The Best Down Vests for Hiking


Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Vest

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Vest

Hikers, trekkers and mountaineers are often exposed to challenging weather conditions.  In order to be comfortable on trails they have to choose their clothing with great caution. Hiking vests are becoming increasingly popular as they keep your torso warm while offering great freedom of movement, which is of great value for any active outdoorsman. Insulated hiking vests are also up to 33% lighter than corresponding jackets and in general less expensive than insulated jackets. The advantages are thus many although the missing sleeves can become a problem if hiking in very wet or windy climate without an additional rain jacket.

Hiking vests can use synthetic or down insulation and each of them has its advantages and disadvantages. Down insulation provides a better warmth-to-weight ratio than the synthetic insulation, is lighter and can be easily compressed (garments using down insulation pack really small). The biggest downside of down insulation is that it loses its ability to provide warmth when it gets wet/moist. Synthetic insulation, on the other hand, provides warmth even when wet/moist, is cheaper but weighs more and offers inferior compressibility. Therefore, down insulated vests are recommended for hiking in dry conditions while vests that use synthetic insulation are recommended for hiking in humid/wet conditions. Keep in mind that a hiking vest leaves your arms exposed to the natural phenomena and is thus not appropriate to be worn as an outer layer in rainy or extremely windy conditions. In case that you are expecting such conditions, have a rain jacket (check out our reviews of the best 2-5-layer and 3-layer rain jackets) in backpack and use vest as a mid-layer.

In this review we selected and reviewed the best five down vests for hiking in order to make you buying decision easier. We only listed high-quality products that offer superb performance. If you are undecided whether to buy a down vest or a down jacket, also check our review of the Best Down Jackets.

1. Buying a Down Vest for Hiking– What is important?

Down Fill Power:

The down fill power tells us how much warmth the down used in a vest provides for its weight. The higher the number, the better is the insulation. But please note that for example a vest with 600 down fill can still be warmer than a vest with 800 down fill if it contains more down – by also being heavier. Down vests for hiking usually use a fill power between 600 and 800. It is quite common that hiking vests with a high fill power are lighter than those with a low, but on the other hand they are also more pricy. For more information about insulation materials read our article Comparison of Mid-layer Materials.

Type of down:

There are two major types of down available; regular down and hydrophobic down. Different manufacturers use different names for their (or their suppliers’) hydrophobic down– for example  Mountain Hardwear calls it Q.Shield down while Rab calls it Nikwax down (Nikwax is a separate brand that manufactures hydrophobic down). Hydrophobic down differs from regular down by providing decent warmth even when wet. However, hydrophobic treatment does not completely eliminate the fact that down loses its insulation when wet but rather decreases the loss. As vests are not designed primarily to offer protection against rain, we don’t consider it vital that they are equipped with hydrophobic down.

Weight:

As all hiking equipment, a down hiking vest should be light. Vests are known for being light and this is one of their biggest advantages in comparison to jackets. If you need a vest that provides superb insulation while being extremely light, get one with a fill power over 800.

Pockets:

A hiking vest should have pockets that can be easily accessed when carrying a backpack or wearing climbing harness or other gear. Therefore, the pockets are usually bigger and placed higher than on casual vests.

Cuffs:

Hiking vests are in comparison to jackets inferior in retaining warmth as the warmth escapes through the arm holes. However, many vests have elastic cuffs around arm holes to increase the warmth withhold.

2. The Best Down Vests for Hiking Review

The Best Down Vests for Hiking

The Best Down Vests for Hiking

  1. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Vest
  2. Arcteryx Cerium LT Vest
  3. Patagonia Down Sweater Vest
  4. Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest
  5. The North Face Nuptse Vest

Comparison

Feature/Product Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Vest Arcteryx Cerium LT Vest Patagonia Down Sweater Vest Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest The North Face Nuptse Vest
Weight5.0 oz.5.8 oz.9.8 oz.9.4 oz.1 lb.
Weight (Metric)142 g165 g277 g267 g460 g
Fill Power800850800650700
Type of DownQ.ShieldArc'teryx Down with DCM, CoreloftGoose DownGoose DownGoose Down
Outer Layer MaterialNylon 10DAiretica Nylon 20DRecycled PolyesterPolyester 20D RipstopNylon 50D
Pockets22333
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Vest

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Vest

1. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Vest

Suitable for:

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

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is an extremely light vest and thus best for those who want to eliminate any excess weight on their demanding trips and expeditions.  Furthermore, the vest can be compressed in its own pocket to save much needed space in a backpack. The outer layer is made of superlight 10D nylon and the insulation layer uses an extraordinary 800 fill power Q.Shield down. The Q.Shield down is treated with permanent water repellency and thus resists moisture longer as well as dries faster than regular down. In addition, it also provides warmth even when wet which does not apply to regular down. The outer layer is water-resistant and windproof in order to increase the protection against natural phenomena. Additionally the vest is equipped with a toggle hem, two zippered pockets and a carabiner loop for easy attachment when packed. The zippered pockets are placed a little higher than the pockets on casual vests to allow easy access when using the hipbelt of a backpack. All in all the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is an incredible vest for hiking, mountaineering and even for climbing.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Hydrophobic down
  • Well-placed pockets
  • Compresses into its own pocket

