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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 examine 12 of the best women's down jackets, ranging from fast and light performance layers to city-savvy models. The rugged North Cascades and the harsh Sierra Nevadas provided the main testing grounds for the review, lending ample temperature ranges and long approaches where every ounce of weight matters. We also tested across the globe, including Alaska and Canada, Antarctica, South America, and Russia. We wore these jackets through a variety of activities, from rock and alpine climbing to ski mountaineering, camping, hiking, backpacking, and our favorite: extreme coffee-shop hopping.
Down fill: 900+ fill power goose down | Weight: 9.5 oz
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Separate stuff sack is easy to lose
The Feathered Friends Eos, named for the goddess of the dawn, is our favorite quiver-of-one model for its extraordinary warmth to weight ratio and all-around versatility. When we don this jacket, it's as if the sun's rays come out, beaming warmth to our core. With remarkably high quality 900+ fill down, the Eos is always up to whatever task we ask it to do. It excels on backpacking, hiking, skiing, and climbing trips. Its high-quality down makes it an exceedingly light and compressible jacket, especially for its warmth. Feathered Friends also uses Pertex Quantum fabric, designed to keep the wind out and calm air inside the baffles, increasing this jacket's warmth.
Feathered Friends streamlined the features to be so light and nimble, and it's a relatively simple but adequately featured model for most mountain adventures. It's a little puffier than most, so it's not as easy to layer under a hardshell jacket. In light snow, we found it easier to just brush off the flakes. The Eos sports an outdoorsy look, which is certainly in vogue in a city like Seattle; however, it may not be your first choice for all urban adventures. The Eos is impressively versatile and our first pick in the fleet.
Down fill: 800 fill RDS Certified European Goose Down, hydrophobic | Weight: 18.5 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Suitable for expeditions
REASONS TO AVOID
Not a quiver-of-one jacket
A neutrino is a neutral subatomic particle with a mass close to zero; we're guessing Rab named this jacket after that particle to infer its elementary eminence and its relatively low weight (for its warmth). The Neutrino Pro is one of the most impressive down jackets we've had the pleasure of testing, particularly for its warmth and compressibility. We first encountered this jacket high on Denali when we saw another guide wearing one at high camp. This jacket is so warm that it competes with box-baffled down parkas, at least up to roughly 4,000 meters in elevation.
While the Neutrino Pro may be one of the most impressive down jackets we've ever tested, it is important to note that it may not be the best or most useful for you. It's heavier and puffier than many jackets in this review due, but it surely doesn't squander those extra ounces; you get worthwhile value and warmth from every gram. If you're looking for something for milder climates or moderate elevations, you might consider other jackets in this review, but if you're looking for the warmest one we've tested, this is it.
Down fill: Recycled 700 fill down | Weight: 13.5 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable and adjustable
REASONS TO AVOID
Separate stuff sack
The Rab Microlight Alpine has long held a special place on the coat rack of our reviewers. 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, making it 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 that offers a medium level of warmth.
The REI Co-op 650 Down 2.0 is an outrageously affordable contender. This comes with limitations, but REI has made some adjustments that give this jacket a boost. The larger baffles allow the down to loft better, increasing the long-term durability of the jacket, and making it feel cozier. We are much more impressed with this latest updated model than its predecessors.
The 650 Down 2.0 is made of — you guessed it — 650-fill down. This is on the lower quality end of products; the lower number means the down is less compressible and not as warm for the weight. It also does not have a hood, which further limits the warmth and versatility of the jacket. That said, if you're not sure you will use a down jacket much, but you need one for a summertime backpacking trip, this might be a good choice.
Down fill: 800 fill power and Responsible Down Standard certified | Weight: 7.5 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Warm for its size and weight
Packs into its pocket
REASONS TO AVOID
No way to cinch the hood
No chest pocket
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 has been a favorite for years. It's one of the lightest, most compressible models we've ever tested, and it remains impressively warm for its weight. It feels as soft as our favorite cotton hoody but is technical enough for a fast-and-light climbing mission. We love it for long hikes or rock climbs in the fall when we need extra insulation. The fit is athletic and allows for an excellent range of motion. The Ghost is also a decent midlayer insulating jacket for those frigid days and can be easily worn underneath a hardshell jacket. This latest version is now made with sustainability in mind and uses responsibly sourced down and recycled materials.
