The 11 Best Down Jackets for Women

Down is the ultimate in insulation: it has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio and is highly compressible. A lightweight down jacket is a must in every outdoors woman's quiver. Here we are getting all lifestyle-y in the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody on the sea ice of Antarctica.
Hunting for a women's down jacket? Let us help! After evaluating 56 of the market's top models, we performed head-to-head tests of the best 11 jackets during several cold months. Our testers traveled as far as Antartica during the testing period, putting each down and synthetic model to the ultimate test. We combined overall experiences with specific tests to fully examine the differences between the contenders. We obsessed over performance in heat-trapping ability, how well they repelled wet winter weather, and their durability. We also scored each jacket according to their relative weight and compressibility. No matter what type of winter you live in or plan to travel to, our comprehensive review helps you ignore the marketing and guides you to the right product for the conditions.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 9 ≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫
Rank #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product
Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer - Women's
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded - Women's
Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's
Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody
Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody - Women's
Thorium AR Hoody Women's
Arc'teryx Thorium AR Hoody - Women's
Arc'teryx Cerium SL - Women's
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award       
Price $228.99 at Backcountry
Compare at 4 sellers
$206.21 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$574.95 at MooseJaw
Compare at 3 sellers
$325.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$328.99 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score 
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82
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80
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76
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75
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73
Star Rating
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Pros Incredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, packs into its own pocketDurable, weather resistant, athletic cut, good movement, versatileGood fit, very comfortable, sleek, high qualityVersatile, warm, durable, dependable, solid constructionExtremely lightweight, good fit, looks sleek, layers underneath well
Cons No way to cinch the hood, colors that you either love or hateHood is not versatile, narrower baffles compress downExpensive, not as wind-resistant, oversized hoodGets wet easily, slow to dry, a little pricier, bigger baffles reduce ease of movement slightlyExpensive, slow to dry, fabric not very breathable
Ratings by Category Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded - Women's Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's Hybridge Lite Hoody - Women's Thorium AR Hoody - Women's Cerium SL - Women's
Warmth - 25%
10
0
7
10
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9
10
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7
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8
10
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6
Weight - 20%
10
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10
10
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7
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9
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8
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10
Water Resistance - 15%
10
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7
10
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8
10
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7
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5
10
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4
Compressibility - 15%
10
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9
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7
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9
Style - 10%
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8
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8
Durability - 10%
10
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7
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Features - 5%
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Specs Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded - Women's Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's Hybridge Lite Hoody - Women's Thorium AR Hoody - Women's Cerium SL - Women's
Down Fill Q.Shield DOWN 800 750 fill power hydrophobic European goose down 800 fill Hutterite white goose down 750 fill European goose down 850 fill European grey goose down
Main Fabric Whisperer 7D x 10D Ripstop Pertex Microlight exterior (30D), nylon ripstop interior Shell: 10D Feather-light nylon; Underarm panels: Tensile-Tech (93% polyester, 7% spandex); Lining: 30D 100% recycled polyester Colibri — 40D nylon, lightweight, wind resistant mini ripstop taffeta with DWR coating Thisela 100% nylon / 1.9 oz/yd, 20g/m, lightweight 7D ripstop taffeta
Measured Weight 7.2 oz 14.1 oz 11.1 oz 12.9 oz 5.8 oz

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Lyra Pierotti
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
December 19, 2017

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Updated December 2017
Having the right equipment and clothing is key to maximizing outdoor enjoyment in any season, which is perhaps most obvious in the winter months. To guide you to your ideal down jacket, we keep this review updated year round with the market's most intriguing models. Our expert reviewers took some new jackets for a spin in the early winter season in Montana. The Arc'teryx Cerium SV is a top all-around performer, bringing lightweight warmth to a new level. The KUHL Spyfire is quickly becoming our favorite mountain-chic model but also does a great job in cold and wet conditions. For the time being, the Ghost Whisperer is still our top recommendation, but new models are beginning to put up a tough fight.

Best Overall Model


Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded - Women's


Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer - Women's Editors' Choice Award

$228.99
at Backcountry
See It

Down fill: Q.Shield DOWN 800 | Weight: 7.2 oz
Incredibly light
Compact
Warm for its size and weight
Packs into its own pocket
No way to cinch the hood
Colors that you either love or hate
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer remains our reigning champion for our second year in a row. It is one of the warmest jackets we tested for its incredible light weight of 6.6 ounces. It is made of highly compressible 800-fill down, and impressively durable for rugged outdoor use—we even rock climbed in it when late fall temps dropped in the desert. This is a great stand-alone layer for moderate temps and is easy to layer when you're out midwinter. This makes it hard leave behind on any adventure, urban or outdoors. The jacket is styled for the avid outdoors person and looks sleek and stylish if that's your jam. It stuffs into its pocket and has a loop that is easy to clip to a harness. This was our favorite down jacket for sunset ascents of desert towers when speed and low weight are critical to getting to the rappels before dark—and you still want to look sharp for those beautiful sunset summit shots. If you're looking to ditch the hood, this hoody is also available in the Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket - Women's.

