Best Budget Down Jackets for Women of 2020
Upon first glance, the Lock and Love Ultra-Light Packable looks simple. It seems to be just another lightweight down jacket geared toward outdoor use. Some subtle but lovely features take this jacket up a notch. First, the hood is removable and adjustable, with a cinching cord to seal the heat in around your face. As a hoodless jacket, it has a cozy and warm collar. We like the zip-off hood design because it doubles down on the coziness of the jacket — when you have the hood on, there is an additional collar of down around your neck, which seals the heat in.
The Lock and Love is made of particularly soft and supple material, which is lovely to touch, but a little more fragile; this helps reduce the weight of the jacket but requires a bit more care to keep from damaging it. This is particularly true when unzipping the hood, as the thin fabric is apt to get caught. This is an excellent jacket for any outdoor use in cool weather and looks good enough to be your city puffer as well.
The Amazon Essentials Full-Zip Packable Hoody is a down jacket and a down skirt all in one! This simple, packable, extra-long, lightweight contender keeps you warm from head-to-mid-thigh. You're on your own for your toes. This is a simple down jacket that packs in a whole lot of utility. It is durable and packable enough for outdoor adventures and versatile enough for around-town use.
This is not the most stylish down jacket, so it may be limited to more casual and outdoor use. The full length may not agree with all consumers, either — perhaps it will feel too warm or cumbersome to move around in. The bi-directional zippers, however, allow you to flare the jacket open from the bottom, improving walking and sitting while wearing it. This is an excellent jacket for the occasional car-camping adventure and casual use around town when the fall temperatures start to drop.
The North Face Women's Gotham Jacket II is just as much at home in your favorite chilly city as it is in the great outdoors. This is a rugged, durable, weatherproof, and warm down jacket well suited to various environments. The fur lining on the hood can be removed to reduce bulk or minimize the fashion flair. And the slim fit is flattering and functional; it reduces the air space between your body and the jacket to improve its heat-keeping properties.
The Gotham is not, however, lightweight or compressible. It is burly. This is not likely a go-to for backpackers, climbers, or backcountry enthusiasts, but would hold up well to car camping and a long weekend at your favorite rustic cabin. This jacket is a fashion-first model with a reliable feature set and design to keep you happy in the great outdoors.
The Wantdo Packable Down is a no-nonsense, simple, and reliable lightweight down jacket. It is light, compressible, and durable enough to earn a spot in our pack for our next backcountry trip, with a simple and streamlined feature set that doesn't add unnecessary bulk, weight, or complication. The fabric is just a little more durable, and the baffles just a little bit bigger than the closest competitors, making it overall better suited to outdoor use. These bigger baffles not only make the jacket a little warmer (bigger baffles allow more loft and therefore more warmth) but also improves the longevity of the down inside them since they don't get constricted and compacted as much as they do in smaller baffles.
The simplicity of this jacket may not resonate with all users — there isn't much to it! It has a couple of pockets, a hood, and that's about it for features. The manufacturing, however, is high quality, with attention to the finer details. This is a well made lightweight down jacket that will keep pace on your next backcountry adventure without breaking the bank.
The Rokka and Rolla Ultra-Light Hoody is a lightweight specialist that looks good, too. This is a great jacket to take with you on your next camping or hiking trip, as well as a jaunt into town on a cool fall afternoon. The compressibility makes it easy to take with you anywhere you go.
This jacket is so lightweight because it is made of very light (and therefore less durable) materials, and it does not have a lot of extra features: just a couple of hand pockets and internal bucket pockets. The streamlined feature set is still handy for most, and the simplicity makes it easy to integrate into your next urban or outdoor adventure.
The Camel Crown Lightweight Hooded is a surprising find in a sea of down jackets of varying quality and value; this is a simple, no-nonsense, down jacket with all the features we love and expect in our favorites The hood is nice; the fit is comfortable and flattering, the materials are soft and durable enough for a down jacket (though we don't recommend rock climbing in this jacket, there's a reasonable limit to durability). We liked the drawcord at the hem, which allows you to better dial in your fit and seal out the cold, and we love the internal bucket pockets.
