A packable down jacket is a jack of all trades, capable in the mountains, the road, or hanging around town, and it’s why I’ll never stop wearing one. With cold weather on its way, it’s time to throw my favorite clothing item in our bags, the down jacket.
I am obsessed with packing the best down jackets I can into my luggage. That only compounded when we picked up hiking, scrambling, ski, and mountaineering. Now we spend well over half our year in a down jacket. Packable down jackets are about being functional, warm, lightweight, and comfortable. On top of that, we need to make sure the outerwear can fit in a carry-on bag or backpack.
Naturally, I wanted the best down jacket possible. So I scoured down jacket reviews online and got me hands on everything I could try. With that knowledge, I’ve hand-picked the best down jackets on the market for outdoor sports, travel, and life.
Arc’teryx is Canada’s answer to Patagonia in the United States and they sure deliver. The Northern neighbors have brutal winters and they’re very much into winter weather activities with some of the best alpine sports in North America. It’s a pricey brand like their competitor, but they deliver a quality product.
The Cerium LT Hoody is a great looking lightweight down jacket. A sleek design and an exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio make the Cerium LT a winner. You can wear the jacket as a mid-layer or a standalone. With the only drawback being durability in regards to branches or sharp points.
It’s filled with a high-quality 850-fill-power down. The shell is rated 10-D which makes for an incredibly light outer layer at only 10.8 oz in total weight. If we’re only judging packing power in regards to jackets the Cerium takes the cake.
I love the high tech design feature of composite mapping. Arc’teryx has effectively added a small amount of Coreloft synthetic insulation to areas prone to moisture. The synthetic material is vitalized around the shoulders, collar, cuffs, and most importantly underarms.
Their well-loved by outdoor enthusiasts and they put them to the test on a daily basis. Shouldn’t be much of a surprise they have a loyal client base. For the more active travelers, the Cerium jacket would be a solid choice for their winter wear. This has become my go-to down jacket and what we use for sports in the Canadian Rockies.
This was the first down jacket Natasha ever bought and it became a staple of her wardrobe. It does come with a higher price tag, but we love the Patagonia brand. In addition to being a great sweater the jacket shell is made from 100% recycled polyester and the fill is traceable goose down.
We love the look of this jacket and it does a wonderful job at keeping you warm. There is a lightweight version of the jacket, but it has an even higher price tag and the shell is less durable. However, the lightweight version does compress better due to a 15-D shell. The shell of the down sweater is a nylon 20-D and the fill is 800-fill power goose down.
The down does a good job at handling wet conditions due to the DWR treatment it receives. This provides a hydrophobic quality to the down. The Down Sweater has a comfortable design and fits that is well suited for city wear and weekend trips. This is Tasha’s hiking jacket of choice. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that is highly rated in down jacket reviews as well.
I personally love the versatility of it. When combined with an outer shell you’re sure to be warm no matter what the temperature is outside. It’s an easy pick and is cheaper than the Feathered Friends above which is better in terms of mountain performance, not something we all need.
What really stands out about the Better Sweater is the versatility and price. It’s been Patagonia’s best selling product for years because it feels equally at home in the mountains and city while not breaking the bank. It’s an easy pick for the number two down jacket and edges out the Cerium hoody below because of its price point. The cerium is a superior jacket, but hard to say $150 better!
The most affordable jacket on this list. REI has designed a great jacket that is perfect for casual use and cool climates. It’s a down jacket that only costs $100 which is about as inexpensive as they come. When REI first released this down jacket it flew off the shelves and has been in high demand ever since. Its closest competitors in quality come in at about double the price.
The jacket is incredibly lightweight at only 10.2 ounces and packs up well. Warmth is its only downfall, but the 3 ounces of 650-fill-power down will keep you warm in cool climates. It’s not the warmest jacket by any means on this list, but it gets the job done.
When it comes time to move to the next destination the jacket packs up into the left pocket and occupies minimal space in your luggage. A nylon shell is lightweight and has some water-resistant capabilities. It has a water-repellent finish that should handle light rain, snow, and wind.
If you’re looking for an affordable no-fuss jacket that will be able to handle travel, light winter sports, and cool days then this is a great choice. It’s a lightweight down jacket that’s under a $100, really tough not to love that price point.
If you need a warm jacket it’s not possible to do better in terms of weight vs warmth than Feathered Friends EOS Down Jacket. This down jacket features 2.8 ounces of 900-fill down with a down hood and an insulated draft tube behind the zipper.
