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Hands-on Gear Review
REI Co-op Down Hoodie Review
Cons: Little to no wind and water protection, limited insulation value
Bottom line: A layering piece that we include here to illustrate the options you have in shopping for a winter jacket.
REI and lots of other companies make jackets like the REI Co-Op Down Hoodie as part of a winter layering system. This style of jacket is quite typical. It is comfortable, affordable, and fashionable in at least some circles. It is warm enough for some winter conditions, and protective enough for the driest of mild winter climates. However, when you picture an upper MidWest winter, the rugged blizzards of New England, or most winter days of the Mountain West, you need a full function, shelled winter jacket as we test elsewhere in this review. This is a layering piece that many press into service in mellower climates.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Winter Jackets for Men of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The REI Co-Op Down Hoodie is the lightest when it comes to weight and construction. It is an outlier product that snuck into our review. It's handy here for comparison and calibrating the performance of the other products we assessed. The majority of the jackets we tested are "stand-alone" winter jackets. The Down Hoodie is better thought of as a layering piece in a winter jacket system. In some wintry conditions, it is adequate but will require a shell in the wettest and windiest of cold weather.
This jacket stands out in the below chart summarizing the winter parkas we tested. Notably, it is the lowest scoring product we assessed. It certainly has its place, and some users will find it perfect for their needs. However, as an all-purpose, general function "winter jacket", it is significantly lacking. This is both a review and a cautionary tale about shopping via online keywords. This product shows up prominently when one searches for a "winter jacket", and it has appealing attributes (namely, weight and price) when compared to others that show up under that keyword search. However, again, it is not a full-function winter jacket like the others we assessed.
Down insulation is excellent. The down insulation that REI uses in the Down Hoodie is great, and will last a long time. The insulation value per weight is great and will not fade with time. Now, warmth is a function of a variety of things. Heat is transferred via convection, radiation, conduction, and evaporation. No jacket protects, really, against conduction. When we assess models in this "warmth" rating metric, we are mainly examining heat lost to radiation.
The amount and type of insulation in a jacket dictate its ability to resist radiation. The REI jacket has down insulation, which is excellent. However, it doesn't have that much of it. When it comes to radiative insulating value, the REI is a little better than The North Face Arrowood Triclimate and the Top Pick Columbia Mission Air Interchange and less insulating than the rest of the products we tested. We examine heat lost to convection and evaporation in the "Weather Resistance" category.
As alluded to above, this scoring metric examines heat loss due to evaporation and convection. Basically, "how well does this jacket keep the wind and precipitation off". For the most part, this is a function of materials. A thick, coated or laminated shell fabric is crucial to wind and water resistance. The REI has a thin and uncoated shell fabric. It is the least weather resistant jacket in our test. A jacket like this is intended to be used as part of a layering system to truly work in all conditions. To turn this jacket into a true "winter jacket" pair it with something from our Mens Hardshell Jacket review.
Every other jacket we tested is more weather resistant than the REI. Notably, the Gore-Tex fabric and licensed the construction of the Arc'teryx Fission SV and Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun are the most weather resistant products on the roster. The Patagonia Jackson Glacier is the closest, regarding weather protection, to the REI. Its shell fabric is a little more resistant to wind and water than the outer material of the Down Hoodie.
In some ways, comfort is the antithesis of weather resistance. The best weather resistant shell fabrics are stiff and crinkly, while the most comfortable shell fabrics are light and free-flowing. It is, therefore, no surprise that the REI tops our comfort chart, with the marginally more protective Patagonia Jackson Glacier and the Best Buy (but dry-weather optimized) Marmot Fordham following close behind. All of these feature soft, draping shell fabrics over simple sewn through down baffling. This wears more like a sweater than a jacket. The stiffest, most protective jackets, like the super burly Top Pick Canada Goose Expedition are the least comfortable.
The Down Hooded model from REI has the fewest features of any contender in our test. The two hand warmer pockets are all that we can call "features". Even the hood is entirely non-adjustable. This is a simple insulation layer, purpose-built to tuck away unnoticed into your backpack or luggage and meant to complement a layering system that includes a wind and water resisting shell jacket. The close competitor Patagonia Jackson Glacier has an additional pocket and a hood whose adjustment system is far more sophisticated.
The Michelin man puffy look of the Down Hooded is en vogue in many circles, but it is also rather non-unique. It'll blend in when worn in mountain towns, and be unsurprising in the cooler cities. It is low profile, and minimalistic, which will serve you well if that's what you're after.
The down insulation of the Down Hoodie will keep its insulating value for as long as you can keep the shell and lining material intact. Abrade through the thin casing fabrics, which is likely over time, and the down will leak out. That down retains its insulating value, but it isn't insulating anything if it is flying around your car or closet. The only sort of jacket that is less durable than the Down Hoodie is a lightly shelled synthetic jacket. The same light shell fabric will abrade and tear just as much as the REI, and the insulation will degrade far faster than the down insulation. We did not test any such synthetic insulated jackets in this category.
This is a suitable "winter" jacket for those that live in low-latitude climates. Especially if your mild "winter" temperatures come with dry weather (Southern California and the desert SW, we're talking to you), this jacket could be all you need for those cold snaps. Also, if you live elsewhere and have the creativity and patience to manage a winter jacket layering system, this is a good choice to complement a shell jacket.
It is the price that will tempt everyone to choose this as their "winter jacket". It is less than half the price of any truly suitable winter jacket in our review. In fact, the only products that we tested that come close in price are more protective but less insulating. Our Best Buy jacket, for instance, is almost three times the price of the REI Co-op. This Best Buy, the Marmot Fordham offers true winter protection, but it comes at a price.
Caveat emptor, when one is shopping the internet blindly. If you seek an all-around "winter jacket", the REI Co-op Down Hoodie will be appealing, but it comes with significant drawbacks. It has its place, but that place is not alongside the other burly, all-conditions and all-climates winter jackets we reviewed here.
— Jediah Porter
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