Staying warm, having a high amount of mobility and still looking stylish are three things that never seem to go hand-in-hand, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Getting the best down jacket is the best way to have all three when you are out there in the cold.
Getting the best packable down jacket can be difficult, however, as not only can there be a different level of quality between one company or the next but there are also plenty of jackets out there that claim to have down fill that don’t offer the right level of warmth.
We are here to help and have completed down jacket reviews to show you the best products on the market. We have also completed a buying guide to explain all the key features you need to be looking for and once you’ve finished reading, you’ll know exactly how to choose the perfect down jacket.
How To Choose A Down Jacket – Buying Guide
When it comes to wearing down while you are outdoors, there are a few different types that you can choose from. Your needs will depend on the specific situation that you have found yourself in when you might need a specific type of jacket for a number of different situations. There are a few great options out there.
Ultralight down jackets – These are always going to be a very popular choice and one that will give you a great level of warmth without being too comfortable or restricted. These jackets are going to be ideal for doing any type of outdoor sport as they aren’t going to restrict your mobility and free up your arms for whatever you need.
There are a number of different activities that this would be useful for including hiking over long distances, any type of snow sports or climbing among others. Their light weight will still be able to give you the protection you need and still allow you to do what you love.
Another great feature of this type of jacket is that they are able to fold down to a very packable size. This makes them ideal for backpacking as they won’t take up too much space for when it gets a little warmer. It also makes them very easy to take on a long distance adventure.
The downside of these types of jacket though is that due to their lightweight nature they aren’t going to be able to give you quite the same amount of insulation as other types of jacket. Heavier jackets will also be more durable too. If you are going to be in an extremely cold environment or not going to need the same amount of mobility then it might be better to get a heavier jacket.
Down sweaters – These types of jackets are going to be a little heavier than the ultralight options and are an ideal layer of clothing for everyday use. They tend to be quite stylish and therefore you are able to get a lot of use out of them, in all situations.
This is a type of product that can vary quite a lot in its level of performance from one company to the next, therefore it is important to ensure that you are getting a jacket from a reputable company and one that has had a good level of reviews.
They are not going to be too expensive and are a great option if you are going to be in temperatures that are going to stay above freezing. They also offer you a high range of mobility too, making them a good option for hiking trips.
These jackets are going to be a good middle ground between the ultralight jackets and the heavier options. They will be able to give you a good level of warmth but still aren’t going to be the best options for when those temperatures drop below freezing.
Heavyweight jackets – For when those temperatures drop well below freezing then using a jacket that is heavier is going to be the important next step. It will be able to give you the greatest level of warmth and keep you comfortable even in difficult conditions.
Their extra weight comes from the fact that they can be insulated with around two times as much down as other jackets and also their outer could well be thicker to ensure that they are going to be able to remain highly durable and easy to care for.
They are not going to be as packable and are going to take up a low more space in your backpack than other types of jacket, making it less practical. This is a jacket that you are going to be wearing at all times in those difficult conditions.
Due to their increased size, they are also not going to give you a great level of mobility. This makes them not very ideal for sports but they are going to be more ideal for mountaineering and hiking in the very cold. If you are unsure about heat, then it might be a good idea to err on the side of caution and get a thicker jacket.
When wearing any item of clothing, you want to make sure that it is going to have a great fit. With a down jacket, this is not only important to be comfortable but it also plays a vital role in ensuring that you stay warm for a whole day.
Each company will make their jacket with slightly different designs but they should all be able to give you a good level of fit. This is done with how the lining of the jacket is filled in but also how it is going to be tailored to your body.
Like with many different types of jacket, they can either come with a more slender fit or they can come in a straighter design. This is often going to be a personal preference depending on your own personal style and taste.
It’s always important to check the measurements from each individual company to ensure that you are going to be getting the perfect fit for you to ensure that your jacket it tight to your chest. The fit will not only give you the right level of comfort but it will also ensure that your own body heat can be used more efficiently to keep you warm.
This is going to be important, not just for the overall fit of the jacket but also how portable it is going to be. You need to think about where you are going to be traveling with your jacket and if you are going to be wearing it at all times.
If you are not, then you need to consider where you are going to be storing it. If this is going to be in a backpack, for example, then you will want to make sure that the jacket is going to be able to pack down to a small enough size that you will be able to place all your other gear into the bag.
As we mentioned before, the fit of the jacket is going to be important too and this involves getting the perfect size for you and your body shape. A lot of companies will have their own sizing chart to give you the opportunity to check your dimensions in order for you to get a perfect size.
With a lot of Amazon products, they also have a ‘fit as expected’ mark that will show you how much people think that the overall size is a good fit. This, together with the user reviews, can give you a good idea is the size of the jacket that you are choosing is going to be perfect for you or not.
The consequences of getting a jacket the wrong size are going to be bad as it will either not be able to zip up properly, or the jacket might not be able to be tightened properly and therefore will let the cold air in underneath the jacket.
