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10 Best Down Jackets of 2024

We purchased and tested the best down jackets available, taking them near and far on all our cold-weather adventures, camping, and strolls around town.
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Best Down Jacket Review
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Our Top Picks

By Maggie Nichols, Sam Schild, and Kaylee Walden  ⋅  Apr 7, 2024

The Best Down Jackets for 2024

Looking for the best down jackets for travel, walking your dog, backpacking, or simply staying warm this winter? Our gear experts have been testing down jackets since 2012; that's over a decade of down jacket knowledge. We've tested over 300 models for men and women to help you find the ideal option for staying toasty on your next adventure. A good down jacket is lightweight, packable, and will protect you from the cold when you're outside and the temperature drops. And since they're so packable, they make a great layer to carry when traveling. We took these jackets out on the trails while backpacking and hiking, we threw them in our carry-on bags for overnight flights, we wore them around town when running errands, and we put them on to stay warm when the sun set. Whether you're looking for the best jacket for around town, backcountry adventures, or on the slopes, we've put together this list of the best options for every type of down jacket.

We have tested lots of options to keep you warm and dry all year long. Our review on the best camping blankets will have you covered while you sit cozy next to the fire, and our favorite winter boots can keep your feet toasty in cold weather. Check out the best insulated jackets for a down alternative, or one of these best rain jackets and a top-ranked umbrella to keep you dry when the clouds begin to rumble.

Related: Best Down Jackets for Men
Related: Best Down Jackets for Women

Best Overall Down Jacket for Men

Rab Electron Pro

Good weather resistance
Hydrophobic down with Nikwax treatment
Harness compatible pockets
Warm for its weight
Recycled down insulation
No internal slip-in pockets
Not as packable as some jackets
Responsible Down Standard (RDS) Certified Yes
Down Fill 800-fill European goose down with Nikwax hydrophobic finish
Outer Fabric 20D nylon Pertex Quantum Pro
Weight (Size Small) 16.1 oz
Hem Type Drop hem (large)
The Rab Electron Pro is incredibly warm and cozy. With this jacket, you'll be comfortable doing anything in the cold, from scraping ice off your car in the dark to summiting a mountain. It fights off wind, snow, and sleet better than any other down jacket we tested by using 800-fill water-resistant down with Nikwax treatment. This cold-weather killer features a great fit and was our favorite among every tester for our men's down jackets review. It has tons of excellent adjustability features that also make it super versatile. A pinch adjustable waist hem, helmet-compatible hood with a stiff brim, stretch cinch cords around the hood, velcro adjustment on the rear of the hood, and hip belt or harness-compatible hand pockets all make this jacket an excellent choice for any cold weather activity. We loved the wrist cuff design, too. It has unique triangular elastic pieces built into the bottom of the wrist hem. This still allows the wrist cuff to stretch, but it doesn't leave a big elastic band exposed.

The Electron Pro is a heavier jacket and doesn't pack down the smallest. While it comes with a stuff sack, you have to keep track of it as it's not encased inside the pocket. Also, this model doesn't have internal drop pockets to stash your gloves. However, if you need an all-around stellar jacket that's crazy warm for the weight, this is it. If you want a warm coat that's slightly more packable, we also love the Arc'teryx Cerium Hoody.

Read more: Rab Electron Pro review

The Rab Electron Pro is an incredibly warm jacket for any cold weather activity.
Credit: Sam Schild

Best Overall Down Jacket for Women

Rab Neutrino Pro - Women's

Very comfortable
Super warm and lofty
Great fit
Long drop hem
Very adjustable
Too hot for summer conditions
Velcro hood adjustment
Responsible Down Standard (RDS) Certified? Yes
Down Fill 800-fill European goose down, hydrophobic Nikwax
Outer Fabric 20D recycled Pertex Quantum Pro, ripstop
Weight (Size Small) 18.5 oz
Hem Type Drop hem (large)
If you need the most insulating down jacket, the Rab Neutrino Pro is your best bet. This jacket is almost as warm as an expedition jacket but a bit less bulky. It features huge baffles and a deep drop hem for extra cold weather protection and the gnarliest winter weather. It's also super adjustable anywhere you need to dial in the fit. The ergonomically cut sleeves allow for better movement, so whether you're working on a home project outside or ice climbing, you'll be more comfortable in the cold. Even with all the burliest protection, the Neutrino Pro maintains a flattering fit for a highly lofted jacket and doesn't look like an overly technical jacket. This model stands out among the loftiest jackets because it doesn't make you look similar to a stuffed animal when you wear it.

