But a jacket didn't have to have a lot of features to score highly in this category. Generally, anything above fill down is considered high quality, but we rarely consider anything below fill anymore. For example, fill power down fills cubic inches for every ounce of down. The Arc'teryx Cerium SV is even more impressive for its warmth to weight ratio.
It's thin and light to begin with, like the Cerium LT , and the high quality down allows it to get super small. A small compressed size is ideal for climbing, backpacking, or even bike commuting where pack space is a commodity.
If compressibility is not as important to you as some of the other metrics in our test, we'd suggest taking a look at the Rab Microlight Alpine or Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody. This category is a catch-all for the little things we liked or didn't like about the jackets, from pockets and hoods, to draw cords and well-placed soft fleece patches. In general, we like models 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 to keeping cold drafts out. A little fleece or creative baffling in the right place goes a long way in promoting freedom of movement. 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 the ones that count for a high functioning climbing layer.
It got high marks for careful selection of key features. In general, we love hoods because they add warmth. We also appreciate chest pockets for ease of access while climbing—and because it helps keep essential items, like snacks or electronics, warm and accessible. The streamlined design also makes the jacket look sleek, easily sliding with you into Happy Hour or your favorite Apres Ski venue.
Arc'teryx stole the show again in this category with details such as a separate stuff sack girth hitched into the chest pocket. This feature meant we could cram it into our luggage or carry it on the back of our harness without fear of snagging the jacket's material while chimneying up a long rock route. And when wearing the jacket, if we unzipped that chest pocket to retrieve our phone or snacks, the stuff sack wouldn't fall out.
The Cerium was the highest scorer in the bunch with the Rab Microlight placing second. Fabrics are, in general, very durable these days, but there are a few things to pay attention to. Lower denier ratings typically translate to lower weight but less durability, but fabric is not the only durability concern. In our tests, the lightest fabrics ended up being the most fragile. If it is important to you to have a lightweight jacket, it might be worth sacrificing a little durability.
The North Face Aconcagua topped our charts and provided an incredibly durable fabric made of 50D nylon; the Aconcagua is tough. The Canada Goose Perren is another top-notch model that offers rugged material that will hold up to some serious abuse.
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is an impressively durable jacket for the weight—the fabric resisted snagging and abrasion while climbing. Alternatively, the Rab Microlight Alpine performed very well and earned our Top Pick award for its durability and reliability in combination with weather resistance.
The most durable jackets in this review were not our overall top scoring jackets. This is largely because extremely durable fabrics tend to be heavier. If weight and compressibility are less an issue for you, however, and you want a great around-town jacket that will stand up to years of use, check out the Canada Goose Hybridge Perren , a very stylish urban use down jacket, or the super durable The North Face Aconcagua.
Down is one of the best insulators on the planet. No man-made fiber has managed to replace it for its impressive warmth to weight ratio. However, down has one critical Achilles heel—it cannot get wet.
When it does, the feathers get matted together and the jacket, sleeping bag, vest, or whatever the item is, loses its warmth. This is because down traps heat in the air pockets between the down feathers. Most outdoor enthusiasts accept this risk and choose to take good care to keep their down items dry on their adventures, but if you spend a lot of time out in wet climates, you might consider synthetic insulation, at least for some of your insulation pieces—the synthetic fibers have more structure and retain warmth even when wet.
Another way to manage the risk of down getting wet is to encase it in waterproof fabric, or at least materials coated with a durable water repellent finish DWR. Arc'teryx uses a clever Down Composite Mapping technology where they integrate Coreloft synthetic insulation in high-risk areas such as cuffs, shoulders, armpits, and hoods. In previous reviews, these jackets stayed wetter longer because the synthetic insulation would absorb water which would then leak into the down and the shell fabric.
In this round of testing, however, even dripping ice climbs couldn't manage to get the Cerium's cuffs wet which is one of the areas most prone to moisture. Most of the jackets in this review are treated with a DWR durable water repellent coating on the exterior fabric to prevent water from soaking through the material and dampening the down. It is important to note, however, that these jackets are not designed to be remotely waterproof, so if you will be out in the rain, be sure you can fit your rain or hardshell jacket over your down jacket to ensure those feathers stay dry and lofted.
