Depending on your activities of preference, winter is either a joyous playground or whitewashed personal hell. No matter what, staying warm is critical, because hypothermia is always a serious concern. Down jackets have been a preferred winter option for many years, and for good reason — they’re super warm (when dry), wick moisture away from your body, are packable down to small sizes for travel and have yet to be matched by any synthetic fibers. The only downside? The occasional prickle and poke. Here are our five favorite goose-based options to beat the winter freeze.
Canada Goose Hybridge Lite
A few years ago we gave the Hybridge Lite’s predecessor the proper Gear Patrol testing process (i.e. wore it through a New England winter). We were nothing but impressed. Not content to stop innovating, Canada Goose has improved their most recent iteration, which uses 800 fill power Hutterite white goose down and weighs less than half a pound. Quilt-through design helps the jacket pack down into its own left hand pocket. Lycra cuffs with thumb holes and YKK zippers are perfect additional touches. There’s a reason arctic expeditions look to Canada Goose to keep warm.
Marmot Tuner Jacket
The Tuner jacket begets Polaroid shots of your Dad drinking beers with his buddies after a day of snowmobiling (back when he stayed up past 8 p.m.). Vintage shirt styling is combined with updated technology and construction for a great casual jacket. It’s built with 100% recycled polyester fabric and insulated with 650-fill down. A snap front and two zippered chest pockets finish the Tuner’s 70’s vibe. Priced at $165, it’s a very affordable option; still, we wouldn’t recommend it for a night in your quinzhee.
Get Your Fill?
Down’s warmth is rated based on fill power — no, it’s not the deadlift total of the goose it came from. Fill power ranges from 400-900; the higher the fill number, the less down is needed to maintain the same warmth as a lower-numbered fill. To achieve this warmth, down with a higher fill power uses larger, more mature down feather clusters, which are also more durable. Thus, they’re better able to withstand you stuffing them in your duffle as you chase snow all winter. Confused? Look at it this way: the bigger the number, the lighter, more packable, more durable and more expensive the jacket will be.
Patagonia Hi-Loft Down Sweater Hoody
Patagonia is a company synonymous with outdoor apparel. Their gear is solid, but usually expensive. Still, a staunch commitment to the environment makes it a lot easier to swallow the Pata-Gucci prices. The Sweater Hoody follows that Patagonia environmental ethos with a 100% recycled polyester ripstop shell that’s been treated with Deluge DWR for water repellance. 800-fill down insulation keeps the weight light and maximizes warmth. The adjustable low profile hood helps to block wind and cold on bitter days (should you have a buzz cut, you’ll be especially grateful). Handwarmer pockets and a drawstring hem help complete a jacket that will be your best friend whether shoveling out your car or winter camping in Acadia.
KJUS Chrome Down Jacket
KJUS makes some seriously high-end apparel using cutting-edge fabrics and technology, and their down jackets are no exception. The Chrome jacket uses 850-fill down (95% goose down & 5% goose feathers), bringing it about as close to warmth and lightness perfection as you can buy. A translucent 100% Polymide shell gives the Chrome a very unique look by showing off the dyed down fill. If money is no object, this is the pick for you. Our only beef? For nearly $700, we’d like 900-fill down, please.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket
Claiming to be the lightest full-featured down jacket on the market, the Ghost Whisperer really brings it. At under 8 ounces, you’ll never have to worry about being weighed down. How does this featherweight stay so slim? A combination of 850-fill down and 7-denier ripstop fabric. That pairing also allows extra compression; stowing inside its own pocket makes for easy packing. Its quilted construction keeps the down in its place and prevents bunching, a common problem. While this jacket will more than do the job in the urban city, it begs to wake up on a crisp morning and keep you warm while you brew some coffee outside your tent. We recommend you give it that luxury now and then.