However, the Neutrino Pro may be too much unless you're facing really cold temperatures. Warmer isn't always better, after all, so we don't think this is the best option for milder climates. Also, we wish this jacket's hoodwas adjusted with a toggle and not the simple velcro adjustment on the back of the hood. If you need warmth, this option will keep you cozy, comfortable, and dry wherever you're headed. If you're seeking another warm jacket, the The North Face Summit Breithorn Hoodie is an excellent alternative if you're looking for better packability at a more affordable price.

Read more: Rab Neutrino Pro review

The Rab Neutrino Pro is great for everything from chilly coffee shop outings to a day on the trails.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Best Budget Down Jacket for Men

REI Co-op 650 Down

Doesn't weigh much
Highly compressible
Extended size range
Could be warmer
Responsible Down Standard (RDS) Certified Yes
Down Fill 650-fill down
Outer Fabric Recycled ripstop nylon
Weight (Size Small) 10.1 oz
Hem Type Drop hem (small)
The REI Co-op 650 Down is one of the least expensive options we tested, but it still has many of the features we love in a down jacket. This model is super comfortable, doesn't weigh much, and feels as high-quality as jackets that cost twice as much. It's suited for everything from casual days in the park to chilly winter hikes and is comfortable enough that you'll want to keep wearing it afterward. It weighs only 10 ounces, which is much lighter than some down jackets we reviewed. It's also available in a wide range of sizes, from small through XXXL, along with tall sizing.

Even though the 650 Down is a great all-around model, it's not the jacket we'd reach for if we really need to stay warm. And it doesn't have a hood, which makes it feel even less insulating overall. While it's very lightweight and packable, this jacket doesn't come with a stuff sack. You can stuff it into its own pocket, but you won't be able to zip that pocket shut. But if you want an inexpensive jacket that you can wear anywhere, from the grocery store to the pub to the trails, this is the model we recommend. If you're looking for a higher-performing model with a great price, check out the Rab Microlight Alpine. This jacket is warmer, more weather-resistant, and surprisingly affordable for a technical down jacket.

Read more: REI Co-op 650 Down review

While it's not the most technical jacket, The REI Co-op 650 Down jacket is an awesome deal for an all-around jacket.
Credit: Sam Schild

Best Budget Down Jacket for Women

REI Co-op 650 - Women's

Minimalist design
High loft for the fill rating
Good size for layering
Not as warm
No double-sided zipper to pack into pocket
Lower-quality 650-fill insulation
Responsible Down Standard (RDS) Certified? Yes
Down Fill 650-fill down
Outer Fabric Recycled nylon, DWR finish
Weight (Size Small) 9.9 oz
Hem Type Drop hem (small); hip length
The REI 650 Down is a simple yet effective down jacket at a great price. This has that classic “puffy jacket” look without the expensive price tag. It doesn't have all the extra features that make down jackets so expensive, but it's still a great overall jacket. It has a super comfortable hip-length fit, which makes it perfect for casual everyday wear around town and chilly nights by the fire. The 650 Down is compressible, lightweight, and insulates in moderately cold conditions. And when the temperature drops, the more relaxed fit makes it great for wearing over a thick sweater or fleece. It has a high neck that will keep you warm enough when you zip it up. It also doesn't restrict movement when you need to reach above your head.

The 650 Down doesn't have a hood and has a shorter hem than some models, so it's not the warmest jacket for extremely cold conditions or stormy January days. The shell material also isn't ripstop, and we found it lost down more than some jackets over time. Though this isn't a technical down jacket, it's super cozy and comes at a stellar price. So, it's a great option for commuting, traveling, or mild-weather adventures on the trail. If you're looking for a budget-friendly down jacket with a hood, we recommend the Marmot Highlander Hoody, which has slightly better weather resistance than the REI 650.

