Best Down And Synthetic Insulated Jackets 2017 Reviewed
We've tested 25 of the very best down and synthetic insulated jackets from the top brands to help you choose the best for you.
We’ve reviewed 25 of the best down and synthetic insulated jackets for 2017 from the top outdoor brands. We’ve tested everything from lightweight, super-packable lightweight warmers through to full-on expedition down duvets.
In each case we’ve picked out the strengths and weaknesses and tried to give you a clear idea of what they’re best used for in outdoors terms. If you want to know more about a particular jacket, just click on the link to the full review for more detailed information and comprehensive photographs.
Finally, we’ve selected our top picks in different areas in our final verdict section.
Down or Synthetic?
Choosing between down and synthetic fills used to be easy. Down was the best choice for warmth to weight ratio and for packability, synthetics worked better for robustness and water resistance.
Things are slightly more complicated these days. Water-resistant down treatments work surprisingly well and mean that some down jackets tolerate wetness far better and, just importantly, dry out fast and recover more completely if they do get wet.
Then there are synthetic fills with warmth to weight ratios which are close to down. And finally blends of down and synthetic fibres which blur the lines even further.
Want to know more? Our comprehensive Buyers’ Guide will be on the site shortly.
You can simply scroll on down through the various jackets or, if you’re interested in a particular brand or jacket just use the links below to jump straight to the relevant section.
Berghaus Reversa | Black Diamond First Light | Craghoppers Compresslite | Criterion Activity | Fjällräven Keb Padded | Haglöfs Essens III | Haglöfs Essens Mimic | Keela Sherpa | Marmot Astrum | Montane Blue Ice | Mountain Equipment Vega | Outdoor Research Diode | Patagonia Nano Puff |
Alpkit Filoment Hoody - £130 / 370g
'The revamped Filoment is a cracking lightweight down jacket by any standards, but the Nikwax water-resistant down adds a new dimension of damp-friendly performance. Brilliant value too.'
Outdoors Magic: Neat looks and cut, thorough design, warmth to weight ratio, packability, awesome Nikwax hydrophobic down. Great colour. Brilliant value.
Outdoors Tragic: In an ideal world, the hood would move with your head, but it's not a big.
Outdoors Grabbit? Just a really good lightweight down jacket full stop. The cut is great, all the details have been thought through and the midi-baffled design gives an excellent combination warmth and weight. The use of ethically sourced Nikwax water-resistant down is a huge bonus. It retains more loft if the jacket fill gets damp, but also means it dries improbably quickly and still retains its original performance without any special drying techniques. All that and at a spectacularly good price too. Ideal lightweight down all-rounder that can cope with the odd dunking along the way. Recommended.
Lightweight down-filled jacket / 650 fill power Nikwax-treated hydrophobic down / 20d, 42 gsm 100% polyester ripstop inner and outer / twin hand-warmer and single zipped chest pockets / insulated, non-adjustable hood / elasticated cuffs / adjustable hem / stitch-though construction / RDS (Responsible Down Standard) sourced down.
Alpkit Katabatic Jacket - £140 / 405g[rating score="3.5"]
'Alpkit's new PrimaLoft Active jacket takes the traditional virtues of synthetic insulation and adds more comfort on the move in a neatly styled, nicely thought-out package.'
Outdoors Magic: Great non-shiny, soft, stretchy feel, a neat cut, more breathable on the move than conventional alternatives, reasonably light and packable, retains loft when damp. Fleece chin-guard adds a touch of understated luxury.
Outdoors Tragic: Works best in very cold conditions on the move, hood has no adjustment and can droop over eyes.
Outdoors Grabbit? It's a little user and conditions specific, but for us the Katabatic is a very nice light-ish synthetic that's also useable on the move up to a point. Go too hot and hard and you'll tend to boil out and take an age to cool down again, but for steady use in very cold conditions, it's definitely better than a more conventional synthetic jacket. General cut, feel and look are great, but we reckon the hood could be improved with a simple adjuster to allow it to move with with your head and keep it from drooping over your eyes.
Active use, cold conditions jacket / 60 gsm Primaloft Gold Active insulation / stretch Nylon inner and outer fabrics / C6 DWR finish / lycra bound hood and cuffs with adjustable hem drawcord / articulated sleeves / microfleece chin-guard / twin zipped hand-warmer pockets / single zipped chest-pocket / jacket stuffs into hand-warmer pocket for storage
Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody - £300 / 287g[rating score="4"]
'The deceptively warm Cerium LT Hoody pretty much nails the optimum balance between lightweight packability and useful insulation levels. It's beautifully made too with a sublimely athletic fit.'
Outdoors Magic: Very light, beautifully made, top-notch down, synthetic zones, deceptive warmth, small pack-size, close fit, hood that moves with your head. Superb fit (if you're athletic)
Outdoors Tragic: Water-resistant down would be nice at this price. Very trim fitting. No hem adjuster, but fits us fine.
