Every winter wardrobe needs a puffy down jacket. But how to choose? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
It’s one of the simple truths of the outdoors: When warmth is a must, it’s gotta be down. Synthetic has come a long way, but its warmth-to-weight ratio just doesn’t quite rival the best down jackets (yet).
Down is plush, warm, packable, and even something of a fashion staple nowadays. But with dozens of brands offering hundreds of different styles, it can be damn near overwhelming to peg which down jacket is right for you.
So we leaned on our experience, testing, research, and insight to cull the best of the best. Each of these down jackets is available now and merits a look for its construction, price, features, and, of course, warmth.
The Best Down Jackets of 2021
In researching all the down jackets on the market, we paid particular attention to standouts within a particular category. For example, we have selections for those shopping on a budget, those searching for more sustainable options, and for others who just want the most bomber puffy of all.
This article includes the best down jackets for men and women. You can also check our expanded list of the best down jackets for women.
Dark Peak snuck in as a dark horse in our testing, and boy did it impress. This Kickstarted brand hit the scene with a bold promise: “the warmest jacket in the world.” But an Arctic expedition jacket this is not. Rather, for every jacket purchase, Dark Peak donates another jacket to someone in need without a home (each jacket sold keeps two people warm — hence, the warmest jacket in the world).
But beyond its charitable commitment, Dark Peak makes a stunningly capable and good-looking puffy. The outer and inner fabric use 10-denier ripstop nylon, 850-fill goose down provides both high-loft warmth and packability, two-way zippers accommodate belays, and the hood is both cinch-able and helmet-compatible.
Plus, Dark Peak uses those designs and materials in a very thoughtful way. The fit is a good compromise between athletic and roomy, so it’s great for layering under a big shell, or with a midlayer underneath. A DWR coating on the outer is a standard but also welcome addition, and a pair of wrist gaiters with thumb loops make a unique, comfy, and useful addition. There are also two hand pockets, two big interior stash pockets, and a zippered chest pocket on the inside. You can bring all your stuff!
What’s more, the NESSH comes in five color options (we’re partial to maroon), and the price beats out many competitors — thanks largely to the brand’s direct-to-consumer model. If you’re looking for something that does everything well, this should be among the options you consider.
Dark Peak NESSH
- Fill: 850
- Weight: 12 oz.
- MSRP: $229
Runner-Up Best Overall: Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie — Men’s & Women’s
When testing a bunch of down jackets, the surest way to know which one is best is to look at which one you find yourself wearing most often. That’s exactly what put Outdoor Research’s Helium Down Hoody so high on this list. Its athletic cut has made it ideal for early winter getaways, allowing this tester to toss a big wool flannel on over it when things get especially frosty, but it was still great by itself when things didn’t dip below a little chilly.
The quality and feel are everything you’d expect from a brand like OR — and then some. The brand dubs it the “most durable, lightweight, and technical down hoodie” in its arsenal. That durability comes from a strategic hybrid construction. The hood and shoulders use Pertex Quantum Shield 30-denier ripstop that fights abrasion and adds a waterproof barrier where you need — head and shoulders, exactly where rain hits.
But the toughness doesn’t stop there. Covering the Helium Down Hoodie’s 800-plus-fill down is Pertex’s Diamond Fuse ripstop shell, affording the jacket enhanced durability without any significant weight penalty. By no means the warmest puffy we tested, this one wound up in the backseat, at the ready for just-in-case adventures. If you have to have one puffy to grab that can handle a range of elements, this one fits the bill.
Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie
- Fill: 800-plus
- Weight: 15.4 oz.
- MSRP: $279
We expected France’s Decathlon Sports would make a splash in the U.S. And for us, it starts with this 800-fill Trek down jacket ($80). At that loft and price, the Trek 100 even beats out REI’s very popular 650 Down Hoodie. For the money, you get a highly packable jacket (stuffs into its own pocket) that meets the Responsible Down Standard.
