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Best Down Jackets for Men of 2021

We tested down jackets from The North Face, Patagonia, Arc'teryx, Rab, and more to find the warmest and loftiest options
Whether you are hiking, climbing, skiing, or just going on walks aroun...
Photo: Buck Yedor
Wednesday November 3, 2021
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Our cold weather apparel experts have tested over 55 of the best down jackets in the last decade. After researching the latest and greatest jackets offered in 2021, we independently purchased 12 of the most promising. Using a systemized testing process, we subjected each one to real-world conditions to find out how they stacked up against one and another. From freezing nights in the high desert to snowy days in the alpine, we pushed each model to its respective limits. Whether you're looking for a jacket to keep you warm while adventuring in the mountains or on your morning commute to work, our in-depth analysis can help you make the right choice based on your unique needs and budget.

Top 12 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 12
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Awards Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
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$389 List
$389.00 at Feathered Friends
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Incredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, effective hydrophobic downWarm, hydrophobic down, comfortable, large pockets accommodate use while wearing a harnessLightweight, stylish, high warmth to weight ratioHarness friendly pockets, excellent warmth to weight ratio, highly packable, elastic wrist cuffs900+ fill down, warm, lightweight, incredibly compressible, competitively priced
Cons No hood cinch, no chest pocketExpensive, non-adjustable waist hem, poor compressibilityExpensive, not super durablePoor water resistance, difficult to layer overHood a little tight to fit over a helmet, no hood adjustment
Bottom Line Offers high versatility, comfort, accommodation of movement, and light weightThis is a top-tier jacket with practical features and incredibly refined detailsIf you are looking for a warm, light layer for a trip where ounces count, this is a great selectionPacks down small and brings a ton of warmth, making it a great layer for climbing and other mountain pursuitsA great choice for folks looking to go fast, light, and warm
Rating Categories Mountain Hardwear G... The North Face Summ... Arc'teryx Cerium SL... Rab Electron Pro Feathered Friends Eos
Warmth (30%)
9.0
9.0
6.0
9.0
9.0
Weight (20%)
9.0
7.0
10.0
6.0
7.0
Water Resistance (15%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
Fit (15%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Compressibility (10%)
9.0
8.0
10.0
7.0
8.0
Features (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Mountain Hardwear G... The North Face Summ... Arc'teryx Cerium SL... Rab Electron Pro Feathered Friends Eos
Down Fill 800 fill RDS certified, down insulation 800 fill goose down 850 fill goose down 800 fill power down 900+ goose down
Total Weight 8.5 oz 14.43 oz 7.6 oz 17.25 oz 13 oz
Baffle Construction Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through baffles
Main Fabric Recycled polyester ripstop, DWR finish Nylon pertex Arato 7 nylon Pertex Quantum Pro Pertex Quantum
Compression Method Zips into pocket Stuffs into pocket Included stuff sack Stuff sack Stuff sack
Pockets 2 zippered hand 2 hand, 2 internal, 1 chest 2 zippered hand 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest 2 zippered hand
Hoodless Option? Yes No Yes No No


Best Overall Down Jacket


Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2


88
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 9
  • Weight 9
  • Water Resistance 8
  • Fit 9
  • Compressibility 9
  • Features 8
Weight: 8.5 ounces | Fill: 800-fill goose down, responsibly sourced
Lightweight
Athletic fit
Shell is made from 100% recycled ripstop nylon
Layers well
Expensive
No chest or interior pockets

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 is our favorite down jacket. This versatile jacket weighs a scant 8.5 ounces yet manages to offer an incredible amount of warmth. At this weight and packability, there is no reason not to throw this into your pack. The athletic fit is spot-on, accommodating wider shoulders so that overhead movement isn't impeded. It's tailored enough to not feel bulky during activity but wide enough to easily layer a fleece underneath. Our testers found that the stretchiness, fit, and low weight made it an ideal piece for climbing or other highly mobile activities. We used this as both a standalone piece and as part of a layering system. As a standalone jacket, our testers were comfortable in temps down into the low forties and upper thirties. When temperatures started to drop below freezing, the addition of a lightweight fleece was all our testers needed to stay warm and cozy.

