Every winter wardrobe needs a puffy down jacket. But how to choose? Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered.
It’s one of the simple truths of the outdoors: When warmth is a must, it’s gotta be down. Synthetic has come a long way, but its warmth-to-weight ratio just doesn’t quite rival the best down jackets (yet).
Down is plush, warm, packable, and even something of a fashion staple nowadays. But with dozens of brands offering hundreds of different styles, it can be damn near overwhelming to peg which down jacket is right for you. So we leaned on our experience, testing, research, and insight to cull the best of the best. Each of these down jackets is available now and merits a look for its construction, price, features, and warmth.
It’s also hard to know exactly how eco-friendly a design is for humans and the planet. Next to each product, you’ll notice a score called CSS, or Comprehensive Sustainability Score. This is our objective grade of the product’s sustainability based on quantitative metrics compiled by our team.
To learn more about down jackets and how to choose yours, scroll down to the buyer’s guide, FAQ, and an explanation of the CSS score at the bottom of this article.
Otherwise, take a look at all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for:
- Best Overall Down Jacket
- Runner-Up Best Overall
- Best Budget
- Most Durable Puffy
- Best Stretch
- Best Puffy for High Activity
- Best Lightweight Puffy
- Runner-Up Best Lightweight
- Most Sustainable Puffy
- Runner-Up Most Sustainable
- Best Everyday Style
- Runner-Up Everyday Style
- Best for Skiing
- Best for Belaying
- Runner-Up Best for Belaying
- Best of the Rest
The Best Down Jackets of 2022
In researching all the down jackets on the market, we paid particular attention to standouts within a particular category. For example, we have selections for those shopping on a budget, those searching for more sustainable options, and for others who just want the most bomber puffy of all.
This article includes the best down jackets for men and women. You can also check our expanded list of the best down jackets for women.
Dark Peak snuck in as a dark horse in our testing, and boy did it impress. This Kickstarted brand hit the scene with a bold claim as “the warmest jacket in the world.” But an Arctic expedition jacket this is not. Rather, for every jacket purchase, Dark Peak donates another jacket to someone in need without a home (each jacket sold keeps two people warm — hence, the warmest jacket in the world).
But beyond its charitable commitment, Dark Peak makes a stunningly capable and good-looking puffy, the NESSH ($200). The outer and inner fabric use 10-denier ripstop nylon, 850-fill goose down provides both high-loft warmth and packability, two-way zippers accommodate belays, and the hood is both cinchable and helmet-compatible.
Plus, Dark Peak uses those designs and materials in a very thoughtful way. The fit is a good compromise between athletic and roomy, so it’s great for layering under a big shell or with a midlayer underneath. A durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the outer is a standard but also welcome addition, and a pair of wrist gaiters with thumb loops make a unique, comfy, and useful addition.
There are also two hand pockets, two big interior stash pockets, and a zippered chest pocket on the inside. You can bring all your stuff!
What’s more, the NESSH comes in five color options (we’re partial to maroon), and the price beats out many competitors — thanks largely to the brand’s direct-to-consumer model. If you’re looking for something that does everything well, this should be among the options you consider.
- Fill: 850
- Weight: 12 oz.
- Key features: Wrist gaiters with thumbholes, DWR coating, responsibly sourced goose down
- Very packable
- Athletic yet roomy
- Zippered internal phone pocket
- Nontreated down is less ideal for extreme weather conditions like heavy rain and snow
When testing a bunch of down jackets, the surest way to know which one is best is to look at which one you find yourself wearing most often. That’s exactly what put Outdoor Research’s Helium Down Hoodie ($279) so high on this list.
Its athletic cut has made it ideal for early winter getaways, allowing this tester to toss a big wool flannel on over it when things get especially frosty. But it was still great by itself when things didn’t dip below a little chilly.
The quality and feel are everything you’d expect from a brand like OR — and then some. The brand dubs it the “most durable, lightweight, and technical down hoodie” in its arsenal. That durability comes from a strategic hybrid construction.
