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In the year's coldest months and climates, you can't go wrong with down. Fluffy, lightweight, and impressively warm, down is an age-old and incredibly effective and cozy insulation option. The down feathers (well, technically they're not feathers) inside down jackets have been biologically designed to keep geese and ducks toasty warm while floating on near-frozen water; in a winter jacket, they'll keep well guarded against the chill. And although down insulation is often more expensive than synthetic alternatives (or other natural ones, like wool), it's still the best in terms of warmth and packability, making a well-made packable down jacket a must-have piece of outerwear to protect you from winter's worst weather.
Field Mag's Top Picks
- Best Overall: Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket
- Best for Alpine Adventures: The North Face Men’s Summit Series Breithorn Hoodie
- Best for Cities: Arc'teryx Thorium SV Parka
- Best Ultralight Down Jacket: Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka
- Best Affordable Down Jacket: Decathlon Forclaz MT100 Hooded Down Puffer Jacket
- Best Retro Down Jacket: Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket
- Most Unique Design: Klattermusen Idun 2.0
- Best Super Ultralight Down Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL Hoody
- Best Down Parka: Black Diamond Vision Down Parka
What We Look for in a Packable Down Jacket
There are a lot of considerations to make when buying a down jacket, and it's not always easy to parse things out based on an online product description. There's a lot of variation from jacket to jacket, and different coats are ideal for different situations. An ultralight jacket might be more expensive and not as durable than an everyday wearer might need, for instance.
One baseline feature we seek out is responsibly sourced down, which is currently the norm among the majority of outdoor brands, but still worth checking. Beyond that, we're looking for a durable build that won't tear or leak features the first time we take it camping, a water-resistant shell, and a few good pockets. The jacket should also provide ample warmth for its size—there's a time and place for big, overstuffed down coats that are as concerned with style as anything else, but this list isn't it.
The 9 Best Down Jackets of 2023
Best Overall: Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket
The new and improved version of the crowd-favorite Eos jacket is a great packable and lightweight option for use in many outdoor situations (including around town—this is our go-to for nasty NYC winters). With an adjustable drawstring hood, a new exterior zip pocket, an included stuff sack, a Pertex nylon shell treated with DWR, and 900+ fill down, this jacket will ensure you'll stay cozy in the cold weather all winter long, at the crag, the ski hill, and your daily commute.
Women's Option: Yes
Weight: 10.8 ounces
Fill Material: 900+ Fill Power Goose Down
Best for Alpine Adventures: The North Face Men’s Summit Series Breithorn Hoodie
This lightweight full-zip-down hoody is the perfect pick for mountain adventures and general warmth around town. With water-resistant, high-quality 800-fill ProDown, it's able to provide plenty of insulating warmth while standing up to some moisture should you find yourself in nasty weather. TNF made it with alpine adventures in mind, with a helmet-compatible hood, water-resistant zippers, and big internal sleeve-style pockets, but we've found that these features are ideal for everyday winter wear too. With a slim fit, it can function as a super-warm mid-layer but it's also a good option as an outer layer in milder conditions too.
Women's Option: Yes
Weight: 1 lb
Fill Material: 800 Fill ProDown
Best for Cities: Arc'teryx Thorium SV Parka
Arc'teryx is always the forerunner for sleek aesthetic and techwear-leaning designs. The new Thorium SV Parka manages to walk the line between outdoorsy tech and urban appeal. With an oversized and extended fit that maintains a non-bulky profile, the parka provides full torso insulation for extra warmth that's appropriate in mountain towns and downtowns. SV stands for Severe Weather, denoting this jacket's precipitation-proof and windproof construction. The high collar adds an extra layer of comfort and warmth without needing to pull on the hood, and the two-way zipper is ideal for sitting and hopping on a bike during a commute. The fit is oversized, but not boxy.
Women's Option: No
Weight: 1 lb 8.2 oz
Fill Material: 750 Fill European Goose Down
Best Ultralight Down Jacket: Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka
Made with ultra-thin nylon, this is the perfect jacket for backpackers and mountain climbers. Even though it isn't the lightest jacket on the market, it is probably one of the best options if you need to cut weight without sacrificing any of the warmth. That's due to its rare 1000 fill down insulation (remember: the higher the fill power, the less down is needed in order to achieve warmth). That coupled with the unique zigzag quilted baffle pattern makes this one of the best packable down jackets you can get. If you're looking for a slightly cheaper version, Montbell's Superior Down Parka ($249) is similar, but has 800 fill down.
Best Affordable Down Jacket: Decathlon Forclaz MT100 Hooded Down Puffer Jacket
This is the most affordable jacket (by far) on this list and you can't beat what you'll get for the price point. The MT100 has a classic packable puffer jacket design that includes a hood and hand pockets but its 800-fill power, Responsible Down Standard-certified insulation is pretty unheard of for $100 (most other down jackets at this price use 700 fill power down or less, making them less warm and less packable). The jacket's shell is water-repellent, so you can wear it as a midlayer or size up and use it as an outer layer over a fleece. When you don't need it, stuff it down into its own pocket for packing.
Women's Option: Yes
Weight: 10 oz
Fill Material: 800 fill power Responsible Down Stanard down
Best Retro Down Jacket: Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket
Available in loads of different color combinations and retro stripes, Cotopaxi's Fuego Hooded Down Jacket proves style and packability aren't mutually exclusive. The puffer coat packs down into one of its two internal pockets and is stuffed with 800-fill responsibly sourced and water-resistant down that will keep you warm on chilly winter days. It's a good layer to take summer camping when the nights get cool too.