The Camel Crown down jacket looks and feels like a much more expensive down jacket. Camel is more known for their leather boots and started long ago making boots for the military. The company is gaining traction in the outdoor industry with a complete line of outdoor wear (with a fashion-forward approach). It still may not be a company that outdoor enthusiasts automatically think of when looking for technical clothing for hiking, camping, climbing, etc. but this down jacket can certainly hold up to many of these uses. This is a lightweight model, so it's not likely warm enough for the coldest adventures or the deepest and darkest wintry nights at extreme latitudes. However, the slim fit and lower profile down (read, not as puffy as the warmest of down jackets) make it possible to layer this one under an even warmer jacket!
The Eddie Bauer CirrusLite is a simple, stylish, durable down jacket. This is a no-frills model, which is not the most exciting but offers a streamlined look and a functional feature set for many uses. The clean look makes it possible to dress this jacket up for a business casual kind of day around town, and the lightweight and durable materials ensure it'll hold up on your next hiking or camping adventure in mild-to-cool weather.
The CirrusLite has no hood, which limits its utility in colder weather or for prolonged use outdoors. This is a great jacket for a day out hiking, or around town, ducking in and out of stores and coffee shops.
The Marmot Jena is nice and well made, though it didn't blow us away, especially for the price. It is well constructed, aesthetic, and has a nice fit, but it loses its competitive edge. We tend to prefer down jackets with a hood, and there is a hooded version of this jacket, but we did find the collar to seal nicely around our necks, making it feel a bit more warm and secure against the cold, which we appreciated.
This is a simple and straightforward down jacket. No frills, no extras, everything you want and need (get the hooded version if you want that). The materials are reasonably high quality, but for the average price of this jacket, we wanted it to be higher quality down (it is only 700 fill down, so we would have been more impressed if it were stuffed with 800 fill down). This is not a bad jacket, just not a standout one, either. But if you find it on super sale, you'll be pleased!
The Sarin Mathew Ultra-Light Puffer is a simple, sleek, and warm-for-the-weight down jacket. This is a relatively versatile all-rounder that doesn't steal the show in any assessment category but performs reliably across them all. If you like the look of a down jacket, this one is simple and streamlined, and the darker colors make it possible to dress it up a bit for business casual use.
The Sarin is a bit shorter in the torso, so this may not provide as much warmth and coverage for all users. And it is also a bit heavier than others of similar warmth and compressibility, steering us to other recommendations for backpacking and hiking use. But if you're looking for a sleek, reliable down jacket for general use, this is a very decent model.
The ZSHOW Packable has a unique and aesthetically appealing design with vertical baffles under the arms. This is a simple, hoodless down jacket, good for use around town in cool weather, and lightweight and durable enough to take on some cool weather hikes as well.
The hoodless design limits the warmth and versatility of this jacket --we tend to prefer hooded down jackets for hiking and backpacking, and general outdoor activities. The ZSHOW also has a very loose-fitting cuff, which does not effectively seal the heat in or the wind out of the arms of this jacket, so this may not be the best down jacket for sustained outdoor use in cool weather. This is a stylish jacket, that is reasonable for your commute to a casual office setting or a day out and about in town as the temperatures start to drop.
Why You Should Trust Us
At OutdoorGearLab, we put all of our products through rigorous field testing, head-to-head, to deliver a practical guide for the conscientious consumer. Our lead reviewer, Lyra Pierotti, has led our down jacket review for many years, and brings a depth of experience to this budget review that will help ensure you get a good value--and not just a cheap jacket. Lyra is an AMGA Rock Guide and an AIARE Avalanche Course Leader, with field experience guiding clients up mountains in Alaska, Russia, South America, Antarctica, and home in the wild Cascades of Washington State. As a professional whose career hinges on her ability to be comfortable in a variety of environments, down insulation is a particular passion of hers. However, guiding mountains is not a particularly lucrative career, so she also has a deep appreciation for the companies that produce excellent products for a fraction of the prices you'll pay for some of the top outdoor brands.