The hood and shoulders use Pertex Quantum Shield 30-denier ripstop that fights abrasion and adds a waterproof barrier where you need it — head and shoulders, exactly where rain hits.
But the toughness doesn’t stop there. Covering the Helium Down Hoodie’s 800-fill down is Pertex’s Diamond Fuse ripstop shell, affording the jacket enhanced durability without any significant weight penalty.
By no means the warmest puffy we tested, this one wound up in the backseat, at the ready for just-in-case adventures. If you need one puffy to grab that can handle a range of elements, this one fits the bill.
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 15.4 oz.
- Key features: Wind, water, and abrasion resistance plus waterproof shoulders and hood
- Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified down
- Five pockets: two external hand pockets, chest pocket, dual internal stash pockets
- Cozy but not built for supreme warmth
We expected France’s Decathlon Sports would make a splash in the U.S. And for us, it starts with this 800-fill Trek down jacket ($90). At that loft and price, the Decathlon Forclaz Trek 100 ($80) even beats out REI’s very popular 650 Down Hoodie. For the money, you get a highly packable jacket (stuffs into its own pocket) that meets the Responsible Down Standard.
Unlike the higher-end offerings on this list, it isn’t loaded with features like two-way front zippers, felt-lined pockets, or recycled materials. But it does stand as a remarkable value considering its light weight, warmth, and basically unmatched price.
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 10.2 oz.
- Key features: Meets RDS, DWR coating, packs into its own pocket
- Two external hand pockets
- 15-denier face fabric isn’t the strongest among our list (it’s also not the lowest)
- Fill is only protective for temps as low as 23 degrees F
- Not the highest stitch quality
Most Durable Puffy: Eddie Bauer Mountain Ops Down Hooded Jacket
Buy this jacket now! Ordinarily, we’d say if money’s less a concern than the years you’ll get out of a puffy, then Eddie Bauer’s Mountain Ops Down Hooded Jacket ($299) is as hard to beat as it is to tear. Unless you’re using this jacket as a doormat, it’s pretty much indestructible — and even then it might hold up.
But right now, you can find this jacket for close to $300! Until the brand updates the design or construction, this one is a hot buy — and it will likely work for years.
Built for cat-skiers and heli-guides, the Mountain Ops down jacket sports a burly ripstop nylon shell with basically bulletproof 500-denier waterproof nylon canvas overlays at the shoulders and sleeves. Uber-cozy, felt-lined pockets are perfect for bare hands, even when the temps drop to the coat’s lower limit rating of -25 degrees. And the rest of you will stay plenty warm too.
- Fill: 650
- Weight: It’s heavy (40 oz.)
- Key features: Waterproof nylon ripstop shell and canvas shoulder/back overlays, windproof
- Five pockets
- Workhorse layer
- Not a compressible choice for recreation
The Mountain Hardwear Super/DS Stretchdown Hooded Down Jacket ($275) is among the most flexible down jackets we’ve ever worn, making it super comfortable for everyday errands and recreation. The jacket performed well on commuter rides, nippy walks, and snowy hikes in a range of temperatures from 10 to 35 degrees plus wind chill at 10,000 feet.
When we lean over the handlebars or shovel snow, there’s no seam restriction on the upper back, arms, or shoulders — it feels like we’re not wearing a jacket at all.
The Super/DS is the first-ever jacket with stitch-free baffle construction and is made from a single fabric, eliminating the need for glue. The 700-fill jacket is lightweight and packs down to the size of a small travel pillow. Most impressively, water droplets roll off the surface with no signs of absorption or loss of loft.
Its hood is stretchy and spacious for a climbing helmet. However, when fully zippered, the hood’s elastic slightly pulls back the front collar, so the lower face is exposed from time to time.
- Fill: 700
- Weight: 15 oz.
- Key features: Stitch-free baffle construction for non-restrictive flexibility, meets RDS
- Zippered hand and chest pockets
- No stitches or glue to degrade or restrict movement
- Jacket is water-resistant, not waterproof
Wearing a puffy doesn’t mean you can’t be active. A few companies tackle the stay-warm-but-stay-cool conundrum with some mix of down fill and thin, highly breathable fabrics where it’s needed.
