Hiking at high altitudes or in the height of winter can be an absolute pleasure but only if you are dressed appropriately for the low temperatures. A down jacket is the perfect option for hiking in icy cold weather as it provides the most warmth in relation to its weight compared with other insulation materials such as polyester fleece and synthetic fill. To learn more about insulation and understand how down jackets compare to for example fleece jackets, please read our article on mid-layer materials. A down jacket can be used on its own as long as the weather stays relatively dry; otherwise you will need to layer it with a rain jacket since down loses its heat-retaining properties when wet.
All products included in this review use either RDS-certified (Responsible Down Standard by Down Union) down or the brand has its own animal rights policy (Patagonia and Marmot) to ensure that the down only comes from animals which have never been force-fed or live-plucked.
1. Buying a Down Jacket for Hiking – What is important?
The feeling of being warmly dressed under various conditions is ultimately a subjective feeling, so there is no universal scale for the warmth clothes can provide. Nevertheless, when it comes to down jackets there is an indicator called the down fill power which specifies how much warmth the respective type of down provides for its weight. One kilo of down with a down fill power of 800 thus retains more heat than an identical quantity of down with a down fill power of 600. Naturally the actual warmth provided by a down jacket depends on the amount of down used, so also pay attention to the weight of the jacket. As hiking clothes shouldn’t be too heavy in general, we chose only jackets with a down fill power of 700 and above.
Type of Down:
Regular down loses its heat-retaining properties when wet, but this can be mitigated by treating the down with a durable water repellent (DWR), so it can resist water longer and dry faster once wet. Therefore, DWR-treated down is often called hydrophobic down.
Some mountaineers only use a down jacket for the rest phases depending on the temperature and weather conditions, and thus it is practical if the jacket can be compressed easily into its own pocket or a stuff sack to save space in the backpack. However, do not store any down jacket stuffed down for extended periods of time as it will compromise the down’s loft and longevity.
When deciding for a down jacket with or without a hood, you need to consider how much you would actually use it. Down jackets without a hood usually have a high, relatively tight-fitting collar which traps heat superbly while down jackets with hoods are designed to mainly trap the heat around your neck when the hood is up and in use. This means that more heat escapes when the hood is down, so be sure to use that hood if you have it. Most of the down jackets reviewed below are available both with and without a hood. A hood will naturally increase the weight of the garment slightly, but not terribly so.
Unlike down jackets and parkas for everyday use, a down jacket for hiking should not run much lower than to your hip as it will otherwise impede your strides and slow you down.
Every jacket for winter use should have hand pockets so you can warm your hands, but it is also an advantage if it has internal pockets so you can safely store valuables there instead of the hand pockets.
All the products can be machine-washed on cold cycles and tumble-dried at low temperatures.
We only list top-tier products. Read how our selections of best hiking products differ from others here.
We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases at no extra cost to you.
2. The Best Down Jackets for Women Review
The Best Down Jackets for Women – List
|Feature/Product||Patagonia Down Sweater||Cotopaxi Fuego||Black Diamond Access||Kuhl Spyfire||Jack Wolfskin JWP|
|Down Type (Certification)||Goose (Advanced Global TDS)||Goose (RDS)||Goose (RDS)||Goose (RDS)||Duck (RDS)|
|Hydrophobic (DWR-treated) down||Yes||Yes||Yes||n/a||n/a|
100% recycled polyester 20x30D Ripstop
|DWR-treated 20D giant-ripstop nylon||30D 100% Ripstop Nylon||Main: 20D MIKROTEX Nylon. Yoke overlay: Tufflex nylon||100 % StormLoc Ripstop Polyamide|
|Average Weight (metric)||13 oz. (371 g) - hooded model||14 oz. (397 g) -hooded model||12.13 (344 g) - hoody||14 oz. (397 g) - hooded model||8.5 oz. (240 g) – size S|
|Back Length||25 in. (63.5 cm)||23 in. (58.5 cm)||26 in. (66 cm)||26.75 in (68 cm)||25.2 in. (64 cm) for size S|
|Available versions||With and without hood, vest||With and without hood, vest, parka||Hoody, parka, full-length parka||With and without hood, vest, parka||Unhooded jacket and vest|
1. Patagonia Down Sweater
The Patagonia Down Sweater is a great down jacket due to its traceable 800 fill-power down and its 20D Ripstop shell which is treated with a DWR-finish. In spite of the durable shell material and finish, the whole jacket has a nice feel to it, but it is of course a plus that the top part of the zipper is covered with fleece, so it feels extra soft on your neck and face when it is all zipped up. Besides the two hand warmer pockets with Vislon zipper, the jacket has an internal zippered chest pocket which conveniently converts into a stuff sack with a carabineer clip-in loop so that you easily pack and store the jacket when you don’t need it. When you do need it, you can wear it as an outer layer or exploit its compressibility by using it as a mid-layer with a shell layer on top. The Patagonia Down Sweater comes both with and without a hood as well as a sleeveless vest.
