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Choosing the best thru-hiking down jacket is very personal. Most would think that going the lightest possible would be best; in many cases, you will want to think more about packability, weight, warmth, hooded or not, and details that matter for comfort.
When you want to get warm in the middle of setting up or breaking down camp, there is nothing better than having the best puffy jacket in your backpack ready to pull out and get you warm.
This is why they are one of the few pieces of gear outside your big three you will want to drop serious cash on when or if you get serious with thru-hiking and dropping weight.
Our Best Down Jackets for Thru-Hiking
- Enlightened Equipment Torrid (7.75 oz) (Best Synthetic Performance)
- Zpacks Goose Down Jacket (6.1 oz) (Best Overall Performance)
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL (6 oz) (Best Lightweight Down Jacket)
- Outdoor Vitals Nova UL (12 oz) (Best New Release)
- Feathered Friends Eos (10.6 oz) (Best Down Jacket Made in the USA)
- Arc’teryx Cerium LT (10.9 oz) (Lightweight Versatile Hoody)
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 (8.9 oz) (Ethical Recycled Down Jacket)
- Montbell Plasma 1000 (4.8 oz) (Best Weight to Warmth Option)
- Decathlon Forclaz Trek 100 (10.2 oz) (Best Budget Down Jacket)
- Cotopaxi Fuego (14 oz) (Quality Performance)
10 Best Down Puffy Jackets for Thru-Hiking Reviewed
Now that you have seen my list of the top 10 thru-hiking down jackets, let’s dig into each and explain why I chose to rate them in my top gear choices and why they may be a perfect match for you and your long-distance hike.
Zpacks Goose Down Jacket
- RDS DownTek - Responsibly sourced water-resistant 950 fill power goose down
- Fitted Hood and Adjustable Cinch Cords - Always fits right and comfortably
- Dual Hand Pockets - Help you stay warm on the trail or in camp
- Limited Colors - Only available in the Zpacks Blue color
The Goose Down Jacket is the ideal insulating layer for outdoor adventurers wanting to stay warm without adding bulk. It strikes the perfect balance of warmth and lightness, making it a must-have item for outdoor explorers searching for the best weight-to-warmth ratio!
Zpacks’ Goose Down Jacket is warmer and lighter than a Ghost Whisperer, longer and softer than a Torrid Apex. I knew I’d be getting one as soon as I saw the prototype of this jacket earlier this year.
Enlightened Equipment Torrid
- Fabric and Color Choices - Unlike many since these are made to order you can choose the fabrics and colors to fit you
- Synthetic Fabric - Deals with water well and doesn't lose warmth in the rain similar to down and it dries very fast
- Less Aesthetically Pleasing - Many people miss seeing the baffles and normal look of a puffy jacket
- Zipper Issues - A decent amount of people experience issues with their zipper, though this looks to be that it is small and needs two hands to operate
The Torrid Jacket is a lightweight, warm insulation garment that’s been extremely popular among long-distance hikers. At an ultralightweight of 7.75 ounces (220g), the jacket is intended to keep you warm while reducing the amount of gear you carry. The Torrid Jacket uses 2oz/yd² CLIMASHIELD™ AP
The lightweight smooth nylon fabric has a water-repelling finish for improved performance in light showers. Warmth is retained thanks to the adjustable waistband and elastic cuffs. A shock cord adjusts the hood, which is enhanced by a grosgrain zipper garage at the chin. Zippered pockets keep small items handy.
The Torrid Jacket is slightly roomy to allow for layering, and it has raglan sleeves for a full range of motion. For individuals who refuse to let the weather stop them, the Torrid Jacket is the ideal 3-season layer.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL
- Amazingly Lightweight - A staple of thru-hikers who are looking to drop weight from their pack but not warmth.
- UL Down Fill with 1000 FP - This allows there to be much less overall down volume for the same warmth.
- Amazingly Compressable - One of the most compressible down jackets that you can purchase.
- Fragile Fabric - Many have issues with the shell fabric being fragile and too easy to damage.