Read more: REI Co-op 650 Down review

The REI 650 Down is a wallet-friendly option that looks great in town and when traveling.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Best Men's Down Jacket on a Tight Budget

Wantdo Packable Down Hoody

Very affordable
Exterior is fragile
Zippers on hand pockets are too small
Fit is awkward and boxy
Responsible Down Standard (RDS) Certified Yes
Down Fill 90% duck down
Outer Fabric 20D 400T nylon
Weight (Size Small) 10.6 oz
Hem Type Straight
Puffy coats insulated with RDS-certified down are often expensive, but the Wantdo Packable Down Hoody costs less than you might spend on a night out to dinner. You can buy four of these jackets for the price of one down jacket from a big outdoor brand. It's not the warmest, but it'll work in mild temperatures. It's fairly packable and includes a stuff sack to stow it away. It has 90% duck-down insulation and a lightweight shell material that sheds water. It also has a comfortable interior lining material. If you need a jacket to stay warm on chilly morning commutes or walks in the park on winter afternoons, this jacket works surprisingly well. It's a no-brainer to bring this jacket anywhere since it's so packable and inexpensive.

Though the Wantdo is very lightweight, affordable, and packable, it lacks some extras you would find on competitor models. It has no adjustment features, so you can't cinch the hood or waist tighter. The hand pocket zippers are small, making them difficult to use while wearing gloves. This is one of the least warm jackets we tried, but it costs less than the price of a lift ticket. We think this is an excellent choice for anyone who needs an extra down layer, even if it's just in case. The MontBell Superior Down is another lightweight option. This jacket is a few ounces lighter than the Wantdo and has a durable exterior.

Read more: Wantdo Packable Down Hoody review

The Wantdo Packable Down Hoody is a stellar deal for a lightweight down layer.
Credit: Sam Schild

Best Women's Down Jacket on a Tight Budget

Wantdo Packable Down Hoody - Women's

Light and packable
Weather resistant material
Fits well with baselayers
Sleeves don't fully cover wrists
Not adjustable
Less breathable
Responsible Down Standard (RDS) Certified? Yes
Down Fill 90% duck down
Outer Fabric 20D Nylon Taffetta
Weight (Size Small) 8.8 oz
Hem Type Straight hem; hip length
Most down jackets are expensive. The Wantdo Packable Down Hoody - Women's turns that notion on its head. This simple, ultra-budget option checks all boxes for chilly outings and daily use. It's surprisingly wind and weather-resistant. Moisture beads on the shell material, keeping you comfortable and dry inside. Though it has a boxier fit, it comes in a wide range of sizes from XS-XXXL and tons of cool colors. And that boxier fit allows for good movement in any activity.

The Wantdo does have some flaws, though. First, it's not very breathable. We often found the inside of the jacket got wet with sweat when using it for high-output activities. The square fit allows a lot of airflow, which helps with breathability, but that also means it doesn't have great warmth retention. And on top of that, it has no adjustability features to trap heat. But our biggest gripe with this model was the short sleeves. Most of our testers found the sleeves didn't reach their wrists, which exposed us to the elements. But if you can overlook these downsides, this is a shockingly affordable option. The Mammut Broad Peak IN has a fitted taper that is stylish to wear around town or take on the trails, though its price isn't as friendly as the Wantdo.

Read more: Wantdo Packable Down Hoody review

The Wantdo is the absolute most budget-friendly model we tested.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Best Men's Down Jacket for Ultralight Missions

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2

Super light
Recycled ripstop nylon materials
Layers fit well
Pretty expensive
Minimal pockets
Not much adjustability
Responsible Down Standard (RDS) Certified Yes
Down Fill 800-fill goose down
Outer Fabric 10D recycled ripstop nylon
Weight (Size Small) 8.3 oz
Hem Type Drop hem (small)
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 is the best option for a lightweight down jacket for fast and light adventures. It weighs a mere 8.3 ounces for a men's small, and it packs down enough to disappear in your pack. This jacket packs into its own pocket and compresses to a smaller size than any other men's down jacket we've tested. This jacket is a mainstay in our packs for backpacking and high-alpine missions, and the lightweight design makes it so comfortable that we wear it around the house as well. It has an athletic cut that fits broader shoulders and lets you reach the next hold on big walls or the upper cabinets in your kitchen. It also breathes better than most other down jackets, so you don't have to stop and take it off as often. It works to layer underneath, yet it doesn't feel bulky when wearing it, either.

