Best Down Jacket for Outdoor Adventures

When the weather turns cold, that’s no reason to stop exploring outdoors! With the best down jacket on your back, you can stay warm and cozy on any adventure, whether you’re hiking, mountaineering, or camping.

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Top Down Jackets for Cold-Weather Hikes and Camping Trips

Looking for the best down jacket for cold weather?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • Details and specs for the 9 best down jackets, plus one synthetic alternative
    • Areas where our favorite down jackets excel and their biggest drawbacks
    • What to look for when shopping for a puffy jacket

With a little help from our feathered friends, there’s no reason any of us shouldn’t enjoy our wintertime adventures as much as our summertime ones.

There are many great down jackets to choose from, but how do you choose the best down jacket for you? Whether you’re looking for sustainable and ethical materials, water resistance, ruggedness, a lightweight and packable jacket, or a beefy, no-nonsense insulator, our guide has you covered.

Below, we’ll introduce you to 9 awesome puffy jackets for all budgets and adventure types, one synthetic alternative, and provide all the info you need to pick the perfect puffy for your needs.

Editor’s Choice

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2

Mountain Hardwear Men's Hoodie

This sustainable jacket from Mountain Hardwear (click here for women’s version) wins our top pick for its lightweight design and high 800-fill-power down insulation. While the fill weight of 3 oz. falls in the middle compared to others on the list, the Ghost Whisperer 2 is a cozy, warm jacket that also stands up in light rain thanks to its durable water repellent (DWR) finish.

To earn this top spot, we wanted a down jacket that is warm (of course!), sourced by ethical means, and rain resistant. We also wanted a lightweight option that’s mobile enough so it can move with you on any outdoor adventure on a chilly day.

Although it may not be the absolute lightest or the warmest on our list, the GW2 strikes the ideal balance between warmth and weight and has great, dialed-in features.

Bottom line: A versatile, feature-rich jacket that excels in the comfort stakes.

At a Glance: Quick Recommendations

Down Jackets: Our Top 9 Picks

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2

Editor’s Choice

Weight: 8.8 oz. Fill: 3 oz./800-fill

The Ghost Whisperer 2 (click here for women’s version) is the most versatile jacket we’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing and is ideal for everything from cool days at the crag to summit missions, ice climbing, and general hiking.

The GW2 is made with 800-fill, RDS-certified, fluorine-free goose down. While the fill weight of 3 oz. leaves a bit to be desired, it does make it very packable. It’s also a sustainable option, using completely recycled face and trim fabrics. The insulation is also bluesign® approved, meaning harmful substances have been removed at each step of development.

Made with 10-denier x 10-denier ripstop nylon, it focuses on saving weight rather than durability. Although the ripstop weave will help strengthen the fabric, it’s still pretty fragile. The jacket’s ultralight shell fabric is 100% recycled ripstop with a DWR finish to help you stay dry and warm.

Weighing in at 8.8 oz, it’s not the lightest on this list but still considered lightweight compared to other jackets on the market. It also packs into its pocket with an internal carabiner clip loop.

With an elastic hood and wrist cuffs, and a drawcord hem, you can keep your body heat-sealed in and the cold out. In an especially endearing touch, makers Mountain Hardwear also filled the first baffle at both cuffs with synthetic insulation to prevent your wrists from getting damp and the down from wetting out.

  • PROs

    • High fill power
    • Lightweight
    • Sustainable and responsibly sourced
    • Elastic hood and cuffs
    • Two zippered hand pockets
    • Packable
  • CONs

    • Low fill weight
    • Expensive
    • Low denier rating

Bottom-Line: A sustainable ultralight jacket with high fill power, but not-so-high fill weight.

Rab Electron Pro

Runner Up

Weight: 18.5 oz Fill: 6.7 oz./800-fill

A close second to the Mountain Hardwear GW2, this hooded down jacket has 6.7 oz. of 800-fill European goose down with a Nikwax hydrophobic finish so you can stay exceptionally warm even in wet conditions.