For this review, we sharpened our gaze on some of the highest performing, most affordable down jackets we could find. We researched dozens of down jackets and selected 10 of the most promising models to field test, head-to-head. We then took them out into the wilds to field test them. For this review, we tested some of the more outdoorsy jackets on car camping and hiking adventures. For the more fashion-forward models, we strolled around town and assessed their urban versatility. The best models were durable, comfortable, and fashionable enough to handle urban and outdoor terrain, and everything in-between, with near-equal ease.
Analysis and Test Results
We picked 10 of the top-rated down jackets and assessed them head-to-head in a variety of environments. To evaluate each jacket and determine what makes a top-ranked down jacket, we ranked them in each of sox categories, including warmth, features, weight, durability, compressibility, and water resistance.
The main reason we buy down jackets is for their warmth. The natural down feather from geese and ducks is one of the most brilliant insulation technologies ever invented; that is to say, the market has yet to improve upon it. To put down into a jacket and optimize the warmth, down jackets typically have baffles that allow the down to loft, and it is thus the trapped air space between the feathers which insulates. The Achilles heel of down is this same lofting property; if it gets wet, it loses the loft, and therefore its insulating abilities.
The main things that improve warmth in this category are larger baffles, more down, higher-quality down, weatherproof materials, better coverage, and seals at cuffs, hem, and hood. In this review, the warmest jackets were The North Face Gotham Jacket II and the Amazon Essentials Full Zip Packable Hoody. The two took very different approaches to warmth. The Gotham is heavy, made of thick fabric, and has a fur-lined hood. The Amazon Essentials is a very lightweight jacket which is extra-long and falls to mid-thigh; this is a favorite for many women, as it covers an area known to get quite cold! The Lock and Love jacket is not far behind these two, not for the loft but rather for the excellent hood and collar design. This isn't the loftiest jacket, but it provides excellent coverage and seals in the heat.
Some down jackets are simple and streamlined to keep them lightweight and packable for various outdoor adventures. Others are more fully-featured, including more pockets, removable hoods, or to make them more adjustable. Much of this is a matter of personal preference, which is something we can't fully decide in a review. However, we take a broad view of each jacket, determine what kind of activities it is most well suited to, and then determine how well the feature set matches the intended uses of the jacket.
The Lock and Love jacket had our favorite feature suite. It has a removable hood, which adds weight because it adds another zipper. Usually, this would count against a lightweight down jacket, but it added so much warmth and a significant cozy factor because of the collar needed to zip the hood onto. Brilliant bonus features! The jacket was also more adjustable than many others in this review, all without becoming too heavy or bulky. To top it off, the fabric is so silky smooth and soft to the touch. The North Face Gotham II also has a collared hood design, but the hood is sewn on. The fur around the hood, however, is removable, which seems wise if for no other reason than to allow consumers to choose their style preference. The Gotham has one of our favorite features — an internal chest pocket. These are great for keeping electronics warm in cold environments. The Amazon Essentials Full Zip gets a nod for its features because of the extra length (and warmth) it provides without adding much bulk or weight at all. The features are simple and streamlined, keeping this extra-long jacket packable, an excellent design choice.
One of the most significant benefits of down insulation is how lightweight it is. For birds, every ounce certainly counts when you're flying all over the world. For us humans, we like to say, "ounces make pounds and pounds make pain!" This is especially true for hikers, backpackers, climbers, and backcountry enthusiasts of all kinds who carry their wares on their backs. For city dwellers and commuters, this is likely the same story; it's so much nicer to commute with a small bag and still have all the insulation you need for all the seasons of the year.