Cons:

  • Price

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Arcteryx Cerium LT Vest

Arcteryx Cerium LT Vest

2. Arcteryx Cerium LT Vest

Suitable for:

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

The Arcteryx Cerium LT is another extremely light vest which provides superb performance on demanding hiking and mountaineering trips. The vest has an outer layer made of DWR (Durable Water Repellant) treated Airetica Ripstop Nylon that offers great protection against wind, rain and abrasion. The extremely sophisticated insulation layer is made of a mixture of 850 white goose down and CoreLoft synthetic fibers. The CoreLoft fibers are known for retaining warmth even when wet. Furthermore, they are ere extremely light and quick drying. The insulation layer uses Down Composite Mapping method to strategically redistribute goose down and CoreLoft fibers – CoreLoft fibers are placed in areas that are the most exposed to moisture such as shoulders and sides. Because of the materials used, the vest offers excellent weather protection. Additionally it is equipped with corded zipper pulls and two well-placed zippered pockets. It comes with a stuff sack for easy storing. The Arcteryx Cerium LT is a great vest for those who need a high-quality insulation garment for their challenging adventures.

 

Pros:

  • Materials
  • Weather protection
  • Well-placed pockets
  • Warmth
  • Stuff sack included

Cons:

  • Price

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Patagonia Down Sweater Vest

Patagonia Down Sweater Vest

3. Patagonia Down Sweater Vest

Suitable for:

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

The Patagonia Down Sweater Vest is around 100 grams heavier than the above reviewed Arcteryx Cerium LT vest and the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer vest but it also provides better warmth as it has a thicker insulation layer with a similar goose down fill. This vest is perfect for eco-conscious hikers and mountaineers as it uses recycled materials and traceable goose down – the outer layer is made of 100% recycled polyester while the down used in the insulation layer comes from geese that were treated humanely. The vest offers great protection against wind but it lacks rain/moisture protection in comparison to the above reviewed vests as the down used is not hydrophobic. However, as vests are typically not worn as an outer layer in wet weather, we don’t see this as a major downside. The west is also equipped with two zippered pockets, one internal zippered chest pocket, a drawcord hem at the bottom and elastic cuffs around the arm holes. It comes with a stuff sack (equipped with a carabiner loop) which allows easy attaching to the climbing harness and other gear.

 

Pros:

  • Warmth
  • Eco-friendly
  • Stuff sack included

Cons:

  • Pockets placement and size

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Video

Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest

Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest

4. Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest

Suitable for:

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

The Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest has almost the same weight as the Patagonia Down Sweater Vest but as it uses a 650 fill down compared to the Patagonia’s 800 fill down it provides inferior warmth.  However, the Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest is much less expensive than the Patagonia Down Sweater Vest and thus a perfect choice for trekkers and hikers who want a budget and yet reliable insulation garment.  The outer layer of the vest is made of water-resistant and windproof 100% polyester while the insulation layer uses goose down. The vest features two zippered hand pockets, a zippered napoleon pocket and a drawcord hem at the bottom. The hand pockets could be positioned a little higher to allow easier access when wearing other gear such as for example a climbing harness. The vest can be compressed into the left hand pocket and attached to other gear with a carabiner. The Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest is best for those who want a durable piece of insulation clothing for reasonable price.

 

Pros:

  • Compresses into its own pocket
  • Durability
  • Price

Cons:

  • Warmth

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The North Face Nuptse Vest

The North Face Nuptse Vest

5. The North Face Nuptse Vest

Suitable for:

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

The North Face Nuptse Vest is the heaviest vest in this review; it weighs almost 3 times more than the  lightest – the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Vest. However, The North Face Nuptse Vest is also the most stylish product in the selection and thus more than appropriate for everyday use.  Additionally, it is available in eight different colors. Because of the thick insulation layer, the vest provides great warmth even though it uses only 700 fill goose down. The outer layer is made of a robust 50D nylon which offers decent weather protection as well as superb abrasion resistance. The vest is equipped with two zippered hand pockets, an internal chest pocket and a hem chinch-cord. It can be compressed in the internal pocket for easy storing. Additionally, it is compatible with other North Face garments – for example it can be easily attached to a North Face jacket with the front zipper and thus used as an additional insulation layer to it. The North Face Nuptse Vest is best for those who want a stylish piece of insulation clothing for everyday use as well as for outdoor activities.

Pros:

  • Stylish
  • Compatible with other North Face garments
  • Warmth

Cons:

  • Weight

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