Last updated November 2020: New picks have been added to this buying guide. Prices and links have also been updated to reflect current availability.

The Best Down Jackets of 2021

    Down is warm enough that ducks and geese can swim in freezing water and light enough that they can fly. It’s those two qualities that also make it arguably the best form of insulation yet devised for outdoor apparel. Down’s warmth, low weight and ability to compress make it the perfect material for activities like skiing, mountaineering and backpacking (it’s also great for just cruising around the city, too).

    Advances in chemical treatments also mean that down jackets are more resistant to down’s mortal enemy, moisture, than ever before. From lifestyle wear to burly mountaineering layers, down jackets are lighter, tougher and more water resistant than ever. These 12 jackets are perfect for every activity, from walking your dog on frigid January mornings to conserving warmth and energy at Camp Four.


    Mountain Hardwear Super/DS StretchDown Hooded Jacket

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    Best Overall

    We consider our list of the best down jackets of the year to be exhaustive, but throughout the year, we tested many more that you won’t see here. Down jackets have existed as functional outdoor protection for decades, and while the central concept that guides their design — ultralight warmth — hasn’t changed over the years, companies are still finding new ways to make them more functional than ever.

    Mountain Hardwear is one of those companies. Instead of adhering to the iconic horizontal baffle design, it used a meandering pattern and a woven construction to disperse the down throughout the coat, thereby increasing durability and stretch while minimizing cold spots. The Super/DS StretchDown also uses a stretchier shell fabric that’s less shiny than traditional down coats, making it more approachable for those trying to avoid looking too “outdoorsy.” The sum of all these features is a down jacket with a vast range of applications. Mountain Hardwear may have built it for rock climbing, but the Super/DS StretchDown Hooded Jacket can function anywhere. Plus, with a price tag that’s less than $300, it’s also very affordable.

    Weight: 17 ounces
    Fill Material: Q.Shield responsibly-sourced down; 90% goose down, 10% goose feather
    Fill Power: 800
    Shell Material: Toray I-Tube (85% nylon, 15% elastane)
    Waterproofing: DWR

    Buy Now: $275

    The North Face Summit L3 Down Hoodie

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    Best Do-It-All Down Jacket

    Summit Series represents the most technical apparel and equipment that The North Face can cook up. These are the tents that are used as Himalayan base camps, the one-piece suits that look as suitable for outer space as for high peaks. It’s not just marketing chatter either; The North Face outfits its ambassador athletes in this stuff so that they’re better equipped to explore the places in the world we might only see in the pages of National Geographic, and when it sent its team to Antarctica this summer, it kitted them out in the L3 Down Hoodie.

    In an expedition kit, the L3 is more of a mid-layer, which means it’s perfect for the rest of us who tend to explore less extreme latitudes. It’s the classic down jacket, made thoughtfully in every way: it’s lightweight with 800-fill down and a ripstop exterior, includes two hand pockets, an adjustable hem and an adjustable hood. It has a much wider range of motion than we expected and is treated with a DWR finish. The best thing though? The cuffs, which are soft and stretchy and more comfortable than what the rest of the field uses.

    For a slightly more affordable down jacket with a similar set of features, check out Mountain Hardwear's Phantom Hoody ($350). For a pricier upgrade, look at The North Face's Summit L3 50/50 Down Hoodie ($475), which is also our pick for the most innovative down jacket (see below).

    Weight: 13.4 ounces
    Fill Material: responsibly-sourced goose down
    Fill Power: 800
    Shell Material: nylon
    Waterproofing: DWR

    Buy Now: $375

    Looking to save on down? These promising options are currently discounted in select colors and sizes.

    REI 650 Down Jacket 2.0

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    Best Budget Down Jacket

    The middle ground between price and quality is a small plot, but REI figured out how to land there with its 650 Down Jacket 2.0. For only $100, this jacket is lightweight and provides plenty of warmth for use as a mid-layer on colder days and an outer layer when it’s slightly more temperate. The jacket is relatively unadorned – it has two zippered hand pockets and two interior drop-in pockets, and that’s it for features. For even more warmth and a more technical set of features, upgrade to REI’s Magma 850 Down Hoodie 2.0, which is an equally good deal at $219.

