Our female review experts have been testing down jackets for over a decade, spending countless field days with over 40 lightweight models. For our review update, we put 12 of the best women's down jackets to the test. The rugged North Cascades and the harsh Sierra Nevadas provided the main testing grounds for the review, offering up snowstorms measured in feet and temperatures falling below zero. We've also tested jackets on our trips across the globe, including Alaska, Canada, Antarctica, South America, Japan, and Russia. We wore these jackets through a ton of different activities, like climbing, skiing, snowshoeing, camping, hiking, backpacking, and our favorite: extreme coffee-shop hopping.
Down fill: 800FP European Goose Down, hydrophobic Nikwax | Weight: 18.5 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable, thick, and poofy
Great fit and mobility features
REASONS TO AVOID
Too warm for mild climates
Hood adjustment is velcro (not a toggle)
If you're seeking the warmest down jacket around, the Rab Neutrino Pro remains our top-performing model, year after year. This thick and warm puffy features wider baffles than most and an extra layer to protect your torso against stiff winds. It's longer than other similar models, with added coverage in all the right places and adjustability at every point. Cleverly designed sleeves allow more movement with less exposure, keeping you comfortable in the cold.
Unless you live in a cold place, the Neutrino Pro may be overkill for your needs. It's so warm that we don't recommend it for folks living in a mild or even a moderate climate — unless your body generally runs cold or you're often venturing to colder places. And if we're being picky about it, many of our testers wished the hood had a toggle volume adjustment rather than a velcro strap, but it still does the job. If you want a jacket that can keep you warm and cozy no matter where you roam, the Neutrino Pro is that jacket.
Down fill: Recycled 700 fill down | Weight: 13.5 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Good weather resistance
Good fit and mobility
REASONS TO AVOID
Narrow baffles compress easily
Lower quality down (700 fill)
The Rab Microlight Alpine has long held a special place on the coat rack of our test team. It's durable, super comfortable, and highly versatile. The cut is trim yet mobile, with raglan sleeves that allow an excellent range of motion for a wide range of activities. The thicker fabric with micro ripstop weave has a soft but slightly stiffer feel that is very pleasant to wear, and it is also resistant to snagging. It's a remarkable, high-performance technical jacket with thoughtful features for all-mountain use — and it still earns compliments when we wear it around town. Its impressive durability also ensures that it looks good for a long time.
The Microlight Alpine is insulated with 700 fill recycled down; for its weight, it's not the warmest in our fleet. Rab combats this by using Pertex Quantum fabric, which is specifically designed to trap still air and improve the insulating properties of the down loft inside. The result is a svelte, slim-fitting model offering a medium level of warmth.
Down fill: 650 fill RDS goose down | Weight: 14.0 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Simple design just works
Thickly filled and very poofy
Easy to layer over bulky underthings
REASONS TO AVOID
Loses feathers readily
Hip length gives less coverage
Lower quality down (650 fill)
No hood option
The simple REI 650 Down 2.0 has all the warm fuzzies of a classic down jacket without all the bells and whistles that can make them so expensive. This hip-length jacket's wide, comfortable fit is great for casual pursuits and everyday wear. It's cozy and easily layers over bulky clothing. It's also lightweight and offers reasonable protection from the chill of a mild winter.
Without a hood or an elongated torso, frigid days are the enemy of the 650 Down 2.0. Its exterior is also not ripstop, and it seems to shed down through the lining more than some of its competitors in this review. Though it lacks the features we'd want for an intense backcountry adventure, it has the right coziness and price to make it a great choice for laid-back missions around town in a moderate winter climate.
We love so much about the Feathered Friends Eos, which continues to be one of our favorite down jackets over the years. It has some of the highest-quality down filling of any coat in our lineup, and it's filled so thickly that it's also one of the warmest we've tested. It has great coverage for any casual activity and is soft and light, like wearing a cloud. Despite its puffiness, the Eos still packs down into a compact package for easy transport, adding to its versatility.
If you're looking for a midlayer to wear under a shell, the sheer thickness of the Eos is best paired under an oversized shell to stop it from compressing too much and losing warmth. It's also not built for intense outings, as it lacks some of the arm mobility, cuff adjustments, helmet compatibility, and breathability of more technical models. However, when it comes to staying warm on a daily basis, we love rocking the supremely comfortable Eos.