Outdoors Grabbit? Yes if you can justify the price. The Cerium LT sits at the balance point between warmth and weight savings. Top-notch down and feathery fabrics keep it decently light, but it's also warm enough to make it worth carrying in the first place unlike some ultra-lightweight down jackets. The cut is awesomely trim, though uncompromising, and strategic synthetic Core Loft panels add some damp resistance. The hood's ace and moves with your head thanks to a cord, but there's no adjustment at the hem. Not a problem for us, but if you're skinny, it might be for you.
Lightweight down jacket / 850 fill-power European white goose down / Coreloft™ 80 (80 g/m²) insulation / Durable Water Repellent finish / Coreloft™ synthetic insulation in strategic areas / elastic cuffs / adjustable insulated hood with drawcord / Arato™ 10 - 100% nylon fabrics / two hand-pockets with zippers / comes stuff-sac.
Berghaus Extrem Ramche 2.0 - £350 / 439g [rating score="5"]
'The new Ramche 2.0 uses top-notch materials and technology to produce a lightweight down jacket with a heavyweight insulation punch - arguably the best fast and light expedition duvet around.'
Outdoors Magic: Phenomenally warm, deceptively light and packable, non-restrictive zoned baffle design, water-resistant down insurance, great hood, did we mention light?
Outdoors Tragic: Expensive, very warm, very light fabrics.
Outdoors Grabbit? Yes if you're off somewhere properly cold and want/need the ultimate balance of warmth, weight and pack size. High-lofting down, internal reflective mesh that's good for an extra 10% warmth and cunning zoned down distribution make this ridiculously warm for a jacket that weighs less than 440g. The Nikwax water-resistant down adds reassurance against sloppy bivi admin and melting ice and while the lightweight fabrics aren't outright burly, they're tougher than they seem. Phenomenal performance that justifies the relatively steep price-tag.
Super-lightweight zoned expedition down jacket / 850 fill power Hydrodown fill / internal reflect mesh / Super Lightweight 7D Fabric / zoned body-mapped construction / two hand-warmer pockets / two zipped internal pockets / adjustable hem and cuffs / adjustable insulated helmet-compatible hood
Berghaus Reversa Jacket - £170 / 352g
'Two jackets in one, the Reversa has a 'warm' side and a 'windproof' one so you can adjust it to suit your preference by simply turning it inside out and back again.'
Outdoors Magic: Reversibility gives versatility, warm or just windproof, light, small packing, sleek fit, copes well with dampness and dries fast.
Outdoors Tragic: Pockets on one side only, a little expensive.
Outdoors Grabbit? The genius of the Reversa is that it does double duty. One way round it's a lightweight, reasonably warm, insulated jacket. The other, it's effectively more or less a simple windproof. Which means you can tune the jacket to suit conditions. It also copes well with damp in a classic, synthetic way, has a neat cut, a simple but effective hood. And getting two jackets in one, means the slightly pricey initial cost is slightly easier to bear. Our one quibble? There are hand-pockets on the warm side only and no chest pocket either way round. Apart from that, it's a quirky but brilliant bit of kit for all-round, lightweight mountain use. Recommended.
Reversible synthetic-filled jacket / Hydroloft Elite Pro synthetic fill / Polyamide windproof fabric one side, air permeable fabric the other / twin hand pockets on windproof side / hood lined with Pertex Microlight for wet hair protection / full-length zip / elasticated cuffs and hem / non-adjustable hood.
Black Diamond First Light Hoody - £180 / 480g
'The First Light Hoody's ace on the hoof thanks to PrimaLoft Active fill and carefully chosen fabrics, but its narrow technical mountaineering focus limits its all-round mountain versatility '
Outdoors Magic: Decently breathable, very wind resistant, neat, very fitted cut helped by stretch fabric, reasonably warm, nicely detailed, some water resistance too. And a helmet hood.
Outdoors Tragic: Non-adjustable hood doesn't fit well without a helmet. Pockets sit under a harness.
Outdoors Grabbit? It fits beautifully in an uncompromisingly trim way and is neatly specced. Breathable PrimaLoft Active fill works well in damp conditions and is more breathable than standard PrimaLoft, which means you can happily wear the First Light on the move in cold conditions - great for stop/go mountain stuff. The non-adjustable helmet hood limits its general usability though. It flops around without a lid and blows off in windy conditions, so effectively it's a mountaineering or bust option, not a general mountain all-rounder.
Lightweight synthetic-filled active use jacket / PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation Active / Schoeller® face fabric / anosphere® Technology / insulated wind-flap / helmet-compatible hood / single-adjust hem / internal stuff chest-pocket with carabiner loop / concealed-zip hand pockets / primary fabric Bluesign approved.
Craghoppers Response Compresslite Jacket - £75 / 420g
'Cheerful, lightly insulated synthetic jacket with down-like skinny-baffled look-alike style-lines and sleeves that are slightly too short'
Outdoors Magic: It looks neat, packs reasonably small, has a basic hood and, at the reduced price at least, is killer value for money.
