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Best Down Pants 2021

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Best Down Pants

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This is a gear review about the Best Down Pants on the market in 2021.

I’ve narrowed down the best insulated down pants on the market right now to compliment your ultralight down jacket and keep you warm this winter. These pants range from ultralight down pants for backpacking to down pants for winter expeditions.


Best Down Pants for Winter Hiking & Backpacking 2021

The Best Down Pants for 2021 are:


Best Overall Down Pants – Editors Choice

Feathered Friends Helios Down Pants

Best Overall – Editors Choice
Feathered Friends Helios Down Pants

Weight: 13 oz / 368 g
Fill Weight: 4.4 oz / 126 g
Pros:

> 900+ loft down.
> Suitable for high mountain activities.
> Full-length zips

> Top Quality everything
Cons:
> Some people report the length is a bit too short

Going somewhere cold? The Feathered Friends Helios are the best overall down pants in this review. Here is why.

Weighing 13 oz and filled with 900+ fill power, the Feathered Friends Helios Down Pants are the real deal! You know you’re getting good quality down with Feathered Friends, and these pants are filled with 4.4oz / 126g of their top quality down.

These pants are one of the warmest down pants in this review and great down pants for backpacking or hiking in very cold temperatures. They are better suited to high altitude mountaineering or winter ski touring.

The full-length zips also mean you can put them or take them off over crampons.

Overall, if you want the best down pants for mountaineering, ski touring or winter backpacking then these should be on your list. These are a seriously awesome and highly recommended.

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Best Ultralight Down Pants

West Mountaineering Flash Pants

Best Ultralight Down Pants
Western Mountaineering Flash Pants

Weight: 6.5oz / 180g
Down Fill: 2oz / 57g
Pros:

> 850+ fill power goose down.
> Reinforced seat material.
> Elastic ankle cuff closures.
> Adjustable waist belt.
> Water repellant.

Cons:
> Limited color options

The Western Mountaineering Flash pants weigh around 6.5oz / 180g and are the best ultralight down pants on the market. They are not only ultralight but compress down to about half the size of an average water bottle, meaning you can easily travel light.

These pants are made with 850 fill power goose down and a super lightweight and durable Ripstop shell material. They also feature an adjustable waist belt, reinforced seat material, and elastic ankle closures to keep you warm and keep out a draft.

They lack the full length zip of their warmer cousin the Flight Pants but that is what you need if you want to trim the excess weight. They will not be suited to the super cold temperatures of mid winter in some parts of the world but they are lighter and more compact than any fleece pants synthetic pants.

Overall, these are the best ultralight down pants for backpacking on the market right now and best suited for ultralight backpackers or fast and light alpine activities.

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Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Pants

Weight: 10oz / 270g
Fill Weight: unknown
Pros:

> 800-fill RDS-certified down
> Two hand pockets.
> Zippered fly with snap button closure.
> Low-profile quilt pattern helps to trap heat
> Made of ultra-lightweight ripstop fabric

Cons:
> Expensive
> Ankle Zips only

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Pants weigh just 10oz / 270g, which makes them feel light to wear and easy to compress and stuff into their inbuilt pocket. If you are a fan of the Ghost Whisperer down jacket, you will love these pants.

The lower leg zippers also trap heat while enhancing layering and venting. But these pants also have great adjustable features too, like the front snap closure and there is also room for storage thanks to the two pockets.

They also have a high fill power of 800+ that ensures just the right amount of warmth retention for mountaineering or backpacking in winter.

The fit is not too snug and they don’t bunch up or sag at the mid-waist area like some others like to do.  

Overall, the a a great pair of ultralight down pants for winter backpacking . The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Pants would make a great pair of pants for sitting around at basecamp. The lack of full length zip cuts down on weight but means it is not very practical to take on and off with heavy boots in the snow.