Down fill: 700 fill recycled hydrophobic (Nikwax) down | Weight: 21.9 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Superb weather resistance
Great coverage and adaptable hood
Packs down surprisingly well
REASONS TO AVOID
Bulky and heavy
Too warm for milder climates
The Rab Valiance is a combination jacket designed to keep you warm and protected through storms and inclement weather. With a medium-thickness down interior and a wind and water resistant 30D 2 layer exterior, the Valiance is a great choice for folks living through rainy or windy winters. This latest version has extended coverage everywhere, with a long torso and longer drop hem, long sleeves with velcro adjustments, and a huge hood that cinches down easily over even a bare head. Though this is one of the heaviest jackets in our lineup, it's really two coats in one, eliminating the need to carry a shell.
Because the Valiance offers so much protection from the elements, it can be too much for milder or even moderate dry climates. It doesn't breathe particularly well, and its bulk isn't designed to facilitate intense movements or workouts. Our favorite uses for this jacket are all fairly casual — walking the dog on a windy winter day, heading to the store through a snowstorm, or even skiing mellow runs at the resort. If you reside in the wet Pacific Northwest or the windy Midwest though, you may just fall in love with the warmth and protection the Valiance offers.
Down fill: 90/10 800 fill RDS ProDown | Weight: 7.3 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Seriously lightweight and compact
Easy to layer under and over
Adaptable hood fit
REASONS TO AVOID
Very fragile fabric
Not very warm or wind resistant
Lacks mobility features
For those of us who love to know how many ounces our pack weighs, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 is the ideal addition to our cold weather kit. This ultralight down jacket is thinner than any other model we tested but still offers warmth in mild conditions and layers easily when the weather turns cold. Its elastic-rimmed hood fits effortlessly over most beanies and under a helmet, taking the bother out of adjusting it to suit the weather. With narrow baffles and less insulation, it's also one of the most breathable models in our lineup.
As you might expect, certain features are sacrificed to reach this shockingly low weight. The Ghost Whisperer 2 has no chest pocket, just a single hem adjustment cord, and is made of delicate 10D material. It also lacks some of the arm mobility features we see in other models, leaving our wrists exposed to the cold as we reach. Still, when every ounce matters, we happily turn to the Ghost 2.
Down fill: 80/20 unspecified duck down/feathers | Weight: 10.0 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Warm and cozy
Lightweight and compressible
Removable hood and warm collar
REASONS TO AVOID
Thin material isn't very durable
Zippers easily catch material
If you've got a super limited budget to work with, the Lock and Love Ultra-Light is our favorite inexpensive option. It's a simple packable jacket with a removable adjustable hood, adding both convenience and an extra warm neck, with both a collar and a hood. It has medium-width baffles that keep us nice and warm, and its fabric is soft and cozy. It packs down easily into an included stuff sack for easy transport.
This jacket's exterior is rather fragile and thin, creating some durability concerns when faced with poking branches or bouncing embers. We also frequently caught the fabric in the zippers, which could result in a rip. But if you want a down layer and don't need anything technical or fancy, the money you save on this very basic model just may be what you're looking for.
Every season, we spend hours scouring the market for updated models and exciting new products to test. We then purchase each contender and put them through our rigorous battery of field and lab testing. We wore them skiing, climbing, snowshoeing, camping, backpacking, and hiking, as well as running errands, walking the dog, touring foreign cities, and meeting friends for coffee. We test how they fit and feel on different women's bodies, how well they move, and how breathable they are. We evaluate their warmth, their wind and water resistance, and all the features they have. We wore these jackets for months on end and subjected them to countless lab tests to tease apart even the most minute differences.
