Help choosing a down jacket

11:25 p.m. on November 17, 2013 (EST)
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I am about to buy my first down jacket and was in need of some help. I will be using this jacket mostly to be worn in around the city. I live in Chicago and am looking for a down jacket that will look good (not too bulky) and keep me warm during the winters. I have tried some jackets on and have narrowed it down to a few but am looking for a bit of advice.

In terms of lighter weight jackets I like the Patagonia down sweater and the Northface thunder.  I enjoy how they both look and feel but a concerned about whether they will be warm enought for Chicago winters (which can regularly be -15C. At northface, they talked about their new "pro" down which utilizes the part of the feather which retains warmth the best and therefore is warmer than most other 800 fill light downs. Can anyone comment on this.

If these wont cut it in terms of warmth, I also like the NF Nuptse 2 and Marmot Guides down. I would prefer the above as being less bulky but could live with either of these. any comments on which one people think is better.


Thanks for the help.

11:50 p.m. on November 17, 2013 (EST)
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I recently bought a new down jacket made by OR Outdoor Research the Men's Transcendent Hoody ,see it here:

I bought it both for looks and warmth. I ride my bicycle to work every morning 6 miles when its quite cold (was 22 yesterday at 6 am when I did) with a wind chill of about 7 degrees biking at 20 mph it kept me very warm.

I bought the color called Lemongrass with Evergreen color inside. It has two large zippered hand pockets outside and a left chest large zippered pocket too. The waist and hood have drawstrings that tighten both for around the head/face and waist. The cuffs are cut snug and it's front main zipper is windproof.

I recommend it for both style and comfort.

3:04 p.m. on November 18, 2013 (EST)
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Welcome to Trailspace.

For help in gear selection, Trailspace has a Forum called "Gear Selection". If you post your request there, you will get more answers. This forum is aimed at hints and tips on writing gear reviews.

The Pata down sweater by itself is a bit light for-15°F weather (and Chi is windy, too!). I have used my Pata down sweater in those temperatures, but layered with long johns and a wind shell (or a waterproof breathable shell if you have a range of temperatures that will include wet precipitation), and when windy at -15, I will another layer or go to a more bulky full-on down parka. I gather you aren't really looking for something for backpacking, skiing, or climbing, though.

Anyway, try over in Gear Selection. Maybe one of the Moderators can move the thread over there for you.

3:36 p.m. on November 18, 2013 (EST)
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Hi Jon,

Welcome to Trailspace! I've moved this thread over the Gear Selection forum. Selecting an insulating layer is important, but what you put over it to block the wind will be very important in Chicago. If you don't intend to take the jacket into the backcountry, you can get away with cheaper downs with lower fill power. However, if you're interested in a jacket that doesn't look as puffy, you'll need to resign yourself to something that isn't quite as warm. Loft and warmth are closely related, and a lot of the sleek, trim garments produced are designed to be worn by people producing a lot of heat skiing, climbing, hiking, etc..You probably won't have to be outside in it all day, but you probably won't be producing as much heat.

10:34 a.m. on November 19, 2013 (EST)
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Seth is and warmth are closely related...that is why everyone in Chicago wears the larger Michelin-Man parkas...baffled if they are a wise consumer.

I was able to use my quilted Montbell UL Parka when bicycling in Chicago all through the winter during the day...the down-proof fabric has a really tight weave and when used in combination with a DWR is fairly windproof. As far as looks is stitched in a way that it looks decidedly less Michelin-Man..but it was much too cold in Chicago to use the parka for walking at night...and during the coldest days.

11:59 a.m. on November 19, 2013 (EST)
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i think that a down sweater from any brand would not be adequate for Chicago winters.  for me, even the Marmot Guides might be a little less than what you may want for a cold, windy winter day or evening in Chicago.

the North Face Nuptse should be fine for your needs.  seems to me that what you are looking at, from the different jackets you identified, are down jackets that are reasonably warm,  reasonably but not incredibly light weight, and reasonably priced.  there are a number of options out there in that range, many of which you might find at a discount on websites like Sierra Trading Post, Campmor, or the or clearance sites.  down jackets in this range will mostly be 650 or 700 fill power; have basic things like pockets for your hands; and may or may not have a good, warm hood.  in terms of style, that's personal preference.


-the LL Bean goose down jacket. 

-the Outdoor Research Virtuoso

-the Mountain Hardear Kelvinator

-the Marmot Ama Dablum. 

if you step up a bit in price, you can find some down jackets that are lighter in weight (comparable to some down sweaters, actually) yet as warm or warmer than the jackets above, because they use lighter-weight shell materials, smart design, and fluffier down.  you will usually pay a more for them as a result.   (note - RAB and feathered friends size a little small, so most people i know choose one size larger than they normally would).  the mountain hardwear jacket, for whatever reason, seems to show up at really great discounts on the web - i bought one of these for around $150 a year or two ago, less than full retail on a patagonia down sweater.  examples:

-mountain hardwear hooded phantom

-RAB infinity jacket

-feathered friends helios jacket

-western mountaineering meltdown jacket

11:42 a.m. on November 20, 2013 (EST)
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Wow, thanks everyone for the great replies, I will definitely look into your recommendations. Can anyone comment on TNF micro Thunder with the "proDown" Can anyone speak to whether it is truly "as warm as the Nuptse 2" as I was told in the store. The reason why I am focusing on this jacket is because I actually tried it on in store and no that it fits well, which is a huge advantage over having to order things online and not have them fit. 

Thanks for all the responses.

1:45 p.m. on November 20, 2013 (EST)
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I am a huge Montbell fan. I have the Alpine Light Down Parka and it is incredibly warm and wind-resistant and only weighs 13 oz. It is substantially warmer than my Patagonia Down Sweater. However, if you are looking for something even more warm, you might want to look at the Mirage Parka or the warmest, the Permafrost Down Parka. They are all pretty reasonably priced, as well.

Good luck!

1:50 p.m. on November 20, 2013 (EST)
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-i doubt the 'prodown' makes the jacket much warmer - unless it gets wet.  that treatment is supposed to make the down somewhat less likely to collapse and lose insulating value if it gets wet. 

-whether one jacket is 'as warm as' another is subjective.  in general, a high-loft down sweater probably insulates more efficiently but still isn't going to be as warm as a heavier, less efficient, but puffier jacket.  the real question is, will it be warm enough for you.  

i'm not a person who usually gets cold, and having spent a few winters in Chicago, I would be fine with the thunder micro or an equivalent down sweater, as a stand-alone jacket, most of the time.  it probably wouldn't be enough for me on those really nasty days when it storms or the wind is blasting off Lake Michigan.  but worn over a good insulating base layer,under a wind or rain shell, with a good hat, probably fine......on the other hand, if you are one of those people who gets cold a lot, maybe err on the side of the heavier puffy jacket.

-finally, don't underestimate the importance of how it fits, or the fact that the thinner puffy jacket makes layering (wearing under a shell in lousy weather) easier. 

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