Unlike the higher-end offerings on this list, it isn’t loaded with features like two-way front zippers, felt-lined pockets, or recycled materials. But it does stand as a remarkable value considering its light weight (10.2 ounces), warmth, and basically unmatched price.
Decathlon Forclaz Trek 100
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 10.2 oz.
- MSRP: $80
- Key features: Responsible Down Standard, DWR coating, packs into its own pocket
Most Durable Puffy: Eddie Bauer Mountain Ops Down Hooded Jacket — Men’s
Buy this jacket now! Ordinarily, I’d say if money’s less a concern than the years you’ll get out of a puffy, then Eddie Bauer’s Mountain Ops Down Hooded Jacket is as hard to beat as it is to tear. Unless you’re using this jacket as a doormat, it’s pretty much indestructible — and even then it might hold up.
But right now, you can find this jacket for under $200! Until the brand updates the design or construction, this one is a hot buy — and it will likely work for years.
Built for cat-skiers and heli-guides, the Mountain Ops down jacket sports a burly ripstop nylon shell with basically bulletproof 500-denier waterproof nylon canvas overlays at the shoulders and sleeves. Uber-cozy felt-lined pockets are perfect for bare hands, even when the temps drop to the coat’s lower limit rating of -25 degrees Fahrenheit. And the rest of you will stay plenty warm too.
Eddie Bauer Mountain Ops Down Hooded Jacket
- Fill: 650
- Weight: It’s heavy
- MSRP: $399 (on sale for $200)
- Key features: Waterproof nylon ripstop shell and canvas shoulder/back overlays, windproof
Wearing a puffy doesn’t mean you can’t be active. A few companies tackle the stay-warm-but-stay-cool conundrum with some mix of down fill and thin, highly breathable fabrics where it’s needed.
Mammut stood out among the rest for this application with its Flexidown IN down jacket. Pertex Quantum covers the 750-fill RDS down while Pontetorto Tecnostretch lines the underarms and sides. And let me tell you, “Tecnostretch” is exactly what I’d call it too. The freedom of movement this soft, stretchy material provides is second to none. If you felt like doing yoga in this thing, you’d have no trouble.
The Flexidown IN carries a slim, against-the-body fit, which great for running but not great for layering under. And true to its active pursuits DNA, you get two hand pockets and that’s it. No carrying all your gadgets in this one. But for skiing, ski touring, or brisk winter runs, this one’s a winner. Plus, it carries certification from Bluesign and Fair Wear for sustainable practices and conditions, and it uses a PFC-free DWR coating.
Mammut Flexidown IN
- Fill: 750 (with synthetic hits)
- Weight: 12.3 oz.
- MSRP: $299
What made the original Ghost Whisperer an editor favorite and brand icon, the Ghost Whisperer UL has in spades — or feathers, rather. Shaving off 2.2 ounces may not sound like much until you realize that’s a 25% reduction in weight (the Ghost Whisperer/2 tips the scales at 8.8 ounces, while the UL comes in at 6.67 ounces).
The Ghost Whisperer UL accomplishes this in large part thanks to 1,000-fill down — giving it an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. A great layering piece you’ll hardly notice behind a wind-blocking shell, the UL sports two zippered hand pockets, one of which it packs into.
The only knocks: This ultralight jacket is a minimal piece, so no accessory pockets here. And the hood doesn’t cinch, though elastic cuffs offer some range of motion. If your adventures don’t hinge on saving every cubic centimeter or gram, the Ghost Whisperer UL is probably more coat than you need — or less, rather.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL
- Fill: 1,000
- Weight: 6.7 oz.
- MSRP: $375 (on discount for less)
For a little less sticker shock than the Ghost Whisperer, you can have a (near) equally high-performance puffy. Plenty of warmth without the bulk, the Montbell Superior Down Parka works almost as well stuffed in a pack as it does when you wear it.