We tested each jacket across 5 different metrics, designed to dive thoroughly into the performance of each contender:
Warmth (30% of overall weighting)
Comfort (25% weighting)
Portability (20% weighting)
Weather Resistance (15% weighting)
Breathability (10% weighting)
This in-depth women's review is brought to you by Senior Review Editor Maggie Nichols. Maggie grew up in the subzero winters of the upper Midwest and has over 15 years experience as a backcountry guide. Currently living in the Sierra Nevada foothills, she pushes her gear to its limits in freezing fall camping trips and deeply snowy winters. An avid traveler, Maggie loves visiting some seriously cold places around the world, including getting married in Iceland in the winter and spending her honeymoon visiting Svalbard. She is an experienced expert on what goes into a high-quality and warm jacket that'll perform throughout the seasons. In addition, Maggie recruited many of her friends and family to help test and provide feedback on these jackets. Maggie has been working for GearLab since 2016, testing dozens of categories of adventure gear across the globe on expeditions from Oregon to Alabama and Japan to Norway.
Analysis and Test Results
Though we aren't able to subject every test to years' worth of wear and tear before bringing you our findings, we do our best to use them as much as possible and abuse them in ways that we think are realistic to how you'd treat your favorite down jacket. While each model has their overall score that shows how each performed relative to other jackets in our tests, in what follows, we break down each of our five testing metrics and get nitty-gritty with the performance of these coats.
Down jackets come with a wide range of price tags, features, and functions that we can help you match to your lifestyle and your budget. If you're hunting for a versatile jacket that can keep up with highly technical coats and costs less than many others, the Rab Microlight Alpine is the option we'd recommend. It has the right combination of adjustability, packability, and layerable warmth that make it a great choice for most winter days. If that's still a bit out of your price range and you just need a down layer for light or infrequent use, the REI 650 Down 2.0 is a warm jacket that we enjoy for casual wear. On the other hand, if you're a hardcore expeditioner who loves to backcountry ski, scale big mountains, and camp in snow caves, the extra warmth, comfort, coverage, durability, and technical features of the Rab Neutrino Pro are well worth the extra investment.
The most important aspect of any down jacket is that it keeps you warm, which is why we gave it the highest weight of all our testing metrics. We tested the warmth of each model in trying conditions like snowstorms, predawn mountain mornings, and late nights in the high desert winter. We noted their insulation type and thickness, as well as how warm it felt in similar conditions. We considered their layering ability — both underneath and over top of other garments as part of a comprehensive cold-weather layering system. And we noted adjustability factors and points of heat loss. We also compared the warmth of each jacket in different wind conditions to see what they're built to withstand.
One common misconception about down jackets is that higher fill power numbers equal a warmer jacket — so a 900+ fill power model would be warmer than a 650 fill power coat. In reality, the higher fill power number actually refers to the space between down filaments, or loft. It's actually the spaces between insulating fibers that keep you warm, rather than the fibers themselves. By using a higher fill power down, a jacket can offer more warmth compared to a jacket of the same thickness with a lower fill power. In this way, a thickly filled poofy jacket insulated with 650 fill down can end up feeling warmer than a thinly filled jacket utilizing 900 fill down.
The warmest jacket we tested is also the thickest: the Rab Neutrino Pro. This seriously squishy puffy jacket is filled to the max with 800 fill power hydrophobic goose down. But even this impressive construction doesn't tell the full story. The Neutrino Pro is packed with details and features that further contribute to its exceptional warmth. It's a long jacket with an exaggerated drop hem that many of our testers could cinch tight over their bums. It has a thick puffy hood with a wire-stiffened brim and easy-to-use volume adjustment that works well over beanies, a bare head, or under a helmet. It's one of just two models we tested with Velcro adjustable cuffs for true wrist protection in any condition. We've seen professional guides wearing this jacket at high altitudes in extreme weather on Denali — it's that warm.
The Rab Valiance is another very warm jacket, though it achieves this in part by effectively acting as both a down jacket and a hardshell all in one coat. Filled with 700 fill power recycled hydrophobic down, the Valiance is a medium-thickness model, but the exterior holds heat very well. Made of thick 30D Pertex Quantum ripstop nylon with fully taped seams, the outside of the Valiance effectively seals out wind and traps heat without the need for an external shell layer. Rab has packed the hood and first baffle in the cuffs with synthetic insulation designed to keep you warm even if it gets wet. It also has extensive coverage across our bums, heads, and hands with a long torso, an extended drop hem, a fully adjustable hood with a wire-stiffened brim, and adjustable Velcro cuffs.