It's important to note that the Ghost is not a thick insulating jacket. It's warm for its weight, but far from the warmest in our fleet. Fortunately, its fit and style are a good match for the utility of this jacket, and it's easy to wear under other layers like a big parka or hardshell jacket. The Ghost does not have a ton of features — just a hood and two hand pockets --though it can be stuffed into the hand pocket and clipped to your harness. We consider the Ghost to be like a wind shirt (one of our other favorite layers); both seem expensive for such a small amount of fabric but quickly become our favorite go-to layer that we can't live without.
Our process begins with extensive research into the current models available and materials technology. We scrutinized over 80 jackets on the market and purchased the best for thorough field-testing. These jackets accompany our professional testers while hitting the slopes, climbing, on backpacking trips, while hiking, and on various guiding adventures. Then we take them back to the "lab" to complete our tests with metrics such as weight and compressibility to tell the whole story of each jacket.
We test every jacket's performance across six different metrics:
Warmth (30% of total score weighting)
Weight (20% weighting)
Compressibility (20% weighting)
Features (15% weighting)
Durability (10% weighting)
Water Resistance (5% weighting)
This in-depth women's review is brought to you by Lyra Pierotti and Maggie Nichols. Lyra is an AMGA Rock Guide. She spends most of her spare time climbing mountains in the Pacific Northwest, where a cozy down jacket is needed to provide additional warmth between sessions on the rock. She's also a AIARE avalanche instructor, teaching avalanche courses in the field throughout the winter. 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, Maggie pushes her gear to its limits in freezing fall camping trips and deeply snowy winters. Both Lyra and Maggie are experienced experts when it comes to what goes into a high-quality and warm jacket that'll perform throughout the seasons. They both test numerous categories of adventure gear across the globe on expeditions from Alaska to Alabama and Russia to Norway.
Analysis and Test Results
In this review, we examine an extensive range of lightweight down jackets. We assess each on warmth, weight, compressibility, features, durability, and water resistance. This allows us to shake out the best models for any conditions, be it your commute, ice climbing, car camping trips, or cozy days around town. To learn how each model performs in our six individual testing metrics, read on.
One internet search will reveal a costly category of garments. As guides, adventurers, and outdoor professionals, we take a lot of people who are relatively new to outdoor activities into the mountains and deep cold for the first time. For many people, it's easy to balk at the cost of the jacket and opt for a cheaper alternative. But if you regularly find yourself in cold climates, it can be worth the cost. As professionals, we won't even leave the house in winter for the grocery store without a good down jacket.
If you need serious warmth in very cold conditions, it's well worth the hefty investment in something like the Rab Neutrino Pro or Feathered Friends Eos. On the other hand, if you're less of an expedition and more of a weekend hiker and cocoa drinker, the Rab Microlight offers exceptional value for most people. It combines the warmth of a mid-range down jacket with the functionality that works just as well climbing a rock face as it does meandering the holiday market downtown. If you really only need an infrequent down jacket, the REI 650 Down 2.0 is ridiculously affordable while still providing solid warmth in chilly weather.
The warmth of down comes from the air space held by the lofted down feathers. The higher the loft, the warmer the jacket is for its weight. This loft is measured in "fill power," with a very high-quality contender being 800 fill power or higher. This means that an 800-fill power down fills 800 cubic inches for every ounce of down. This also means that a 650-fill jacket can be just as warm as an 850-fill jacket, but it will be bulkier since more down will be required to achieve that same warmth. A common misconception is that a higher number means warmer, when in reality, a 650-fill jacket can be warmer than a super thin 850-fill ultralight jacket; it depends on the amount of fill in the jacket.
We tested the actual warmth of each of these jackets by wearing them incessantly during a ton of different types of activities. We wore them climbing on cold fall days in the mountains, hiking and snowshoeing alpine trails, on mountain expeditions, sitting around campsites at nighttime, and running errands around town on cold days.
The Rab Neutrino Pro earns the highest score for warmth because it has high loft and quality down, thus providing very high warmth for the weight. It's thickly puffy, including lots of down in its baffles and is the only model in this lineup that we've seen worn by other professional Denali guides when all others have upgraded to thicker, box baffled parkas. Another Rab jacket in this review, the Rab Valiance, uses the same down as the Neutrino and is also impressively warm for the amount of loft it provides. The Feathered Friends Eos is another ultra-puffy contender, sporting an impressive 900 fill goose down within its mega-thick baffles.
But the type and quality of down filling used in a jacket isn't the only thing that affects its warmth. The fabric used to hold that down in place makes a big difference to the coat's overall warmth. Many of the models we tested use Pertex Quantum fabric. This nylon is scientifically engineered to be less permeable to wind. By stopping wind from whipping through your down jacket, you're maintaining the calm air trapped inside the down feather fibers, and it's the air that keeps you warm, not the fibers of the feathers themselves. All three Rab models we tested — the Neutrino Pro, Valiance, and Microlight Alpine — as well as the Feathered Friends Eos and Outdoor Research Helium all utilize this fabric.