Unlike the Ghost Whisperer, however, the Superior Down Parka adds a fully adjustable hood and some interior stash pockets. Its 10-denier ripstop shell won’t stand up to gnarly snags, but it will repel some light abrasion. Overall, it’s a very capable down layer that’s great for reliable warmth and easy to stuff in your pack just in case. Plus, with an MSRP of just over $200, it’s a coat most folks can afford to stuff in their pack.
Montbell Superior Down Parka
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 8.7 oz.
- MSRP: $209
While Americans enjoy a plethora of bomber outdoor gear, many brands rarely cross the average consumer’s radar. You’ve probably heard of Jack Wolfskin, but have you worn any of the German brand’s wares?
Quietly, Jack Wolfskin continues to innovate some of the industry’s leading performance snd sustainability tech. The 365 Flash Down Jacket uses 100% recycled polyester shell and lining, RDS down, and is completely PFC-free.
Definitely something of a statement piece style-wise, including motley coloring and big, oversized pockets, the 365 Down targets those whose urban exploits probably outnumber those in the backcountry. Still, it will repel cold, wind, and some light moisture, all with an eye toward eco-sensitivity.
Jack Wolfskin 365 Flash Down Jacket
- Fill: 700
- Weight: 22.6 oz.
- Price: $280
Common among outdoor enthusiasts’ favorite down options, the latest iteration of Rab’s Microlight Alpine does what its predecessor did, only with far more recycled materials.
Recycled down, recycled shell, and recycled lining quietly combine to make a Microlight Alpine that feels and performs like the original. It’s not an ultralight contender, but it’s also not a jacket meant to just go to the grocery store and back. The Microlight Alpine is plenty warm and cozy, if not super-packable.
Thoughtful construction makes this jacket suitable for a range of users — pockets situated to be climbing harness-compatible, a wire-brimmed hood, neutral sizing, and a stuff sack should you need it.
Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket
- Fill: 700
- Weight: 17 oz.
- MSRP: $280
Warmest: Marmot West Rib Down Parka — Unisex
Odds are, you do not need this jacket. But still, it’s nice to know something this warm is out there should you decide to summit a peak that pokes through the clouds.
Wear the West Rib Parka with loads of layers beneath — heaven knows there’s plenty of room — for the harshest cold, or by itself for just, well, really cold. Marmot imbues the West Rib with its proprietary WarmCube construction, an ice cube tray-configuration of baffles designed to keep the insulation from shifting or settling (creating dreaded “cold spots”).
We haven’t had the good (mis)fortune of any negative-temp days yet this winter, but this will be the coat we reach for when nothing else matters but staying warm. The West Rib also packs a bunch of utility, including interior mesh pockets, two chest pockets, and two zippered pockets to keep your digits toasty.
If there’s a downside, it’s that this jacket looks as warm as it is. In other words, it has a high Marshmallow Man factor. And with the array of bold colors Marmot offers, others will definitely take notice. But with the brand’s highest ratings for water and wind resistance as well as warmth, who cares?
Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 30.3 oz.
- MSRP: $600
Of all the down jackets we tested, the Cotopaxi Fuego received the most “ooh, that’s a nice jacket” comments. Not really surprising, as Cotopaxi has built its reputation on flashy, devil-may-care designs — coupled with ethical and sustainable manufacturing processes.
The Fuego carries on that identity, albeit with a little more toned-down, intentionally retro aesthetic. As a puffy, it’s a great around-town choice, with some ready-to-party chops. The 800-fill down makes acceptably lightweight — 14 ounces — and packable (think crowler), though if you take it out enough, you’re bound to scuff up those pretty stripes.
Still, the Fuego is plenty warm for autumn wind and some light precip (thank to a DWR treatment), and it can even fend off some winter bluster. But the jacket’s fit — not too trim, not too baggy — makes it easy enough to layer for added warmth. What’s more, the 20-denier shell construction adds a little extra defense (and confidence) against feather loss and daily abuse. Two internal stash pockets and hand pockets round out the build.
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 14 oz.