While style is often not the first consideration when it comes to a product that aims to keep you warm, everyone wants to look good when they are out there. A lot of these jackets come in a similar type of style but there are going to be a few differences out there.
There are often a lot of different color options available too and this mostly comes down to individual preferences with a lot of people feeling as though the more earthy colors are going to be more stylish. There is also the aspect of visibility though and some people might see brighter colors as a way of ensuring that you remain as easy to spot as possible.
In terms of how the jackets look, most of them come with stripes running down the jacket where the down will be segmented to ensure that it doesn’t move around too much. There are also other patterns available and also the sizes of the different bands can change as well.
There are advantages and disadvantages to that banding as if they are smaller then that means there is more stitching where there isn’t down insulation and if they are bigger then this gives the down more opportunity to move around and possibly have cold spots on your jacket.
In terms of the overall look, some jackets look better than others and some jackets will comes with branding while others don’t. All this is going to be a matter of personal taste. If you are getting a down jacket then you want it to be able to give you protection from the cold, wind and rain. Once you know it will do that, then style can be considered.
Weight is an important part of any product, especially one that is going to keep you warm. This is where a delicate balance has to be struck as a jacket being warm and a jacket being light seems like a bit of a contradicting.
In order to have the warmest jacket possible it would obviously have to be thick with materials and weigh quite a lot. For these types of jacket especially, they are looking to have a good warmth to weight ratio as weight is a key consideration.
One of the greatest features of down filling is the fact that it is extremely light. If it’s light enough to keep birds in the air while still being insulated then you know it is going to give you a great amount of protection when you are out there in the cold.
Due to that, there’s not a lot of difference when it comes to the weight of these jackets as they will all be extremely light and only weigh a couple of ounces at the very most. That makes them very easy to carry but also very comfortable as well.
These jackets aren’t going to give you the best possible warmth, as you would get a much heavier coat for that but they will give you a vast amount more insulation than a regular jacket would. The weight of these jackets is one of the key reasons why they are such a good item of clothing.
When it comes the material of these types of jacket, they are generally made of either nylon or polyester on the outer and the inner of the jacket. Sometimes a company will use different materials for the outer and the inner but most of the time they are the same.
There isn’t much difference between the two materials as they both do a very good job. They are chosen as they are both lightweight materials that are both durable and able to be made to be water resistant and that is going to be important for a down jacket.
With the shell of the jacket, it will have what is called the denier rating. This is a rating that will let you know how thick the material is and therefore it is a good mark about how durable the material is going to be and also how easily or not it is going to rip.
The problem here though is that the thicker the material is, the more it is going to weigh. As you want these jackets to be lightweight, if the material is going to be too thick then it will compromise that so that the balance needs to be stuck between the durability and the weight.
With that in mind, a denier rating between 10 and 20 would be ideal for a down jacket. That will still make it durable enough for outdoor use but it will still make it very lightweight and portable. If you wanted more durability then you would look for something on the higher end of that scale.
Compressibility And Packability
Another one of the features that makes down jackets such a desirable product is the fact that they can usually be compressed down to a small size. This can be a useful feature for a number of different reasons which we will explain here.
This is another aspect of the advantages of down as not only is it a great insulator but it has the ability to be compressed a lot more than other types of insulation. It doesn’t take long for the jacket to puff out again either, meaning it can be easily transported without affecting the jacket.
Some are able to have more compression than others, and this can be down to a few reasons. As we mentioned before, the thickness of the material will play a big role in this but also the amount of down fill. Even though down is very compressible, the more of it you have, obviously thicker the jacket will be.
Due to this then, a balance has to be struck as is you want the most compressible jacket then it’s not going to be the warmest on the market. Some have the ability to pack down to the size of a water bottle, which can be very useful in some circumstances.
If you are backpacking, for example, then this is going to be a big plus and you would probably rank it highly in a list of desirable features. If you are just going for day hikes though, it’s not something you’d have to worry about. Therefore, this feature changes in importance depending on what type of activity you are going to be doing.
This is one area that can really separate a good jacket from a great one. The reason for that is due to the fact that down feathers aren’t able to insulate you once they get wet. This means you would quickly get uncomfortable during a rainstorm, and cold too.
Another negative aspect of down is that it takes a long time to dry once it has become wet. Due to these disadvantages, companies have to come up with ways to try and prevent the down feathers from getting wet. This can be done to both the shell of the jacket and the down itself.
One of the ways to combat this is with DWR treatment which stands for durable water repellent. This will help to keep the material dry and is highly effective at resisting water. A negative is that it starts to fade after time, especially with washing and direct sunlight. There are kits that you can buy to replace DWR and they can help restore it.
Related Post: How To Waterproof A Jacket
The best way to protect down from water is to make the material of the jacket waterproof but not a lot of companies will have this ability in their jacket due to the fact that it adds weight and also the nature of when and where these jackets are used.