The Feathered Friends Eos is another very warm jacket and is thickly insulated with the highest fill power down of any model we tested — 900+. This coat is less technical than many but has great coverage, elastic cuffs, and an adjustable hem and hood that all add warmth. It's very warm and thick and quickly became a go-to option among our testing team when heading out around town on cold days. The North Face Summit Breithorn is also a very warm model, with wide baffles, thickly filled with 800 fill ProDown. It has a long torso with a drop hem — though it is rather narrow through the hips — and stretch-knit cuffs that comfortably seal your wrists against the cold.
The Arc'teryx Cerium isn't as thickly filled as the others we've mentioned but falls on the warmer side of medium-thickness jackets we tested. With 850 fill down, the Cerium manages to provide additional loft in a narrower package. It also has synthetic insulation in key areas of moisture buildup, to help you stay warm even if certain parts of you get a little wet. The Rab Microlight Alpine is also on the warmer side of lightweight jackets. Though its down is just 700 fill power, there's plenty of it that kept us warm during testing. This model also has many of the traits we appreciate in other Rab products, like an elongated torso with an exaggerated drop hem and a wire-stiffened hood brim, both of which offer extended coverage.
Among thinner jackets, the Patagonia Down Sweater is one of the warmest we tested. It's insulated with 800 fill down, packed densely into its baffles. It has solid torso and wrist coverage and a very protective balaclava-style hood. The Cotopaxi Fuego is thicker and more full, but has a shorter torso and lacks the coverage to make it a truly warm jacket. It also has plenty of room inside — great for layering over bulky clothing, yet it was too much space for some of our testers to feel truly warm. We like this jacket best when worn over a thick fleece while chilling with friends.
Since we all have differently shaped and proportioned bodies, we enlisted as many friends as we could to help us evaluate the comfort of each jacket. We looked at their shape and noted how much or how little space was left inside. We put them over grippy garments like thick fleece and under shells to see if it was easy and if we could still move. We moved in them, taking note if they raised up and exposed our torsos or wrists to the cold. We wore them over bare skin to see how comfortable they were. We looked at their additional features like pockets and adjustability. And we wore them for a bunch of different kinds of activities to see where they perform best.
The most comfortable jackets we tested are the Rab Neutrino Pro and the Feathered Friends Eos. Both of these jackets have soft interiors to add to their puffiness and feel like we're wearing clouds. The Neutrino Pro has some excellent mobility designs baked into this jacket that no other model in our lineup can match. Twisted sleeve baffles facilitate arm movements without exposing our wrists or torsos. This means that whether we're on an ice climbing expedition or giving underdogs on the swingset, the Neutrino Pro stays put and doesn't restrict our movements. The Eos doesn't have these mobility-enhancing features but has just the right combination of length, soft fabric, and adjustability that our whole testing team loved how it feels to wear.
The Rab Valiance isn't as soft and pliable as most of these down jackets but has other features that make it a comfortable jacket for us. A very large felt chin guard makes it actually enjoyable to wear this protective coat fully zipped up against the cold, without fighting that weird zipper bulge that so many others have. It's very adjustable all over and can be easily tailored to your body and clothing of the day. And though it's not as easy to move in as a traditional down jacket (one without a weatherproof exterior), it's much easier to move in than most of the other down jacket/hardshell combos we could put together.
The North Face Summit Breithorn is another comfortable model — but only if it happens to fit your body shape. This jacket takes "slim fit" to a whole different level, applying that slimness to an area that most of us aren't slim in — the hips. The size Small we tested just fit comfortably over our main tester's 36" hips. For those of us who fit into the Breithorn, the softness of the fabric and stretch-knit cuffs were wonderful to wear. The Rab Microlight Alpine offers a more accommodating fit with a soft interior and excellent adjustability to suit an array of body types, styles, and weather conditions.
