When you’re caught in winter weather or arctic conditions, it is imperative to wear a down jacket that keeps you warm and protected from the elements. Packable down jackets in particular are a favored choice by backpackers and arctic-dwellers alike for their incredible effectiveness and versatility. By combining lighter weights with sleeker profiles, these jackets allow you to travel more easily without sacrificing the essential qualities of a good jacket. Stuff it into your bag without a worry when you’re on the go, and feel comfortable enough to move around when you’re outside.
Here are five key factors to keep in mind when you’re buying your next jacket.
When it comes to warmth, there are two main factors to consider. The first is insulation. Goose down is undoubtedly the best insulator on the planet, making it a popular component in jackets, blankets, pillows, and other such things. Down clusters trap heat while allowing the material itself to breathe, and the fill resists damage from compression that results from stuffing it in your backpack. The amount of down needed to keep you warm makes up just a fraction of the weight that other materials would require. In addition, its loftiness means that you can compress it into smaller spaces than you would be able to with fleece or synthetic materials.
The next thing to consider after insulation is fill power. Because lighter jackets contain less down, they need a higher fill power to compensate and maintain the same level of warmth. The fill power rating value is calculated by measuring how many cubic inches an ounce of down creates at its maximum loft. A higher rating is better, meaning that it takes less down, less weight, and less space to keep you warm. Typical jackets have a rating between 400 and 600, with luxury products approaching 800 or more. We recommend jackets with a rating of at least 550. To learn more, check out our guide to down jacket warmth.
Between the wintery elements and everyday wear and tear, packable down jackets can take a beating. Some lightweight down jackets use ripstop fabrics to prevent ripping and tearing. These fabrics are woven using a special technique that make small tears difficult to spread.
The drawbacks of ripstop fabrics are that they can trap moisture too close to the skin and lose some of their toughness with prolonged exposure to sunlight. Another option for down jackets is to include a slightly thicker fabric without sacrificing much weight. The Triple F.A.T. Goose “Logan” packable down jacket features a slightly thicker fabrication than conventional ultra-lightweight down jackets for added durability. Along with a 750 fill power rating and premium YKK zippers, the Logan jacket will last for years to come.
Even the best down jackets can occasionally leak a small amount of down, but it should never be excessive. By including down-proof coating or an inner down bag, jackets can prevent down leakage and remain in their original condition. This is particularly important in lightweight down jackets as their fabrics are typically very thin and more prone to leakage.
Down proof coating is typically applied on the back layer of fabrication, while an inner down bag uses extra layers of fabric to contain the down. Keeping the down fill in its original condition will ensure that you won’t have to purchase a new jacket every year.
We’ve all experienced pesky zippers that get stuck and eventually break. Some lightweight down jackets include small zipper teeth that are difficult to zip up and down, making them more prone to breakage. Quality lightweight down jackets prevent this problem by making larger zipper teeth or by using zippers from reliable brands like YKK. Higher-quality jackets might also give you the option to include extra ventilation, cuffs, and different linings throughout the interior.
A jacket is only as good as its fit. If it’s too loose, air will seep in. If it’s too tight, it will constrict the loft and stop you from adding extra layers if necessary. The ability to add and remove layers according to the weather is what makes lightweight packable down jackets so versatile. When trying on a jacket, consider how it will fit in very cold conditions while wearing other layers like a sweater underneath. The best jackets will feel comfortable both alone and when accompanied by additional layers.
Traveling light doesn’t mean that you have to forego your safety and comfort. With packable down jackets, you can stay warm without the trouble of a bulky jacket. Whether in your bag or on your body, a good packable jacket will be an investment you won’t regret.