While it may not be best for climates with a light chill, it is perfect for cold weather. These are our favorite down hiking jackets on the market and we both have one. Our only gripe with the jacket is the slightly bulky fit.
When it comes down to packability it comes with a nylon stuff sack that is about the size of a large water bottle. The stuff sack is great for packing down the jacket and attaching the bag to the outside of a hiking backpack, harness, or just slip it in your luggage or backpack.
Feathered Friends is based in Seatle Washington and hand makes every jacket order. Their premise is about making ethical down garments for those who seek out the best performance. Be warned, it takes up to a week to receive the down jacket if not longer in peak season. However, you’re supporting a passionate outdoor business. Also, you can only order their jacket through their online store (they ship internationally) or in Seattle.
If you’re looking for an ultralightweight travel jacket that can take you from the airport to the backcountry than Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Whisperer is leading in class. It has less warmth than the Feathered Friends above but makes up for that with its slim cut style and weight.
Although the jacket is made with a thin 7D ripstop nylon fabric it still effectively maintains body temperatures in low temperatures. The 800-fill power down is treated with Q.Shield moisture-resistant hydrophobic down. Water resistant down combined with Mountain Hardwear’s ripstop nylon does a great job at fighting the elements like wind and light precipitation.
Outdoor manufacturers have not always nailed it when it comes to style, but this lightweight down nylon blend jacket is here to change your mind. With darker, more subtle colors, slim cut, and the classic puffed ribbing, this jacket will help you turn heads while keeping you exceptionally warm in the coldest of climates.
While this jacket won’t replace a heavyweight jacket it is exceptional in its ability to compress. Fitting this outerwear in your carry on luggage will be a breeze. This jacket like many on this list is best used when layering or for activewear in cold environments. Despite that, it is an exceptional jacket for stand-alone winter travel gear.
The Stio down line is one of the best lightweight packable down jackets. We think the Stio brand delivers high-quality apparel at a great value. They use quality Bluesign 800-Fill down throughout the jacket and the baffles do an effective job at keeping down in place. Furthermore, features an exterior Pertex Quantum Shadow Ripstop shell that holds up well to the elements and offers a heck of a lot of performance.
We also love that it’s a small brand based in Jackson Hole where the garments are designed (not manufactured). They’ve also taken steps to ensure they use traceable BlueSign Down certified down in their apparel.
The down jacket does come with a few drawbacks. Most notable is the fit while it’s slim fit works well for us it won’t fit larger body types. To further that point the jacket lacks a hem adjustment which is okay with its slim cut, but still allows for cold to enter the waist.
It’s a well rounded packable down jacket that has great styling perfect walking around a mountain town, city, or in the airport. That doesn’t mean it isn’t capable in the mountains as it still delivers good performance.
More serious mountaineers who need features like a helment compatible hood and adjustments will be happy with this down jacket. This is why we use our Stio jackets for travel and casual use around town.
Natasha just got the Fuego Light and absolutely loves it. First off, style-wise, she thinks it’s cute and slimming for women. It’s incredibly lightweight and packs up well making it a great jacket to travel, hike, and camp with.
The secret to it being so lightweight is the 950 fill goose down with Polartec underarm insulation. The Polartec Alpha insulation makes the jacket packable, fast drying, and easy to care for. This nice mix of materials keeps the heat in while still releasing it where you don’t need it (i.e. underarm). Although the jacket is light it is still made out of heavy-duty 20D ripstop nylon and elastic binding at the arm cuffs and hem.
Natasha personally loves how well this packs up while still being warm enough to handle winter conditions. If you’re looking for a more heavy-duty option from Cotopaxi their regular Fuego Down Jacket is made out of 800 fill responsibly sourced goose down and has a hood attached.
Cotopaxi stands behind their “61 years” guarantee for good, which claims their products are good to last for at least 61 years. After testing out this jacket we can definitely attest to that. We also love that Cotopaxi gives back to some of the worlds poorest community improving the health, education, and livelihoods for all.
This U.K. based company has been creating some exceptional outdoor gear. With almost 8 ounces of 800-fill-hydrophobic-down, this jacket is likely the warmest on this list. However, it remains competitive in pricing to other lightweight jackets mentioned.
The shell is made from a 30D Pertex shell that leaves it lighter in weight and offers good weather resistance. The tough shell and 8 ounces of down make this jacket our heaviest pick. So expect it to occupy more space in your luggage.
