Down is the fluffy, insulating layer found under the feathers of ducks and geese. This layer keeps these animals warm even in freezing water and, because of this, it is used to make warm winter jackets and coats. High quality down coats are a lot better than synthetic insulation coats; in fact, they are usually lighter and bulkier and are also warmer than their synthetic counterparts.
It is, however, difficult to choose a quality down coat because of the high number of products on the market, and getting one can be quite expensive. You don’t have to fret, though, because this guide has been put together to help you in making your decision.
Of course, it is expected that not everyone will have the same budget for a down coat. You can get a good budget waterproof coat for around or below $100, and you will find premium models at about $300 and above - but they can go up to several hundred dollars or nearly a grand.
What features should I consider in a budget waterproof down coat?
Your coat could be made from either animal down or synthetic down. Synthetic down coats are usually cheaper than the natural down, and they are generally better insulators when wet. Natural down coats, however, have better compression, so they are easier to pack when travelling, and they tend to be more comfortable and feel lighter. They also have a superior warmth-to-weight ratio.
Down coats usually come in hooded and non-hooded versions. The non-hooded coats are usually slightly lighter and less expensive than the hooded coats, though the trade-off is the extra comfort and warmth you would be missing. Therefore, if you are looking for a budget down coat, you can start your search with the non-hooded ones, and instead wear a hat if you get cold easily.
The fit is very important when getting a down coat. However, this varies drastically from brand to brand. Some brands are quite slim in how they fit while some others are boxy. More athletic people generally prefer the slim fit, as it offers a wider range of motion. But sometimes there is a trade-off between a slim fit and extra warmth.
What are the more advanced features that I should consider in a high-end waterproof down coat?
Natural down feathers lose their insulation ability when they get soaking wet, making them unusable in very rainy conditions. They are also incredibly difficult to dry. To tackle this problem, manufacturers now add a polymer to it before they fill the coat. This results in a coat that is water resistant, although some don't match the water-resistant properties of the synthetic down. It is, therefore, vital that your high-end down coat offers you a significant level of waterproofing on the external shell of the jacket.
Compression is one of the most significant features of down, and users love it for this particular feature. Many down coats can be stuffed into small sized backpacks, making them easy to transport. Compression is, however, affected by the fill power; the higher the fill power, the higher the compression ability of the coat. Hence, high-end down coats have better compression than the entry to mid-level ones.
The weight of your down coat is an important feature that requires your consideration before making a purchase. You don’t want to go mountain climbing or skiing with a coat that adds significant weight to the already heavy gear that you'll be carrying. The ratio of fill weight to total weight as well as the Denier (the measurement of the weight of the thread used) should be considered.
Manufacturers use DWR (Durable Water Repellant) to treat down in order to improve the water-resistant quality of the down. This treatment disallows water droplets from staying on the outside layer and entering the fabric. Hydrophobic down refers to down that is coated in DWR, and they make excellent waterproof coats.
The major sources of down are geese, ducks, and to a lesser degree, turkey and marabou stork. Goose down is, however, the preferred choice of down, as it is considered the best quality down clusters.
The quality of down is measured in fill power (600-fill, 700-fill, 800-fill, etc.) and the higher the value of fill, the better the quality of the down. Most entry to mid-level down models have a fill power ranging from about 550 – 650-fill, while premium down is about 800-fill and above.
It is essential that you get a coat that fits you perfectly to have a comfortable experience. Some questions you need to ask are “Can I raise my hand comfortably? Can I close the coat easily? Does it feel right on my body?" If the answer to any of these questions is "no", then you need to get a coat that fits you better. It's also important to consider any bulky layers that you may want to wear under your coat, such as sweaters.
Arc’teryx is a popular manufacturer of outdoor clothing, and the Thorium SV Hoody is one of their high-end products. This down coat is made from soft, durable, face fabric that withstands abrasion easily. The DWR finish means you can use the coat even in wet conditions. It offers you two zippered pockets, one internal zippered pocket, and an internal dump pocket. With this coat, you don’t have to worry about it fitting well, as it uses complex gussets and anatomical shaping to eliminate bulk and enhance motion. This coat is on the pricey side though, which is understandable considering its features.
Arc'teryx decided to captivate with the Thorium SV Hoody down coat by strategically using synthetic insulation alongside the down to give you a more comfortable experience. It is also filled with 750-fill goose down, which is quite impressive and adds to the overall comfort. The Coreloft feature used in the hoody is also unique and allows the coat to retain its warmth even in wet and humid conditions.
Eddie Bauer is a century-old clothing manufacturer with a ton of quality products to their name. The EverTherm down coat from Eddie Bauer has a simple streamlined design that offers you warmth without any puff. At first glance, you may have doubts about its capabilities because it is pretty lightweight, but it offers a high level of warmth even at very low temperatures. It is made from 100 percent nylon and can be machine washed. This coat has elastic binding at the cuffs that help seal out cold. To top it all off, you get all of these features at a very competitive price.