The Ghost Whisperer/2 is a minimalist jacket, which isn't for everyone. It only has two zippered hand pockets, no hem drawcord, or any other pockets. While this minimal approach to features does make it lighter, we sometimes think an extra chest pocket would be nice. Overall, this jacket offers incredible performance in a lightweight puffy coat. If you need a little more warmth in a lightweight package, the Feathered Friends EOS is a great option. It only weighs a few ounces more and has much more loft to keep you warmer.

Read more: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 review

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 is our favorite for ultralight adventures.
Credit: Sam Schild

Best Ultralight Down Jacket for Women

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoody - Women's

Compresses to a tiny size
Breathes well
Hood fits well
Not the warmest
Thin shell material
Responsible Down Standard (RDS) Certified? Yes
Down Fill 800-fill down
Outer Fabric 10D recycled ripstop nylon
Weight (Size Small) 6.9 oz
Hem Type Drop hem (small)
If you always know exactly what your pack weighs, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 is a featherweight option to shave ounces. This model has less down insulation than many other jackets we tested, but at only 6.9 ounces, this is the lightest by a long shot. And it's still very insulating considering how light it is. This jacket excels when you're working up a sweat, and the simple design is perfect for high-alpine missions, yet it's casual-looking enough to wear around town. It has a hood with an elasticized opening that fits easily over most winter hats and even a helmet. The baffles are smaller, and since it has less down, it's one of the most breathable models we tested. It's perfect for clipping to your harness to throw on during a climb, while warming up on a ski tour, or for a walk down the block to a yoga session.

However, the Ghost Whisperer makes sacrifices to achieve such a low weight. It has a single hem adjuster cord and no chest pocket or helmet adjustment. It's also made of ultra-thin 10-denier shell material, so it's not the most durable. The trim fit sometimes exposed our wrists when reaching high overhead while climbing. But when you're counting grams, we think this jacket is a worthwhile addition to any kit. If you're after something warmer but still plenty packable, the Feathered Friends Eos only weighs 10.3 ounces and has tons of 900-fill down stuffed inside.

Read more: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 review

The Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoody is incredibly light and doesn't overheat during moderate activities.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

A Super Comfortable Down Jacket for Men

The North Face Summit Breithorn Hoodie

Very warm
Hydrophobic down
Awesome pockets
Not the lightest
Responsible Down Standard (RDS) Certified Yes
Down Fill 800 fill ProDown with water repellency
Outer Fabric 20D recycled nylon ripstop
Weight (Size Small) 15.2 oz
Hem Type Straight
The The North Face Summit Breithorn Hoodie stands out as an incredibly comfortable and warm jacket. This is the model we reach for when we want the coziest warmth. It has loads of features and makes us smile every time we put it on. The soft lining is comforting, and the wrist cuffs are made with a knit fabric that reminds us of a well-worn cotton sweatshirt in all the best ways. This is worlds apart from most jackets' elastic bands sewn in as wrist cuffs. The hood adjusts simply and easily. It's also very effective at sealing in warmth and performs better than hoods with multiple adjustment points, all with a single toggle. The Breithorn also has seven pockets! That's more than every other model we tested and includes hand pockets with a zipper, an internal check pocket that zips shut, two inner pockets made of stretchy mesh material that are perfect for stashing gloves, and two drop-in pockets between the stretch pockets and the jacket lining.

While the Summit Breithorn Hoodie has loads of awesome features that'll keep you cozy and warm when it's bitterly cold, all those features make for a less packable jacket. Our men's small model weighs 15.2 ounces, which is heavy and overkill for summer backpacking. Also, this jacket is pretty expensive compared to some models. But it's fantastic for everything from winter backpacking to snowman-building adventures with the kids. If you're looking for comfort and don't need as much warmth, the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody is a dreamily comfortable model we love wearing in casual settings.

