Packable down jackets are the ultimate jacket for keeping you warm—lightweight and ultra-compressible they make one of the most efficient jackets for travel.
Down jackets are actually quilted (so the feathers don’t move around) jackets which contain down feathers.
You’ll find they are measured by down fill power, which is essentially the “fluffiness” of the down. The more air space the down creates the warmer the down.
Down feathers work as excellent insulators and keep you warm and comfortable by creating air pockets. As the down feathers provide the insulation, thin fabric is used which makes the jackets very lightweight and easy to pack.
Most of the jackets can be pressed, folded and packed to a very small size. Some even pack into their own pockets. I’ve found down jackets are the perfect insulator when layering under wind and rainproof shells. Read up on some of the best lightweight rain jackets here.
A lightweight down jacket is perfect for traveling. Super comfort and warmth, with a low weight and being highly packable, makes them ideal. Moreover, most of these come in water-resistant Nylon making them durable (and somewhat water resistant) as well. You’ll find some down jackets are specialized for certain sports like hiking, climbing, cycling, camping etc.
|Name||Image||Weight||Fill Power||Price||Our Rating|
|Patagonia Down Sweater||13 oz||800||$$$||5|
|Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket||7.8 oz||800||$$$||5|
|Arcteryx Cerium LT Jacket||10.8 oz||850||$$$||5|
|Marmot Men's Quasar Jacket||8.4 oz||850||$$||4.5|
|RAB Microlight Alpine Down Jacket||15 oz||750||$$$||5|
|Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody||15.4 oz||650||$$||4.5|
|REI Co-op Magma 850||10.8 oz||850||$$$||4.5|
|Arc’teryx Thorium SV Hoody||21.7 oz||750||$$$$||4.5|
|Arc'teryx Cerium SL Jacket||6.5 oz||850||$$$||5|
|Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody||14 oz||800||$$$$||4.2|
|The North Face Morph Down Jacket||12.3 oz||800||$$$||4.5|
|Eddie Bauer MicroTherm StormDown Jacket||11.52 oz||800||$$||4.5|
|Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded||18 oz||750||$$$||4|
|Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket||22.4 oz||800||$$$||5|
The Basics: What To Look For In A Packable Down Jacket
The best packable down jackets will have high fill power, the higher the fill power, the lower the weight and greater the warmth. Down fills are rated on a scale from 550 to 800+, with the higher the number the lighter and warmer the down fill.
In general, 650 to 750 are high quality and 800+ are the highest and best. Moreover, water-resistant high-quality fabric and zipped pockets are a bonus. Avoid buying a jacket with low-quality stitching as it great reduces the durability.
There are many different types of jackets available nowadays, each made for a certain use. The jacket which you should buy depends upon the temperature range in which it will be used.
To help you buy a down jacket that fits your needs, I’ve thrown together and reviewed below which I think are the best of the lot. This will give you a better idea about the features to look for when buying a down jacket.
Lightweight & Packable Down Jacket Reviews
This Patagonia model is a great lightweight goose down jacket, even though it’s called a sweater. The fabric is 100 recycled ripstop polyester, which is tear-resistant for a more durable down jacket for winter. It is also water repellent and windproof. This jacket for travel is ideal for temperatures ranging between 20F to 40F.
The DWR treatment is not that great since it wears off after getting wet about 5 to 6 times. The stitching is good and durable, though, so in dry weather, it is a great ultra-light down jacket for normal, casual use.
It can also be used for layering under a windproof shell. And because it is a packable down sweater coat, it is easy to pack in its inner pocket and carry with you until you need that extra warm layer.
Weight: 13 oz
Down-fill: 800 Traceable Goose Down
Fabric: Recycled polyester ripstop
Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets, internal zippered chest pocket
Features: Elastic cuffs, durable water repellent finish (DWR), stuffs into pocket, carabiner clip-in loop, adjustable hem
This is one of the best packable down jackets available, claiming to be “the lightest full-featured jacket on the planet”. It is extremely lightweight and can be packed to a very small size. Because it is an 800 fill power down jacket, it provides great warmth at almost all temperatures.