The men’s Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL down jacket sets a new standard for lightness and warmth. It’s incredibly light yet filled with 1000-fill-power down.
The 1000-fill down in this jacket is not the warmest or loftiest around, but it is the lightest and most compressible down available. That down contributes to the garment’s weight and allows you to pack the entire thing into its own compartment for easy storage.
The shell is now constructed of a lighter 5D ripstop fabric for better weight reduction, and it still includes a DWR treatment for water resistance against passing showers or snowfall.
Outdoor Vitals NovaUL
- D-tube Baffle Design - Gives the NovaUL a classic puffer jacket look while eliminating the chance for stitches to wear out or snag.
- DownLT™ Insulation - 850 Fill Power HyperDry down with a small percentage of synthetic LoftTek
- Sizing Issues - They appear to have an awkward fit (especially hips) for some so make sure to check and to size prior to purchase.
The revolutionary puffy jacket was made with all-new Nova Zero StitchTM Fabric, which isn’t bonded or stitched but is instead woven into position.
With 10,000 fewer stitch holes than other down or puffy jackets, the NovaUL is more water and wind-resistant, meaning it is more long-lasting!
Feathered Friends Eos
- Ethically-sourced 900+ Fill Down Goose Down - Down is from a quality source
- Low-Profile Hood
- 3 to 4 Weeks to Ship - Limited quantities available in addition
- More Athletic Fit - Size Up To Layer Underneath
Feathered Friends Lightweight clothing is made to fit closer to the body. They’re meant to be worn as an outer layer in milder climates or as a mid-layer under a shell in colder, more weather-influenced situations.
What’s different about the Eos model from prior versions? Over the years, they received a lot of comments about the Eos wishing they would add zippered chest pockets and adjustable drawstrings on the hood rather than lycra which is now available.
Arc’teryx Cerium LT
- Quality Fabric and Construction - No issues with zippers, no tearing of outer on trails as long as care is taken.
- Incredible Warmth - Incredible how much warmth this creates for the weight.
- Awkward Sizing - Length is too short, sleeves are way too short, and it’s tight in the chest area. Sizing up made the fit baggier.
The Arc’teryx Cerium LT down hoodie elevates your excursions in the mountains to new heights of pleasure with its exceptionally lightweight. It may be used as a mid-layer or alone in chilly, dry weather.
The breathable, wind-resistant AratoTM 10 nylon shell with DWR outer face fabric delivers durability and moisture protection in a lightweight design.
Improved fit components offer a longer body length than the prior version, allowing for more freedom of movement. Insulated StormHoodTM with drawcords that can be adjusted provides protection without limiting your vision range.
- Incredibly Lightweight - Feels like you are wearing nearly nothing!
- Expert Craftsmanship - The materials and work to sew were expertly done, with no loss in down through the seams.
- Small Fit - Many hikers state that you need to size up or you may have issues with base layers fitting.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2
The best-selling ultralight Ghost Whisperer 2 Hooded Down Jacket is reinvented for the long run. Because a hoody is designed to keep you warm, what if it didn’t contribute to global warming?
In their Ghost Whisperer/2, instead of generating more waste, trash is used. This layer manages to keep you warm thanks to responsibly sourced RDS-certified down insulation and completely recycled face and trim fabrics.
The Ghost Whisperer 2 is the lightest in its class, with an 8.8-ounce weight, and it has Q.shield-treated, 800-fill goose down insulation that maintains loft even when damp to keep us warm and comfortable.
Montbell Plasma 1000
- Ultralightweight - Using 1000 fill down has dropped the overall weight into the near-weightless range of 8oz!
- Warmth to 4 Season Levels - Shown to be useful to -12 degrees Celsius this is a very warm jacket
- Delicate - Fabric can be easier to tear and doesn't appear to repel moisture at high levels
- Cost - You pay a good chunk more than many other jackets on this list for the 1000 fill and sub 9oz weight
This interesting jacket from Montbell is the only jacket on our list which features a fill power of 1000. The Plasma 1000 is the supreme puffy jacket and due to this, it is one of the warmest jackets.