Read more: The North Face Summit Breithorn Hoodie review

With The North Face Summit Breithorn Hoodie, you'll be prepared for any winter storms.
Credit: Sam Schild

Another Great All-Around Women's Down Jacket

Arc'teryx Cerium Hoody - Women's

Excellent warmth for the weight
Very breathable
Stylish fit
Pretty fragile
Responsible Down Standard (RDS) Certified? Yes
Down Fill 850-fill European white goose down
Outer Fabric Arato 15D ripstop nylon, recycled with DWR treatment
Weight (Size Small) 10.2 oz
Hem Type Drop hem (small)
The Arc'teryx Cerium won our hearts with a stellar all-around performance in a featherweight, high-quality jacket. This model adapts to any situation and is very stylish for a technical jacket. It has a subtle drop hem, an adjustable hood that's very protective, and the 850-fill power down creates a warm, insulating layer that hugs your body. It has synthetic insulation under the arms and on the tops of the shoulders and less down in other areas to increase weather resistance and breathability. This model is one of our favorites for staying warm when playing outside in cold weather.

However, the Arc'teryx Cerium is extremely expensive. This jacket doesn't cut corners, though. The 15-denier nylon exterior does an excellent job blocking wind and light precipitation. However, the material is also thin enough to see through, making us wonder about the long-term durability. Overall, the Cerium is very comfortable, easy to pack, sleek, and super-functional. If you're looking for a less expensive option that checks all the same boxes as this jacket, we recommend you look at the Rab Microlight Alpine. This jacket is just as comfortable and provides great all-weather protection at a lower cost.

Read more: Arc'teryx Cerium review

The Arc'teryx Cerium is an extremely comfortable and warm jacket that's a great all-around cold weather option.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

How We Test Down Jackets

Since 2012, we've tested over 300 down jackets of all shapes and sizes. We've worn them on adventures near and far, from walking our dogs on chilly mornings to traveling the world living out of a backpack. We wear down jackets daily. We wear them to work and while hanging out on a coffee shop patio. We've carried them on 3,000+ mile thru-hikes on America's long trails and worn them on walks through our local park. We've taken them winter camping, worn them to the grocery store, and relied on them while ice climbing. We've packed them for vacation and brought them on multi-day ski tours.

For this review, we compiled test results from all the most popular and promising down jackets currently available. Then, we purchased them at retail price. Our testing team rated and quantified these jackets for different activities. We tested warmth by wearing them with various layer systems and comfort by assessing the fit on multiple body types. We scored packability using our home scales and stuffing them inside pockets or stuff sacks. Then, we evaluated their weather resistance and breathability by pouring water on them and timing how long they took to dry out. We hiked, skied, camped, packed them in our travel bags, and wore them during freak summer snowstorms. In short, we put every jacket through the wringer to find the best of the best.

From chores around the house to backcountry ski tours, our team has put in the work to find the best down jackets.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Why Trust GearLab

The test team for this review is led by Maggie Nichols. Maggie grew up in the frigid-cold upper Midwest. She has more than 15 years of experience guiding in the backcountry. She now calls the Sierra Nevada foothills her home, and she's often in the Sierras pushing her gear to the limits while camping late into fall and winter. She's constantly traveling when not working, and she's been to some seriously cold places over the years. She got married in Iceland during winter and spent her honeymoon in Svalbard. With all that cold weather experience, she knows exactly what makes a high-quality and warm jacket. Maggie regularly gets a lot of her friends and family members to help test gear, including these jackets. Maggie has worked at GearLab since 2016. Over the years, she's tested countless categories of outdoor gear everywhere, from Japan to Norway, Alabama, and Oregon.

We weighed every jacket to verify the manufacturer's claimed weight.
We weighed every jacket to verify the manufacturer's claimed weight.
Staying out past sunset in the Highlander hoody to test warmth.
Staying out past sunset in the Highlander hoody to test warmth.
Testing mobility of the Arc'teryx Cerium Hoody.
Testing mobility of the Arc'teryx Cerium Hoody.
Every jacket was tested in the field and our home test labs as well.

Maggie is joined on the testing team by Kaylee Walden. Kaylee has spent her whole life in the chilly mountains, from being raised in Montana to guiding expeditions in Alaska. She has spent years guiding backcountry ski trips and avalanche safety courses in the Rockies, and in the spring you can find her on the slopes of Denali. As an adventurer in the coldest of climates, she knows the importance of a down jacket. Sam Schild led the men's down jacket testing team. Sam is a long-distance thru-hiker, backpacker, mountain biker, and trail runner from Colorado. He has backpacked the Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Arizona Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, and Colorado Trail (three times!). He has bikepacked more miles than he's thru-hiked and always carries a down jacket to stay warm on any adventure.

down jacket - testing the rab neutrino pro on a chilly desert evening.
Testing the Rab Neutrino Pro on a chilly desert evening.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