Mammut stood out for this application with its Flexidown IN down jacket ($299). Pertex Quantum covers the 750-fill RDS down while Pontetorto Tecnostretch lines the underarms and sides. And “Tecnostretch” is exactly what we’d call it too. The freedom of movement this soft, stretchy material provides is second to none. If you felt like doing yoga in this thing, you’d have no trouble.
The Flexidown IN carries a slim, against-the-body fit, which is great for running but not great for layering under. And true to its active pursuits DNA, you get two hand pockets — and that’s it. No carrying all your gadgets in this one.
But for skiing, ski touring, or running in brisk winter, this one’s a winner. Plus, it carries certification from Bluesign and Fair Wear for sustainable practices and conditions, and it uses a PFC-free DWR coating.
- Fill: 750 (with synthetic hits)
- Weight: 12.3 oz.
- Key features: Hybrid down jacket, athletic fit, very stretchy
- Material along the sides and underarms dumps heat
- Non-bulky insulation layer for beneath a shell jacket
- Lacks hood
- Only two hand pockets
What made the original Ghost Whisperer an editor favorite and brand icon, the Ghost Whisperer UL ($375) has in spades — or feathers, rather. Shaving off 2.2 ounces may not sound like much until you realize that’s a 25% reduction in weight (the Ghost Whisperer/2 tips the scales at 8.8 ounces, while the UL comes in at 6.67 ounces).
The Ghost Whisperer UL accomplishes this in large part thanks to 1,000-fill down, giving it an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. A great layering piece you’ll hardly notice behind a wind-blocking shell, the UL sports two zippered hand pockets, one of which it packs into.
This ultralight jacket is a minimal piece, so no accessory pockets here. And the hood doesn’t cinch, though elastic cuffs offer some range of motion. If your adventures don’t hinge on saving every cubic centimeter or gram, the Ghost Whisperer UL is probably more coat than you need — or less, rather.
- Fill: 1,000
- Weight: 6.7 oz.
- Key features: Super warm fill, very lightweight
- King warmth-to-weight ratio
- Pockets aren’t included
This light, packable, 850-fill loft down jacket is exemplary for belaying, climbing, and hiking in the fall and spring as well as alpine climbing in the summer. And it’s a solid layering piece to stuff into the backcountry ski pack.
One tester even used this jacket as an outermost layer for backcountry ice climbing in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains in 0- to 10-degree temperatures. Her routes included multi-pitch and mixed (rock and ice), vertical and overhanging frozen faces, and chimney moves.
The jacket and hood’s insulation kept us warm even with wind, which we couldn’t feel through the fabric. The Cerium SL Hoodie ($359) gets top marks for range of motion. We also really liked the elastic cuffs on the sleeves, which our hands can easily tuck into.
The exterior fabric is supple, durable, and DWR treated to repel moisture — though in a blizzard or rain, it’s a safer bet to wear this jacket beneath a shell. There’s one interior chest pocket and two hand pockets to hold a few items. And after several years of testing, the small, robust zipper has yet to fail.
- Fill: 850 (plus synthetic hits)
- Weight: 7.2 oz.
- Key features: Strong zippers, great packability
- Robust materials and construction
- Streamlined and adjustable hood
- Not a waterproof choice for intense rain or snow
This 800-fill Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie ($279) withstands wind, resists moisture, and is lightweight for its level of warmth. We took this jacket on rolling hikes, bike rides, and walks on crisp bluebird days during 5-degree lows and with dry blizzard conditions in Colorado’s Elk and Sangre de Cristo mountains. We stayed dry, thanks to the shell’s DWR finish, which resists moisture.
Heavier amounts of water noticeably dampen the exterior, though it rebounds. This hoodie easily withstood bitter gusts, and the elastic cuffs are comfortable and block wind. When fully zippered, the reinforced neck rise doesn’t slouch, which protects the lower half of the face. But the hood shape is a little too snug to comfortably wear a helmet.