    Weight: 11 ounces
    Fill Material: power down
    Fill Power: 650
    Shell Material: recycled nylon taffeta
    Waterproofing: DWR

    Buy Now: $100

    Montbell Plasma 1000

    Best Ultralight Down Jacket

    If you aren’t familiar with Montbell, you should be. They are one of our favorite ultralight brands, making high-quality sleeping bags in addition to down jackets. That reputation held up through testing the Plasma 1000, and we weren’t disappointed. Simply picking up the jacket can be shocking — even the lightest lightweight rain jackets are heavier. Exaggerations aside, when you toss it up in the air it’ll float gently back down, like a feather.

    The secret is high-loft 1000-fill down, which provides more warmth by weight than lower fill powers. It's been hard to source in the past, but Montbell is now joined in producing a jacket that packs it — see Mountain Hardwear's Ghost Whisperer UL ($375) and Eddie Bauer's MicroTherm 100 ($399).

    So despite its lean stature, the Plasma is toasty warm and packs down into a tiny stuff sack that fits in its pocket. We took the jacket on a shoulder season camping trip and were glad we did. It took up virtually zero space in a pack and was warm enough to extend a sunset hike into the dark.

    Weight: 4.8 ounces
    Fill Material: Power EX Down
    Fill Power: 1000
    Shell Material: 7-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon
    Waterproofing: DWR

    Buy Now: $329

    Jöttnar Fjörm

    Best Heavy Down Jacket

    Jöttnar’s tagline is “Conquer Giants,” and that’s exactly what this expedition-class down jacket was built to do. The Fjörm is big, puffy, and most of all, warm. It’s filled with just under ten ounces of DownTek’s responsibly-sourced, water-resistant, 850-fill goose down — that’s a lot of warmth, but the jacket is still incredibly lightweight and compressible (it packs down into what seems like an impossibly-small stuff sack). That much warmth may be overkill for shoulder season use, but the jacket still breathes well enough to be worn in temperatures just above freezing and is certainly suited to go far below that mark.

    Despite the Fjörm’s size, it doesn’t feel bulky, as some expedition jackets tend to. It’s also incredibly comfortable, and Jöttnar improved the cuffs (small yet key points of jacket-on-skin abrasion) with the addition of a fleece lining. A drawcord waist, extra-large internal gear pocket, helmet-compatible hood, and two-way zipper give the Fjörm serious (and practical) mountain chops. But while this jacket may be built to equip high elevation adventures, its undeniable warmth and comfort make it suitable for wear in cities that see their fair share of frigid temperatures (like New York, for example).

    Weight: 24.2 ounces
    Fill Material: DownTek hydrophobic goose down, synthetic fill in cuffs and neck
    Fill Power: 850
    Shell Material: nylon
    Waterproofing: DWR

    Buy Now: $449

    Rab Infinity Light Jacket

    Best Down Jacket for Windy Places

    For years, the presence of a Gore-Tex tag on a product has signified best-in-class waterproofing. With the recent launch of Gore-Tex Infinium, the label means more (Infinium tags are also white instead of black). In Rab’s Infinity Light Jacket, which is still one of the few down jackets to utilize Infinium, it means superior windproofing and breathability. That combo makes it ideal for getting out and active in super-cold temperatures. Rab made it with mountaineers in mind, but it’s perfect for mountain towns and frigid cities too.

    Weight: 1 pound 2.5 ounces
    Fill Material: Nikwax hydrophobic down
    Fill Power: 800
    Shell Material: nylong with Gore-Tex Infinium and Gore-Tex Windstopper
    Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Infinium (water-repellant)

    Buy Now: $450

    Norrona Lyngen

    Best Down Jacket for Cities

    Not everybody is into the look of technical winter gear. The materials that make jackets warm and waterproof are often shiny or brightly-colored and covered in pockets and zippers, making wearers look like they’re headed to the mountains when they might just be commuting to the office. Gore-Tex launched its Infinium with remedying this stigma in mind. With Infinium, lifestyle drives performance, and technical fabrics might not look like technical fabrics, even though they’re still highly weather-proof and breathable.