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Patagonia Nano Puff Pants

Weight: 11.7oz / 332g
Fill Weight: 60g synthetic insulation
Pros:

> Filled with 60 gram PrimaLoft Gold down.
> Made of recycled materials.
> Water repellent. 
> Reinforced nylon seat

Cons:
> Not as warm as all the down pants in this review

OK, the Patagonia Nano Puff Pant is not made with down insulation. They are still on the list as a credible alternative for those seeking quality lightweight insulated pants. They are made with 100% recycled polyester shell fabric treated with a DWR water repellent treatment.

There is 60g of recycled PrimaLoft Gold insulation to keep you toasty warm. The big benefit of synthetic insulation is the ability to keep you warm if you unfortunately get wet, something down is unable to do.

These pants are also protected by a reinforced nylon material on the knees and butt, and they also have great extra features like belt loops and a zippered back pocket for storage.

Overall, the Patagonia Nano Puff Pant are a great environmentally friendly synthetic alternative to all the down pants in this review but they do not quite have the same warmth to weight ratio of the down pants. One huge advantage, they are reasonably priced.

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Rab Argon Pants

Weight: 13.2oz / 375g
Fill Weight: 5.6oz / 160g
Pros:

> Made of breathable Pertex material.
> Hydrophobic 800 loft RDS Down
> Comfortable and warm

Cons:
> No pockets
> Heavy 

The Rab Argon Down Pants are a very high specification set of pants. The Pertex outer material is super light, windproof and water resistant (not quite waterproof).

They are filled with high quality 800 loft hydrophobic down. So the down will not absorb as much water as normal down in the worst case scenario of getting wet while wearing them. Wet down does not insulate very well but in these pants the down will still hold a lot of insulating loft.

Their durable construction means these pants can withstand a few bumps and scrapes, while being comfortable enough for more easygoing activities.

While these pants will compress nicely, they are one of the heavier pants on this list at 13.2 oz. They also don’t have any pockets or full length zips. The lack of full length zips make them more difficult to put on and take off when outdoors which makes them best for very cold weather when you will wear them all day or for around the camp.

Overall, the Rab Argon Down Pants are one of the highest quality warm down pants in this review. They are best suited for someone needing a pair of down pants for very cold winter trips such as snowshoeing, backcountry skiing or high altitude mountaineering.

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Western Mountaineering Flight Pants

Weight: 12.5oz / 360g
Fill Weight: 4oz / 115g
Pros:

> Microfiber shell fabric with DWR finish.
> Gore Windstopper fabric protects you from the wind.
> Elastic ankle cuffs with Velcro closure.
> Full-length side zips.
> Adjustable waist belt

Cons:
> Expensive
>
Limited color selection.
>
No pockets.

If you’re after a pair of down pants that can handle their fair share of bumps and scrapes, look no further than the Western Mountaineering Flight Pants. You can’t beat the materials for their high levels of insulation, warmth-retention and weather resistance. 

They’re insulated with 850+ fill power goose down, and have full-length zippers that make venting and layering simple. They also have an integrated adjustable waist belt and weigh only 12.5 oz / 360g. 

They Gore Windstopper fabric on the knees and butt of the pants to protect from moisture and abrasion. The rest of the pants are covered with ultralight microfibre shell fabric coated with a DWR finish. 

Overall, these are one of the best lightweight down pants for winter activities such as mountaineering, ski touring, snow shoeing or backpacking.

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The North Face Summit L3 Down Pants

Weight: 14.1oz / 400g
Pros:

> Environmentally conscious.
> Come with a stuff sack.
> Made with waterproof and breathable

> FutureLight technology. Hyperdry Down
> Made with durable Ripstop material.
> Easily adjustable.

Cons:
> Expensive and Heavy
> Supply Issues for this winter

The North Face Summit L3 Down Pants has reinforced material on the knees and backside which is waterproof. Match this with high quality ultralight Pertex on the rest of the pants, 800 loft hyperdry down and a full length zip and you have one of the highest specification down pants in this review.