Read review: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded - Women's

Best On a Tight Budget


Columbia Platinum 860 Turbodown Hooded Jacket - Women's


Best Buy Award

$199.95
at Amazon
See It

Down fill: 860 TurboDown: 800 fill goose down PLUS 60g Omni-Heat synthetic insulation (50% polyester / 50% Recycled polyester Omni-Heat Thermal) | Weight: 16 oz
Inexpensive
Dresses up
Overheats
Bad zippers
Stiff feel
The Women's Columbia Platinum 860 Turbodown Hooded Jacket has recently been discontinued, and the folks at Columbia recommend the slightly more expensive Platinum Plus 740 Turbodown Hooded Jacket in its stead. However, some retailers will still have the Platinum 860, and you'll likely be able to pick it up at a huge markdown. Although it doesn't have the quality and versatility of the Arc'teryx Thorium AR hoody or our other award winners, it costs a lot less. It's the best jacket if you just want to be warm, look good, and stretch your dollar.

Read review: Columbia Platinum 860 Turbodown Hooded Jacket - Women's

Top Pick for Poor Weather and Rough Use


Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's


Top Pick Award

$206.21
at Backcountry
See It

Down fill: 750 fill power Hydrophobic European Goose | Weight: 14.1 oz
Durable
Weather resistant
Athletic cut
Good movement
Versatile
Hood is not versatile
Narrower baffles compress down
The Rab Microlight Alpine is among the most durable pieces we've ever reviewed, and now with a few detail-oriented updates, it's even more comfortable than before. Now with a polymer (instead of wire) hood brim, the folks at Rab have also updated the jacket's fit, expanding the chest box and tapering the sides. This makes the jacket a little less boxy, which helps it transition from mountain to town activities. In this year's round of field tests, we noticed a lot of compliments around town, as well as in the mountains. It's sleek and sharp. This piece is a bit heavier, but it seals out weather so well we think it's worth the few extra ounces. We love the slightly longer arms, and the taper ensures the sleeves stay out of your way, even when rock climbing. The Microlight is light and compressible with 750 fill power hydrophobic down, and stands up to light rain and wet snow better than most with its Pertex exterior. We appreciated the new stuff sack, which makes it easy to travel with. As a reliable all-around performer, the Rab jacket earns our Top Pick for weather resistance and durability. This jacket will be reliable from town to summit. This great hoody is also available in a jacket! If you're looking to ditch the hood, check out the Women's Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket. This great hoody is also available in a jacket! If you're looking to ditch the hood, check out the Women's Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket.

Read review: Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's

Top Pick for Everyday Use


Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody - Women's


Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody - Women's Top Pick Award

$213.95
at Amazon
See It

Down fill: 800 fill Traceable Down | Weight: 14.1 oz
Great generalist jacket
Ethically harvested down
Very cozy
Fabric gets dirty easily
Truly excels in no category
The Patagonia Down Sweater is a long-standing favorite here at OGL. It seems impossible not to love this jacket. Year after year, it stands the test of time—for style, comfort, and durability. It is a true Jill-of-all-Trades, Master-of-None. This is not a niche product—rather it is up for just about anything you can throw at it. Early winter dashes to the climbing gym? You'll arrive in style. Rugged work outdoors chopping wood? We didn't hesitate to pull this one out of the pile. It is a piece that integrates so well into your lifestyle you'll be tempted to baby it—but then again, no way. It's up for rock climbing, coffee shops, lightweight mountaineering, winter hut trips, campfires. It's a piece as versatile as your interests are diverse.Patagonia also has you covered if you're looking for the Down Sweater without the hood. Take a look at the Women's Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket.

Read review: Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody - Women's

Notable for an Extreme Warmth to Weight Ratio


Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody - Women's



$525.00
at REI
See It

Down fill: 850 fill European | Weight: 13.9 oz
Superb warmth-to-weight ratio
Awesome hood design
Mobility points
High price
The Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody is a stunningly lightweight down jacket that fluffs up to a size that rivals some proper expedition parkas. This jacket became our go-to insulation for early winter ice climbs in Montana, and when we were out on long ski tours in Washington. The weight to warmth ratio is unrivaled in our decades of experience with down jackets. The extremely high quality, 850 fill down certainly explains part of this winning ratio—but not all. We found the hood with the extended collar and tight seal around the face to add a tremendous amount of warmth: body heat is sealed in, and fierce weather is sealed out. This was also a jacket we could easily move in. When the temperatures dipped and the belays got long on our ice climbs, we could start climbing in this jacket and remove it once we were warmed up. It is puffy and warm like a bigger down parka, but the baffling and shape makes this jacket still feel and fit like a svelte and lightweight down jacket. Top of the charts again, Arc'teryx.

Notable for Blending Fashion & Function


KUHL Spyfire



$260.00
at REI
See It

Down fill: 800 fill goose, certified ethically sourced | Weight: 14 oz
Fashionable and flattering
Durable
Great for cold and damp weather
Not the warmest
Average mobility
The KUHL Spyfire has been a big hit this year. When we started testing this jacket, we started seeing it all around town. It is very stylish, earning compliments from outdoors and urban types alike. The jacket is thoughtfully designed, with soft fabrics and a flexible brim on the hood which protects you during those blustery dashes to the coffee shop. It is a flattering feminine cut as well—a clear departure from the standard boxy down jacket form. Style and urban appeal aside, it also features 800 fill down, making it light and compressible enough to earn a spot on your next backcountry adventure. And the materials are rugged—windproof and water resistant. This was our go-to jacket for the cold and wet fall in the Pacific Northwest, both for the changeable weather and the style points. But it quickly earned a spot on more and more of our outdoor adventures.

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Down Fill Main Fabric Measured Weight
82
$350
Editors' Choice Award
Q.Shield DOWN 800 Whisperer 7D x 10D Ripstop 7.2 oz
80
$275
Top Pick Award
750 fill power hydrophobic European goose down Pertex Microlight exterior (30D), nylon ripstop interior 14.1 oz
76
$575
800 fill Hutterite white goose down Shell: 10D Feather-light nylon; Underarm panels: Tensile-Tech (93% polyester, 7% spandex); Lining: 30D 100% recycled polyester 11.1 oz
75
$325
750 fill European goose down Colibri — 40D nylon, lightweight, wind resistant mini ripstop taffeta with DWR coating 12.9 oz
73
$329
850 fill European grey goose down Thisela 100% nylon / 1.9 oz/yd, 20g/m, lightweight 7D ripstop taffeta 5.8 oz
71
$279
Top Pick Award
800 fill Traceable Down Shell: 20 x 30D 100% recycled polyester ripstop, DWR treatment; Lining: 22D 100% recycled polyester 14.1 oz
70
$200
Best Buy Award
860 TurboDown: 800 fill goose down PLUS 60g Omni-Heat synthetic insulation (50% polyester / 50% Recycled polyester Omni-Heat Thermal) Shell: 100% nylon 30D Micro Rip-Stop; Lining: 100% polyester Omni - Heat Reflective Microtex DP 16 oz
62
$220
700 fill goose down 50D 85 g/m (2.5 oz/yd) 100% polyester faille taffeta 25.04 oz
60
$160
550 fill goose down 78 g/m 83% polyester, 17% nylon 21.87 oz

Analysis and Test Results


The deeper in the woods or the mountains you go, the more important the things you carry with you become (and how much those things weigh). Having the appropriate gear and clothing in the mountains is imperative to having a good time, and an insulated jacket can be the difference between the summit and surrender, celebrating and suffering.

Down jackets range broadly from lightweight and packable to heavy-duty expedition parkas. In this review, we focus on the technical lightweight category. The jackets in this review are typically great stand-alone insulation for milder climates, like spring and fall in the high desert or brisk mornings on foggy northern beaches. They may also serve as an insulating layer for light aerobic activities in extremely cold environments, or to wear under a shell jacket in inclement weather. This review aims to help you find the right jacket for your uses, but also to equip you with the knowledge to evaluate jackets for yourself the next time you're browsing at an outdoor store.

Wearing the Rab Microlight in Antarctica  testing the jacket in the extreme cold on the southernmost continent.
Wearing the Rab Microlight in Antarctica, testing the jacket in the extreme cold on the southernmost continent.

Types of Insulated Jackets


The down versus synthetic question will probably never be an easy one to answer. Even the best synthetic fibers are no match for the warmth-to-weight ratio of natural down feathers. But when down gets wet, it might as well be a pasta meal when you've run out of white gas--it's pretty much useless.

Synthetic


Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover - Women's
This is a jacket insulated with human-made fibers. It is heaver for its weight than down and doesn't compress as well. However, unlike down, it retains its loft when wet. Synthetic jackets are more durable in the short-term because if you tear a hole in the outer material, the insulation doesn't leak out. But down is more durable over the long-term, and can handle more compressions and expansions. These jackets are usually less expensive.

Down


Patagonia Down Sweater - Women's
Down is the ultimate in insulation: it has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio and is highly compressible, great for the weight-conscious outdoorsperson. Best of all, a good down jacket will last for years. However, the jackets often need some attention if you want them to last (careful washing and drying, dry and lofted storage), and you need to be careful not to rip them or the feathers can leak out and leave you with no insulation. Moisture is down's Achilles heel: when it collects water, the feathers clump together and lose their loft--and therefore their insulating capability. These jackets tend to be expensive, and get more so as the quality of the down improves.

Hydrophobic Down


Down industries continue to try to reinvent the feather--or, admitting defeat, layer on other supposed improvements and gimmicks to draw the consumer's wandering eye. This review aims to help you see through the nonsense and find the jacket that best suits your needs.

In the space of a few fast decades, we have made advances in the fabrics encasing the down feathers, but nothing has been able to improve upon the natural insulating properties of high quality down feathers. New technologies have been exploring the possibility of improving the water resistance of the down feathers themselves. After years of struggling to manufacture a synthetic fiber to rival natural down, materials scientists have also been looking at ways to improve upon down itself.

Several companies have started to address the wet-down problem from the inside-out by coating down feathers in a durable water repellent compound (think of the water repellent treatment on the exterior of your rain jacket). Patagonia has come up with a characteristically more environmentally friendly way to do so, which they also say increases the loft of their down. The technology is fascinating, and in our tests, we are inclined to believe in its usefulness, at least in the short term. Critics, however, wonder how durable the treatment will be over time.

The technology does seem to be catching on, but not every company is on board, which prompts us to wonder, first, if the technology is cost-effective, and second, if it added any noticeable benefit to consumers. In our experience, we found little to no noticeable benefit.

To check out more of our thoughts on waterproof down, read our Buying Advice Article and check out our Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded - Women's and Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's reviews.

We extracted a small sample of DownTek treated hydrophobic down from on of our test jackets. We evaluated the look and feel of the treated down and sprayed it with water to see what happened. This is before.
We extracted a small sample of DownTek treated hydrophobic down from on of our test jackets. We evaluated the look and feel of the treated down and sprayed it with water to see what happened. This is before.
A sample of DownTek treated hydrophobic down after being sprayed with water. Notice how the water is beading up on the down rather than soaking into the fibers.
A sample of DownTek treated hydrophobic down after being sprayed with water. Notice how the water is beading up on the down rather than soaking into the fibers.

Criteria for Evaluation


After years and months of using these jackets, wearing them across continents and for many different applications, we have come up with a consensus on which jackets are best at what, and we have awarded some for outstanding performance. Check out the chart below to see where each down jacket in our review ranked in Overall Performance score.


Warmth


Down is measured by the amount of space taken up by an ounce of down feathers. Because down insulates by trapping air and holding it in place for your body heat to warm up, the more loft you can get, the better. This means a higher numbered fill power is of higher quality. For example, 850 fill power down fills 850 cubic inches for every ounce of down.

This also means that a 550 fill jacket, like The North Face Aconcagua Jacket - Women's can be just as warm as an 800 fill jacket--it'll just be bulkier. But the most common misconception is that a higher number means warmer. A 550 fill jacket can, in fact, be warmer than a super thin 850 fill ultralight jacket.


The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded ran away with our Editors' Choice award because it has the best loft, and provides very high warmth for the weight.

Most of the pieces in this review, like the Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody - Women's are designed to be thin, lightweight technical insulating layers. They all have down in the 700-800 fill power range and provide excellent warmth and loft for the weight. These jackets are not the thick and warm pieces that would keep you warm while standing still at a sporting event or concert but are lighter layers to take with you into the mountains. Some of the warmest models are the thick and puffy Arc'teryx Thorium AR Hoody and the Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket.

This review's most innovative and intriguing technological addition was Columbia's Omni-Heat reflective lining found in the Columbia Platinum 860 Turbodown Hooded Jacket - Women's. To make down jackets warmer, they decided to paint the inside of their jackets with a bunch of silver dots (think, in effect, something similar to an emergency blanket lining your jacket). This is a novel and intriguing idea; in practice, however, it proved disappointing. The liner would reflect heat back as advertised, but rather than simply maintaining the heat generated, like traditional down jackets, the Omni-Heat lining increases its heating power as you are producing it. This means that as you quicken your pace and warm-up, the liner reflects that warmth back to you, making you feel exponentially hotter. The result is the sweatiest, stuffiest jacket in our review. Overall, we prefer the standard down jackets as technical insulation pieces.

The Omni-Heat liner. No inner pockets. Bummer times two.
The Omni-Heat liner. No inner pockets. Bummer times two.

Weight


No synthetic fiber has matched down to its incredible warmth-to-weight ratio. You will probably always remember your first down sleeping bag--did it revolutionize the way you felt about carrying gear on your back? For many, the investment in lightweight down products correlates to increased happiness in the backcountry. If you are looking to shave ounces, the featherweight Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded - Women's, weighing 7.2 ounces, is the obvious choice. The Arc'teryx Cerium SL - Women's is even lighter at 5.8, but it lacks in some features, like a hood, and therefore is limited in application. The bulky and classic Nuptse 2 - Women's weighs a hefty 25.04 ounces and is best used as an around camp and around town jacket rather than a mountain layer to be carried with you on overnights.


Water Resistance


In a jacket or sleeping bag, is not the down itself that does the insulating, it is the tiny air pockets trapped by the down fibers. Unfortunately, once down gets wet all the fibers stick together, it loses its loft and thus its warmth. If you plan on being in extremely wet conditions, synthetic insulation is preferable because it does not have this same issue and retains some insulating properties when wet. However, if you do have a down jacket, or value the weight savings of down over synthetic, you want it to have some water resistance so that in the event you do get a little damp, you don't freeze.

Arc'teryx has introduced their Down Composite Mapping, a technology where they integrate Coreloft synthetic insulation in high-risk areas such as cuffs, shoulders, and hoods. This technology is found in the Cerium and Thorium on our test. Our testing, however, revealed that these jackets stayed wetter longer because the synthetic insulation would absorb water which would then leak into the down and the shell fabric. This is okay for a fully synthetic jacket which insulates somewhat whether it is wet or dry, but not okay for the down.


All the jackets in this review are treated with some DWR (durable water repellent) coating on the exterior fabric to prevent water from soaking through the material and dampening the down, but these types of coatings do not last very long and do not withstand a heavy dousing.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this review was the opportunity to test out some jackets with treated hydrophobic down: The Ghost Whisperer and the Rab Microlight Alpine jacket.

We tested all of our jackets for water resistance by wetting them in the shower and letting them soak for a while. It proved difficult to gauge how much water resistance was due to the DWR coating on the exterior fabric and how much we could attribute to the hydrophobic down itself. Overall, we found the hydrophobic down jackets to resist water better and dry out faster, but those jackets, the Ghost Whisperer and the Rab jacket, were just generally better designed. Time will tell as more hydrophobic down products become available and we start to see how it performs as it ages.

Wetting and drying our jackets for a side-by-side comparison.
Wetting and drying our jackets for a side-by-side comparison.

Compressibility


The quality of the down factors largely into the compressibility of a jacket. Again, the higher the number of the down fill, the more compressible it will be.


The Arc'teryx Cerium SL - Women's was the most compressible with its 850 fill down, followed by the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. Both of these jackets are thin and light to begin with, and the high quality down allows them to get super small. A small compressed size is ideal for climbing, backpacking, or even bike commuting where pack space is a huge commodity.

Our lineup of women's jackets compressed into stuff sacks and pockets for compressibility comparison. (L to R: Montbell Frost Smoke  Montbell Alpine Light  Arc'teryx Thorium  Arc'teryx Cerium  Ghost Whisperer  Rab Microlight.
Our lineup of women's jackets compressed into stuff sacks and pockets for compressibility comparison. (L to R: Montbell Frost Smoke, Montbell Alpine Light, Arc'teryx Thorium, Arc'teryx Cerium, Ghost Whisperer, Rab Microlight.
A comparison shot of three of our jackets  clockwise from left: the Columbia Platinum 860 Turbodown hooded jacket  the Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody  and the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody.
A comparison shot of three of our jackets, clockwise from left: the Columbia Platinum 860 Turbodown hooded jacket, the Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody, and the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody.

Style and Fit


The jackets in this review use sewn-through baffle construction. This design approach is less expensive to produce, less weight, and makes for better ease of movement. Patagonia varied the sizes of its baffles in the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody - Women's to maximize mobility and insulation. We were very impressed with this solution. Under the arms, they placed smaller baffles which eases movement of the arms and torso. Smaller baffles, however, also means more stitches where the jacket is thin and, therefore, not as warm. Since these smaller baffles are only under the arms, the area is often protected from the wind and otherwise covered by the arms themselves. Patagonia also placed smaller baffles at the bottom of the jacket, which helps the jacket move with your body, contouring to your shape and, with the help of a drawcord hem, seal out the wind. Overall, thoughtful baffling can be a powerful tool.


Overall we felt that the fit and the design of the sewn baffles are the primary components of style. No matter what, puffy down jackets make a woman look, well… puffy. But some look better than others. We liked the more traditional quilted baffles of the Ghost Whisperer, the Patagonia Down Sweater, and the Rab Microlight. And the Arc'teryx Cerium SL had a flattering cut.

But style cannot trump function, in our reviewers' opinions. The Columbia Platinum 860 Turbodown Hooded Jacket - Women's is a good example of where the style was prioritized over usability and durability. At some point, jacket manufacturers figured out that if they reversed zippers, they could coat them with waterproofing material on the smooth side and eliminate the need for storm flaps. Increasingly, jackets are using the same concept but for style, not weatherproofing. Columbia uses this reversed zipper orientation, which looks sharp, but in our experience, these zippers wear out faster. This is likely because now you are pulling against the sharp points of the teeth. Like those knobbly mountain bike tires or protruding shoe treads, any avid biker or trail runner knows what happens when pounding the wrong surface: excessive wearing.

Post-climb lazy fall morning in Zion National park  perfect for the Arc'teryx Cerium SL.
Post-climb lazy fall morning in Zion National park, perfect for the Arc'teryx Cerium SL.

Durability


The durability of a jacket's material is important when spending $200-300. Fabrics are, in general, very good these days, but there are a few things to pay attention to. Lower denier ratings typically roughly translate to lower weight but less durability. But not all deniers are created equal. The Ghost Whisperer, for example, proved much more weatherproof, breathable, and durable than the Arc'teryx Cerium SL - Women's, both made of 7D fabrics. Mountain Hardwear says that is because their fabric is the only true 7D by 10D fabric, woven by only one mill in the world, which uses single yarns rather than pairs of strands. But if you seek durability, the 40D Arc'teryx Thorium AR Hoody - Women's or Rab's 30D Microlight Alpine jacket will fit the bill.


In our tests, the lightest fabrics ended up being the most fragile. The North Face Nuptse 2 Jacket - Women's has reinforced patches in high use areas, which adds to the durability. If it is important to you to have a lightweight jacket, it might be worth sacrificing a little durability. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is an impressively durable jacket for the weight--the fabric resisted snagging and abrasion, but some of the stitching snagged. Alternatively, the Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's performed very well and earned our Top Pick award for its durability and reliability in combination with weather resistance.

This jacket invites you to climb in it--it is super light and boasts excellent range of movement. However  the stitching on the arms snagged easily on rock when taking some warmup laps in chilly climbing temps.
This jacket invites you to climb in it--it is super light and boasts excellent range of movement. However, the stitching on the arms snagged easily on rock when taking some warmup laps in chilly climbing temps.

Features


This category is a catch-all for the little things we liked or didn't like about the jackets, from zippers to draw cords to well-placed soft fleece patches. In general, we like jackets with durable plastic zippers that don't bend or kink over time (counter-intuitive, but plastic zippers are much more durable than metal ones); hem drawcord cinches are key; and a little fleece in the right place goes a long way, like in Rab's Microlight Alpine jacket.


But a jacket didn't have to have a lot of features to score highly in this category. The Ghost Whisperer has very few features, but Mountain Hardwear kept ones that count. It got high marks for careful selection of key features.

Conclusion


Our lineup of contenders to be reviewed.
Our lineup of contenders to be reviewed.
We hope we've been able to help you narrow down your top choices and make a final selection of a jacket for your wintertime activities. Check out the related articles below for more winter inspiration!

Properly caring for down jackets if very important. Over time the down will get covered in dirt and oils causing it to lose its loft and therefore lose its warmth. To clean your jacket, we recommend using a specialized cleaner such as ReviveX Down Cleaner or a similar product from Nikwax to safely clean the down and restore its loft.
Lyra Pierotti

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