Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Down Jacket for Women of 2021

Sighting orcas in the brisk Pacific Northwest fall wearing the OR Illu...
Photo: Lyra Pierotti
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor
Friday May 28, 2021
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Over the last 10 years, our down jacket experts have tested over 40 lightweight models. For our 2021 update, we've included 15 of the best down jackets for women, ranging from expedition-ready to ultra-stylish. The impressive terrain and weather of the Pacific Northwet afforded our team exceptional conditions, and we put each contender to work in over 4,000 meters of elevation. We've tested in various mountain ranges, from Alaska to Canada, Antarctica, South America, and Russia. We've worn them while rock and alpine climbing, ski mountaineering, camping, hiking, backpacking, and around town. We've scored them on a series of metrics and summarized our findings to help you find the best down jacket for your next adventure.

Top 15 Product Ratings

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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $237.41 at Amazon
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$339.00 at Feathered FriendsCheck Price at REI
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$379.00 at Backcountry
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$575 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Warm, lightweight, comfortable, length adds warmthVery warm for the weight, highly compressible, durable, versatile, comfortableIncredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, packs into its own pocket, recycledLightweight, well placed synthetic insulation, versatileVery warm, lightweight, versatile, great features
Cons Expensive, not likely your single-quiver down jacketLess stylish, harder to layer underneath a hardshell jacketNo way to cinch the hood, lighter materials are more fragileLess durable than some models, expensiveMore expensive, less stylish, less durable
Bottom Line An impressively warm option that offers top of the line performance, particularly for alpine adventuresRose quickly to the top for its incredible warmth-to-weight and remarkable comfortIt's as light as a ghost, or so we assume, and boasts incredible warmth for the weightAn outstanding down jacket for layering in cold conditions, well suited to activities that require adept moisture managementAn excellent lightweight down jacket that is twice as warm as the competition: an excellent severe weather jacket for ice climbs and ski tours
Rating Categories Rab Neutrino Pro -... Feathered Friends E... Ghost Whisperer Dow... Cerium LT Hoody Cerium SV Hoody
Warmth (30%)
10.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
9.0
Weight (20%)
5.0
7.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
Compressibility (20%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
Features (15%)
6.0
5.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
2.0
Water Resistance (5%)
6.0
5.0
6.0
8.0
8.0
Specs Rab Neutrino Pro -... Feathered Friends E... Ghost Whisperer Dow... Cerium LT Hoody Cerium SV Hoody
Down Fill 800 fill RDS Certified European Goose Down, hydrophobic 900+ fill goose down 800 fill goose down 850 fill down 850 fill power goose down, with Coreloft synthetic insulation in moisture-prone areas
Main Fabric Pertex Quantum Pro Pertex Quantum 7D x 10D recycled ripstop nylon Arato 10D nylon Arato nylon, DWR treatment
Measured Weight 18.5 oz 9.5 oz 8 oz 9.5 oz 13 oz
Pockets 3 2 2 3 3
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Stowing option Stuff sack Stuff sack Packs into hand pocket Yes Internal zippered chest pocket has stuff sack girth hitched inside so it won’t fall out


Best Overall Women's Down Jacket


Feathered Friends Eos - Women's


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8
  • Weight 7
  • Compressibility 9
  • Features 5
  • Durability 8
  • Water Resistance 5
Down fill: 900+ fill power goose down | Weight: 9.5 oz
Warm
Lightweight
Comfortable
Versatile
Less stylish
Separate stuff sack 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 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.

To be so light and nimble, Feathered Friends streamlined the features, 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


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 10
  • Weight 5
  • Compressibility 8
  • Features 6
  • Durability 7
  • Water Resistance 6
Down fill: 800 fill RDS Certified European Goose Down, hydrophobic | Weight: 18.5 oz
Very warm
Suitable for expeditions
Comfortable
Durable
Less versatile
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 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


72
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 6
  • Weight 9
  • Compressibility 9
  • Features 6
  • Durability 6
  • Water Resistance 6
Down fill: 800 fill power and Responsible Down Standard certified | Weight: 7.5 oz
Incredibly light
Compact
Warm for its size and weight
Packs into its pocket
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 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 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. With this updated Version 2, it's 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.

