Best Budget Down Jacket for Men
While Amazon might not be the first brand that comes to mind when you think of quality outdoor equipment, our testers were delightfully surprised by the Amazon Lightweight Puffer. Equipped with many of the same features you find on more premium options, this jacket comes with soft elasticized wrist cuffs, a comfortable zipper-guard for your chin, and a silken feeling inner liner. Despite being made of 100% synthetic nylon fill, the jacket was quite warm for its weight. We found the fit was also ideal for an outer insulating layer; it was large enough to comfortably layer a fleece under, but it didn't make you look or feel like a boxy marshmallow.
For a synthetic jacket, the compressibility was reasonably good, but when compared to some of the down options, it didn't compress quite as well. It was a bit of a struggle to get the jacket into the provided stuff sack, and when fully compressed, the package was smaller than a football but bigger than a large grapefruit. All in all, this is jacket is best suited for anyone looking for a lightweight and comfortable insulation layer, either for your morning commute or your weekend hike, that won't break the bank.
The Mountain Warehouse is built tough and ready to withstand hard days in the mountains. With its thick, nylon outer shell, it is less prone to snagging and tearing on branches. The jacket has a long torso that gives you good coverage and a roomy fit perfect for layering underneath but is not comically large. One of the few hooded jackets we tested, the hood was large enough to fit over a helmet but not so big it drooped down over your eyes.
The internal lining was fairly rough against bare skin and was not equipped with any inner pockets. The two outer pockets had no zippers and were not able to be closed. The biggest flaw we found was with the zipper. By the time we were done testing, the zipper was already starting to run a little rough, leading to concerns about longevity. This durable jacket lacks some of the creature comforts of other options, but for the price, it's an incredibly warm jacket best suited for outdoor work or play where you might be worried about ruining a more expensive coat.
Whether you're packing your bag for your daily commute to work or a day out in the mountains, having an extremely small and light insulation layer is easy insurance to deliver comfort in variable conditions. With insulation made from 100% 650 fill duck down, the Rokka&Rolla has an incredible warmth to weight ratio. With a thin outer shell and a supple inner liner, the compressibility was the best of any of the jackets we tested. It easily fits into the provided stuff sack with the potential to be squeezed into an even smaller space when packing your bags.
Given the jacket's slim fit, it would be difficult and uncomfortable to wear a substantial layer underneath. The Rokka&Rolla is lightweight and packs down small, making it the perfect jacket to throw in your bag and forget about until the clouds roll in.
The ZSHOW has a great weight to warmth ratio and a fit that is ideal for a three-part layering system. It is roomy enough to fit a layer under but athletic enough to wear while on the go. This piece can accommodate a fleece underneath and raincoat on top without making you feel like the tin man. What truly makes this piece shine in the outdoors is the addition of a well-fitting hood. Keeping your head covered up is an often forgotten piece of the puzzle when it comes to staying warm. Your head is just as capable of losing precious body heat as the rest of you is. When it truly gets cold out, being able to throw on a hood will keep you that much warmer.
This coat does run small, and it might be worth sizing up if you often find yourself between sizes. Lightweight, warm, and sporting an athletic fit, this jacket is ideal for those headed outside, whether for the afternoon or an overnight trip into the backcountry.
The Columbia Delta Ridge was, without question, the warmest coat in our lineup. Made from 100% 650 down fill and equipped with the patented "Omni-heat" inner liner, this coat provides a great deal of insulation. The inner liner does wonders for trapping body heat inside the jacket. With a slightly thicker polyester outer shell that offers a great deal of wind resistance, the Delta Ridge had no trouble keeping our testers warm while wandering around alpine environments above 11,000 ft. The fit was on the slimmer side with a long torso that extended down past our waistline. The slim fit could only accommodate a thin fleece underneath, but given the warmth, it was more than adequate for most situations.
While not uncomfortable, the inner liner wasn't as soft on the skin as some of the other coats, and given the nature of the outer shell's material, it felt a little stiff. Despite being made from 100% down, the compressibility was somewhat poor compared to the other down options. Besides being harder to compress, the jacket doesn't come with a stuff sack, making it a little harder to manage while packing a full bag. The warmest of all the coats we tested, this jacket is best suited for those looking for a bit of extra warmth and who don't mind carrying a little more weight to have it.
Eddie Bauer's line of outdoor apparel is often renowned as some of the best. Extreme climbers and skiers choose this brand to push their limits in some of the harshest environments. Their CirrusLite puffy is an entry-level jacket that isn't as polished as some of their higher-end jackets but offers a good value and an even better warmth to weight ratio. The lightest of all the jackets we tested, this one clocks in right around nine ounces. Relative to its weight, its 100% down fill provides a good deal of warmth. Don't expect it to be the warmest jacket in your arsenal, but for its minimal weight, there's no reason not to bring it along on any outing.