In mild temperatures, the warmth of the jacket may be too much especially if you’re an active traveler. However, for those spending time in cold cities and frigid temperatures you’re guaranteed to stay warm.
It’s an exceptionally warm and great piece of winter gear for travelers headed to cold environments. Maybe not the most versatile option on this list, but a great option for sure!
This jacket is a great alternative to the Patagonia Down Sweater we picked as our number one. It comes in at a lower price point too so if you’re looking to save a few bucks this is a great option. The jacket provides plenty of warmth with 4.1 ounces of 650-fill down.
I love the soft fleece-lined hard warmer pockets and the fact they now use responsibly sourced down. The materials in the jacket feel great and it does pack down small enough to fit in your luggage. At just under $200 it’s a pretty great value with high quality feel.
Arc’teryx makes some exceptional products and their synthetic hoodys hit the sweet spot for those of us that spend a lot of time active in cold weather. The advantage these jackets deliver is their ability to handle moisture which allows for a greater range of temperatures.
We both use an Arc’teryx synthetic down jacket for snowboarding and touring, either as a mid-layer or as an outer layer when climbing a steep hill in the snow. These are the areas where a synthetic really shines and the Proton in particular.
They do come with their drawbacks the outer shell is great at letting heat escape, but it also means that wind cuts through the jacket. Altogether this is an excellent jacket for those who enjoy sports outdoors in cold weather like hiking, climbing, backpacking, ski touring, or snowboarding.
Black Diamond apparel comes from the right background, the climbing world. The Cold Forge down jacket is cozy warm, packs down, and is ready to tackle more adverse conditions. This is our first synthetic down addition to the list, but ti’s made with Primaloft “Gold” a blend of down and synthetic materials that is equivalent to 750 fill down. These synthetic materials will help in wet climates as natural down is not effective when wet.
This is more of a feels closer in warmth to the Better Sweater and a little more than the Transcendant above. It’s a great value sweater as the added weight comes in the form of a more robust jacket that would be capable of handling ski or snow conditions without the need for a shell. It’d make for a great mid-layer if it weren’t for the weight. Also, the sleeves only have an interior elastic cuff that doesn’t feel great compared to the exterior on most jackets.
If you’re looking for the warmest down jacket it’s hard to find one better than the Lightline jacket from Mountain Equipment. It has an impressive fill weight of 10.4 ounces of 700-fill down for freezing temperatures. This makes it a great winter jacket unlike some of the lighter down jackets on offer. The outer shell is also slightly weather resistant with a Drilite shell that can handle wind and precipitation.
With all that in mind its $260 price tag feels like a good deal since jackets nowhere near as warm cost a lot more. The drawbacks include the puffy size, okay packability, and weight. It’s really close in comparison to the Rab above but offers just a little bit less with the 700-fill down and heavier weight.
The majority of these jackets have a very similar look. In regards to style, you won’t have to lose to much sleep over what option to go with. I choose to focus on fit instead. A jacket that is well fitted will look sleek and streamlined. It will also move well in cold weather activities. Even if you can’t head to an REI to try on their jacket I’d recommend to order and return if the fit doesn’t work for you.
A distinct advantage of down jackets is the amount of size they occupy in your luggage. The down filler in these jackets allows them to pack down to a reasonable size. A cheap jacket is packed with too many cheap fibers and you will have a tough time fitting in your carry on luggage. This is where quality fill materials come into play.
There is a large category of down jackets that are made for harsh winter conditions and mountaineering. These down jackets tend to be puffier and much larger in size. That’s why they’re not on this list as they don’t serve as great versatile packable travel jackets.
This is one of the greatest strengths of a down jacket. Down insulation is great at expanding and holding onto body heat – effectively keeping you warm. The only problem when it comes to buying jackets is the lack of a clear rating system.
This is commonplace with many similar products. Body warmth is probably the most important aspect of a winter jacket. When it comes to measuring warmth you can look at two measurements fill power and fill weight.
Then you have the exterior fabric, a fabric that does an effective job at blocking out wind will trap body heat and keep you warm. That shell exterior can come with a downside for high energy activities as it can easily trap heat and moisture. So finding the right balance is in art and why most companies seem to have setttled on a lightweight nylon exterior — most commonly 20D Nylon.