It also may be the best down jacket for hiking, backpacking, camping, and even alpine climbing. The hood keeps your head and neck warm, and there is an interior toggle at the hem for easy adjustment to keep out the cold. These men’s and women’s packable down jackets are considerably thin which makes them great for layering as well. Overall, a great jacket.
The bottom line: the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket is one of the best packable down jackets on the market.
Weight: 7.8 oz
Down-fill: 800 Q-Shield down
Fabric: Nylon ripstop
Pockets: 2 zippered side pockets
Features: Elastic cuffs, interior toggle hem, elastic cuffs, carabiner loop, stuffs into pocket
This Arcteryx down jacket has a bit more fill power, which makes it even lighter than some of the other down jackets of the same warmth. When layered under a windproof shell, it keeps you warm at very low temperatures. However, this slim down jacket is not very comfortable to wear above 40F.
It is very lightweight and provides great warmth. The collar height does its job well, but when extra protection is needed there is also an insulated StormHood on this travel down jacket.
One flaw that needs to be mentioned is that fabric is not that durable and is prone to ripping. Hence, it is recommended to use it for layering. It lies in the high down fill category and is ideal for lower temperatures.
Weight: 10.8 oz
Down-fill: 850 down fill
Pockets: 2 zippered side pockets, internal zippered chest pocket
Features: Elastic cuffs, durable water repellent finish (DWR), stuff sack, adjustable hood, chin guard, elastic cuffs, adjustable hem
This is a very warm lightweight jacket, with a fill power of 850 down fill that does its job perfectly. It works great even in extreme outdoors. This down hiking jacket is designed for very low temperatures, keeping you warm and comfortable even when the day turns extra chilly.
The design of Marmot’s best men’s down jacket is great. It is not that thin, though, so may not be ideal for layering. It can be stuffed into its own outside chest pocket, making it a very packable winter jacket.
But there is a downside to this lightweight down coat. The fabric seems vulnerable to scratches and rips, so you’ll need to be extra careful when hiking or climbing in close quarters. Apart from that, it’s a good jacket for multi-sport use. There is also a Quasar packable down jacket for women.
Weight: 8.4 oz
Down-fill: 850+ power goose down
Fabric: Pertex Quantum nylon mini ripstop
Pockets: 2 zippered side pockets, outer zippered chest pocket
Features: Elastic cuffs, durable water repellent finish (DWR), stuffs into pocket, elastic drawcord hem, elastic cuffs
This packable goose down jacket is in the lightweight, low down fill category. Because of the low fill, it is not made for extreme uses. But this is an extremely lightweight down jacket for women and men.
The 750 down fill provides good enough warmth for normal use. RAB’s Microlight Alpine down lightweight jacket is sleek and thin, which makes it the best down-filled jacket for layering. Some handy features include the adjustable hem, chin guard, elastic cuffs, and the included stuff sack for easy storage on the road.
An additional thing this jacket has is a down filled hood. This jacket may not provide much warmth at a lower temperature but it has a decent lead in packing and light weight. These down winter jackets are recommended for climbing. They work best when layered with a lightweight rain jacket.
Weight: 15 oz
Down-fill: 750 Eupropean goose down
Fabric: Pertex Microlight Fabric
Pockets: 2 zippered side pockets, one zippered chest pocket
Features: Elastic cuffs, chin guard, down filled hood, stuff sack, hem drawcord
Though this isn’t the most lightweight down parka available, it still doesn’t weigh very much, making it easy to carry with you when stuffed into its own pocket. There is also only 650 down fill-power, so it also isn’t going to be the warmest lightweight down jacket, but it will be great for use when the temperature is still reasonable.
To keep you warm during your cross-country treks or when hanging out at camp, there is an internal zipper stormflap for zipper protection, a drawcord hem, elastic cuffs, and an adjustable hood, all of which work together to keep your body heat in and the cold air out.