The Rab Electron Pro (click here for women’s version) is highly durable and has a wind- and water-resistant shell made from Pertex® Quantum Pro ripstop nylon. It also features a full-length front YKK NATULON® zipper, hipbelt-compatible hand pockets, and a helmet-compatible hood with a drawcord adjustment.

The zoned midi- and micro-baffle stitch-through construction on the Electron ensures that the insulation doesn’t spread thin, while the low-bulk elastic cuffs make it easy to tighten up and seal in extra warmth.

All that durable material and the high fill weight make this one of the heavier options on this list at 18.5 oz. Although, thanks to the high fill power, it’s still packable and packs into its own stuff sack. The Electron Pro also contains recycled materials and RDS-certified down.

  • PROs

    • High fill power
    • High fill weight
    • Sustainable and responsibly sourced
    • Durable
    • Stitch-through construction
  • CONs

    • Expensive
    • Heavy

Bottom-Line: This is a heavier option, but has a higher fill weight and power to provide more warmth.

Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody

Honorable Mention

Weight: 15.1 oz  Fill: 3.4 oz/800-fill

This 800-fill traceable-goose-down-filled jacket (click here for women’s version) is a great choice for people looking for responsibly sourced down that packs plenty of warmth. This jacket’s down is certified to the Global Traceable Down Standard, which means the feathers have been produced without causing unnecessary harm to animals. It also contains recycled materials.

The shell fabric of this Patagonia down sweater is made from recycled ripstop polyester with a DWR finish that helps repel water. It also features a front zipper with a wicking interior storm flap, so it can still keep you warm in slightly wet weather.

A few nice features elevate this one’s comfort and convenience game. These include a zipper garage at the chin, a single-pull adjustable hood, and nylon-bound elastic cuffs. The hem also adjusts by pulling a cord in the handwarmer pockets. For easy packing, an internal zippered chest pocket converts to a stuff sack with a carabiner clip-in loop.

  • PROs

    • High fill power
    • Sustainable and responsibly sourced
    • Multiple pockets
    • Adjustable hood
  • CONs

    • Low fill weight
    • Heavy

Bottom-Line: This sustainable, feature-rich, and outstandingly cozy jacket’s a little too heavy for alpine missions but ideal for winter hikes or camping.

Arc’teryx Cerium SL Hoodie

Best Lightweight

Weight: 7.6 oz ⸱ Fill: 1.9 oz./850-fill

This mixed-material hooded jacket (click here for women’s version) is a great choice for fast-and-light adventurers.

It combines 850-fill goose down with Coreloft synthetic fibers for more warmth and enhanced performance in variable conditions.

The Down Composite Mapping™ used in the Cerium, essentially, means that synthetic insulation is strategically used in place of down in areas most vulnerable to moisture, including the hood, collar, underarms, and hemlines. This makes it an especially good pick for wet conditions.

At just 1.9 oz., the Cerium SL has the lowest fill weight on our list, but it also has the highest quality down (850 fill power) and is the lightest model on our list at just 7.6 oz.

However, all that lightness doesn’t equal durability, as it’s made with super lightweight Arato™ 7D nylon fabric. While this shell fabric’s DWR finish can shrug off light precipitation, it might not survive too many coming-togethers with branches or rocks.

  • PROs

    • Down composite mapping
    • High fill power
    • Ultralight
    • Hood and elasticized cuff
  • CONs

    • Low fill weight
    • Expensive
    • Not sustainable
    • Delicate fabric

Bottom-Line: A super-lightweight down jacket with composite mapping that helps keep it insulating even when wet.

Rab Microlight Alpine

Most Water-Resistant

Weight: 16.5 oz Fill: 5 oz./700-fill

The Rab Microlight Alpine (click here for women’s version) is one of the heavier options on our list, but it’s also one of the best suited for harsh environments.

It’s made with recycled 30-denier nylon Pertex® Quantum ripstop nylon fabric that is both highly windproof and encourages insulation to fully loft. It also has a DWR finish for water resistance in wet conditions. The lining is made from recycled 20D nylon.

For those looking for sustainability, this jacket is GRS-certified with a fully recycled shell, insulation, and lining. The 700-fill P.U.R.E recycled down is hydrophobic, so will keep you warm even when worn in light precipitation.

