From Idaho’s Sawtooths to Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness and Washington’s Olympic Mountains, this full-zip down jacket proved surprisingly warm for its weight in temperatures from the 40s down to a hair below freezing (with only one or two base layers underneath).
Ultralight Puffy MontBell EX Light Down Jacket
$190, 5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s S-XL montbell.us
Don’t ask: How lightweight can a down jacket be and still keep you warm? Instead, reframe the question: How light a puffy do you want and how does it fit into your layering system? With sewn-through construction to prevent down from migrating, elastic cuffs to seal out drafts, and no hand pockets, this jacket stuffed with just 1.8 ounces of premium, 900-fill down feathers is no fat puffy. But it’s a very light stand-alone insulation piece for mild summer temperatures, or a versatile middle layer in a system that you can customize for a variety of outdoor activities in any season.
Down Jackets for Winter Outdoor Research Maestro Jacket
$325, 1 lb. 5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL outdoorresearch.com
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).
I looked at this puffy jacket and thought, “Not gonna keep me warm. Too thin and light.” Wrong. From Washington’s North Cascades to Oregon’s Grand Ronde River and Idaho’s City of Rocks, I was toasty on windy, cool mornings down to the upper 30s. The lightweight, Primaloft One insulation doesn’t look Michelin Man fat, but is tops at trapping body heat.