski shell
- Key features Two zippered hand pockets
- Wind resistance
- Multiple interior chest pockets
- Not waterproof
- Shoulder and bust area can be snug with layers beneath
- Weight 205 g
- Fill 850 FP down (plus synthetic insulation in spots where moisture builds)
- Waterproof No. Moisture-resistant outer fabric treated with DWR
- Best use Dry to mildly wet winter conditions, backcountry skiing, splitboarding, ski mountaineering, plus ice, alpine, and rock climbing
- Key features Synthetic insulation placed where moisture accumulates, down insulated and fixed hood that fits over helmet, includes stuff sack, two hand pockets that are zippered, minimal zippers reduce bulk (yet have never broken in several years)
- Ultralight technical design
- Highly compressible
- Not waterproof
- No interior pockets
- Feathers can sometimes sneak out
- Weight 685 g
- Fill 700 FP down
- Waterproof No. Features DWR treatment on face fabric
- Best use Dry to mildly wet winter conditions, everyday casual wear
- Key features RDS-certified, stowable (non-insulated) hood, two zippered hand pockets, jacket stows in right-hand pocket
- Hood can be stashed into collar (it’s not removable)
- Classic wide baffle and retro aesthetic
- Fit is not as athletic as other jackets
- DWR treatment and fabric are not recycled or chemical-free
- Easily stains so be careful
Down Jackets for Women Comparison Chart
Scroll right to view all of the columns: Price, Weight, Fill, Waterproof, Best Use.
|Down Jacket||Price||Weight||Fill||Waterproof||Best Use|
|Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody||$329||371 g||800 FP down||No||Dry to mildly wet winter conditions|
|Duluth Trading Women’s AKGH Eco|
Puffin Hoodie Jacket
|$130||N/A||Synthetic||No||Dry to wet winter conditions|
|Eddie Bauer MicroTherm 2.0 Down Jacket||$249||289 g||800 FP down||No||Dry to mildly wet winter conditions|
|Paka Apparel Women’s PAKAFILL|
|$299||600 g||100% alpaca from Peru||No||Everyday errands and travel|
|Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Hoody||$300||396 g||700 FP down||No||Dry to mildly wet winter conditions|
|Rab Valiance Waterproof Down Jacket||$415||682 g||700 FP down||Yes||Dry to the wettest coastal winter conditions|
|KUIU Super Down Ultra Hooded Jacket||$319||216 g||850+ FP down||No||Dry to moderately wet winter conditions|
|REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0||$129||306 g||650 FP down||No||Dry to mildly wet winter conditions|
|Outdoor Research Coldfront Down Hoodie||$279||600 g||700 FP down||No||Dry to mildly wet winter conditions|
|Ortovox Swisswool Zinal Jacket||$400||558 g||Wool||No||Dry to mildly wet winter conditions|
|Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket||$295||397 g||800 FP down||No||Dry to mildly wet winter conditions|
|Marmot Women’s Highlander Jacket||$225||377 g||700 FP down||No||Dry to mildly wet winter conditions|
|Arc’teryx Cerium Hoody||$400||205 g||850 FP down||No||Dry to mildly wet winter conditions|
|The North Face 1996 Nuptse Down Jacket||$330||685 g||700 FP down||No||Dry to mildly wet winter conditions|
How We Tested Women’s Down Jackets
Our GearJunkie team has tested and reviewed dozens of women’s down jackets in a range of cold-weather conditions across the country. For this guide, we examined the fine details of each down jacket, including comfort, functionality, protection from the elements, ease of use, and style. We also strongly considered the most popular, highly acclaimed, well-made, and size-inclusive women’s down jackets across price points.
Throughout the West and Rocky Mountains, we’ve cruised on our bikes, walked in blizzards, sat on park benches, cheered on cross-country ski races, and shoveled our rigs out of powder piles. We have used these down jackets for farming, hunting, camping, backcountry exploration, mountaineering, ice climbing, and rock climbing. Our primary tests have been in Colorado’s Gunnison Valley — one of the coldest, snowiest destinations in the United States.
