How to choose a down jacket: the ultimate guide

If you thought buying a down jacket was just about warmth, think again. With huge variations in price, features and quality it can be intimidating. And that's even before any of the technical lingo.

Buying any technical equipment like this can a big investment, and that's especially true of down jackets that can easily run into the £100s. If you buy the right one, and look after it, you can expect it to last for many years to come. So...

Don't just buy any jacket, buy the right jacket.


The first and most important consideration is how and where you'll use the jacket. The use case informs everything else from warmth to fit to pack size and weight to other features like pockets, zips and the hood.

Are you trekking? You'll probably want a small pack size and low weight, so as higher fill power (FP) as you can afford.

Are you going on an expedition or somewhere really, really cold? You won't need it to be so packable and absolute warmth is the key. You'll probably want a box wall construction (rather than stitch through baffles), at least in the body if not everywhere.

Are you climbing? You'll probably want harness-friendly hand pockets, a helmet-compatible hood, snag-free hem adjustment, a two way zip, a more durable outer to avoid rips from rocks and pre-shaped arms or elastic armpits to avoid the jacket riding up too much.

Are you standing on the side of a cold and wet sports pitch in winter? Consider synthetic insulation rather than down as it works better when wet, and a longer, parka-style jacket might be more suitable.

Are you just using it for commuting and everyday general use? You probably don't need the most technical or packable jacket so you can probably afford to compromise on fill power and weight.

Fill power

Fill power, also known as loft and abbreviated to FP, is a measure of the quality of the down.

Technically, it indicates how much space 1oz of down will fill, measured in cubic inches, or CUIN.

But what does that mean in practice? The higher the fill power, the higher the loft, the more air is trapped, the warmer it is, and the more compressible it is.

High fill power sounds great doesn't it? Well, it is, but you pay for it. High fill power, eg in the 850-1000, is usually only reserved for the most specialist gear

Jackets usually sit between about 550 FP (like the North Ridge Men's Tech Down Jacket) up to 1000 (like the Rab Zero G Jacket), with 850-1000 usually reserved for only the most specialist gear.

As a rough guide:

  • 500-650
  • 650-800
  • 850-1000 is usually reserved for the most specialist gear, where you need the highest warmth to weight ratio and minimum pack size.
View our fill power guide


Two weights to consider.

Fill weight

Amount of down. Equates to warmth, in combination with fill power. The more down the warmer.

Total weight

Including everything. Features add up. For example, velcro, pockets and zips, cords etc.

Down to feather ratio

Higher the better 90/10.

the feathers are there to provide a little extra structure so the soft down clusters can fully loft under the weight of the shell materials

Reflective inner

Stuff sack

Separate. Or pocket. Or hood.


Parka? Downside weight/climbing.


Outer material. Windproof. Ripstop. Denier.


Two way. Ventilation. Pit zips, usually only on ski focussed.


Chest/napoleon. Hand warmers. Height - harness/backpack compatible. Lined, down outside. Inside pocket. Net pocket - goggles. Ski pass pocket.


Helmet compatible. Cinching. Peak. Detachable.

Waterproof or not

Eg valiance. Pros vs cons.


Hybrid insulation

Other features

Hem cinch. Thumb loops. Cohesive cordlocks. Pit zips.