It doesn’t mean you can’t get a terrific synthetic alternative, I just mean if you’re out in the cold anytime soon, down will keep you the warmest. This list of best down jackets for women in 2021 is aimed at finding a jacket to keep you toasty.
As someone who follows a largely plant-based diet, I’ve added in some of my favorite vegan jackets. For me, choosing between synthetic and down is a dilemma.
For high altitude mountaineering using down is practically obligatory. For everything else, down may still be best but there are plenty of cozy vegan jacket options.
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✅ Want a sneak peek at my favorite down jacket? This is the jacket that gets me through the cold winter months! I prefer the hooded version.
There are a few things you need to know first about the best down jackets for women or even for choosing a warm winter coat. Not all down jackets are the same.
Now I adore my Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket. There’s rarely a day in winter when I don’t have it on, but it’s a microlight jacket.
Just because it uses 800-fill goose down, pretty much the best you can buy, doesn’t make it a super warm jacket. Why? Because the warmth factor also depends on the amount of fill.
Down Fill Power Rating
The down fill power rating is the universal rating system for goose and duck down. Generally, for jackets, the fill power ranges from 550 to 900.
The number represents the volume in cubic centimeters of a single gram of down, when fully lofted, (fluffed up). The higher the number the better. High loft down traps more air within the down jacket keeping you warmer.
Yet fill power doesn’t take into account the total amount of down. A jacket using lower quality fill will still be warmer than my Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket if it uses a lot more fill. You have to compare the weight of the down and the fill power.
Down Jacket Baffle Construction
It’s not just the fill that makes a difference to warmth, construction of the down jacket is key. Most down jackets use stitch-through construction where the outer fabric is stitched directly onto the inner lining, separating the down into baffles. This distributes the down evenly around the jacket but the down is pinched at the seams.
Performance down jackets for really cold conditions normally use box wall construction. Fabric compartments are created to distribute the down around the jacket. This type of construction is very bulky but eliminates any cold spots for really cold conditions. I have a Rab expedition standard jacket constructed this way. It’s an earlier version of the Rab Infinity Jacket. I only ever use it in high mountains.
Down Jacket Features
It’s not just fill power and construction you need to think about when choosing a down jacket. There are other features that contribute to keeping you cozy.
When you’re up a mountain, a hood is more than just a fashion feature. It can make a huge difference to warmth if you’re walking into a gale.
Hoods may get in the way if you’re climbing with a helmet or not look as smart if you’re wearing your jacket about town. Yet when you’re looking for warmth, I always opt for the hoody version.
Some down jackets, such as the Rab mountain jackets, have oversized hoods to fit over your helmet. A hood with a wired or polymer peak keeps its shape better in strong winds.
Often overlooked, your down jacket needs a chin protector, also known as a chin guard…fabric that forms a barrier between your skin and the zip. Without this, you’ll discover just how cold your zip gets in freezing temperatures.
Top brands will always design in this feature and often add a cozy backing of microfleece in the chin area for extra comfort.
Deep Hand Warmer Pockets
The best down jackets always have good pockets. You’re pulling on your jacket for instant warmth. It makes complete sense to be able to thrust icy hands into deep pockets to get some life back into them.
If you’re using your jacket for hiking or climbing make sure you can still access your pockets when wearing a backpack with a waist belt or a harness. Down jackets for mountaineering normally have pockets positioned above the waist.
Hem Drawcord And Cuffs
For ultimate warmth, you want to trap air around your body. Wrist cuffs and a hem drawcord will stop warm air from escaping.
Choosing the length of your jacket very much depends on its use. For a jacket used about town, it just depends on preference. Some people like jackets long to keep your bum warm, others like a cropped sporty look.
In the mountains, a long jacket will get in the way climbing technical routes but on cold snowy plods, I always like the extra warmth of a longer-length jacket.
Best Down Jackets For Women In 2021
This is my pick of the best down jackets for women available in 2021 Some are microlights, excellent if you want a lightweight jacket that punches above its weight for warmth, and some are built for seriously cold weather.
Best Down Jackets For Women In 2021
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket
- Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket
- The North Face Aconcagua Jacket
- Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody For Women
- Mountain Hardwear Super/DS StretchDown Hooded Jacket For Women
- Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody For Women
- Rab Positron Down Jacket For Women
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket For Women
I make no apologies for starting with this one. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket is my all-time favorite.
I’ve used mine everywhere. It’s a huge winner if you need an instant warm layer.
The outer is amazingly windproof and it packs down to almost nothing. It weighs just 7 ounces. You can stuff the entire jacket into its own pocket. I will even add it to my pack in Summer if I’m going to be standing on a cold belay.
The outer fabric is a lightweight ripstop fabric with DWR finish – it will bead off a few drops of rain. The jacket uses responsibly sourced, RDS certified, 800-fill power down. It also comes in a hoodless version if you’re not a hoody fan.
Best down jackets for women for super lightweight warmth.
Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket For Women
Hot on the heels as a top favorite is the Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket for women.
This jacket uses 750 fill power hydrophobic (water-repellent) goose down.