This is an excellent everyday down jacket with great style and protection for the winter season. It’s awesome to pull on post cardio activity, like after a winter run. And it maintains loft and warmth even with snowfall and some moisture.
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 14.1 oz.
- Key features: Recycled ripstop polyester fabric and liner, interior chest pocket doubles as a stuff sack
- RDS down
- Super comfortable
- Only three pockets
- Blocks weather but not waterproof
A solid entry on our list is REI’s Stormhenge Down Hybrid ($259). If price, durability, versatility, and function are all important, this jacket would have to be among the considerations.
Covered in a two-layer waterproof/breathable shell with taped seams and DWR-treated down inside, the Stormhenge can take on sleet and a cold November rain. It’s not the most style-minded coat on this list, but functionally, it’s a solid bet at a very reasonable price.
- Fill: 850
- Weight: 32 oz.
- Key features: Meets RDS, fully seam-sealed, body-mapped insulation, zippered chest and hand pockets, insulated hood
- Waterproof/breathable shell outer
- Pit zips
- Recycled and Bluesign-approved materials
- Not super lightweight
- Not a very flattering cut
Warmest: Marmot West Rib Down Parka
Odds are you don’t need this jacket. But still, it’s nice to know something this warm is out there should you decide to summit a peak that pokes through the clouds.
Wear the West Rib Parka ($599) with loads of layers beneath — heaven knows there’s plenty of room — for the harshest cold, or by itself for just really cold. Marmot imbues the West Rib with its proprietary WarmCube construction, an ice cube tray configuration of baffles designed to keep the insulation from shifting or settling (creating dreaded cold spots).
We haven’t had the good (mis)fortune of any negative-temp days yet this winter, but this will be the coat we reach for when nothing else matters but staying warm. The West Rib also packs a bunch of utility, including interior mesh pockets, two chest pockets, and two zippered pockets to keep your digits toasty.
If there’s a downside, it’s that this jacket looks as warm as it is. In other words, it has a high Marshmallow Man factor. And with the array of bold colors Marmot offers, others will definitely take notice. But with the brand’s highest ratings for water and wind resistance as well as warmth, who cares?
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 30.3 oz.
- Key features: Blocks wind, insulated hood, stuff sack included
- Top-shelf heat
- Boxy aesthetic
- Not very packable or light
Of all the down jackets we tested, the Cotopaxi Fuego ($250) received the most “ooh, that’s a nice jacket” comments. Not really surprising, as Cotopaxi has built its reputation on flashy, devil-may-care designs — coupled with ethical and sustainable manufacturing processes.
The Fuego carries on that identity, albeit with a more toned-down, intentionally retro aesthetic. As a puffy, it’s a great around-town choice, with some ready-to-party chops. The 800-fill down makes it acceptably lightweight and packable (think crowler). Though if you take it out enough, you’re bound to scuff up those pretty stripes.
Still, the Fuego is plenty warm for autumn wind and some light precipitation (thanks to a DWR treatment), and it can even fend off some winter bluster. But the jacket’s fit — not too trim, not too baggy — makes it easy enough to layer for added warmth.
The 20-denier shell construction adds a little extra defense against feather loss and daily abuse. Two internal stash pockets and hand pockets round out the build.
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 14 oz.
- Key features: Water-resistant goose down, DWR-treated nylon face fabric
- Packs into its own pocket
- Increased bust circumference on women’s jacket for improved fit
- 20-denier ripstop nylon liner
- Not premium construction for rugged outdoor play
While Americans enjoy a plethora of bomber outdoor gear, many brands rarely cross the average consumer’s radar. You’ve probably heard of Jack Wolfskin, but have you worn any of the German brand’s wares?
Quietly, Jack Wolfskin continues to innovate some of the industry’s leading performance and sustainability tech. The 365 Flash Down Jacket ($249) uses 100% recycled polyester shell and lining, features RDS down plus a recycled synthetic fill, and is completely PFC-free.
