How to Choose a Down Jacket

The perfect down jacket is a key piece for cold weather adventures, a winter-weather staple that can keep you warm and dry without adding unnecessary bulk to your pack. With that in mind, choosing a jacket is an important investment that should be made with care to ensure you'll be using it for many cold-weather adventures to come. With so many features and terms thrown around when discussing down jackets, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. To simplify the process, we've put together a guide that will help you understand what makes a good down jacket, and how to choose one for your specific needs.

There are several different metrics that are used to gauge a down jacket's warmth, and we'll go over the most important ones in this article. Fill power is a key indicator of quality that refers to how much space one ounce of down clusters can trap. The higher the fill power, the more space it can trap, and the warmer the jacket will be. A jacket with a higher fill power will also be lighter and compress down smaller in a stuff sack.

Another important factor is the jacket's water resistance. The best down jackets will be treated with a durable water repellent coating and feature taped seams to prevent moisture from seeping into the insulation and dampening it. Many down jackets will even come with a DWR finish that can be reapplied as needed, for maximum water protection.

For the most extreme warmth-to-weight ratio, there are ultralight down jackets that can be worn as an outer layer on cold-weather adventures like backpacking, climbing and backcountry skiing. These jackets generally have high-end, premium 800-fill down and thin shell fabrics that are very light but also surprisingly tough. Some of the top examples include the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 and Rab Mythic Alpine Light.

A down jacket's durability can also play an important role in its warmth-to-weight ratio. A durable down jacket is designed to withstand repeated use and harsh conditions. This can be a big advantage for anyone who frequently travels outdoors or regularly wears their jacket in challenging weather.

Synthetic jackets are a great alternative to down, and can often be just as warm as a high-quality down coat. The main difference is that synthetics will not become damp and lose their warmth if they get wet, so they're a great choice for outdoor activities that may encounter rain or snow.

Cotopaxi is a brand to watch in the ultralight down jacket space, and their popular Fuego jacket is an example of their fun designs, retro styling and superb warmth-to-weight ratio. The jacket combines premium 800 fill power down with a versatile 20-denier shell fabric and responsibly sourced, Bluesign-approved down, and offers up an impressive amount of warmth for the weight.


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