Insulated Down Jackets, Compared

Since I happen to have had all three jackets in hand I thought I’d put together a side-by-side comparison. It might help you decide. Heck, it might help me decide. This fancy tech stuff is so hard to choose between.

I have always loved looking at garments, construction, and fabrics, so as geeky and boring as it may sound to you, a comparison like this is sorta fun for me. We’re looking at women’s jackets without hoods. Here goes:

PRICE (MSRP) $199 $199 $220 $320
WEIGHT (for medium) 328 grams 280 grams 255 grams 181 grams
BODY body: 15D 33 g/m² (1.16 oz/yd²) 100% nylon with DWR 1.4-oz 22-denier 100% recycled polyester, with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish 20D Nylon Micro Ripstop Thermostatic Whisperer 7D x 10D Ripstop
INSULATION 9.5 g/ft² and 13 g/ft² ThermoBall™ powered by PrimaLoft® synthetic insulation 60g PrimaLoft® Gold 100% polyester 60g Thermic Micro™ TK 100% polyester Q.Shield™ Down 800-Fill
LINING 100% nylon ripstop 1.4-oz 22-denier 100% recycled polyester 100% nylon ripstop 100% nylon
WATER Water-resistant w/DWR coating Water-resistant w/DWR coating Water-resistant Water-resistant
WIND Wind-resistant Windproof Wind-resistant Wind-resistant
POCKETS 2 outer 3 (2 outer, 1 inner) 2 outer 2 outer
ZIPPER BEEFY Vislon zipper (why?) YKK #4.5 YKK #5 YKK #3 (!?!!)
HEM DRAWCORDS YES, inside pocket DUAL, 2mm elastic cord DUAL, 3mm elastic cord SINGLE RIGHT, 2mm elastic cord
COLORS 15 9 4 5
LOGOS ON OUTER? YES, embroidered on YES, stitched on YES, embroidered on YES, vinyl ironed on
QUILTING PATTERN DIAMOND (approx 8 stitches per inch) BRICK (approx 8 stitches per inch) WAVE (approx 10 stitches per inch) BAR (approx 9 stitches per inch)
CARE Unknown Machine wash cold, no bleach or fabric softeners, tumble dry low Machine wash cold, no bleach or fabric softeners, tumble dry low Machine wash cold gentle, no bleach or fabric softeners, tumble dry low, remove promptly
MADE IN China Vietnam China China

How is down made?
A not-so-funny cartoon presented by Patagonia about how most down is harvested from live birds

Other [ethical] Down Jackets to consider

Vaude Kabru Light II Jacket – this jacket is not only windproof and waterproof, but is free of damaging PFCs (per-fluorocarbons) and has a RDS certificate! The only down side to this appealing jacket is a lack of hood option, and the fact it is 650 fill. Not even knowing the fill weight, but seeing this is a sub 9oz jacket, we can assume it’s not as warm as the other jackets listed.

Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hoody – Another ethically sourced down jacket, this time with a hood and a weight closer to 10oz. But it has a ~3.3oz fill weight, meaning this is a WARM jacket. If you don’t mind a few ounces and want something STURDIER and WARMER than the Ghost Whisperer, get out your piggy bank.

Pictures of Puffies

North Face Thermoball Jacket

The following comparison is between the Nano Puff and the Thermostatic only. Comparing a size medium:

  • The collars are identical.
  • The jacket front lengths are identical.
  • The bottom hem around hips are identical.
  • The Nano Puff appears to have an 1cm longer sleeve
  • The Nano Puff has a tighter (by approx 1″) sleeve cuff
  • The sleeve cuff constructions are identical except for size (the Nano Puff will hug your wrist)

Honestly, the Thermostatic feels slinkier, silkier, and lighter even though it uses sturdier hardware and technically weighs a little more. The insulation proprietary to Mountain Hardware (Thermic Micro™) doesn’t have as great/fancy a reputation as Primaloft ONE

Bottom line: Don’t buy the “Light Balsamic” color of the Nano Puff. It is disgusting. Buy anything else and you will look good and stay warm. Hee hee!

About a month after I wrote this I found a hooded Ghost Whisperer for under $200 and snatched it up. Unfortunately I’m in between sizes (I float in the medium but the small has tight armpits) but it’s just too cozy — and too light — to not use. Seven ounces. My only concern with the Ghost Whisperer is that the fabric is unbelievably thin. I have to have faith in the Mountain Hardware design engineers, but they certainly don’t know me. If this thing lasts until the fall, I’ll call it a success.

Update 10/2013: I have worn my Ghost Whisperer almost daily for nearly six months and I absolutely love it. Whenever I needed to get warm, I put it on and was warm. It barely shows any wear, except I got one small hole in the front, possibly a small burn hole. I am shocked at how good it still looks, because I am rough on my things and thought for sure I would destroy it! I have washed it about three times, twice in the sink and once in a front-loading washer and dryer with McNett’s down wash. It turned out fantastically each time, though I must say the down wash really does make a down garment fluffier than regular soap. Tips for hand-washing: don’t use powdered soap and do NOT ever wring out the jacket. Just let it soak a few minutes and swish it in the water. A lot of dirt might come out (as was my case). After rinsing a few times, I pressed it dry, squeezing out the water by pressing it flat up against a non-absorbent surface. Then I hung it to dry, occasionally vigorously shaking it to loosen the feathers. Another testament to how sturdy this jacket is, is the fact that I also briefly hiked in it a couple times. With my 30lb backpack on! I recommend finding the extra cash to get a DOWN puffy, especially if you are going lightweight for a long-distance hike. It is worth the investment. If you are interested, learn more about ethics of down production. Down does come from live animals.

Update 3/2014: I just washed my Ghost Whisperer jacket again in front-loading home machines with McNett’s down wash and it did fine. The small 1cm circle duct tape “patches” I made to cover two small holes stayed in place despite washing and drying (delicate low heat). I used black duct tape and you can’t see the patches unless you look closely. I use this jacket almost daily. It’s looking like it will last me a long time — and I’ll get my money’s worth.

Update 7/31/2014: My Ghost Whisperer jacket is still holding strong, despite my near-daily usage through the Spring and my rough handling.

Update 11/29/2014: Same. My jacket is holding in there well. No new holes, good loft, tolerating near daily abuse. Worth every penny, in fact had I known it would be so good I would have paid more.

Update 11/10/2015: The same Ghost Whisperer is still intact, amazingly. I’ve now washed it at least 10 times. Quilting stitches have started to break, though. But otherwise, wow!

Update 10/9/2016: The Ghost Whisperer zipper has finally bitten the dust. I will likely be recycling the down into a new handmade jacket.