The outer shell of this packable down jacket with hood is made of durable polyester ripstop, with a nylon taffeta lining. It is both water and wind-resistant, giving you decent protection against all the elements.
All-in-all the Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody is among the best packable down jacket for everyday use—it performs well whether you are traveling or heading out for a day hike.
Weight: 15.4 oz
Down-fill: 650 goose down fill
Shell Fabric: Polyester ripstop
Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets, zippered chest pocket
Features: Adjustable hood, elastic cuffs, drawcord hem, stuffs into right hand pocket, key clip, water and wind-resistant
The best down jacket is also the most versatile and warmest down jacket around. The Co-op Magma boasts 850-fill goose down for maximum warmth for your outdoor adventures. The shell material is durable, ensuring this ultralight jacket will last through the most rugged trip.
There are quilted underarm gussets to give you a wide range of motion while reducing bulk and keeping the jacket from lifting up at the waist during your normal arm movements. The shoulder seams have also been rolled forward to thin out this area and keep chafing to a minimum when you’re wearing a pack.
The hand pockets have even been positioned properly for complete compatibility with a pack’s hip belt, making this the best jacket for backpacking, no matter how long you plan to be on the trail.
Weight: 10.8 oz
Down-fill: 850 goose down fill
Shell Fabric: Pertex nylon ripstop
Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets
Features: Elastic cuffs, drawcord hem, quilted underarm gussets, durable water repellent finish (DWR)
The SV in Thorium SV stands for severe weather, which is why this durable, resilient heavy down jacket is one of the best hooded jackets for the worst conditions. It is meant to be used on its own rather than as a mid-layer for your other outdoor gear.
The high down fill-power combines with the durable DWR treated nylon and Arc’teryx’s Down Composite Mapping technology to give you possibly the warmest Arc’teryx jacket around. The elastic cuffs and adjustable hem add to the warmth by locking out those icy winds.
The insulated StormHood is helmet-compatible while still remaining low profile for maximum visibility. The articulated underarm and sleeve areas give you great maneuverability, which is essential for easy movements and layering. Since these are also packable down jackets for men and women, they are also great jackets for travel.
Weight: 21.7 oz
Down-fill: 750 European grey goose down fill
Shell Fabric: Arato nylon
Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets, inner zippered chest pocket, inner dump pocket
Features: Durable water repellent finish (DWR), adjustable insulated hood, elastic cuffs, drawcord hem, stuff sack
If you want the best ultralight down jacket that still gives you the warmth you need to battle those low temperatures, the Cerium SL, or Super Light, is the best goose down jacket to buy. The combination of 850 fill down and their Coreloft insulation keeps you toasty warm, but still gives you the breathability you need to avoid sweating under those layers.
There is an insulated low profile collar for neck protection and an elasticized rear hem to keep those cold drafts from sneaking under your coat. The DWR finish keeps light rain and snow from soaking you during your travels.
Other handy features of this light goose down jacket are the zippered hand-warmer pockets, the chin guard, and the corded zipper-pulls for easy grabbing even when wearing gloves. The best lightweight down jackets are great for all-around use, and the Cerium SL definitely fits the bill.
Weight: 6.5 oz
Down-fill: 850 grey goose down fill
Shell Fabric: Arato nylon
Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets
Features: Durable water repellent finish (DWR), chin guard, elastic cuffs, elastic rear hem, stuff sack
The best down jacket for men and women fits in perfectly with whatever activity you like to do. The Hybridge Lite is a hooded packable down jacket that is lightweight, so it won’t weigh you down during your active adventures. It is only rated for -5 to 5 degrees, though, so isn’t great for extreme temperatures unless you layer it for extra warmth.
The shell is Canada Goose’s Feather Light 10D, which is abrasion-resistant and has a DWR finish to repel moisture. There are Tensile-Tech patches on the side panels and under the arms for increased mobility and breathability.