The Arc'teryx Cerium isn't quite as "cushy" as some others we tested, but is still a comfortable jacket to wear. With a more average length, this model is a great option for versatile use where you still want protection but might not want your bum fully covered. It's small underarm gussets help with range of motion for less-restricted movement. The Cerium also features one of the thickest lining materials of our test jackets (20D fabric), so the down quills don't poke through so readily. The Patagonia Down Sweater offers classic comfort for everyday use. Their latest version runs narrower through the hips than previous versions, but once we found the right size, we enjoyed the easy comfort of this simple casual jacket. Its elastic cuff is sewn comfortably inside the cuff and a tall chin turns it into a balaclava-style hood. It also has five total pockets (three of which are internal) and comes with two repair patches.
When it comes to casual comfort, we also enjoy wearing the easy Kuhl Spyfire. With a more tapered waist and flared hips, this soft jacket has a more fashion-friendly appearance than any others we tested. It also features small underarm gussets to aid in arm movements and a small zippered pocket on the sleeve that's a great spot for our ski pass, credit cards, and a lip balm. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 is decently comfortable, in part because it's a thin, ultralight model. It still brings that classic swishy puffer jacket vibe but is so thin and pliable that it's more like wearing a hoody that happens to be made of down, rather than a coat.
Starting with the basics of portability, we weighed every model to compare them together. We then stuffed them into their pockets, their stuff sacks, our backpacks, and our suitcases to see how easy they are to tote around. We considered their overall size and shape as we packed them away. We looked at the materials they're made of — including their down quality — to gauge how well they'll stand up to being packed and unpacked over years of adventures and outings. And we asked our testing team the crucial question: in what circumstances would you bring this jacket?
Taking the proverbial cake in this metric is the ultralight Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2. This seriously impressive jacket weighs just 7.3 ounces and packs down into its own pocket, giving you a package about the same size as a 16 ounce can to carry or clip to your bag. When even fractions of an ounce matter, the Ghost Whisperer is the ideal "just in case" layer for instances where you don't want to pack a bulky heavy jacket, like backpacking or on a spring vacation. None of the other jackets we tested came close to matching this low weight and insane compressibility.
The Arc'teryx Cerium and Feathered Friends Eos may not be ultralight, but they both weigh less than their levels of warmth and extended coverage might suggest. As size Smalls, they weigh 9.8 and 10.3 ounces, respectively. The Eos manages this combination of supreme thickness and low weight by using extremely high loft down — 900+ fill power. The Cerium also uses high loft down (850 fill power) but is thinner, sticking to the warmer side of average rather than shooting for intense cold usage.
The REI 650 Down 2.0 and Cotopaxi Fuego are both on the lighter side of the models we tested, and each pack down into their own pockets for easy transport. It's worth noting, however, that part of the reason both of these jackets weigh less is because they have less coverage than others we tested. Both the Fuego and the 650 Down are hip-length jackets that are several inches shorter than most others we tested. The 650 Down also lacks a hood, shedding further ounces.
The North Face Summit Breithorn isn't astoundingly lightweight, at 13.4 ounces, but packs up into a very compact slender package that makes it a bit easier to tack onto your pack. It also feels very light to wear, especially considering that it's among the warmest models we tested. The Rab Neutrino Pro at first appears shockingly heavy for a down jacket, tipping the scales at 18.5 ounces. Yet because of its intense warmth and how easy it is to stuff into its included stuff sack, we feel that we would happily carry that extra weight on missions where warmth is paramount — such as winter camping and Januarys in Minnesota.
Though down jackets aren't designed to be the final outer layer on windy or rainy days, they sometimes have to face it when we forget to pack an outer shell or need to dash through the storm to get into the restaurant. We tested each model's ability to withstand high winds by heading into the blustery mountains and in front of a high-powered fan. We checked their water resistance by wearing them in wet snow and spraying them with water — even rubbing it into the fabric — in the lab. We considered fabric technologies and treatments that help resist the elements. We also looked at certain features that can offer additional protection like adjustable cuffs, hood brims, and cinchable bottom hems.
No other model can match the wind and water resistance of the Rab Valiance. It has an exterior that's more like a shell — thick, 30D Pertex Shield material with 2-layer construction and fully taped seams. This hull alone is enough to surpass the rest of the jackets in our lineup, but the Valiance isn't done there. This impressively protective jacket has added coverage in the torso, longer cuffs on the backs of your hands, and a large hood with a wire-stiffened brim — all of which are fully adjustable and did a phenomenal job blocking out wind and water in all of our extensive lab and field testing.
