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The 8 best down jackets to keep warm in 2021

Sian Lewis
30 Sep 2021
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Looking for serious warmth from a lightweight jacket? Our pick of the best down jackets for men and women have got you covered

The best down jackets are key to any layering system. Ever heard of the onion method? It’s the best way to stay warm in cold weather and involves carefully layering up (like an onion) to trap heat and stay cosy. The best down jackets offer the almost perfect combination of being both lightweight and extremely warm, and are ideal worn over a base layer and under a waterproof jacket in bad weather, or on their own as a warm outer layer on cold, drier days.

Most insulated jackets on the market use either traditional animal down or a synthetic insulation to trap in warmth. Animal down offers a brilliant warmth to weight ratio, but doesn’t insulate when wet. Cheap down can sometimes also be harvested unethically – if you’re buying a down jacket, choose a reputable brand and check where the down is sourced from. Synthetic down (such as Primaloft) rivals animal down for warmth and also still retains some insulating properties when wet. We’ve included great options using both down and synthetic insulation in our roundup.

We’ve included down jackets here for men, women and every budget – so, whether you've got £50 or £500 to spend, you’ll find something here that fits the bill.

Not sure what to look for? Take a browse through our choice of the best down jackets below and check out our buying guide at the bottom of the page, where we'll explain all the key features to look out for.

The best down jackets: At a glance


The best down jackets you can buy in 2021

1. Patagonia Nano Puff jacket for men and women: The best insulated jacket for the ethically minded

Price: From £144 | Buy men's | Buy women's from Patagonia


The Nano Puff is jam-packed with smart features: it’s stuffed using a water-repellent PrimaLoft Gold synthetic filling that’s partly made from recycled materials, and it performs brilliantly in pretty much any condition – the synthetic filling retains heat very well even when wet, unlike down.

The polyester shell is tougher than that of most other insulated jackets, yet the Nano Puff is still lightweight and compresses neatly into its own chest pocket for easy portability. It gets top marks in the ethical stakes: no down is used and Patagonia promotes fair labour and environmental responsibility in its factories.

It certainly helps that the Nano Puff’s styling is spot on too: it looks and feels fantastic, and the slim, comfortable fit really hits the mark. A hooded version is also available.

Key specs – Fill power: N/A; Main material: PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco; Weight: 284g; Water resistant: Yes; Pockets: 3

Buy men's from PatagoniaBuy women's from Patagonia


2. Sundried Monte Viso down jacket for men and women: The best insulated jacket to wear in the city

Price: £50 | Buy men's | Buy women's from Sundried


This clever jacket has insulation around the torso but not in the fleece-lined arms, so you get great warmth without restricted movement. The Monte Viso feels rather like wearing a gilet, and looks like a smart bomber jacket – this was our favourite insulated jacket on test when it came to looks, and it’s a great layer to grab in changeable spring and autumn conditions. Five handy inner and outer pockets provide plenty of storage, and our only critique is that the sizing of the Monte Viso is small – our size UK 10-12 tester couldn’t even zip up the medium-sized jacket. Go for at least a size up, or even try the men’s version if you like a boxier fit. If you get the fit right, this is a great quality, versatile jacket for a very pocket-friendly price.

Key specs – Fill power: N/A; Main material: Synthetic; Weight: 440g; Water resistant: Yes; Pockets: 5

Buy men's from Sundried

Buy women's from Sundried


3. Rab Microlight Alpine ECO jacket for men and women: The best down jacket for climbers

Price: From £200 | Buy men’s | Buy women’s from Cotswold Outdoors

Every peak-obsessed British climber with a rope on their back can be found sporting a grimy but much-loved Rab down jacket. Rab was founded in Sheffield, one of the spiritual homes of UK climbing, and the company has applied its know-how to creating lightweight down layers, which are perfect for popping on and off quickly when climbing or wearing under a waterproof shell on winter hikes.

