Ultralight Down Jackets

October 25, 2009

Cooler weather is already here—and winter is just around the corner. In preparation for the upcoming chill, I have been keeping my eye out for the perfect ultralight down jacket. Warm enough to work well as a stand-alone piece in cool weather. Form-fitting enough to function as a layering piece in colder conditions. Small enough to squash to grapefruit size for in-your-pack-warmth when you need it.

Here are the contenders:

Patagonia Down Sweater
Hard to top this one. 12 ounces. Recycled polyester shell fabric. 800-fill down. Stuffs into its own internal pocket. Great fit. $200. They also make a women’s version, which gets rave reviews from several of the serious outdoorswomen I know—especially for its quilting pattern, which seems to really keep the down in place. For an extra 3 ounces and $50, both men’s and women’s also come in a hooded version.

Marmot Zeus This is a contender in part due to its lower price point ($160), but primarily because it is cut 4+ inches longer—ideal for tall (6’5″) guys like myself. What’s more, Marmot also tends to cut their arms longer than other brands, another huge plus for lanky guys. (Though it does increase the weight to 14 ounces). Similar to Patagonia otherwise: 800-fill, internal stuff pocket. The women’s version of this jacket is called the Venus (pictured right). Hooded versions for both are available.

Mont-bell Ultralight Inner Down JacketThe lightest of the light—vapor-weight if you will. This jacket weighs in at only 8 ounces, due in part to its ultra-thin 15-denier shell threads and single-quilt construction. Good price point ($150) as well. Lacks the internal stuff pocket. Hooded version also available ($165), which still weighs less (9-10 ounces) than the Patagonia and Marmot hoodless jackets mentioned above. More than any other company, Mont-bell makes an incredible array of other ultralight down jackets—check them all out here

Isis Slipstream Jacket My female colleagues insisted I at least mention the Isis line of down jackets, which evidently are very well cut and quilted. The Slipstream is their most technical piece ($229).

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.