The Arc'teryx Cerium LT has an impressively high-quality fill of 850 down, but is a sleeker shape, limiting this jacket's overall loft and warmth — though it still performed above average in our testing. The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody and Cotopaxi Fuego are both 800-fill down jackets that are comfortable, poofy, and warm. Even the sleek Rab Microlight provides excellent warmth, with its combination of wind-blocking fabric, sleek adjustable fit, and 700 fill power down.
Though it doesn't matter when your down jacket hangs in the closet at home, when it comes to packing for a backcountry expedition, every tenth of an ounce counts. Carrying extra weight puts additional strain on your body and requires more calories (which you also have to carry, further compounding the issue). And in cold environments, you're already using a ton of energy just to stay warm. To date, no synthetic fiber can quite match down for its incredible warmth-to-weight ratio.
If you are looking to shave ounces, the featherweight Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 is the obvious choice, as it's among the lightest in our fleet. Weighing just 8 ounces, this midweight down jacket is the ultimate middle layer for nearly any adventure. Not far behind are the Feathered Friends Eos and Arc'teryx Cerium, each weighing 9.5 ounces. For this weight, the Eos provides better warmth, while the Cerium offers better water resistance.
The REI 650 Down 2.0 also weighs just 9.5 ounces, but isn't nearly as warm as jackets of the same weight. Its best use is as a three-season backpacking layer or a middle layer under a shell. The Cotopaxi Fuego weighs just 11.5 ounces and is impressively lofty and warm for its low weight — though it lacks some of the technical features and the longer torso that make it a great active layer.
One of the main reasons to buy a down jacket, other than the stellar warmth-to-weight ratio, is the compressibility. For many outdoor activities, space in your bag of choice is a considerable commodity (along with weight). It's important to remember that leaving down compressed for extended periods of time (or repeated stuffing over years of use) will irreparably damage the fibers meant to keep you toasty, resulting in a gradual loss of warmth over years of use. Higher quality down is better able to resist this process, but it's not immune to the wear and tear of constant cramming. So while the ability to compress down into a tiny package is one of its major draws, doing so excessively is not recommended. Nevertheless, we packed each competitor into their smallest packages and evaluated the ease of which we could do so and the size and convenience of the resulting bundle.
The Arc'teryx Cerium was one of the most compressible jackets featured. However, it is designed for more mild temperatures, and its lighter weight and great packability are due to less overall insulation. The Feathered Friends, with 900+ fill down, is another of the most compressible, followed closely by the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. But the Eos and Ghost differ in purpose; the Eos has much more loft and is warmer, whereas the Ghost is thin and light, like the Cerium. It is in part due to the high quality down that these jackets are able to compress so small. A small compressed size is ideal for climbing, backpacking, or even bike commuting where pack space is a commodity.
While the Rab Neutrino Pro doesn't condense into a particularly minuscule package, it does become impressively small relative to how large and puffy it is when worn. The Patagonia Sweater Hoody and REI 650 Down 2.0 also compress fairly small, adding to their convenience on adventures where space is at a premium. Five of the jackets we tested pack into their own pockets: the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI 650 Down, OR Helium, Cotopaxi Fuego. Five others come with a stuff sack in which to compress your jacket: the Neutrino, Eos, Rab Valiance and Microlight Alpine, and the Cerium.
This category is a catch-all for the little things we liked or didn't like about the jackets, from pockets and hoods to drawcords and well-placed soft fleece patches. In general, we like models with durable plastic zippers that don't bend or kink over time (it may be counterintuitive, but plastic zippers are much more durable than metal ones). Hem drawcord cinches are vital to keeping cold drafts out. And a little fleece or creative baffling in the right place goes a long way in promoting freedom of movement.
The Rab Microlight Alpine is one of our favorites of the bunch. It, along with many other Rab jackets we've tested over the years (including the Neutrino Pro and Valiance), has the best hood around. A stiffened brim keeps light precipitation out of your eyes, while dual adjustability on either side lets you tighten it snugly around your face. It's large enough to wear over a helmet and has a bungee on the back that adjusts its size to your helmet-less head to avoid leaving your noggin swimming within. The Microlight also has a long drop hem that fully covers the bums of our shorter-torsoed testers and a handy exterior zippered pocket that's still accessible when wearing a backpack or harness, without having to unzip your jacket and let all your heat out. The Outdoor Research Helium is also impressively feature-filled, with a fully adjustable hood and no less than five pockets — the most of any model we tested.