The KUHL Spyfire took an interesting approach using DWR coated soft shell over the shoulders, which we found very effective for beading up and shedding light rain. The North Face Aconcagua was a top performer when it came to water resistance. Not batting an eye, it has an oily feel that allows water to bead up and roll right off. We appreciated this when we got caught in storms, and the chill started to creep in. The Arc'teryx Cerium SV and LT both earned the same score when it came to water resistance, and did a spectacular job of protecting us from the elements.
It was our favorite model to wear on winter vacations to our favorite snowy wonderlands—especially great for those traveling from warmer climates and who therefore are not as acclimated to the cold. We especially liked the Cerium SV for ice climbing, winter backpacking, and long backcountry ski tours. One of the most intriguing aspects of this review was the continued opportunity to test out some jackets with treated hydrophobic down: Water repellent fabrics still seem to make the most difference in a down jacket's water resistance.
We took all of these jackets ice climbing and ski touring to test the water resistance. Dripping ice climbs offered an excellent real-world opportunity to observe the jackets' water repelling abilities. In the end, most jackets performed to our expectations, with the Marmot Quasar Nova falling behind significantly with how easily the shell material wet out and soaked through to the down. The jackets in this review use sewn-through baffle construction instead of box-baffles, which are usually reserved for expedition parkas.
The sewn-through design is less expensive to produce, lighter and improves ease of movement. Several companies vary the sizes of its baffles to maximize mobility and insulation. We were very impressed with this solution. Under the arms, they place smaller baffles which eases movement of the arms and torso. Smaller baffles, however, also means more stitches, and therefore reduces its warmth.
Since these smaller baffles are only under the arms, the area is often protected from the wind and otherwise covered by the arms themselves. 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.
The shape of the jacket also contributes to Style points. But style cannot trump function, in our reviewers' opinions. In this review, we appreciated the style of the KUHL Spyfire which was an impressive blend of style while remaining adequately "mountain ready". However, as you know, style is subjective - and if you don't like the look of a particular jacket, you might not be inclined to wear it.
So do yourself a favor and peruse the metrics for a model that performs according to your wants and needs, and satisfies your personal taste. 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 is 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. The Best Women's Down Jackets of Displaying 1 - 5 of Updated October It's that time of the year; it's time to bundle up and hunker down - or set out on some exciting winter adventures!
This fall, we thoroughly analyzed each model in our current fleet and added in the Cerium LT from Arc'teryx, an excellent lightweight version of the Cerium SV, a previous Editors' Choice winner. On that topic, the Cerium SV was knocked down to a Top Pick winner after several more months of testing revealed long-term durability issues with the ultralight fabric. It's still a big-time favorite, but not an everyday wearing type of jacket, and is more suited for the rugged adventurous type.
See all prices 4 found. See all prices 3 found. Feeling hip and functional with a stylish and affordable down jacket in the Pacific Northwest the Magma. We extracted a small sample of DownTek treated hydrophobic down from one of our test jackets.
We evaluated the look and feel of the treated down and sprayed it with water to see what happened. 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. Taking a break from climbing in the midwinter sun in the cozy and durable Rab Microlight. Down is the ultimate in insulation: 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.
The hood fits comfortably over a helmet when rock climbing and the overall design of the Microlight Alpine kept us toasty. The Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody was super warm by itself, but also allowed us to wear extra warm layers underneath for those extra cold days. And it's lightweight, to boot! Shoveling is hard work in a cold place: Keeping warm with hot tea and the Marmot Quasar Nova Hoody on an early season ice climbing trip.
The Ghost Whisperer was the most compressible jacket in this review. The Rab,second from the top right in orange, was a decently compressible jacket. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer packs down so small you barely notice it clipped to the back of your harness.
Stylish and durable, Canada Goose makes a nice jacket. The Perren also tops our charts as being one of the most durable in the bunch. The Aconcagua is made of durable fabric it earned the highest score in our test , but lower quality fill down. The Cerium LT is a very versatile down jacket. We took it to coffee shops and summits with equal ease. Eddie Bauer's signature outerwear for petite women balances style with function in jackets and coats for travel, rain, snow and outdoor activities.
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