Outdoors Tragic: Not very warm at all, sweaty on the move, sleeves tended to pull up with movement for us.
Outdoors Grabbit? The Response Compresslite is the cheapest jacket we've tested by some distance and also, probably, the least warm. That said it packs down reasonably small into a pocket, offers wind protection and some warmth and has a modest but okay hood. We wouldn't suggest it for serious winter mountain use, it's simply not warm enough, but if you're on a tight budget and don't need too much warmth it fits the bill. Mind the sleeves, they're just on the cusp of being slightly too short.
Synthetic-filled outdoors jacket / ClimaPlus synthetic insulation / lightweight windproof polyester fabric / two-zipped hand-warmer pockets / single zipped chest-pocket / grown-on adjustable hood / full-length zip with inner storm-flap / elasticated cuff and hem.
Criterion Activity Jacket - £185 / 315g
Overall: [rating score="3.5"]
'Soft, light, lofty and decently warm for its weight, the Activity Jacket is a souped-up, old school down lightweight that's at its best in cold dry conditions'
Outdoors Magic: Light, small-packing, top-notch fabrics, high fill-power Polish goose down, good warmth to weight ratio, packs into inside pocket, helmet compatible, adjustable hood.
Outdoors Tragic: Cut a little short and tight on the waist, tended to ride up in active use, no zip-tabs.
Outdoors Grabbit? Theres no doubting the quality of the Pertex lightweight fabrics and 850+ fill power Polish goose down and we can't fault packability or warmth to weight ratio. The jacket has a silky light and warm feel to it. Lack of water-resistant down means it's best in dry, cold conditions. The hood's decent, takes a helmet, but adjusts down to move with a bare head. It's cut slightly shorter than most though and that, combined with a snug waist fit meant for us it tended to ride up and stay up in active use. A great option for more static stuff like hut and tent use when you're hauling your own gear and the grammes count.
Ultra-lightweight down jacket / Diamond grade 850+ white polish goose down / Pertex Quantum shell fabric with DWR / stitch-through baffled construction / two zipped hand-warmer pockets / YKK zip with self-locking sliders / helmet-compatible hood with adjustment / elasticated cuffs and hem / high collar / packs into internal chest pocket
Fjällräven Keb Padded Jacket - £200 / 395g
'The Keb Padded mixes understated, down-like, urban-friendly looks with impressive technical performance making it a jacket you can wear about town or on the hill with equal effectiveness'
Outdoors Magic: Surprisingly warm, light, packable, retro-styling with some neat features, at home in town as well as on the hill.
Outdoors Tragic: No hood, slightly loose cut, expensive.
Outdoors Grabbit? Fjällräven's signature retro styling makes for a jacket which is as much at home wandering around town as it is on the hill. Leather zip-pulls look cool, while G1000 trimmings add durability and aesthetic appeal. That's good, but the G-Loft fill gives decent warmth to weight ratio and the jacket packs down well to give deceptively effective packable and windproof warmth with good damp tolerance. It's undeniably expensive, particularly given that it has no hood, but as a sort of hybrid fusion of understated urban looks and genuine outdoor performance, there's not much that compares.
Lightweight synthetic-fill insulated jacket / synthetic G-Loft Supreme fill / polyester shell and liner fabrics / G-1000 reinforcements at hem, pockets and main-zip / two-way front zipper / two zipped hand-pockets / open mesh liner pockets / elasticated cuffs and adjustable hem
Haglöfs Essens III Down Jacket - £200 / 282g
'Nicely-made, light and packable jacket using top-notch water-resistant down hits a nice sweet-spot between weight and warmth'
Outdoors Magic: Light, small packing, warm for the weight, nicely made, water-resistant 800 fill power down, neat detailing.
Outdoors Tragic: No hood, not the toughest option, fleece under-arms?
Outdoors Grabbit? Haglöfs Essens III is a is all about classic lightweight down performance and the Essens III delivers nicely. Distinctive staggered baffling, top-notch water-resistant fill and silkily lightweight fabrics and components deliver deceptive levels of warmth , though we're not sure about the underarm fleece panels. A great little bundle of packable warmth, there's also a Hood version that adds built-on head insulation at the cost of approximately 50g more weight. Ideal for lightweight use and end of day packable comfort in the hut or tent. Less suited for more active use.
Lightweight down jacket / 800 CUIN follower down filling with fluorocarbon free DWR / Pertex®Quantum, 100% Polyamide, 20D fabric / Polartec® Powerstretch® shoulder inserts / stitch-through construction with varied baffle size / fluorocarbon free DWR treated down and surfaces / two hand-warmer and one chest-pocket with micro zippers / elasticated sleeve and hem / front-zip with internal storm-flap / folds into own pocket for stowage.