It has a hefty price tag, but this ultralight jacket from Japanese manufacturer Montbell is cutting edge. They use a 7d nylon shell material that’s soft to the touch and water repellent.
This is made with some of the world’s thinnest nylon, 1000 fill power goose down, and gram shaving construction techniques. This puffy jacket challenges the limited definition of Ultralight. Extremely compact, highly portable, and with more than 40% of the weight from goose down.
Decathlon Forclaz Trek 100
During a defined test in a thermal chamber, the Decathlon Forclaz Trek 100 was certified for an active comfort temperature of 23°F as a 3rd layer.
A fabric’s water-repellant capability is its capacity to let water slide off the surface without absorbing it. This keeps the cloth light and warm by preventing it from swelling.
- Perfect Fit and Flexibility - It fits well and leaves room in the arms for layering without feeling tight or restricted
Perfect For Trail and Town Use - Love the lightweight warmth and versatility of this jacket
- Quick Signs of Wear - Down feathers were reported to shed through the jacket, along with stitching coming loose.
With 800-fill-power goose down, the Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down jacket turns up the heat factor in a lightweight, packable design that you can layer and take just about anywhere.
The shell is a 20-denier ripstop nylon with DWR (durable water repellent) finish, which sheds light dampness off the surface. Water-resistant 800-fill-power goose down maintains core warmth even in damp climates.
How to Choose a Down Jacket for Your Thru-Hike
There are many features or needs for a down jacket on a thru-hike you need to take into consideration before making your purchase. For many, there are specific concerns whether cost, weight, packability, warmth, or water-resistance are the most important features.
The first concern for most will center on the overall price of the jacket. For those who are budget conscious but don’t want to sacrifice quality, there are high-quality down jackets for around $200 or less. Jackets in this price range often have 800-fill down and a simple design that’s made with water-resistant material on the exterior.
A puffy down jacket is made to keep you warm on cold nights and early mornings. The warmth of the down jacket you choose depends on the amount of fill, its design, how it’s sewn into the shell material, and whether or not there is any insulation besides the down itself.
The fill power of the down lets you know how fluffy the down in a jacket can be. Higher fill power down is lighter and warmer for its size, making it the most efficient insulation but also the most expensive. Fill is often measured in cubic inches per ounce, with a higher number being more desirable as to the lighter weight to warmth.
Let’s face it, on a thru-hike all ounces matter and the number one concern for thru-hikers is often weight, but not always. For those who aren’t worried about a few extra ounces, there are some puffer jackets with high amounts of down that will keep you warm on cold nights and don’t sacrifice much in terms of packability or warmth.
It’s important to consider how packable a down jacket is when making your purchase. Many use their down jackets as part of their sleep system and will need it for colder nights, so weight and size become an issue. Jackets that compress into themselves or have an included stuff sack or compression strap are key.
There are different levels of nylon denier fabric, each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The lower denier fabrics are less durable but lighter in weight, whereas higher deniers are heavier but more durable which is something to consider if you’re worried about durability or weight.
You want a down jacket to have good water resistance to keep the down dry and you warm. Most companies use a DWR (durable water repellent) coating on the exterior shell, but this should be tested before making your purchase as down can clump and lose its warmth or baffle if it gets wet.
Some love to have pockets, others don’t care to have them but knowing you are choosing a down jacket that doesn’t have pockets is something to consider as well.
Most of the time adding pockets will mean adding more to the overall weight of the jacket, so this is something to know if you want a pocket-free down jacket.
Similar to the pockets above, a hood is either loved or hated depending on the person and their preference. It’s important to know that a down jacket without a hood will be lighter in weight and packable but can feel drafty in colder temperatures.
This year there’s been a lot of talk about down jackets and their treatment of ducks, geese, and the ethical implications of using them in your clothing. Some think it is cruel to make garments with all-natural material while others are fine with it.
It’s important to know about the ethical implications of using down from ducks and geese in your clothing purchases before making a final decision.