The Best Down Jackets of 2016


Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

Hikers and mountaineers are often exposed to extreme cold, harsh winds and other challenging conditions – especially in mountainous regions. Hiking under these conditions is no fun unless you have the right equipment to keep you warm and protected against natural phenomena. In winter, when the temperatures drop, you will have to put on extra layers in order to maintain your body’s natural temperature. This includes an insulation layer (such as a jacket) that efficiently reduces your heat loss by trapping the body-warmed air within the fabric.

Insulation layers for cold to very cold conditions usually use down or synthetic insulation. It is hard to say which one is better as it greatly depends on your needs.  Down insulation offers a better warmth to weight ratio and is very compressible. Therefore it’s perfect for demanding hiking trips where every gram influences your performance and you have limited space in your backpack. The biggest downside of the down insulation is that it gets flat when exposed to water/moisture which makes it lose its ability to entrap body-warmed air for good warmth. Furthermore, down insulation takes more time to dry then synthetic fibers. The main advantage of synthetic insulation is that it does provide decent warmth even when exposed to moisture and water, but there are also disadvantages; it is heavier for the warmth it provides in comparison to down and doesn’t compress as well either. In dry conditions, a high-quality jacket with synthetic insulation performs similarly to a goose down jacket with a fill-power of 600 (more about down fill-power below) – which is a rather mediocre down quality compared to the 800-fill-power down jackets reviewed below. For more information about insulation layers, check our Comparison of Mid-Layer Materials.

Down jackets are therefore recommended for very cold but dry conditions while jackets with synthetic insulation are recommended for cold to very cold conditions no matter the humidity. However, keep in mind that the provided warmth also greatly depends on the fill weight. Here we reviewed the best five men’s down jackets of 2016 in order to make your buying decision easier. If you are planning to hike mainly in humid environment we recommend that you instead check out our selection of the Best Jackets with Synthetic Insulation. For those who are looking for an insulation layer for moderate to cold weather we also made a selection of the Best Fleece Jackets.

If you are looking for women’s down jackets, please check our Best Down Jackets for Women review.

This selection was updated on the 17th of October 2016.

1. Buying a Down Jacket – What is important?

Down Fill Power:

In general the down fill power tells us how much warmth the jacket provides for its weight. It is measured by putting one ounce of down into a standardized cylinder and compressing it under controlled circumstances. Then the volume of the compressed down is measured. For example 700 down fill-power means that one ounce of certain down type occupies 700 cubic inches in the standardized cylinder when compressed under controlled circumstances. The higher the number, the more warmth provided per ounce of down – but keep in mind that for example a jacket with 700 down fill-power can still be warmer than a jacket with 800 down fill-power if it contains more down. Unfortunately this also makes it heavier.

Type of down:

There are two types of down; regular and treated (hydrophobic) down. Hydrophobic down differs from regular down by being treated with a durable water repellent (DWR). DWR allows the down to dry faster and resist water for a longer time. Therefore, jackets with hydrophobic down insulation in average only lose around 30% of their warmth when exposed to moisture.

Construction method:

There are two types of construction; sewn through and baffle box. Sewn through down jackets are usually cheaper than baffle box jackets but offer inferior insulation. They have the outer layer stitched directly on to the inner layer allowing the down to be separated into lines. This redistributes the down and prevents it from migrating. However, cold spots emerge in the areas where the insulation lines are separated (stitched) thus reducing the overall warmth. Baffle box construction offers better insulation because each down box has its own rectangle and therefore cold spots are eliminated.

Weight:

The rule is that all mountaineering and hiking equipment should be lightweight. Down jackets are in general light for the warmth they provide and therefore perfect for lightweight hiking and mountaineering. Remember that the higher the down fill power, the lighter the jacket will be for the warmth provided.

Pockets:

A down jacket should have conveniently placed pockets for storing hiking and mountaineering accessories. It is especially important that the pockets are easy to access even when wearing a backpack, climbing harness or other relevant gear. In cold weather you do not want to make long stops scrambling through a backpack to find a much-needed item.