The down hood has reflective tape on the back to keep you visible in low light, and there are thumb loops on the stretch cuffs to keep your sleeves from riding up, increasing your warmth and comfort. For added convenience, these down packable jackets also double as a travel pillow.
Weight: 14 oz
Down-fill: 800 Hutterite white goose down fill
Shell Fabric: Nylon
Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets, 2 zippered chest pockets
Features: Stretch cuffs with thumb loops, reflective tape on hood, stuffs into left hand pocket, doubles as travel pillow, durable water repellent finish (DWR)
This 800 fill down coat from The North Face was designed as a lightweight down jacket for those who love to climb. Its features make it perfect for this activity, including the pack and harness friendly pocket placement. This slim fit down jacket reduces the bulk as well, so you can move easily during your climb.
The hidden cinch-cord on the hem lets you adjust the waist to lock in your body heat without hanging down and getting in your way. There are also internal, elastic-bound cuffs to keep snow and icy cold air out of your sleeves.
These warm lightweight jackets are packable for easy travel. There is also men’s and women’s ultralight down jacket sizes available, so everyone has the perfect fit. A few color options also give you the chance to match them up with your personal style.
Weight: 12.3 oz
Down-fill: 800 goose down fill
Shell Fabric: Nylon
Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets, 1 zippered chest pocket
Features: Durable water repellent finish (DWR), stuffs into hand pocket, elastic cuffs, adjustable hem, harness and pack friendly pocket placement
You don’t need a heavy down parka to stay warm in cool to cold weather, especially when you love climbing and need the mobility to do so efficiently. This ultralight down coat has a ripstop polyester shell to resist abrasions while blocking the wind.
It has a DWR finish to repel moisture. The down even retains its loft if it does become wet, insulating you against the cold. There are stretch fleece panels on the sleeves and shoulders to increase your range of motion.
There are multiple pockets to hold all your gear, from your keys to your gloves. A media port on the chest pocket lets you add your own soundtrack to your climb. And when the weather warms up, you can pack this lightweight down jacket into its own pocket for easy storage.
Weight: 11.52 oz
Down-fill: 800 Stormdown fill
Shell Fabric: Polyester ripstop
Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets, 1 zippered chest pocket, 2 inner dump pockets
Features: Stuffs into chest pocket, carabiner clip-in loop, media port, durable water repellent finish (DWR)
Though it isn’t the warmest jacket ever, the StretchDown Hooded jacket from Mountain Hardwear is still great for those long days on the slopes. It uses their unique Q. Shield down chambers that traps warmth while repelling moisture. And if it does get wet on a particularly damp day, it won’t lose its loft and create cold spots.
These insulated chambers also stretch with as you move, giving you the maneuverability you need on a diamond run or for those who prefer cross-country adventures. The stretch-knit fabric of this light but warm jacket is durable as well, so it won’t tear at the slightest scrape.
The best down ski jacket keeps your gear close at hand, which is why this one has multiple pockets to hold everything you need on the road. The downside is that there are no adjustments on the hood or hem to block out the cold.
Weight: 18 oz
Down-fill: 750 Q. Shield down fill
Shell Fabric: Polyester
Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets, 1 zippered chest pocket
Features: Elastic cuffs, chin guard
The Rab Neutrino Endurance down jacket was made for mountianeering and other alpine excursions. Though its weight keeps it from being one of the true ultralight down jackets, it is still won’t weigh you down and cut your trip short.
The Pertex Endurance outer material is water resistant, windproof, and breathable for maximum comfort. The Hydrophobic down absorbs less water, which helps retain its loft, and also dries fast to keep you extra warm.
Other handy features that make this one of the warmest, best packable down jacket are the stitch-through baffle construction, which keeps the down in place, the anti-snag Velcro cuffs, the drawcord hem, and packable stuff sack. There is also a helmet-compatible hood for those who need the protection, which stows away when the weather is warm using a Velcro-free roll-down system.
