Down is warm enough that ducks and geese can swim in freezing water and light enough that they can fly. It’s those two qualities that also make it arguably the best form of insulation yet devised for outdoor apparel. Down’s warmth, low weight and ability to compress make it the perfect material for activities like skiing, mountaineering and backpacking (it’s also great for just cruising around the city, too).
Advances in chemical treatments also mean that down jackets are more resistant to down’s mortal enemy, moisture, than ever before. From lifestyle wear to burly mountaineering layers, down jackets are lighter, tougher and more water-resistant than ever.
This definitive guide provides information on the best down jackets available based on features like weight, fill material, durability, water-resistance and price. These 13 options cover every activity, from walking your dog on frigid January mornings to conserving warmth and energy at Camp Four. Below them, you'll also find info on understanding down jacket specs and how to care for these unique garments.
Best Overall Down Jacket
We consider our list of the best down jackets of the year to be exhaustive, but throughout the year, we tested many more that you won’t see here. Down jackets have existed as functional outdoor protection for decades, and while the central concept that guides their design — ultralight warmth — hasn’t changed over the years, companies are still finding new ways to make them more functional than ever.
Mountain Hardwear is one of those companies. Instead of adhering to the iconic horizontal baffle design, it used a meandering pattern and a woven construction to disperse the down throughout the coat, thereby increasing durability and stretch while minimizing cold spots. The StretchDown Hoody also uses a stretchier shell fabric that’s less shiny than traditional down coats, making it more approachable for those trying to avoid looking too “outdoorsy.” The sum of all these features is a down jacket with a vast range of applications. Mountain Hardwear may have built it for rock climbing, but the StretchDown Hoody can function anywhere. Plus, with a price tag that’s less than $300, it’s also very affordable.
Weight: 20.45 ounces
Fill Material: RDS-certified, bluesign approved down insulation
Fill Power: 700
Shell Material: Durable Stretch Woven ( 87% Nylon, 13% Elastane)
Best Upgrade Down Jacket
This 850 fill-power down jacket boasts plenty of loft and a clever touch: Down Composite Mapping, a.k.a. synthetic insulation in places likely to get damp. The two types of insulation add up to a jacket that's not only light and warm but not prone to slow you down if you get hit with some showers. Heck, the whole package is less than 10 ounces. That's right, it's 6 ounces less than our editor's choice, with a bit more fill-power (and a lot more price).
Articulated seams and zippered pockets round out the features, and everything is shrouded in a 10-denier nylon shell that's tough and durable. All those qualities help to justify this jacket's price. But what you also get is Arc'teryx's inimitable sleek, minimalist style. While the look is not for everyone, it does enable you to wear this jacket just about anywhere and not feel out of place.
For those looking for a hooded option, check out the Cerium LT Hoody.
Weight: 9.8 ounces
Fill Material: responsibly-sourced down and CoreLoft synthetic insulation
Fill Power: 850
Shell Material: Arato 10-denier nylon
Best Budget Down Jacket
The middle ground between price and quality is a small plot, but REI figured out how to land there with its 650 Down Jacket 2.0. For only $100, this jacket is lightweight and provides plenty of warmth for use as a mid-layer on colder days and an outer layer when it’s slightly more temperate. The jacket is relatively unadorned – it has two zippered hand pockets and two interior drop-in pockets, and that’s it for features. For even more warmth and a more technical set of features, upgrade to REI’s Magma 850 Down Hoodie 2.0, which is an equally good deal at $219.
Weight: 11 ounces
Fill Material: RDS-certified down
Fill Power: 650
Shell Material: recycled nylon taffeta
Best Vintage-Inspired Down Jacket
There’s nothing quite like the nostalgia that comes from seeing an old-school down jacket. Winters past come to mind, with fond memories stirred out of a deep slumber. If you’re looking for a blast from the past that makes use of all of the modern innovation of today’s outerwear, look no further than Cotopaxi’s Solazo jacket. This retro puffer is filled with 650-fill responsibly-sourced goose down, and is ideal for commuting to work, weekend camping or winter trips. Zippered pockets keep things toasty and safe, and an internal zippered chest pocket keeps essentials close by.