2. The Best Down Jackets Review

The Best Down Jackets

The Best Down Jackets

  1. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
  2. Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody
  3. Outdoor Research Incandescent Hoodie
  4. Patagonia Down Sweater
  5. Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket

Comparison

Feature/Product Mountain Hardwear Ghost WhispererArc’teryx Cerium LT HoodyOutdoor Research Incandescent HoodiePatagonia Down Sweater Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket
Weight219 g295 g508 g371 g 635 g
Fill Power800850800800800
Inner Layer MaterialNylonNylon Nylon PolyesterPertex Quantum
Outer Layer MaterialWhisperer 7 x 10D Ripstop Nylon20x10D Ripstop Nylon10D Pertex Quantum GL Ripstop20x30D Ripstop Polyester Pertex Endurance
Type of DownQ.Shield DownEuropean White Goose Down/CoreloftGoose Down Traceable DownEuropean Goose Down
Hydrophobic DownYesHydrophobic Coreloft NoNo Yes
Pockets22333
HoodYes (Hooded Model)YesYesNo (there is also a hooded model) Yes
Insulated HoodYesYesYesNoYes
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

1. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer down jacket is very popular among hikers and mountaineers as it provides a good level of insulation while being super lightweight (it weighs merely 219 grams). The insulation layer is made of 800 fill-power Q. Shield down which is treated with durable water-repellent and thus it maintains basic insulating properties, even when exposed to moisture or rain. The insulation layer is protected by an outer layer made of a relatively thin Whisperer 7D x 10D Ripstop nylon, which is both windproof and water-repellant. The jacket also features an interior toggle hem which allows you to easily adjust the fit as well as elastic binding cuffs that keep the moisture and cold away from the body. It can be packed into its own pocket which is equipped with a secure loop, so you can easily attach it to a climbing harness, backpack etc.  The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket is best for those who want a very lightweight jacket that offers a decent level of warmth. However, if you need a jacket for very cold weather the down jackets from Outdoor Research, or Rab reviewed below might be better options as they contain more down per square meter and are thus warmer. Nevertheless, they are also significantly heavier.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Size when packed
  • Warmth
  • Fit
  • Hydrophobic down

Cons:

  • Very thin outer layer

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Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody

Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody

2. Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

The Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody is slightly heavier than the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket but still extremely light for the warmth it provides and therefore perfect for demanding hiking and mountaineering trips. The jacket’s insulation is mixture of 850 fill-power down and Coreloft synthetic fibers. This mixture assures that the jacket maintains insulation even when it’s exposed to moisture since Coreloft fibers perform extremely well in moist conditions, are lightweight and quick-drying. The Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody uses a down composite mapping technology which means that the Coreloft insulation is placed in areas that are the most exposed to the moisture (shoulders, cuffs etc.). The outer layer of the jacket is made of the Airetica 20×10 denier ripstop nylon which is soft to the touch but at the same time offers good abrasion resistance. Additionally the jacket features elastic cuffs, two hand pockets with zippers, corded zipper-pulls and an adjustable hood. The hood is also well-insulated in order to reduce the heat loss. The jacket comes with a compression stuff sack for easy storing.

 

Pros:

  • Combination of down and synthetic fibers (performance in humid conditions)
  • Weight
  • Fit

Cons:

  • Price

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Video

Outdoor Research Incandescent Hoodie

Outdoor Research Incandescent Hoodie

3. Outdoor Research Incandescent Hoodie

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

The Outdoor Research Incandescent Hoodie is not as light as the jackets reviewed above, but on the other hand also provides better insulation and warmth. The outer layer of the jacket is made of the Pertex Quantum GL fabric which offers a superb strength to weight ratio. Additionally it is soft to the touch and windproof. Under the Pertex Quantum GL layer, there is 800 fill-power goose down insulation which keeps you warm in very cold weather. The jacket is also equipped with a fully adjustable insulated hood, two zippered hand pockets, a zippered napoleon pocket, elastic cuffs and a drawcord hem. The front zipper is double (you can unzip it from the bottom when all the way up) thus making the jacket easy to use with climbing equipment – you can easily reach the climbing harness when wearing the jacket. The jacket can also be packed into its own pocket, when you don’t need it on the trail. The Outdoor Research Incandescent Hoodie is best for those who need a superbly warm jacket for hiking trips in very cold weather.