Leading the testing for the ladies’ down jacket guide are GearJunkie Senior Editor Morgan Tilton and contributor Meghan LaHatte. Tilton has been skiing and snowboarding for more than three decades. Beyond living in a winter wonderland for more than half the year, she backcountry tours, laps the resort, drives a backcountry snowmobile, hits the Nordic trails, and does skimo races. While living in the frigid ski town of Crested Butte, Tilton has put these down jackets through the ultimate test while skiing, shoveling, backpacking, and other activities.
Meghan LaHatte has resided on the Western Slope of Colorado for the past five years. With this has come long and grueling winters, so she knows the importance of a powerful down jacket. LaHatte’s tests of these jackets included chilly walks with her dog, camping in the desert, and transitioning into her ski boots at the resort.
While a single jacket likely won’t meet all of a person’s needs, this comprehensive list provides options with unique specialties and versatility. We’re confident these are the best women’s down jackets of the year.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Women’s Down Jacket
When deciding the best down jacket to suit your needs, consider the climate, construction, fill type, and power. Also, think about the application and when you’ll be wearing the jacket.
Down insulation is made from goose or duck plumage, a natural undercoat beneath feathers. This traditional jacket fill is known for being lightweight and compressible while maintaining warmth due to intricate clusters that capture air and body heat.
In frigid conditions, an insulated down jacket is perfect for wearing after a gym workout, before you step into a frigid car, and for running errands. Some down jackets are more water- and wind-resistant than others based on how the surface fabric or fill has been chemically treated. Down fill that’s chemically treated for water resistance is called hydrophobic down, so the down absorbs less water and dries faster.
Among the options, technical down jackets are typically lightweight and constructed with super durable materials, so they’re more tenacious against the surrounding terrain and dynamic activity, as well as packable. The price tag can often be higher than other casual down jackets.
A dependable and easy-to-pack down jacket (or a synthetic fill jacket) is pretty much a requisite for camping in high alpine or desert climates, backcountry trips like backpacking, alpine or rock or ice climbing, and backcountry splitboarding or skiing.
Beefier down jackets feature a higher down fill, so they’re warmer, which is excellent for winter camping, emergencies, or arctic conditions.
If you’re looking for a down jacket with more bulk, length, and warmth, check out our women’s winter jackets buyer’s guide. That list includes parka-style coats and silhouettes that are oriented for more casual winter days.
Down versus Synthetic
You may be wondering if you even need a down jacket. Down is incredibly insulating and warm. It’s also very light. The downsides of down are a loss of insulation when wet and an inability to dry fast. In the long run, it also requires special cleaning.
Synthetic insulation, on the other hand, is made from polyester fibers and is designed to imitate down clusters and properties with a few key differences. If you compare two equal-weight jackets, down is warmer than this alternative. But synthetic insulation retains warmth even when wet. It’s also easier to wash and usually comes at a lower price point.
- Pros of down: excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, comfort, compressibility, lightweight, high inherent warmth
- Cons of down: inability to insulate when wet, more difficult to wash, pricier
Some down jacket designs have a hybrid fill — they integrate synthetic fill into areas where moisture tends to collect like over the shoulders and around the wrist cuffs. That includes the Outdoor Research Coldfront Down Hoodie and the Arc’teryx Cerium Hoody. And in a very unique approach, the Ortovox Swisswool Zinal Jacket uses sustainably sourced wool for insulation instead of down.
Within synthetic jackets, active insulation is another progressive subcategory to know. These technical garments are designed to dump extra heat and dry fast, so you don’t have to remove the jacket during vigorous activity. But these layers also need to be durable, warm, and wind-resistant. They ultimately won’t be as warm as a straightforward down jacket. It’s a tricky balance.
Down fill power measures the loft and quality of the down. To calculate fill, a one-ounce sample of down is compressed in a cylinder. Generally speaking, the higher the number, the higher the quality and warmer the jacket — though the fill power isn’t the only variable affecting a jacket’s warmth.
But the higher the fill quality, the less down is needed to create the same warmth. This is because it’s able to trap more air and warmth within the jacket. Higher fill power — around 800 to 900 — is more compressible, loftier, more lightweight, and pricier.