The unique Thindown fabric used in this down coat is considered to be the best natural insulator gram-for-gram. This down coat makes walking in the rain comfortable because of the StormRepel Duper DWR, which is a long lasting moisture repellent. The ultra-light nature of the coat also means you can easily pack it and carry it around with you, and you don’t have to worry about any discomfort from extended use.
Rab is a manufacturing company renowned for over 30 years of producing high-quality outdoor gear. The Rab Vailance is one of the latest products on their long list of top quality products. It is made from face fabric, Pertex shield material, and it is 100 percent nylon. This down coat is also made from hydrophobic material, making it resistant to moisture. The zippers feature leak-proof seals that can allow you to stay out in the cold for very long periods. The Rab Vailance is one of the more expensive coats on the market, though you will find the numerous features useful.
The Rab Vailance has an impressive 800-fill power, which contributes immensely to its lightweight nature and overall comfort. The insulated hoody can be zipped up, and you can easily adjust the hem with a drawcord, giving you an increased level of protection from the cold. It also comes with a stuff sack for easy packing and transportation, and the goose down is RDS certified.
The Rab Valiance is a real top of the line product that offers a lot of nice features with very little drawbacks. Perhaps the most significant flaw is the armhole that runs high, making it an uncomfortable fit for some users. Some users have also complained about the size of the coat, which is quite big when compared to some other coats in its price range.
When it comes to striking a good balance between weight and warmth, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is one of the best options on the market. This down coat is made from 100 percent nylon, and it is lightweight too. The Nikwax Hydrophobic down guarantees a comfortable use in wet conditions, and it has an impressive 800-fill power, which contributes to its super lightweight design. The Ghost Whisperer zips into its own pocket for easy and compact storage. For the price range, it does offer some impressive features.
The hydrophobic fabric on this down coat means it is resistant to moisture, though it will eventually give in to moisture in prolonged exposure. Having a 7D by 10D weave means this coat is super lightweight and it doesn’t compromise on durability, which is quite impressive considering its weight. Although this coat doesn’t have a chest pocket, it does have two nicely sized hand pockets for more comfort. The Ghost Whisperer has an impressive level of compressibility, so you can easily stuff it into a pack.
Although this coat is high end, it does have a few flaws. The down coat is not windproof, which is a result of its light weight. Also, the front zipper can sometimes prove difficult to use. Some users have complained about the hood not staying in place, especially in conditions with strong winds, which comes as no surprise as it doesn't come with a hood cinch.
The Columbia OutDry Ex Eco down coat is a waterproof coat made from a breathable membrane. The storm hood is easily adjustable for protection and comfort and the zippered pockets serve as excellent storage spaces for your essential items. The sleeves on this coat have cuff adjustments, so you can easily adjust the fit around your wrists depending on your preference. You can also adjust the fit of the down coat using the drawcord provided at the hem. This coat weighs about 17 ounces, which is more on the heavier side considering the fact that you can get lighter coats in the same price range.
Breathability and waterproofing are the two most impressive features of this down coat. The coat offers a lot more resistance to moisture than many other coats you would find on the market. The storm hood is fitted with an adjustment system, so you can adjust the fit around your face and head without breaking a sweat. The venting system added under the arms is another unique feature that improves the overall user experience. The PU coated zipper also blocks out cold and wet conditions. Overall, the Columbia OutDry Ex Eco is an impressive product.
One of its biggest advantages also turned out to be a major flaw. This coat is not suitable for use in warm weathers, as the thick material can cause overheating at temperatures above 45-50 degrees. It is also quite heavy, which makes packing and transportation tedious business. The large hood has also become an issue for some users.
The Orolay Women's down coat put to bed the claim that women's coats are not usually stylish. This down coat offers a great deal of warmth without sacrificing style. This coat is made from 90 percent duck down and 10 percent feathers, which is quite exclusive to the Orolay Women’s. The hood on this coat features faux fur that adds to the style while giving you that extra warmth. You can also decide to trim the faux fur if you so desire. The coat has a zipper running down the middle, which contributes to the overall look. This down coat is affordable especially when you consider the features it offers.
The Orolay Women’s is a well-designed down coat that offers a considerable level of warmth. The faux fur further increases the level of warmth and comfort offered. The coat is also popular among women because of the slim shape. It pulls tighter at the middle and fans out at the thigh and hips, adding to the looks of the wearer. This down coat also features zips at the side, which can be adjusted for a more comfortable use. The coat is windproof, water resistant, and lightweight, making it a great choice at a competitive price.
One of the most significant issues that users have with this coat is the fact that it seems cheaply sewn, making the whole thing fall apart pretty easily. Also, the zipper gets stuck occasionally, which can be a bit frustrating. Some users have questioned the waterproofing capabilities of the coat, as it gets soaked quite easily.