Our biggest gripe with this jacket is the lack of chin protection from the zipper. When fully zipped, you can feel the cold, scratchy zipper rubbing against your chin. The coat compresses well but doesn't come with its stuff sack. All in all, this is a perfect mid-layer for cool but not downright cold pursuits.
The Tommy Hilfiger Ultra Loft is a fully synthetic jacket with modern street styling. With subtle style accents, like a branded collar, and a flattering cut, this jacket is streetwear ready. Given its thick and wind-resistant outer shell and a decent amount of synthetic insulation, it not only looks good, but it also performs well. It has a wide but not overly long fit and runs large. However, if you find yourself between sizes, you might want to size down.
The warmth does, however, comes at the cost of being one of the heaviest and least compressible jackets that we tested. We also found the inner liner to have pronounced and scratchy seams in the armpits. If you're looking for a stylish and warm insulating layer and not too concerned about counting every ounce, this jacket fits the bill.
The Tommy Hilfiger Lightweight Puffer is the down counterpart to their synthetic Ultra Loft jacket. Lighter and able to compress into a much smaller package, this jacket is more suited to the outdoors than its synthetic companion. It also had a noticeably softer liner and a slimmer fit.
Upon first taking the coat out of its package, we found it to already be leaking down, leading us to have concerns about longevity. Overall, this fully down coat is light, compresses well, and has an athletic cut. It's ideal for those who want an affordable option with a brand name still attached to it.
The Wantdo is another lightweight and highly compressible down jacket. What sets it apart is its unique removable hood. Whether you're using it as part of a layering system or for more casual streetwear, sometimes you just don't want the extra bulk of a hood. This jacket gives you the best of both worlds. The overall fit was roomy enough to layer under but not excessively large.
After relatively little use, the zipper started catching and having a hard time unzipping. It didn't fail during our testing but became a serious nuisance. This jacket is best suited for those who want a versatile jacket that can fill multiple roles with the option to remove the hood.
The 32 Degree is a lightweight jacket offering modest levels of warmth. It's not ideal for the coldest of days but is a nice layer when things start getting brisk. The fit was a little too boxy for our liking, but if you need extra room throughout your torso, this could be a great option.
We didn't find it to be the best insulator, but if you're not looking for a true cold-weather jacket, this will still offer more warmth than your average cotton hoody. Highly compressible and light, this jacket makes a great traveling companion when you are expecting variable conditions while out and about.
Why You Should Trust Us
Buck Yedor, our lead tester on this project, has been relying on the warmth of lightweight down jackets for both work and play for years. From climbing El Capitan to going on overnight rescues while working for Yosemite Search and Rescue, he knows that having a light and durable insulating layer can truly be lifesaving. Beyond his time in the outdoors, having spent many years as a Bay Area commuter, he knows the importance of having a warm packable layer you can throw in your bag when hopping on and off public transit.
We consider a down or synthetic jacket to be an essential piece of outerwear. Highly versatile and offering incredible warmth for how little space they take up, it is a crucial part of any layering system. That being said, it can be a confusing world to navigate, and knowing exactly what you're looking for isn't always obvious. To help you in your search for warmth, we independently purchased ten different jackets to comprehensively compare in a series of side tests.
Analysis and Test Results
With the help of a team of highly qualified rock climbers and hikers, Buck and his team took all ten of the jackets on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. Spending most of their days above 10,000 ft and encountering widely variable weather conditions, they experienced how well each jacket fared in harsh alpine conditions. They were looking to compare warmth, comfort, fit, compressibility, and durability.
Warmth is a function of how well any given jacket can insulate and retain your natural body heat. The more insulation, the warmer you will stay. The ideal jacket, however, balances the level of insulation with weight and breathability. All of the jackets we reviewed were either filled with down, synthetic down, or a combination of the two. Down fill ratings refer to the quality of the down used and how well it insulates. A higher number doesn't instantly equate to a warmer jacket but means that the higher quality down will be warmer, lighter, and more compressible than a comparable weight of lower quality down or synthetic fill.
Using 650 fill down, the Columbia Delta Ridge was one of the warmest jackets we tried on. The high quality down, plus the patented "Omni-heat" shell, made for a highly effective and warm insulating layer. The Eddie Bauer CirrusLite also uses 650 fill down but is a lighter weight jacket and is much less warm but weighs less and packs down smaller.