Read review: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded 2 - Women's

Best Bang for the Buck


Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's


67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7
  • Weight 5
  • Compressibility 6
  • Features 8
  • Durability 8
  • Water Resistance 7
Down fill: 750 fill ethically sourced European goose down | Weight: 13 oz
Durable
Versatile
Comfortable
Stylish
Heavier
Less insulation

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


61
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 5
  • Weight 8
  • Compressibility 7
  • Features 5
  • Durability 6
  • Water Resistance 4
Down fill: 650 fill power down | Weight: 9.5 oz
Lightweight
Affordable
Quality of down
Could be warmer, but easy to layer

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, increases the long term durability of the jacket, and makes 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

Best for Lightweight Weather Resistant Insulation


Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody - Women's


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 9
  • Weight 5
  • Compressibility 8
  • Features 8
  • Durability 2
  • Water Resistance 8
Down fill: 850 fill power down, with Coreloft synthetic insulation | Weight: 13 oz
Very warm for the weight
Very compact for warmth
Some synthetic insulation in moisture-prone spots
Handy separate but attached stuff sack
Durable
Expensive
Minimal features

The Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody is one of the marvels of modern technology. It compresses down to the size of a pineapple and puffs up into what looks like an expedition parka. The large baffles help the down re-loft efficiently and effectively, and the high quality down performs its lofting magic time and time again. It has synthetic insulation where you're most likely to accumulate moisture (armpits, top of hood and shoulders), and a clever separate but attached stuff sack in the chest pocket. You can stow it and climb without the risk of scuffing the material of the jacket's pocket (when climbing with it hanging off your harness). Smart.

This is, you guessed it, also an exorbitantly expensive option. But like all things Arc'teryx, it is tested and has proven itself in harsh field environments, time and time again. This is not the most durable daily wearing model also due to the lightweight materials. However, if you value lightweight and warmth as an avid ice climber or backcountry skier, this jacket just might be your dream come true. Either plan to use it sparingly for those big climbs or descents, or plan to eventually wear it out.

Read review: Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
75
$375
Editors' Choice Award
If you're looking for an exceptionally warm and lightweight option, this is top-notch
74
$339
Editors' Choice Award
We loved it for its warmth-to-weight, comfort, and excellent versatility
72
$325
Top Pick Award
An excellent insulating layer or standalone jacket for mild temperatures and for those that value light weight
71
$380
An incredibly well-made and versatile down jacket, light enough for layering or useful alone in milder, less rugged conditions
71
$575
Top Pick Award
We loved this jacket for winter sports where light weight and warmth really matter, such as ice climbing and ski touring
69
$385
A warm, weatherproof down jacket that's ready for the worst conditions in the mountains
67
$280
Best Buy Award
We continue to love this hoody for its durability and versatility in our quiver of mountain apparel
66
$270
A well made, lightweight down jacket that is warm for the weight
66
$279
Stands the test of time and continues to be a very useful down jacket appropriate for most occasions
62
$279
It's not as light as we would have liked, particularly for the overall bulk and weight
61
$100
Best Buy Award
Decent for moderately cool temperatures, it's best viewed as a good down jacket for those unsure if they really need one
50
$270
Too heavy to be a versatile down jacket, but makes up for it with lots of features and a cozy feel
49
$279
An excellent blend of style and function, but it's more of an urban jacket that can stand up to moderate mountain use
46
$198
Stylish for casual use, a go-to for travel, and light and compressible enough for your commute
41
$158
Well suited to around town activities and less functional for outdoor pursuits like hiking

Hard at work testing down jackets.
Hard at work testing down jackets.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

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 testing process begins like any other — with research. We spent time perusing over 80+ different down jackets on the market before making our selection. Then, we order them at retail price and get to testing. Each is brought with us while traveling through the backcountry. They've been put through all weather — in all climates — while skiing, climbing, backpacking, and guiding. In addition to our hardcore field tests, we take the time to assess product materials and performance and get a little technical with our objective at-home testing. We weigh each on our scales, compress them, and see which can stand up to water. Our testing is thorough, unbiased, honest and one of the best methods out there.

Related: How We Tested Down Jacket for Women

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Analysis and Test Results


In this review, we examine the full range of lightweight down jackets; then, we let you know which ones are good for your urban bike commute, which ones are optimized for long ice climbs, and which ones are best for casual rest days around town or camping trips with friends and family. To assess each, we rate each on key metrics including warmth, weight, compressibility, features, durability, and water resistance.

Related: Buying Advice for Down Jacket for Women

Down jackets are useful in a variety of environments, from the...
Down jackets are useful in a variety of environments, from the mountains and deserts to our offices and coffee shops.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

Value


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.