Fill Material: Responsibly-sourced goose down
Fill Power: 650
Shell Material: 20D giant-ripstop nylon
Best Ultralight Down Jacket
If you aren’t familiar with Montbell, you should be. They are one of our favorite ultralight brands, making high-quality sleeping bags in addition to down jackets. That reputation held up through testing the Plasma 1000, and we weren’t disappointed. Simply picking up the jacket can be shocking — even the lightest lightweight rain jackets are heavier. Exaggerations aside, when you toss it up in the air it’ll float gently back down, like a feather.
The secret is high-loft 1000-fill down, which provides more warmth by weight than lower fill powers. It's been hard to source in the past, but Montbell is now joined in producing a jacket that packs it — not unlike Mountain Hardwear's Ghost Whisperer UL ($375).
So despite its lean stature, the Plasma is toasty warm and packs down into a tiny stuff sack that fits in its pocket. We took the jacket on a shoulder season camping trip and were glad we did. It took up virtually zero space in a pack and was warm enough to extend a sunset hike into the dark.
Weight: 4.8 ounces
Fill Material: Power EX Down
Fill Power: 1000
Shell Material: 7-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon
Best Heavy Down Jacket
Rab begins its description of the Positron Pro with "If you're heading for the likes of the Himalaya…" That should give a sense of what this down jacket is all about: it's ultra-warm and oversized, like a sleeping bag for your upper body. Rab filled it with responsibly sourced 800-fill goose down, packing extra into the torso, upper arms and hood where the extra warmth is needed while reducing it in the lower arms to enable freedom of movement.
The jacket's shell is Pertex Quantum Pro with a DWR finish, a highly water-resistant and windproof fabric. The hood and cuffs are adjustable, and it has two hand pockets and zippered internal and external chest pockets. Remember that Rab made this jacket for climbing mountains, so it's really warm and heavier than all the others on this list. If warmth is what you're looking for, though, there's none better.
Weight: 1 pound 10 ounces
Fill Material: Nikwax hydrophobic goose down
Fill Power: 800
Shell Material: Pertex Quantum Pro
Waterproofing: water-resistant fabric plus DWR
Best Down Jacket for Windy Places
For years, the presence of a Gore-Tex tag on a product has signified best-in-class waterproofing. With the launch of Gore-Tex Infinium, the label means more (Infinium tags are also white instead of black). In Rab’s Infinity Light Jacket, it means superior windproofing and breathability. That combo makes it ideal for getting out and active in super-cold temperatures. Rab made it with mountaineers in mind, but it’s perfect for mountain towns and frigid cities too.
Weight: 1 pound 2.5 ounces
Fill Material: Nikwax hydrophobic down
Fill Power: 800
Shell Material: nylon with Gore-Tex Infinium and Gore-Tex Windstopper
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Infinium (water-repellant)
Best Down Jacket for Cities
Not everybody is into the look of technical winter gear. The materials that make jackets warm and waterproof are often shiny or brightly-colored and covered in pockets and zippers, making wearers look like they’re headed to the mountains when they might just be commuting to the office. And while Arc'teryx's Cerium SL Hoody does have a technical look, it is, like most Arc'teryx products, delightfully uncomplicated, with no wasted materials. How else could the brand have gotten it to live up to the SL (Super Light) in its name, with a weight just under half a pound?
But what really makes the little brother to our upgrade pick a great urban option is another quality: it packs down to about the size of a Nerf basketball (in its own little stuff sack) and is easy to shove into a pack or even a back pocket in a pinch. That means the next time you wander in from the cold to a climate-controlled bar or restaurant, you don't have tuck it under your arm or tackily tie it around your waist. You can just quickly stash it, until the night comes to an end and it's time to step back out onto chilly city streets.