The most glaring deficiency is the lack of a zippered phone pocket. While the lack of pockets contributes to its low weight, our testers would have preferred at least one internal or external chest pocket. This jacket is comfortable, looks good, and, most importantly, performs incredibly well in a wide range of conditions.

Read review: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2

Best for Lightweight Warmth


Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 6
  • Weight 10
  • Water Resistance 7
  • Fit 9
  • Compressibility 10
  • Features 8
Weight: 7.6 ounces | Fill: 850-fill goose down certified to responsible down standard
Super compressible
Incredibly lightweight
Stylish
Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
Shell fabric is somewhat fragile

The Arc'teryx Cerium SL is our favorite ultralight down jacket built for packing light and going fast. It has all the necessary features that make it a technically capable jacket while omitting extra bells and whistles that would add weight, bulk, and complexity. The incredible compressibility and lightweight nature really made it stand out from the others in our review. It's the ideal jacket to clip to your harness and forget about until the temps start dropping. For the same reasons, this is an excellent jacket for commuters who want a warm jacket they can easily stuff into a small pack while getting on and off public transit. It has a classic Arc'teryx fit that makes it appropriate for the mountains and looks good while out on the town. The hood and hem both have adjustable drawcords to lock out the cold, which is unique for such a lightweight jacket.

While the Cerium SL is just about the perfect ultralight down layer, there are a couple of things you should be aware of. First, the thin ripstop nylon shell is tear-resistant, but that's a relative term, and when compared to the heavier-weight fabrics used in many of the other options, this fabric just won't hold up as well. We also know from experience that even with careful use, the thin zipper used on this jacket can wear out before the rest of the jacket will. All in all, this jacket is ideal for those looking for a high-quality option that prioritizes weight and compressibility.

Read review: Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody

An Excellent Midweight Option


Rab Electron Pro


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 9
  • Weight 6
  • Water Resistance 9
  • Fit 8
  • Compressibility 7
  • Features 8
Weight: 17.25 ounces | Fill: 800-fill goose down
Harness friendly pockets
Great warmth to weight ratio
No internal drop pockets
Poor compressibility

The Rab Electron is designed to keep you warm in all but the absolute coldest environments. At home on backcountry ski trips, shady belays, or for layering up during any stop-and-go winter activity, this jacket brings along some serious warmth. Stuffed with 800 fill treated hydrophobic down, this is no light duty puff. While it won't replace a rain layer, it's about as waterproof as a weight-conscious down is going to get. With a great fit and plenty of useful features, it's a highly functional cold-weather workhorse. It features elastic wrist cuffs, an adjustable and pinchable waist hem, and a brimmed and helmet-compatible hood. One of our favorite features is the harness-friendly hand pockets. They sit high enough above your harness to still be accessible without having to loosen your waist belt.

It's a bit on the heavy side when it comes to weight; when compared to more lightweight options, it has poor compressibility. It's missing a few features, like internal drop pockets for gloves or skins, but overall has all the basic necessities you might need. This warm and water-resistant puffy will keep you warm and dry from the ice crags to ski slopes and is ideal for anyone looking for extra warmth without adding too much weight.

Read review: Rab Electron Pro

Best Bang for Your Buck


MontBell Superior Down


73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 6
  • Weight 9
  • Water Resistance 6
  • Fit 7
  • Compressibility 8
  • Features 9
Weight: 8.7 ounces | Fill: 800-fill responsibly sourced down
Lightweight
Less expensive than similar models
Feature-rich
Poor hood adjustment

Our testers are blown away by the Montbell Superior Hooded Parka's multitude of excellent features, especially given the low price. A size medium weighs only 8.7 ounces, and this jacket has an incredible weight to warmth ratio. Complete with a cinchable hood and waist hem, the Superior makes it easy to keep your precious body heat from escaping. Stuffed with 800 fill down, there is no question that this coat offers high-quality componentry at a great value.

While this jacket is a high performer, it's not entirely perfect. The fit is somewhat boxy, and the overall construction doesn't feel as polished as some of the more premium options. The hood has a two-part adjustment system, which does a fine job of sealing out the cold but feels a little clunky, especially compared to other modern adjustment systems. That said, we are reaching to find a downside to this jacket and can't reiterate enough about how much we love its feature-rich, lightweight, and highly packable design, all sold at a remarkably low price.

