If you’re searching for a mid or lightweight down jacket, you’ve come to the right place! We looked at over 80 options before purchasing the top 10 for our side-by-side comparative testing process. We sent our team of expert testers out into the Colorado Rockies in all kinds of weather and conditions to test them and report back on their findings so that we can make some great recommendations for you, no matter your needs or budget. After camping, hiking, climbing, and skiing in these different jackets, we picked out key performance features, like which ones kept us the warmest and which could fend off a light rain without soaking through. We have suggestions for those looking for a great product that doesn’t cost a fortune, and we highlight the best options for those looking for weight savings or weather protection. Keep reading below to see which down jackets took flight, and which should have stayed home.
Best Overall Model Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody
Weight: 11.8 ounces (size L) | Fill: 850-fill European white goose down, responsibly sourced, plus Coreloft synthetic
Using the highest loft 850-fill goose down to ensure both optimal warmth and lighter weight, the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody was the highest scorer in our review. Warmth is the most important consideration when purchasing a down jacket, and the Cerium LT Hoody was the warmest that we tested. We were also happy to find that it was among the lightest in our review, a side-effect of the high quality, high-loft down used throughout. It was not only light and warm but was also far less constricting in the fit than many of the other jackets we tested, allowing complete range of movement, especially in the shoulders, while still hugging the body close enough that it didn’t feel baggy or loose.
The main area that the Cerium didn’t impress us in was its water resistance. The down isn’t treated with any hydrophobic application, and the DWR coating on the shell quickly wore off in some places. While there are Coreloft Synthetic insulation patches on the shoulders, if you get stuck in a downpour in this model it’s not going to work that well. Look to our Top Pick for Wet Weather below if you’re looking for something to perform well in a rainy climate. The 850-fill down also comes with a hefty price tag, and this was the most expensive model that we tested ($380). But, if you are looking for the best combination of insulation, materials, and design for a lightweight down jacket, the Cerium is where it’s at.
Best Bang for the Buck Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody
Weight: 16.7 ounces (size L) | Fill: 650-fill responsibly sourced goose down
With substantial dual internal stash pockets, a three-adjustment-point hood, and comfortable fleece-lined pockets, the Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoodyhas the best selection of features in this review. Even better, it only costs $225, far less than our Editors’ Choice award winner, the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody. It was one of the most compressible options that we tested, packing down to the size of a Nalgene in its own pocket.
It wasn’t the warmest hoody in this review, and the 650-fill down means it’s heavier than most without being warmer. While we’d love to see 800-fill in the Transcendent, that would probably up the price beyond our Best Buy category, so it does hit the sweet spot of performance vs. price. If you want attention to detail and warmth on chilly belay ledges, while backcountry skiing, or around camp in the evenings, this down hoody is an optimal choice. Want to save another $25 and don’t need the hood? Check out the Transcendent Sweater.
Best Down Jacket for Wet Climates Rab Microlight Alpine
Weight: 15.1 ounces (size L) | Fill: 750-fill Nikwax hydrophobic goose down, certified responsibly sourced
We all know that wet weather is the Achilles heel of down insulation, but many companies have made a concerted push in the past few years to develop down with hydrophobic properties, thereby preventing it from losing its heat-trapping loft when wet. The Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket combines super tightly woven Pertex microlight fabric that is naturally water resistant with a superior external DWR coating to keep water from soaking in from the outside. It also uses 750-fill Nikwax hydrophobic down to prevent loss of loft due to water that has already managed to seep inside this jacket, providing the best overall defense against water available in a down jacket today. As much as we love the added versatility that comes with such attention placed on water resistance, we also appreciate the fact that this jacket is incredibly warm, which is the primary reason to shop for down in the first place.
Rab used slightly less lofty 750-fill down in the Microlight, but it was still one of the warmest ones in our test group because they added 3 ounces more down compared to the Arc’teryx Cerium. That extra down does make it slightly heavier than the Cerium though. It also doesn’t pack down as small as the Cerium or OR Transcendent Hoody. The weather resistance is impressive though, and the Rab Microlight Alpine can handle some rain without ending up soggy and useless. We don’t suggest that you ditch your rain shell altogether, but if you’re the type of person who often forgets a rain shell on day missions, then this layer might save your hide once or twice.
Top Pick for Lightweight Warmth Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded
Weight: 7.7 ounces (size M) | Down Fill: Q.Shield 800-fill moisture-resistant down, certified to Responsible Down Standard
We’ve tested a lot of down jackets over the years, and none is more distinctive than the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded. Simply put, it offers the warmth and comfort of a thick puffy jacket in a sleek, lightweight package reminiscent of an under-layer. If wearing the other down jackets in this review are akin to driving a beat-up pickup truck, then wearing the Ghost Whisperer makes one feel like they are taking the inside line in a sports car. It was for this reason that we chose to recognize the Ghost Whisperer as our Top Pick for Lightweight Warmth. Our size medium weighed in at a measly 7.7 ounces, an incredible statistic considering we found it to be as warm as some jackets more than double its weight. We enjoyed wearing it pretty much all the time, using it as an outer-layer for cool fall evenings while camping, and also as a mid-layer while backcountry skiing.
To save on weight, the Ghost Whisperer skimps on features a little. There are no internal stash pockets, and the main zipper is small and prone to catching on the fabric. And while it is warm for the weight, it’s not the warmest puffy in our test group. Think of it more as a layering option for days when an R1 type layer is not enough, but you’ll be moving around and don’t want something too warm either. We also appreciated the excellent DWR coating and the fact that Mountain Hardwear hasn’t messed with the design of this hoody much in the last couple of years, ’cause if it ain’t broke…! There’s also a hoodless Ghost Whisperer Jacket to consider should you be in the market for a strickly layering piece.
Best Value REI Co-op Magma 850
Weight: 9.9 ounces (size S) | Fill: 850-fill goose down certified to Responsible Down Standard
The Magma 850 is another example of REI offering a good quality product at a reasonable price. It retails for $189 but seems to be on sale quite a bit. Despite its low cost, it’s one of only two jackets in our test group to use high-quality 850-fill down. That gave it a lot of warmth for the weight, but it was on the thin site overall and not the warmest option. We preferred instead to use it as part of a layering system on cold days.
It works so well in a layering system because there is no hood, but then, there is no hood. This limits the versatility of the Magma a bit. While it’s one of the lightest options that we tested, part of that weight savings comes from the lack of a hood as well. The fit is a little weird and on the boxy side. It’s cut large overall (we had to size down in this one), and the belly bulges out a bit. Because not all of us have the same body type, and not all bodies fit into the slim, form-fitting models, some might appreciate the relaxed fit of the Magma. If you are looking for a reasonably priced warmth layer, but don’t need the most technically advanced model for a climb up the Matterhorn in winter, we think this is a good option to check out.