Haglöfs Essens Mimic Jacket - £160 / 422g
'Haglöfs Mimic does just that, emulating the look and feel of down, but with better wet weather performance though it's not quite as light or as warm as the real thing'
Outdoors Magic: Down-like feel and looks, medium warm, distinctive styling, nice fit, Pertex outer, PFC-free DWR, decent wet performance
Outdoors Tragic: Under-arm fleece inserts reduce wind proofing but improve mobility. Micro baffled efficiency questionable. No hood.
Outdoors Grabbit? A synthetic jacket that looks uncannily like a a skinny-baffled down one. It provides light to medium level warmth, has a neat cut and while it's not tiny packing, it's not huge either. The big plus is that if the fill gets damp it retains more of its loft compared to even water-resistant down. A classic synthetic jacket design might actually be more efficient in terms of insulation, but then again, it won't look anything like as cool as the Mimic. This one has no hood, but there's also a hooded version if you prefer. Underarm fleece panels trade a little wind proofing for some added mobility.
Synthetic micro-baffled insulated jacket / QuadFusion™ Mimic synthetic fill / 30D Pertex Microlight® shell fabric with PFC-free DWR / Polartec® Powerstretch® shoulder inserts / stitch-through construction / twin hand-warmer pockets / single zipped chest-pocket / elasticated hem and cuffs /
Keela Sherpa Jacket - £109.95 / 580g
'There's nothing wrong with the PrimaLoft insulation and the zip-off sleeves add interest, but the basic cut and a terrible add-on hood let the Sherpa down'
Outdoors Magic: PrimaLoft Gold fill, great value for money, warm, windproof, zip-off sleeves, adjustable hem, collar, cuffs.
Outdoors Tragic: Optional add-on hood is an after thought and doesn't integrate well, cut is basic and too short.
Outdoors Grabbit? If you're on a tight budget and looking for a warm, damp conditions-friendly insulated jacket, the Sherpa is great value on paper. The basics - that 100gsm PrimaLoft insulation and fabric are fine - but we found the cut too short, the zip-off sleeves not useful for us and the optional add-on hood is too much of an afterthought to work well. It's just not properly integrated. Some of that is maybe negotiable, but we found the hood quite annoying particularly as it costs an additional £32 on top of the price of the basic jacket. We'd suggest spending a little more.
Convertible synthetic-filled outdoor jacket / PrimaLoft Gold synthetic insulation / FlyLite rip-stop outer fabric / zip-off sleeves / twin zipped hip-pockets / single zipped chest-pocket / adjustable hem, cuffs and collar / two-way main-zip / optional add-on Sherpa hood £31.95/130g
Marmot Astrum Jacket - £190 / 470g
'One of the new generation of 'active' insulated jackets, the Astrum is decently warm but still comfortable on the move as long as you don't burn too hot or move too fast'
Outdoors Magic: Soft, comfortable, stretchy and reasonably light. Fairly breathable and comfortable, adjustable, insulated hood, toasty fleece-lined pockets. Good wind resistance.
Outdoors Tragic: Cut is on the generous side for a medium. Not as breathable as Polartec Alpha.
Outdoors Grabbit? One of the new generation of active insulated jackets, the Astrum's more breathable than traditional synthetic duvets, but not as effective as Polartec's Alpha. For us, it had to be pretty cold before we were comfortable on the move, but if you run cooler, it may be more versatile for you. The cut is 'athletic' but actually quite generous for the nominal sizing, it feels nice and the features like the hood, pack-friendly pockets, hem and cuffs are all up to scratch.
Synthetic filled jacket / Thermal R Active stretch synthetic insulation / 90g body and top of sleeves/60g side panel and bottom of sleeves / stretch outer and stretch AirExchange lining fabrics / Attached Hood with Peripheral Cord Adjustment / Elastic Bound Cuffs / adjustable hem / pack-compatible pockets / Attached Hood with Peripheral Cord Adjustment / 'athletic fit'
Montane Blue Ice Jacket - £160 / 450g
'Mutant fill mix of PrimaLoft synthetic fibres and water-resistant down gives down-like warmth and feel, but with serious damp tolerance'
Outdoors Magic: Down-type warmth and puffiness, synthetic-type water resistance, warm, packable, medium weight and pack size. Nice dry-bag stuff-sac.
Outdoors Tragic: Lacks a hood, shortish cut.
Outdoors Grabbit? Yes if you want the holy grail mix of down-like feel and performance and synthetic water resistance. The Blue Ice does the puffy warmth thing very nicely indeed, but without you having to obsess about keeping it dry. In cold, outside condition though we missed having a hood and that, along with the shorter than average length, limits it a little for all-round bad conditions use, but if you're okay with that, it's a good choice. As a bonus the dry-bag stuff-sac doubles as a handy pillow when needed.
