Dark Peak Women’s NESSH Down Jacket
Best for: Winter walking, climbing, snowsports
Key attributes: Superb price, 850 fill power down
The jacket is stuffed full of 90g/m2 850 fill power and responsibly-sourced goose down and weighs only 322g, giving it a fantastic warmth to weight ratio – particularly impressive given the fairly reasonable price tag (£175).
It packs away into its own hand warmer pocket, so you can stash it neatly in the bottom of a rucksack and whip it out as your warm layer, say, when you stop for lunch. The excellent hood has an elasticated drawcord (cinched at the back) enabling adjustment to hug your head – great for keeping the heat in on windy mountain tops – and it can accommodate googles too if you’re skiing. It’s equally good for winter walking or climbing too.
In addition there are two internal stash pockets at waist level and an internal chest pocket that’ll fit your phone, money and/or snacks. There are handy wrist gaiters and thumb loops on the cuffs too, enhancing warmth around your hands.
Ripstop 10-denier nylon outer and inner shell / Ultra-light (322g) / Dipped hem design / Insulated, helmet-compatible hood / DWR water-resistant coating / 850 fill power, responsibly sourced goose down
Read our full Dark Peak Women’s NESSH Down Jacket
Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody
Best for: Hiking, mountaineering, climbing
Key attributes: Versatility, packability, lightweight, 750 fill power down
The Thorium AR is an exceptionally versatile down jacket that will work well across the seasons. It’s cosy, hardwearing, light and packable and fit for a variety of mountain missions.
With 750 fill European goose down, the Thorium AR packs a hefty punch on the warmth scale and can be worn as a mid-layer on those mega wild wintry hill days. A great option for winter mountaineers and adventures in the alpine, the Thorium AR does carry a bit of bulk so just make sure there’s enough room under your hardshell if you are considering using it as a mid.
If you’re less in need of a full-on winter mid-layer and simply looking for a quality standalone warm outer to throw on at the summit, the wind and weather resistant Thorium AR will work equally well.
The hardwearing Arato 20 nylon face fabric with DWR finish feels bomber and stands up well in the face of light precipitation.
In terms of features, the Thorium AR is a typical Arc’teryx piece – quality, well-designed, and zero fuss. From the corded zipper pulls that are easy to operate when wearing gloves to the low-profile StormHood with synthetic insulation, the Thorium AR is all about function over flash.
And when the temps go back up and it’s time to return to mid-layers, the Thorium AR packs down into a 2.5L stuff sack that’s attached to the inside of the zipped internal pocket.
Arato 20 nylon face fabric / DWR finish / 750 fill power down / two zipped handwarmer pockets / adjustable hem / elasticated cuffs
Salewa Ortles 2 Medium Down Jacket
Best for: Hillwalking, climbing, general outdoors use
Key attributes:Athletic fit, bold style, fully-featured, hybrid construction
Born in the Dolomites, Salewa’s mountain heritage is both strong and proven. Designed to be worn either as an insulating mid-layer or a standalone outer, the Ortles 2 Medium Down Jacket is a cracking looking jacket that backs up bold style with quality performance on the hill.
Fit-wise the Ortles 2 Medium Down is ‘athletic’ – ie long and slim – which makes it truly functional as a mid-layer if you’re going down that route of application as it fits easily under a shell without feeling like you’re doing a Michelin man impression. The longer cut ensures the hip and bum area stays warm and dry when swinging tools or striding uphill.
Related: Best Synthetic Insulated Jackets
Tech-wise, the Ortles 2 Medium Down uses 90% 750 Fill RDS (Responsible Down Standard) duck down and 10% TirolWool Celiant insulation. This hybrid construction means that you get max warmth where you need it most (core, arms, back) and warmth without wetting out in the areas that see the most weather action (hood, shoulders, cuffs).
The abrasion-resistant nylon face fabric is light yet durable and more than capable of standing up to light snow and rain showers. We’ve worn the Ortles 2 Medium Down on a variety of hill days and really like the soft, low-profile feel and mega wind-resistant warmth it provides.