Down is naturally an excellent insulator and works wonderfully to trap warm air without adding a lot of weight. However, it's insulating ability is almost entirely diminished if it gets wet. While none of these jackets are intended to be raincoats, jackets filled with synthetic down will do a much better job at keeping you warm even if you manage to find yourself caught in an unexpected rain shower. That ability comes at the price of being heavier and less compressible than comparable down-filled coats. That being said, we found the Amazon Essentials Synthetic Lightweight Puffer to be very warm and light for a fully synthetic jacket. The Mountain Warehouse, another fully synthetic coat, was also one of the warmest we tried. With a heavy fill weight and a thick windproof shell, this jacket was incredibly warm (but also quite heavy).
While many jackets offer similar levels of warmth, it's the small details that separate the good from the great, especially if you plan on being active while wearing your jacket. We were looking for things like the comfort of the jacket liner on your skin, if the wrist cuffs are lined, if the zipper rubs on your chin when fully zipped, and other details that add to the overall level of comfort while wearing a jacket.
The Amazon Essentials Puffer was one of the comfiest jackets we tried on. With a silky feeling nylon liner and soft elasticized wrist cuffs, this coat was easy to wear while on the move for extended periods. The Wantdo is another option that has all of the small creature comforts we like to see, such as a well-padded zip closure at the chin, comfortable wrist cuffs, and a soft liner. The Tommy Hilfiger Ultra Loft has a comfortable liner, but we found the seams in the armpits to be pronounced and annoying while moving our arms overhead. The Eddie Bauer, while very light and equipped with a soft liner, did not offer any protection for your chin against the zipper. Both cold and scratchy, it was quite uncomfortable if you wanted your jacket fully zipped.
Every jacket we tested was, in theory, the same size, but we found that the torso lengths, arm lengths, and overall fit to be widely varied. The ideal fit for each coat heavily depends on how you intend to use it. If you plan on layering another jacket underneath, you will want a bit more room in the torso and shoulders, while if you plan on using it as a standalone piece, you can opt for a slimmer fit.
The 32 Degrees Ultra-Light had the boxiest fit of all the pieces we tested. It's large enough to layer under and perhaps best suited for barrel-chested individuals. The Amazon Essentials landed right in the middle of the spectrum. Roomy enough to layer under but not overly wide or long, this jacket felt true to size and versatile in application. The Rokka&Rolla was the slimmest fitting choice. Being a tailored piece, it makes for a great city coat but would be hard to layer underneath. The Mountain Warehouse fits the most like a belay parka, a little long in the torso but not too wide. The hood was big enough to fit over a helmet but didn't droop down over our eyes.
One of the biggest benefits of down or synthetic jackets is their ability to offer similar levels of warmth as big bulky coats but at a fraction of the weight and the ability to be compressed into small packages. This makes them ideal for travelers, commuters, and people spending time in the outdoors. Similar to how the fill type affects warmth, a higher quality fill will be able to compress down smaller. One hundred percent down will typically compress the best, but the amount of fill and the material of the shell will ultimately determine how small each jacket will pack down. The Rockka&Rolla packed down the absolute smallest and is around the size of a grapefruit.
Neither the Eddie Bauer, the Columbia, nor the Mountain Warehouse came with stuff sacks, which aren't crucial but certainly convenient when trying to pack efficiently. The rest of the jackets all packed down to similar sizes; they were smaller than a football but a little larger than a grapefruit.
Picking the right jacket is often about making certain trade-offs that best align with your needs. The lightest and most compressible jackets will often be the least durable. The thin nylon outer shells are prone to tearing quite easily. If you're looking for a jacket to perform cold weather manual labor in, you might want to sacrifice weight for a more durable shell. If you want a jacket that takes up as little space as possible, the fragile nature of thin nylon shells can undoubtedly be worth it. We found the Mountain Warehouse to have the thickest and most durable outer shell, making it a good choice you can knock around in without worrying about tearing it on the first branch you brush by. The Columbia Delta Ridge is made from a thicker and more snag-resistant material as well.
The Amazon Essentials, Rockka&Rolla, and Eddie Bauer down jacket models beg for a little caution when wearing. Beyond tearing a hole, the other most important factor to look at in jacket durability is the quality of the zipper. Both the Wantdo and Mountain Warehouse had noticeably rough running zippers after relatively minimal use. While they didn't entirely fail us, it seemed like it wouldn't be long before they needed to be replaced.
After researching and then purchasing ten of the best selling down jackets available today, we were able to compare and contrast what each jacket brings to the table. From lightweight, 100% down-filled jackets to burlier synthetic options, our side-by-side testing revealed which jackets are warm, comfortable, fit well, and are compressible or durable. With our research in hand, we hope to take the mystery out of picking your next down jacket.
— Buck Yedor