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How We Tested Down Jackets

By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Thursday
From light-and-fast summer alpine pursuits to ice climbing to walks to the coffee shop, we tested and lived in these jackets in a variety of situations from the Sierra of California to the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, from the Colorado Rockies to the frozen land of Antarctica, and many places in between. We compared the jackets side-by-side, evaluating and researching materials, features, and design so that you know not just what to expect from a jacket, but how it performs relative to others in its class.

Having the right insulation in the mountains is imperative to having a good time and sometimes survival  and a good jacket can be the difference between the summit and surrender. Down is the most efficient insulator  with a warmth-to-weight ratio yet to be surpassed by synthetic technology. Here we test the OR Transcendent Hoody on sea ice in Antarctica.
Having the right insulation in the mountains is imperative to having a good time and sometimes survival, and a good jacket can be the difference between the summit and surrender. Down is the most efficient insulator, with a warmth-to-weight ratio yet to be surpassed by synthetic technology. Here we test the OR Transcendent Hoody on sea ice in Antarctica.

Our process begins with wearing all of the jackets in the field, having the same kind of adventures that you will be having (badass ones!), all while evaluating each jacket, noticing what works and what doesn't. Often times we will wear two or more jackets on the same adventure to compare them, and we love to lend out our test products for others to try. Their feedback helps confirm ours. In all cases, we strive to produce a comparison review. This means that there is no standard against which we test all these jackets, the jackets themselves are the standard. All scores and opinions discovered through our testing are expressed to you in comparison to the other competing products in the review.

Enduring the cold in lightweight down jackets while climbing in Red Rocks  Nevada.
Enduring the cold in lightweight down jackets while climbing in Red Rocks, Nevada.

To compare all the products accurately, we conduct controlled tests. By the end of our test period we already had opinions on the warmth of each jacket, but to confirm our thoughts, and nail down minute differences, we stood outside in the sub-freezing cold, in the shade, in a light breeze, in each jacket with only a t-shirt on underneath for five minutes, then took the jacket off for two minutes to cool our body back down before trying on the next jacket. We took notes about how we felt in each jacket.

The Hybridge Lite Jacket features the Canada Goose patch on the arm  a bit of a hipster throwback way of branding a piece of clothing that grew on us with time. This lightweight jacket was perfect to take the chill off the evening air near Moab  UT.
The Hybridge Lite Jacket features the Canada Goose patch on the arm, a bit of a hipster throwback way of branding a piece of clothing that grew on us with time. This lightweight jacket was perfect to take the chill off the evening air near Moab, UT.

For weight, we took each product and weighed it as soon as it arrived, ignoring what the manufacturer's claimed on their websites. To test compressibility we stuffed each jacket into its own pocket or stuff sack and lined them up side-by-side. For water resistance we laid all the jackets in a light rain storm for 15 minutes, studying how they changed. We then shook them off, brought them inside together, and compared signs of water absorption into the fabric, including by touch and sight. The metrics for style and features were based upon our own opinions, as well those of others we consulted, ranking each jacket on their relative merits, in comparison to all the others.


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