Big, bulky down jackets are reassuringly hefty in the harshest winter weather. But they all have one critical design flaw: It's less less likely that you would bring such a jacket along on a camping or climbing expedition if it doesn't fit in your backpack—and the warmest jacket in the world can’t help it's left behind. Light, packable down jackets can function as both an insulating mid-layer and outerwear, as well as squeeze into a pocket after you’ve warmed up on your hike.
Trew Gear Polar Shift
Chris Pew’s Trew Gear is based in Hood River and Portland, Oregon, where wet, heavy snow has earned the nickname “Cascade cement.” It’s not surprising that Trew Gear’s Polar Shift uses PrimaLoft to resist moisture penetration to keep you warm and dry under the dampest and most unpredictable conditions. The soft, stylish jacket is also reversible and features thumb loops to keep wrists safe from inadvertent exposure. Available for $250.
Ibex Wool Aire Hoody
Ibex’s Merino wool garments are renowned for their warmth and lightness, and the Wool Aire Hoody is no exception. Although it feels soft and silky, the recycled nylon shell resists rips even when plunged directly into brambles and pricker bushes. And the wool wicks away moisture and stays warm even when wet, just like Ibex’s famed base layers. The insulated hood is adjustable, and the jacket is machine washable—a necessity for any garment that will spend as much time stuffed into dirty backpacks as on someone’s sweaty back. Available for $350.
Outdoor Research Halogen Hoody
The Halogen Hoody by Outdoor Research—made with PrimaLoft One insulation—is one of the best lightweight active jackets we’ve tried. The roomy, stretchy hood can fit a helmet and stretch panels under the arms allow for a huge range of motion. The trim fit looks stylish while walking to the corner store, and like our other selections, it packs down into a pocket as a stuff sack. Available for $199.
Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket
Founded by alpinist Rab Carrington in 1981 as a sleeping bag company, Rab’s durable down apparel (made specifically for the extreme conditions of high-altitude mountaineering) is loved by climbers everywhere. The slim-cut, stylish Microlight Alpine’s European goose down lining has been treated with both Rab and Nikwax’s special hydrophobic formulation to retain the down’s loft by resisting water absorption and drying faster when the weather really turns sour. Approximately $250 from selected retailers.
Images courtesy of their respective brands