Weight: 7.6 ounces
Fill Material: responsibly-sourced down
Fill Power: 850
Shell Material: Arato 7-denier nylon
Most Durable Down Jacket
Black Diamond emphasizes two things in the Vision: warmth and durability. The former is a given, but down jackets, particularly the lightweight, packable ones, are known for outer shells that are far from tear-resistant. So Black Diamond worked with a company in Japan to create a liquid crystal polymer coating that makes the Vision significantly more durable.
The coating works wonders for rock climbers scraping up against a granite, but it also comes in handy when you accidentally scuff up against a wall in town or intentionally bash your way through brush on a hike. Oh, and the Vision is warm. Really warm. It’s Black Diamond’s warmest down jacket to date.
Weight: 1 pound 4.5 ounces
Fill Material: goose down
Fill Power: 800
Shell Material: 20D nylon liquid crystal polymer ripstop
Best Waterproof Down Jacket
In 2019, Marmot achieved furnace-level down jacket warmth in an unconventional way: In addition to employing the horizontal baffles standard to down jackets, it lined the interior with rectangular pods of 800-fill down. The technology is called WarmCube, and it was previously only available in a jacket meant for arctic-type expeditions called the West Rib Parka. (The West Rib earned a spot on a previous iteration of this list.)
Marmot has since brought the tech to new designs, like the WarmCube EVODry Parka. This jacket still has those down-filled pods inside, and they're separated by channels that hold warm air, just as they were in the West Rib. But the exterior is a two-layer waterproof shell that can handle snow and rain alike. The baffle-free surface makes this down jacket sneakily stylish and perfect for residents of cities that see their fair share of winter storms.
Weight: 2 pounds 1 ounce
Fill Material: goose down, synthetic insulation
Fill Power: 800
Shell Material: EvoDry 2L 100% Recycled Nylon Plain weave 3.9 oz/ yd
Waterproofing: Marmot MemBrain Eco 2-layer, DWR (10k/10k rating)
Best Down Pullover
Like our best overall pick, this brand-new pullover features pockets of down insulation woven from a single stretch fabric, which gives you plenty of room to move despite its half-zip style. That makes it optimal for climbing but also throwing on around a campsite or for a quick hike. As the lightest and most packable of Mountain Hardwear's Stretchdown line weighs less than a pound, making it an excellent travel item as well. Elastic binding at the cuffs and hem seal out cold, and the three-piece hood fits snugly over your dome, keeping your ears warm when the temps drop.
Weight: 14.7 ounces
Fill Material: responsibly-sourced down
Fill Power: 700
Shell Material: 86% Nylon, 14% Elastane
Best Down Shirt Jacket
Familiarize yourself with Foehn. The small brand, which draws its name from the type of warm wind that can develop on the leeward side of mountain ranges, produces a small collection of apparel with rock climbing in mind while paying close attention to style — everything that the brand makes is suitable for city life too. Foehn’s most well-known piece is the Brise Pant, which raised more than $70,000 on Kickstarter, but its down shirt jacket, or shacket, is equally-worthy of high praise.
Shackets — a now-established subcategory cross between a button-up and an outer layer — come in many forms. Many are simply heavy shirts, but Foehn's Robson Down Shacket is a mash-up in the truest sense. It contains the best features of the brand's equally-awesome Robson Down Hoodie, including a stretchy, Japanese fabric exterior and premium 800-fill down innards. But it's definitely a shacket, and not only because it has a snap-button front and a collar but also because it provides just the right amount of mid-level warmth to stay comfortable in those what-do-I-wear temperatures that are 15 degrees on either side of freezing.