Read review: MontBell Superior Down

Basic Performance at an Affordable Price


REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0


60
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 5
  • Weight 8
  • Water Resistance 5
  • Fit 6
  • Compressibility 7
  • Features 5
Weight: 10.4 ounces | Fill: 650-fill goose down certified to Responsible Down Standard
Lightweight
Inexpensive
Down certified (RDS)
Minimal features
Lacking warmth; better as a layering system

If you're looking to pinch some pennies, consider the REI Co-Op 650 2.0. This quality jacket stands out for its cozy 650-down fill construction that is super lightweight. The shell also has a DWR treatment that'll ward off water for a few minutes while you seek shelter. If a greatly valued product is your priority, this is our top recommendation.

While it does sport a fantastic price, we have a few caveats. This jacket is on the thin side and not the warmest option of the fleet; we prefer to use it as part of a layering system on cold days. This limits its versatility, depending on your adventure. If you are looking for a reasonably priced warmth layer but don't need the most technically advanced model for a climb up the Matterhorn in winter, this is a good option. Wear it around town or as a layer for light and fast adventures, but look elsewhere if mega warmth is your priority.

Read review: REI Co-Op 650 2.0

A Tried and True Classic


Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8
  • Weight 7
  • Water Resistance 7
  • Fit 9
  • Compressibility 7
  • Features 9
Weight: 14.9 ounces | Fill: 800-fill advanced global traceable down
Responsibly sourced, traceable down
Stylish
comfortable
Not very compressible
Not very lightweight compared to other models

The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody hasn't changed much over the years but remains one of our favorite down jackets. While style is subjective and not one of our official testing metrics, there is no question that this piece offers a more refined look than some of the other more techy-looking pieces in the review. This became our go-to option for day missions where conditions were uncertain or expected to be quite variable. It has great wind resistance, which significantly helps keep you warmer on bitterly cold days. We also like the athletic fit, which is roomy in the shoulders but trim down the sides. The adjustable waist hem helps trap warm air, and the fleece chin guard keeps the zipper from rubbing when you need to be fully zipped up.

The DWR coating keeps water from soaking into the down for a time, but overall its wet weather performance is not fantastic. It's a little heavy for the warmth it provides, but we loved the features, including an internal chest pocket, stash pocket, and a high collar that comes up over your nose when fully zipped. Many other contenders are lighter or less expensive, but if you're looking for something that can do it all, the Patagonia Down Sweater is hard to beat.

Read review: Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
88
$325
Editors' Choice Award
A surprisingly warm jacket that is super-light, thin, and provides excellent versatility for technical adventures
83
$350
This is a high-end midweight option that is always ready for the mountains
80
$359
Top Pick Award
An incredibly light jacket for your trips where weight matters
80
$325
Top Pick Award
A warm and packable layer ideal for chilly days in the mountains
79
$389
This no-nonsense performance model has everything you need in a lightweight package
78
$279
Top Pick Award
A stylish and highly functional option that provides adequate warmth for a variety of situations
78
$280
Pertex Microlight face fabric, Nikwax treated down, and a quality DWR coating make this one water-resistant hoody
77
$399
This belay parka will keep you warm on the coldest days
75
$379
High quality 850 fill down make this jacket one of the lightest and warmest out there
74
$279
Designed for cold and potentially wet days in the mountains, this tear resistant option makes for an awesome belay coat
73
$209
Best Buy Award
A warm, feature-packed down that is offered at an exceptional price
60
$100
Best Buy Award
An affordable option if you're after some extra insulation but don't want to spend a ton of money

The Rab Microlight is a versatile jacket, great for hiking...
The Rab Microlight is a versatile jacket, great for hiking, climbing, and skiing.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Why You Should Trust Us


Our panel of expert gear testers is headed up by Buck Yedor and Adam Paashaus. Growing up in the mountains of Colorado, Buck's appreciation for quality insulation started young. After graduating from college, he took a job working for Yosemite Search and Rescue, where he saw firsthand that having the right outerwear can be the difference between a pleasant day out in the mountains or needing a rescue. In his free time, you can find him bundled up underneath freezing boulders or hanging off the side of a big wall. Adam has been an active member of the outdoor community for years. His passion for helping others find the right gear for their adventures started back in 2001 when he started working in the retail side of the industry.

