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Colder weather is right around the corner, and what does that mean? Down! The superior insulating properties of down are very well documented throughout the adventure community. This, combined with being extremely lightweight and packable, makes down ideal for nearly any sport. Furthermore, one of the best ways to enjoy down yet maximize packability is the iconic down vest.

But there are just so many out there, right? Puffy vests, slim vests, hooded vests, and the list goes on. We’ve gone ahead and waded through all these options, and now present the absolutely best down vests on the market for your consideration. So read on, and pick out the vest that will work best for you!

For more of our top hiking apparel recommendations, check out the Best Down Vests for Women.

 

Quick Answer - The Best Down Vests

  1. Patagonia Down Sweater
  2. The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse
  3. Arc’teryx Cerium LT
  4. Eddie Bauer Downlight
  5. REI Co-op 650
  6. Marmot Zeus
  7. The North Face Aconcagua
  8. Outdoor Research Transcendent
  9. Columbia Flash Forward
  10. Cotopaxi Fuego

 

Comparison Table - Best Hiking Down Vest

PictureNameFitHoodPackablePriceRating
Patagonia Down SweaterTrimNoYes, fits into internal pocket$$$4.8
The North Face 1996 Retro NuptseBoxyYes (stowable)Yes, fits into hand pocket$$$4.4
Arc’teryx Cerium LTTrimNoNo, but very lightweight$$$$4.3
Eddie Bauer DownlightBoxyNoYes, fits into hand pocket (w/ carabiner loop)$$4.7
REI Co-op 650BoxyNoYes, fits into hand pocket$4.5
Marmot ZeusTrimNoYes, fits into hand pocket$$4.5
The North Face AconcaguaBoxyNoNo$$3.9
Outdoor Research TranscendentBoxyNoNo$$4.8
Columbia Flash ForwardTrim, LongNoYes, fits in hand pocket$$4.1
Cotopaxi FuegoBoxyNoYes, comes w/ separate stuff sack$$$4.3
PictureNameFitHoodPackablePriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Down Vests for Hiking

Patagonia Down Sweater

Specs
  • Fit: Trim
  • Material: Polyester Ripstop
  • Fill Power: 800-Fill
  • Hood: No
  • Packable: Yes, fits into internal pocket
  • Weather Resistance: Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Finish
Features
  • Nice Trim Fit
  • Very Comfortable For Any Activity
  • Adjustable Hem

BEST FOR: VERSATILE USE FOR ANY SPORT

Patagonia’s reputation for high quality and eco-friendly products is near legend in the adventure community. It therefore comes as no surprise that their Down Sweater Vest is one of the best down vests out there. 800-fill down provides excellent warmth while the comfortable fit and durable material make it an ideal addition to almost any adventure wardrobe. 

The durable – and 100% recycled – ripstop polyester shell will hold up to most active use, and its DWR finish will also help keep that inclement weather at bay. The vest’s hem is also adjustable through drawcords accessible through the two pockets, so you can cinch in that warmth without even taking your hands out of your pockets! 

This premium construction and plethora of features comes at significant cost however. But if you’re in the market for an adventure vest that can add warmth to your next ski trip, snow-shoeing excursion, or any other cold weather endeavor, then the Patagonia Sweater Vest may well be worth the cost.

The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse

Specs
  • Fit: Boxy
  • Material: Nylon Ripstop Or Polyester Taffeta - Color Dependent
  • Fill Power: 700-Fill
  • Hood: Yes (stowable)
  • Packable: Yes, fits into hand pocket
  • Weather Resistance: Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Finish
Features
  • Extremely Warm And Boxy Fit
  • Very Large Baffle Design To Retain Heat
  • Durable Ripstop Shell Material Withstands Heavy Use
  • Stowable Hood

BEST FOR: CLASSIC PUFFY VEST STYLE 

For those of you out there who love the puffy comfort of the classic boxy vests, The North Face has crafted the Retro Nuptse Vest just for you. The baffles – down filled sections – are oversized and extra puffy. The overall fit is furthermore very boxy to promote comfort and warmth.  

The Nuptse is almost guaranteed to keep you nice and cozy through chilly city winters, and provides an excellent outer layer for colder walks and day hikes. Keep in mind that the boxy design of this vest won’t be well suited to more extreme alpine, hiking, or climbing adventures. 

Nevertheless, the DWR finish will help keep any precipitation from wicking into the down while the extremely durable outer shell will hold up to daily use for your commute, walks around town, or simply a chilly office. What’s more, the collar hides a very comfortable hood to further lock out the cold.

