As the temperature starts to drop, it’s time to start breaking out the cold weather gear. From wool hats to down jackets to thermal underwear, the key to staying warm in the winter is layering. A down vest is a great option to keep your core warm. But how do you find the best down vest for you?
One of our big goals here at The Adventure Junkies is to help make your life easier when it comes to gearing up for the outdoors. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to choose a down vest and show you our selection of some of the best models.
For more of our top hiking apparel recommendations, check out the Best Down Vests for Women.
Quick Answer - The Best Down Vests
- Patagonia Down Sweater
- North Face Nuptse
- REI Co-op Down Vest
- Outdoor Research Transcendent
- 32Degrees Weatherproof Packable
- Columbia Sportswear Big Flash Forward
- Eddie Bauer Downlight
Comparison Table - Best Hiking Down Vest
|Patagonia Down Sweater||800||$$||4.5|
|North Face Nuptse||700||$$||4.5|
|REI Co-op Down Vest||650||$$||4.3|
|Outdoor Research Transcendent||650||$$||4.5|
|32Degrees Weatherproof Packable||650||$||4.5|
|Columbia Sportswear Big Flash Forward||650||$||4.0|
|Eddie Bauer Downlight||800||$$||4.4|
MULTI-DAY HIKING PACKING LIST
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Reviews - The Best Down Vests for Hiking
Patagonia Down Sweater
- Fill: 800
- 100% recycled outer polyester fabric and liner
- Contoured fit
- Internal zippered chest pocket
- Zippered handwarmer pockets
North Face Nuptse
REI Co-op Down Vest
- Fill: 650
- Nylon shell with water repellent finish
- Packable into left-hand pocket
- Zip hand pockets
- Full-length front zipper
BEST FOR: LAYER FOR WINTER HIKING
PROS: Non-bulky warm vest at a budget-friendly price
CONS: Loose down feathers and is not slim fit
Outdoor Research Transcendent
- Fill: 650
- Brushed tricot collar lining
- Internal front stormflap
- Zippered Napoleon pocket
- Two zippered hand pockets
- Drawcord hem
BEST FOR: LAYERING WHEN THE TEMPERATURES START TO DROP
PROS: Compact, lightweight, and great for most outdoor activities
CONS: Fits slender frames better than wider frames
32Degrees Weatherproof Packable
BEST FOR: SMALL BUDGETS
PROS: Great quality for a small budget
CONS: Not as much down as other name brands
Columbia Sportswear Big Flash Forward
BEST FOR: WARMTH AND STYLE ON A SMALL BUDGET
PROS: Great fit at a budget-friendly price
CONS: Average quality down
Eddie Bauer Downlight
- Fill: 800
- Tricot-lined zip hand pockets
- Packs into left-hand pocket
- 50% recycled 20D ripstop fabric
BEST FOR: MEN WHO WANT LIFETIME QUALITY AND WARMTH
PROS: Great mid-weight layer with a classic fit with lifetime guarantee
CONS: Fit is not designed for slender bodies
LEARN HOW TO CHOOSE HIKING GEAR FOR YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST DOWN VESTS
DOWN FILL POWERS
Every down vest has a special fill power that often ranges from 500 upwards to 900 fill. These numbers reference the volume or a number of cubic inches one ounce of down occupies. The higher the number, the more loft the vest has meaning it will be warmer. The highest available down fill is 900, but most down vests will be between 650 and 800 fill.
BOX BAFFLE DESIGN
There’s a reason why every down vest or down jacket is quilted. Without the stitching, the down feathers would fall to the bottom leaving you cold.
Sewing box baffles into a vest is the best way to optimize the loft and the warmth of the down fill. Box baffles are three-dimensional cubes of rectangles sewn into the top layer of the vest.
Alternatively, some companies utilize the sewn-through method where the outer material is sewn directly to the inner lining.
Box baffle construction sometimes makes vest heavier and more expensive, but the advantage is the vest will be much warmer. The best down vests will feature box baffles or a mix of box baffles and sewn-through baffles.
Why do you want a down vest? For extra warmth for winter hiking or to wear around town? Down vests used to be bulky and not very stylish, but with recent technology changes, down vests have retained their warmth, but reduced their bulk. Down vests have become stylish. If style and fit are important to you, look for a low profile down vest with fun colors.
For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: