9 Ways to Get Your Fluff From Ethically Sourced Down
This winter, pick a jacket that won’t sacrifice performance
Lightweight, compressible, and warm, down is without doubt the top choice when it comes to packable, practical winter jackets. But that sought-after fluff doesn't always have ethical origins, as the ducks and geese providing our coveted down are often subjected to some pretty horrifying abuses.
Enter the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), an involuntary program for suppliers. With RDS, a third party audits each stage of gear companies’ supply chain to ensure the animals' welfare. The standard ensures that birds aren’t live-plucked or force-fed, and that they’re treated well overall. Major apparel companies, like The North Face and Columbia, have signed on. How do we know? Their products sport an easy-to-spot blue RDS logo.
Here’s a look at some of the best-performing down jackets on the market—both new releases and reliable standbys—made with ethically sourced feathers.
One of Columbia’s best-performing down jackets is also its most eco-friendly. The OutDry EX ECO Down Jacket ($280) is an impressive creation: It’s waterproof and exceptionally breathable, thanks to Columbia’s proprietary OutDry technology. The 700-fill jacket is constructed out of recycled materials and made without PFCs, which are commonly used in waterproof jackets but are linked with harmful heath consequences. It’s also dye-free (though keep in mind, this circumstance does limit color choices to white and charcoal). Other bona fides include a detachable hood, zippered hand pockets, and a waistline drawcord. Plus, this jacket is heat-sealed rather than stitched, which boosts its warmth and waterproof factors.
Helly Hansen’s Verglas Hooded Down Insulator ($280) can keep you warm and dry on its own, or as a layer beneath other outerwear. The 700-fill jacket is cozy and comfortable, with a dropped hem that keep hips and butts warm. The hood and cuffs are rimmed with Lycra edging, which comfortably fit around the skin and help keep moisture out. This jacket’s two spacious outer pockets easily accommodate hands and belongings simultaneously. The pockets’ zippers blend seamlessly into the jacket’s construction, making them almost invisible—so they don’t detract from the coat’s sleek look.
As the name might suggest, REI’s Stormhenge 850 Down Jacket ($249), made for men and women, can take a beating. This jacket’s two-layer waterproof, breathable shell keeps those feathers dry in inclement weather. Even the down itself has been treated with durable water repellant (DWR) for further protection. The jacket also makes use of a feature commonly found on rain shells: zippered armpit vents, to help you better regulate body temperature. Other features include zippered pockets at the chest and hips, adjustable wrist cuffs, an insulated hood, and seam-free shoulders (to stave off chafing while you’re wearing a pack).
Mammut’s Broad Peak ($299) 800-fill jacket has a number of appealing aspects beyond its RDS certification. The jacket, available in women’s and men’s versions, packs into its left pocket and provides exceptional warmth for its 0.84-pound weight. It’s water-repellant, thanks to a proprietary outer shield, and constructed sans PFCs. The Broad Peak is also bluesign-certified, which signals a sustainable supply chain. This jacket was designed to see some serious action: its zippers stay out of the way of a backpack or climbing harness, and the hem drawstring can be adjusted with one hand.
Available exclusively through REI, Mountain Hardwear’s 800-fill Super/DS Stretchdown ($275) is a great hybrid urban-outdoors product, thanks to elements like a headphones cord port, a close-fitting hood that doesn’t restrict peripheral vision, and zippered hand pockets that afford easy access even while you’re wearing a climbing harness. Perhaps its most impressive quality is the use of stretchy fabric, which allows for greater range of motion and comfort. For its high warmth factor, the jacket is also fairly breathable.
Cotopaxi’s increasingly smart-looking selection of outdoor-oriented apparel gets a boost from the Fuego Down Jacket ($250). Boasting 800-fill water resistant-down and a DWR exterior finish, the jacket—made for women and men—looks sharp and performs well in the elements. The Fuego packs down small, and there’s even a stuff sack included in your purchase. Various pockets—two interior and two zippered exterior—help you stay organized. Elastic binding at the hood and cuffs further customize the fit. As a Certified B-Corp that donates two percent of its revenue to anti-poverty efforts, Cotopaxi’s heart is in the right place, too.
Outdoor Research has a winner in its Floodlight ($395) jacket. Made for men and women, it’s loaded with notable features, including thorough waterproofing and windproofing thanks to bonded channels and a proprietary shield. This jacket works well as a versatile outer layer that can be made warmer with additional layering underneath. It packs down small and weighs a relatively modest 20 ounces—slightly heavier than some coats, but still stowable in a pack. The women’s version is designed as a slightly longer parka, while the men’s version is a standard hip-length jacket.
Climbers tend to gravitate toward the Summit L3 Propius Down Hoodie ($350) from The North Face, which comes in women’s and men’s versions. The 800-fill jacket, treated with DWR, is intended as a mid-layer. Indeed, as a lightweight option for warm insulation, it can’t hold up in heavy precipitation. But this jacket packs down extremely small, and weighs just 12 ounces; it’s a great option for hauling into the backcountry. The North Face has made several adjustments that work well for climbers, like adding an exterior chest pocket that won’t interfere with a harness, and a helmet-compatible, adjustable hood.
Patagonia does responsible down its own way. The company uses a standard it created called Advanced Global Traceable Down, which gets third-party oversight from product certifier NSF International. Patagonia claims this one is even more rigorous than RDS. The company’s 800-fill Down Sweater Hoodie ($279), which comes in versions for women and men, boasts other eco boons, too: both the shell and the lining are recycled polyester ripstop treated with DRW. This coat has adjustment points at the hem and on the hood, to help it conform to your body, and a crafty internal pocket that doubles as a stuff sack.