The bulk of our testing takes place in the High Sierra of California, the Rockies of Colorado, with some adventures in the Pacific Northwest and the Green Mountains of Vermont thrown in for good measure. After many hours of research, we selected the top models available and took them into the field, where we climbed, hiked, skied, camped, and even slept in the jackets, all the while paying special attention to the fit performance and versatility of each one.

Related: How We Tested Down Jackets

The Arc&#039;teryx Cerium LT is an excellent choice for building out a...
The Arc'teryx Cerium LT is an excellent choice for building out a lightweight layering system.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Analysis and Test Results


This review focuses on light and midweight down jackets that can be worn on their own in the shoulder seasons or as a mid-layer when it's frigid outside. Our testers love a down jacket that is packable and affordable. During our testing, we looked at six essential metrics used to evaluate each jacket; these include warmth, weight, water resistance, fit, compressibility, and features. Using these metrics, we compare each one. This article provides an overview of how each jacket performed during specific tests.

Related: Buying Advice for Down Jackets

Related: Best Insulated Jackets for Men of 2021

Related: Best Hardshell Jackets for Men of 2021

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody is perfect for early...
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody is perfect for early mornings in the high desert.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Note that in our ratings, we are comparing the products to each other and not the entire outdoor apparel market as a whole. So, for example, when we say an option is highly water-resistant, that is compared to other down jackets, and not to a rain jacket.

The heavy-duty Patagonia Fitz Roy offers an unrivaled level of warmth.
The heavy-duty Patagonia Fitz Roy offers an unrivaled level of warmth.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Value


Most of us simply can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars every few seasons to keep up with the latest innovations or merely to replace well-used and worn-out gear. We spend a considerable amount of time in the mountains and have been known to put serious wear on our outerwear, so we appreciate jackets that offer a great value. While the highest quality products typically are expensive, there are outstanding down jackets with a lower cost that offer relatively similar performance. Many of these lower-priced options are still warm, lightweight, and compressible but may use lower quality down, have fewer features, or just lack brand recognition.

Our best value winner is one that offers quality construction for a good price. In this review, we feature two different award winners for their low prices. The REI Co-op 650 Down 2.0 is the best-priced option of them all. While it scores on the low end of our performance metrics, it's essential to realize that it's being compared to the best of the best. The Montbell Superior Hoody offers better warmth and performance but costs a bit more. However, for the extra cost, the Superior has a full feature set and is ultralight. Another well-priced product is the Rab Microlight. It offers incredible weather resistance at a good competitive price. As much as we hate to admit it, even expensive insulation layers are fairly fragile. While we don't score value, it's important to consider your wallet when making a purchase like this.


Warmth


Warmth is the most important criterion when selecting a jacket, because after all, if not for its warmth, why do we even need a down jacket? Since it's so important, we decided to weigh each jacket's score for warmth as 30 percent of its total score.


Lightweight down jackets are typically made using sewn-through baffle construction, which helps when you are trying to produce a lighter weight and less expensive product. The baffles are the individual compartments that hold down, keeping it all from sinking to the bottom of the jacket. Sewn-through baffle construction means that the fabric on the outside of the jacket is sewn to the material on the inside, creating a baffle, which is typically oriented horizontally, although some are square-shaped. This design allows them to be lighter, thinner, and less expensive.

However, a big drawback to sewn-through baffles is that they create thin spots at the seams where there is no down and where warm air can escape. There are a few different alternative techniques for generating baffles besides the sewn-through method, but it remains the most commonly seen.

Warmth is most affected by the fill power and fill weight. Fill power relates to the down's ability to puff up and insulate a space. High fill power down (800 and up) needs less weight in down to insulate the same amount of space as down with a lower fill power, so the top-performing and often most expensive jackets use higher fill down for warmer and lighter results. Less expensive jackets using a lower fill power sacrifice weight and compressibility but can still provide a warmth-to-weight ratio that outperforms most synthetically insulated jackets, even the high-end type.

