Is the winter cold finally getting to you? Get some down clothing into your life and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it! A cosy down jacket can make life so much more comfortable, especially if you prefer your outdoor adventures to keep rolling, whatever the weather.
But which is the warmest down jacket? And of the hundreds of options out there which is the best down jacket for you, the conditions you’re in and what you need your jacket for?
What about synthetic insulated jackets?
Fear not winter wanderer. We’ve pulled together the best down jackets for women available in 2018, with a couple of synthetic insulated jacket options too.
- Why down jackets totally rock
- IMPORTANT: Is your down jacket ethical?
- Key features to look for when choosing the best down jackets for women
- The 7 best down jackets for women
- The 3 best synthetic insulated jackets for women
|Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer||800 fill down||200g / 7oz||2.5oz||$$$|
|Big Agnes Shovelhead||700 fill down||439g / 15.5oz||5.6oz||$|
|Arc'teryx Thorium AR Hoody||750 fill down||375 g / 13.2 oz||3.5 oz||$$$|
|Rab Neutrino Endurance||800 fill down||585g / 21oz||8oz||$$$$|
|Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody||800 fill down||371 g / 13.1 oz||3oz||$$|
|Norrona Lofoten Super Lightweight||850 fill down||220g / 7.7oz||3.5 oz||$$$$|
|Rab Microlight Alpine||750 fill down||369g / 12oz||5oz||$$|
|The North Face Thermoball||Synthetic||300g / 10.6oz||PrimaLoft ThermoBall||$|
|Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody||Synthetic||310g / 10.9oz||Polartec Alpha Direct||$|
|Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody||Synthetic||227g / 8 oz||65g PlumaFill (100% polyester)||$$|
Why down jackets totally rock
If you love spending time in the outdoors then the chances are that most of your outdoorsy buddies have an insulated jacket. It’s also highly likely that there have been some heated down vs synthetic debates raging within your group! And whilst there’s most certainly a place for synthetic jackets for outdoor missions, a cosy down jacket is hard to beat.
Here’s why every outdoor adventurer should own a down jacket:
- Down jackets are incredibly warm
- They are also super packable
- They weigh next to nothing
- And putting one on can boost morale in a matter of minutes!
- Down is also a sustainable material
- And it’s highly durable too
Yep, pretty darn great!
Let’s look at little closer at some of those points.
01How is warmth measured?
It’s all very well saying that down is super warm. But just like the thickness of a woolly sweater, its warmth can vary depending on how thick the wool fibers are. With down, its warmth comes depends upon two key things:
Fill power is a measure of how lofy the down feathers are. The more lofy the feathers are, the more air becomes trapped in tiny pockets between the feathers. And the more air pockets the higher the fill power. So fill power is a measure of the quality of the down.
900 fill down jackets are the highest fill down jackets commercially available, and down jackets with anything below a fill power of 550 are not really worth considering.
The warmth of a down garment doesn’t just depend upon it having a high fill power, however. The weight of the down is just as important, if not more so. The fill weight is a measure of how much down the jacket is filled with.
A 700 fill power jacket that contains down that weighs 5oz is going to much warmer than a 700 fill power jacket that contains down that weighs 2oz.
This is key to remember, especially if a lightweight jacket is important. Don’t just focus on the fill power.
02Warmth to weight ratio
Down relies heavily on air pockets to provide warmth, and because of this, it is incredibly lightweight. In the hiking and backpacking world items with good warmth to weight ratio are worth their weight in gold! And down jackets are one such item!
Even the warmest jacket on our list weighs under xxx. There’s no synthetic insulated jacket that can possibly compete with that.
Another highly desirable feature of down jackets is their packability. They compress down to virtually nothing making them a superb choice for hikers and backpackers. It’s always sensible to stick an extra layer into your pack on day hikes. And even if it might seem overkill, a packed down jacket disappears in a daypack so you might as well just take it along!
How small your down jacket will compress will depend upon the fill weight of your down. The higher the fill weight, the more down your jacket is packed with, and the more difficult it will be to compress.
The biggest negative of down jackets is their inability to perform as an effective insulator when they are wet. If you’re predominantly adventuring in wet and rainy conditions then a synthetic insulated jacket might be a better option. The Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody is a great synthetic option that performs very closely to down jackets.