The idea behind a great down jacket is it’s compression and ability to pack down. Size difference between these packable down jackets varies from the size of a water bottle to a six-pack. Ultralight jackets like the Cerium and Ghost offer the best compression, but also come at a premium price.
With packable down jackets the higher the fill power the better the compression. This is one of the most notable differences between entry-level and premium down jackets. High-end jackets can pack down amazingly well and bounce back within moments of unpacking.
The fabric also plays an important role in compression and thin denier fabrics pack down better than heavy ones or weather resistant versions like GORE-TEX or Pertex. Along with warmth real down jackets offer superior performance to synthetic down jackets in terms of packability or compression.
It could be the warmest jacket ever, but it needs to be able to move with an active body. The design of the jacket should feel natural and not stiff.
This is really important if you’re into adventure activities like hiking, mountaineering, ski, or outdoor recreations.
There is a measurement in regards to fill power these jackets come in as 500-Fill, 700 fill, 800-fill, and etc. At a baseline, you’ll find the more budget-friendly jackets with about 500-600 fill power. These jackets are great for running around town or a chilly evening, but when it comes to the hard elements of outdoor sports like mountaineering or skiing they’ll leave you cold.
High-end jackets come in at around 800-fill power which seems to be the sweet spot for performance wear. Premium outerwear like this comes with a higher price to keep you warm in the backcountry. Several of our favorite brands like Patagonia, Arc’teryx, and Mountain Hardwear regularly use this fill level.
While fill power refers to the actual quality of the down insulation in a jacket fill weight is the amount. Most jackets will advertise the amount of fill power in ounces.
The heavier the weight the warmer the jacket will be. When purchasing you should consider fill weight, fill power, and intended activity of the jacket. If the fill weight is too high it’s likely that in high activity sports your body temperature will overheat. Fill weight varies a lot from down jacket to down jacket and many times you’ll get superior performance with better fill power and less weight than vice versa.
While you’d think fill weight and total weight would be closely linked this is not necessarily true. Companies use a wide range of materials in outer shells of the jackets and hardware like zippers. We love a jacket that packs good fill weight and remains light in total weight.
The majority of packable down jackets are made with a nylon shell. The exterior holds up well to the elements like wind, rain, and cold. It does have a simple measurement number that refers to the weight of the thread used in production. Other choices include Pertex or GORE-TEX that are nylon blends that are layered and laminatted for superior waterproofing.
The problem with these robust shells is that they tend to trap heat and moisture while adding a lot of weight. The strategy we use for waterproofing is to combine our down jackets with a lighweight shell, but there are a few down jacket options that offer it all one.
The metric is referred to as denier. Denier ranges generally from 7D up 40D. 10D is ultralight and reserved for high-end jackets. Whereas 20D is more standard, but provides a nice blend of toughness and weight. The best way to think of it is the width of the nylon fibers weaved to create the fabric. Other features can include ripstop nylon that is a patterned nylon weave designed to stop the nylon from running.
When determining the style of your new jacket you should consider it’s intended use. Hoods are a great way to stay warm when you wear them. However, when you pull them off your head they tend to pull the neck back allowing the heat your body is generating to escape.
Many people who use the down jacket for hiking, backpacking, or everyday use opt for the hood. The added warmth is a great decision for those chilly days. I use the sweater version as a mid-layer when snowboarding. It happen to be the most popular version to as it’s easily the most versatile.
The second area you’re most likely to lose heat around is your waist. This is especially true if you’re doing winter sports like skiing, mountaineering, or hiking. A tight fitting jacket is key to trapping that much needed heat inside.
For everyday wear, a light weather resistant jacket should do the trick, but if you’re an outdoor enthusiast you’ll likely need a jacket that can fold up to the elements. Down feather lose almost all of their ability to keep you warm once they’re wet.
This is a problem for frequent travelers or outdoor enthusiasts who often end up in wet environments. Due to this many people opt for a synthetic material if they’re worried about getting wet.
In recent years gear manufacterers have begun adding DWR to the down fill in jackets. It’s a process that adds a polymer to the down jacket filling providing hydrophobic properties.
Down feathers unfortunately lose much of their ability to insulate when wet, turning into a clumpy and soggy mess. This makes them a serious liability in wet conditions or if you’re sweating heavily, which is why some prefer a synthetic jacket that continues to insulate when wet.
I like the packability with a real down jacket and when paired with a waterproof shell for the really wet days. It adds a lot of versatility to my suitcase and I can handle just about any environment.
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