The Ghost Whisperer moves as you move and was an ideal choice for chilly evening hikes in the fall, as we took here with Chip the dog to the backside of Smith Rock State Park, OR. Eight of the ten jackets in this year's review, compressed as small as possible for comparison the other two were tested at a different location and time. This design makes them lighter, thinner, and less expensive. DWR coatings are chemical applications designed to repel water before it has a chance to be absorbed by the face fabric and, subsequently, the down inside. The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, on the other hand, had fewer features that worked just as well.
We enjoyed wearing it pretty much all the time, using it as an outer-layer for cool fall evenings while camping, and also as a mid-layer while backcountry skiing. To save on weight, the Ghost Whisperer skimps on features a little. There are no internal stash pockets, and the main zipper is small and prone to catching on the fabric. And while it is warm for the weight, it's not the warmest puffy in our test group. Think of it more as a layering option for days when an R1 type layer is not enough, but you'll be moving around and don't want something too warm either.
We also appreciated the excellent DWR coating and the fact that Mountain Hardwear hasn't messed with the design of this hoody much in the last couple of years, 'cause if it ain't broke…! There's also a hoodless Ghost Whisperer Jacket to consider should you be in the market for a strickly layering piece.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded. The Magma is another example of REI offering a good quality product at a reasonable price. Despite its low cost, it's one of only two jackets in our test group to use high-quality fill down.
That gave it a lot of warmth for the weight, but it was on the thin site overall and not the warmest option. We preferred instead to use it as part of a layering system on cold days. It works so well in a layering system because there is no hood, but then, there is no hood. This limits the versatility of the Magma a bit. While it's one of the lightest options that we tested, part of that weight savings comes from the lack of a hood as well.
The fit is a little weird and on the boxy side. It's cut large overall we had to size down in this one , and the belly bulges out a bit. Because not all of us have the same body type, and not all bodies fit into the slim, form-fitting models, some might appreciate the relaxed fit of the Magma. If you are looking for a reasonably priced warmth layer, but don't need the most technically advanced model for a climb up the Matterhorn in winter, we think this is a good option to check out.
REI Co-op Magma It's hard to pass by our award designations without giving a nod to the Patagonia Down Sweater. This classic model hasn't changed much over the years and is still the best looking option on the market. We didn't score for style, but after a day in the mountains in the more "technical" looking options in this review, we always grabbed the Down Sweater when heading out on the town.
We're sure some people buy this hoody and never head out of the confines of a city with it, but we can assure you that it still performs well in the mountains too. It has great wind resistance, helping us stay warmer on blustery days. We also liked the fit, which was roomy in the shoulders but trim down the sides. The DWR coating keeps water out of the down for a time, but Patagonia does not treat the fill, so its wet weather performance is not fantastic overall. It's a little heavy for the warmth it provides, but we loved the features that it has, including an internal chest pocket and a stash pocket, and a high collar that comes up over your nose when fully zipped.
As you've read above, other options are lighter or less expensive, but if you're looking for something that is also "outdoor chic," the Patagonia Down Sweater is hard to beat.
We tested a narrow range of down jackets in this review. We focused on the light to mid-weight category and did not include super fat belay or expedition style parkas.
These down jackets are lightweight, fairly compact, reasonably affordable, and offer stand-alone insulation down to around 32F, but can be used as part of a layering system to keep you warm in much colder temperatures.
The list of potential uses for a highly versatile layer like these is nearly endless. They are perfect for wearing in the evenings around town or while camping during the shoulder seasons, as an everyday around-town jacket during the winter, or as a warm layer or overcoat for colder seasons in the mountains, regardless of activity. All of these models feature down insulation, long known to provide the best warmth-to-weight ratio, with the caveat that they lose their warmth-trapping loft when they get wet.
While most of these jackets now use some form of hydrophobically treated down coupled with external DWR applications to add water resistance, people who are concerned about their jacket getting wet should also check out our Best Men's Synthetic Insulated Jackets Review. When they were available, we chose to test the hooded versions of all these jackets, because a hood adds both warmth and versatility.