Synthetic-down hybrid filled jacket / 220g of PrimaLoft® SILVER Insulation Down Blend fill / PEAQ lining fabric / Barrier Lite RS nylon rip-stop fabric with a DWR / stitch-through, midi baffle construction / two hand-warmer pockets / Internal zipped security pocket / YKK reverse coil front zip / internal storm-flap / low-bulk elasticated cuffs / adjustable hem with cinch able drawcord / rear external Montane hang loop / comes with waterproof storage Montane dry bag
Mountain Equipment Vega Jacket - £270 / 575g [rating score="4.5"]
'‘Tough, warm and light, the Vega mixes a highly water-resistant outer with plenty of top quality, traceable down for serious alpine and winter mountain missions‘'
Outdoors Magic: High-loft down, tough but light fabric, thorough design, helmet hood, all-round, glove-friendly adjustability. Warm.
Outdoors Tragic: Hard to fault. Bare head moves inside the hood.
Outdoors Grabbit? The Vega's a serious technical mountaineering jacket stuffed with top-notch 800 fill power down and a level of magnitude warmer than most lighter-weight competition. The outer fabric is highly water resistant to cope with snow, spindrift and dripping ice-falls and we can't fault the overall build quality and design. It's decently light and packable too and about as warm as stitch-through construction jackets gets. Ideal for the Alps we reckon, but that water-resistant fabric should also cope with occasional Scottish use.
Down-filled, medium weight mountain jacket / 90/10 800 fill power goose down / DRILITE® Loft outer / stitch-through baffle construction throughout / Half Dome HC hood with EXL® lining / 2-way YKK® / zipped hand warmer pockets with moulded zip / moulded centre front zip with off-set insulated rear baffle / DRILITE® Loft hem and hood lining / adjustable cuffs and dual-tether hem drawcords
Outdoors Research Diode jacket - £250 / 480g
'The Diode's combination of PrimaLoft and Down Blend adds up to a great mix of packability, warmth and water resistance. A cracking, top quality, all-rounder '
Outdoors Magic: Decent warmth to weight ratio, impressive damp resistance, slim-fitting cut, helmet-friendly hood, decently light and packable, high levels of general niceness.
Outdoors Tragic: Cut will be too slim for some, medium warm. Not cheap.
Outdoors Grabbit? The Diode's not as warm as equivalent weight pure down alternatives, but the sleek cut, enhanced water-resistance and versatile hood combined with reasonable weight and compact pack size make it a middleweight winner. The detailing's super thorough too, with all the adjustments, pockets and features you could ask for. In essence it works like a synthetic-filled belay come insulated jacket, but with a smaller pack size, better warmth to weight ratio and nicer feel. It's not cheap but as a half-way house between down and synthetics, it works well.
Zoned hybrid insulated jacket / PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation hood, shoulders and upper sleeves with Pertex Endurance outer fabric / PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Down Blend (70% goose down, 30% polyester) body wth Pertex® Quantum 22D fabric / helmet-compatible, insulated hood with wired peak / harness-friendly hand pockets / adjustable cuffs and hem / single zipped chest-pocket / internal mesh Shove-It stash pockets / Left-Hand Pocket Doubles as Stuff Sack, Internal Front Stormflap, Integrated Hood Cordlocks
Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket - £175 / 360g
'Patagonia's iconic lightweight insulation gets an eco upgrade for winter 2016, but is it actually all inside out?'
Outdoors Magic: Lightly insulated and packable, reasonably warm, distinctive looks, iconic status, knock-about, damp-friendly performance, upgraded eco credentials.
Outdoors Tragic: A lot of exposed stitching. A little sweaty on the move. Not cheap.
Outdoors Grabbit? The Nano Puff is an iconic bit of Patagonia kit with its distinctive brickwork quilting pattern and damp-friendly PrimaLoft fill. It packs down small, has a useful, close-fitting hood and is a handy all-round stand-by. The stitch lines look neat, but have abrasion potential and are also potential heat loss points in windy conditions. In purely functional terms, non-quilted alternatives arguably have an edge, but with the latest Nano Puff you're also buying into more sustainable fabrics and philosophy alongside the performance.
Light, packable PrimaLoft-filled jacket / 60-g PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Eco with 55% post-consumer recycled content / 100% recycled polyester shell fabric with DWR / twin hand-warmer pockets / elasticated cuffs / adjustable hem / internal zipped pocket doubles as stuff-sac / Brick quilting pattern with durable thread stitching.
PH Designs Kappa Jacket - £248 / 660g [rating score="4.5"]
'PHD's waterproof-shelled, PrimaLoft-filled Kappa jacket is all about keeping you warm and comfortable when the going gets cold and wet in a Scottish winter style and it does it brilliantly'
Outdoors Magic: Very warm, very water repellent, seriously tough, unapologetically functional, all-round adjustable, zip-off hood. Pack size is reasonable too.
Outdoors Tragic: A little heavy, hood a tad tight with helmet in place. Not cheap.