Fill power ratings range from 400 to 900 and even greater. Most of the jackets on this list are in the 800-fill range, with a few clocking in above or below. Generally, the quality increases with the fill number:
- 400-500: fair quality
- 600: good quality
- 700: great quality
- 800: excellent quality
- 900 and above: highest quality
The other thing to consider when selecting the best down jacket for you is fill weight.
Fill Power versus Fill Weight
A down jacket’s fill power is the down’s quality and amount of loft. You’ll see jackets labeled as 600-fill or 800-fill, for instance. The fill weight, which is measured in ounces, reflects the density or amount of that down stuffed inside the jacket. (Note: fill weight differs from the jacket’s overall weight.)
So when two 700-fill jackets have different weights, we know the heavier one is warmer.
On the other hand, if two down jackets weigh the same with different fill power (such as two 15-ounce jackets with 650 fill and 800 fill), the higher fill jacket is going to be less bulky, lighter, and more compressible.
It’s also trickier to compare jackets with differing fill power. But in general, the lower the fill power, the less loft and warmth are provided.
Water Resistance and Hydrophobic Down
Down does not perform well when wet. And this is one of the places synthetic jackets tend to win out. To catch up, there has been a growing use of hydrophobic down, which has evolved over the past decade.
Essentially, the down feathers are coated in a water-resistant polymer. It still doesn’t match the water resistance of synthetics. But for light precipitation, hydrophobic down can’t be beat.
The face fabric of some down jackets is treated with DWR to help block light moisture, too, which can be eco-friendly formulas or chemicals that are toxic to the environment. Jackets can also have sealed seams to block moisture.
We found that the Duluth Trading Women’s AKGH Eco Puffin Hoodie Jacket performed super well in wetter environments while simultaneously keeping our testers comfortably warm.
Many down jackets are not waterproof, but some offer a degree of water resistance, which works fine in dryer winter climates — where the snow water equivalent (read: the amount of liquid water in the snow) is lower. If serious rain is in the forecast, though, it’s best to pair these jackets with a solid raincoat.
There are four general snow climates: coastal, transitional, intermountain, and continental. Generally, the closer you are to the coast, the more precipitation you’ll experience and the water content will be higher in the snow — it’ll be wetter and heavier!
In contrast, the snow in continental climates is dryer, lighter, and accumulates less compared to the coast. That includes most of the Rocky Mountains, such as in Colorado. Intermountain regions and ranges show characteristics of both and transitional areas are similar to the coast but with less rain and snow.
Examples according to the Utah Avalanche Center:
- Coastal (wettest): California, Washington, Oregon, coastal Alaska, and coastal British Columbia
- Transitional (moderately wet): Areas and targeted locations in Montana, northern Idaho, and Oregon
- Intermountain (mildly wet): Utah’s Wasatch Range, most of Idaho, Montana, and portions of Northeast Oregon and Southwest Colorado
- Continental (mostly dry): Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, interior Alaska, and interior British Columbia
Aside from the insulation type and other construction elements, it is important to consider the material types of a down jacket. Many outdoor companies implement different fabric types for the interior and exterior fabrics. These materials tend to have varying degrees of softness, stiffness, noise levels, and coatings. We’ll dive into some specifics below.
The interior liner of a down jacket serves many purposes: providing extra comfort, insulation, and moisture management. Some common materials used in these interior elements are nylon, polyester, and other down-proof fabrics.
- Nylon: Nylon is a smooth, lightweight fabric commonly used in down jacket interiors. It helps keep the wearer dry by wicking away moisture without compromising insulation
- Polyester: Durable, soft, and sometimes made of recycled materials, polyester is a frequent material used in the interior liner of a down jacket
- Down-Proof Fabrics: Higher-end down jackets will sometimes have a liner made of tightly woven fabrics that prevent any feathers from poking through the liner and escaping
Interior fabrics are consistently less robust than those used for the exterior. They are much softer and more malleable. Because they are exposed to fewer elements and abrasion, they can afford to be silky smooth and thinner. If your down jacket’s liner was composed of stiffer materials it certainly would be less comfortable.
Exterior fabrics make up the outer face of a down jacket. The layer serves one of the most important purposes when it comes to construction: It protects the insulation and user from elements like rain, snow, wind, and sleet. You’ll notice that exterior fabrics typically have different feels, looks, stitching, and sound.