The North Face is an outdoor gear and active wear manufacturing company that has been around for over 50 years. The Women's Arctic Parka is one of their more reputable products on the market. This down coat features a removable hood with zip-off faux fur for more warmth and comfort. The coat has a 550-fill power down, which is not really a jaw dropper. The internal pocket has a media loop for holding your smartphone or mp3 player. The material is made from 59 percent cotton and 41 percent nylon. The Women's Arctic Parka is decently priced for its features.
This down coat features an encased elastic on the side of the waist, which adds a unique stretchy fit. You can decide to wear the split hem open or snap it shut. The internal pocket that provides easy storage for your smartphone or mp3 player makes it a popular choice among users. The removable hood is a feature that is not often found in down coats. You can remove the hood and wear the coat in warmer weather, thereby increasing the functionality of the coat.
Overall, the Women's Arctic Parka is a top choice among users. It does, however, have a few flaws, though they aren't deal breakers. The coat provides a reasonable level of warmth but it is not adequate for use in warmer temperatures. The fabric under the zipper sometimes gets caught in the zipper, which makes for a bit of frustration. The down looks quite big and bulky, and some users have even recommended that it come with a belt for a better fit.
The Ex Gold is another product from Columbia OutDry. Just like the Ex Eco, it is made from breathable material and it offers a reasonable level of waterproofing. This coat has a 650-fill power goose down that makes it lightweight and easily compressible. The material is made from 100 percent polyester lining and it has zippers at the front and hand pockets to help secure your items. This down coat features a drawcord that makes the hem adjustable. The Ex Gold is a bit more expensive than the Ex Eco but it makes up for it in terms of features offered.
The Ex Gold is the very first waterproof rainwear with a soft, wicking fabric inside, and a tough membrane outside. The hem can be adjusted quickly using a drawcord, and likewise the hood was made to be easily adjustable. The adjustable hem and hood make for a more comfortable use while doing a great job keeping the cold out.
Some users have complained about the fact that the coat feels large and blocky, and it doesn’t fit perfectly. Also, the overall durability has been an issue as the coat starts to break apart after just a few months of use. This down coat doesn’t feature any internal pockets, which is quite disappointing especially when you consider the fact that many coats in its price range offer this feature.
The Microlight Alpine is another top product from Rab, an experienced outdoor gear manufacturer. This down coat boasts a 750-fill power European goose down that makes it lightweight and gives it its high compressibility. The helmet-compatible hood adds to the overall comfort and increases the level of warmth offered. The hydrophobic down makes it water resistant, so you can use your coat in wet conditions. Another feature that endears users to the coat is the elasticated cuffs that add to the overall comfort of using the Microlight Alpine. This coat is reasonably priced and it doesn't lag behind in terms of features offered.
Just as the name implies, the Rab Microlight Alpine is a lightweight coat and the 750-fill power down means it has a very high level of compressibility. All these make using it a painless experience, as you can easily pack it for your camping and hiking trips. The hydrophobic down makes it an excellent choice for wet weather conditions and the chin guard is a feature unique to this coat.
Although the Microlight Alpine is a popular choice among users, Rab could have made the product a much better fit around the waist. Also, the coat doesn’t come with inside pockets, which is quite discouraging, though not a deal breaker. Some users have complained about the underarm getting really warm due to the fact that the coat doesn’t have a fill zoning.
Marmot is a manufacturer of outdoor gear and clothing with a good number of products to their name. The Montreux is one of their top quality down coats that is quite comfortable to wear and offers a good amount of warmth. It features interior drop pocket as well as interior zippered pockets for keeping various items. The 700-fill power down is pretty good, although you will find coats with higher fill power. The zip-off hood has removable faux fur that increases the level of comfort and warmth you get with the coat. This women’s coat is made from 100 percent polyester and it comes at an affordable price.
One of the major selling points of the Marmot Montreux is the microfleece-lined zip handwarmer pocket, which gives you an added level of comfort that you would hardly find in any other coat. The internal cuffs and torso are also lined with microfleece, making the coat one of the best choices for comfort. The coat is also easy to pack as the 700-fill power down gives it a good level of compressibility. The Marmot down defender is a feature unique to the product, and it prevents down clump when exposed to moisture.
Although this down coat offers some interesting and unique features, some issues often come up among users. The zipper sometimes gets stuck in the fabric, making it difficult to use the zipper. Although the coat offers a good level of warmth, some users have complained about it being too tight around the chest. The hood doesn’t stay on, and the coat does not have a drawcord to help with this.
Going camping, hiking, mountain climbing, or any other outdoor activity can be such a great experience, especially with the right gear. Taking a down coat along on your adventures is non-negotiable, and it is essential you get a coat that would be easy to pack, is lightweight, and will offer you a high level of warmth and comfort. There are numerous types of down coats on the market, so depending on your budget, you can go for a high-quality premium model or a more prudent, budget-friendly coat. If you are thinking of getting a down coat for your next trip, this guide is a good place to start your search.