Not everyone likes a hood though, or if you are specifically looking for something to layer with, too many hoods in your layering system can get in the way, so we also point out which jackets also come in hoodless versions.
To be able to give you the best possible advice on buying a down jacket, we chose to rate each contender on a scale of for six different metrics: We weighted each of these six parameters based upon how important we felt it was to the overall performance of a down jacket, i.
Adding together the scores for each metric gave us a final, overall rating, which you can peruse in the table above. Note that in our ratings we were comparing the products to each other, and not the entire outdoor apparel market as a whole.
So when we say an option is highly water resistant, that is compared to other down jackets, and not to a rain jacket. Most of our testing and scoring took place on adventures in the field, but in some cases, we also devised specialized tests to help us better understand how each jacket scored for a given metric.
Below, we break down the ins and outs of each of the six scoring metrics, including the crucial factors, how we tested for it, what percentage it counts in the final score, and what were the best jackets for that particular metric. In all cases, ratings were given compared to the competition. For that reason, just because a product scored poorly does not mean it is not worth owning or using, as all of these jackets are among the best available on the market today.
For users who have a particular purpose or use in mind, or who place greater importance on a specific metric, we recommend diving deep into the individual reviews, focusing on what is most important to you, rather than looking only at overall scores.
One of the metrics that we don't score for but do consider in our reviews is the value of a product. While we are always trying to find the best products possible, sometimes those can be the most expensive too, which isn't always going to work for everyone. If you need an option that will get the job done without setting you back a ton of money, take a look at our Price vs. We've graphed each model's score X-axis according to its price Y-axis. Those that lie on the bottom of the graph but towards the right have excellent value.
Warmth is the most important criteria when selecting a jacket, because, after all, if not for its warmth, why do we need one? Since it's so important, we decided to weight each model's score for warmth as 30 percent of its total score.
The primary measurement of warmth in a down jacket is down-fill power. Fill power numbers for the jackets we tested range from lowest quality up to highest quality. The fill power represents the ability of the down to loft up and create insulating dead space. Since trapped air within a jacket's baffles is what insulates you from the cold outside, the more loft a jacket has, the warmer it will be.
However, fill power does not translate directly to warmth. To fill a particular space, one company could use a little bit of very high fill down to accomplish the same thing as another company that uses a lot of lower fill power down.
Since most of the jackets in this review have a similar ideal temperature range, using higher fill-power down tends to mean that the jacket will be lighter and also more expensive. Conversely, jackets that use low fill power down will usually be heavier and less costly to provide the same heat-trapping loft.
Lightweight down jackets are typically made using sewn-through baffle construction that helps produce a lighter weight and less expensive contender. The baffles are the individual compartments that hold down and are needed so that it doesn't all sink to the bottom. Sewn-through construction means that the fabric on the outside of the jacket is sewn to the material on the inside, creating a baffle, which is typically oriented horizontally, although some are square shaped.
This design makes them lighter, thinner, and less expensive. On the downside, sewn-through baffles create thin places near the seams where there is no down, and trapped heat can escape.
There are a few different alternative techniques for generating baffles besides the sewn-through method, but the only other one used by jackets in our review is the welded or bonded baffle construction. These two names describe a similar technique where the outer and inner fabrics of a model are "bonded" together using chemicals or glue free from any stitching.
The Columbia Outdry Ex Gold and the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded are the two jackets that use this method , which in general offers better water and wind resistance, as no holes or threads are compromising the outer layer of the jacket. However, we also noticed that this style has more massive gaps between baffles where there is no insulation, and so doesn't automatically lead to a warmer design.
Though thickness, loft, and method of construction have a lot to do with warmth, it's not only about fill quality and amounts. The design and features of a jacket, such as a hood and drawcords, the thickness and quality of the outer material, how well the jacket fits, etc. How well you keep the cold out is as important as how well you keep the heat inside. To test these jackets for warmth we used them each countless times on adventures during the late fall and early winter: We also tested them side-by-side on a frigid, windy morning in the mountains to best tell how they compare against each other.
