Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Down Jackets for Women

Wednesday February 21, 2024
We looked at the nuances of every jacket to get into the nitty-gritty of what makes each one of them great (or not so great).
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Here at GearLab, we take our testing seriously. While we may start by trying on all these down jackets in the comfort of our own homes, we spend months testing every single contender in the outdoors. We have taken down jackets to Russia and Japan, to Antarctica and Iceland, up frigid mountain peaks, and through gusty town squares. Over the past decade, we have put jackets through their paces–sometimes to their breaking points. We test and evaluate every model's performance in five different metrics. We want to make sure that these jackets not only will have your back on every adventure, but also will have no problems standing up to everyday use.

We took these jackets along for everything we could in the cold, from backcountry skiing, to mountaineering, to errands around town.
Credit: Kaylee Walden


We exposed these jackets to frigid belays on ice climbs in Montana and Colorado and inclement weather in the Pacific Northwest (think wet and heavy snow). We toted way (way) too many down jackets on every adventure so we could compare them in similar field conditions. Noting the temperatures and conditions, we evaluated how warm each jacket was relative to the others, ranking them on a spectrum. Then we compiled the information from each jacket's technical specifications, notably the quality of the down and the thickness and protection of the external material, to complete the picture of how warm each jacket feels. We made note of points of heat loss and features that make us feel warmer. We tested hood adjustability, cuff security, and layering ability, both over and under other clothing.

We considered all aspects of these jackets, down to the smallest features, to see how cozy and comfortable they kept us out in the elements.
Credit: Kaylee Walden


Testing comfort involved asking as many of our friends and family as we could gather to try each jacket on and gauge how the fit feels on a wide range of bodies. We considered the interior fabric's feel on bare arms, how well it moves over the top of a thick fleece, and the many touch point features like soft cuff elastic or felt chin guards. We looked at their shapes, lengths, room within, and compared that versatility to the wide array of human body shapes that might want to wear them. We moved in them, looking for features that can keep our wrists and torsos covered as we push kids on the swingset or reach up for the next hold on our route. We considered their full suite of features, including pockets and adjustability.

We snuggled into each one of these jackets and checked how comfortable they were for a range of activities.
Credit: Kaylee Walden


To gauge portability, we first weighed every jacket and considered that absolute weight against their warmth. We then packed them in as many ways as we could. We tested packing pockets, stuff sacks, and roll-top bags, cramming them in backpacks, suitcases, and day bags. We also considered the effects of those actions on each jacket's materials and how that may affect their longevity. And we asked that crucial question of every model: in what situation would I actually bring this with me?

We packed up these jackets and took them on the go, and assessed how easy it was to do so.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Weather Resistance

To test weather resistance, we focused on wind and water repellency. We took jackets out to windy mountaintops and compared them in side-by-side lab testing with a high-powered fan. We considered features that help lock down a jacket, like cinch points and adjustability. We wore them out in the rain and wet snow when we could and then compared those observations to our laboratory water testing. We considered their fabric properties and treatments and evaluated their effectiveness. From the dry cold of the Rockies, to the bone-chilling humidity of New England, we want to make sure these jackets keep you warm and dry.

We put these jackets to the test in the lab and in the field to test their weather repellency in just about any cold and wet conditions you could imagine to encounter.
Credit: Kaylee Walden


To test breathability, we did hard work while wearing these jackets. We wore them snowshoeing, skiing, hiking, walking the dog, climbing, and exploring new cities. We noted features they may have to facilitate breathability, like key venting areas and two-way zippers. To double up on this test, we also conducted a reverse airflow test with a high-powered fan to check where each jacket allowed air to escape.

We got moving in these jackets to assess their mobility and breathability.
Credit: Kaylee Walden