How To Choose the Best Down Jacket for You

Getting the right jacket could be the difference between staying warm or being uncomfortably cold all day. Ultimately, you're looking for the right jacket to suit your specific needs and lifestyle. If the choices in down jackets seem intimidating, relax—we're here to help. We'll explore the nitty-gritty of what makes a great down jacket and unpack the differences between down, synthetic, winter, softshell, and hardshell jackets, just in case down jackets aren't the right type for you.

down jacket - testing down jackets on a backcountry ski tour.
Testing down jackets on a backcountry ski tour.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

What Kind of Jacket Do You Need?

There are many kinds of jackets out there, and they all have specific use cases. Here, we'll outline some of the most common types of jackets for cold weather.

down jacket - taking the mountain hardwear ghost whisperer/2 on a trail run in...
Taking the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 on a trail run in Colorado
Credit: Sam Schild

Down Jackets

Use Cases: Everyday wear, hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountaineering
High warmth-to-weight ratio
Great for travel
Works well with layers
Can be expensive
Not the most durable type of jacket
Not great in wet weather

Down jackets are insulated with the fluffy plumage and feathers of waterfowl. Down excels in its warmth-to-weight ratio. No other insulation material compresses as much as down yet still insulates as well. This insulation is soft, light, and incredibly lofty to trap heat. There's a vast difference between an expedition-weight down parka and a lightweight down jacket for backpacking. That difference is mostly in weight and warmth. You wouldn't want to carry the same down jacket you'd use when climbing Denali when you're running out to your car on a cold morning (unless your heater doesn't work; in this case, maybe you do!). That big, thick down jacket for alpine conditions will be too hot and heavy for everyday use or chilly summer nights by the fire.

The puffier a down jacket looks, the warmer it will be. This is the case with all insulated jackets. So unless you need maximum warmth, don't get the puffiest down jacket you can find. If you're going to be carrying a down jacket on your back or packing it in a suitcase, you should consider getting a more lightweight and packable model as well. If you only plan to wear the jacket and not carry it often, then weight and packability shouldn't be as significant of a concern, though.

down jacket - the ghost whisperer/2 weighs a mere 8.3 ounces.
The Ghost Whisperer/2 weighs a mere 8.3 ounces.
Credit: Sam Schild

There is a lot of variability in the features and adjustability of down jackets. If weight is your top concern, you might want less features because they will add up. But if you want to cinch the drawcord hem and hood to seal in as much warmth as possible, you should look for a down jacket with those adjustment features. You'll find they're worth the added weight when you have that hood cinched tight around your head and are happily warm inside.

Down is an excellent insulating material, but it's not the best insulation for every application. As mentioned, down is incredibly warm for the weight and packs down to a very small size. However, it doesn't retain its loft when wet. So if your down jacket gets wet, you'll be left cold, wet, and shivering. For this reason, down isn't always the best option for damp conditions such as backpacking in rainy and humid climates. You can certainly carry a down jacket in wet conditions, but you'll want to ensure it stays dry so you won't be able to wear it.

down jacket - a great synthetic insulated jacket will keep you warm even when wet...
A great synthetic insulated jacket will keep you warm even when wet, so they're great for high-output activities and damp climates.
Credit: Maggie Nichols

Synthetic Jackets

Use Cases: Daily wear, cold and wet conditions, climbing, running, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering
Retains loft longer when wet
Dries quickly
Good for layering
Not as compressible as down
Heavier than down

Synthetic jackets are similar to down jackets but use insulation spun from non-natural materials. Synthetic insulation is usually made of polyester or nylon but can also be made with other human-made fibers.