Although they do not come with temperature ratings like sleeping bags, we feel these jackets offer good-to-adequate stand-alone warmth down to freezing and can help you stay warm in much lower temperatures used as part of a layering system.
However, in our testing, a few jackets stood out for their warmth. The Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody uses super high fill down to create a thick, cozy, and very lightweight jacket that was warmer than all the others. Likewise, the Rab Microlight Alpine provided top of the line warmth, in no small part because it did an excellent job of sealing off all the openings to keep the heat in and the cold out.
Although not as good as those two jackets, the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody was also among the most comfortably warm jackets in this review.
The higher, further, and steeper we take ourselves, the more important the weight of what we take becomes. The utility of an object comes in measuring how much use you get out of it for how much energy is expended carrying it. The warmth-to-weight ratio of a jacket is a key measure of value, and a down jacket has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any technical insulated jacket.
Additional ounces are added or subtracted to a jacket's weight by the fabric and design features. Frequently, durability and other critical features such as a hood are sacrificed on the altar of ultra-light design, to the detriment of the final product. An ultra-light jacket that doesn't keep you warm or that falls apart after limited use doesn't have a lot of value.
To test weight, we weighed jackets on our scale as soon as they arrived. In the cases where a contender came with an included stuff sack for compression, we included that in the item's overall weight, since weight tends to matter more when it's being carried than when it's being worn.
To find the best fit for our head tester, some of the jackets we ordered were size Large, while others were size Medium. Despite their differences in stated size, they all fit our head tester pretty much ideally, so we compared weights straight across the board, regardless of jacket size.
From our testing, we noticed that weight seems to be a product of three factors: Using a higher fill-power down means that you get the same loft with less filling, so higher fill jackets tend to be lighter, and there is a little trade-off here except for added expense.
Similarly, using a thinner fabric can make a jacket lighter, with the compromise, in this case, being durability. Lastly, to save weight, some models have far fewer features, such as pockets, zippers, or draw cords, while others use much lighter and smaller zippers to shave half an ounce here and there. The trade-off for using less or lighter features can again be durability in the case of super small gauge zippers or the lack of ability to fine-tune the fit if a jacket eschews the use of drawcords.
The lightest jacket in this year's review was once again the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded , which came in at 7. Despite its low weight this jacket had a hood, zippered pockets, and a hem drawcord, and was surprisingly warm given how light it was.
The insulating capacity of untreated down is almost completely negated by water, so jackets insulated with down have historically had a bad reputation in wet environments. While a down jacket is never an excellent idea for a rainy day, having some level of water resistance is important simply to protect the down. All of the jackets reviewed accomplish this to some degree by applying a Durable Water Resistant DWR coating to the jacket.
DWR coatings are chemical applications designed to repel water before it has a chance to be absorbed by the face fabric and, subsequently, the down inside. By helping to keep the face fabric dry, DWR coatings allow a jacket to breathe better should moisture accumulate on the inside from sweating. The only downside to DWR coatings is that they vary widely in quality and durability.
Once a DWR coating has worn off, you must reapply. Unfortunately, this can happen in as little as a few uses. Water resistance can also come by using treated down that has a DWR coating. Because we do not have access to the down inside a jacket, we found it difficult to test how useful these DWR applications are at creating hydrophobic down. In years past we only reviewed a couple down jackets with hydrophobic down used inside, while this year there were four that made our selection of the ten best, suggesting that this is a technology that companies think improve the performance of down that comes in contact with water.
Never-the-less, despite soaking these jackets in the shower, we found it difficult to accurately compare the performance of the treated down versus regular down. In general, our scores in this metric were a reflection of the performance of the DWR coating and the face fabric, although we chose to award bonus points to jackets that used hydrophobic down.
The most water resistant down jacket was, without doubt, the Columbia Outdry Ex Gold , specifically designed to be waterproof on the outside. This model was like combining down insulation on the inside with a rain slicker on the outside, and while it came with a few drawbacks, water resistance certainly was not one of them. While we can think of a few improvements we would make, we think this jacket is an intriguing start to the niche of waterproof down jackets.
