Best Down Jacket: Beat the Chill with These Superior Coats

Insulated Jacket
Written by Bradley Page

When it comes to the cold weather, keeping warm will always be one of our main concerns. As humans when we get cold our bodies cease to function correctly, rather than doing that, they shut down with the harsh temperatures. This is why keeping warm when the elements are completely stacked against us can be incredibly difficult.

Luckily, down jackets have been designed to lend a hand in fixing that issue. The best down jacket will offer its wearer one of the most intuitive forms of insulation that the apparel market has ever seen.

Whether you are looking to find a jacket for casual use during the winter months, or to keep you warm while you route your own trail through the depths of the back country, a down jacket could be the ideal product for you. They allow you to protect yourself from the harshest of elements, and they can be used in multiple ways.

The majority of hikers and mountaineers either use them as a standalone piece of clothing, or as part of a multi-layer system for optimum warmth.

But, what is a down jacket?

A down jacket is actually a jacket that has been thoroughly insulated using the tiny, fluffy feathers that can usually be found attached to the plumage of both ducks and geese. The majority of the jackets that are readily available on the market are made using European Goose feathers.

These feathers are incredibly efficient due to two different reasons that we can actually see in nature. We just have to look at what the animals use them for to see it. One of the reasons is that ducks and geese both have the incredible ability to withstand the freezing cold temperatures that water can reach during the colder months.

The other is that as effective of an insulation as it is, they can both still fly. If ducks and geese were insulated with a synthetic material, then they would probably be so weighted down that they wouldn’t be able to leave the ground!

Both of those reasons are beneficial to us, and that is why down jackets were initially designed for use when either hiking or mountaineering. They can withstand the extreme conditions that both hikers and mountaineers face on a regular basis. Hiking in the extreme cold with wind hitting your face would be deadly unless you had the right type of equipment to keep you shielded from the elements of the world around you.

But, any hiker or mountaineer will know that they need their equipment to be lightweight. Otherwise it will just slow them down. That means that they benefit drastically from the lightweight nature of the feathers that allow the original winged animals to fly.

Have you ever noticed that feather pillows and duvets seem to be constantly warm? This is because down feathers trap thousands of little air pockets between them, and each of these individual air pockets contains warm air, thus allowing the product to retain heat. The exact same system works within down jackets, with the air pockets trapping the warmth that allows you to maintain your own body’s core temperature.

Should I watch out for any problems with down insulated jackets?

If you had asked this question a few years ago, then we wouldn’t have been able to give you a good answer. The main answer would have been the problems that can be caused when down insulation is exposed to moisture, as moisture has always been one of the key issues with regards to down insulated products. Luckily, significant advancements in the textile market mean that you no longer have to worry about this issue at all.

Years ago the moisture would have caused the warmth in your jacket to dissipate. If you imagine a handful of feathers getting wet, then you will probably be able to see them all clumping together, and that was the key problem. As they start to clump together the little trapped air bubbles that keep the lovely heat in start to disappear, leaving just a cold jacket full of feathers.

But, now a lot of down feathers are actually treated before they are used in products. This treatment makes the down feathers hydrophobic, so that they repel water opposed to absorbing it. This method of treatment uses a water repellent known as DWR. The use of DWR means that they down jacket will dry faster if it does get wet, and it will be able to resist a lot more water than an untreated jacket would be able to resist.

Now that does not mean that you should go out in the pouring rain in the middle of a storm in a jacket that is insulated with down feathers. They are only water resistant, not waterproof. If enough water does make contact with the jacket, then you will lose the heat contained within the jacket. They can just about withstand unexpected showers and snow flurries.

Another example of the promising nature of the current textiles industry with regards to outdoor pursuits can be seen in jackets that combine the use of both synthetic insulation and down feathers. They commonly use down feathers in areas that require the heat more than other areas do, including the core of your body and areas that are prone to losing heat quickly, like your arms.

While the synthetic insulation is usually used in areas of your body that are prone to getting wet while you are active. This means that the down feathers won’t be exposed to the moisture from your body.