The more loft a jacket has, the warmer it is, and the Eos by...
The more loft a jacket has, the warmer it is, and the Eos by Feathered Friends was one of the puffiest.

The loft of a jacket isn't everything — fit and design also play heavily into how well a jacket stacks up in the warmth metric. Jackets with a slim, thermally efficient fit and a longer hemline also score extra points in the warmth category. To test these jackets for warmth, we used them countless times on adventures during the late fall and early winter: camping, hiking, climbing, and skiing, not to mention around town use.

We also tested them side-by-side on frigid, windy mornings in the mountains to best tell how they compare against each other. Although they do not come with temperature ratings like sleeping bags, we feel these jackets offer good-to-adequate standalone warmth down to freezing temperatures and can help you stay warm in much lower temperatures when used as part of a layering system.

Responsibly Sourced Down
In the past few years, most companies have begun using responsibly sourced down. Since down is an animal product — duck and goose feathers --, we believe that it's important that down is harvested for use in your jacket in a way that does not torture the animal. There's no getting around it; these birds are killed as food and for their feathers.

In our testing, a few jackets stood out for their warmth. The Patagonia Fitz Roy is the warmest down we tested but also the heaviest. A close second is the RAB Electron. While it isn't quite as warm as the Fitz Roy, it is noticeably lighter and much more water-resistant. The Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody employs 850-fill down, minimal features, and lightweight shell fabric to create a toasty jacket that packs away super-small and can disappear into your pack. Likewise, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 offered an incredible weight to warmth ratio.

Weight


The higher, further, and steeper we venture, the more important the weight of what we carry becomes. The utility of an object in the backcountry is based on its usefulness in relation to the energy expended carrying it. The warmth-to-weight ratio of a jacket is a key measurement of value, and a down jacket has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any technical insulated jacket. Additional ounces are added or subtracted to a jacket's weight by the fabric and design features. Frequently, durability and other critical elements such as a hood are sacrificed on the altar of ultralight design, to the detriment of the final product. An ultralight jacket that doesn't keep you warm or falls apart after limited use doesn't have much value.


Weight accounts for 20% of an item's total score. From our testing, we noticed that weight seems to be a product of three important factors: down fill-power, type or weight of the fabric, and amount and type of features. Using a higher quality down means that you get the same loft with less filling, so higher fill-power jackets tend to be lighter, and there is little trade-off here except for added expense. Similarly, using a thinner fabric can make a jacket lighter, with a compromise in durability. Lastly, to save weight, some models include fewer features, such as chest pockets, zippers, or drawcords, while others use much lighter and smaller zippers to shave half an ounce here and there.

There can be trade-offs for using fewer or lighter-weight features. For example, warmth is sometimes sacrificed when a jacket lacks drawcords to cinch up drafty areas. We found the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 and the Feathered Friends jackets to be missing a hood adjustment; while this surely saves some weight, you lose the ability to block out cold drafts. Durability may be sacrificed when super small gauge zippers are utilized.

Down is so light and compressible that it makes a perfect choice for...
Down is so light and compressible that it makes a perfect choice for those looking for the warmest jacket with the least amount of weight and volume.
Photo: Elizabeth Paashaus

The lightest jacket in this year's review is the Arc'teryx Cerium SL88, which weighed a scant 7.6 ounces. While most of the competition hovers around 13 ounces, the Cerium SL offers a significantly lighter alternative. Though featherweight, this jacket still includes critical features like zippered handwarmer pockets and hem and hood cinches. The REI Co-Op 650 Down Hoodie 2.0** is another exceptionally light jacket at 10.4 ounces, but at the cost of warmth, as its 650 fill duck down insulation isn't as warm, there isn't a whole lot of it in the jacket, and it lacks crucial cold blocking features like hood and waist cinches.

The RAB Electron is one of the heaviest downs we tested but offers an incredible amount of warmth. Gear made for winter, and cold weather activities always will be heavier than options more appropriate for spring and summer. When considering that, we'd still go ahead and call the Electron a lightweight option.