Much like interior fabrics, a down jacket’s shell materials are typically made from nylon and polyester. However, they are often treated with finishes like DWR (durable water repellent) or other coatings to make them hydrophobic- and stain-resistant.
If you find that your down jacket’s shell sounds crunchy, the noise may be due to a couple of factors. The shell material could be made with a stiffer nylon fabric and when given added treatments, it can be a bit noisy or scratchy. Typically down jackets made with premium materials are less noisy due to their finer construction, softer hand feel, and flexibility. An example of this quiet design can be found in the KUIU Super Down Ultra Hooded Jacket.
Overall, materials can make or break a down jacket, but you can trust all of the jackets we’ve listed here are well-constructed, durable, and built to last.
Collar and Hood
An ergonomic collar and hood are significant features for protecting your face, head, ears, neck, and hair against sun, snow, sleet, hail, wind, or rain. Pulling up a hood can help the body retain heat in chilly conditions while shielding you from the elements.
Jacket collars vary in height and ideally have an interior chin guard that feels comfortable against the face, a key component on a windy day. Hoods on down jackets are typically insulated and fixed rather than removable or non-insulated, which you’ll see on lifestyle parka designs. Certain designs have an elastic cinch in the back to snug up the overall fit or one along the hood’s hem.
Occasional hood designs are non-insulated or feature a rigid brim to help keep moisture away from the face. The North Face Nuptse Down Jacket has both, as well as a unique packable (non-removable) hood — it rolls down and stuffs into the collar.
Sleeve Cuffs and Pockets
On most women’s down jackets, the sleeve cuffs have a streamlined elastic wrist cuff that stretches when you slide your hands through, meaning it’s easier to pull the jacket on before you put on your gloves. A handful have a wide Velcro strap to tighten down the closure once you pull the jacket on.
The cut of cuffs is typically straight across at the wrist, so the arm length is functional and not cumbersome.
Very few down jackets feature wrist gaiters with thumbholes for extra hand warmth, but the Ortovox Swisswool Zinal Jacket does.
Most jackets include two exterior hand pockets with zip closures. Often, there is at least one interior chest pocket with a zip closure, which can be great for chambering a credit card, ID, or key. It’s always a plus when these interior pockets are made with buttery soft materials, so that your hands stay comfortable while tucked inside. The Outdoor Research Coldfront Down Hoodie has some ultrasoft polyester-lined pockets that kept our hands cozy while facing the cold.
Some down jackets even have an interior self-stow pocket for easy packing and compressibility. Simply flip the pocket or pouch inside out, and then roll or press the jacket into the pocket. Typically there will be a closure — a zipper, button, or drawstring — that you can use to secure your coat inside of itself. This feature especially stood out in the Eddie Bauer MicroTherm 2.0 Down Jacket.
Fit and Size
Women’s down jackets are generally either trim with a streamlined fit or they can be roomier, puffier, and boxier with a more relaxed silhouette. Many materials offer a bit of flexibility or a ton of stretch for a wide range of movement. Not many down jackets look like a marshmallow these days — even the thickest jackets have articulation and style.
Both options can be comfortable. A roomier jacket is better if you plan to wear a bunch of layers beneath your jacket. You can still add layers beneath a fitted style but you might want to consider sizing up, because often the arm, shoulder, or chest areas can get too snug with a midlayer or two beneath.
Size-wise, each manufacturer has its own size charts. Be sure to take your personal measurements and match them up with the size charts, which can differ across brands.
Some companies provide more size inclusivity with broader offerings. That includes Outdoor Research with a size run of XS to XXXL. The North Face has sizes XS to XXL, and Eddie Bauer offers a size range of XS to XXL including regular, petite, tall, and plus options. Everyone’s body is unique, so check the exchange and return policy before you buy.
Weight and Compressibility
A down jacket’s weight and compressibility can be an important variable for cargo space and airline travel as well as storage and closet space. Otherwise, a jacket used for everyday errands and social events will generally weigh more than a lightweight technical down jacket made for athletic pursuits. Having a lightweight design for an everyday jacket is typically less of a priority because the comfort, ergonomics, and high warmth factors are the most important.
