If you are traveling in cold climates, skiing, or planning a high-altitude hike, a good down jacket is your best option for keeping you warm. I know, there are scores of models available on the market, but they aren’t created equal, especially when it comes to key features like compressibility, fill power, warmth level, fill weight, fit, and comfort, to name just a few.
The basic thrust of this article is to highlight the best down jackets for hiking, backpacking, and skiing. We have taken lots of time studying each of these jackets before listing them here, which means they all have something exciting to offer.
The Best Down Jackets for Hiking:
PATAGONIA DOWN SWEATER HOODIE
Weight: 15.1 oz.
Fill: 800-fill down
Best use: Casual, hiking in chilly weather
Features: Appears simple but looks very stylish and is extremely durable. Made from recycled polyester ripstop treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. Also, materials are environmentally friendly, warm, and compact.
Though it’s a bit heavier than other models on the list, it’s a reliable, versatile jacket. Great for backpacking and hiking, and as a midlayer for skiing and other cold-weather activities.
ARC’TERYX CERIUM HOODY
Weight: 10.8 oz.
Fill: 850-fill down
Best use: Backpacking, cold climates
Features: Made with easy-to-clean, quick-drying outer fabric. It’s warm and resistant. The combination of synthetic insulation and down insulation helps retain warmth when the jacket is wet.
It’s very comfortable to wear and pretty lightweight. Stylish design as well as excellent compressibility. Unfortunately, it’s quite expensive.
RAB MICROLIGHT ALPINE
Weight: 13 oz.
Fill: 750 European goose down
Best use: Mild-cold weather
Features: Durable, great warmth, highly compressible (includes a separate stuff sack), and versatile. The insulation is also super-efficient. It can take some light rain, and the jacket feels very comfortable on the body. It offers one of the best balances between warmth, weight, and packability. It’s not meant for extreme cold, but you should feel comfortable in 55- to 60-degree weather. It’s an expensive product, but it performs well.
MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR WHISPERER
Weight: 7.8 oz.
Fill: 800-fill down
Best use: Climbing, skiing, or ultralight hiking
Features: Warm, ultralight, and compact. Fits great, stylish appearance, incredibly compressible. It also comes with decent water resistance. As you can see, it has one of the best performances on the list; it would be hard to find another jacket that offers so much warmth compressed in such a small stuff sack. The price isn’t so attractive, but it’s worth every penny.
RAB NEUTRINO PRO
Weight: 21.3 oz.
Fill: 800 European goose down
Best use: Mountaineering, hiking in winter
Features: Zippered pocket, comfortable down-filled hood, nice design, resistant nylon outer fabric. This is the jacket you want to wear for winter hiking and alpine expeditions. Of course, it’s not as lightweight or compressible as other “more casual” jackets. The main goal here is to keep you warm in very cold climates.
It’s the warmest jacket on the list.
REI CO-OP MAGMA 850 HOODY
Weight: 13.7 oz.
Fill: 850-fill goose down
Best use: Multisport, everyday use
Features: Durable water repellent (DWR) finish, zip hand and chest pockets, quality materials, easily adjustable. It’s really compressible, so you can compact it into one of the pockets.
It’s a great option for cold-weather backcountry duty and other activities such as ski touring, backpacking, hiking, and climbing during the winter. The light insulation works really well, providing one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios.
OUTDOOR RESEARCH TRANSCENDENT
Weight: 15.4 oz.
Fill: 650-fill down
Best use: Mild climate climbing, hiking
Features: Resistant polyester fabric, zippered hand pockets, adjustable hood, stylish design, very compressible, and extremely breathable. The jacket is sturdy enough to perform pretty well under mild to cold weather. The left pocket doubles as a stuff sack. Overall, it’s a great, warm jacket. However, keep in mind that’s it’s not meant for extreme cold. In that case, you’ll want to wear it with a coat and other layers.
Weight: 17.4 oz.
Fill: 600-fill power down
Best use: Hiking
Features: Great jacket for everyday use in chilly climates and for low-altitude hiking. Zippered handwarmer pockets, lightweight construction, elastic-bound cuffs, very comfortable to wear. Treated with Down Defender technology to improve water resistance.
Its fantastic price makes it one of the best deals among high-quality jackets. Keep in mind that it’s not designed to withstand extreme temperature.
The Best Hiking Down Jackets. Budget range:
AMAZON DOWN JACKET
Weight: 8 oz.
Fill: 90% duck down, 10% feather
Best use: Hiking and backpacking in mild-chilly climate
Features: Extreme lightweight, decent warmth, good temperature control, and elastic cuffs. The zippered pockets help keep your hands warm. Acceptable water-resistance feature functions to prevent light rain from penetrating the jacket.
It’s ideal for cool spring and fall nights, but keep in mind that it doesn’t provide as much warmth as other jackets on the list.
Fill: 80% duck down, 20% feather
Best use: Nearly any outdoor activities
Features: Breathable and very comfortable to wear. Performs well under windy conditions. Features 2 handwarmer pockets and 2 inside pockets to keep your valuables safe. It can be packed into an included stuff sack for easy carrying.