    It’s true for Norrona’s Lyngen down jacket. Its outer shell is water-repellant and fully windproof, but unlike many of the other options here, it doesn’t have the characteristic sheen of ripstop nylon. Instead, it looks and feels more like a thin layer of leather. But style isn’t the Lyngen’s only play; that same material is incredibly breathable (Norrona built this jacket with ski touring in mind) and it’s filled with a hearty load of 850-fill, responsibly-sourced down. It’s very warm as a result — warm enough to wear as an outer layer in Northern Hemisphere towns during the dead of winter.

    Weight: 17 ounces
    Fill Material: responsibly-sourced down
    Fill Power: 850
    Shell Material: Gore-Tex Infinium
    Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Infinium (water-repellant)

    Buy Now: $599

    Black Diamond Vision Parka

    Most Durable Down Jacket

    Black Diamond emphasizes two things in the Vision: warmth and durability. The former is a given, but down jackets, particularly the lightweight, packable ones, are known for outer shells that are far from tear-resistant. So Black Diamond worked with a company in Japan to create a liquid crystal polymer coating that makes the Vision significantly more durable.

    The coating works wonders for rock climbers scraping up against a granite, but it also comes in handy when you accidentally scuff up against a wall in town or intentionally bash your way through brush on a hike. Oh, and the Vision is warm. Really warm. It’s Black Diamond’s warmest down jacket to date.

    Weight: 1 pound 4.5 ounces
    Fill Material: goose down
    Fill Power: 800
    Shell Material: 20D nylon liquid crystal polymer ripstop
    Waterproofing: DWR

    Buy Now: $450

    Marmot WarmCube EVODry Parka

    Marmot

    Best Waterproof Down Jacket

    In 2019, Marmot achieved furnace-level down jacket warmth in an unconventional way: In addition to employing the horizontal baffles standard to down jackets, it lined the interior with rectangular pods of 800-fill down. The technology is called WarmCube, and it was previously only available in a jacket meant for arctic-type expeditions called the West Rib Parka. (The West Rib earned a spot on a previous iteration of this list.)

    Marmot has since brought the tech to new designs, like the WarmCube EVODry Parka. This jacket still has those down-filled pods inside, and they're separated by channels that hold warm air, just as they were in the West Rib. But the exterior is a two-layer waterproof shell that can handle snow and rain alike. The baffle-free surface makes this down jacket sneakily stylish and perfect for residents of cities that see their fair share of winter storms.

    Weight: 2 pounds 1 ounce
    Fill Material: goose down, synthetic insulation
    Fill Power: 800
    Shell Material: EvoDry 2L 100% Recycled Nylon Plain weave 3.9 oz/ yd
    Waterproofing: Marmot MemBrain Eco 2-layer, DWR (10k/10k rating)

    Buy Now: $525

    Foehn Robson Down Hoody

    Best Down Pullover

    Familiarize yourself with Foehn. The small brand, which draws its name from the type of warm wind that can develop on the leeward side of mountain ranges, produces a small collection of apparel with rock climbing in mind while paying close attention to style — everything that the brand makes is suitable for city life too. Foehn’s most well-known piece is the Brise Pant, which raised more than $70,000 on Kickstarter, but its down jacket is equally-worthy of high praise.

    Unlike many of the other jackets on this list, the Robson is a pullover. It doesn’t use the common quarter-zip construction either, favoring a zipper on the side to accommodate entry and exit instead. This keeps the jackets face — a matte, Japanese-made stretch fabric treated with DWR — plain, like a sweatshirt. It makes for a stylish profile that’s sure to draw compliments (and questions about who makes it). But the Robson isn’t all looks; it’s plenty warm with a substantial helping of 800-fill down and includes laser-cut underarm vents that aid breathability during high-output activities.

    Fill Material: responsibly-sourced down
    Fill Power: 800
    Shell Material: Nylon
    Waterproofing: DWR

    Buy Now: $260

    Foehn Robson Down Shacket

    Foehn

    Best Down Shirt Jacket

    Shackets — a now-established subcategory cross between a button-up and an outer layer — come in many forms. Many are simply heavy shirts, but Foehn's Robson Down Shacket is a mash-up in the truest sense. It contains the best features of the brand's equally-awesome Robson Down Hoodie, including a stretchy, Japanese fabric exterior and premium 800-fill down innards. But it's definitely a shacket, and not only because it has a snap-button front and a collar but also because it provides just the right amount of mid-level warmth to stay comfortable in those what-do-I-wear temperatures that are 15 degrees on either side of freezing.