Water Resistance


Down does not insulate when wet, and wearing a down jacket in a soggy environment can be an uncomfortable or even dangerous mistake. Furthermore, if your jacket gets saturated, it will take a painfully long time to dry out and re-loft before it is remotely usable again. You need to get it into a low heat dryer asap. Fortunately, designers have several strategies for negating this vulnerability.

The shell fabric used on the shoulders and hood of the Outdoor...
The shell fabric used on the shoulders and hood of the Outdoor Research Helium make it great choice for cold and wet adventures like ice climbing and skiing.
Photo: Buck Yedor

A few companies have down that has been directly treated with a DWR chemical. With names like Drydown and Downtec, companies claim that special "hydrophobic" down has better water resistance and faster drying times. We had trouble evaluating these statements since we don't have access to the inside of these jackets, and even after soaking them in the shower, we found it difficult to isolate this variable for testing from other factors that add to each jacket's water resistance. So far, we don't think that hydrophobic down is anything miraculous, so hold onto your hardshell. Our scores mainly reflect the DWR treatment of the face fabric, but we added a point to jackets with hydrophobic down.

A great choice for wet weather, the Rab Microlight Alpine combines a water-resistant Pertex microlight shell fabric with an impressive DWR coating, Nikwax treated down, and a hood that keeps the rain out of your face. While it's not water proof, this is the down jacket we would want for wet climates. The Rab Electron is a warmer and heavier duty option that sports the same waterproofing technology.

A close third is the Outdoor Research Helium Down. Its outer shell is composed of two types of fabric, with the one used on the hood and shoulder panels being fully waterproof. This keeps water beading off of you while the rest of the jacket remains breathable. The North Face Summit Down also features treated hydrophobic down, in theory offering more protection from water than its DWR coating. This metric accounted for 15 percent of a product's final score; keep in mind that most folks aren't looking at down products for their water resistance properties (and this is not their intended purpose), and we stress warmth as a top priority when selecting a puffy.

The Quantum Pertex Material is treated with a DWR finish to protect...
The Quantum Pertex Material is treated with a DWR finish to protect the down inside from getting soaked.

Durable Water Repellent Treatments
A durable water repellent (DWR) treatment is a chemical coating that causes water to bead up and roll off the face of the treated material. Think Teflon pan. Out of the box, DWR-treated models effectively keep the down dry and lofty even in light rain. Unfortunately, these chemicals lose their effectiveness as the jacket becomes dirty. Everyday use exposes the shell fabric to dirt and oils, causing spots on the jacket to "wet out", especially on the back of the neck and shoulders. Regular cleaning can help prolong the DWR treatment. Take care of your jacket, and it will take care of you!

Fit


For this category, we selected jackets that can function as a standalone piece, mid-layer, or outer layer. They need to be roomy enough to accommodate a fleece layer underneath and form-fitting enough to fit underneath a waterproof shell layer. That limited our selection to light and midweight models.


For us, an ideal fitting jacket mimics the shape of the body so that it moves as we do but is also large enough to wear a layer or two beneath. We're also particular about the length of the sleeves and the shape of the jacket through the shoulders, upper back, and chest. Simply put, we want our jacket to be ready for any activity, no matter what we are doing — ice climbing, backpacking, hiking, skiing, scrambling — we are likely to be moving our arms about and sometimes swinging them over our head.

Some jackets have sleeves that are too short, causing them to ride up above our wrists when our arms are outstretched. Likewise, some of the jackets have a constrictive fit around the shoulders, upper back, and chest that impede our freedom of movement and affect the overall fit. Other aspects of fit that we paid close attention to were the collars, hoods, and the length of the hemline at our waist.

Jackets with a baggie fit like the REI Co-Op 650 Down 2.0 lost points because they were less efficient insulators. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 is the highest-scoring puffy in this metric. It had enough room to comfortably layer under; it is unrestrictive to movement but is in no way baggy. The Arc'teryx Cerium LT is another coat with a great fit that offers unrestricted movement. The North Face Summit Down has the most athletic fit of any of the heavier midweight downs we tested. For this metric, fit accounted for 15% of a product's final score.