A good option for major outdoor activities such as climbing, hiking, backpacking, skiing, and camping. Though it’s a budget jacket, it performs well for the price.
Things to consider when choosing the best hiking down jackets:
TYPES OF DOWN JACKETS:
Various types of jackets are available on the market, and they vary in features and functionality. Therefore, you must first pinpoint your current need, i.e., what are the features you are expecting in the down jacket? What are the major activities you want to use it for?
Once you decide on this, you can choose from among the following types of down jackets to find the one that best suits your needs:
These are the best options for those who don’t want to add weight to their backpacks. Lightweight jackets work well in mild-chilly climates. You can wear them in cold weather, too, but in that case, you should incorporate them into a system of layers. These models are often quite expensive.
Down sweaters are heavier than lightweight jackets. They are a great option for backpacking, hiking, skiing, and outdoor sports as long as the temperature is not too low. Of course, this will depend on the model, quality of down, etc., but you shouldn’t wear them in very cold climates. They offer a good balance between warmth, compactability, weight, and price.
Mid/Heavyweight down jackets
Heavyweight down jackets usually contain a much higher amount of down fill. Of course, they are heavier and bulkier, but they provide greater warmth and comfort. These are the best options for winter activities, extreme cold, and high-altitude hiking.
Warmth is the key factor to assess when choosing a good jacket. All brands offer different types of jackets, especially when it comes to warmth level. Therefore, before making a choice, you must first determine the actual season when you are going to hike. Then, to avoid wasting your money, choose the type of jacket that best suits your desired season or destination.
Fill power is the quality of the down used in the jacket. It’s also used to measure the actual performance of the jacket. Fill power is represented using figures: 550, 600, 800, 850, and 900. The higher the figure, the better the quality. High-quality down jackets come with high fill power, such as 800-fill and above, while the mid-range comes with 550- to 650-fill down.
Additionally, down jackets with high fill power are often lightweight and highly compressible, while those with a lesser figure don’t perform that well.
Keep in mind that fill power doesn’t indicate the jacket’s warmth. That will depend on the fill weight.
Fill weight refers to the actual amount of down the jacket contains. It’s often expressed in ounces. The higher the weight of the down that comes with the jacket, the warmer it is.
FIT AND COMFORT
No matter how promising a down jacket seems to be, if it’s not comfortable to wear or does not fit well, it will be useless.
Your down jacket should fit nicely; it should be comfortable and give you freedom of movement.
The outer material used in making down jackets has a direct impact on several traits, including the jacket’s durability, overall weight, warmth level, breathability, wáter resistance, and much more.
Several different materials are used to make outer layers. The most commonly used material is ripstop nylon because of its excellent nature and durability. Polyester is also widely used.
PERFORMANCE ON RAINY DAYS
Most down jackets come with durable water resistant (DWR) treatments. However, there will be some rainy days when a down jacket won’t perform as well as you’d wish. Some models can resist light rain for short periods of time, but keep in mind that they are not completely waterproof. That’s why it’s often recommended that you buy a good raincoat to offer protection during wet days.
DO YOU NEED A HOOD?
The answer to this question will depend on the climate you are going to face. In most cases, down jackets that lack hoods are used as mid layers. In cold, windy, or rainy weather, you could wear your non-hooded jacket with a coat. These jackets are often cheaper and lighter than hooded models. Hooded down jackets provide greater warmth and they are best suited to demanding activities.
POCKETS OR NOT?
Several types of down jackets are available, and not all of them come with pockets. The biggest advantage of having integrated pockets is that you can easily put your hands inside the pockets if they get cold. Also, you can store your valuables there throughout your adventure. I recommend that you choose a down jacket with at least two pockets. Some models include extra interior pockets, which can be helpful.
Compressibility is also a major factor to consider when choosing a good jacket. Jackets which are very compressible won’t take up much space inside your backpack, which is great when you’re hiking and backpacking. One of the indicators that determine the compressibility of a down jacket is its fill power. Look for 750-fill or 800-fill down. These jackets can pack into a tiny stuff sack.
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR JACKET
You may have gotten the “best-of-the-best” down jacket, but if you don’t take care of it, some of its functions will begin to decline and you may need to replace it with a new one.
The best way to lengthen the life of your down jacket is by cleaning it regularly (and correctly) and by storing it in a safe place. Avoid using non-quality detergents when washing your mountain gear.
HOW TO STORE YOUR JACKET
- Avoid compressing your jacket for an extended period of time. This may cause its feathers to clump.
- Always store your jacket in areas that have an adequate inflow and outflow of air.
- Don’t store your jacket in a place that is exposed to direct sunlight.
- As simple as these tips are, they can help keep your gear in good condition for years.
HOW TO WASH A DOWN JACKET
- The following procedure will work for many brands and models. However, always read the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Use a brush to remove loose dirt.
- Before washing your jacket, run your washing machine on a hot wash to get rid of any residue from detergent or softeners.
- Set the machine to a mild-to-cold wash.
- Pour in your cleaner and start the cleaning process.
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Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 10 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.