- MSRP: $250
Super-plush, super-soft, and super-warm, Patagonia’s Fitz Roy is a winner for cold days at the crag. Its downy-like Pertex Quantum face fabric isn’t the absolute toughest, so expect some tears if you’re brushing against rocks. But hey, all Patagonias are meant to be patched, right?
That said, Patagonia employs 100% recycled material in that fabric, along with Fair Trade sewing. So the brand, per usual, strikes the best available balance between outright performance and social and environmental sustainability.
Two zippered chest pockets add some utility, and while there’s no two-way zipper, the hand pockets are nice and high to accommodate a harness. Overall, the jacket excels in warmth and comfort — so much so, you’d be excused for wearing it away from the granite.
Patagonia Fitz Roy
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 22.3 oz.
- MSRP: $399
As you’d expect, Black Diamond’s Vision Down Parka provides super-high-loft warmth and just the right feature set for cold-weather belays. It wins for durability, using a ripstop reinforced with a “Japanese Liquid Crystal Polymer.” This makes it tougher, but a little less soft than the Fitz Roy.
However, the Vision offers a two-way zipper and water-resistant zippers on the hand pockets — nice added touches for those planning to be in the wilds on cold days. It also offers a bigger fit ideal for layering under.
The Vision is extremely warm, very durable, and great for belays. But it’s heavier than many options, and its price tag will empty your wallet a bit more.
Black Diamond Vision
- Fill: 800
- Weight: 580 g
- MSRP: $450
Best for Skiing: Spyder Impulse Down Jacket — Men’s
Want a puffy you can wear in the lift line? Spyder’s Impulse adds some techy extras to the classic down-baffle design. A four-way-stretch shell with GORE-TEX INFINIUM gives you a coat with great range of motion, water-repellency, and heat management. Seam taping in critical areas frees you up to get your turns even when it’s especially nasty outside.
It’s also complete with mesh-lined pit zips, a pass pocket on the sleeve, a powder skirt, and some padding on the shoulders if you’re wearing a pack. It also features a goggle pocket with a lens chamois as well as interior mesh paneling to assist with range of motion. In all, it’s a sporty, capable ski jacket within the down puffy family.
Did we mention it’s also crazy-warm? Packed with 700-fill goose down, this INFINIUM jacket is puffy and cozy — an excellent insulator. With all the zippers and cord toggles, this coat could easily suffer option fatigue. But the layout is thoughtful — nothing feels like it’s in the way, and all the adjustments are intuitive and easy to toggle.
- Fill: 700
- Weight: Unknown
- MSRP: $650
Honorable Mentions: Best Down Jackets to Compare
A little of all the best performers: lightweight, high quality, and reliable warmth. The Cerium LT definitely contends for best overall, but this premium build comes at a premium price.
Pros: Lightweight, warm, durable for its weight.
Cons: Small zippers can snag, snug fit (size up if layering under).
Feathered Friends specializes in down, and it’s apparent. The Eos has been the flag-bearer for the brand’s insulated jackets for years — and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Eos is not only warm and pleasantly puffy, but the fit is more dialed than any of the competitors’.
Pros: Warm, lightweight, packable, cozy.
Cons: Expensive, light water resistance, no phone pocket.
Last year, Stio made the list with the Hometown Down jacket — and that’s still a solid puffy. But we gave the nod this year to its rowdier cousin, the Colter. it has a lot of what we loved about the Hometown — plush and cozy in a uniquely Stio way — only with an eye toward pow days and nasty weather.
A two-layer waterproof fabric covers the oversized baffles, stuffed with water-resistant down. This 50-denier fabric also shrugs off errant branches or nasty countertop corners with aplomb. Pit zips and all the ski day goodies make this a solid option for those shopping for a multi-use down jacket.
An excellent combination of style, function, and features — what else would you expect from Eddie Bauer on its 100th birthday? Part of the brand’s guide-worthy First Ascent collection, the Centennial Collection MicroTherm 1000 has terrific warm-to-weight with 1,000-fill down, weighing just 10 ounces.
