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Women wearing hiking jacket

How to Choose the Right Winter Jacket

Winter is coming so you need a coat that keeps you warm and comfortable in the cold weather. But how do you choose the right winter jacket? There are many factors to consider, such as weight, durability, water resistance, and most importantly, the type of insulation. Whether you want a men’s hiking jackets or women’s hiking jackets, choosing the right one is essential to staying comfortable and protected during your outdoor adventures.

In this article, we compare the differences between the two most popular types of insulation: down jacket vs synthetic jacket. And as there are so many options to choose from on our website, we’ve made it simpler by including some recommendations for you.

Down vs Synthetic Winter Jacket

Woman wearing hiking jacket

Insulation is essential when choosing a winter jacket as it traps air and provides warmth.

There are two main types of insulation: natural down insulation and synthetic insulation. Down is the natural plumage of ducks and geese, while synthetic is made from polyester fibres. Both types have their pros and cons, depending on your needs and preferences. Keep reading to find out our top recommendations for high-quality down and synthetic insulated jackets for men and insulation jackets for women.

Down Insulated Winter Jacket

Down insulation is known for its excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, meaning it provides a lot of warmth for a relatively low weight. It’s compressible, which makes it easy to pack and store, and it’s durable, so it lasts for many years when properly cared for.

However, down winter coats have some drawbacks. They can be expensive, especially if you opt for high-quality down with a high fill power. Fill power is a measure of how much loft or fluffiness the down has, and it affects the warmth and weight of the coat. The higher the fill power, the warmer, lighter, and more expensive the coat will be.

Another downside of down is that it loses its insulating ability when wet. Down clumps together when exposed to moisture, reducing its loft and trapping less air. Therefore, it’s not suitable for wet or humid conditions, unless it is treated with a water-repellent coating or combined with a waterproof shell.

Synthetic Insulated Winter Jacket

Synthetic insulation is made from polyester fibres that mimic the structure of down. It’s cheaper than down insulation, more water-resistant, and more hypoallergenic. Unlike down, synthetic insulation doesn’t clump when wet, and it dries faster. Synthetic insulation is also easier to wash and maintain.

However, synthetic insulation has some disadvantages. Synthetic insulation is heavier and bulkier than down, meaning it provides less warmth for the same weight. It’s less compressible, making it harder to pack and store, and it’s less durable than down, so it loses its loft over time, reducing its warmth and performance.

How to Choose the Right Winter Jacket Insulation

man wearing hiking jacket

So, how do you choose between down and synthetic insulation? It depends on your personal preferences and the conditions you expect to encounter. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Best winter jacket for cold weather

If you need a coat for very cold temperatures, down might be a better option, as it provides more warmth for the same weight. However, if you need a coat for mild or moderate temperatures, synthetic might be sufficient, as it provides enough warmth for a lower price.

Best winter jacket for wet weather 

If you need a coat for wet or humid conditions, synthetic might be a better option, as it retains its warmth when wet and dries faster. However, if you need a coat for dry conditions, down might be a better option, as it provides more warmth and comfort.

What's the best winter jacket considering my budget?

If you have a high budget, down might be a better option, as it offers superior warmth, weight, and durability. However, if you have a low budget, synthetic might be a better option, as it offers decent warmth, water resistance, and affordability.

How much do you want to pack? 

If you need a coat that is easy to pack and store, down might be a better option, as it is more compressible and takes up less space. However, if you need a coat that is easy to wash and maintain, synthetic might be a better option, as it is more washable and resilient.

Rab Cirrus Alpine Winter Jacket

Rab Cirrus Alpine Men Hiking jacket

If you’re looking for a winter jacket that can keep you cosy and comfortable in diverse weather conditions, you might want to check out the Rab Cirrus Alpine. This jacket is made with 100% recycled synthetic PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation Luxe™, which is designed to mimic the warmth and loft of down, but with the added benefit of water resistance. This means that even if the jacket gets wet, it won’t lose its insulating ability, making it a reliable choice for cold and wet conditions.