The new incarnation of the popular Microlight is made with recycled materials and is a good all-rounder from the Rab stable – it’s light, warm, very breathable and available in a clutch of different colours. And if you’re in the market for ethically sourced animal down, Rab is a good brand to shop with.

We’d recommend that women try both the men’s and women’s versions to see which cut fits best, as in our experience the men’s version makes for a brilliant unisex jacket.

Key specs – Fill power: 700; Main material: recycled hydrophobic down; Weight: 413g; Water resistant: Yes; Pockets: 3

Buy men’s from Cotswold OutdoorsBuy women's from Cotswold Outdoors


4. North Ridge Tech down jacket for men and women: The best down jacket under £100

Price: From £88 | Buy men's | Buy women's from Millets

Get more bang for your buck with North Ridge’s affordable but high-performing Tech jacket. This cosy and ultra-comfortable jacket is stuffed with duck down and delivers a hefty hit of warmth despite its light weight. We like that the hood, which has a handy stiffened peak for keeping rain off your face, is removable in dry weather. This is one of the bulkier jackets in our round-up, and is harder to layer with – the plus side is that it works well as a standalone outer jacket in spring and autumn.

Key specs – Fill power: 550; Main material: Duck down; Weight: N/A; Water resistant: Yes; Pockets: 2

Buy men's from Millets

Buy women's from Millets


5. Canada Goose Brookvale Down hooded jacket for men and women: The best option for seriously cold conditions

Price: £425 | Buy now from Canada Goose


Eye-wateringly expensive it may be, but the Brookvale is a seriously plush and high-performing coat. If you can afford to spend serious money, it’s an excellent choice that should last you forever if you take good care of it. Canada Goose specialises in warm clothing for extremely cold temperatures and the Brookvale is definitely the thickest and best-padded jacket on our list, working well as a standalone winter jacket and as an outer layer for snow sports, as well as for insulation. The outer shell is effectively water-repellent and the down used is humanely sourced. If you’d rather dump the hood, you can pick up the Brookvale jacket for around £50 less.

Key specs – Fill power: 750; Main material: White duck down; Weight: 527g; Water resistant: Yes; Pockets: 3

Buy now from Canada Goose


6. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 for men and women: The best lightweight down jacket

Price: £119 | Buy men's from Sportsshoes | Buy women's from Amazon


We love Mountain Warehouse’s Ghost Whisperer range of down jackets, hoodies, gilets and trousers for their weight – or rather lack of weight. The Ghost Whisperer 2 down jacket manages to be one of the most lightweight in our round-up at 219g, but still packs a punch when it comes to keeping you warm. It has a low-profile quilt pattern, retaining loft when wet and it’s filled with Q-Shield 800 fill down. It’s got a slightly roomier fit than others on the list, but its simplicity shines when you turn it inside out from the pocket and zip it into its own little lightweight carry bag. The new 2021 version of the Ghost Whisperer is also sustainably made, and is constructed using recycled materials and responsibly-sourced down. The shiny oil slick looks might not be to everyone’s taste, but we can’t fault the quality and fit.

Key specs – Fill power: 800; Main material: Nikwax Hydrophobic Down; Weight: 219g; Water resistant: Yes; Pockets: 2

Buy men's from Sportshoes


7. Keela Talus insulated jacket for men and women: The best insulated jacket for breathability and staying active

Price: £140 | Buy men's | Buy women's from Keela


If you love the warmth of an insulated jacket but hate the Michelin man-style bulk of a puffer style, you’ll love Keela’s sleeker Talus jacket. It’s stuffed with 60g of Primaloft Gold synthetic insulation, so it’s still very warm even when wet, and the outer surface or the Talus is windproof enough to help trap in heat even when it’s blowing hard outside. We like the stretchy side panels, which are lined with fleece rather than insulation and are designed help the jacket to move as you do when you’re getting active.