However, technology is moving fast in the outdoor clothing world and some clever folk somewhere have attempted to solve this problem somewhat, with water repellent down inside the jackets and DWR (durable water resistant) coatings on the outside.
The Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody takes this one step further by adding synthetic insulation to areas of the jacket that are most likely to get wet (cuffs, hood, armpits).
IMPORTANT: Is your down jacket ethical?
Unfortunately the world of duck and goose down harvesting has a very nasty side. Many farms live-pluck their birds and keep them in horrible conditions. However, in the last few years the outdoor industry has taken a stand against such operations with most of the big brands only using down that is responsibly sourced.
- When choosing a down jacket or sleeping bag, look for companies that source their down responsibly. Many brands use down that is RDS certified or similar. All the jackets featured on this list are filled with down that is responsibly sourced from happy cluckers! You can read more about down harvesting in this PETA article.
Key features to look for when choosing the best down jackets for women
Whether you choose a jacket with a hood or not comes down to personal preference, to a degree. Some people just hate hoods! They can get in the way if you are wearing helmets and also add extra weight to your jacket. That said, they are excellent draft excluders and nothing beats the coziness of having your head cocooned in down! Some hoods are helmet compatible and many also have drawcords to cinch the hood down when the conditions get bad.
These are the patterns sewn into jackets that make them look like quilts! They are essential in making sure the down doesn’t gather in one spot inside your jacket creating cold spots.
Having zippers on your hand pockets is pretty useful and some jackets even have soft fabric on the insides of the hand pockets for extra warmth.
Either on the inside or outside of the jacket, these Ideally these should have zippers. Some jackets also have mesh stash pockets on the inside to store less value items. Either way, having more storage options than just your hand pockets is important.
Thumb loops are a bit of luxury but a really nice feature all the same. If you hate having a draft come up your sleeves then thumb loops will really help with this. The OR Ascendent has discrete loops inside the cuffs, whereas the Big Agnes Shovelhead has thumb loops integrated into the cuff – super cosy.
Most insulated jackets will have a drawcord at the hem to cinch in the bottom of the jacket. This is great to help keep out the draft and to help keep your jacket in place at times of dynamic activity. If a jacket is without a drawcord then it may have an elasticated hem instead, like the Patagonia Micro Puff.
Some jackets are longer in the trunk than others, and of course how this works for you is highly dependent on your shape and your prefered fit. But to keep you as protected from the elements as possible it’s a good idea to opt for something with a little more length either just at the back, or all the way round the waist.
Most down and synthetic insulated jackets have a DWR (durable water repellent) coating. This is basically a first line of defence against water getting inside the jacket and onto the down. A DWR coating causes light rain or dew to bead on the outside of the jacket and run off. With use this becomes less and less effective. However, Nikwax has developed a Down Wash that revitalised the water repellent finish.
The 7 best down jackets for women
Fill weight: 2.5oz
Fill power: 800
If lightweight packability is high on the agenda then look no further than the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket. Filled with 2.5oz of premium 800 fill down, it is the lightest jacket in on our list with a superb warmth to weight ratio rivalled only by the Norrona Lofoten. To contribute to its lightweight nature, the ripstop nylon outer is a little less durable than other options but will stand up to general wear just fine. Plus the Q.Shield treated down resists the effects of water on the insulation helping the fill stay dried for longer than untreated down.
Whilst the hem can be pulled in with a single-pull drawcord, the cosy hood is elasticated with no drawcord to tighten it, a small downside in super windy conditions. With elasticated, soft jersey cuffs, zippered hand pockets and a pocket that doubles as a stuff sack, this simple jacket is ideal as a lightweight and warm mid layer underneath an outer shell, or worn alone in dry conditions whilst staying moderately active.
- Excellent warmth to weight ratio
- The lightest option on the list
- Can be tight fitting in the armpits
- No hood drawcord
Fill weight: 5.6oz
Fill power: 700
As with all their products Big Agnes go above and beyond when it comes to the details. And the Big Agnes Shovelhead women’s down jacket is no different. The highly functional design features include integrated thumb loops, internal mesh stash pockets, internal chest pocket with headphone port (that also converts into a stuff sack), adjustable drawcord on the hem and the hood, and zippered hand pockets. From a technical point of view the Shovelhead offers water repellent DownTek, a DWR coating to repel water from the outer and super technical Flowgate technology that prevents the down from shifting inside the head to toe baffles.