Furthermore, these pants have an elastic waistband that makes them easily adjustable, and they also have a stretchy, slim fit. They also have a thigh and a cinch cord at the hem, and compress perfectly into the light stuff sack they come with.

Overall, this is the best down pants for wet weather with the best rain resistance matched with durability and a lifetime warranty. If only it was a bit cheaper.

NOTE: At the time of this review there were supply issues with this item. Check below to see if they are back in stock.

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Best of the Rest

The Down Pants listed below are ones that almost made the list or are still in the process of being evaluated:

  • Snow Peak Recycled Nylon Ripstop Down Pants – No longer available but they were quite good until they were discontinued by the manufacturer.

Buyer’s Guide

For those of you who have never bought a pair of down pants, you might be wondering what they are.

Well, down pants are mainly worn in cold or wet weather, protecting you from snow and rain, and keeping you warm. They can be worn in a variety of different ways though.

They can be worn as a midlayer during outdoor activities like hiking, mountaineering, ice climbing, or even while skiing or snowboarding. 

But down pants are also comfortable enough to be worn around the camp at night, especially on cold nights! You can even wear them to bed, as a kind of pajama bottom-sleeping bag hybrid. They’ll certainly provide an extra layer of toastiness under a sleeping bag.

But as you can see, when it comes to finding a great pair of down pants you’re spoiled for choice! But because these pants will be protecting you in the harshest of elements, there’s a few things to consider before purchasing a pair. 

Fill power

Fill power describes the amount of filling in your down pants. Lofty filling provides insulation against the cold, and fill power measurements range from 800 to 900+ in the top of the range pants.

Fill weight

Most down items will have a ‘fill weight’ measurement that refers to the overall warmth of the item. The higher the number the warmer it will be. Generally, the fill weight should account for 30% of the item’s total weight. Which brings us onto the next topic…

Overall weight

Down pants are truly a great feat of engineering as they have to provide warmth while still being lightweight, breathable, and packable. How is this achieved?

It’s all down to the way the down clusters together to create loft. This traps air and body heat to keep you warm. The recommended weight for down pants is anything under than 14 oz.

Outer shell properties

Most outer shells of down pants are made from treated nylon fabric. For example, Ripstop Nylon prevents your pants from tearing during extreme outdoor activities. Pertex and Gore tex Windstopper are two of the highest quality outer fabrics.

Responsible Down Standard (RDS)

RDS is a voluntary, global standard that ensures that the down taken from ducks and geese is ethically sourced, and that the animals are not subjected to unnecessary harm.

Companies can independently certify that their products comply with RDS via an on-site audit. Once the audit is complete, the company is officially certified to comply with the RDS.

Waterproof coating (DWR)

No matter if it’s rain, sweat, or moisture from a damp climate, moisture and down don’t mix. Down becomes useless when it gets too wet.

This is why down items designed for outdoor use are treated with a DWR agent, which is a water repellent finish. Some manufacturers have started to use forms of DWR internally on fibers to help them dry out and retain their loft. Two of the most popular DWR brands are downTek and Nikwax.

Outer material (the importance of denier)

I’ve mentioned Ripstop Nylon a few times, and you’ve probably encountered Ripstop Nylon in sleeping bags, or maybe even in down jackets.

The higher the denier of the down pants, the more durable the fabric is going to be. However, if you prefer ultralight outdoor clothing, the denier does affect the weight of the pants and the higher the denier, the heavier it will be. Therefore, to keep the pants light a lot of manufacturers lower the denier.

The standard of sewing (sewn through)

Most down items are sewn-through, meaning that both the internal and external layers of the fabric are sewn together with the down situated in-between. This stitch creates small, individually sealed-off pockets of down. This keeps the down in place and makes it less likely to shift. It is easier and cheaper than sewing on boxed seams which provide better insulation but more commonly used on all the best down sleeping bags.

Fit

The most important rule when it comes to fit is that your down pants should give you enough room to layer up and your movement shouldn’t be restricted. It’s best to leave some breathing room in a pair of down pants as you’ll most likely wear them over a base layer or another pair of bottoms.

