In the world of outdoor adventure, down jackets are well known for their ability to keep us warm and comfortable, even when the temperatures drop.
That being said, the last thing any of us wants is to carry around a bulky, heavy jacket on our next backpacking trip or international voyage. Thus, a down jacket that is light and packs down to a small size is a great go-to layer for warmth in the outdoors.
Before you run out and choose a packable down jacket it’s critical that you know what to look for.
To help you out, we’ve created the ultimate buying guide to finding the best packable down jacket. Complete with reviews of some of the top options on the market.
Let’s get to it!
Best Packable Down Jackets Comparison Table
What is the Best Packable Down Jacket for Your Needs?
In this next section, we have reviews of five of the best packable down jackets on the market today, so let’s get to it!
Arc’teryx is known for creating high-quality outdoor gear that’s purpose-built and ready to handle whatever you throw at it. The Cerium LT Hoody is no exception.
A minimalist, lightweight jacket with a high degree of durability. The Cerium LT is a great men’s packable down jacket that can be a mid layer in cold conditions or a standalone jacket in cool temperatures.
Arc’teryx built the Cerium LT with 850 fill down and a nylon shell. Which compress into the jacket’s super thin stuff sack inside the interior chest pocket. Once stuffed into the storage pouch, the Cerium LT packs down to approximately the size of a Pretty darn small for a jacket with this much warmth and loft.
Where the Cerium LT shines is in its warmth-to-weight ratio. It registers a weight of 10.8 oz in a size small, the Cerium LT has more down fill than most of the other jackets in this review and comes with a hood.
Despite being approximately 3.4 ounces heavier than the lightest jacket in this review. The Cerium LT packs some serious warmth with a fairly low weight.
As far as a jacket goes, the Cerium LT is one of the best packable down jackets for traveling and backpacking.
If you’re looking for a jacket that can keep you warm on cool nights or you need something to add to your collection of layers in the winter.
The Cerium might be the men’s packable down jacket you’re looking for.
If you want a packable men’s down jacket that’s so light you forget that you’re wearing it, then look no further than the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket.
Tipping the scales at a miniscule 7.4 oz and able to compress down to roughly the size of a tennis ball, there’s a lot to love with the Ghost Whisperer.
The Ghost Whisperer is made with 800 fill Nikwax hydrophobic down, making it water resistant in a light drizzle. That being said, since the Ghost Whisperer’s fabric is not treated with DWR. There’s still a good likelihood that the down will get wet in a moderate to severe rain storm.
The Ghost Whisperer is one of the best packable down jackets for backpacking because it’s light. But this light weight comes at a cost, both financially and with regards to durability. To make such a light jacket, the shell fabric has to be quite thin, so in rough terrain, you’ll want to have those gear repair patches ready to go.
If weight and compressibility are the utmost concern for you when it comes to a packable men’s down jacket. You’ll be hard pressed to go wrong with the Ghost Whisperer.
It also comes in a women’s model and there’s an option for a hood, so you can choose the Ghost Whisperer that best meets your needs.
The Patagonia Down Sweater is a great men’s packable down jacket for people who want warmth but won’t negotiate on quality.
Made with 100% recycled polyester in the shell and 800 fill down, the Down Sweater features some of the best materials on the market.
Plus, the compressible 800 fill down in this jacket is certified Advanced Global Traceable Down. Meaning that it’s traceable back to farms and factories where the geese are never force-fed nor live-plucked.
The Down Sweater’s durable shell fabric is also treated with DWR for extra water resistance.
If the weather is too warm, the Patagonia Down Sweater is easily packable for convenient portability while traveling or backpacking.
The Down Sweater also comes in a women’s model and there’s an option for a hood if you find that your head and ears get particularly cold on your adventures.
The Down Sweater is a great option for the environmentally and sustainably conscious hikers and travelers among us. Who don’t want to skimp on packability and warmth in their down jacket and are willing to shell out a bit more dough for quality materials.
Adventurous women on a budget should listen up. The Rab Women’s Microlight Jacket is a fantastic packable down jacket for layering. Whether you’re backpacking or traveling the world.
Made with ethically-sourced hydrophobic down, the Microlight is packed full of warmth for those colder days. Making it a great women’s packable down jacket for backpacking or travel.
The Microlight protects that fluffy down insulation with an outer shell made of windproof and breathable Pertex Quantum fabric, which helps keep you warm and dry in foul weather. Plus, the hydrophobic down holds up pretty well in drizzles and light rain storms.
What people like is that the Microlight is affordable, so you don’t have to spend your life savings for some down-powered warmth.
To achieve a more affordable price, this packable women’s down jacket does make a sacrifice on down quality. Choosing to use 750 fill down, rather than the 800 and 850 fill down we see in some of the competing models.
That being said, the Rab Microlight is one of the best budget packable down jackets out there.
If you need a packable down jacket for travel or backpacking that can keep you warm even when the weather isn’t cooperating. Then the Microlight might be for you!
Budget travelers can rejoice with the Outdoor Research Women’s Aria Hoody.
Built for the outdoor adventurer who needs a functional, yet affordable packable women’s down jacket, the Aria combines budget-friendly materials with a classic fit.
Made with 650 fill down, the OR Aria isn’t breaking any records in the weight-to-warmth ratio category. But if you’re only looking to use the jacket in mild climates, then it can make for a nice emergency layer for those cooler nights.
The ripstop polyester shell can repel a decent amount of water, but anything more than a light drizzle will result in some damp feathers.
Thus, the Aria is best used in places like the desert southwest of the United States where cool, dry nights are the norm.
The Aria is a functional packable down jacket for travel because it has large pockets, which are great for storing phones and other travel accessories.