You will not even have to worry about looking like a marshmallow anymore. In the past down insulated jackets have been known to be far too bulky. Whereas now the jackets are usually designed with a more modern feel to them, usually resulting in an urban explorer feel.

What qualities and features should you look out for?

When you begin looking for your own down insulated jacket, there are actually a lot of different qualities and features that you should look out for. As you probably already know, a lot of products on the market will brand themselves as the best down coats for men, and most of the time that simply is not true.

By knowing what to look out for you can make sure that you really do end up with one of the best coats on the market, rather than a fraud that would barely keep you warm on the beach in summer. The things you should look out for include:

Recommended Reading: We’ve written the ultimate guide comparing down and PrimaLoft that you might be interested in.

How well does the jacket actually fit you?

The fit of the jacket is one of the most important things to look out for when buying a down insulated jacket, if not the most important thing. That is because if your jacket does not fit right, then its performance will be adversely affected.

The key thing to remember is that you should be able to use a down insulated jacket in two completely different ways. You should be able to use it as either a standalone item, or part of a multi-layer system. This means that there should always be a little bit of space underneath the jacket for an additional layer or two.

That is where you need to be careful. If there is too much space underneath your jacket then the cold air will have an access point, and your jacket will not be able to keep you warm!

Stylish Down Jacket

Another key thing to consider in the fit of your jacket is the amount of manoeuvrability that you have while you wear the jacket. Can you move freely? If you cannot then you could find that the jacket could be quite hazardous in a mountainous environment, or even a back country hiking environment.

How much does the jacket weigh?

You should think about the weight of a jacket in the same way you think about the weight of any piece of equipment. It should be as lightweight as possible. That way it doesn’t slow you down, or negatively affect your abilities while you are partaking in outdoor activities.

Is the jacket durable?

One of the only problems that comes with a lightweight jacket is that it can have an issue with durability. Most lightweight fabrics will be more at risk to snagging and abrasions. Luckily, the vast majority of down insulated jackets have been created with ripstop fabrics to stop these issues from arising.

What sort of pockets does the jacket have?

Remember that these jackets have been designed for sports that include mountaineering and hiking. That means that any pockets that have been placed on the jacket should always be conveniently located. You should have easy access to them, especially when you are using different types of gear out in the mountains, otherwise they could prove to be a safety risk.  

What type of insulation does the jacket have?

When it comes to the current market for down insulated jackets, the majority of products are either completely down insulated, or partly synthetically insulated. As we have already mentioned, jackets that are partly synthetically insulated are brilliant. They offer heat to the areas of the body that need it the most, while keeping the moisture that the body produces away from the down feathers.

What amount of down fill power does the jacket offer?

The actual amount of down fill power that a jacket can provide you with all depends on a set of laboratory condition tests. Luckily you do not need to know all of the details with regards to these tests, all you need to know is that a higher number offers greater efficiency than a lower number, So, if you are heading out into an incredibly cold environment then you should aim for as high of a number as possible.

How has the jacket been constructed?

There are two different types of construction that are usually used in the design of down insulated jackets. They are generally either ‘sewn through’, or ‘baffle box’.

There are two different types of construction that can be seen most frequently in the design structure of down insulated jackets. They are called ‘sewn through, and, ‘baffle box’. The jackets that are ‘sewn through’ have weak spots, where heat can escape. Whereas, the jackets that are ‘baffle box’ have been designed with small rectangular shapes, eliminating cold spots in the jacket.

If you take all of those factors into consideration when purchasing a down insulated jacket, then you will find yourself with the best down parka for men on the market, or standard jacket of course!

Our Top Down Jacket Reviews

Arc’Teryx Men’s Cerium LT Hooded Jacket

Dimensions: 3 x 11 x 16 inches.

Weight: 1.4 pounds.

Features: A down fill power of 850, and a blend of both down and synthetic insulation.

Best Use: Backpacking, hiking, and mountaineering.

If you have decided that you want to go for a jacket that perfectly blends the ideal nature of both down feathers and synthetic insulation, then the Arc’Teryx Men’s Cerium LT Hooded Jacket could be the ideal product for you. It uses high ranking down to coat the areas of your body that need the heat the most, such as your core.