- Traceable hydrophobic down
- Shell fabric is treated with a DWR-finish (Durable Water Repellant), and is bluesign-certified
- Compresses into inner pocket
- Big price jump between model with and without a hood
2. Cotopaxi Fuego Down Jacket
The Cotopaxi Fuego is the heaviest down jacket on this list, but as the name implies it is built for warmth! Not only does it utilize a responsibly sourced high-quality 800 fill power hydrophobic goose down insulation, but it is also equipped with a tight-fitting built-in scuba hood with elastic binding, elasticated cuffs, and a drawcord hem to keep the cold air out and the warm air in. The Cotopaxi Fuego down jacket has two zippered hand pockets and two interior stash pockets, of which one can double as a stuff sack for the jacket, when you are not using it on the go. The DWR-treated shell fabric is made of 20D giant-ripstop nylon, while the lining is made of 20D mini-ripstop. Unlike the other down jackets here, the Cotopaxi Fuego does not come in solid colors, but in cool color blocking variations – whether you are looking at the jacket with or without a hood, the longer parka version or the sleeveless vest from the funky brand.
3. Black Diamond Access Down Jacket
The Black Diamond Access down hoody has been a part of the iconic brand’s product line for a long time, but was completely redesigned in 2019. The insulation is RDS-certified 700 fill power HyperDry goose down, which is PFC-free unlike certain other kinds of DWR-treated down. As it is a Black Diamond jacket, it is no surprise that the shell material is the most durable (30D Ripstop Nylon) of all the down jackets listed here. Rather than having just horizontal baffles like the down jackets above, the Black Diamond Access features flattering slanted baffles in the shoulder area. To seal in the warmth, the hood can be adjusted with an elastic in the back, the cuffs are elasticated, and you can tighten the bottom hem by adjusting the drawcord toggle. Essentials can be stored in the two zippered hand pockets or the zippered chest pockets.
4. Kuhl Spyfire Down Jacket
The Kuhl Spyfire down jacket is aptly named because it looks cool enough to be worn in a spy movie! Joking aside, the stylish design is actually rooted in functionality as the larger baffles on the front and back provide good warmth for the core, while the smaller baffles on the arms and sides reduce bulkiness and weight. The Kuhl Spyfire down jacket is also made with knitted underarm gussets for breathability and added freedom of movement, and has an extra overlay of super durable Tufflex fabric (88% Nylon, 12% Spandex) on the front body, shoulders and sleeves for increased weather protection. Other features count two zippered handwarmer pockets, one internal pocket, elastic cuffs and a small zippered pocket on the left sleeve. The Kuhl Spyfire down jacket has the longest back length of all down jackets on this list, so it will be particularly suited for those with longer torsos.
- Functional and stylish design with differently sized baffles
- TuffleX overlay on the front and sleeves for extra weather protection
- RDS-certified 800 fill power goose down insulation
- Big price jump between model with and without a hood
5. Jack Wolfskin JWP Down Jacket
The Jack Wolfskin JWP down jacket is the least expensive product on this list, which ultimately stems from the fact that it utilizes duck down as insulation. Duck down is cheaper than goose down because duck is more eaten world-wide, while goose down is more sought after than goose meat. The RDS-certified 700 fill power duck down in the Jack Wolfskin down jacket is of a very high quality with 90 % of down and only 10 % of feathers (e.g. compared to the Black Diamond Access jacket insulation which consists of 85 % down and 15% feathers). In any case the Jack Wolfskin JWP down jacket is the lightest product on this list, which on one hand means that it is slightly less warm (due to the smaller amount of insulation), but it is also very packable and can be easily compressed into the included stuff sack. The only downside is that the slightly wide neck and cuff openings allow warm air to escape. You can read more in the firsthand review of the Jack Wolfskin down jacket here.
- Lightweight warmth (700 fill power RDS-certified 90/10 white duck down)
- Packs into included stuff sack
- Slightly wide neck and cuff openings permit warm air to escape
Where to buy?