Weight: 22.4 oz
Down-fill: 800 European goose down fill
Shell Fabric: Pertex Endurance
Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets, 1 internal zippered pocket
Features: Helmet-compatible stowable hood, chin guard, hem drawcord, stuff sack, Velcro cuff, internal insulated zip baffle
Buying Guide: Finding The Best Lightweight Down Jacket for Travel & Hiking
Why A Lightweight Down Jacket is the Perfect Warm Travel Jacket
The best down jacket is the perfect outdoor gear for a variety of reasons. They are lightweight, making it easy to wear or carry them on any type of trip. But the best lightweight down jacket is also warm enough to handle any type of weather Mother Nature throws at you.
A travel down jacket is versatile, giving you the proper gear you need for a variety of adventures. Whether you need the best hiking jacket, backpacking jacket, or a high-quality jacket to keep you warm on the slopes, there is a great model available to meet your needs.
Each of them also comes with a variety of great features to block out the cold, like adjustable hems and hoods, as well as the cuffs necessary to keep the snow and icy cold out of your sleeves.
Best of all, down coats are the most packable jackets around, allowing you to stuff them into a sack or one of their own pockets to make it easy to carry them with you wherever you go.
Down Fill Power Ratings Explained – Warmth vs. Weight
The term down fill power shows up on these types of jackets all the time. But what is down fill power? Down fill power actually tells us two important factors of the down jacket. Its warmth-to-weight ratio is the first, and its compressibility is second.
Fill power is measured in a very specific way. One ounce of down is placed into a standardized cylinder. This bit of down is then compressed to find the exact volume of the down in these circumstances. This measurement is then used to determine the fill power.
For instance, if the down takes up 500 cubic inches of space in the cylinder when it has been compressed in the controlled environment, this means the jacket will have 500 down fill-power.
Of course, if you use more down in the jacket, it could still have the same fill-power, but also be heavier than one that uses less down. So, though a higher fill-power should have more warmth, if more down is used, a lower number could actually make a warmer jacket.
Pros & Cons of Down Jackets
The best down jackets obviously use down as the insulation because it has a variety of benefits when compared with synthetic insulation.
For the pros of the down insulation, it offers you better warmth for its weight. Down is also very compressible. The best packable jacket can be stuffed into a small package, making it easy to travel with, especially if you only have limited travel space to carry it. In these areas, synthetic insulation does not perform as well. They aren’t as warm or as compressible.
The biggest con of even the warmest down jackets is that they don’t handle moisture well. If they are damp or wet, they will flatten out, reducing their ability to hold in your body heat. Down is also slower to dry than synthetic insulation, so could chill you longer or keep you inside instead of outside enjoying your day.
What to Consider When Choosing a Lightweight Down Jacket
Type of Use
The beauty of the warmest down jacket for women and men is that they are completely versatile. Though some are designed with specific uses in mind, most of them can be used for any type of outdoor activity you plan to spend your time on.
They give you the warmth you need for camping, hiking, and backpacking. The best down coats also give you the mobility required for alpine climbing. But these jackets also look great, so you can wear them for your everyday use, whether running errands or going out with friends.
Since they offer breathability as well as warmth, you can also wear the best down filled jackets for chopping wood or shoveling snow. You can layer them when needed or wear them on their own for the most comfort possible.
The warmth of the best down jacket is the reason people choose these types over almost every other kind of winter coat around. This is because down insulation is the best type for trapping in your natural body heat, keeping you warmer than any other type of insulation there is.
But even though they are so incredibly warm, the best down jackets for women and men won’t be bulky to wear or add too much weight to your other outdoor gear. This allows you to wear them for more technical activities as well as for regular day-to-day things like shopping or running errands.
The term fill power of the best down winter jackets refers to the quality of the down used to insulate it. These range from a low 600-fill to about 900-fill. The higher the fill-power, the better the quality of the down inside the coat.