The Neutrino Pro is an impressively light and packable down jacket...
The Neutrino Pro is an impressively light and packable down jacket for the warmth it provides, making it a great choice for summer weekends up high and even moderate expedition use.
Photo: Saleina Epperson

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.


Warmth


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 Feathered Friends Eos is very warm for the weight.
The Feathered Friends Eos is very warm for the weight.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

The Rab Neutrino Pro is the highest scorer because it has high loft and high quality down, and thus provides 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. The master of technical applications — due to the remarkable warmth-to-weight ratio — is the Arc'teryx Cerium SV, our pick for ice climbing adventures.

Down is the ultimate in insulation: it has the highest...
Down is the ultimate in insulation: it has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio and is highly compressible. A lightweight down jacket is a must in every outdoors woman's quiver. Here we are getting all lifestyle-y in the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody on the sea ice of Antarctica.
Photo: Thomas Greene

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.

The hood fits comfortably over a helmet when rock climbing and the...
The hood fits comfortably over a helmet when rock climbing and the overall design of the Microlight Alpine kept us toasty.
Photo: Jere Burrell

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 as useful for outdoor activities — like hiking — but their best attributes are still very well suited to casual, urban use, and for 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.

The Rab Neutrino Pro kept us warm on all kinds of adventures...
The Rab Neutrino Pro kept us warm on all kinds of adventures, including climbing to the summit of Mt. Rainier, the highest volcano in the lower 48.
Photo: Robin Pendery

Weight


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.

Fast and light on Shuksan&#039;s North Face, the LT makes for an...
Fast and light on Shuksan's North Face, the LT makes for an outstanding lightweight model.
Photo: Andrew Powell

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.

Light weight is important on technical rock climbs.
Light weight is important on technical rock climbs.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

The Arc'teryx Cerium SV is even more impressive for its warmth to weight ratio, and is one of the warmest in our fleet. If you're looking for a good around-town model, the weight may not be a critical factor in your decision. However, 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.

On technical alpine climbs, light weight is a top priority... after...
On technical alpine climbs, light weight is a top priority... after adequate warmth, of course.
Photo: Marty Demers

Compressibility


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.

Compressibility is an important attribute of down jackets.
Compressibility is an important attribute of down jackets.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

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 Arc'teryx Cerium SV, as well as the Cerium LT, were some of the most compressible jackets featured. The two end up very different sizes when stuffed, however, because the SV is designed for colder temperatures and therefore has bigger baffles and more down. The LT is designed for more mild temperatures and is, therefore, lighter weight with less down insulation overall.

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer packs down so small you barely...
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer packs down so small you barely notice it clipped to the back of your harness.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

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.

Features


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.

The Ran Neutrino Pro was just above average for Features, so it...
The Ran Neutrino Pro was just above average for Features, so it didn't steal the show. But it was well tailored to its uses--in this photo, you can see how the double zipper (which can be unzipped from the bottom hem, too) is useful when you're wearing a harness. It makes it much easier to wiggle out of that harness if you have to use the ladies, um... rock?
Photo: Robin Pendery

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 Cerium SV was a favorite, with 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.

Durability


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.

The Outdoor Research Helium Down is fully featured and very durable...
The Outdoor Research Helium Down is fully featured and very durable, but at a cost to the overall warmth-to-weight ratio.
Photo: Robin Pendery

Water Resistance


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).

You can see the synthetic insulation in the armpit on the Arc&#039;teryx...
You can see the synthetic insulation in the armpit on the Arc'teryx Cerium SV.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

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. It is important to note, however, 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.

The Patagonia Down Sweater hoody has a durable water repellent...
The Patagonia Down Sweater hoody has a durable water repellent finish (DWR).
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

We appreciated this when we got caught in storms, and the chill started to creep in. The Arc'teryx Cerium SV and LT both did a spectacular job of protecting us from the elements. These were our favorite models 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. We particularly liked the Cerium SV for ice climbing, winter backpacking, and long backcountry ski tours. 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.

The Rab Valiance is straight up waterproof with the Pertex Shield...
The Rab Valiance is straight up waterproof with the Pertex Shield outer material.
Photo: Saghar Behinaein

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.

Beautiful sunsets in cold places: why we own down jackets.
Beautiful sunsets in cold places: why we own down jackets.
Photo: Lyra Pierotti

Conclusion


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