The Rokka and Rolla Ultra Light Hoody is among the lightest in this review. It is also fun and stylish. It is not the warmest, but if you don't need extreme heat, this is an excellent lightweight option. This is not the most optimized for outdoor use, however, as it is a little less warm and a little less durable. For a lightweight, outdoor-savvy jacket, check out the Wantdo Packable Down Hoody. This one has all the features you want for the outdoors, without any extras, and a little more loft for added warmth, but that doesn't bring up the weight much and is well worth the additional ounce or so. If hoods are not your thing, this can dramatically reduce the weight of a down jacket. The Eddie Bauer CirrusLite does not have a hood, boasts high-quality materials, and has a more durable outer fabric, all for a very reasonably light weight.
As we already know, down is most loved for its warmth, as well as its lightweight; or, better said, its warmth-to-weight ratio. To keep with the theme of lightweight, many down jacket manufacturers try to use the lightest weight materials possible. Down feathers make this challenging because they are sharp at one end and like to poke out and escape, reducing the loft of your favorite down jacket slowly over time (or quickly, in some catastrophic cases). It is for this reason that durability is of crucial importance — we want to keep those insulating feathers inside the jacket! And for outdoor athletes of all types, it is great to have such excellent warmth in a lightweight jacket; so down jackets have long been the unofficial uniform of outdoorsy people. This means we need them to hold up to the occasional battle with a branch, rub of a tree trunk, or scratch of a boulder.
The Gotham jacket steals the show for durability, with the burliest outer fabric in this review. This comes at a cost to bulk and weight, of course, but if you're looking for a rugged jacket for car camping or any activity outside that doesn't require you to carry your jacket on your back for miles, this could be a great option. The CirrusLite is also made from more durable outer materials, and its simple design ensures there is little to fail, adding to its reliability. The Wantdo and Amazon Full Zip achieve above-average scores for durability as well, balancing lightweight with durability to make two of our favorite packable down jackets for backcountry use.
The compressibility of down is another favorite property of the feathers. You can often stuff a down jacket into its pocket, making it easier to pack or carry around and to protect it from snagging and damage when packed. Then you take it out, let it re-loft, and it regains its insulating properties. It's like magic. It also makes it a great jacket for anyone who carries their things around all day, whether that be someone who commutes on public transit every day, rides a bike to work, or adventures in the backcountry on days off.
The Rokka and Rolla jacket is the most compressible, in part because it is also the lightest and smallest (and not the warmest). The CirrusLite also scores well in compressibility, in part because it has no hood, but also because it is a thoughtfully simple jacket. The Sarin Mathews Ultra Light Puffer gets a boost in this category for having a snug fit in the stuff sack that comes with it; this is a tad more difficult to stuff, but once it is stowed in that stuff sack, it is quite compact. And the Amazon Essentials Full Zip jacket gets a nod for compressibility as well; for such a long jacket, it adds hardly any bulk and stuffs into an impressively small stuff sack as well.
A down jacket is not a waterproof jacket. It is rare to find down jackets made of waterproof materials, in part because the down also needs to breathe and dry out to loft. That said if you get caught in the rain, and this jacket gets wet, it loses the loft that provides the insulation, and that can be a bummer or a danger, depending on where you are. To compromise, many down jacket manufacturers use a durable water repellent (DWR) finish on the outer materials to help shed the occasional raindrop or thick mist; for anything more than that, you must put a rain jacket or hard shell jacket over the top of a down jacket.
All of the jackets in this review have a DWR finish, which effectively repels water, as advertised. Thicker, more durable fabrics tend to hold up a bit better to rain because it requires more pressure to push a water molecule through a thicker material. The top scores, therefore, go to the more durable products in this review. The North Face Gotham is an obvious winner here, with the Eddie Bauer CirrusLite close behind.
It is easy to get overwhelmed when setting out to buy a down jacket; they can cost hundreds of dollars! In this review, we purchased 10 of the top-rated down jackets to see what they have to offer. In the end, we were quite impressed by the quality we found in an array of more affordable down jackets, some of which still feature Responsibly Sourced Down, which we always appreciate. Each jacket fits a specific niche, so we hope this review has helped you find the one which best suits your needs!
— Lyra Pierotti