We’re big fans of the features on this one. There’s an adjustable hood and stiffened peak to maximize visibility whilst shielding you from the elements, a zoned baffle stitch-through construction to keep the insulation spread evenly and eliminate cold spots, internally elasticated cuffs, a drawcord-adjustable hem, zippered hand pockets, and a large zippered chest pocket.

  • PROs

    • Water-resistant
    • Tear-resistant
    • Adjustable hood and elastic cuff
    • Nano baffle stitch-through construction
    • Durable
    • Internal chest pocket
  • CONs

    • Lower fill power
    • Heavy

Bottom-Line: Sustainable, water-resistant, and the most rugged of the bunch.

REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0

Best Budget

Weight: 11 oz.  Fill: 4.2 oz./650-fill

The REI 650 (click here for women’s version) is by far the most affordable down jacket on our list and a great pick for peeps happy to compromise on packability and weight if that means saving a small handful of $.

The REI 650 is made from recycled nylon taffeta shell fabric treated with a DWR finish to help you stay dry from light rain. Although there’s no hood, it features stretch cuffs and hem for a snug fit to keep the warm air sealed inside with you. Instead of a stuff sack, it packs into its own left-hand pocket.

While not as packable or warm as higher-fill-power models like Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 or Rab Electron Pro, the REI 650’s ideal for general hiking, camping, or cragging in cooler temps.

REI didn’t scrap sustainability for affordability though. The 650 contains recycled materials that meet the bluesign® criteria, so purposeful steps were taken during development to remove harmful substances and reduce negative impacts on the health of the environment, workers, and wearer. It is also Fair Trade Certified and RDS-certified.

  • PROs

    • Affordable
    • Sustainable and responsibly sourced
    • High fill weight
  • CONs

    • Low fill power

Bottom-Line: Not the warmest jacket on our list, but by far the most affordable.

MontBell Superior Down Jacket

Best Value

Weight: 8.7 oz. ⸱ Fill: 2.5 oz./800-fill

This reasonably priced jacket is stuffed with 2.5 oz. of high-quality 800-fill down. While this makes it a little less warm than other ultralight down jackets on our list, it also means it’s highly compressible and a great option for users keen to save on pack space.

The Superior is made from 10-denier Ballistic Airlight nylon with a water-repellent finish. This fabric is a little on the thin side, so isn’t the most rugged, but it’s a reliable wind blocker and sheds light rainfall fast.

The features in the Superior are dialed in and on the nail. There’s a two-way adjustable hood, a built-in visor, Velcro tabs to keep the hood out of your eyes, elastic cuffs, two internal pockets, pocket hem adjusters, two zippered hand pockets, and a stuff sack for safe storage.

The fact that you get all this for less than half the price of jackets with nearly identical specs makes the Superior a great option for anyone seeking to maximize the amount of bang they get for their buck.

  • PROs

    • Reasonably priced
    • High fill power
    • Sewn-through construction
  • CONs

    • Low denier rating
    • Low fill weight

Bottom-Line: A reasonably priced jacket with great features and high fill power.

Rab Cubit Stretch Hoody

Best for Mobility

Weight: 19.9 oz. ⸱ Fill: 6.1 oz./700-fill

While the Rab Cubit (click here for women’s version) is the heaviest option on this list, it’s also one of the warmest and a shoo-in if comfort’s high on the list of your priorities.

The Cubit uses Pertex’s 3D Weave Technology and welded baffles to keep insulation evenly distributed without the need for stitching. This not only improves insulating performance and weather resistance but also allows the fabric to stretch as you move.

The Cubit is filled with 6.1 oz. of 700-fill recycled plumage. While this is middle of the road in terms of fill weight and power, it felt warmer in the field than most other jackets with similar fills.

As far as features go, the Cubit ticks every box. It has a fully adjustable hood, a fleece-lined chin guard for comfort, two zippered pockets, and a drawcord-adjustable hem that helps seal in warmth.

In choosing the winner of this award, the Cubit’s closest competitor was the Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown. While the Strechdown’s the lighter of the two, it’s also not quite as warm and lack’s a few of the Cubit’s performance-oriented attributes, namely the weather-resistant Pertex shell and DWR finish.