While the synthetic insulation has been placed on areas such as your underarms, and other areas that are prone to gathering moisture. This means that you won’t suffer with any of the adverse effects that down feathers show when they aren’t shielded from moisture.

The down feathers that have been used to insulate this particular jacket have also been treated with DWR, allowing them to repel excess moisture. That means that this jacket is ideal for use in cool, dry conditions, but it can cope well with unexpected drizzles of rain and small snow flurries. Meaning that this jacket is ideal for activities where weather conditions might not be completely predictable.

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Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket – Men’s

Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket – Men's

Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 5 inches.

Weight: 1.4 pounds.

Features: A down fill power of 800, as well as a down-filled hood.

Best Use: Hiking, and hikes that may turn out warmer than expected!

Sometimes it can be a good idea to take a cold weather coat on a hike that might not necessarily be cold. Just to make sure that you cover all the angles. The only question left is what to do with the coat if it is warmer than expected.

The simple answer can be found nestled in the design of this Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket for men, it folds directly into a little, lightweight stuff sack that can then be placed directly into your rucksack.

One of our favorite things about this particular product is the down-filled hood. Have you ever noticed your head starting to get cold while you attempt to battle the harsh realities of freezing temperatures?

A down-filled hood makes sure that your head is kept warm at all times, which can sometimes trick you into thinking that it is warmer than it actually is outside of your jacket! That alone could easily make this product one of the best down coats for men.

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Mountain Hardwear Nitrous Hooded Down Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Nitrous Hooded Down Jacket

Dimensions: 26 x 17 x 4 inches.

Weight: 13.8 ounces.

Features: A down fill power of 800, and dual-hem seals.

Best Use: Backpacking and hiking.

When it comes to both backpacking and hiking, the weight of any of the products that you carry can really be a key issue. Your jacket should never be an exception, anything that ways too much simply isn’t practical.

The Mountain Hardwear Nitrous Hooded Down Jacket takes that into consideration at every step, by offering the wearer a superior warmth to weight ratio. That really is one of the ideal benefits that a good down insulated jacket, like this one, can offer you.

Practicality is another key feature of this product, as it features a dual hem seal. This seal can be easily adjusted while you are on the move, and it keeps the heat in while sealing the cold air out.

This jacket would be suitable in small showers and snow flurries, as the down features have all been treated to be hydrophobic, and repel a certain amount of water. This product would be ideal for unpredictable weather, or the weather that you might encounter up in the mountains.

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Patagonia Men’s Down Sweater Jacket

Patagoen's Down Snia Mweater Jacket

Dimensions: 20 x 17 x 4 inches.

Weight: 1 pound.

Features: A down fill power of 800, and excellent tear resistance.

Best Use: Mountaineering, and winter hikes.

As we mentioned in the section about the features that you should look out for when purchasing your jacket, unfortunately lightweight jackets can be very prone to snagging and ripping easily.

As a lightweight jacket, the Patagonia Men’s Down Sweater Jacket is an incredible example of the limits that the textiles industry can push. It is highly tear resistant, and makes use of a recycled polyester shell and lining, giving this jacket the toughness that it needs to push the limits.

With a down fill power of 800, you will not feel the cold, or even the chill of the wind in this windproof jacket. The down feathers that have been used have all been treated with DWR, so they can handle a lot more moisture than untreated jackets and products can.

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Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket

Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 3 inches.

Weight: 9.6 ounces.

Features: A down fill power of 800, and a compressible design.

Best Use: Hiking, both during the winter and when weather is unpredictable.

Another brilliant example of a down insulated jacket that can be used when the temperature is unpredictable is the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket. It comes with its own little pocket that it can be directly compressed down into. It has to be one of the easiest forms of storage that could possibly come attached to one of these jackets.

If you do plan on taking this jacket out during the depths of winter, then you will find that it has quite a few features that you could find to be incredibly beneficial. Two of the features are the simplest, and the most vital.

The first is that it features a single, interior toggle hem. That means that you can easily adjust the hem of the jacket while you are still on the move. The second is similar, yet on the cuffs. Both of the cuffs feature an elastic binding that allows you to protect your arms from any cold air and moisture that may attempt to invade.