Key specs – Fill power: 750; Main material: Primaloft Gold; Weight: 460g; Water resistant: Yes; Pockets: 2

Buy women's from Keela Buy men's from Keela


8. Fjallraven Expedition Pack Down Jacket for men and women: The best insulated jacket for versatility

Price: £255 | Buy men's | Buy women's from Fjallraven

You can rely on Swedish brand Fjallraven’s beautifully made outdoor clothing, and their deliciously soft Expedition Pack Down jacket is no exception. It may be one of the more expensive jackets on our list, but you’re paying for quality here.

The Expedition Pack is slim-fitting and lightweight at just 355g for the female jacket. It fits easily under a heavier coat or waterproof, packs away into its own pocket, but is still reliably warm when the mercury falls. Internal and external pockets hold all your essentials, and the goose down and feather insulation is ethically sourced and fully traceable.

If you want something for even colder conditions, then a hooded version is also available, and the jacket comes in various primary colours to suit any tastes.

Key specs – Fill power: 700; Main material: goose down; Weight: 355g; Water resistant: No; Pockets: 3

Buy men's from Fjallraven

Buy women's from Fjallraven


How to choose the best down jacket for you

What are down jackets made from?

Down jackets usually use duck or goose down (the fluffy stuff found under a bird’s feathers) to create a stuffed middle layer known as “loft”, an incredible insulator that traps heat. “Down” is a bit of an umbrella term, which also encompasses insulated jackets that use synthetic down instead of animal down.

Down is typically white or grey and an individual piece of down looks like a blob of tiny little fibres, all somehow joined in the middle and radiating outward. Lots and lots of these little blobs are clustered together form millions of tiny air pockets, which is what provides the heat insulation.

Natural down or synthetic insulation?

The main differences between jackets stuffed with down and synthetic insulation are that down is usually lighter, can feel bulkier and is warmer. If you want a mid-layer for high-intensity activities such as hiking and skiing, where you’ll heat up pretty fast, a synthetic jacket is probably a better option. If you’re looking for a seriously warm jacket for very cold weather, go for animal down. There is, however, an animal-welfare issue with the production of some down jackets – if you’re keen to buy an ethical down jacket, we’ll cover everything you need to know a little further down the page.

You’ll see jackets filled with natural down labelled with “fill power”, which is a measure of the fluffiness of the loft. The higher the number, the better quality the down (and, usually, the lighter the jacket); we’d recommend plumping for something with 700 fill power or above.

Are down jackets waterproof?

Most are completely useless when wet and this means they can quickly turn from heat-retaining lifesavers to water-logged lumps in heavy downpours. On a day in the hills with changeable weather conditions, you don’t want to worry that a sudden downpour could catch you and reduce your comfy jacket to a feathery pulp. The solution is to either pack a waterproof shell to pop over the top or pick a down jacket that can withstand a sudden shower (or, ideally, both).

Down jackets are increasingly water-resistant so they’ll withstand light rainfall without losing too much heat. We’d also recommend regularly using something such as Nikwax Down Proof to re-waterproof your jacket. If you want a jacket that’ll keep you warm even when it gets wet, synthetic insulation is far more water repellent than animal down.

What’s the deal with ethical down?

The cheapest down is harvested from live (and sometimes force-fed) animals, which is cruel and unnecessary. You’ll see other down jackets labelled “humanely harvested”, which means the down is a byproduct of food production. Ethically traced down is more expensive.

Synthetic down jackets avoid the problem altogether. Traditionally they haven’t been as good as those made with animal down, but this is improving rapidly. If you’re in the market to buy one good-quality jacket, we’d recommend picking something using either synthetic insulation or a company using humane, traceable down. Patagonia has a great track record of ensuring its down is ethically sourced, and Canada Goose’s down is humane and traceable.

Are there any other features I should look out for?

Useful design elements to look out for include a hood and a drawstring waist, which are both useful for retaining body warmth. If you don’t need a hood, bear in mind that most manufacturers will have a hoodless version in their range that will save you a few quid. It’s also worth checking how many external and internal pockets there are before you splash out.