  • PROs

    • Durable
    • Flexible
    • Water-resistant
    • High fill weight
    • Sustainable and responsibly sourced
  • CONs

    • Low fill power
    • Heavy

Bottom-Line: Heavy and far less packable than its peers, but ultra-mobile, warm, and water-resistant to boot.

Arc’teryx Atom LT

Best Synthetic

Weight: 13.2 oz Fill: 2.1 oz. of synthetic fibers

The Atom LT (click here for women’s version) is the only synthetic option on our list. We’ve included it because it’s a good alternative to feather-filled models for buyers who want plenty of warmth coupled with a lower price tag and enhanced wet-weather performance.

The Atom LT is made with 2.1 oz. of 60g Coreloft Compact synthetic insulation and stretchy, durable, 94% polyester and 6% elastane shell for added mobility. It also features a highly breathable Dope Permeair™ 20D liner. The DWR-treated Tyono™ 20 face fabric provides solid resistance against abrasions, wind, and moisture.

The jacket contains materials that meet the bluesign® criteria, ensuring harmful substances were removed and negative impacts were reduced during the development process. It also features an adjustable, insulated, low-profile StormHood, dual hem adjusters that let you get a snug fit and keep warm air in, stretch-knit cuffs, and stretch fleece side panels for ventilation.

Typically, the biggest benefit of synthetic over down is its ability to retain insulation and warmth even when wet. The downside is that synthetic jackets usually have a poorer weight-to-warmth ratio, meaning they need to be heavier to reach the same level of warmth as down. This jacket is on the heavier side, but if feathers ain’t your jam, this is the next best thing.

  • PROs

    • Water-resistant
    • Insulates when wet
    • Sustainable materials
    • Adjustable hood and dual hem adjusters
  • CONs

    • A bit heavy
    • Not as packable

Bottom-Line: Not as packable as feather-filled alternatives, but impressively warm and capable of insulating even when wet.

How to Choose the Best Puffy Jacket

Warmth: Fill Power and Fill Weight

A jacket’s warmth is dependent on the quality and quantity of the down feathers. The higher the quality of the feathers and the more of them there are, the warmer the jacket. The quality and quantity of the fill is measured by two standards: Fill power and fill weight. 

Fill power essentially determines the fluffiness of the down and refers to how many cubic inches can be filled by one ounce of down. Better quality feathers will have more loft (thus filling up more cubic inches of space) and result in higher FP. Loftier down can trap more air, creating better insulation. High FP numbers result in warmer, but more expensive, jackets.

Close up of down feathers
Both fill power and fill weight will determine how warm, and of course, how expensive a jacket is

Fill weight is the number of ounces used in the insulation. More ounces of down fill means a thicker, warmer jacket. This also figures into how well a jacket will compress, and a higher fill weight usually equates to a higher packed weight and packed size.

Both metrics are important to consider when selecting a down jacket. Ideally, you need to find a balance between the two that works for you. 

More ounces of a lower-quality down (for example, 10 oz. of 550-fill-power) could be just as warm as a jacket with a higher FP but with less fill weight (4 oz. of 800-fill-power), and will probably be much cheaper. It will, however, also be less packable and have a poorer warmth-to-weight ratio. 

Weight

The most important factor to consider is the warmth-to-weight ratio.

So many hikers love down jackets because they excel in this area. The term “light as a feather” has never been more true than with down-insulated items. The best down jackets provide high-quality insulation without being too bulky or heavy. But go too lightweight and you’ll risk losing durability and warmth. 

Man in down jacket holding his arms out
Down jackets are favored by outdoor lovers since they excel in the warmth-to-weight metric

The bottom line is this: the higher the fill power, the better the warmth-to-weight ratio. This is exemplified by the Arc’teryx Cerium LT, which has an FP of 850 and weighs just 7.6 oz. but is a surprisingly warm jacket.

Compressibility

Another important consideration for backpackers or anyone who might stuff their jacket away when the sun comes out is compressibility. This refers to how packable the jacket is. 