    Weight: 12 ounces
    Fill Material: Responsible Down Standard (RDS) down
    Fill Power: 800
    Shell Material: nylon
    Waterproofing: DWR

    Buy Now: $225

    The North Face Summit L3 50/50 Down Hoodie

    The North Face

    Most Innovative Down Jacket

    Zipped up, The North Face's L3 50/50 Down Hoodie doesn't look all that different from the other down jacket from the brand to make this list, the L3 Summit Down Hoody (even the names are confusingly similar). That all changes when you open it up.

    Inside, the jacket's baffles become obvious, accentuated even. That's because The North Face developed a new construction method where nearly all of those baffles have room to breathe between them. The idea is simple, but it works: by leaving these spaces, heat and moisture can escape the jacket more efficiently, creating a versatile, heat-regulating layer. Consider this an upgrade pick to our best do-it-all down jacket, and one to think about buying if you spend significant time in the mountains during winter.

    Weight: 16 ounces
    Fill Material: water-repellent, Responsible Down Standard (RDS) ProDown
    Fill Power: 800
    Shell Material: nylon
    Waterproofing: DWR

    Buy Now: $475

    What to Know Before You Buy a Down Jacket

    An Intro to Down

    Down is found in layers underneath the rougher outer feathers of ducks and geese — it’s what keeps them warm while floating around all winter, so, naturally, it will keep us warm too. Despite that, moisture is the undoing of down, causing it to clump up and lose its heat-retaining qualities. It also should be noted that while large-scale efforts have been made by big brands such as Patagonia and The North Face, not all down is ethically sourced, and animal cruelty does happen.

    Fill Powers Decoded

    Down fill powers are numerical ratings that usually range anywhere from about 450 to 900. This number comes from a standardized test in which an ounce of down is compressed in a graduated cylinder and then measured for volume in cubic inches; that volume is the fill rating. An ounce of 900-fill down occupies more space (and thus traps more air and provides more warmth) than an ounce of 600-fill down. The two samples weigh the same, but one takes up more space and can trap more air, which means more warmth.

    What this boils down to is the idea that a higher fill power means more warmth for less weight. It’s important to note that two jackets or sleeping bags may have different fill ratings while providing the same amount of warmth — the difference is that whichever has the higher rating will pack down to a smaller size because less material is needed to get the same amount of warmth. High down fill powers tend to come with a heftier price tag, so consider what you’re going to use a product for when getting into those loftier feathers.

    How To Wash Your Down Jacket

    Most people take their down jacket for granted, expecting it to perform the same year after year without any maintenance. Over time though, down becomes compacted and dirty, which inhibits its loft and makes the jacket less warm. To clean your jacket, revitalize its warmth and get it ready for all your adventures, follow our simple guide.

    Put your jacket into a washing machine without an agitator. It is easiest to do this at a laundromat, but if your home washer is of the large, front-loading variety, feel free to toss it in there. If you use a washing machine with an agitator, you run the risk of tearing open your jacket or clumping the down in large balls inside — so avoid agitators at all costs.

    Wash with Nikwax Down Wash. Though there are other good down washes out there (namely Granger’s), we recommend using Nikwax’s Down Wash. Add the Down Wash directly into the washing machine, using about three ounces. Follow the directions on the care label of your jacket for specific temperature and cycle settings.

    Switch your jacket to the dryer and add tennis balls. Move your jacket over to the dryer, but before you turn it on, add in a package of new tennis balls. As the drier spins, the tennis balls will bounce around inside the drum, breaking up any clumps of down and helping dry the jacket completely. This also helps to restore the loft in the down feathers. As for dryer settings, low heat for a long period of time is the name of the game.

    Pause the dryer and manually break up any clumps. Every twenty minutes or so, pause the dryer and manually work out larger clumps of down. While the tennis balls work well to help break up clumps, you’ll need to put some extra effort in to break them up completely.

    Tumble dry until the jacket is completely dry. Dry the jacket until it is dry the entire way through. Not only does moist down function terribly as an insulator, it’s also prone to mold, which will lead to a stinky jacket.