A down jacket has multiple uses on a hiking or backpacking gear list. It can be used as an insulating midlayer on its own or under a shell, as a warm outer jacket when you’re less active in camp or as an adjunct to your sleeping bag/quilt at night. When it comes to hiking or backpacking, some down jackets cater to the needs of hikers more than others in terms of their warmth-to-weight ratio, hood design, durability, and cost. With these factors in mind, here are the best down jackets that we recommend across a variety of price points for any type of hiking and backpacking, from section hiking and thru-hiking to peakbagging and off-the-grid wilderness backpacking. Be sure to check out our feature recommendations below, so you choose the right jacket for your needs.
1. Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie
The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie is a lightweight down jacket available in both men’s and women’s models. It is lightweight and windproof with a 100% recycled polyester ripstop shell and 800-fill-power goose down. The hood is adjustable (rear-only) so you can shrink its volume to fit your head, with elastic wrist cuffs. It has two zippered side pockets and an internal chest pocket, that’s good to keep your smartphone warm. It stuffs into its chest pocket, making it easy to pack away when not in use. Weighing 14.8 oz (men’s medium), it’s on the heavy side, but is a good choice if sustainability is a priority. A solid choice with useful features.
The Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket is insulated with 900 fill power goose down that’s available in both men’s and women’s models. Updated in 2022, the Eos weighs 10.8 ounces (306g). It features a low profile dual drawstring hood and a zippered chest pocket, in addition to two handwarmer pockets, Lycra wrist cuffs, and elastic hem adjustment. With a Pertex Quantum Shell and sewn-thru construction, it’s lightweight enough to be used as a mid-layer under a shell but also makes a warm outer layer when worn over a fleece or heavier baselayer. The Eos also makes a good adjunct to a quilt or hoodless sleeping bag, if you want more upper body insulation and a draft-free hood. The new hood adjustment improves this already superb jacket.
The Arc’Teryx Cerium Down Hoodie (formerly named the Cerium LT Hoodie) is a lightweight down jacket available in men’s and women’s models. It’s made with a 15d recycled nylon outer fabric insulated with 850 fill power down and augmented with synthetic insulation in moisture-prone areas such as the cuffs, armpits, and shoulders. The hood is helmet-compatible but it has a rear drawstring volume adjustment while the wrists close with elastic cuffs. Weighing 11.8 ounces, the jacket has an internal chest pocket and two zippered side pockets, with a drawcord-adjustable drop hem helping to seal out drafts. The fit runs slim for layering under a shell. It’s a good choice if you’re worried about midlayer moisture build-up in a down jacket. The degree of synthetic insulation in this jacket is unique.
The REI Magma 850 Down Hoodie 2.0 is an 850 fill-power goose down jacket available in men’s and women’s models that are specifically designed for hikers and backpackers. Weighing 13.75 oz, the goose-down is treated with a water-resistant formula so it repels water and dries fast. The jacket has zippered hand and chest pockets, which are positioned to be compatible with a pack’s hipbelt and shoulder seams that are rolled forward to prevent chafing under pack straps. The shell is a tough Pertex Diamond Fuse abrasion-resistant fabric while body-mapped baffles, providing warmth where it’s needed and reduced bulk where it’s not. The down-filled hood with rear adjustment lets you fine-tune the fit and tightly quilted underarm gussets reduce bulk and improve range of motion if using trekking poles. Elastic wrist cuffs and a hem adjustment are included. The jacket can be stuffed into the left side pocket for easy packing. REI really went to town for hikers with this excellent design!
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer /2 Hoody is an ultralight down jacket available for men and women. It’s insulated with 800 fill-power down insulation and has an ultralight 10d recycled ripstop shell fabric with a DWR finish. Weighing 8.8 oz, the first baffle at both cuffs is filled with synthetic insulation to prevent cuffs from wetting out. The hoody has an elastic hood and cuffs with two exterior zippered pockets, an internal drop pocket, and a drawcord hem adjustment. Its highly packable design stuffs into its own hand pocket with an internal carabiner clip loop. If you want an even lighter version of this jacket, check out the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL Hoody, which weighs 6.67 oz and is insulated with 1000 fill-power down.
The Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie is a lightweight down jacket available in men’s and women’s models. It is insulated with 800 fill power down with a 15d Pertex Quantum shell. In an interesting twist, the hood and shoulders are made with 30d waterproof Pertex Shield, for added moisture protection. There are five pockets, two drop pockets on the inside, two side zippered pockets, and a zippered chest pocket. The hood has a rear volume adjuster, elastic wrist cuffs, and there is a drawcord hem. While the jacket is a bit on the heavy side at 15.4 oz, we like the extra functionality and storage it offers, which lends itself to cooler temperatures. If you like pockets, this is the jacket for you.
The Montbell Ex Light Down Anorak is a unisex ultralight down pullover insulated with 900 fill power goose down with a 7-denier ballistic nylon ripstop shell. Weighing just 7.6 oz, it has a fully adjustable 2-way hood with a fully insulated tunnel pocket to keep your hands nice and warm. While this highly compressible garment packs down small, it will keep you toasty warm when worn by itself as an outer layer or layered under a shell. It doesn’t have any zippered pockets but you’ll be amazed by how warm the jacket is. This has been my main warmth layer for the past two years and makes a great adjunct to my sleep system when the weather turns cooler.
The Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket is a lightweight down jacket available in men’s and women’s models. It is insulated with 700 fill power down recycled down, treated with Nikwax’s hydrophobic fluorocarbon-free treatment, and comes with a soft 30d Pertex Quantum ripstop shell. Weighing 14.6 oz, it has a 1-way adjustable hood (neck toggles) with a stiffened peak including a shapeable wire brim, two zippered side pockets, and a large zippered chest pocket. The cuffs are elasticized and the jacket has a drawcord hem adjustment. A stuff sack is included. This a great jacket if you hike in cold and windy conditions and want a snug and technical hood with good controls.
The Cotopaxi Fiego Hooded Down Jacket is a lightweight down jacket weighing 14 oz and available in men’s and women’s models. It’s insulated with 800 fill power goose down and has a colorful 20d ripstop nylon shell with numerous color combinations available. Elastic binding around the hood and cuffs seal out the cold, while a drawcord waist protects your waist. The jacket has 2 interior stash pockets, 2 zippered hand pockets, and stuffs into a pocket for transport. Good features and the most amazing color combinations.
The Decathlon Forclaz Trek 100 is a low-cost lightweight down jacket that’s insulated with 800 fill-power duck down. Weighing 10.2 oz, it’s available in men’s and women’s models. It has an oversized helmet-compatible hood that lacks any sizing adjustments, two zippered handwarmer pockets, elasticated wrist cuffs, and a shock-cord waist adjustment to seal out drafts from below. There’s no chest pocket for storing a phone but the jacket can be stuffed into its left-hand pocket. Still, it’s a good budget option because it is so inexpensive and made with higher grade fill power down.
The Fjallraven Expedition Pack Down Hoodie is a lightweight down jacket available in both men’s and women’s models. It is lightweight and windproof with a 100% recycled polyester ripstop shell and 700-fill-power goose down with synthetic insulation over the shoulders to insulate when wet or compressed by a backpack’s shoulder straps. The hood is fully adjustable (neck toggles and rear volume control) so you can shrink its volume to fit your head, with elastic wrist cuffs. It has 2 hand pockets and 1 inside chest pocket, all zippered, and stuffs into its chest pocket. Great technical features and more affordable than the Arc’teryx Cerium listed above.
Down Hoodies, Jackets, Sweaters, Anoraks, and Parkas
Manufacturer product names are very inconsistently applied when it comes to lighter-weight down hoodies and jackets. In general hoodies, sweaters, and anoraks, weigh under one pound. Look for ones with hoods, as they provide the most head and neck insulation. When it comes to jackets, some are lightweight and some are heavier and meant for winter use in harsh conditions. You really have to look at the overall jacket weight to determine which is which. Anything up to or slightly over 16 oz will be good for transitional weather in spring or autumn down to freezing by itself or layered under a shell, while heavier jackets will be more appropriate for winter use. Parkas are almost always intended for very cold winter conditions and are too warm for active use when hiking.
Sewn Thru vs Baffled Construction
With very few exceptions, lightweight down jackets and hoodies have what is called a sewn-through construction rather than a box baffled one, because it is less expensive and labor-intensive to manufacture. With sewn-thru construction, the front and back of the jacket are sewn together creating a pocket that prevents the down insulation from shifting. However, warm air can leak through the needle holds resulting in a slightly cooler jacket. This is not the case with a box baffled design, which is more prevalent on premium down parkas intended for colder temperatures.
The hoods on many lightweight or ultralight down hoodies and jackets are quite rudimentary, with elasticized hood openings that may be too large to prevent cold drafts from entering around your ears. It really depends on the size of your head and the specific jacket. Hoods that are 1-way adjustments have volume controls in the back that let you shrink the size of the hood to provide a better fit. Hoods with 2-way adjustability go one step further and add neck cords that allow you to size the opening to just fit your face and block out any drafts. Two-way adjustability is pretty rare on lightweight down jackets and hoodies but definitely a premium feature worth looking out for.
Down Fill Power
Down fill powers, such as 700, 800, 850, or 900, measure the effectiveness and compressibility of down insulation – the higher the better. Now 900 or 950 fill power down is primo stuff and can really add a lot of cost to a jacket while keeping it very lightweight since it takes less down by weight to keep you warm. You can achieve the same amount of warmth with a lower grade of down like 800 or 850, but it takes more of the stuff to keep you warm and adds a bit of weight to the jacket. However, don’t dismiss 700 fill-power down jackets, especially if they include synthetic insulation in moisture-prone areas. The warmth difference isn’t that significant and while they’ll be a bit heavier they’re ideal in wetting climates.
Down Fill Weight
The fill weight of a down jacket or hoodie measures the amount of down that it has been insulated with by weight. While this can be informative, the actual warmth of a jacket is a function of the amount of insulation it has and its design, which makes it somewhat hard to compare different jackets that are styled differently. Most lightweight jacket manufacturers don’t document the amount of down included in their jackets, which can make it difficult to determine which will be warmer in active use.
Some manufacturers use down in their jackets that has been coated with a chemical formulation, called DownTek or Nikwax, to make it more resistant to moisture and so it dries faster when it gets damp or wet. Honestly, the jury is still out on whether these treatments make any difference to the insulation performance of the down. Some manufacturers believe it degrades down’s insulation value and others use it because it’s considered a desirable feature by prospective customers.
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