The longer a jacket is, the more it will weigh and the more space it will take up. The heavier a jacket is, the warmer it will be (read more about fill weight above). If you don’t need a warm winter jacket built for arctic conditions and need one for milder winter temperatures that hover above or around freezing, then the jacket will most likely weigh less.
The lightest down jackets range from the 850+ KUIU Super Down Ultra Hooded Jacket at a mere 216 g and the 290 g Arc’teryx Cerium Hoody to the 590 g Outdoor Research Coldfront Down Hoodie and Rab Valiance Waterproof Down Jacket, which is 682 g. The majority of our favorite down jackets sit around 300 to 400 g.
Ultimately, don’t compromise a jacket’s safety or comfort features and adequate warmth to drop grams.
Like a sleeping bag, some down jackets conveniently come with a stuff sack to assist with compressibility and packing. This will help protect and secure your down jacket in your carry-on, backpack, or duffel. The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody includes an interior stuff sack with a latch to attach a carabiner or your keys.
While it can be super convenient to put your down jacket in a stuff sack, we wouldn’t recommend it for long-term storage. This can cause damage to the down and lessen its lifetime of loftiness and insulation abilities.
When thinking about compressibility, it’s important to recognize that weight and compressibility typically do not correlate. An insulated jacket’s ability to compress is usually dependent on its insulation and material types. Even if a natural down jacket is heavier than a synthetic, it will still probably compress a bit better because the natural loftiness down provides. A higher fill power will always compress better than one of a lower.
The temperature rating of a down jacket refers to the range of temperatures that the down jacket is designed to perform in. In other words, keep the wearer warm. It’s important to note that there is no universal measuring tool for temperature ratings. Many companies utilize various sliding scales, tools, and labels to help consumers understand the performance range.
Some manufacturers use a specific number or degree to describe their down jacket’s temperature rating. For example, the Eddie Bauer MicroTherm 2.0 has a digitized temperature rating of -5°F. Meaning, the jacket can be comfortably worn in temperatures as low as -5 when doing moderate activities. However, specific degree temperature ratings should be treated more as a guideline than a hard and fast rule – everyone tends to have various personal preferences and regulate their body temperatures differently. Wind chill is also a factor, as is sweat.
Other companies have specific conditions listed or sliding scales to reflect their temperature ratings. An example of this is the Nuptse Down Jacket from The North Face. On their “warm” sliding scale of 1 to 3, that design is considered a 3, meaning it’s the warmest offering from the brand.
Temperature ratings can also be a good guideline for how you should layer with your down jacket. Jackets with higher temperature ratings can function well with lighter layers underneath, meaning less bulk. However, they may be toastier on warmer fall and spring days. Alternatively, jackets with lower temperature ratings might require a thicker base layer or more midlayers on chillier days, but should be comfortable when the temps are milder.
If you’re looking for a down jacket with a specific temperature rating, it’s best to consult the manufacturer’s specifications and consider factors beyond just the temperature rating, such as the jacket’s fill power, insulation amount, and overall design too.
Windproofness and Resistance
If you live in a windy climate or are planning on traveling to a gusty place like Chicago, it’s important to purchase a down jacket that has windproofness or wind resistance.
Windproofness is achieved through a down jacket’s exterior materials and coatings. Tightly woven nylon and polyester shells create a barrier that protects the user from wind. Denser fabrics and windproof coatings are ideal if you’ll be higher up in the alpine or in the midwest where the wind can be highly unpredictable.
One of the best-insulated jackets for wind resistance in this guide is the Arc’teryx Cerium Hoody, thanks to its special nylon shell. Our testers wore it in some cold slams without feeling any wind penetrate its surface.
Down jackets are built to be toasty warm, so breathability seems like an oxymoron. It can be hard to find one that’s breathable without sacrificing the insulation. With modern textile and designs, brands are creating hybrid puffers that are a tad more breathable and suitable for more active use.
Breathable down jackets are ones that utilize mesh zones near the waist, armpits, and back. These sections of fabric allow air to travel to those parts of the body that typically generate the most heat and moisture. The Eddie Bauer MicroTherm 2.0 Down Jacket has these vents in the armpits, making it a breathable option.