Definitely something of a statement piece with its motley coloring and big, oversized pockets, the 365 Down targets those whose urban exploits probably outnumber those in the backcountry. Still, it will repel cold, wind, and some light moisture — all with an eye toward eco-sensitivity.
- Fill: 700 (and synthetic fill that’s 100% recycled polyester)
- Weight: 22.6 oz.
- Key features: Windproof, 20-denier ripstop fabric, reinforced threads
- Environmentally conscious
- Three pockets
- Less optimal for recreation missions
- On the heavier side
Best for Skiing: Spyder Impulse Down Jacket
Want a puffy you can wear in the lift line? Spyder’s Impulse ($650) adds some techy extras to the classic down-baffle design. A four-way-stretch shell with GORE-TEX INFINIUM gives you a coat with great range of motion, water repellency, and heat management. Seam taping in critical areas frees you up to get your turns when it’s especially nasty outside.
It’s complete with mesh-lined pit zips, a pass pocket on the sleeve, a powder skirt, and some padding on the shoulders. It also features a goggle pocket with a lens chamois as well as interior mesh paneling to assist with range of motion. It’s a sporty, capable ski jacket within the down puffy family.
Did we mention it’s also crazy warm? Packed with 700-fill goose down, this jacket is puffy and cozy — an excellent insulator. With all the zippers and cord toggles, this coat could easily suffer option fatigue. But the layout is thoughtful — nothing feels like it’s in the way, and all the adjustments are intuitive and easy to use.
- Fill: 700
- Weight: Unknown
- Key features: Underarm zippers, sleeve pass pocket, removable powder skirt, reinforced shoulders, RECCO advanced rescue technology
- Strong YKK zippers
- Six pockets
- Stretch cuffs with thumbholes
- Windproof yet breathable
- Hood is not detachable
- Not waterproof for downpours
Super-plush, super-soft, and super-warm, Patagonia’s Fitz Roy ($399) is a winner for cold days at the crag. Its down-like Pertex Quantum face fabric isn’t the absolute toughest, so expect some tears if you’re brushing against rocks. But all Patagonias are meant to be patched, right?
That said, Patagonia employs 100% recycled material in that fabric, along with Fair Trade sewing. So the brand, per usual, strikes the best available balance between outright performance and social and environmental sustainability.
Two zippered chest pockets add some utility, and while there’s no two-way zipper, the hand pockets are nice and high to accommodate a harness. Overall, the jacket excels in warmth and comfort — so much so, you’d be excused for wearing it away from the granite.
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 22.3 oz.
- Key features: Certified Advanced Global TDS by NSF International, DWR treatment, Fair Trade Certified sewn
- Helmet-compatible hood
- Two external chest pockets and two hand pockets for easy access while on the wall
- Take care: Not the most tenacious face fabric
As you’d expect, Black Diamond’s Vision Down Parka ($449) provides high-loft warmth and just the right feature set for cold-weather belays. It wins for durability, using a ripstop reinforced with a “Japanese Liquid Crystal Polymer.” This makes it tougher, but a little less soft than the Fitz Roy.
However, the Vision offers a two-way zipper and water-resistant zippers on the hand pockets — nice added touches for those planning to be in the wild on cold days. It also offers a bigger fit for layering under.
The Vision is extremely warm, very durable, and great for belays. But it’s heavier than many options, and its price tag will empty your wallet a bit more.
Check our in-depth full review for the Black Diamond Vision Down Parka.
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 20.5 oz.
- Key features: Two-way front YKK zipper, helmet-compatible hood, RDS down, DWR finish
- Very durable
- Underarm gussets for mobility
- A bigger investment
- Not a streamlined fit
Best of the Rest
For a little less sticker shock than the Ghost Whisperer, you can have an (almost) equally high-performance puffy. Plenty of warmth without the bulk, the Montbell Superior Down Parka ($209) works almost as well stuffed in a pack as it does when you wear it.
Unlike the Ghost Whisperer, however, the Superior Down Parka adds a fully adjustable hood and some interior stash pockets. Its 10-denier ripstop shell won’t stand up to gnarly snags, but it will repel some light abrasion.