When it comes to features, the Ortles 2 Medium Down is packed full of Italian goodness. From the integrated elastic cuffs to the mega warm and easily adjustable hood, everything about this jacket feels like an asset designed to make your mountain adventures easier and more comfortable. Our stand-out fave feature is the incredibly cosy hood with high collar that provides the ideal place to hide on stormy days.
We’re also fans of bright colours on the hill as they definitely increase your chances of being located in an emergency situation so it felt good to be wearing a bold red jacket that would get us the kind of attention we might one day need.
90% 750 fill Responsible down standard duck down / 10% TirolWool Celiant insulation / recycled polyester fabric / two zipped handwarmer pockets / chest pocket / adjustable hem
Mammut Broad Peak IN Hooded Jacket
Best for: Mountaineering, fast and light alpinism
Key attributes: Ultralight, warmth, weather protection
If you’re looking for a mega lightweight jacket with max warmth and weather protection then Mammut’s super slick Broad Peak Hooded Down Jacket will be an ideal fit.
Designed for fast and light mountaineers and aspirational alpinists, the Broad Peak is a low profile, stripped down jacket that packs an incredible 800 fill power in one uber lightweight 330g package. Don’t be fooled by the Broad Peak’s feathery weight however, this is a seriously warm jacket capable of delivering a far superior toast-giving performance than many of it’s more bulky brethren!
The slim profile of the Broad Peak means it functions brilliantly as an active mid-layer insulation piece. It’s all about providing warmth without interfering with the task in hand and features such as the backpack and harness-compatible zip pockets reveal its intent.
When light rain or snow starts to fall, you won’t need to reach for a shell as the Broad Peak’s Pertex Quantum fabric does a quite excellent job of keeping all but the biggest raindrops and most significant of precipitation at bay.
In terms of features, the Broad Peak is low on the ground but that’s the beauty of its minimalist DNA. It just works and the hood is a prime example of this. You can’t adjust it but quite frankly there’s no need to as the elasticated border provides the perfect snug fit.
When it comes to packing it away, the Broad Peak stuffs easily into it’s own side pocket with zip closure and carabiner loop. Clever, efficient and truly fit for purpose.
If you’re looking for a high-end, fast and light technical down jacket with primo Swiss engineering, then get the Broad Peak on your list.
800 fill power ethically sourced goose down / Pertex Quantum fabric / two zipped handwarmer pockets / adjustable hem / elasticated cuffs / elasticated hood
Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown DS Hooded Jacket
Best for: Ice climbing, scrambling, climbing, hillwalking
Key attributes: Dynamic stretch, 800 fill power down, comfort, ‘lifestyle’ feel
If you’re looking for max stretch in your insulation piece then the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown DS has to be top of the list. DS stands for ‘dynamic stretch’ and wow, does this jacket move with you. If you’re ice climbing, scrambling or simply repeatedly taking on and off your pack then you’ll really appreciate the freedom of movement the StretchDown DS provides.
Constructed using stitch-free, stretch-welded channels, the StretchDown DS is a departure from the visual norm we’re used to when it comes to insulation pieces. The lack of stitched panels may give it more of a comfy ‘lifestyle’ feel, but this is still a technical jacket designed to perform.
Technical features include cord zippered handwarmer pockets that are easy to operate when using gloves or mitts and the adjustable bungee waist. And on the subject of storage, this is the only jacket we tested that comes with two large internal drop pockets for stashing gloves, hats, snacks and at a push – some lightweight ski touring skins.
With 800 RDS fill power, the StretchDown DS will keep you warm as toast on the hill and the fluorocarbon-free Nikwax Hydrophobic Down does a great job of keeping water at bay and your conscience clear. Pair it with a shell for additional cold and wet weather protection.
Two points to consider. Whilst the non-adjustable insulated hood does a good job of protecting you from the elements when the wind whips up a notch, if you’re looking for a really snug fit around the face you may want to look elsewhere. Likewise, if packability is a priority the StretchDown DS will come up short as it’s hard to compress and there’s no stuff sac. Creative stowing will be required!
800 fill power ethically sourced goose down / fluorocarbon-free Nikwax Hydrophobic Down / two zipped handwarmer pockets / stitch-free, stretch-welded channels / elasticated cuffs
Read our full Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown DS review