Down jackets have become a staple of winter wardrobes—they're not nearly as heavy as wool, but still keep you warm and toasty. You'll find that lightweight down jackets are great for all seasons too. They make for excellent mid-layers, or insulators: perfect for wearing beneath your waterproof jacket if you're venturing outdoors.
Down is not only warm, it's lightweight and packable, making it easy to stuff into your hiking backpack. If you're heading off on a camping holiday (to the Lake District, for example) or planning a long distance hike, saving weight becomes increasingly important, and you'll doubtless find down is your best option.
Best Down Jackets: What to look for when buying
Down is usually sourced from geese and is rated on fill power—essentially how fluffy it is and therefore how much warmth it can trap. Anything from 500 - 800 is pretty normal for a down jacket, with higher fill power usually costing more. Despite most of the outdoor world using the metric system, fill power is still measured in cubic inches. The number comes from a standardised lab test, which measures how many cubic inches one ounce of down occupies with a standard weight resting upon it
Other things to look out for are the ratio of feathers to down. This will be listed as 90/10 where 90 would be the percentage of down and 10 is the percentage of feathers.
Another important thing to look out for when buying a down jacket is how the down was sourced. The Responsible Down Standard or RDS is the most recognised qualifier of a sustainable, humanely sourced raw material.
These days, many "down" jackets actually use artificial down: synthetic goose feather substitutes. This can have advantages. Real down tends to get clumpy and stops keeping you warm if it gets soaked through. Synthetic down substitutes usually dry quicker, and perform better (i.e. keep you warmer) when wet. But they're also normally heavier, and less warm than the real deal when dry.
To counteract the issue of real down's performance when wet, some companies now use "hydrophobic down". This means they use real feathers, coated in a waterproof substance.
Best Down Jackets: TL/DR Summary
If you're looking for a lightweight down jacket that works as a mid-layer in cold conditions, or an outer layer in summer, then the Rab Microlight Alpine is hard to beat. Its combination of design, performance and price have earned it our "editor's choice" award.
For those on a budget, you could do worse than Decathlon's Forclaz Mountain Trekking Hooded Jacket. It might not have quite the same warmth to weight ratio as more expensive models, and the build quality won't be as good, but you can't argue with that price.
- Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket - £200
- Patagonia Women's Down Sweater Jacket - £250
- Berghaus Sabber Down Jacket - £200
- The North Face Aconcagua women’s down jacket - £200
- Mountain Equipment Lightline Down Jacket - £240
- Fjern Aktiv down jacket - £200
- Forclaz Mountain Trekking Hooded Down Jacket - £60
Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket - £200
Fill power: 700FP
The Rab Microlight Alpine Down jacket is widely recognised as one of Rab's most popular down jackets, and is often used as a benchmark for comparing other jackets in the same category. Despite having a fill power of 700, which is not the highest available, this jacket is still capable of providing ample warmth for chilly winter days. The jacket is made of 100% recycled Pertex Quantum outer material, which effectively blocks wind while remaining highly breathable.
The combination of the thin layer of down and Pertex Quantum material makes the Microlight Alpine a comfortable jacket to wear, especially when you're on the go. The jacket is equipped with two zipped hand pockets and an additional chest pocket for stashing more items. The excellent hood is filled with down, has a wired peak and adjusters, and fully protects your head. Further adjusters at the hem help to seal out any drafts, while the elasticated wrists provide a comfortable fit. The Microlight Alpine can be compressed easily, and fits into a small stuff sack.
Overall, the Rab Microlight Alpine Down jacket is a fantastic jacket that provides an excellent balance between warmth, weight, and cost.
Patagonia Women's Down Sweater Jacket - £250
Fill power: 800FP
The Down Sweater jacket is made from 100% post-consumer recycled nylon ripstop and insulated with 800 fill power down certified by Responsible Down Standard. The design and high-quality fill provide warmth without weight, and the elastic cuffs and adjustable drawcord hem help to seal in heat.
The jacket has two zipped hand warmer pockets, an internal zipped pocket, and internal dump pockets for additional storage. Handily, the jacket comes with a repair patch for quick fixes on the go.
For those looking for a well-made, sustainable option, the Patagonia Down Sweater is a solid choice.