This packable down jacket Aria makes for a decent budget-friendly packable down jacket for people who value simplicity and functionality over everything else.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Packable Down Jacket
There’s actually a lot that goes into making a down jacket. Especially one that needs to be warm and light like a packable down jacket for backpacking.
When searching for the best packable down jacket, there are some things you ought to consider. Coming up, we’ll discuss some of the advantages of a packable down jackets and the different features to look for when shopping around.
Advantages of Packable Down Jackets
Down is top-of-the-line when it comes to jacket insulation because of its ability to keep you warm.
Out of the insulation options available today, down has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio. Meaning that even a small amount of down will feel much warmer than a comparable amount of synthetic insulation.
This high warmth-to-weight-ratio, when coupled with low density, also makes down incredibly packable, which is great for backpackers and travelers, alike.
Even a down jacket that’s quite puffy can compress down to a tiny size and fit perfectly into that last little bit of space you have in your backpack.
What to look for in a packable down jacket
The best packable down jackets balance the different features you want from an insulating layer without sacrificing one feature too much for the sake of others. Here are some of the things you might want to look for in your next packable down jacket.
How warm does your down jacket need to be
Although warmth is the reason we’re buying a down jacket, it’s actually something that’s quite difficult to measure, since everyone’s body reacts differently to the cold.
Thus, instead of measuring “warmth” as a stand-alone feature, when it comes to down jackets, we have to use a number of proxy measures to get an understanding of how warm a jacket actually is. Some of these indirect measures of warmth include:
- Fill power: This is a way to determine the quality of the down. Fill power in down jackets generally ranges from 550-900 fill, with some super high-end options reaching the 1000 fill mark. Down with a rating of 800 fill means that a single ounce of that down will have 800 cubic inches of loft. The best budget packable down jackets usually use down in the 650-750 fill range as this tends to be more affordable.
- Loft: Loft is a measure of the amount of air that an insulating material, like down, can trap. Insulating materials keep us warm by trapping air near our body and allowing our body heat to get trapped in next to us. Thus, a high-fill down, which has a lot of loft, can trap more body heat next to us and keep us warm when we’re not expending a lot of energy.
Although you may think that a heavier jacket has more insulation and is, thus warmer than a lighter alternative. When it comes to down, which has a high warmth-to-weight ratio, you can actually have a light jacket that keeps them warm.
That being said, should two jackets be equal in fill power, but have different weights, there’s a good chance that the heavier jacket will be warmer. Simply because it has more down insulation.
Down jackets that are designed to be packable are also made with very lightweight materials for the zippers and outer fabric. While those made just for wearing around town are made from stylish, but heavier materials.
Whenever you compare the weight of two down jackets, you need to be sure that you’re comparing apples to apples and looking at jackets made for the same purpose.
At this point, it might seem like down is some sort of miracle insulator that is warm, light, and great for all environments.
However, down’s main downfall is that it loses its insulating prowess when wet. So when wearing a down jacket, you must do all you can to keep it dry.
But what do you that do if it’s cold and raining outside?
Luckily, some companies are addressing this issue by creating something called “hydrophobic down”.
Hydrophobic down is regular down treated with DWR (durable water repellent). A substance usually put onto waterproof jackets to help water droplets bead off.
The thought is that DWR provide the same protection to down and either help the down stay dry or help it dry out quickly after getting wet.
Unfortunately, some budget packable down jackets generally don’t have DWR treatment and need extra care in wet conditions.
The last thing that you want while backpacking is to carry around a massive jacket that doesn’t to fit in your pack. Portability is critical when we’re living out of a backpack, which is why down jackets are great.
Packable down jackets for travel or backpacking often come with a small stuff sack. Or have a pocket that can transform into a pouch for convenient carrying.
What’s more important in the portability department, is that the jacket can compress into a small size.
Since compressibility is an indirect byproduct of the fill power of down. As well as the quality of the outer shell fabric. Even the best budget packable down jackets suffer in this department because they often need to use lower fill power down and bulkier materials.
Thus, if portability is a major concern for you, you might need to invest a bit more to get a less bulky jacket.
How should a down jacket fit
As you might guess, men’s packable down jackets have a different fit than women’s packable down jackets.
Generally speaking, men’s jackets have a boxy cut while women’s tend to be a bit more form fitting.
That being said, when buying a packable down jacket for backpacking, it’s important that you allow enough for your baselayers.
Plus, you should make sure that you can layer a rain jacket on top of your down jacket, just in case the weather turns sour.
Conclusion: What is the Best Packable Down Jacket for You?
After reviewing the five contenders, we’ve narrowed it down to a single winner of this head-to-head matchup.
At the end of the day, if we had to choose just one of these fantastic jackets we’d have to go with the Arc’teryx Cerium LT. For it’s simple, yet functional design, combined with a phenomenal warmth-to-weight ratio.
Although the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is lighter, these weight savings outweighed with a decrease in durability and a non-water resistant shell fabric. Plus, although a super light jacket is nice to have. The 4 oz weight savings won’t make too much of a difference to the vast majority of us. Unless you’re an ultralight backpacker.
We preferred the Cerium LT to the Patagonia Down Sweater because it offered more warmth and a better fit than the Down Sweater, despite being lighter. We also like that the Cerium LT has a hood and appreciated the water-resistant fabric, which is nice in drizzles and light rain storms.
This is all because the Cerium LT is made with 850 fill down while the Microlight and Aria are made with 750 and 650 fill down.
Every adventurer needs to decide what’s important to them in a packable down jacket. Whether it’s warmth, portability, fit, weight, or water resistance, the best jacket for you is the one that fits your needs.