Featherweight down jackets have become the insulation layer of choice among many of our editors and testers. The reason? Insanely light weight, tiny packed size, and more insulation than you’d think possible. Convection heat loss through wind accounts for nearly half of the heat lost when you’re outside, and radiation losses account for upwards of another 30 percent. By blocking the wind with a tough but light 30-denier nylon shell, then trapping heat with lofty 800-fill down, most of that heat loss can be contained.
The Alpine Light Down Parka’s hood traps in all that warm air trying to escape around your neck and puts it to good use. After dragging this jacket through rough, gritty sandstone slots in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park, our testers were surprised that such a light jacket could handle those rugged conditions. It’s not warm enough for truly frigid conditions, but is perfect for nearly everything else. In fact, because it packs so much warmth in such a tiny package, and because we couldn’t find any other hooded puffy at a price like this, we gave it our Editors’ Choice Award for 2011. A slightly tailored fit accommodates layering underneath. $185; 12.4 oz. (w’s M); w’s S-XL, m’s S-XXL; montbell.com