How to Choose the Best Down Jacket for Women

For high-altitude treks, or hiking in winter, a good insulation layer – down jacket – is an essential part of my packing list. As a woman, I always seem to feel the cold more than the guys I hike with.

How to choose from the best down jackets for women can be confusing – and considering the cost, you’ll need to know the pros and cons of each. We’ve put together a guide that cuts through the jargon and clarifies the things you should look out for when buying your down jacket.

Best down jackets for women: Reviewed

We’ve reviewed 5 of the best down jackets for women and highlighted the pros and cons of each one. These jackets are all great products but take note of the different features to see which one will suit your needs.

The North Face Aconcagua Jacket – Women’s

The North Face Women's Aconcagua Jacket II

If you want a lightweight jacket that still feels like it has some substance to it, then this is a great choice. If you are a fan of The North Face Gear, our guide to 15 of our favorite products here.

It has mid-range fill-power, and a simple but elegant design.

However, it only has a few pockets, and it’s a snug fit so don’t expect to be able to store too much in it.

The goose-down body, diamond baffles, and synthetic side panels do a good job of sealing in the heat.

This jacket doesn’t have a hood, but it does have a brushed collar lining that helps keep your neck warm. The material has some stretch in it for improved mobility.

It’s described as “Active Fit” which means that it’s going to be fitted and your regular size may feel too snug.

Considering that you’ll be wearing some layers under this jacket consider choosing a size that is one up from what you would normally wear.

What We Like

  • Down: 550 fill-power, Q. Shield down
  • Shell Fabric: polyester-blend
  • Zippered pocket – hands
  • Internal elastic cuffs
  • Diamond-shaped baffles to eliminate cold spots
  • Uses streamlined synthetic insulation down the sides for improved mobility
  • Cozy brushed collar lining

What We Don’t Like

  • The “black” jacket is more of a metallic grey and not a true black
  • A little heavy
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Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket – Women’s

No products found.

This is RAB’s lightest down hooded jacket for women.

It’s been designed to provide warmth in a low-bulk jacket for fast and light activities in cold weather.

The 700 fill-power goose down provides excellent insulation, while the Pertex Quantum GL fabric they’ve used for the shell minimizes the overall weight.

The zippered chest and hand pockets provide a reasonable amount of storage while not detracting from the appearance of the jacket.

The Pertex Quantum GL fabric is light enough to allow for easy folding and storage in your backpack.

RAB doesn’t claim that this jacket is waterproof but they’ve worked with Nikwax to give the European goose down hydrophobic properties.

It should be fine in heavy mist or light rain but if you expect persistent or heavy rain then you’ll need to crack out your hardshell jacket or rain gear to go on top.

What We Like

  • Down: 700 fill-power, European Goose Down (Hydrophobic)
  • Shell Fabric: Pertex Quantum GL (30D nylon)
  • One zipped chest pocket that doubles as an integrated stuff sack. Two hand pockets.
  • Cuffs have elastic binding to seal around wrists
  • Hoody is helmet-compatible and has a flexible polymer peak
  • Chin guard to keep the cold air out
  • Hem drawcord for a snug fit around the hips

What We Don’t Like

  • May be a little light once you get to sub-zero temperatures
  • Cost
VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW ON BACKCOUNTRY


Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer – Womens

Mountain Hardwear Womens Ghost Whisperer Insulated Down Water Repellant Jacket, Non-Hood -Black - S

If you absolutely have to have one of the lightest down jackets without sacrificing warmth then this may be the jacket for you.

By using single 7D and 10D strands in the shell fabric instead of pairs of strands, this jacket is far lighter than its competitors.

You wouldn’t want to walk through brush with this light fabric though, you’d need a durable outer layer.

The low-profile quilt pattern creates down-filled channels that trap heat without significant restriction of mobility.

If you travel light you’re probably pretty picky about what makes it into your pack and what gets left behind.