Another way that designers can add a bit of breathability to a down jacket is with two-way zippers. This also allows for a more customizable fit, because you can keep either your upper or lower torso insulated. This application is highly useful for climbers belaying at the crag or needing to cool off at the summit of an alpine climb. We loved the two-way zippers on the Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Hoody that could be adjusted for maximum airflow.
Length and Zippers
The length of women’s down jackets typically reaches the hips but can reach a bit further, below the hips, which affects the overall warmth and protection from the elements.
Our testers felt that the Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket came to just the right length at the hips without limiting any sort of movement or sacrificing warmth.
Down jackets typically use a single one-way zipper in the front and zippered exterior hand pockets. To help snug up the fit, the best hip-length down jackets for women usually have a streamlined drawstring cord that can be easily tightened and loosened, which can help prevent gusts or snowflakes from scurrying up into the jacket.
The Ortovox Swisswool Zinal Jacket is among the few down jackets with a two-way front zipper, which helps with harness compatibility.
Eco-Friendly and Recycled Materials
Beyond responsibly sourced down, like the ethically-sourced Advanced Global Traceable Down in the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, down jackets have an opportunity to include a bunch of eco-friendly design traits.
Some jackets are created with PFC-free DWR treatments for the exterior or down. That includes the Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Hoody, which employs a fluorine-free water resistance treatment on down fill. The Rab Valiance Waterproof Down Jacket likewise features a Nikwax fluorocarbon-free hydrophobic finish on its down fill.
Other designs are made with recycled materials from recycled down to recycled polyester or implement recycled down or a recycled interior fabric liner. The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody has 100% recycled ripstop polyester shell and liner. The Eddie Bauer MicroTherm 2.0 implements a 20-denier ripstop polyester that’s windproof and 50% recycled. The REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket uses a recycled nylon taffeta shell fabric. In its hybrid design, the Outdoor Research Coldfront Down Hoodie even uses 85% recycled polyester insulation in tops of shoulders and wrist cuffs.
Some jackets also guarantee Fair Trade sewing, Bluesign, climate neutral, or OEKO-TEX Certified fabrics.
Responsibly Sourced Down and Traceability
Outdoor industry brands have made an effort to source down ethically without animal cruelty and create transparency in the global supply chain. Various certifications exist, but the most common is the Responsible Down Standard and Global Traceable Down Standard. Without meeting such standards, animal abuse can become part of the supply chain. Synthetic choices can set some folks at ease.
However, new programs can help you understand where your jacket’s down is sourced from. The ALLIED Feather & Down TrackMyDown program allows users to trace their down products back to the origin of the fill.
Winner of a 2019 ISPO Gold Award, the TrackMyDown program provides detailed information on the source of your jacket’s down feathers, including the country of origin, the supplier, and the farms where the birds were raised. Customers can also view information on the quality of their down, including the fill power and the cleanliness of the material. Simply type in your lot number (found on your down jacket’s hang tag) and press enter.
While there are some incredible sustainable, eco-conscious down jackets in this guide, we can’t help but commend the efforts of Patagonia with their Global Traceable Down Standard and Recycled Down program that reuses bedding, pillows, and other feather based products found in landfills. The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody utilizes recycled materials and 100% virgin goose down that meets the Global Down Standard.
Should you choose to go with an insulated jacket made with non-traditional natural materials, we recommend the Paka Apparel Women’s PAKAFILL Lightweight Puffer made from sustainable alpaca fibers or the Ortovox Swisswool Zinal Jacket, which has a wool-based fill.
As we’ve mentioned, synthetic fill can sometimes be a safer choice for users who are out in wet weather. If it’s cold and dry, down is optimal despite a higher cost. We include both synthetic fill and down fill options in this guide.
How to Layer
If you want to make the most of your down jacket’s powerful insulating properties, it’s good to dial in a layering system. The best down jackets should be roomy enough that you can properly layer beneath to keep you warm and comfortable on bone-chilling days.
Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep your skin dry and warm. Choose a fabric like merino wool or fleece that fits snugly to your body. This layer should be close-fitting but not so tight that it restricts any movement. The more breathable the layer, the better. Avoid any cotton materials, which do not dry well once wet. Your down jacket should be doing the bulk of the warming work, so make sure you don’t overdo it.
