Our 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 11 of the best women's down jackets, ranging from fast-and-light performance layers to city savvy models. The rugged North Cascades of Washington provided the main testing grounds for the review, lending ample temperature ranges and long approaches where every ounce of weight matters, with additional testing throughout the review occurring from Alaska to Canada, Antarctica, South America, and Russia. We tested them in a variety of activities, from rock and alpine climbing to ski mountaineering, camping, hiking, backpacking, and our favorite, extreme coffee-shopping. Each jacket is scored for its cumulative performance across our carefully selected metric set.We've tested hundreds of women's jackets over the last twelve years. If you're looking for a synthetic alternative to down, check out our insulated jacket review. We've also tested hardshells, ski jackets, and rain jackets, to name a few.
|Price||$279.95 at Backcountry|
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|$139.48 at Backcountry|
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|$329.00 at REI|
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|$379.00 at REI|
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|Pros||Durable, weather resistant, athletic cut, good movement, versatile||Durable, can go over other layers||Warm, durable, weather proof||Great generalist jacket, ethically harvested down, very cozy||Lightweight, well placed synthetic insulation, versatile|
|Cons||Narrower baffles compress down; slightly lower quality 750 fill down||Less loft, less warm for weight||Expensive, short torso||Fabric gets dirty easily, truly excels in no category||Less durable than some models, expensive|
|Bottom Line||A durable, versatile, and very comfortable jacket that can handle many activities, from mountain to town||It's on the heavier end of jackets of similar warmth and does not live up to its name||A weatherproof down jacket that will lend you courage in the worst of weather||A comfortable, warm down jacket with many applications||An outstanding down jacket for layering in cold conditions, well suited to activities that require adept moisture management|
|Rating Categories||Rab Microlight Alpine||Outdoor Research He...||Rab Valiance Hoody...||Patagonia Sweater H...||Arc'teryx Cerium LT...|
|Water Resistance (5%)|
|Specs||Rab Microlight Alpine||Outdoor Research He...||Rab Valiance Hoody...||Patagonia Sweater H...||Arc'teryx Cerium LT...|
|Down Fill||700 fill P.U.R.E. recycled down||800+ fill responsibly sourced goose down||800 fill RDS certified European goose down, hydrophobic||800 fill power Advanced Global Traceable goose down||850 fill down|
|Main Fabric||Pertex Quantum||Pertex Quantum with Diamond Fuse Technology 100% nylon 15D x 30D ripstop, Pertex Shield with Diamond Fuse Technology 2.5L 100% nylon 30D ripstop waterproof hood / shoulder / upper sleeve||Pertex Shield||20x30D 100% recycled polyester ripstop with a DWR finish||Arato 10D nylon|
|Measured Weight||13 oz||14 oz||22 oz||13 oz||9.5 oz|
|Stowing option||Stuff sack||Yes||Stuff sack||Packs into internal chest pocket||Yes|
Best Overall Women's Down Jacket
Feathered Friends Eos - Women's
The Feathered Friends Eos, named for the goddess of the dawn, is our favorite quiver-of-one model for its extraordinary warmth for weight and 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 you ask it to do. It excels on backpacking, hiking, skiing, or climbing trips, and the high-quality down makes it an exceedingly light and compressible jacket, especially for the warmth. Feathered Friends also uses Pertex Quantum fabric, designed to keep the wind out and still air inside the baffles, increasing the 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, so it's not as easy to layer under a hardshell jacket; if it's snowing, you'll find it easy to brush off the fabric. It sports an outdoorsy look, which is certainly in vogue in a city like Seattle; however, it may not be your first choice for urban adventures. The Eos is impressively versatile and our first pick in the fleet.
Read review: Feathered Friends Eos - Women's
Excellent for Alpine Objectives
Rab Neutrino Pro - Women's
A neutrino is a neutral subatomic particle with a mass close to zero; we're guessing Rab named this jacket after that particle — to imply its elementary relevance and impeccable light weight. The Neutrino Pro is one of the most impressive down jackets we've had the pleasure of testing, particularly for its warmth and weight. 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 this 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. This is heavier and bulkier than many jackets in this review due to its warmth, but it surely doesn't squander those extra ounces; you get worthwhile value 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.
Read review: Rab Neutrino Pro - Women's
Best Ultralight Jacket
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hoody 2 - Women's
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 the 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 updated 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 the weight, but not the warmest in our fleet. Fortunately, the fit and style are a good match for the utility of this jacket, and it's easy to wear it 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 favorite layers; both are expensive for such a little amount of fabric but will quickly become your favorite go-to layer that you can't live without.
Best Bang for the Buck
Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's
The Rab Microlight Alpine has long held a special place on the rack of our reviewers. It's durable, super comfortable, and highly versatile. The cut is athletic and allows an excellent range of motion for a wide range of activities. The fabric has a soft but slightly stiffer feel, making it very pleasant to wear; it's 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. The durability also ensures that it looks good for a long time.