The jacket features a 30D, 100% recycled Pertex® Quantum ripstop shell with DWR lining, which ensures a durable and weather-resistant structure. And the shell is down-proof, meaning it prevents the insulation from escaping through the fabric. Despite it being among the heavier options in its category, the jacket’s perfect balance of weight and warmth provides a high level of insulation for its size.

Microlight Alpine Winter Jacket

Rab Microlight Alpine Hiking Jacket

The Rab Microlight Alpine jacket offers a ton of great features, is highly water resistant, warm, and has a solid fit for easy movement. It’s stuffed with five ounces of GRS-certified, recycled, 700-fill goose down that’s hydrophobic, meaning it retains its loft and ability to trap heat even when damp and dries faster than standard down.

The recycled, 30-denier Pertex Quantum ripstop nylon shell doesn’t leak feathers and provides a medium level of durability that’s better than many lighter puffy jackets. Plus, it has an excellent DWR (durable, water-repellent treatment) that protects against light precipitation and, paired with the hydrophobic down, makes this a warmer choice for wet weather than many down jackets.

If you're looking for a winter coat to take into wet environments or if you just want an affordable piece for wearing around town, the Microlight Alpine ticks all the right boxes.

Lake 22 Down Hooded Winter Jacket

Columbia Lake 22 Hiking jacket

For those looking for a warm and versatile jacket that can handle any weather conditions, the Lake 22™ Down Hooded Jacket by Columbia ticks all the boxes. This jacket features a water-resistant shell and premium 650-fill-down insulation to keep you dry and cosy, and the heat seal construction eliminates cold spots and enhances heat retention. 

The zippered hand pockets provide secure storage and warmth for your hands, and the lightweight design allows for easy layering and packability. So, whether you are hiking, camping, skiing, or just enjoying the outdoors, the Lake 22™ Down Hooded Jacket by Columbia will keep you comfortable and stylish.

Anti-Freeze Lite Hooded Winter Jacket

Hooded Down Montane Hiking Jacket

The Anti-Freeze Hooded Down Jacket by Montane strikes the perfect balance between warmth, weight, and packability. Designed to provide warmth during your cold weather adventures, it’s crafted with a micro baffle construction and filled to the brim with water-resistant down. Weighing just 330g makes this down jacket ideal for fast-paced activities, where low weight is critical for performance. And built with recycled outer fabric and responsibly sourced down, it offers a sleek layering option or can act as a stand-alone piece of kit in milder conditions.

Whether you're an experienced hiker in search of a dependable and lightweight addition to your layering system or simply looking for maximum warmth on the chilliest days, the Anti-Freeze guarantees cosiness and comfort while you're on the move.

Anti-Freeze Lite Hooded Winter Jacket

HELLY TECH Crew Midlayer Hiking jacket

This bestselling HELLY TECH® Crew Midlayer jacket is waterproof, windproof, and breathable, keeping you warm and dry through all seasons. Fully fleece lined with a warming collar and pockets for added comfort and extra insulation make this the go-to jacket for those with an active lifestyle, particularly sailors. Embellishment friendly design with both a back neck ID race pocket and embroidery/print access zip in the liner makes this a true favourite among clubs and teams!


Choosing the right winter jacket is not an easy task, but it can make a big difference in comfort and warmth when braving the Irish winter weather. Now that you know the difference between down and synthetic insulation, you can make an informed decision that suits your budget and preferences. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the best coat for you depends on your personal factors and the conditions you face.

Explore the outdoors with our women's outdoor jackets, which includes a huge range of high-quality waterproof jackets, windproof jackets, and insulated jackets. Likewise, our men's hiking jacket collection offers waterproof, windproof and insulated jackets. Get ready to explore the outdoors in style!

If you need help choosing the right winter jacket, feel free to contact the Basecamp team at or call +353 1 878 2711.

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