Your down jacket can be treated as an insulating layer or your shell layer, depending on the climate and the design. If you’ll be heading into any sort of moisture like rain, snow, or sleet then you’ll probably want to add a waterproof shell. If you don’t need a shell, your down jacket should do the trick to keep you warm and dry.
If you want extra warmth, you can always add an insulating puffy vest or midlayer sweater over your base layer and beneath the down jacket.
Remember, the key to layering is to find a balance between warmth and mobility. Too many layers can restrict your movement and make you feel stiff, while too few layers can leave you feeling chilly. By layering to your needs, you can stay warm and comfortable in your down jacket no matter what the winter weather brings.
Our budget pick in this guide is the REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket ($129).
At full price, the most expensive down jackets on our list are among the warmest and offer the most coverage against the elements. Those typically sit in the $300 range like the KUIU Super Down Ultra Hooded Jacket ($319), The North Face Nuptse Down Jacket ($330), Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody ($329), and Women’s PAKAFILL Lightweight Puffer ($299).
A huge variety of warm down jackets exist between those two price marks. Most of our favorite down jackets are in the $100-300 range: Duluth Trading Women’s AKGH Eco Puffin Hoodie Jacket ($130), Outdoor Research Coldfront Down Hoodie ($279), Marmot Women’s Highlander Jacket ($225), and the Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket ($295).
As fill power and fill weight increase, the warmth increases, and you’ll see the price of a jacket go up. That’s one reason why super lightweight, durable, technical cold-weather jackets are pricy. Jackets that are more expensive also feature more technical design features, materials that are more robust against a range of weather conditions and materials, as well as high-end sustainable materials.
After you learn the different types of winter jackets, you might need to get one of each! This guide focuses on warm, functional, well-made choices for being outside during everyday commutes, errands, and casual activity. They’ll protect you on your bike ride to the post office, walking the dogs, or going to and from the Nordic center or gym.
Here’s how winter jackets as a whole are each a bit different:
- Provide warmth — some are warmer than others
- Good for dry, cold conditions and drier snow
- Some designs are stylish and tailored to everyday use, while athletic-oriented designs are great for winter activities like ice climbing
- Length can reach the hip, knee, or ankle (to learn more about winter jackets that are longer than hip length, check out our women’s winter jackets buyer’s guide)
- Example: Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody
- Warm outer layer — can also be layered beneath a waterproof non-insulated shell
- Suited for wet environments
- A good choice for activities like skiing or snowboarding in very cold conditions
- Synthetic jackets can also be called insulated shells
- Example: Norrona Trollveggen PrimaLoft100 Zip Hood
Active Insulation Jackets
- Lightweight, streamlined, athletic jacket that is breathable yet insulated
- Nice for cardio activity like Nordic skiing or running
- Some designs are hybrid with two types of visible fabrics strategically placed
- Typically have panels of synthetic insulation but are more breathable than full synthetic jackets
- Example: Helly Hansen LifaLoft Hybrid Insulator Jacket
- Waterproof or water-resistant and block wind
- These jackets are most often not insulated
- Offer more range of motion than insulated synthetic jackets
- Great for high-output cardio activity like shoveling, backcountry snowmobiling, or powder skiing
- To clarify, a synthetic jacket is often called an insulated shell
- Example: Ortovox 3L Guardian Shell Jacket
- A waterproof or water-resistant shell zips into a separate jacket liner
- The interior jacket could be a fleece, synthetic fill, or down fill
- You can wear the two jackets separately or together
- Good budget option
- Example: Columbia Bugaboo II Fleece 3-in-1 Interchange Jacket
The best down jacket to buy is based on how technical you want your down jacket to be and how warm or water-resistant you need it to be. Take a close look at the product details for each down jacket in our guide to see if it’s a good fit for your intended use.
In general and for everyday casual use in cold conditions, one of the best women’s down jackets that reigned supreme in our testing was the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, but we also included a runner-up (the Eddie Bauer MicroTherm 2.0 Down Jacket). But a single jacket isn’t going to perfectly fit and please everyone. You simply can’t go wrong with either of these for everyday use and travel.