 

Pros:

  • Double front zipper
  • Warmth
  • Durability

Cons:

  • Weight (if not used in very cold weather)

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Video

Patagonia Down Sweater

Patagonia Down Sweater

4. Patagonia Down Sweater

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

The Patagonia Down Sweater jacket is best for those who want a jacket that provides less warmth than the Outdoor Research Incandescent Hoodie, but still more than the Mountain Hardwear and Arcteryx jackets. The jacket features a shell made of 20×30-denier recycled ripstop polyester and lining made of 22-denier polyester ripstop. The insulation in-between is 800-fill-power down that provides good warmth. The shell is also DWR-treated so that it provides some basic protection against rain. The jacket is equipped with two zippered hand pockets, one internal zippered chest pocket, elastic cuffs and adjustable hem (the hem adjusts by pulling the cords in hand pockets).  It can be packed into the chest pocket and attached with a carabiner to a backpack, climbing harness or other gear. When packed  this way, the jacket is very small and thus doesn’t take too much space in a backpack. The Patagonia Down Sweater jacket is best for those who want a high-quality jacket for spending time outdoors in cold to very cold weather.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Durability
  • Hydrophobic down

Cons:

  • /

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Video

Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket

Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket

5. Rab Neutrino Endurance

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

The Rab Neutrino Endurance jacket is the heaviest down jacket in this review, but does offer superior insulation. Therefore, the jacket is best for hikers, mountaineers and alpine climbers who are often exposed to extremely cold weather. The exceptionally thin Pertex Endurance fabric is used as an outer layer and provides good water/wind resistance while being very light. The inner layer is made of Pertex Quantum fabric which is known for providing great comfort. The insulation layer, which is placed between the Pertex Endurance and Pertex Quantum fabric, is made of 800-fill-power European goose down which due to a hydrophobic treatment dries faster, absorbs less moisture and retains greater loft when exposed to water than regular down.  In addition to top quality materials, the jacket features watertight YKK AquaGuard zippers, elastic cuffs, a hem drawcord, a helmet compatible and down-insulated hood, two hand pockets and one internal pocket. The jacket comes with a stuff sack for storing. The Rab Neutrino offers incredible warmth and therefore we would recommend it to those who often do hiking and mountaineering trips in very cold environments.

 

Pros:

  • Warmth
  • Hydrophobic down
  • High-quality outer and inner layer
  • Durability

Cons:

  • Weight (if not used in very cold weather)

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3. The most attractive product in the review

Which product do you prefer?
Cast your vote to see the results of this poll!

4. Honorable Mentions

The below listed products were once included in our best five selection but eventually moved into this section.

Sierra Designs Elite DriDown Parka

Sierra Designs Elite DriDown Parka

Sierra Designs Elite DriDown Parka

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

The Sierra Designs Elite DriDown Parka is an extremely well-designed down jacket that offers several unique features such as a convertible hood (hood can be used as a high collar) and packing into a camp pillow (the jacket packs into a pillow-sized pocket). The jacket’s insulation consists of 850 fill-power down which is treated with a polymer on the molecular level to create a hydrophobic finish. This prevents the down from absorbing moisture and makes it quick-drying. A 20-denier nylon ripstop outer layer protects the insulation layer against abrasion, thus enforcing its durability. Additionally it is windproof and water-repellant. The hood is adjustable with the front zipper and folds into a high protective collar. This is very convenient because it allows you to freely regulate the temperature around your neck and head. The downside is that it’s hard to make the hood fit tightly around your head or over a helmet because it doesn’t have a drawcord. The jacket is also equipped with two insulated hand pockets, two internal pockets and an insulated storm flap. The jacket can be packed into the interior pocket and used as a pillow, thus increasing your comfort in the night without packing extra gear. The pillow made of jacket features a fleece layer over the top side for additional comfort. The Sierra Designs Elite DriDown jacket performs similarly to the Outdoor Research Incadescent Hoodie and is thus appropriate for those who need a very warm jacket for winter hiking trips.

 

Pros:

  • Packable into a pillow
  • Convertible hood
  • Hydrophobic down
  • Durability

Cons:

  • Weight (if not used in very cold weather)

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