But with two-way stretch and a unique diamond-pattern baffling, the MicroTherm is also comfy, functional, and stylish (as puffies go, anyway). What’s more, the nylon outer is 100% recycled.
The fit runs just a tad on the big side — not overly so. But you’ll have room to layer under if this is your go-to puffy — which it certainly could be.
Columbia boasts a million patented technologies — actually, it’s more like 200+, but the point remains the same: This brand innovates in-house. We’re all familiar with Omni-Heat, Columbia’s body heat-reflective lining.
This year, Columbia introduced the latest evolution of that tech: Black Dot. Without diving too deep into the science, the technology purports to trap sunlight via an array of black coated dots on the outer. This is designed to warm the jacket enough so that you lose less heat to the environment. We need to test this a lot more to see how effective it is. But you can see the demos for yourself at Columbia retail stores.
We found this ran big, so check the sizing if a solar-heated puffy sounds right for you.
Of course, who would know better how to fend off the cold than the Swedes? Fjallraven’s Expedition Pack Down Jacket is a handsome coat with not too many features, but a solid build. And surprisingly, all without the sticker shock you might expect from the premium outdoor brand.
Fully recycled poly construction is a nice touch; the jacket sports a neutral fit, an interior accessory pocket, and a range of toggles on the hood, hem, and neck. All in all, a solid, no-frills coat made by a brand that knows winter.
Rounding out our list is REI’s Stormhenge 850. Really, if everything on this list was a consideration — price, durability, versatility, and function — this would have to be among the considerations.
Covered in a two-layer waterproof-breathable shell with taped seams and DWR-treated down inside, the Stormhenge can take on sleet and a cold November rain (other months, too). It’s not the most style-minded coat on this list, but functionally, it’s a solid bet at a very reasonable price — what else would you expect from the REI Co-op brand?
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Down Jacket
Down insulation is made from goose or duck plumage, a natural undercoat beneath feathers. This traditional jacket fill is known for being lightweight, compressible, and maintaining warmth due to intricate clusters that capture air and body heat.
Fill power is a measurement of that loft, on a scale of 400 to 900 cubic inches per ounce, which reflects the down’s quality and warmth-to-weight ratio. The higher the quality, the less down is needed to create the same warmth, so a jacket will be lighter-weight, more packable, and pricier.
The downsides of down are a loss of insulation when wet and an inability to dry fast. In the long run, it also requires special cleaning.
Down vs. Synthetic
Synthetic insulation, on the other hand, is made from polyester fibers and designed to imitate down clusters and properties with a few key differences. If you compare two equal-weight jackets, down is warmer than this alternative. But synthetic insulation retains warmth even when wet. It’s also easier to wash and usually comes at a lower price point.
Within synthetic jackets, active insulation is another progressive subcategory to know. These technical garments are designed to dump extra heat and dry fast, so you don’t have to remove the jacket during vigorous activity. But these layers need also to be durable, warm, and wind-resistant. It’s a tricky balance.
Outdoor industry brands have made an effort to source down ethically without animal cruelty and create transparency in the global supply chain. Various certifications exist such as the Responsible Down Standard, the Patagonia Traceable Down Standard, and the National Sanitation Foundation’s Global Traceable Down Standard.
Down suppliers like ALLIED Feather and Down have even launched their own traceability initiatives. For example, TrackMyDown allows consumers to see from what animal and in what country the down originated, along with performance attributes and third-party certifications. Without meeting such standards, abuse can become part of the supply chain. Synthetic choices can set some folks at ease.
Overall, in super-wet or mixed weather, synthetics can be a safer choice. Active insulation is best for high-output action. If it’s cold and dry, down is optimal despite a higher cost. The above are a handful of the best down jackets, plus a few alternative fills, to keep you covered in the cold.
Have a favorite down jacket we missed? Let us know in the comments below for future updates to this article.