Overall, it’s a very capable down layer that’s great for reliable warmth and easy to stuff in your pack just in case. Plus, with an MSRP of just over $200, it’s a coat most folks can afford to stuff in their pack.
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 7.7 oz.
- Key features: Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, fully adjustable hood, two zippered hand pockets and interior pockets
- Economic price tag
- DWR treated
- Exterior (10-denier) isn’t as durable as other options
Stio has made the list with the Hometown Down jacket — and that’s still a solid puffy. But we gave the nod this year to its rowdier cousin, the Colter. It has a lot of what we loved about the Hometown — plush and cozy in a uniquely Stio way — with an eye toward pow days and nasty weather.
A two-layer waterproof fabric covers the oversized baffles, stuffed with water-resistant down. This 50-denier fabric also shrugs off errant branches or nasty countertop corners with aplomb. Pit zips and all the ski day goodies make this a solid multi-use option.
- Fill: 650
- Weight: 26 oz.
- Key features: YKK two-way front zipper, helmet-compatible hood, brushed tricot interior collar, interior zippered stash pockets
- Quiet face fabric
- Underarm zippers
- Not the lightest down
Columbia Three Forks Black Dot Down Jacket — Men’s
Columbia boasts a million patented technologies — actually, it’s more like 200, but the point remains: this brand innovates in-house. We’re all familiar with Omni-Heat, Columbia’s body heat-reflective lining. Recently, Columbia introduced the latest evolution of that tech: Black Dot ($280).
Without diving too deep into the science, the technology purports to trap sunlight via an array of black-coated dots on the outer. This is designed to warm the jacket enough so you lose less heat to the environment. We need to test this a lot more to see how effective it is. But you can see the demos for yourself at Columbia retail stores.
We found this jacket ran big, so check the sizing if a solar-heated puffy sounds right for you.
- Fill: Unavailable
- Weight: Unavailable
- Key features: 100% recycled synthetic down insulation, zippered chest pocket and hand pockets
- Packs into its own pocket
- Down insulation is generally warmer
- Cloud coverage isn’t ideal given heat is activated by sun
Who would know how to fend off the cold better than the Swedes? Fjallraven’s Expedition Pack Down Jacket ($275) is a handsome coat with not too many features but a solid build. And surprisingly, you get all that without the sticker shock you might expect from the premium outdoor brand.
Fully recycled poly construction is a nice touch. The jacket sports a neutral fit, an interior accessory pocket, and a range of toggles on the hood, hem, and neck. It’s a solid, no-frills coat made by a brand that knows winter.
- Fill: 700 (plus synthetic touches)
- Weight: 15.3 oz.
- Key features: Ethically sourced down plus 100% recycled polyester synthetic insulation over shoulders, 100% recycled nylon liner and shell fabric
- Modest price
- Packs into its own pocket
- One-way front zipper
- Only three pockets
Popular among outdoor enthusiasts, the latest iteration of Rab’s Microlight Alpine ($280) does what its predecessor did, only with far more recycled materials.
Recycled down, a recycled shell, and a recycled lining quietly combine to make a Microlight Alpine that feels and performs like the original. It’s not an ultralight contender, but it’s also not a jacket meant to just go to the grocery store and back. The Microlight Alpine is plenty warm, cozy, and packable.
Thoughtful construction makes this jacket suitable for a range of uses — pockets situated to be climbing harness-compatible, a wire-brimmed hood, neutral sizing, and a stuff sack.
- Fill: 700
- Weight: 17 oz.
- Key features: Down has a fluorocarbon-free water-resistant finish, 100% recycled fabrics, and down insulation
- YKK zippers on hand pockets
- Large chest pocket
- 30-denier ripstop nylon face fabric
- Fair weight but not ultralight for minimalists
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Down Jacket
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 warmer the jacket — though the fill power isn’t the only variable affecting a jacket’s warmth.
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 is also more compressible, loftier, lighter, and pricier.