As for the "regular" down jackets, the Arc'teryx Cerium exceeded our expectations. The 15D Arato ripstop nylon did an impressive job stopping the wind from whipping through even the baffle seams of this jacket. It's adjustable at key points (like the hem and hood volume) with elastic at the cuffs and hood rim to keep you protected without having to tighten too much. The DWR finish did an excellent job repelling water throughout all our testing as well. The Cerium is also one of just a few jackets in our lineup to replace down with synthetic insulation (which retains its loft, and therefore its warmth, when wet) in key areas to keep you warm even in trying conditions. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 and Rab Valiance are the other two that have synthetic insulation in strategic portions, notably the first baffle at the cuff and in the hood.
The Outdoor Research Helium Down prioritizes weather resistance in other ways. This lightweight jacket also uses thicker 15D x 30D Pertex Quantum fabric on the outside for added wind protection. Along the tops of the sleeves, shoulders, and back, as well as on the hood, the Helium Down utilizes Diamond Fuse technology (designed to be waterproof) to keep you dry. And for good measure, the whole jacket is coated with DWR treatment. The North Face Summit Breithorn offers above-average weather protection as well. Thickly filled baffles and key adjustment points help to cut the wind. The zippers are reverse-coil in their design, making them water resistant, and the whole jacket is treated with a DWR finish.
Though a down jacket is never meant to be a final layer to protect you from rain or wet snow, many of the ones we tested have fabric technologies or other treatments to their exteriors and even their insulation to slow the process of getting wet. Pertex Quantum fabric is designed to be wind and water resistant. The exteriors of the Rab Neutrino Pro, Feathered Friends Eos, Rab Microlight Alpine, and Outdoor Research Helium Down all use this material. Similar element-resistant fabrics are found in the constructions of the Rab Valiance (30D Pertex Shield 2L), Arc'teryx Cerium (15D Arato), and Kuhl Spyfire (Microtex 20D). Additionally, all the jackets we tested have a hydrophobic DWR treatment applied to them. Taking things a step further, the Rab Neutrino Pro, Rab Valiance, The North Face Summit Breithorn, and Cotopaxi Fuego all have down treated through various methods to be water resistant.
One of the core principles of getting outside safely in the winter is to regulate your body temperature — both in the cold and as you work up a sweat. Whether you're wrangling toddlers at the park or scaling a wall of ice, it's important that your sweat doesn't ultimately make you chilly as you cool down. We tested the breathability of each jacket by wearing them during reasonably sweaty endeavors like skiing, climbing, hiking, and brisk walks. We considered features that aid ventilation, like two-way zippers, armpit vents, and cuffs that can be pushed up your arms.
In general, thinner jackets that aren't as warm are more breathable. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 is one such jacket. This ultralight layer vents excess body heat more easily than other thicker or warmer options. On the other hand, some models employ breathability features to help when you really need them. The Kuhl Spyfire has uninsulated underarm gussets of stretchy material that dump heat exactly where you need it. The Arc'teryx Cerium has slightly thinner insulation in the underarm area, which may make a small difference, but not anything truly amazing that we noticed during our testing.
As baffle seams often become a point of heat loss (especially over time), many manufacturers sew thinner baffles onto the sides of their jackets to assist in moderating body temperature without including overt heat-loss features. The Rab Microlight Alpine, Patagonia Down Sweater, and Kuhl Spyfire all employ this strategy. The very thin insulation of the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2, along with its elastic lining inside the cuff, allowed us to push the sleeves of this lightweight jacket up our wrists. The Rab Neutrino Pro has a 2-way zipper, which is useful in venting your core without loosening the jacket around your shoulders.
There are tons of down jackets on the market to choose from, designed for specific expeditions or everyday life. It's our goal to help you figure out which one is the best choice for your environment and lifestyle. We hope that our thorough testing and detailed analyses have given you an understanding of what jacket will be the perfect fit for your body and your wallet.