All the jackets in this test have sewn-through baffles. That&#039;s a...
All the jackets in this test have sewn-through baffles. That's a cheaper way to make a jacket, but not an effective way to produce the warmest jacket possible due to the thin spot created by the stitch itself. However, it's a perfect method for producing a lightweight down jacket. Shown here is the Ghost Whisperer 2.
Photo: Elizabeth Paashaus

Compressibility


Except in extremely cold conditions, strenuous activity will cause you to overheat in your down jacket. The jacket will likely spend a lot of time in your pack when you're climbing, mountaineering, ski touring, or hiking, and come out during belays, ski transitions, or breaks. A compressible jacket may allow you to use a smaller pack.


Down jackets are significantly more compressible than their synthetic counterparts, and packability is one of their main selling points. More importantly, down is much more resilient than synthetic insulation, which degrades and loses its re-lofting ability over time.

While our testers prefer the convenience of jackets that have...
While our testers prefer the convenience of jackets that have built-in stuff sacks, separate compression sacks often offer better compressibility.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Not surprisingly, the Arc'teryx Cerium SL is one of the highest scorers when considering compressibility. It is the thinnest and lightest weight of the jackets we tested, and its high fill-power down means that it easily stuffs into its stuff sack, making a tiny little package that can be stuffed small and taken anywhere. A handful of other jackets, including the REI Co-Op 650 Down 2.0, also stuff down pretty small in their own pockets. Compressibility accounted for 10% of a product's final score.

Most of the jackets in our review use high-quality down (800+ fill-power) that remains lofty compression after compression. What sets them apart in the compressibility metric is how small and easily they pack away. Some models stuffed down into an internal pocket, while others like the Arc'teryx Cerium SL included a small stuff sack. The stowaway pocket has its advantages — there's no sack to lose, and it cuts down on extra weight and material. Jackets with a stuff sack are generally easier to pack away than those with smaller stash pockets. The Arc'teryx Cerium LT and the Feathered Friends Eos are both very compressible thanks to their high fill power down, with the Cerium SL packing down smaller than most.

Side by side you can see the differences in packed size. From left...
Side by side you can see the differences in packed size. From left to right we have, The North Face Summit L3 Hoody, Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody, The North Face Sierra Peak Hoody (previously tested), Rab Microlight Alpine Hoody, Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody, Feathered Friends Eos Hoody.

Features


Features are our favorite place to nit-pick. Which pockets have the best placements? How many pockets do we even need? Which hood fits the best? Which jacket has our favorite zipper? We generally prefer a jacket with fewer features that work well than something loaded with extraneous bells and whistles that contribute to weight and not much else.


Durability and Down Jackets
As down jackets get lighter and lighter, we see thinner fabrics come into play. While most employ a ripstop pattern to prevent holes and tears from spreading, a jacket made from 10D fabric isn't going to withstand abrasion from bushes and sharp rocks very well. We recommend carrying a roll of nylon repair tape with you on extended trips. This way, you'll be able to stop your jacket from leaking precious feathers from a tear or a burn as soon as it happens.

Jackets with built in clip in loops are handy for attaching them to...
Jackets with built in clip in loops are handy for attaching them to your harness while mutlti pitch climbing.
Photo: Buck Yedor

The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody has all the features we look for in fully tricked-out jackets. The hem drawcords lives inside the hand pockets, so they don't dangle below your waist, there is a soft fleece-lined chin guard on the inside of the collar, and sports a perfectly fitting hood that can be tightened with a single drawcord (yet is still large enough to fit over a climbing helmet). The elastic cuffs are snug enough to keep drafts at bay but still stretch enough that you can pull the sleeves up in a pinch. Keep in mind that too many features can weigh you down; our favorite lightweight models, like the Feathered Friends Eos and the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, skip hood adjustments, and superfluous pockets. Features accounted for 10% of a jacket's overall score.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Conclusion


Having a warm insulating layer is an essential part of any layering system. How warm, how light, and what features your insulating layer needs to have will largely come down to preference and individual needs. We hope our in-depth breakdown of these down jackets will help you decide which one will work best for you. As down jackets keep getting lighter and warmer, we'll continue to stay on top of new developments and present our findings here.

Buck Yedor & Adam Paashaus

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