You get more high-quality down for your money with the Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket. It is a little heavier than the Ghost but still comes in at just 15 oz for a medium-sized jacket.
Best down jackets for women for lightweight hydrophobic down.
The North Face Aconcagua Jacket For Women
The North Face Aconcagua Jacket is hugely popular if you’re seeking a more affordable lightweight down jacket.
The 550 fill power jacket is warm and water-resistant.
It’s an excellent choice for fall camping or snowshoeing on winter days! Easy to pack at just 11 oz for a medium-sized jacket and comes with zipped handwarmer pockets. This jacket always gets lots of terrific reviews!
Best down jackets for women for affordability.
Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody For Women
No list would be complete without an Arc’teryx women’s down jacket. The Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody is one of the best.
With premium 850 fill power, this jacket at under 10 ounces is almost as light as the Ghost and makes its mark for lightweight warmth.
I always love the Arc’teryx eye for detail and this jacket is no exception. The jacket fits snugly, zipping up over the chin to provide protection when the wind starts to blow!
Best down jackets for women for attention to detail.
Mountain Hardwear Super/DS StretchDown Hooded Jacket For Women
The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded Jacket deserves a place on this list for its comfort factor.
Its unique stretch fabric construction makes this jacket a delight for active use.
The 700 fill power down retains maximum loft in all conditions… a big plus for warmth!
Best down jackets for women for comfort.
Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody For Women
Sometimes you need the extra warmth and that’s where the Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody comes in.
It’s a go-to jacket for alpine warmth.
With 750 fill power goose down and an abrasion-resistant outer shell, this jacket is mountain-ready. There’s a clever use of Coreloft™ synthetic insulation in the hood, cuffs, and under the arms – areas prone to, shall we say, a little moisture!
Best down jackets for women for alpine use.
Rab Positron Down Jacket For Women
If you’re looking for the ultimate down jacket for warmth, put the Rab Positron Jacket at the top of your list.
There’s no messing about with this jacket, 800 fill power and designed for mountain use up to 6000m. A good choice for the Everest Base Camp trek.
With box-wall construction, this jacket will keep you snug in all conditions. Definitely, a top choice if you’re expecting some freezing cold temperatures.
Best down jackets for women for really cold weather.
I’ve tried to provide a range of different down jackets for women for different uses, microlight down for fall and spring or active use outdoors, more substantial down jackets for colder temperatures. If you’re a vegan or just don’t like the idea of wearing down, here are some top picks of vegan-friendly alternatives:
Synthetic fabrics are continually improving and have the added advantage that they work well in wet conditions. Get a down jacket wet and the feathers clump together losing their warmth. A synthetic jacket will continue to keep you warm even when it’s wet.
More Information – Best Down Jackets For Women
Cleaning Your Jacket
If you already have a down jacket that just needs a good clean, there are specialist cleaners who can take care of it for you. For jackets in good condition, I prefer to send them to a specialist who knows what they’re doing.
For my older down jackets, I’ll wash them at home. I stick them in the bathtub with Nikwax Down Wash Direct. They need a lot of rinsing so a big tub helps! Rinse thoroughly until the water is completely clear.
You then need to find someone with a tumbler dryer and dry on a very low heat setting for a couple of hours. Keep checking and remove it every 20-30 minutes to give it a good shake and break down any clumps. It needs to be completely dry.
Choosing A New Jacket
Good down jackets from reliable brands practically last forever. They can get a bit tired-looking so some of mine are assigned to hill use only!
A growing number of companies are using recycled down in their products, but I still think it’s best to buy quality down jackets. A good jacket may cost more but it has a long life cycle.
If you’ve found this review helpful, you may enjoy my other gear-related articles:
- Women’s Running Clothing (Favorite Picks For 2022)
- Best Rain Jacket For Running (Staying Dry & Toasty)
- Best Socks For Runners (Are Running Socks Worth It?)
- Warmest Winter Coats For Women 2021 (Picks For Outdoor Lovers)
- Best Down Jackets For Women In 2021
It really depends on the purpose of the jacket. For fall or spring when it’s not too cold the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket is a top choice. For really cold weather pick the Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody.
Choose a performance brand such as Mountain Hardwear, Arc’teryx, or Rab. They all produce down jackets for really cold weather.
The Rab Zero G jacket is an incredible 1000 fill power. It only comes in a male version. The Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody is 850 fill power. The Rab Positron Down Jacket has 800 fill power and comes with box wall construction to avoid cold spots. It’s designed for mountaineering on 6000m peaks.
It depends how high you’re climbing, what time of year and what temperatures you can expect. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket is an excellent choice for summer alpine routes. Go for something warmer in cold weather such as the Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody
The down fill power rating is the universal rating system for goose and duck down. The number represents the volume in cubic centimetres of a single gram of down, when fully lofted, (fluffed up). The higher the number the better. 800 fill has a higher warmth to weight ratio than 650 fill. It doesn’t mean an 800 fill jacket is warmer than a 650 fill jacket – you have to take account of the amount of down in each jacket. A bulky 650 fill jacket is often warmer than a thin 800 fill jacket.