Synthetic insulation has excellent moisture resistance. It retains its loft even when wet, so it will continue to insulate longer in wet conditions. It also dries quickly, so it won't stay wet for as long if it does get soaked. Synthetic insulation jackets are also usually more affordable than down. They are heavier than down, though. And it doesn't compress as much. With this in mind, a synthetic insulated jacket won't be as packable as a down jacket, either.

down jacket - a good winter jacket has lots of insulation to keep you warm in...
A good winter jacket has lots of insulation to keep you warm in snowy, wintery weather.
Credit: Jason Wanlass

Winter Jackets

Use Cases: Daily winter wear, winter camping, snow activities, anything in cold weather
The warmest kind of jacket
Usually waterproof or high water resistant
Good for layering underneath
Big and bulky
Not great for high-intensity activities

Winter jackets are designed to keep you warm in cold weather. There are many types of winter jackets, but they are generally the warmest type of jacket available. Most jackets designed for winter have a waterproof (or at least water-resistant) shell material and a lot of insulation. They tend to be longer cut, covering more of your core. There are winter jackets designed for skiing, snowboarding, casual use, outdoor trades, and more.

down jacket - a softshell jacket is stretches as you move and is highly...
A softshell jacket is stretches as you move and is highly breathable, making it a great jacket for moving in the mountains.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Softshell Jackets

Use Cases: Skiing, winter running, snowboarding, hiking, climbing, mountaineering
Allow for great mobility
Works as a mid-layer or shell layer
Not as packable as lightweight insulated jackets
Not as warm

Softshell jackets are a versatile and breathable type of jacket made from a combination of stretchy, breathable, and water-resistant materials. They are a comfortable and flexible layer that conforms to your movements, so they're great for active pursuits in cold weather. Softshell jackets are usually somewhat water resistant, so they'll repel snow and light rain, but they aren't waterproof.

down jacket - a high-quality hardshell jacket is the most protective layer used in...
A high-quality hardshell jacket is the most protective layer used in a layering system that keeps the rest of your layers dry.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Hardshell Jackets

Use Cases: Cold and wet weather, city commuting, mountaineering, climbing, hiking, backpacking
Resists tears from abrasions
Fully waterproof
Great for layering underneath
Not insulating
Stiff material

A Hardshell Jacket is the heavy-duty waterproof layer you wear when the weather turns truly foul. They are typically made from technical fabrics such as Gore-Tex, eVent, or other waterproof and breathable materials. These fabrics are designed to be lightweight, durable, waterproof, and breathable. Hardshell jackets are typically used as the outer layer in a layering system to provide the most protection from the elements and keep the layers underneath dry.

down jacket - hardshells are lightweight, thin, and made to go on the exterior of...
Hardshells are lightweight, thin, and made to go on the exterior of your layering system.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

How To Layer With a Down Jacket

Knowing how to layer clothing to keep warm is essential for anyone who spends time outside, whether walking to a restaurant in your neighborhood or summiting 14ers in the winter. Combining a down jacket with a baselayer, mid-layer, and outer shell jacket creates a versatile system that allows you to put on or shed layers to stay comfortable as conditions change.


You wear a baselayer as the first layer next to your skin. Baselayers are tight-fitting and should wick sweat off your body so it can evaporate. Baselayers are usually made of synthetic materials or wool. These materials won't make you cold when they get wet with your sweat.


A mid-layer is the next layer you wear as part of a layering system. Midlayers are typically made of fleece, a thicker wool, or other synthetic materials that still insulate when wet. They should fit tight, but not as tight as a baselayer. After all, you wear a mid-layer over a baselayer.

Down Jacket

Next in your layering system is your down jacket. This layer provides the bulk of your insulation, but the baselayer and mid-layer you're wearing underneath will definitely make that down jacket feel even warmer.

Shell Layer

On top of your down jacket goes a shell layer. Here, depending on the conditions, you can use either a softshell jacket or a hardshell jacket. If it's cold and wet, you'll probably want a hardshell. But if it's simply cold and windy but not wet, then a softshell will probably be best. Either way, the shell layer goes on top of the other layers we discussed above, and it's your first line of defense against the elements.

A baselayer and fleece can go a long way to keep you warm.
A baselayer and fleece can go a long way to keep you warm.
The Feathered Friends Eos over the right layers will keep you warm...
The Feathered Friends Eos over the right layers will keep you warm for your next hike or mid-winter grocery store run.
A shell over a down jacket can help keep in body heat while...
A shell over a down jacket can help keep in body heat while protecting from the elements.
Layering for your climate is just as important as choosing a down jacket.

What Else to Look For in a Down Jacket

down jacket - there's a lot to consider when looking for the perfect down jacket...
There's a lot to consider when looking for the perfect down jacket for you: warmth, comfort, packability, weather resistance, and breathability are some of the things we considered when evaluating these jackets.
Credit: Sam Schild

Down Fill Power

Down insulation is rated according to its fill power, a measurement used to indicate the quality and loftiness of down. The fill power quantifies the volume that one ounce of down occupies in cubic inches. For instance, an ounce of 650-fill power down will take up less space than an ounce of 900-fill power down.