Women's Option: Yes
Weight: 14 ounces
Fill Material: 800-fill responsibly sourced, water-resistant down
Most Unique Design: Klattermusen Idun 2.0
You've heard of puffy jackets, down hoodies, puffy pants, and maybe even puffy shoes, but have you seen the puffy T-shirt? Designed to provide warmth to your core, the Idun 2.0 pullover is ideal for layering over a baselayer or even wearing as a stand-alone on an active winter day. It's lightweight enough that it can pack into its interior chest pocket, and the abrasion-resistant fabric on the shoulders will ensure that it lasts even if you're regularly hefting skis or climbing equipment.
Women's Option: Unisex
Weight: 10.75 ounces
Fill Material: 800+ (IDFB/US method) White Goose Down 93/7
Best Ultralight Packable Down Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL Hoody
Weighing in at under seven ounces, Mountain Hardwear's Ghost Whisperer UL is in a category of its own, and it's the lightest down jacket on the list. The 1000 fill down cuts weight and makes it incredibly packable. The first baffle on both cuffs is synthetic insulation to guard against wetting out and the elastic binding seals in warmth. Always pushing the limits on the highest quality down with the thinnest fabric, the Ghost Whisperer UL Hoody is an excellent midlayer in a pared-down system, and the perfect shoulder season jacket for when the days and nights start to get chilly.
Women's Option: Yes
Weight: 6.67 ounces
Fill Material: 1000-fill Allied RDS-certified down insulation
Best Down Parka: Black Diamond Vision Down Parka
If you spend a lot of your winter hanging out at the base of blisteringly cold ice climbs, or just want a coat that can handle anything winter will throw at you, Black Diamond's Vision Down Parka is one of the warmest options we've tested. The coat has an extended full-torso fit and packs plenty of puff with 800-fill RDS-certified Allied HyperDRY (water-resistant) down insulation, making it mega-warm. BD added gussets under the arms to help you maintain movement despite all that puff, and there are plenty of pockets—two handwarmer pockets outside, two inside, one on the chest. One of the cooler features is a shell that's treated with a Japanese Liquid Crystal Polymer finish, which gives it a unique, almost sandpaper-y feel but also greatly increases its durability.
Women's Option: Yes
Weight: 1 lb 4 oz
Fill Material: 800-fill power RDS-certified Allied HyperDRY goose down
More Down Jackets We Love
We also like Arc'teryx's Cerium Hoody ($400) as a great jacket for all-around use, Rab's Microlight Alpine ($280) for its body-mapped fit, and the classic and affordable Patagonia Down Sweater ($279).
Frequently Asked Questions
Are packable down coats really warm?
Yes, yes they are. Down coats offer a wide range of warmth levels based on the fill power of the down inside it (more on fill powers below) and how much is in the jacket. Down jackets don't have to be massively puffy to be warm—even ultralight, very packable down coats can provide plenty of insulation for cold days.
What's the difference between down and synthetic insulation?
You have two choices when it comes to puffy jackets: down or synthetic. There are pros and cons to both, and the type of insulation inside your ripstop affects a variety of things from weight, warmth, compressibility, and price.
Down is the soft plumage found underneath the exterior feathers of birds, and jackets (and sleeping bags and other insulated gear) typically use goose or duck down. The pros are that down is extremely lightweight and compressible, and has a high warmth-to-weight ratio. The cons are that it gets soggy and clumpy once wet, losing its ability to hold warmth, and takes a long time to dry (you might consider rocking a Gore-Tex rain jacket over your down layer in stormy weather). It also tends to be more expensive than the synthetic alternative.
Synthetic insulation is made from polyester. The pros are that it continues to insulate even when wet and tends to be a little cheaper than down. The cons are that the warmth-to-weight ratio of synthetic fill is lower, making it less packable (though companies are making good progress in producing synthetic insulation on par with down).
What do down fill powers mean?
A down jacket's warmth-to-weight ratio is perhaps its most important trait, whether you're in the backcountry, snowboarding, or braving frigid city winters, and that all boils down to fill power. Fill power refers to the loft of the down. Down clusters create tiny air pockets that trap warm air, and the higher the fill power, the more of those air pockets there will be, and the better the insulation-to-weight ratio.
Simply put, a down jacket with a higher fill power insulation will provide the same amount of warmth as a down jacket with a lower fill power while using less material, i.e. it will be lighter and more packable. A low fill power jacket stuffed with tons of feathers can still be warmer than one with a higher power, but it will be much heavier. Additionally, high fill power insulation tends to be more expensive.
What contributes to packability?
Higher fill power down insulation tends to lead to more packable down jackets, and down jackets in general are more packable than synthetic puffy jackets, but there are a few other features to look for to find ultimate packability. One is an included stuff sack, or whether or not the jacket packs down into its own pocket. Another is fill power (see above). Another less discernible one is shell material—lighter shell materials like low-denier ripstop nylon will be lighter and more packable, but also less durable. On the other hand, down jackets shelled with super-durable materials like canvas won't be as packable. Look at the jacket's weight and how much down fill is in it for a hint at how packable it will be—as a general rule, the lighter it is, the more packable it is.