Heavier, thicker jackets, as you might expect, will be harder to compress, while lighter, thinner ones might take up no more pack space than a 1-liter water bottle.

Person putting down jacket into stuff sack
For multi-day backpacking, compressibility is going to be high on your priority list

But that’s not the full story…

Higher-fill-power down is more compressible. This means that if you take two jackets weighing 8 ounces, one with 900-fill and one with 650-fill down, the former will be far more packable than the latter. 

Another reason why outdoor adventures love down jackets is that they compress much better than jackets with synthetic insulation.

Durability and Materials

The durability of your down mainly depends on the toughness of the outer fabric. This can be gauged by looking at the fabric density and the weave. 

Fabric density is rated by the denier value (D). A higher denier rating means the shell fabric is heavier, but also stronger and more resistant to wear and tear. A 10D fabric, then, will be lightweight but fragile, while a 30D fabric will be heavier but more rugged. 

And the weave? Shell fabrics are constructed using either a “ripstop” or regular weave, and ripstop weaves are by far the stronger of the two. A jacket like the MH Ghost Whisperer 2 that uses 10D nylon ripstop fabric, for example, will be far tougher than a model with a 10D regular weave.

Man in down jacket carrying wood
If you need a more durable down jacket go for a high denier rating with a ripstop weave

If sustainability and responsibly sourced material is an important factor to you, look for jackets made with recycled materials, have RDS certification, and/or approval from bluesign®.

Water Resistance

Ask anyone: Traditionally, the major drawback of down is that it doesn’t insulate when wet. This has been a key reason for leaning toward synthetic insulation for many years. However, newer technology has made it so that the best down jackets can stand up to light rain.

Most down jackets now use a durable water repellent finish to help you shake off light precipitation. Others, like the Rab Microlight Alpine, use hydrophobic down, which coats the feathers in a chemical so they absorb less water and dries faster. 

These are expensive options that aren’t as water-resistant as synthetic alternatives, but worth it to stay dry and warm in a drizzle (not a downpour).

Comfort and Features

This is the most subjective category to consider when shopping for puffy jackets. For most people, it should fit snug, but not tight, to allow you to wear other layers underneath. Flexible materials like those used in the Rab Cubit allow for better mobility, an important feature if you’re adventuring in rough or technical terrain. 

Hiker drinking water while wearing lightweight down jacket
Will you often be traversing tricky terrain? If so fabrics with greater mobility will be more important

Besides getting the fit right, a few features can also boost the comfort of insulated jackets. Look for details like a fleece-lined chin guard, an elastic hood and wrist cuffs, lined pockets, external chest pockets, and an adjustable hem to keep out drafts and custom-fit the waist around your belly and butt.

Best Puffy Jackets: The Verdict

Now you know the details and specs of our top 9 puffy jackets (and one synthetic alternative) and you’re ready to choose the ideal insulator for your cold-weather adventures.

Still undecided which is best for you?

To recap, our pick of the bunch is the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2. This is, to our minds, the perfect puffy. It’s light, mobile, as comfortable as they come, and has an outstanding warmth-to-weight ratio. 

If the price tag on that one’s a little too lofty, the next best thing is the Montbell Superior. This low-cost puffy, in short, does everything most of its far pricier competitors do and packs impressive warmth for such a lightweight insulated jacket. 

We hope this guide has helped you find exactly what you’re looking for! Let us know in the comment section below and feel free to share this post with your friends! 

Last update on 2022-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Sara Hall Avatar

Sara Hall is a journalist, photographer, and freelance writer in her professional life, and is passionate about camping, hiking, and backpacking in her personal life. Growing up in the rural mountains of Northern California, a love of the outdoors was instilled in her at an early age.

Her favorite adventures are often solo backpacking treks out in the wilderness. Or hiking most weekends on local trails. Or with friends and family discovering new campsites. As long as she’s exploring, that’s her new favorite trip.

For Sara, one of the best moments of every journey is turning a corner or climbing above a ridge and an epic view reveals itself. That moment is one-of-a-kind and no two people experience it the same way. That’s yours and yours alone.

She also loves to travel and take local and long-distance road trips.

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