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Arc’Teryx Thorium SV Hoody – Men’s

Arc'Teryx Thorium SV Hoody – Men's

Dimensions: 27 x 15 x 6 inches.

Weight: 1.6 pounds.

Features: A down fill power of 800, and a mixture of both down and synthetic insulation.

Best Use:Mountaineering, and other outdoor winter sports.

Sometimes a strategic option is the best option. This is especially true if you plan on taking part in a sport such as mountaineering. When you are out in the mountains you encounter a lot of sharp edges and rocks that could result in your jacket tearing.

Due to this you need a jacket that has strategy stitched into the very seams of it. We can definitely tell you that the Arc’Teryx Thorium SV Hoody does.

It has been designed to be both durable and soft, and consists of a fabric that can directly withstand any abrasion. Just like the majority of jackets that contain down feathers, it is not entirely waterproof. But, it has been treated so that it can be water resistant, making it perfect for use in an environment that will have small snow flurries.

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Mountain Hardwear StretchDown RS Hooded Outdoor Jacket

Mountain Hardwear StretchDown RS Hooded Outdoor Jacket

Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 4 inches.

Weight: 2 pounds.

Features: A down fill power of 800, and the use of a ripstop fabric.

Best Use: Backpacking, hiking, and winter walks.

If you are looking for something a little bit simpler than some of the products on the market, then the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown RS Jacket could be ideal for you. It can be used either as a standalone piece for a short walk, or as part multi-layer system for longer adventures.

This means that you should make sure that you have enough space under the jacket to fit one or two additional layers underneath.

This particular jacket features a bonded channel construction, which allows the product to directly retain heat by trapping heat within the channels of the jacket. Sometimes these channels can result in a lack of manoeuvrability for you, but the knit interior fabric face of this jacket actually enhances the range of mobility that you will have through stretch.

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Outdoor Research Men’s Filament Jacket

Outdoor Research Men's Filament Jacket

Dimensions: 15 x 13 x 2 inches.

Weight: 2.1 pounds.

Features: A down fill power of 800+, and a unique chest pocket.

Best Use: Winter activities!

Anyone that goes hiking knows just how important it can be to have extra storage spots. Especially if you have ever been in that situation where the small items that you need have precariously found their way to the bottom of your daypack.

Right in that spot where you have to pull everything else out to get to them! Luckily this jacket features a rather large chest pocket, that can also double as a stuff sack for the jacket itself when not in use.

The Outdoor Research Men’s Filament Jacket also features a massive down fill power of 800+, meaning that it can effectively keep you warm even when the temperatures surrounding you are the equivalent of freezing.’

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Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Jacket

Down Parka

Dimensions: 12 x 9 x 3 inches.

Weight: 13.6 ounces.

Features: A down fill power of 800, and multiple points of storage.

Best Use: Generally keeping warm.

 There are a lot of hikers out there who like to pack light, and one of few problems associated with packing light is the amount of storage points that you actually have. Luckily Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Jacket has several, with two zippered pockets where your hands would usually go, and one zippered pocket on the chest.

The zippered pockets by your hands are actually hand warmers that are surrounded by down feathers, but they would be suitable for devices such as a mobile phone.

One of the key things that Patagonia are known for doing right is efficiently treating their feathers. Customers generally agree that the DWR treatment that they offer is second to none, and the down feathers dry out a lot quicker than the down feathers in other jackets do. Just try not to get the jacket too wet on your adventures!

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Staying Warm Out There

One of the best things about down jackets is the multitude of uses that they can actually be used for. If you are in a situation where you could be cold, a down jacket is ideal. Unless it happens to be bucketing it down with rain of course.

So, whether you are heading out on a brisk winter walk with your dog, or arranging your gear at base camp, it can be good to have a jacket that would be suitable for both. Otherwise you could quite easily end up with hundreds of jackets for different purposes!

So, as long as you look out for all of the basics and make sure that your down insulated jacket fits you properly, you will only ever need one down jacket – not a whole wardrobe full.

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Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!