Arc’teryx Cerium LT

Specs
  • Fit: Trim
  • Material: 100% Nylon
  • Fill Power: 850-Fill
  • Hood: No
  • Packable: No, but very lightweight
  • Weather Resistance: Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Finish
Features
  • Athletic Trim Fit
  • Internal Zippered Security Pocket
  • Low-Profile For Active Use

BEST FOR: LIGHTWEIGHT INSULATION

On almost the exact opposite end of the spectrum from the classic oversized and puffy leisure vest, we have the trim Cerium LT from Arc’teryx. This vest expertly combines a low-profile design with exceptional 850-fill down insulation and all in a lightweight 6.5oz package. 

Such powerful insulation with an equally powerful lightweight construction easily makes the Cerium one of the best down vests for you active adventurers out there. It barely adds any bulk or weight to your active wardrobe, and yet provides significant insulation wrapped up in a durable nylon exterior and DWR finish. Arc’teryx also went the extra mile to include synthetic insulation in areas where moisture tends to reduce down’s effectiveness. 

It’s important to note that the very trim cut of this vest may not suit everyone, especially if you prefer to throw on your vest over several other layers or even a coat. Therefore plan on going up a size if you’re unsure, or even consider checking out other vests that aren’t quite so tight – or expensive. But for those of you looking for a slim vest to keep you warm and avoid extra bulk, you can’t go wrong with the Cerium LT.

Eddie Bauer Downlight

Specs
  • Fit: Boxy
  • Material: 20D Ripstop Polyester
  • Fill Power: 800-Fill
  • Hood: No
  • Packable: Yes, fits into hand pocket (w/ carabiner loop)
  • Weather Resistance: StormRepel Super DWR And Windproofing
Features
  • Media Compatible Chest Pocket
  • Adjustable Hem
  • Windproof
  • Stylish Design That’s Neither Bulky Nor Too Tight

BEST FOR: CITY LIVING

Eddie Bauer has produced an exceptional vest that checks all the boxes we look for in a city-going layer. The design is straightforward, yet still attractive. The cut is neither too boxy nor too tight, making it fit comfortably and stylishly. The chest pocket and media port is the perfect place to stash your phone and listen to some tunes while walking or taking the bus or subway. 

The durable ripstop shell is also impervious to those chilling winter winds, and sheds moisture thanks to its DWR finish. Both these items work in tandem to make this vest a solid performer in all types of weather. When the weather gets extra cold, the adjustable drawstring hem can be cinched down nice and tight to lock in all the warmth that the 800-fill down provides. 

The Downlight Vest is therefore our top recommendation for looking good and taking on chilly days with impunity. A hood would have been a very welcome addition to this ensemble, but this is nevertheless one of the best down vests on the market at a very reasonable price.

REI Co-op 650

Specs
  • Fit: Boxy
  • Material: Nylon And Ripstop Polyester
  • Fill Power: 650-Fill
  • Hood: No
  • Packable: Yes, fits into hand pocket
  • Weather Resistance: DWR And Slight Wind Resistance
Features
  • Very Accessible Price
  • Packs Down Nice And Small
  • Comfortable For All-day Wear

BEST FOR: FINDING A DOWN VEST ON A BUDGET    

Many exceptional down vests come with an exceptionally large price tag to match, but not the REI Down Vest. The many benefits of a quality down vest are here for the taking at a very reasonable cost. These benefits include excellent insulation for the colder days along with a durable and weather resistant outer material to make the vest last. 

The lower price does come with a few sacrifices, however. The look comes out a little boxy and lacks the premium trim fit that we often look for in vests destined for activewear. The material itself is also not quite as soft to the touch as its higher end competitors. 

But when looking for a reliable vest that checks all the boxes for a standard layering addition, the REI Down Vest is perfect. While the 650-Fill down may not be quite as insulating as other vests on our list, it still gets the job done for cooler fall and spring days. It also packs down into its own pocket for easy toting.

Marmot Zeus

Specs
  • Fit: Trim
  • Material: Ripstop Polyester
  • Fill Power: 700-Fill
  • Hood: No
  • Packable: Yes, fits into hand pocket
  • Weather Resistance: Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Finish
Features
  • Drawcord Hem Adjustment
  • Down Proof Shell To Keep Feathers From Poking Out
  • Trim Cut To Fit Under Coat

BEST FOR: LAYERING ON SKI AND SNOWBOARD ADVENTURES

Streaking down those slopes with the wind whistling through your clothing can be a very chilly experience! So do yourself a favor and add the Marmot Zeus to your ski or snowboard layering system. The trim design can fit perfectly under your jacket to give your insulation the boost it needs with very comfortable 700-fill down. 

