Searching for best down jacket? It can be hard to know where to start - we all have different budgets, body sizes and do different activities. The best down jackets for climbing Kilimanjaro will be different from those you'd use on a day hike.
At the end of the day's hiking, as the temperature drops, you need something that keeps you warm and cosy before bed. If you are heading up Kilimanjaro, or Mt Kenya or to Everest Base Camp, a high-quality down jacket will ensure you don't get cold, both on and off the trail.
We've narrowed it down to nine of the best down jackets for men. After taking an in-depth look at each of them, our buying guide will walk you through down jacket 'essentials and extras' features to help you make the best choice for your needs.
Best on a budget
Best of the Rest
*Below, you'll find our detailed reviews and a buyer's guide, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
Best Down Jackets (for Men) Reviews
We’ve reviewed nine highly-rated down jackets for you to consider for your next adventure. All these down jackets will keep you warm when hiking in winter and on the often bitterly cold mountain slopes.
Best heavyweight down jacket: RAB Neutrino Endurance
Best lightweight down jacket: Ghost Whisperer
Budget Buy: Outdoor Research Men's Transcendent Sweater
For an extra warm, high quality down jacket with nearly all the features, we chose the RAB Neutrino Endurance Jacket. It’s easily one of the warmest jackets we reviewed at 800 fill-power, has the down-insulated hood, and hand warmer pockets.
The Neutrino doesn’t compromise in durability either, with 30d shell fabric, but remains lightweight. The wire peak and drawstrings secure the hood well and the cuff bonds are easy to adjust. The only downside is the stuff sack, which is separate as opposed to doubling as a pocket.
Our budget buy was the Outdoor Research Transcendent Sweater, which was not only one of the cheapest jackets we reviewed but one of the lightest. It’s easy to carry and easy to layer with other jackets or shells.
All of the down jackets we reviewed would be suitable for trekking above 10,000ft.
A Little About Down Jackets
If you’re here, chances are you’ve already chosen to go with down, rather than synthetic insulation. In case you haven’t, this is why we prefer down to synthetics.
In our opinion, any hike in winter or at an altitude above 10,000 ft will require a good down jacket.
Down jackets are made with the down – the soft underside – of ducks or geese. Down fluffs up to trap air in between the loft to retain heat. Since down itself is very light and has little structure, feathers are also used in down jacket insulation to help the down keep its shape.
Goose down is generally better than duck down since geese produce bigger down clusters which trap more air(1). Though Goose down is more expensive.
How to Choose a Down Jacket
There are many features to look at when choosing a jacket, some more crucial than others. We’ll help you narrow down to the essential features. We’ll address:
- Warmth: fill power
- Durability: water resistance, treated down, DWR, denier, and construction
- Additional: weight, compressibility, features, and style
One of, if not the most important factor you’ll be considering is warmth. Down already provides more warmth than synthetic insulation, but to understand why requires you to understand “fill power”.
While shopping you’ll often come across something called “fill power” or “fill rate”. This measures the volume of the down and how much air it can trap in its “loft”(2). The more air down can hold, the better it can keep you warm.
Although you might also see people talk about a jacket having high or low loft, you can get the clearest picture idea of a jacket’s warmth by its fill rate.
Fill rates range from 400 to 900 fill. A higher fill rate requires less down for more warmth, giving you a lighter jacket.
Higher fill rates like those in the 800 to 900 range are pricier. A jacket with low fill can be just as warm but will be heavier. On average 750 fill suits most purposes.
The jackets we review all fall within 650 to 850 fill, being the most appropriate for winter hiking and the higher altitudes of Kilimanjaro or Everest Base Camp.
A warm jacket isn’t worth the buy if it won’t last long. To measure durability, we look at water resistance, fabric strength or denier, and construction.
Down will never be waterproof. When down becomes wet, it clumps together and loses significant loft. That means you’ll get a whole lot colder.