Higher fill power doesn't necessarily mean the jacket will be warmer, but the same quantity (measured in weight) of 900-fill-power down will insulate better than an equal weight of 650-fill down. This is because the 900-fill down has more loft than 650-fill down, and more loft means more warmth.

Higher fill power is going to be more expensive, too. If you're looking for an inexpensive yet warm jacket, get a lofty lower-fill-power-down jacket. It will keep you warmer than a higher-fill power jacket that doesn't look as puffy.

down jacket - higher fill power means more compressibility and more warmth for the...
Higher fill power means more compressibility and more warmth for the weight, but it's also more expensive, and a higher fill power jacket with less down won't be as warm as a lower fill power model with more insulation.
Credit: Sam Schild


If a down jacket doesn't keep you warm enough for your specific activity, then what's the point? We tested warmth by wearing these jackets in various winter activities, switching between jackets to get an idea of relative warmth. The more insulation a jacket has, the thicker it will be. This is a good indicator of warmth. But it isn't the only indicator, so we thoroughly field-tested every jacket in side-by-side comparison testing in multiple activities.

We also examined every jacket's type and weight of insulation, overall thickness, and loft. We wore every jacket as part of a layering system to evaluate how well we could layer with it. We looked at whether they had helmet-compatible hoods and other layering features. We examined every jacket for points of heat loss and paid attention to those spots when wearing them in the field.

down jacket - a quality hood goes a long way in keeping you warm in your jacket.
A quality hood goes a long way in keeping you warm in your jacket.
Credit: Kaylee Walden


We evaluated comfort by wearing every jacket with only a t-shirt underneath to get a sense of how the lining material felt against our skin. We also noted all touchpoints and how they felt against our chins, wrists, and heads. We moved around in every jacket and noted which models allowed for the most freedom of movement. We also looked at how well each jacket could accommodate different body shapes by having multiple testers wear each model.

down jacket - comfort is key, because if a jacket isn't comfortable you might not...
Comfort is key, because if a jacket isn't comfortable you might not wear it at all.
Credit: Sam Schild


For portability, we weighed every jacket on our home scales. We also looked at compressibility features, such as whether they packed into their own pocket or came with a stuff sack. We stuffed these jackets repeatedly, noting which models were easier to pack away and which weren't. We also asked ourselves, "Would I bring this with me during any activity?"

down jacket - i highly packable jacket is important because you might not always...
I highly packable jacket is important because you might not always need to wear it.
Credit: Sam Schild

Weather Resistance

While these aren't waterproof hardshell jackets, a down jacket should protect you from the elements. To test this, we sprayed every jacket with water, rubbed the water into the material,, and then noted which jackets stayed dry the longest. We also tested these for wind resistance in the field and using a fan in our lab test.

down jacket - while not a hardshell, a good down jacket should protect you from...
While not a hardshell, a good down jacket should protect you from snow and light precipitation.
Credit: Sam Schild


Breathability is crucial if you're using a down jacket for intense activities. If you overheat quickly and your jacket doesn't have a way to manage that heat, then you'll start to sweat and get cold. We field-tested all of these jackets in high-output activities to test this. We ran, biked, climbed, hiked, and skied in these jackets, noting which kept us comfortable for the longest while exercising.

down jacket - if you plan on using your jacket for high-output activities like...
If you plan on using your jacket for high-output activities like biking or running, it should be breathable.
Credit: Sam Schild


Hopefully, this guide will help make your own down jacket-purchasing decision easier. Rest assured, this list of down jackets for women and men is the best of the best. The GearLab testing team thoroughly evaluated all of these jackets, so you can't go wrong with any of these models. Choose the jacket that best fits your specific needs and budget, then get back to your adventures! We'll keep buying, using, and reviewing the best down jackets in the industry to keep this list up to date.

down jacket - we hope this guide helps you find the best down jacket to suit your...
We hope this guide helps you find the best down jacket to suit your specific needs. Stay warm out there!
Credit: Sam Schild

Maggie Nichols, Sam Schild, and Kaylee Walden