They aren’t meant to be used for rough environments and therefore having a down jacket that is going to be water resistant is all you need. If you were heading out in difficult conditions then it’s a good idea to have a waterproof rain cover or a hardshell jacket.
Related Review: Hardshell Jacket
This seems like a simple question but it’s one that can be a significant determining factor in whether or not a jacket is going to be ideal for you. A hood is going to be useful or not depending on what activity you are doing and how compressible the material needs to be.
While the hood isn’t going to be a massive part of the jacket, it does still add weight and also means that the jacket won’t be able to compress down as much. If you have limited backpack space or want to travel ultralight, then this could be very important.
If you are doing an activity such as skiing, having something that is going to catch the wind and potentially flap about could be very annoying. Having a hood in this case would be more trouble than it’s worth and would probably be a nuisance.
As we mentioned before, these jackets aren’t meant to give you the ultimate protection in bad weather. If you are heading off somewhere cold then you might think about having a down jacket as a mid-layer and a hardshell jacket as an outer layer. This is another example where it is more of a hindrance than a help.
There is a compromise, and that is for the hood to have the ability to roll up into the collar or be removed. A lot of jackets have one or both of these features and it can help to give your down jacket some versatility in different situations.
The whole point of buying a down jacket is for you to get a bit warmer. They can work perfectly as an outer layer in cold conditions but also will be highly effective as a mid-layer then the temperatures and rain start to get more extreme.
Despite many technological advances in many different areas, they have still yet to find a better insulated than the one nature provided with down. This is what makes these jackets much more effective at being warm than other types.
One aspect that is important to note about down though is that it is not all equal. Sometimes there is a difference between the quality of the down and how much it is going to insulate you. It’s important to check the fill power but we will go into more detail on that in the next section.
It’s not just the down that plays a role in the fill power of these jackets though, it is also the other spaces where cold air can creep in. This can be around the hem of the jacket, the wrists, the zipper and also though the hood too.
You want to look for a jacket that is going to be adjustable at these points in order for the material to stay close to your body. These jackets need to be adjustable in different ways and therefore it’s important to check how good the jacket will be before you buy it.
As we mentioned there, the thing that is going to ensure that you stay warm the most is the down. How much down it placed into the jacket and also how much it is going to insulate you all comes down to how the jacket was filled.
On most products you will see this listed as the fill rating and the higher this figure is, the better it is going to be. A down filled jacket with a rating of 800 is going to be warmer than that of a jacket that has a fill of 600, then though that is still a decent rating.
The reason for that it’s an indicator of how much the down will insulate you. This isn’t always going to be a marker of how warm the jacket is going to be though, as it just indicated the quality of the down that has been used throughout the jacket.
A 600 fill jacket will have more warmth than an 800 fill jacket, for example, if the 600 fill jacket has been packed with twice as much down. What this does mean though is that higher fill down jackets can be made much more compressible as they have less down, but greater insulation.
This often comes down to a matter of how expensive the jacket is going to be as down with less fill is cheaper. If you are hiking then that little bit of extra weight and less compressibility isn’t going to be an issue. If you are ultralight backpacking, then you will need a jacket with a very high level of fill power.
When it comes to any type of jacket, the pockets are always going to play an important role. Pockets on such jackets as these though can often be potential causes of a lack of warmth and are therefore kept to a minimum.
For that reason, you generally see two types of pocket on down jackets and they will be zipped pockets and hand warmer pockets. Zipped pockets are a place in which to put your valuable but a lot of jackets don’t have these on the assumption that you’d be using pants pockets or your backpack.
Handwarmer pockets do the exact job that they are titled to do and can play an important role in keeping you warm. Some companies will also place their adjustability cords in these pockets to give you an added level of convenience.
This adjustability is another key feature of down jackets as mentioned previously. Ideally you want it in all areas that body parts come through with the waist, hands and head all being points of potential weakness. This is generally solved with cords and elastic.
The zipper of your jacket is going to be important too as these need to be strong, durable and resistant to any cold air coming through. Ideally you’d want tabs on the zips too so that you can grab them easily when your hands are cold or you’re wearing gloves.
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Down jackets are going to be a great way to have a brilliant layer of warmth while not having to worry about having a heavy layer of clothing or having a jacket that is going to be difficult to carry from one place or the other on account of it being too bulky.
Before you buy one, you need to work out what is going to be important to you and which features are going to be the most vital. If you need your jacket to be as packable as possible, then you might need a jacket with a lower denier rating and less down filling.
If you have less down filling then it’s going to be important that you have a higher amount of fill power. Fill power means that the down has a higher insulating level and therefore you can use less of the material and still have a very warm item of clothing. After that, you want to make sure that the fit is going to be right, the style suits you and that it is going to give you enough protection.
When you have decided exactly what type of jacket you need, you will be able to get your perfect one and head out on your next adventure. Hopefully this article has given you all the information you need to pick the perfect jacket for you.
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