Outdoors Grabbit? The Kappa may not look modishly stylish, but if you're after a super warm, seriously tough, highly water-resistant insulated jacket - think Scottish winter conditions - the combination of lashings of quality PrimaLoft fill and a fully waterproof, though not taped, outer is hard to beat. You also get twin hand-warmer pockets and a versatile zip-off helmet-compatible hood. Finally you can add in the satisfaction of buying from a UK specialist who still manufacture right here in sunny northern England. What more could you possibly ask for?
Highly water-resistant, Primaloft-filled mountain jacket with detachable hood / Primaloft Gold® synthetic insulation (133gsm quality in body, 100gsm quality in sleeves) / waterproof untaped HS2 outer fabric / chest pocket - zipped / 2 handwarmer pockets - zipped / 1 inside security pocket - zipped / Velcro-adjustable cuffs / zip-off insulated hood / microfleece-lined hand pockets / stuff-sac supplied
Rab Electron Jacket - £230 / 490g [rating score="4"]
'A nicely-specced, medium weight, medium-warmth down all-rounder, the Electron is a cracking all-conditions, cold weather companion whether you're in Scotland, the Alps or a Himalayan tea house'
Outdoors Magic: Great warmth to weight, water-resistant fabric and hydrophobic down ups versatility, excellent hood, thorough detailing, dry/cold conditions belay potential, very orange.
Outdoors Tragic: Sized quite large for non-belay jacket use.
Outdoors Grabbit? The combination of high-lofting, PFC-free hydrophobic 800 fill power goose down and water-resistant Pertex Endurance fabric makes for a very damp-resistant down jacket. Ideal for say, Scotland on a 'good' day, but also fine for the Alps and beyond. The hood's excellent, design is thorough and it's decently warm for the weight too with plenty of space for additional inner layers. Thumbs up for the free-flowing Vislon zips too. An excellent all-round down jacket that's appreciably warmer than alternatives that are 150g or so lighter making it arguably worth the extra weight.
Medium weight down-filled jacket / 800FP European Goose Down / Rab® fluorocarbon free hydrophobic down developed with Nikwax / Pertex Endurance shell fabric / stitch-through midi baffles on body, mini-baffles sides and sleeves / helmet-compatible, volume-adjustable hood with wired peak / YKK Vislon main and pocket zips / zipped internal pocket / adjustable hem
Rab Xenon X Jacket - £160 / 336g
'Super-versatile, packable lightweight PrimaLoft-filled jacket handles everything from lunch-stops through to extreme cold conditions use on the hoof'
Outdoors Magic: Light, packable, water-resistant, wind proof and deceptively warm. Handy hood. More breathable than previous versions in active use.
Outdoors Tragic: Test jacket slightly tight under the arm-pits.
Outdoors Grabbit? If you're after a pack and forget lightweight that's deceptively warm if you do need it, the latest Xenon X ticks most of the boxes. As a bonus, it's more breathable than previous versions if you to use it on the move thanks to the PrimaLoft Active fill and it copes well with damp conditions too. From lightweight belay jacket through to lunch-stop warmer and sub-zero active insulation, the Xenon X pretty much does it all.
Lightweight, active use synthetic jacket / Pertex Quantum® outer fabric / 100% nylon ripstop lining / PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Active (60/m2 (2oz)) / Under helmet hood, lycra bound / 2-way opening YKK® VISLON® front zip, internal insulated baffle, chin guard / 2 YKK® zipped hand-warmer pockets / 1 YKK® internal zipped pocket, doubles as integrated stuff sack / Elasticated cuffs, hem drawcord /
Salomon Drifter Air Mid Hoodie - £105 / 410g
'Think of Salomon's hybrid Drifter Air as a sort of 'fleece plus' for moving fast in cold, dry conditions and you won't go far wrong'
Outdoors Magic: Great breathability, neat fit, added protection for shoulders and chest, close-fitting under-helmet hood, thumb-loops.
Outdoors Tragic: No hem adjustability, limited warmth and wind protection, cuffs don't roll up.
Outdoors Grabbit? Yes if what you're after is a fleece on steroids... the Drifter Air is most fleece, but with lightly insulated and wind-resistant shoulders that give extra warmth and abrasion resistance too. We found it worked well with a light windproof shell - strip down for the climbs, layer up when things get flatter and cooler if the wind gets up. It's at its best in cold, dry, still conditions, but the high fleece content means it works just fine as a mid-layer too if it gets wet or windy. Features are mostly good, but we'd have preferred and adjustable hem for better sealing and stretchier cuffs to allow forearm venting.
Fleece-based insulation layer with added synthetic areas / Pertex® Quantum fabric on shoulders and chest / lightweight zoned PrimaLoft insulation / Polyester fleece body / twin zipped chest pockets / elasticated hem and cuffs / non-adjustable stretch hood / reflective trim on upper sleeves / thumb-loops incorporated in cuffs
Snugpak Softie Jacket 6 - £129.95 / 730g
'Snugpak's UK-made SJ6 is a solid-feeling, warm and damp-friendly traditional synthetic insulation stalwart, but above average weight and bulk make it less portable than the competition'
Outdoors Magic: UK-made, under-rated Swiss-made synthetic insulation, reassuring sturdiness, roll-away windproof hood, plenty of internal volume, good damp tolerance.
Outdoors Tragic: Quite heavy and bulky, slightly shapeless, non-insulated hood.
Outdoors Grabbit? The UK-made Snugpak Softie Jacket 6 - SJ6 for short - is a throwback to the days when synthetic jackets were big, bulky and reassuringly sturdy. At 730g - without an insulated hood - it's a heavy thing to lug around and the barrel-like cut didn't work for us. We'd also prefer an insulated hood. But for static stuff where you don't have to carry your jacket, the SL6 is decently warm and works well when damp. Arguably best suited to post-outing warm-up and standing about in damp, cold climes.
Synthetic-filled insulated jacket / Snugpak Swiss-made Softie Premier synthetic insulation / Paratex Micro nylon outer fabric / Paratex Light nylon inner fabric / water-resistant main-zip / adjustable hem / elasticated cuffs with thumb-loops / adjustable collar / roll-away, windproof, non-insulated hood / twin, zipped hand-warmer pockets and single inner zipped pocket / made in the UK - really.
Sprayway Mylas Down Jacket - £140 / 397g
'An unpretentious, lightweight, hooded duck down jacket that comes complete with extra pudding capacity and water-resistant down'
Outdoors Magic: No frills design, water-resistant down fill, reasonably light, nice colours, generous fit for a micro-baffled jacket. Decent value if bought online.
Outdoors Tragic: Not that light and not particularly warm given its 400 gramme weight. Generous fit won't suite everyone.
Outdoors Grabbit? The Mylas lives in a sort of middle-ground world. It's nicely made and has the reassurance of using water resistant duck down filling, but it's middling in weight, pack size and warmth to weight ratio. On the plus side that water resistant down is a reassuring insurance policy against the odd soaking and a fit that's quite generous means it should suit those who find stripped-down lightweights too snug. Well priced too.
Lightweight down jacket / 140g (M) of 700+ fill 90/10 Water Resistant Duck Down / stitch-through construction / LYCRA® bound hood / 'mountain' fit/sizing / LYCRA® bound cuffs / two zipped hand pockets / inner zipped security pocket / Drawcord adjustable hem / Stuffsac included
VauDe Bormio Jacket - £180 / 450g
'VauDe's take on Polartec's Alpha insulation is a cracking jacket on the move, particularly if you're someone who goes hard and runs hot'
Outdoors Magic: Super breathable, dries fast, stretchy with a close fit, neat hood, harness-friendly pockets, works as mid or outer layer, light, packable. Eco credentials.
Outdoors Tragic: Not sure the side stretch fleece panels add much.
Outdoors Grabbit? Polartec's Alpha insulation is brilliant stuff on the move in cold conditions particularly when - as here - it's mixed with very breathable fabrics. Add in a neat, close, efficient fit, a head-hugging hood and stretch fabrics that help with mobility and you get a jacket that's great on the move in cold conditions, but keeps you warm at a stop too. On top of that, it's breathable enough to work as mid-layer when needed. Our only major quibble is with the stretch fleece side panels, which reduce warmth slightly and can feel cold in windier conditions. A great jacket for use on the move, stationary warmth takes second place though.
Breathable thermal layer for cold conditions / Polartec Alpha insulation / Performance Stretch inner and outer polyamide fabrics / stretch polyamide/elastane inserts at sides of trunk /twin Napoleon-style chest pockets / stretch cuffs and drawcord-adjustable hem / insulated, adjustable hood / packs into inside mesh pocket /
VauDe Kabru Jacket - £200 / 480g [rating score="3.5"]
'It's not the lightest, smallest-packing or warmest down jacket out there, but the neatly made Kabru is still a capable outdoors all-rounder for mainly dry and cool conditions missions'
Outdoors Magic: Nice fit, eco credentials, reasonably warm, reasonably light, packs into pocket, close-fitting hood, under-arm stretch inserts. Great colour.
Outdoors Tragic: Other down jackets warmer for the weight and bulk, under-arm panels not windproof. Wrist seal slightly loose for us. A little expensive.
Outdoors Grabbit? The medium-loft down and micro-baffled construction mean that the Kabru isn't as warm as some other higher-specced down jackets of similar weight and bulk, but it's neatly designed and nicely cut, plus VauDe's commitment to sustainability means the down is ethically sourced and the Eco Finish DWR is PFC free. Under-arm inserts improve mobility slightly, but they're not very wind resistant, which can give cold spots in some situations. Overall it's a nice all-rounder for cool and dry conditions use, but there are lighter and/or warmer alternatives albeit at a higher price.
