For lightweight and efficient insulation, you can’t beat a good down jacket – get the right one and it will end up accompanying you on every outdoor adventure throughout the year. The purpose of this article is to help you work out what’s the best down jacket for you, and see what options (that we rate) are out there.
Down jackets are useful for hiking as their warmth-to-weight ratio tends to be much better than any other alternatives. By and large, they’re nearly always lighter than knitted or padded wool jackets, polyester fleeces, and jackets that use synthetic fills, though the gap is starting to narrow here as explained in our list of the Best Synthetic Insulated Jackets.
Also known as quilted jackets, or puffer jackets, down jackets are normally worn as an outer layer over a t-shirt or long-sleeve baselayer on mild and dry days. When it rains, it’s useful to have a waterproof layer that can fit over your jacket comfortably. On very cold days, some down jackets can be worn over a number of layers as part of an insulation system.
How We Tested These Jackets
All of these items were used out in the field by our team of testers who you can see in all of the pictures within this round up. The locations we tested them included Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands and we were out using them from early autumn through to late spring.
On selection, any products that had expensive price tags needed to have the quality to back up the cost. Any low budget items needed to have the kind of performance that’s needed when out in the hills, when cold and potentially wet conditions are expected.
We assessed these based on warmth-to-weight, build quality in relation to the price, durability, features and also on eco-friendliness.