The outer polyester shell is also downproof to keep that pesky plumage from poking out and getting stuck on your other clothes. This shell features the standard DWR finish to help keep any rain or snow from seeping in. You can also cinch the hem nice and tight to keep that precious heat from spilling out when you pull off those tight turns on the slopes. 

A nice puffy hood would round this particular vest off very nicely, but we can’t argue with its decent midrange price and excellent insulating properties. So stay warm out there this winter with one of the best down vests on the market!

The North Face Aconcagua

Specs
  • Fit: Boxy
  • Material: 40D Polyester
  • Fill Power: 550-Fill
  • Hood: No
  • Packable: No
  • Weather Resistance: Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Finish
Features
  • Chest And Hand Pockets
  • Synthetic Insulation In Moisture Prone Areas
  • Packs Down Nicely For Travel

BEST FOR: FALL AND SPRING  

The North Face provides yet another of the best down vests with their Aconcagua. Here we have a much more economical choice than other options on the list and a lighter down fill that is ideally suited for the cooler shoulder seasons. 

At a lower 550-fill level, this vest doesn’t quite provide the same level of insulation as other 700+ powerhouses, but is ideally suited to handle the cooler weather of a fall or spring day. When those pesky rain squalls roll in, however, The North Face has included synthetic insulation in key areas to make sure your insulation stays at peak performance through thick and thin! 

Note that some users report this vest running a bit large, so it’s worthwhile to read through their measurement descriptions and order accordingly. 

While this vest’s insulating powers may not hold up to the bleak midwinter chills, it still has a solid track record in its own niche. It’s therefore one of the best down vests out there for fall and spring day hikes and strolls about town.

Outdoor Research Transcendent

Specs
  • Fit: Boxy
  • Material: 20D Polyester
  • Fill Power: 650-Fill
  • Hood: No
  • Packable: No
  • Weather Resistance: Water And Wind Resistant
Features
  • Very Stylish Design And Color Options
  • Snazzy Snap Pockets And Zip Chest Pocket
  • Internal Media Pocket

BEST FOR: STYLISH VEST-WEAR      

It seems that the vest has recently been falling out of fashion, but the Transcendent injects fresh life into the world of stylish yet functional down vests. With a very sharp design and color options to match, this vest boasts large snap pockets and a trim fit that looks good from the city to the mountains. 

But the Transcendent isn’t just for show! The 650-fill down provides ample insulation for most cool weather adventures and the low profile design easily allows this garment to be worn under your coat for added warmth retention. The vest furthermore includes an internal media pocket to make it just as functional for those daily commutes. 

For such a powerful vest design, we really wish Outdoor Research has upped the fill power to perhaps the 750 or 800 mark to make this vest invincible in just about all temperatures. However, we’ll settle for the 650-fill down and a very swish design that makes this one of the best down vests to cut a dash on every occasion.

Columbia Flash Forward

Specs
  • Fit: Trim, Long
  • Material: 100% Polyester
  • Fill Power: 650-Fill
  • Hood: No
  • Packable: Yes, fits in hand pocket
  • Weather Resistance: Water Resistant With Columbia Heat Seal To Reduce Water Penetration
Features
  • Packs Down Into Its Own Pocket
  • Very Shiny And Sleek Appearance
  • Long Design Suited For Tall Men

BEST FOR: TALLER GENTLEMEN 

There’s almost nothing worse than slipping into a new top where everything is just perfect, except it ends awkwardly high right around your waistline, right? Well you tall gents out there have nothing to worry about with the Columbia Flash Forward. The cut for this particular item distinctly favors the long side, making it an ideal choice for the ‘can you reach the top shelf?’ folks out there. You know who you are. 

But catering to the tall isn’t the Flash Forward’s only strength. The 650-fill down provides excellent insulation while the slimmer profile makes it easy to slip into any layering system. Columbia’s Heat Seal technology furthermore eliminates seams between the baffles – down filled pockets – which in turn reduces avenues for water to seep in. 

This Heat Seal combined with the standard weather resistance finish has resulted in a distinctly shiny appearance for the Flash Forward. We believe this to be a very acquired taste, so look closely before ordering! 

All in all, this is a solid item that is certainly the best down vest for taller gentlemen looking for a warm layer on their adventures.