Down-filled insulation jacket / 0/10 650 fill-power RDS duck down/feather blend fill / Polyamide outer fabric with PFC-free Eco Finish DWR / stretch inserts under arms / 2 front pockets with inverted zips / 2-way inverted front zip with back flap / elastic cuffs / hem adjustable via cord in pockets / packs into own pocket / hood with elasticated opening
Verdict - Our Top Insulated Jackets Picks
There are so many options out there, that it's really hard to choose between them. Even the old rule of down for dry, cold conditions and synthetics for damp climes no longer holds true. That said, here are some of our favourites for your shortlist.
Best Lightweight Down Jackets
We haven't included any ultra-lightweight down here, partly because our experience is that with a few exceptions - notably PH Designs - really lightweight down isn't as effective as slightly heavier options.
Of the jackets we've tested, the outright winner for sheer lightweight warmth to weight ratio is undoubtedly the new Berghaus Ramche 2.0. It weighs less than 440 grammes, but the combination of super lightweight fabrics, top quality down, cunning reflective technology and radical body mapping means that it punches way above its weight and well down in sub-zero double figures. It's simply quite amazing.
Our other favourite is the Arc'teryx Cerium LT - it's best saved for cold, dry conditions, but for a sub-300g jacket it's impressively warm, though not in the same league as the Ramche 2.0, very packable and characteristically beautifully made, designed and cut. In an ideal world it would have top quality water-resistant down fill too, but a little bird tells us that a full redesign is on the cards for next winter, so watch this space.
Last , but very definitely not least, if you're on a tighter budget, the latest version of the Alpkit Filament Hoodie is just a very nice, lightweight down jacket full stop. It's warm, light, looks great and the Nikwax duck down fill survived a full-on drenching and dunking session and came back for more just hours later.
Best Medium Weight Down Jacket
Mountain Equipment has been producing down sleeping bags and clothing for many years and it shows. The Mountain Equipment Vega is a warm, protective jacket that's designed to work in the Alps and beyond, but wouldn't be out of place in Scotland either.
There's an excellent helmet hood, the cut is athletic and efficient and all the little details along with the quality of the fill and other components are just right. Not the lightest option by any means, but a reliable mountain companion.
The other stand-out is the Rab Electron. It's not quite as warm as the Vega, but it still has that characteristic airy down warmth to it, a full helmet hood and - crucially for some - a little more internal volume for layering over other layers, clothing or otherwise...
As with ME, Rab has been in the down business long enough to know exactly what they're doing and we'd happily look at other models from their respective ranges if you want lighter or warmer options.
Best Synthetic Jackets
There are plenty of synthetic options out there at all weights and levels of sophistication and while PrimaLoft is the best known brand name, don't discount other options. If you're after serious levels of synthetic warmth and weather protection, check out the PH Designs Kappa.
It uses lots of PrimaLoft along with fully waterproof fabric. The seams aren't taped, so it will leak in time, but in real life use, it just works in a warm, superbly damp resistant way. Not cheap, not elegant, but very effective.
The other option we'd look at, though it's not tested here, is Mountain Equipment's excellent Fitzroy Jacket. It's a spot-on balance of weather protection, warmth, weight and packability that's not too heavy to carry and warm enough to make packing it worth the effort. A classic.
Finally, a quick positive word for the new Alpkit Katabatic with PrimaLoft Active. We found it a nice, pleasingly matte and stretchy, well-cut all-rounder though not as comfortable on the move as we'd hoped.
Best Lightweight Synthetic Jackets
Two lightweight synthetics stood out for us. The new Rab Xenon X is the latest in the line of lightweight Xenons, manages to pack small and still be surprisingly warm for the weight and, for this year, uses PromaLoft Active insulation, which along with careful fabric choice, means it works better to keep your comfortable on the move.
The other lightweight we loved was the Berghaus Reversa which lives up to its name by being fully reversible. Wear it one way round and it's a windproof, insulated jacket that's not quite as warm as the Rab, but not at all bad.
Turn it the other way round and it's appreciably cooler, more like a windproof and eminently useable on the move. We were amazed by just how well it did work, appreciable better than the otherwise rather nice Alpkit Katabatic.
Best Insulated Jacket For Active Use
Finally, there's a new growth in synthetic jackets designed to be wearable on the move thanks to the use of more permeable fabrics and insulation that doesn't make a Colditz-style bid for freedom at every opportunity.
The best of the conventional options we tried was the Berghaus Reversa, the others only really worked for quite low level, steady efforts. Far and way the best active choice though was the VauDe Bormio with its Polartec Alpha insulation. Not as warm as PrimaLoft Active and similar fills, but far better at wicking and drying and basically keeping things comfortable and temperature adjusted.
Finally, although again it's not directly included in this round-up, we'd suggest you have a look at the superb Rab Alpha Direct Jacket which is a brilliant all-day warm mountain jacket that manages to be comfortable both on the move and at a standstill and handles moisture superbly.