As the heaviest mid-weight jacket on the list it will struggle to compete with other options in the warmth and weight department, but what is does offer is an exceptionally well thought through down jacket that is highly technical, super stylish and mega practical for backcountry adventures. Oh, and it also happens to be the least expensive down jacket on our list!
For more information read our full review of the Big Agnes Shovelhead.
- Superb value
- Loads of great features
- Runs a little bit short in the trunk
- A little on the heavy side for its warmth
Find the latest price on:
Fill weight: 3.5oz
Fill power: 750
The Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody is another great mid-weight option that offers more warmth than the Shovelhead but isn’t quite as toastie as the Rab Microlight and Patagonia Down Sweater. And while it doesn’t boast hydrophobic down like many of the other jackets, it does combine goose down fill with synthetic Coreloft insulation. This Down Composite Mapping technology ensures that areas most prone to moisture build up (cuffs, armpits and hood), are insulated with synthetic fill to help prevent the jacket from losing its insulating properties when wet. And to further help with this it has a DWR finish to repel moisture. It also has elasticated cuffs and hood, a hem drawcord, and a stuff sack inside one of the zippered hand pockets.
The soft, durable Arato 40 nylon outer withstands abrasion excellently, and together with the gusseted underarms for optimal movement, makes the Thorium AR an superb midlayer or stand alone jacket in cool dry conditions for those active in the outdoors.
- Highly durable
- No drawcord on the hood
- No chest pocket
Fill weight: 8oz
Fill power: 800
If warmth is your main concern then the ultra cosy Rab Neutrino Endurance is where it’s at! With a fill weight of 8oz, the 800 fill power down does an exceptional job of keeping you super toastie on expeditions right through the winter. It is the warmest down jacket for women on our list. It is also the heaviest jacket. And although it does a decent job at packing down into its stuff sack, it can’t compete with the likes of the Ghost Whisperer when it comes to packability.
It boasts a highly durable and weather resistant Pertex Endurance treated outer that is 100% windproof and provides impressive water resistance (1000mm). Together with Rab Hydrophobic Down, this makes the Neutrino one of the best down jackets for women battling the elements right through the winter months.
Aside from its exceptional warmth, the Neutrino also features a very cosy peaked hood, that cinches in easily at the drawcord, and has a super soft internal chin guard. The whole hood rolls down with a velcro-free system. There’s also an internal chest pocket and a hem drawcord that cinches the really long back right around your bottom for extra cosiness where it matters!
- Super warm
- Exceptionally weather resistant
- Stylish for such a puffy jacket!
Fill weight: 3oz
Fill power: 800
The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody is an excellent workhorse amongst the best down jackets for women, and with 3oz of 800 fill down is one of the warmer mid-weight jackets on our list. Its durable shell fabric is made from 100% recycled 20 x 30 D polyester ripstop making it the best choice for those buying sustainably. The outer is also treated with a DWR finish to help bead any light rain or snow before it seeps through to the down. Although not as weatherproof as other options (doesn’t have hydrophobic down) the Down Sweater is a simple jacket that offers versatility, style and warmth on the slopes, out camping or for everyday where. And at a good price point for such a great jacket.
It also features an internal chest pocket that converts to a stuff sack, zippered hand pockets, a hood with a single-pull drawstring, and a hem drawcord that can be adjusted from inside the zippered pocket.
- Recycled polyester outer and inner
- Good value
- Good warmth
- Not as fitted as other options
Fill weight: 3.5oz
Fill power: 850
Another contender of the best lightweight down jacket award is the Norrona Lofoten Super Lightweight. At only 220g / 7.7oz this is the second lightest jacket on our list after the Ghost Whisperer. However, the 850 fill power down has a fill weight of 3.5oz making it warmer than the Ghost Whisperer and not far behind the warmth offered by the Rab jackets. Impressive for such a lightweight option!
The high insulated collar makes up for the lack of hood and further contributes to the low weight and packability. It compresses down very small into its own pocket, has a drawcord at the hem and has zippered hand pockets.
The exceptionally Windproof Pertex Quantum outer, that is highly durable but without adding extra weight, makes the Lofoten well suited to time on the slopes. And its slim fit, that is also long in the body, fits well under a fully waterproof outer layer for ultimate protection and warmth.