Generally, a down puffy is a perfect layer to add to your backpacking pack, whether it’s for day hiking or backpacking — unless you expect a ton of moisture then consider a synthetic option.
If you’re buying a puffy specifically for backpacking, you’ll also want to make sure it works with your other layers, is comfortable to wear with a pack, and can pack down small.
Down jackets are designed to be insulating and warm. However, you should still leave a little room for layering. That being said, you don’t want a jacket to be too big. If so, the airspace between your body, the inside of the jacket, and the insulation is wasted space and you’ll lose heat.
If a jacket is too small, you won’t have as good of a range of motion — essential, especially when engaging in high-output activities in the cold — or be able to layer much beneath.
We recommend checking each brand’s sizing guide (which is unique to each and very single brand) to ensure that you get the best-fitting jacket possible.
The highest fill power, 900, is also going to be the warmest. The majority of down jackets we tested (and a good reflection of what’s on the market) were 650-fill to 800-fill.
Our down jackets range in price from $129, the 650-fill REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket, to the 700-fill Rab Valiance Waterproof Down Jacket ($415). For a dependable, long-lasting, and comfortable jacket that blocks the elements and keeps us safe, that price range isn’t too bad even at the high end.
Fill power ratings range from 400 to 900 and even greater. Most of the jackets on this list are in the 650- to 800-fill range, with a few clocking in above or below. Generally, the quality increases with the fill number:
- 400-500: fair quality
- 600: good quality
- 700: great quality
- 800: excellent quality
- 900 and above: highest quality
The 900-fill down is probably overkill, unless you’re traveling to arctic or high alpine environments in winter.
The higher the fill power, the higher the price will be. You’ll want to weigh price but also usage. Do you frequent cold places and need a quality jacket? Do you run cold? Then consider investing in a higher-fill down option, like 700-fill Rab Valiance Waterproof Down Jacket or 800-fill Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody.
Also consider that not all down jackets are the same level of windproofness or water resistance, which can influence your overall warmth depending on the conditions where you’ll be. Some jackets are also loftier than others and better for stationary activities like standing at the sled hill versus dynamic heat-producing activities like alpine climbing.
That said, if you’re deciding between two jackets and one is much higher in price, always check the fill power. Most well-made down jackets we own are between 650- and 700-down fill. As we mentioned, the amount of fill power you need depends on where you’ll be adventuring — how cold it will be — and whether or not the activity is sedentary. But it doesn’t hurt to have an 800-fill for your coldest adventures.
Yes! Down jackets are a great insulating piece to wear under your ski shell while you’re shredding the mountain.
For skiing and snowboarding, we recommend wearing a lighter-weight down jacket with a mid-level down fill (think a 600-700 down fill). This way you don’t get too cold, and can easily stow it away in your pack if temps warm up.
We recommend the Marmot Women’s Highlander Jacket to pair under your ski or snowboard shell due to its lightweight materials and athletic fit.
To guarantee the longevity and quality of your down jacket, it’s important to know how to properly store it when it’s not in use. Whether you’re heading somewhere tropical for a few weeks, packing up your winter garb, or getting ready for a big move, here are some tips on how to store your down jacket properly.
When storing your down jacket, we recommend placing it in an uncompressed breathable storage bag or hanging it on a wide hanger in a dry, well-ventilated room. Make sure you don’t compress your down jacket for long periods of time as this can cause it to lose its loftiness and insulation properties. To even further improve your jacket’s lifespan, try fluffing out the jacket by giving it a few shakes periodically.
We get it, it happens. You’re out on a hike in the winter and snag your sleeve on a branch or maybe your cat thought your brand new down jacket was a scratching post. Don’t fret, because down jackets are easy to repair if the rip isn’t too large.
Simply head to your local gear store and grab a down jacket repair kit. Typically these kits include a special jacket tape that goes right over the hole, or a patch and small bottle of clear fabric glue. Make sure you clean the area of the coat of any dirt, oils or debris that could prevent the adhesive from working to its best potential.
If the rip is out of your repair limits, check the manufacturer’s warranty policy. Many companies like Patagonia and Cotopaxi will assess the damage of your jacket and fix or replace it for little to no extra cost.