This jacket has a very impressive pack size and it folds and stores in its own pocket. It’s got quite a slim fit, so you’ll want to go up a size if you plan to wear a lot of layers.

What We Like

  • Down: 800 fill-power, Q. Shield down
  • Shell Fabric: 100% Nylon Whisperer 7D x 10D Ripstop
  • Zip hand pockets
  • This is the lightest full-featured down jacket available
  • Jacket folds down and stores in its own zip pocket
  • Built-in carabiner loop for secure attachment to harness
  • Internal elastic cuffs

What We Don’t Like

  • It feels like some durability has been sacrificed to make the shell material really lightweight.
  • Feels a little tight when wearing thicker layers under it.
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The North Face Women’s ThermoBall Eco Insulated Jacket

The North Face Women’s Thermoball Eco Insulated Jacket - Fall or Winter Coat, TNF Black, XS

If you want to stay warm without sacrificing style then this is a good option.

We really love how the tapered lines give this jacket a sleek, feminine look and feel.

If you’re going to be carrying a pack then the double layer of paneling in the shoulders will provide added durability from abrasion caused by the backpack.

It’s one best ultralight down jacket that is packable, and the slim fit is designed for a close warm layer.

What We Like

  • 11g/ft2 ThermoBallTM Eco-Insulation fill
  • Shell Fabric: 100% post-consumer recycled polyester ripstop
  • Polyester shell has a DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • Has an interior storm flap and zipper garage at chin for next-to-skin comfort
  • Zip hand pockets
  • Slim fit
  • Internal zippered chest pocket converts to stuff sack with a carabiner clip-in loop
  • Nylon-bound elastic cuffs to seal in warmth
  • Packs into its own pocket

What We Don’t Like

  • Shell fabric feels a bit light
  • Not warm enough for colder windy winters
VIEW ON AMAZONVIEW AT REI


Patagonia Down Sweater – Women’s

No products found.

This is one of the lighter 800 fill jackets we reviewed. It may be the best hiking down sweater available.

It would work equally well on the slopes or as your day-to-day jacket during winter conditions.

The down is highly compressible so the jacket packs down really compactly. This makes it a great option to throw in your pack without sacrificing too much space.

Rain is always a concern with down jackets but the DWR finish on the shell makes any snow or raindrops slide right off.

The horizontal baffles do a good job of keeping the down in place without detracting from the overall design. We do love a good packable down jacket.

What We Like

  • Down: 700 fill-power, RDS certified goose down
  • Shell Fabric: 65D 315 g/m² 100% recycled polyester
  • Zip hand pockets
  • Velcro adjustable cuff tabs
  • Internal chest pocket
  • Jacket folds down to stow in its hand pocket
  • Hem cinch cord for easy adjustments
  • Zip-in-compatible integration with complementing North Face garments

What We Don’t Like

  • In an effort to make the design stylish they may have made the jacket a little short.
  • It’s a little heavy
VIEW ON PATAGONIAVIEW AT REI


Women’s Light Hiker Puffer Jacket– REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0

A favorite is this ultra light down jacket women’s with a hood. It’s both thin and works well as a mid-layer for colder days or as an outer layer in temperatures above freezing.

Due to the high fill power means they get away with using a lot less down which is why it’s fairly light.

This, along with the clever baffle and gusset design, also results in an extremely good fit without bulging.

The Co-Op 650 Down Jacket isn’t a particularly windproof jacket though so the reduced fill weight might not give you the kind of warmth you need when the temperature dips to single digits and the wind picks up.

The hood adjusts really well to allow for both a comfortable fit and cinches to allow for good peripheral vision.

Also, the side zippered handwarmer pockets are well positioned and an internal chest pocket gives you some extra storage.

The excellent packability, comfortable fit, and mid-range price make it a solid choice if you’re looking to go light but still want a hood. Undoubtedly, this high-quality winter coat can shoulder seasons from fall through spring.