- Very warm
- Super lightweight!
- No hood
Fill weight: 5oz
Fill power: 750
As one of the warmest down jackets amongst the mid-weight options, the Rab Microlight Alpine might just be one of the best all rounder down jackets for women. Its slim and streamlined shape fits well underneath a waterproof outer layer, but on its own it offers enough durability to withstand tough conditions in alpine settings. It boasts Nikwax hyrophobic goose down insulation and a DWR coating that is also decently breathable for touring and trekking.
As with its meatier cousin, the Rab Neutrino, it doesn’t do as well as other options when it comes to packability, but it offers the same Rab quality, a peaked hood with a drawcord, a stuff sack, super cosy chin guard, and a drawcord at the hem. It also has a external chest pocket for extra storage.
- Very warm
- Excellent all rounder
- Good value
- Not as compressible as other mid-weight options
The 3 best synthetic insulated jackets for women
If you’re looking for an alternative insulation type to down then here are some superb options. Synthetic insulated jackets are usually less expensive than down and offer much better warmth when wet.
The hoodless and sleek form-fitting Thermoball jacket is a classic from The North Face that is ever popular for everyday use as well as mountain wear. Its PrimaLoft ThermoBall insulation provides warmth that is equivalent to 600 fill down, mimicking down feathers. Where the ThermoBall really stands out is its packability. For a synthetic jacket it does a great job at compressing down to stow it away in your pack. It is also the least expensive of all the options on our list making it a superb choice for those not wanting to invest in a pricer (if not warmer), jacket.
A DWR finish coats the tough nylon ripstop outer whose thickness varies depending on whether you opt for matte or shiny. This further adds to the jackets’ capabilities in wet or snowy conditions. It’s also streamlined enough to be worn as a midlayer on the super cold days.
With an the internal zippered chest pocket contains a stuff sack, and a high neck and hem drawcord to keep out the draught, this is one simple, no fuss, great value jacket.
- Great value
- Very compressible for synthetic
- Simple design
- No hood
- Not as warm as down options of the same weight
If you’re after an insulated jacket to sit around in on chilly evenings then the Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody isn’t going to cut it. However, when it comes to providing a wonderfully cosy and mega lightweight layer of warmth when active the Ascendant rocks! It’s an ideal option as a super breathable mid layer that wicks moisture away from your body expertly. Using innovative Polartec Alpha Direct Insulation that isn’t encased on the inside of the jacket, it also adds a good level of warmth – provided you’re on the move.
As a stand alone jacket, the Ascendant is super tough, boasting a Pertex Microlight 20D ripstop outer and a DWR coating to help fight off light rain showers. And it has all the bells and whistles you’d expect from the best insulated jackets including an external zippered chest pocket, hem drawcord, thumb loops and an elasticated hood with a drawcord adjustment at the rear.
The non-zippered pockets can be a downside for some, but the cosy finish inside them makes up for it!
For more information read our full review of the Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody.
- Excellent breathability
- Ideal for activity
- Thumb loops
- No zips on the pockets
- Warmth doesn’t compare to down jackets
For a super lightweight alternative to down insulation you don’t get much better than the Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody. At only 227g / 8oz it is one the lightest of all the jackets on our list and competes fiercely with the down options in terms of warmth. The Innovative quilting construction filled with revolutionary PlumaFill insulation replicates the structure of down, resulting in a very decent offering of cosy warmth. And though it may not totally match the warmth of comparable weight down jackets, the Micro Puff certainly has the upper hand when it comes to maintaining its insulation properties when wet. Plus, the ultralight nylon ripstop Pertex Quantum shell is water-resistant, windproof, and treated with a DWR coating.
This is a simple, no frills jacket lacks drawcords at the hood and hem which are replaced by elastic, but large internal stash pockets add extra storage on top of the zippered external pockets.
A really excellent option for snowy and wet weather adventures where low weight and warmth is important.
- Incredible warmth to weight ratio for synthetic insulation
- Very lightweight
- No drawcord at the hem or hood
Whether you need a heavy weight stand-alone sleeping bag for a jacket, or a lightweight breathable mid layer, this superb selection of the best down and synthetic jackets for women has you and your chilly self covered!