Our Top Pick for Wet Weather is the Rab Microlight Alpine , which combines water-resistant Pertex microlight shell fabric with an impressive DWR coating, Nikwax treated down, and a hood that keeps the rain out of your face.
While it wasn't wholly water proof , this is the down jacket we would want to take to wet climates, with the caveat that we would still do all we could to keep it as dry as possible. And with its combination of Q. Shield water resistant down and a durable and high-quality outer DWR coating, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded also received high scores for water resistance. This metric accounted for 15 percent of a product's final score.
Unlike heavy overcoat-style down parkas, these mid- and lightweight down jackets are designed to be worn while you recreate. Whether you wear them over the top of your other clothes, or as a warmth layer underneath a shell jacket, the fit needs to be conducive to movement. For this reason, we prefer jackets that are sleeker fitting and not excessively baggy, although your specific body type will dictate what constitutes a good fit.
For us, an ideally fitting jacket is one that mimics the shape of the body, so that it moves as we do, but is also large enough to wear a layer or two beneath.
We try to avoid jackets that are overly baggy in the torso, as we find them to be annoying when we are wearing a pack or trying to look down at our feet when skiing or climbing.
There's also the fact that they have more dead space that needs to be warmed up using your body heat. We are also very particular about the length of the sleeves, as well as the shape of the jacket through the shoulders and upper back and chest. Simply put, we want our jacket to be ready for any activity, and no matter what we are doing — ice climbing, skiing, scrambling — we are likely to be moving our arms about and sometimes swinging them over our head.
Some jackets have sleeves that are too short, causing them to ride up above our wrists when our arms are outstretched. Likewise, we found some the jackets to have constrictive fits around the shoulders, upper back, and chest that impede our freedom of movement, and affect the overall fit. Other areas that we paid attention to the fit were the collar, the hood, and the length of the hemline at our waist.
Although the biker is a perennially cool choice, cut and design details are instrumental in separating the heavenly leathers from the Hells Angels castoffs. Whether bomber, blouson, biker or collared, every man should have at least one soft and short pile design at his disposal. It adds low-key luxury to downtime dressing and when equipped with the invisible armour of suede protector, you need not have a meltdown if you get caught in a downpour.
A suede bomber jacket in black or navy is always a safe shout, but there are way more interesting ways to wear this buttery-soft outerwear. Textbook examples of the Harrington go pared-back on the outside and checked on the interior, but these days, you can turn tradition on its head.
Which should be on your check list? Get all the latest must-read FashionBeans content direct to your inbox weekly:.
See all the latest vouchers, discount codes and offers from all your favourite stores for October The Varsity Jacket Loved by preps, jocks and — more recently — menswear dons, the varsity jacket is a versatile, youthful style which segues between smart-casual and elevated sportswear. Key Style Bomber jackets are everywhere, so to stand out, look to interest fabrics says Reiss head of menswear design Alex Field.
Key Style The fact that most modern versions barely deviate from the original army apparel is testament to how well-designed the field jacket was when it was first created. Down Gilet The down gilet may have once been the preserve of style-phobic country dwellers, but thanks to a timely reappraisal by practicality-loving designers, the mid-layer has become an essential for city types too.
The Coach Jacket The coach jacket may not have the household-name status of the varsity jacket, but just like its more famous stablemate, it was born in the USA, worn by sports coaches as they paced the touchline. Technical Jacket Technical fabrics make for excellent trans-seasonal companions thanks to their ability to multitask: Just never pair it with a trucker cap. Biker Jacket Cut short, asymmetric, and close to the body, the leather biker jacket has proven to be one of the most timeless pieces of menswear over the last century.
Key Style Although the biker is a perennially cool choice, cut and design details are instrumental in separating the heavenly leathers from the Hells Angels castoffs.
Key Style A suede bomber jacket in black or navy is always a safe shout, but there are way more interesting ways to wear this buttery-soft outerwear. Key Style Textbook examples of the Harrington go pared-back on the outside and checked on the interior, but these days, you can turn tradition on its head. Get all the latest must-read FashionBeans content direct to your inbox weekly: The material on this site can not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Multiply.
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