On the other hand, a jacket doesn't have to have a ton of features to score highly in this category. The Ghost Whisperer has few features, but Mountain Hardwear kept the ones that count for a high-functioning layer. In particular, we like its raglans sleeves that allow for a full range of motion, and its suite of lightweight details that just work. Aesthetic features are increasingly building in popularity as they gain traction, resulting in stylish and functional garments for broad, everyday use. In this vein, the Lululemon Pack It Down features a stitching pattern in the front baffling design that draws the arc of the company's logo; very clever and very classy.
The durability of a jacket's material is important, especially when spending several hundred dollars. There are a few key factors to pay attention to when evaluating your options. Lower denier fabrics typically translate to lower durability, as they are thinner than higher denier fabrics. Ripstop material is helpful, though it won't stop a rip from forming or from growing larger if left unpatched. As we've previously discussed, higher fill power down means higher quality down going into the jacket. Especially if you plan to compress your coat frequently (whether cramming it into a pack or stuff sack or wearing a backpack over top of it), lower quality down just won't last as long. And finally, check out the hardware and details of your intended jacket. For outdoor use — especially in cold environments — plastic zippers are better than metal and anything glued (like zipper pull ends) may come off in subzero temps.
The Rab Microlight Alpine has the thickest fabric of any model we tested, with 30D Pertex Quantum ripstop nylon. Though this adds to its overall weight, it also makes it far more snag-resistant than most. The Rab Valiance is made of a similarly robust Pertex Shield and is one of the most durable overall jackets in our lineup. The Patagonia Down Hoody and Kuhl Spyfire Hoody both offer exceptional durability as well. The Patagonia Hoody is made of 20D, reinforced by 30D ripstop fabric, while the Kuhl Spyfire features softshell material across the shoulders.
The Feathered Friends Eos features durable Pertex Quantum fabric and the highest quality down of any jacket we tested — 900+ fill. The Arc'teryx Cerium also features impressive 850 fill down, though its Arato nylon exterior is just 10D. The Outdoor Research Helium adds durability to key areas by combining Pertex Quantum 15D and 30D ripstop materials. For an ultralight down jacket, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer still manages to be relatively durable — though its 10D ripstop nylon isn't quite a match for seriously abrasive rocks and pokey sticks.
Though down is one of the best insulators on the planet, it needs to stay dry. When it gets wet, the feathers become matted together, leaving no space for the air pockets that normally reside in the down. Losing these pockets of air results in lost warmth. If you're heading out on a rainy or snowy day, no matter what down jacket you choose, it is always a good idea to cover it with a water resistant shell. However, many down coats available today try to help you out a bit with slightly water resistant features to keep you covered if you find yourself facing unexpected precipitation. We tested their water repellency in the field and in the lab and took careful notes of where each model lets water soak through.
The Rab Valiance is an impressively stormproof down jacket. It is also bulkier and heavier, but if you commonly recreate in severe weather where the chance of wetting out your down is a real concern and the consequence even worse, this might be your dream jacket. The Arc'teryx Cerium uses a clever Down Composite Mapping technology where they integrate Coreloft synthetic insulation in high-risk areas such as cuffs, shoulders, armpits, and hoods. Though previous versions had issues getting and staying wet, this most recent version proved itself one of the most water resistant down jackets around — even dripping ice climbs couldn't manage to get the Cerium's cuffs wet (one of the areas most prone to moisture).
The Rab Microlight and Patagonia Down Sweater also proved to have above average water repelling properties. They both shed light precipitation for short spans, giving you time to get back to camp and grab that shell you forgot. Several of the jackets we tested feature water resistant treatments to buy you additional time if you're caught in a sudden storm. The Rab Neutrino and Valiance, and Cotopaxi Fuego are all packed with hydrophobic down, which will help those feathers maintain loft even as they do soak through. The Patagonia Down Sweater, Cotopaxi Fuego, and Lululemon Pack It Down are all treated with DWR coating (which you can re-add in your washing machine with a product like Nikiwax). Additionally, the many wind resistant fabrics — like Pertex — of jackets we tested also adds a small amount of water resistance.
Down jackets are valued by outdoor enthusiasts for their impressive warmth-to-weight ratio. Though synthetic jackets are more resistant to water, the right down jacket offers lightweight warmth that synthetic materials can't quite match. We hope that our intensive testing and the results we outlined in this review have helped you to identify the best down jacket for your needs and your budget.
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