The Microlight is insulated with 750 fill down; for its weight, it's not the warmest in our fleet. Rab uses 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 decent level of warmth.
Read review: Rab Microlight Alpine - Women's
Best on a Tight Budget
REI Co-op 650 Down 2.0 - Women's
The REI Co-op 650 Down 2.0 is an outrageously affordable contender. This comes with limitations, but this year REI 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 year's model than its predecessors.
The 650 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.
Read review: REI Co-op 650 Down 2.0 - Women's
Why You Should Trust Us
This in-depth women's review is brought to you by Lyra Pierotti 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. Not only that, but she's an AIARE avalanche instructor, teaching avalanche courses in the field throughout the winter. She's an expert when it comes to what goes into a high-quality and warm jacket that'll perform throughout the seasons. She's a globetrotting adventurer that covers numerous gear categories while traveling to Canada, Alaska, and across the lower 48 throughout the year.
Our process begins with extensive research into the current models available and materials technology. We scrutinized over 80 jackets on the market and selected the best to be thoroughly field-tested. These jackets accompany our professional testers while skiing, climbing, backpacking, 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.
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.
One internet search will reveal a costly category of garments. As guides and outdoor professionals, we take a lot of people who are relatively new to outdoor activities into the mountains for the first time. For these people, it's easy to balk at the cost of the jacket and opt for a cheaper alternative; after all, when will they wear it again if they don't get into this new mountain sport? On the flip side, as guides and instructors, we often won't even leave the house for the grocery store without one.
A few models provide adequate function for minimal damage to the bank account, but these are rare. We recommend taking time to examine your interests alongside your desires and goals and consider this piece of insulation to be an investment. The good news is that companies are increasingly using sustainable fabrics and responsibly sourced down, which also makes us feel more connected to our investment.
To decipher whether or not a jacket will be a good value, we compare the score from our rigorous field testing to the retail price. If the jacket scores well and is lower in price, that's the mark of great value. The Feathered Friends Eos, for example, scores well and is moderately priced. We've also included budget-friendly models, like the Rab Microlight and REI 650 Down, which offer exceptional performance for their cost.
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. An 800 fill power down, for example, 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; it'll just be bulkier. But the most 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.
The Rab Neutrino Pro is the highest scorer because it has high loft and quality down, thus providing very high warmth for the weight. The other burly Rab jacket in this review, the Valiance, is warm for the amount of loft as well as the weatherproof seal it provides.
Many of the jackets tested are designed to be lightweight, technical insulating layers. Most of them have down in the 750-850 fill power range and provide excellent warmth and loft for the weight. These jackets are optimized for the mountains and related activities, which is a challenging balancing act of lightweight, durability, and warmth.
Depending on your top priority, you will likely find a good match among our recommendations. We have included some models which are more fashion-forward. You may not find these useful for outdoor activities — like hiking --but their best attributes are still very well suited to casual, urban use and travel. Similar to backpacking, where you want to minimize the weight on your back, it's nice to minimize the bulk and weight of the items you tote with you on your daily commute. You may not be counting ounces quite as carefully, but taking a nice looking baffled jacket instead of a thick, heavy wool jacket, for example, will reduce strain on a strenuous and busy urban commute.
No synthetic fiber has matched down to its incredible warmth-to-weight ratio.
You will probably always remember your first down sleeping bag; did it revolutionize the way you felt about carrying gear on your back? For many, the investment in lightweight down products correlates to increased happiness in the backcountry.
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.
Since down is one of the best materials for lightweight, warm jackets (and sleeping bags, quilts, booties, etc.), we think this is an important metric for judging quality. The best jackets were those with the highest quality fill power down (800 and above), which also overlaps with our next rating metric.
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). This may be because you're carrying all your gear on your back, cramming it into a small bike commute bag, or stuffing it into dry bags. Whatever the adventure, it's ideal to have everything you need in a compact and lightweight kit.
The first aspect we look for when searching for a highly compressible down jacket is the down fill power. A higher number means more loft, and that means more warmth to weight and a higher level of compressibility; this is the best stuff. Generally, anything above 750 fill down is considered high quality. Next, the rest of the jacket's materials will factor into the compressibility of the jacket. A sturdier fabric will be bulkier, as will a jacket with other materials, like fleece or softshell, integrated into it. We also considered the size of the stuff sack or stowable pocket that the jacket stuffs into; this is not a direct reflection of how compressible the jacket is, but since it does affect the size of the jacket when stuffed, we thought this was worth at least some consideration. Excessively large stuff sacks or oblong, large pockets made for annoying carrying when stuffed, while too-small stuff sacks or pockets could be challenging and slow to stuff. More trade-offs.
The Cerium LT 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 one 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 LT. It is the high quality down, which allows these jackets to compress down. A small compressed size is ideal for climbing, backpacking, or even bike commuting where pack space is a commodity.