Fill power ratings range from 300 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 is fill weight. For example, both the Montbell Superior Down Parka and the Dark Peak NESSH have an 800-fill power. But the Montbell jacket has a fill weight of 70 grams and the NESHH clocks in at a denser 90-gram fill weight. The NESHH is warmer, but the Superior Down Park is more packable.
The shell fabric is an important factor for both durability and packability. Ultralight jackets tend to be made with a lighter, thinner shell material. Denier is the measurement used here. A lower denier rating means the outer fabric is lighter and therefore more prone to tears.
For backcountry excursions, the lower weight can be a worthy tradeoff. But for daily use, a higher denier is recommended. And if you do get a tear, there’s always the reliable duct tape or Noso Puffy Patch repair option.
Water Resistance & Hydrophobic Down
Down does not perform well when wet. And this is one of the places synthetic jackets tend to win out. In the past decade, there has been a growing use of hydrophobic down. 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 fabrics of some down jackets are treated with DWR to help block light moisture, too.
Down vs. Synthetic
Most of the jackets in this guide are made with down, though a handful are filled with synthetic insulation that mimics down or a blend of the two.
Synthetic insulation, on the other hand, is made from polyester fibers and designed to imitate down clusters and properties with a few key differences. If you compare two jackets of equal weight, 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
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 need also to be durable, warm, and wind-resistant. It’s a tricky balance.
Overall, in wet or mixed weather and when weight isn’t an issue, synthetics can be a better, safer choice. Active insulation is best for high-output action. If it’s cold and dry, down is optimal despite a higher cost. This guide lists a wide variety of the best down jackets to keep you covered in the cold.
Comprehensive Sustainability Score (CSS)
The Comprehensive Sustainability Score (CSS) is a scoring system developed by Lola Digital Media that strives to give consumers a clear picture of the way their purchase impacts the environment. Companies like Patagonia and prAna have pioneered eco-friendly manufacturing methods for decades, but outdoor gear review sites need to match those efforts with providing quantitative measures of given products.
The CSS score uses quantitative metrics that are tailored to each product category, based on in-depth research and data. A product can earn up to 100 points for meeting various sustainable practices from the percentage of recycled material to the clean energy used in production and packaging waste created in the shipping process. If a score is NA, the company did not respond to our examination outreach and follow-up.
Prior to the CSS launch, we have produced hundreds of gear guides on our sites, so you will find these scores rolling out slowly over the coming months and years.
Responsibly Sourced Down
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, such as the Responsible Down Standard, the Patagonia Traceable Down Standard, and the National Sanitation Foundation’s Global Traceable Down Standard.
Without meeting such standards, abuse can become part of the supply chain. Synthetic choices can set some folks at ease.
Eco-Friendly & Recycled Materials
Beyond responsible down, down jackets have an opportunity to include a bunch of eco-friendly design traits. Some jackets are created with PFC-free DWR treatments, like the Mammut Flexidown IN, or recycled materials, like the polyester in the Jack Wolfskin 365 Flash Down Jacket.
The activities you do while wearing your down jacket will influence the type of fit you need. Some jackets are more streamlined, while others are roomier, boxier, or longer.
If you’re using the layer for climbing and skiing, you’ll want an athletic or slender design that can be layered below or above a midlayer or shell. For big movements, it’s nice to have a silhouette that’s also stretchy and flexible, especially in the shoulder and chest area.
For daily commutes or bicycling around town, when your activity is generally creating less heat, a puffier and less athletic down jacket can be really cozy.
The down jackets in this guide range from 6.7 ounces at the low end to more than 30 ounces on the heavy side. The median weight is around 15 ounces, and the most common weight is closer to 20 to 23 ounces.
Super lightweight down jackets typically come with a premium price tag, but the investment can be worthwhile for recreationists with limited space looking to trim ounces.
Some of these down jackets can compress to the size of a water bottle, while others are bulkier — influenced by the fill, face fabric, and overall design.