While your outer layer, or shell, might be water-resistant, the material of a good jacket should always be breathable so perspiration can escape.
Moisture will also be able to penetrate the fabric; down jackets are not completely waterproof. If your shell fabric gets torn, your down will lose loft even faster.
Fortunately, down can be treated to make it more resistant to water. This is also called hydrophobic down.
Hydrophobic down has been treated with a water repellent substance. It can withstand damp weather and dries faster when it does get wet. Q. Shield Down is a common type of hydrophobic down.
Durable water repellent (DWR)
Most outdoor wear also comes with a durable water repellent(4) (DWR) coating. This is typically for shell fabric, but if you see DWR, know that this means water-resistant, but most likely will not be completely waterproof.
You may see some jackets advertising the “denier”(5) of their fabric, shown as a number value followed by a lowercase d, like 70d. This simply refers to the thickness of the fabric.
The number provided is the thickness of a single strand of fabric. For outerwear, 40d to 80d is typical.
The lower the denier, the lighter the fabric. If you’re looking for a lightweight jacket, lower denier is preferable, but be aware that you might get less durability.
For those looking for something a little more sturdy, 70d to 80d is a reasonable range.
The design of the material also affects its warmth. “Sewn through” and “box baffle” are the most common manufacturing methods. Sewn through is the most common for manufacturers, as it is cheaper. It involves stitching directly into the insulation of the jacket.
Box baffle, on the other hand, keeps each segment of down in a separate compartment. A box baffle design is more likely to be warmer, however, it might also be can be heavier and more expensive to make. A sewn through jacket is normally cheaper and lighter.
When you’re hiking long distances, every ounce you carry counts. When considering weight, fill-rate is important. A higher fill-rate will be lighter without sacrificing warmth.
The denier of the shell fabric also makes a difference with lower denier meaning less weight. So for a lighter jacket, remember high fill power, low denier.
Some people don’t mind or even prefer a heavier jacket and in that case, we’d suggest a higher denier fabric for more durability.
If you’re set on a down jacket, you’ve already chosen great compressibility. Down contains a lot of air and can be stuffed without damaging the insulation or compromising its shape.
However, some down jackets still include a mix of synthetic insulation. This doesn’t mean they’re inferior – this is often done to increase warmth and cover cold spots where heat can escape – but it can make the jacket harder to stuff.
The denier of the jacket’s shell fabric will also influence compressibility.
Some jackets can be stuffed into a reversible pocket, which doubles as a stuff sack. This way you never have to worry about losing, or remembering to bring a separate sack.
The most prominent feature is a jacket’s pockets. You should consider how much you want to carry and how many pockets you’ll need. Is it important for your pockets to be zippered?
Do you want pockets that are lined for extra warmth? Most men’s jackets also have an inner pocket, and sometimes a larger inner mesh pocket.
When climbing, inner pockets aren’t just convenient, but can be used to keep supplies like gloves or water bottles warm using body heat.
Hoods are another important feature. Do you need something that gives you as much coverage as possible?
Can the hood be adjusted for optimal warmth?
Do you still have enough range of motion with the hood? Most of the jackets we review include hoods, but for some people, a beanie and lined collar are enough.
Adjustment features can result in a better jacket and are key to keeping out the cold. Most jackets have draw cord or similar adjustment at the hem.
Cuffs almost always have elastic, but adjustable bands can keep you warmer and make it easier to take on and take off gloves.
Even hoods feature draw cords or wire peaks which can be bent to your preference.
These are just a few of the features to consider when buying a down jacket, although many of these come down to personal preference. For us, warm hand pockets are a must.
Although it’s probably not at the top of your criteria, you may also want to think about style.
Chances are a good fit will also look good. Other factors to consider include color, hood shape, bulkiness or “puffiness,” pocket placement, and stitching.
We’ve already gone over stitching functions, but you’ll want to like the way it looks too, even if you are only wearing it out in the bush!
Product image credits: © Amazon.com