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 (counter-intuitive, but plastic zippers are much more durable than metal ones). Hem drawcord cinches are vital to keeping cold drafts out. A little fleece or creative baffling in the right place goes a long way in promoting freedom of movement.
A jacket didn't have to have a lot 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. It earned high marks for careful selection of key features. In most situations, we love hoods because they add warmth. We also appreciate chest pockets for ease of access and because it helps keep essential items, like snacks or electronics, warm and accessible. The streamlined design also makes the jacket look sleek, easily sliding with you into happy hour or your favorite apres ski venue.
Arc'teryx stole the show again in this category with details such as a separate stuff sack girth hitched into the chest pocket. This feature meant we could cram it into our luggage or carry it on the back of our harness without fear of snagging the jacket's material while chimneying up a long rock route. And when wearing the jacket, if we unzipped that chest pocket to retrieve our phone or snacks, the stuff sack wouldn't fall out. The Rab Microlight near the top as well.
Aesthetic features are increasingly gaining popularity as they gain traction as a stylish and functional garment for more broad use. 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 over two hundred dollars. Fabrics are, in general, very durable these days, but there are a few things to pay attention to. Lower denier ratings typically translate to lower weight but less durability, but the fabric is not the only durability concern.
In our tests, the lightest fabrics ended up being the most fragile. If it is important you have a lightweight jacket, it might be worth sacrificing a little durability. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is an impressively durable jacket for the weight; the fabric resisted snagging and abrasion while climbing. Alternatively, the Feathered Friends Eos and the Rab Microlight Alpine performed very well in this metric. The most durable were not always the overall top scoring jackets; this is largely because extremely durable fabrics tend to be heavier, as we discovered in the Outdoor Research Helium down jacket.
Down is one of the best insulators on the planet, and no human-made fiber has managed to replace it for its impressive warmth to weight ratio. However, down has one critical Achilles heel; it cannot get wet. When it does, the feathers become matted together, and the jacket, sleeping bag, vest, or whatever the item is, loses its warmth. This is because down traps heat in the air pockets between the down feathers.
Most outdoor enthusiasts accept this risk and choose to take good care to keep their down items dry on their adventures. However, if you spend a great deal of time out in wet climates, you might consider synthetic insulation, at least for some of your insulation pieces; the synthetic fibers have more structure and retain warmth even when wet. Another way to manage the risk of down getting wet is to encase it in waterproof fabric, or at least use materials coated with a durable water repellent finish (DWR).
Arc'teryx uses a clever Down Composite Mapping technology where they integrate Coreloft synthetic insulation in high-risk areas such as cuffs, shoulders, armpits, and hoods. In previous reviews, these jackets stayed wetter longer because the synthetic insulation would absorb water, which would then leak into the down and the shell fabric. In this round of testing, however, even dripping ice climbs couldn't manage to get the Cerium's cuffs wet (which is one of the areas most prone to moisture).
Most of the jackets are treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating on the exterior fabric to prevent water from soaking through the material and dampening the down. However, it is important to note that these jackets are not designed to be remotely waterproof, so if you are out in the rain, be sure you can fit your rain or hardshell jacket over your down jacket to ensure those feathers stay dry and lofted.
We appreciated this when we got caught in storms, and the chill started to creep in. The Arc'teryx Cerium LT did a spectacular job of protecting us from the elements. This was a favorite model to wear on winter vacations to our favorite snowy wonderlands, especially great for those traveling from warmer climates and who therefore are not as acclimated to the cold. The stylish Lululemon Pack It Down impressed us as well with the water repellent Glyde fabric, which reliably shed a steady stream of water in our faucet test.
In case you're looking for one of the rare, truly waterproof down jackets, we thought we should test one of those as well. The Rab Valiance is an impressively stormproof down jacket. It is also bulkier and heavier; however, 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 jacket dream come true.
One of the most intriguing aspects was the continued opportunity to test jackets with hydrophobic down; in a practical sense, we still cannot say we notice a big difference in the field. Water repellent fabrics still seem to make the most difference in a down jacket's water resistance. We took almost all of these jackets hiking, ice climbing, and ski touring to test the water resistance. Dripping ice climbs offered an excellent real-world opportunity to observe each jacket's water-repelling abilities. In the end, most jackets performed to our expectations.
Down jackets are valued by outdoor enthusiasts for the impressive warmth-to-weight ratio, with an acute Achilles' heel; if the down gets wet, it loses its loft, and therefore all of its insulating properties. Some will thus choose a synthetic insulated jacket instead, but the ounce-saving value of down persists. Today, the iconic baffled look has become more hip and stylish, and jackets have also become more aesthetically pleasing. The benefit of lightweight warmth extends to the daily bike commuter, walker, and a wide variety of user types. We hope this review has helped you to identify the best down jacket for your needs. A good down jacket won't weigh you down in your busy days — something we can all appreciate.
— Lyra Pierotti
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