Entry and mid-level jackets usually range from about 550-650-fill down, but for extreme temperatures, you’ll want to find one that is about 800-fill down or higher. If you’re just using it for normal daily wear, a lower fill is fine, but for alpine sports or backpacking/camping trips that last a few days, you’ll want the higher quality models, like an 850 fill down jacket.
If you are after the best packable down jacket that offers superior warmth, you’ll want to look for a jacket with 750+ down fill power. Having a lightweight down jacket is one of the most versatile jackets to have for travel and hiking.
When we refer to the fill weight of the best down jacket, we are actually talking about the exact amount of down the jacket contains. This number is expressed in ounces. For instance, ultralight down jackets have a total weight. Then they have the down fill weight.
So, a jacket could weigh 14 ounces total, but the down inside may only represent 3 ounces of that number. The more down a jacket contains, the more it will weigh. But this will also add to the amount of warmth it will provide you with when out in the cold. Since the down is so light on its own, adding a bit extra shouldn’t affect the total weight of the jacket to badly, plus you won’t have to worry about getting a chill.
Despite the fact that down is such an ultralight insulator, you still need to consider the entire weight of the coat before you buy it. This is because certain activities require the use of a lot of gear, and if your choice isn’t the lightest down jacket around, you may be adding too much to your total weight, making it hard to carry.
Even an extra pound can leave you exhausted if traveling longer distances, especially if over rough and uneven terrain. The best down jacket for mountaineering, hiking, backpacking, or climbing needs to be ultralight and easy to carry, whether on your back or in your pack.
Of course, if you’re just using it as an insulating layer for a few hours outside or for short car trips, those extra few ounces shouldn’t be an issue.
When trying to find the best down jacket, you may notice that the best down jacket brand uses either regular or treated down (here is a better explanation of both). The treated, or hydrophobic, down has one very important feature missing from the regular down. It has been treated with a durable water repellent, or DWR, finish.
This allows the down to repel moisture for a longer amount of time than the regular down. If it does get damp or wet, the hydrophobic down also dries much faster, keeping you warmer than you would be without it.
In fact, the hydrophobic down insulation usually only loses about 30% of their warmth on average after being exposed to moisture, which is essential in cold temperatures that require all the body heat you can get.
When it comes to the construction of the best down jacket, there are two types, which include sewn through and baffle box construction.
Sewn through down jackets have the outer layer of the coat stitched right to the inner layer. This separates the down into lined sections, distributing it evenly while preventing it from shifting around. The downside is that this keeps them from being the warmest light down jacket since cold spots happen where the stitching is, due to the lack of insulation in these areas.
Box baffle construction gives you better insulation than the sewn through method. Each down box on the coat has its own little rectangle, which helps to eliminate the cold spots. This keeps you warmer, but these high end down jackets are also more expensive.
When you’re looking for the best down jacket to use for outdoor sports or just traveling around in the colder weather, its warmth and features are probably the most important things on your mind. But you’re also going to need one that fits into your personal style in order to be truly comfortable wearing it out in public.
That’s why the top down jacket brands have created models that look great while still giving you the insulation and accessories needed to keep you warm during whatever winter activity you participate in.
Ultralight down jackets also come in a variety of colors. These include bright oranges, yellows, and blues that keep you visible to those around you. If you prefer a bit more subtlety or discretion, there are also black, green, or darker blues to help you blend in more. No matter your personality, you should have no trouble finding the best winter down jackets for the whole family.
The beauty of high quality down jackets is that the insulation is easy to compress to a very small size. This makes it easy to pack your jacket into a backpack or suitcase for traveling. Whether by foot, car, or plane, you will have no trouble taking the most packable down jacket wherever you go.
Most of the top rated down jackets come with their own stuffable feature as well. This could be an included stuff sack to put your jacket in for easy travel. Many of them have replaced the loose stuff sack with a stuffable pocket instead. This lets you compress the whole coat into a hand or chest pocket for even easier storage, without the risk of losing the extra bag.