Berghaus Sabber Down Jacket - £200
Fill power: 600FP
A big, chunky, quilt-like down jacket for the depths of winter. The Sabber is a lifestyle down jacket that’s built to look good and keep you toasty warm. It only has a 600 fill power down, but has a lot of it. This makes the jacket chunky to wear - a look that some people prefer - and of course incredibly warm. Berghaus' kit is always durable thanks to excellently put-together garments and the Sabber jacket has Ripstop outer material to fend off nicks and scrapes.
The North Face Aconcagua Women’s Down Jacket - £200
Fill power: 550FP
This windbreaker down jacket is intended for use while out hiking but looks good enough for everyday use, especially in the shady blue colourway. It mixes synthetic insulation in areas at the highest risk of getting wet, with 550-fill power RDS goose down in the body. The fill amount is trim enough for high-paced activities but still plentiful enough to keep you warm on cold winter days. The North Face’s proprietary Windwall outer fabric stops icy blasts in their tracks and the highly functional hood keeps your head warm throughout the day.
Mountain Equipment Lightline Down Jacket - £240
Fill power: 700FP
Mountain Equipment calls this a ‘technical duvet’, and we think that sums it up perfectly. Make no mistake, this is one warm down jacket. With 296g of 700 fill power 90/10 down you will be kept warm in the coldest conditions. Factor in an extended cut and you have a recipe for complete toastiness. The totally windproof 40D outer fabric is highly water resistant so will deal with light rain, and the adjustable cuffs and hem drawcord allow you to seal out draughts effectively.
Fjern Aktiv Down Jacket - £200
Fill power: 700FP
The Fjern Aktiv down jacket is a highly versatile insulated layer that is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who demand a lot from their gear. The jacket features a lofty 700 fill power down, which provides ample warmth in frigid conditions, making it a reliable standalone jacket. Its lightweight and packable design also makes it an excellent choice for layering during active alpine pursuits.
The jacket's Nylon ripstop outer and down-proof finish ensure durability and longevity, while the insulated and adjustable hood offers extra protection and warmth. The down-filled hood comes with a high collar for added face protection and comfort. The internal hood adjusters provide a streamlined finish and flexible fit, ensuring the jacket sits comfortably and securely on the head.
The Aktiv down jacket also features YKK zipped hand pockets, doubling up as a stuff sack. The stretch elastic cuffs and hem offer a flexible fit although we found the cuffs a bit tight.
Overall, the Fjern Aktiv down jacket is an excellent choice for those looking for a high-quality insulated layer that offers warmth, durability, and versatility. The only minor downside is the weight, with the Aktiv weighing in at 465g (size M).
Forclaz Mountain Trekking Hooded Down Jacket - £60
Fill power: 800
Let's get one thing out the way first: in terms of build quality a Decathlon-made jacket—even one that carries their slightly higher-end Forclaz label—is unlikely to be as durable, or last as long as the other jackets on these pages. If you're on a budget, however, it's impossible to argue with that price. Especially because from a technical point of view, this ticks a lot of boxes.
Its filling has an 85/15 down-to-feather ratio, and is responsibly sourced, meeting the RDS standards. With 800 fill power, this is designed to keep you comfortable in temperatures as low as minus five when active, or plus five when not moving. Both figures have been certified using the standardised test in a thermal chamber. The Mountain Trekking Hooded Down Jacket has two zipped pockets, and can be folded into the left one for easy packing in your hiking rucksack. On top of that, it weighs just 290g. All that for £60? This really is a steal.
Best Down Jackets: Conclusion
It may be that after reading through this list, you decide down is not quite right for your needs, in which case, we'd recommend checking out our list of the best fleece jackets as an alternative. Fleece jackets also make great mid-layers / insulators. While it's not normally as warm as down, fleece is more breathable, and tends to fit underneath a waterproof shell jacket more easily.
While we're talking shell jackets, why not check out our list of the best waterproof shells for hiking, cycling and other outdoor activities? And if you need something for your bottom half, have a look at our reviews of walking trousers, waterproof overtrousers and walking boots here.
Finally, if you need some inspiration for where to head on your next hike, have a look at our walking route recommendations—from the best walks in the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park to the best walks in the Lake District. Happy hiking!