Weight: 12 ounces
Fill Material: Responsible Down Standard (RDS) down
Fill Power: 800
Shell Material: nylon
Warmest Down Jacket
Lifelabs released this down-disruptor at the tail end of 2021, and they really brought the heat heading into the new year. The MegaWarm is just that — warm. With the highest rated CLO in the industry at 9.25, (CLO being the numerical system that describes the degree of insulation provided by an article of clothing) the MegaWarm provides more warmth, with less fabric. Lifelabs used their patented Warmlife tech, which infuses a tiny amount of aluminum (less than a paper clip's worth) into the shell, to reflect 100 percent radiant heat back to the body, using less fabric in the process. It also used "boxed" baffles filled with ethically-sourced, 800 fill-power down, finish details like the ribknit baseball collar and cuffs and a fully taped, waterproof shell to trap and retain heat.
The cherry on top of this sustainable, feather-light jacket? Unlike traditional down, it looks sharp as hell.
Warmth Rating: 9.25 CLO
Fill Material: ethically-sourced goose down
Fill Power: 800
Shell Material: WarmLife Twill 2L (100% Recycled Polyester)
Waterproofing: PFC-free DWR
What to Know Before You Buy a Down Jacket
An Intro to Down
Down is found in layers underneath the rougher outer feathers of ducks and geese — it’s what keeps them warm while floating around all winter, so, naturally, it will keep us warm too. Despite that, moisture is the undoing of down, causing it to clump up and lose its heat-retaining qualities. It also should be noted that while large-scale efforts have been made by big brands such as Patagonia and The North Face, not all down is ethically sourced, and animal cruelty does happen.
Fill Powers Decoded
Down fill powers are numerical ratings that usually range anywhere from about 450 to 900. This number comes from a standardized test in which an ounce of down is compressed in a graduated cylinder and then measured for volume in cubic inches; that volume is the fill rating. An ounce of 900-fill down occupies more space (and thus traps more air and provides more warmth) than an ounce of 600-fill down. The two samples weigh the same, but one takes up more space and can trap more air, which means more warmth.
What this boils down to is the idea that a higher fill power means more warmth for less weight. It’s important to note that two jackets or sleeping bags may have different fill ratings while providing the same amount of warmth — the difference is that whichever has the higher rating will pack down to a smaller size because less material is needed to get the same amount of warmth. High down fill powers tend to come with a heftier price tag, so consider what you’re going to use a product for when getting into those loftier feathers.
How To Wash Your Down Jacket
Most people take their down jacket for granted, expecting it to perform the same year after year without any maintenance. Over time though, down becomes compacted and dirty, which inhibits its loft and makes the jacket less warm. To clean your jacket, revitalize its warmth and get it ready for all your adventures, follow our simple guide.
Put your jacket into a washing machine without an agitator. It is easiest to do this at a laundromat, but if your home washer is of the large, front-loading variety, feel free to toss it in there. If you use a washing machine with an agitator, you run the risk of tearing open your jacket or clumping the down in large balls inside — so avoid agitators at all costs.
Wash with Nikwax Down Wash. Though there are other good down washes out there (namely Grangers), we recommend using Nikwax’s Down Wash. Add the Down Wash directly into the washing machine, using about three ounces. Follow the directions on the care label of your jacket for specific temperature and cycle settings.
Switch your jacket to the dryer and add tennis balls. Move your jacket over to the dryer, but before you turn it on, add in a package of new tennis balls. As the drier spins, the tennis balls will bounce around inside the drum, breaking up any clumps of down and helping dry the jacket completely. This also helps to restore the loft in the down feathers. As for dryer settings, low heat for a long period of time is the name of the game.
Pause the dryer and manually break up any clumps. Every twenty minutes or so, pause the dryer and manually work out larger clumps of down. While the tennis balls work well to help break up clumps, you’ll need to put some extra effort in to break them up completely.
Tumble dry until the jacket is completely dry. Dry the jacket until it is dry the entire way through. Not only does moist down function terribly as an insulator, it’s also prone to mold, which will lead to a stinky jacket.