Cotopaxi Fuego

Specs
  • Fit: Boxy
  • Material: 20D Ripstop Nylon
  • Fill Power: 950-Fill
  • Hood: No
  • Packable: Yes, comes w/ separate stuff sack
  • Weather Resistance: Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Finish
Features
  • Two Interior Stash Pockets
  • Drawcord Adjustable Hem
  • Very Warm Insulation

BEST FOR: EXCEPTIONAL INSULATION FOR VERY COLD DAYS 

At an impressive 950-fill, the Fuego has some of the highest insulation powers of any down vest on the list, making it your perfect sidekick for any cold weather adventures this winter. It functions perfectly as your primary outer layer on slightly cool days, or as an additional layer under your coat on those very cold occasions. 

What’s more, the adjustable drawcord hem allows you to lock in that heat anytime conditions dictate, and the DWR finish will help keep rain and snow from soaking in. The two interior stash pockets are also very handy for keeping your essentials safe and tucked away while skiing, hiking, or simply walking around town. 

We’re also very taken with the attractive color schemes that are available for the Fuego, making it a slick choice for a night out as well as skiing in the mountains. The premium insulation combined with a durable yet attractive nylon shell therefore makes the Fuego the last but certainly not least on our list of the best down vests.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING DOWN VESTS

INSULATION AND FILL POWER

The fill power number is the primary indicator you have for a down garment’s insulating ability, but what exactly does the number mean? That number, generally anywhere from 500 to 900, is the number of cubic inches of loft that a single ounce of that particular down compresses down to.

The higher the number, the greater the insulating capacity of that particular vest. For more information about how the fill power test is conducted and how fill power can affect your warmth, check out this article from REI.

 

VEST CUT – TRIM VS. BOXY

The thought of a down vest likely brings an image of those huge puffy garments that are delightfully reminiscent of the pillsbury dough-boy. These classic vests are indeed very warm and have terrific insulation, but are just too boxy and bulky to be practical when climbing, mountaineering, hiking, or completing any outdoor adventure activity. That’s why boxy vests are best suited for wearing around town, or short day hikes in cold weather.

But these days, the boxy cut isn’t your only option anymore. More and more outdoor gear manufacturers are shifting to a much more athletic cut down vest that has a significantly slimmer profile than their boxy brothers. These vests are your ideal layering option to wear under a coat, or stand alone in only slightly cool weather.

Therefore consider why you need a down vest, and pick out the best style from there based on your own personal preference. If you’re an avid outdoor adventurer who needs minimal bulk but significant insulation, opt for an athletic (or trim) cut vest designed for winter escapades. If, on the other hand, you need a cozy vest to wear around town, then the more puffy/boxy version may be for you.

 

BUDGET

The plethora of different styles and features associated with the best down vests unfortunately drives a wide range of prices. Premium down vests that are designed for maximum warmth retention and durability for high-intensity activities are often head-and-shoulders more expensive than their less fancy cousins.

Consider your intended use very carefully and plan your budget accordingly before deciding which vest is right for you. Spending $250 for a down vest designed for the mountains but only using it to drive to and from work is a cringe worthy waste of your hard-earned money. There are plenty of very warm and functional vests available at very accessible prices. But if you are planning to put your down vest through the wringer, then by all means go for the best.

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

MATERIAL DURABILITY

The outer shell of the vast majority of down vests is either nylon or polyester. These lightweight materials easily keep the down where it should be, and resist general use wear and tear. This material’s thickness is measured in deniers and the larger the number, the thicker the material – i.e. a 20D nylon is thinner than a 40D. Thick materials typically indicate increased durability, along with increased weight.

However, if you’re taking your new down vest climbing, or up into the mountains, or on a hiking trip, then a heavier but more resilient material may well be worth the extra cost and added bulk. But regardless of the thickness, a nick or tear or dirty smear is almost inevitable. Check out Backcountry’s advice on how to properly care for your vest in order to keep it in tip-top shape.

WEATHERPROOFING

Almost all adventurers agree that down’s achilles heel is moisture. Down works so well by trapping air inside the garment, and therefore creating a warm buffer between you and the elements. But if the down was to get wet it would collapse and clump up, and therefore remove your warm air pockets.

Many of the best down vests therefore feature some level of weather resistance in order to keep the rain and snow at bay. This most often takes form as a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish that will add at least some water resistance to the outer material. It’s important to note that this DWR finish may need a boost from time to time, and REI has excellent advice on how to care for and reapply this DWR coating.

PACKABILITY

One of the many benefits of down is that it squishes down very easily for transport, and then pops back up without losing any of it’s fluffy insulating characteristics. Many manufacturers will therefore include a stuff sack with their down vest for you to pack it down into. This is a very handy feature to look out for, and definitely makes it easy to stash your down vest in a bag for a day out in the elements.

Lacking this stuff sack, many down vests can simply be packed into one of their own pockets until you need it!

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