Outer Shell Material
The two most common materials used to make the best down jacket are nylon and polyester. These are used because they both have very common features that make them acceptable choices.
Both of them are lightweight, which is essential to long-term outdoor adventures. They are also durable, resisting tears and abrasions, though nylon is a bit stronger and has a greater ability to stretch as you move. Nylon is also has a softer feel against your skin.
For damp weather, though, polyester is the better choice. It doesn’t absorb water as easily and dries faster than nylon. Polyester also doesn’t fade as quickly in the sun as nylon will.
A lightweight cold weather jacket is meant to fit well, but shouldn’t restrict your movements. They also shouldn’t be too loose, either, or they could leave gaps between you and the coat that allows cold air to get in and your body heat out.
The best down jacket fit will accommodate any layers you want to add underneath as well, so you don’t want to buy one that fits too snugly or you won’t be able to fit it over those layers.
There are slim fit, athletic fit, or regular fit models available to meet the needs of the sports you’re going to be using them for. For instance, an athletic fit is essential for climbers or skiers, to give you the mobility you need. Slim fit is also good for these types of outdoor activities. Regular fit ones can be used for normal wear, or for hiking and camping where increased arm movements may not be as essential.
Hood (or Not)
Whether or not you need a hood is entirely up to you, but they do come in handy for certain types of activities. If you want to keep your costs down, as well as the weight of the jacket, you can get a hoodless down jacket.
But doing this means sacrificing the extra warmth and protection they offer. If you plan on using a knitted hat or some other type of headgear, you may not even notice the difference.
For those who plan on wearing the best down jacket at higher altitudes, a hood may come in handy. The higher you go, the colder it’s going to be. Having the best hooded down jacket can keep you extra warm, plus block out the wind or snow for added protection.
There are also helmet-compatible hoods available on some of the best rated down jackets. If your chosen activity requires a helmet, you’ll likely be traveling at speeds that create a lot of wind. The added warmth of the hood will definitely come in handy on those occasions.
Pockets & Cuffs
Pockets are always essential to any type of outdoor coat. They can hold your smaller essentials as well as give you a place to warm up your hands. Most of the best down jacket models have two hand pockets, sometimes placed to be compatible with backpack straps or harnesses.
One or two outer chest pockets are great for holding your phone or other smaller devices. Inner security pockets are also handy to store those items you want to keep extra safe.
Some of the top down jackets even include a couple of dump pockets on the inside. These are great for holding your gloves or other larger items that may not fit in the other pockets.
When it comes to cuffs, elastic is best. These hold the sleeve down, sealing it off to block out the cold. Some have Velcro instead, but these can be harder to tighten when wearing gloves. They can also get caught on stuff and open, requiring you to drop everything and readjust them.
Some down jackets actually use other insulators combined with the down to give you the benefits of both down and synthetic insulation. These benefits could include the warmth, packability, and ease of movement of the down with the great moisture resistance of the synthetic insulation.
Many hybrid coats use down mostly in the core area of the jacket to lock in your body heat. But the sides, arms, or shoulder areas may use some other insulation to create a less puffy-feeling jacket that still keeps you warm and comfortable. This also helps to increase your range of movement, which may be a great option for climbers or skiers.
Though the materials used to make the best down jacket will be durable on their own, it is possible to add to their resilience. Manufacturers who want to ensure they have the longest lasting fabric choose ripstop materials to keep them intact.
Ripstop is a technique used during the weaving of the fabric to make it more resistant to tears or abrasions your jacket may sustain during use. If a hole or tear does happen, the ripstop weaving keeps it from spreading. This also helps during patching since you will only have a small area to fix.
Zippers are also something to watch for. If the zipper on the best lightweight warm travel jacket is faulty and won’t close properly, or pops open while you’re out on the trail, you won’t ever use that jacket again. YKK zippers are the best around because they are durable and won’t break easily.
Other zippers can also work well, but you should always try them out before you buy. If they don’t slide well or have inferior looking teeth, pick a different jacket.
There are a few other features that can make a regular jacket the best down jacket around. They aren’t essential, just handy features that make your jacket even more convenient to wear.
An adjustable hem is great for this type of jacket. Not only does it allow you to adjust the fit, it also helps block out the cold air and lock in your body heat. If you have chosen the best hooded down jacket, you also want an adjustable hood for the same reasons.
A few additions to your pockets are also handy, such as hand warmer material on the inside to keep your fingers from freezing. If you like to listen to music while you hike or climb, a media port is also a great addition. This allows you to run the headphone cord from your phone or iPod to your ears while keeping that cord inside the jacket and out of the way.
There are a few things that are considered in terms of value. The brand name is one since high-end down jackets always cost more than smaller companies would charge. If the name on your down jacket is important to you, be prepared to pay for it.
The features you choose will also be factored in. The more pockets, hoods, adjustments, and extras you want on your coat, the more it is going to cost you. Even the fabric can increase the price, especially if you want DWR coatings and ripstop material.
But you don’t need to pay a fortune for the best down jacket. Those on a budget will be able to find more affordable models when needed. They may not have all the bells and whistles the higher priced jackets will have but they will keep you warm and last a long time, making them worth your while.
How to Care for a Down Jacket
How to Wash a Down Jacket
You have to be very careful when washing your down coat. If not, you’ll turn the lightest, warmest down jacket into a ruined mess of fabric. But if you follow these directions, your down jacket will last for years.
First, wash it in the washing machine, using cold water and the gentle cycle. But only do this in a front loading washing machine. The agitator of a top loading machine could snag on the jacket fabric, tearing it and spilling down all over. If you only have a top loading machine, wash your coat by hand in cold water.
When I was my down jackets and vests I also always use Nikwax Down Wash to help rejuvenate and clean the down. This helps restore the loft and clean the jacket from inside out.
When the wash cycle is done, you can either hang your down jacket to dry or put it in the dryer. If you choose the dryer, only use low heat. Any higher than this could melt the outer shell of the jacket as well as singeing the feathers inside.
How to Restore Loft in a Down Jacket
If you need to restore the loft of your down jacket, there are no special skills needed. The best way is to toss it in the dryer on the lowest heat setting. Before you turn it on, add a couple of tennis balls or some of those dryer balls inside with it. As the dryer turns, the balls will bounce around, pounding the fabric and puffing up the down on the inside.
If this hasn’t helped, you may need to wash the jacket first. Dirt and oil can accumulate on the jacket, weighing down the loft inside. Washing them as described above and then using the dryer with the tennis or dryer balls can help restore your jacket to its former glory.
You should also never store the best down jacket in a compressed position. You can stuff it in a sack or its own pocket for short trips, but for long-term storage, you should always hang it in a closet. Compressing it for too long can crumple the down and ruin the loft, so keep it loose and open when storing it.
The Bottom Line
If you love to spend the cooler months outside but hate the restrictions heavy parkas put on you and your activities, having the best packable down jacket can make your adventures much more pleasurable. These types of jackets are lightweight and give you increased mobility.
They can also be compressed into a very small package, making them great for any type of travel, whether by car or air, or for those week-long backpacking trips in varying temperatures. Best of all, they are extremely warm, holding in your body heat
If you need a great backpacking down jacket, the REI Co-op Magma 850 is a good choice. The quilted underarm gussets give you a wide range of motion. The shoulder seams and hand pockets have also been positioned to make it easier and more comfortable to carry a pack. The Magma 850 is also one of the cheapest down jacket on our list, making it a great choice for the backpacker on a budget.
For those who like to travel light, and therefore need to conserve space as much as possible, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket is the best packable down jacket on our list. It is extremely light to carry, at under 8 ounces, and can be compressed to take up only a very little space in your suitcase or pack.
If you are after one of the warmest, yet still incredible packable down jackets out there the Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket will keep you warmth in even the coldest conditions. It’s also by far one of the best down jacket for the money.