What we like:

  • 650 fill power offers excellent warmth to weight ratio
  • Light puffer jacket womens is at 10.8 ounces
  • Smart baffle design optimizes insulation to key locations
  • Goose down treated with DWR – good wet weather performance
  • Pertex Diamond Fuse ripstop nylon offers good abrasion resistance

What we don’t like:

  • Cuffs are a little loose and can’t be cinched – loses heat around wrists
  • Sheds a little
VIEW AT REI


What’s the upside of Down?

Staying warm is all about isolation and insulation. Certainly, you want to stop the cold wind from coming in and you want to prevent your body warmth from getting out.

Down is an excellent insulating material. Pound for pound it insulates far better than an equivalent amount of synthetic materials do. Down isn’t actually feathers, it’s the “fluffy” stuff underneath the feathers of ducks or geese.

The loose structure of the down both traps air and prevents heat loss without adding to the weight of the jacket. Not all down is the same though. Here’s what you want to look out for:

Fill Power

Fill power, sometimes simply referred to as “Fill” is a measure of the loft, or “fluffiness”, of the down(1).

This figure gives you an idea of the warmth-to-weight ratio as well as the compressibility of the jacket.

The higher the fill power of the down the more warm air it is capable of trapping.

A jacket (or winter sleeping bag) that uses a high fill power down needs less of it to provide the same amount of warmth as a jacket with lower fill down.

If you want a super lightweight down jacket that will still keep you warm then be prepared to pay for something in the 800 – 900 fill power range.

If you want to save some money and don’t mind a heavier, bulkier, jacket then you can look in the 500 – 600 range.

Down jackets
©depositphotos

Compressibility

When you’re on the trail, storage space is precious. Higher fill power is more compressible and will be easier to squeeze into your hiking daypack.

Some of the best women’s down jackets will be able to fold up into their own pockets. Getting one with a carabiner loop also makes it easy to store on the outside of your backpack.

Water Resistance

If down gets wet it, then loses its insulating properties. Make sure that the outer shell of the jacket is water-resistant. Moreover, the best insulated jackets will have the shell fabric treated with Durable Water Repellent (DWR) which prevents the water from soaking in.

It’s also a good idea to choose a jacket with hydrophobic down. Meaning the down has been treated so it repels water that gets through the shell.

Denier

The shell of a down jacket is made from synthetic material.

“Denier” is a unit of measurement that refers to the thickness of the individual synthetic fibers.

A higher denier figure means thicker and more durable fibers were used, making it heavier.

The challenge is to have a material that is both light and durable. There will always be a trade-off between weight and durability so your choice depends on your application.

If you want something super-light then look at the lower denier fabrics. If you tend to be a little rough on your clothes or if you’re going to be walking through some brush then choose something with a higher denier.

Environmental Responsibility

If you enjoy hiking or climbing then you no doubt have a great appreciation for nature and the need for ethical treatment of animals.

Some suppliers of down source their product in ways that are cruel to ducks and geese. This has led to reputable manufacturers being very specific about their down being traceable to ethical sources.

Some manufacturers will also indicate that their down is certified to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS)(2).

If you buy a jacket with these certifications then at least you know that there was no live-plucking or force-feeding involved in making your jacket.

Conclusion

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is a great combination of high fill power down in a lightweight jacket making it our top choice. Its a high quality winter coat, in addition to compressibility of this jacket makes it super easy to store.

That combined with the stylish looks and integrated stuff sack clinched the deal for us.

If you don’t anticipate extreme cold, then the Aconcagua jacket from North Face is a great budget option.

It only has 2 hand pockets and uses 550 fill down so you probably wouldn’t use this on a long trek at altitude.

With a few layers underneath though, it’ll be ideal for day hikes or skiing as long as the temperature doesn’t drop too low.

Product image credits: © Amazon.com

Last update on 2021-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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