Down Jackets for Winter
Outdoor Research Maestro Jacket
$325, 1 lb. 5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL
On January nights that dipped into the low teens during a four-day yurt trip, this fat, 800+-fill power, hooded down jacket was so warm I could hang around outside for hours in the evenings and early mornings, staying perfectly warm. At a bit under a pound and a half, it’s a burly puffy jacket made for very cold situations: ice-climbing belays, winter camping, or all-day backcountry ski tours on frigid days when you need a super-warm puffy for breaks (or even just inside your pack as an insurance policy in an emergency). The down is packed into baffles for even insulation. The two hand pockets with stretch binding warmed my numbed fingers almost instantly after I was shooting photos in freezing temps with bare hands. The adjustable hood stays put in wind, has a brim to help keep blowing snow off your face, and is sewn in behind the collar, so that the collar covers your neck even when the hood is dropped. The water-resistant Pertex Quantum shell fabric repelled falling snow. The jacket has a longer cut than the Rab Infinity Jacket, and two big mesh cargo pockets on the inside—ideal for drying damp gloves or socks. It stuffs into a sack (not provided) that’s 12x5x5 inches—kind of bulky, but that’s the cost for super warmth.
Rab Infinity Jacket
$224, 15 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: Men’s S-XXL, women’s 8-16
The search for the right winter puffy jacket comes down to finding the perfect balance between warmth and minimal weight and bulk, and the Infinity hits a sweet spot in that regard. Using it while backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, it kept me warm during lunch breaks in cold wind, without adding much weight or bulk to my pack, thanks to 850-fill power down, some of the lightest and warmest feathers available, and lightweight but durable, 10-denier Pertex Quantum GL shell fabric. The stitch-through baffle construction keeps down from shifting. The jacket has two nice hand-warmer pockets, and the thick hood, although not adjustable, has a stretchy edge that keeps all but the strongest gusts from blowing it off your head. The jacket comes with a stuff sack and packs down to about 9.5x6x5.5 inches, more compact than the Outdoor Research Maestro Jacket, though not quite as warm.