Hoods & Sleeves
Many down jackets include a hood, some of which are helmet-compatible, while others have a tall collar. Zipper width, toggle size, and durability can vary. But as a general rule of thumb, YKK produces the strongest zippers. Minimized zippers can reduce weight and bulk.
Cuffs and sleeves can have a flexible, comfortable elastic closure or a Velcro tab for extra security. Occasionally, designs have wrist gaiters with thumb loops, like the Dark Peak NESSH.
Two front hand pockets with zip closures are common, though some pockets are smaller or placed higher than others for harness compatibility.
Additional accessory pockets might include interior or exterior chest, inside mesh pockets, and a pocket the jacket itself stuffs into.
For high-output activity, down jackets can feature mesh-lined pit zips and a powder skirt, like the Spyder Impulse Down Jacket. Some designs also have a two-way zipper down the front, which is helpful when wearing a harness.
It’s easy to spend $250 to $500 on a down jacket. And that’s no small investment. The main thing to consider when looking at your budget is the end use.
If you’re regularly packing into the backcountry, an ultralight, super-packable, rather expensive jacket may be necessary. If you’ll mostly wear it around town, something like the budget-friendly Decathlon Forclaz will keep you warm for less than $100.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our team has tested, reviewed, and published down jacket guides for men and women across several seasons. For this guide, we considered the most durable, highly acclaimed, well-constructed, and environmentally responsible down jackets. These layers are made for a variety of conditions and present a range of prices.
To challenge and determine the top designs, our product testers donned these jackets across all seasons, including snowy environments in the Rockies. The crew has used these jackets for camping and urban commutes, as well as alpine and rock climbing, backcountry skiing and splitboarding, bikepacking, and alpine skiing. The testers ranged from AIARE-certified backcountry venturers to lifelong recreationists.
When Should You Wear a Down Jacket?
A down jacket holds heat around your body’s core in order to maintain a comfortable level of warmth when the temperatures drop. A spectrum of down jackets exists from plush and stylish for everyday use to lighter, packable designs for year-round backcountry adventures.
What’s the Difference Between a Down Jacket’s Fill Power and Fill Weight?
A 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 down stuffed inside the jacket.
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 (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 tricky to compare jackets with differing fill power. But in general, the lower the fill power, the less loft and warmth.
What Warmth Should I Choose for a Down Jacket?
Down jackets have a huge variance of warmth. Some jackets are constructed to withstand freezing or sub-zero temperatures, while others are a match for summer, spring, and fall backpacking trips. Here are the broad categories of jackets, depending on their fill weight:
- Lightweight: 3-4 ounces of down fill, three-season jacket, skiing midlayer
- Moderate weight: 5-6 ounces of down fill, more warmth for sub-freezing temperatures
- Heavyweight: More than 6 ounces of down fill, tenacious design for winter conditions
The combination of the fill weight and fill power, which is the loft and quality of the down, changes how warm a jacket is. The higher the fill power and higher the weight, the more heat the jacket retains.
How Heavy Should My Down Jacket Be?
Lightweight down jackets are very compressible and a great choice for cramming into your pack for emergency use. But they often cost more. Those weights range from close to 8 to 15 ounces. Midweight options bump up to the 20-ounce range, and heavier down jackets are around 30 ounces.
What Is the Best Down Jacket to Buy?
The best down jacket for you is based on where and how you’ll use it. If the weather is relatively dry and super cold, a down jacket with greater down fill that will retain more heat could be worth the investment. If you’ll be in a really wet environment, a synthetic down jacket might be a better choice.
What Qualities Should I Look For in a Down Jacket?
As you search for a down jacket, pay attention to the fill power, overall fit, and price. Be sure the warmth and features match your needs, like whether or not the jacket has a helmet-compatible hood, underarm zippers, and harness-compatible hand pockets.
Examine the level of weather resistance, like DWR-treated material or down, and if it matches the exposure you’ll be in. Some jackets are even reinforced in high-use areas, like in the shoulders for pulling on and off a pack. If you plan on venturing into the backcountry, weight and compressibility make a difference, too.