You should also be able to comfortably bend your knees and squat without damaging the pants. An athletic fit is recommended as these give you a good range of motion and enough room to add a thin layer or two underneath your pants if needed.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is down insulation better than synthetic insulation?

While down is recommended over synthetic insulation, both have their advantages and disadvantages. While down is the real stuff that comes from a goose or a duck, synthetic insulation is designed to act like real down. Synthetic insulation is made by weaving together polyester fibers that mimic the pattern found in down. 

Down is lighter in its warmth-to-weight ratio than synthetic insulation. This means that while the two products could have the same temperature rating, the down will still be a few ounces or even a pound lighter. Down pants also compress better than a synthetic pair of pants.

Down items can be compressed to the size of a water bottle or smaller, but synthetic items actually become a bit bigger once compressed, and have difficulty retaining their shape. But the compactness of an item varies greatly depending on its fill. The higher the fill, the smaller the item packs.

Down is also more durable. As long as you take care of it, your down items will last for decades. Down can also be compressed a lot of times without losing its insulating properties.. However, synthetic insulation isn’t as durable and over time will lose its ability to trap heat.

However, down items are more expensive and synthetic items are the better option if you’re on a budget. In fact, synthetic items can sometimes cost half of what down items cost, and this is because they are mass produced and more readily available.

Down is pretty durable, but it does have one weakness – water. Synthetic insulation can hold up in water better than down, and it retains its insulating properties and loftiness even when damp.

Synthetic materials are also easier to wash than down, and they dry easier too. You can treat synthetic materials like regular clothing, while down requires special detergents, following detailed, step-by-step washing instructions, and sometimes tips to an expensive, specialized dry cleaner.

How should I wash my down pants?

It’s recommended to wash your down pants (or any item of down clothing) at least once a season. As I’ve mentioned above, washing down items isn’t easy and can seem quite daunting. Follow the steps below, or even better, take a look at the Guide on How to Wash A Down Jacket which is exactly the same process for Down Pants.

First, make sure all zippers are closed and all snaps are fastened before washing and read the manufacturer’s instructions for information relating to your down pants.

Then ‘spot clean’ any stains with plain water by dabbing the area with a sponge or washcloth. You can also add a small amount of mild soap. Make sure to use a detergent like Nikwax Down Wash which are made for washing down items. Take a look at the guide How to Wash a Down Jacket which will work exactly the same for the washing down pants.

Put them in a dryer as long as needed on a low heat setting. Make sure you check your pants every 20-30 minutes so it doesn’t overheat, and toss in a few tennis balls to speed up the process of breaking up the clumps of down.

As for storing your down pants, store them in a roomy place where the material can breathe. Hanging them up in a garment bag in a closet is a good way to store them. This prevents the loft from clumping together causing unwanted cold spots.

How do I repair down pants?

If you wear down pants during extreme outdoor activities they will inevitably get torm, punctured, or even singed. As long as the damage is minimal you can fix it with Tenacious Tape. You could even use Duct Tape id needed.


Conclusion

All the down pants in this review are the best of the best. But which ones are best suited to what you are looking for. Below is the guide you will need:

The Best Insulated Down Pants for winter are the Feathered Friends Helios Down Pants.

They are that good and the highest quality on the market right now.

The Western Mountaineering Flight Pants and Rab Argon Pants are also incredible and will certainly serve you well.

The Best Ultralight Down Pants on the market right now are:

The preference is for the Western Mountaineering Flash Pants (just) because they are slightly lighter in weight but the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Pants are also awesome and slightly warmer.

The Best Down Pants for damp conditions is:

  • Rab Argon Pants due to the quality outer material and use of hydrophobic down and seriously good quality.

The Best Synthetic Insulated pants:

Overall, my pick for the best down pants is the Feathered Friends Helios Down Pants with the best ultralight down pants being the Western Mountaineering Flash Pants.

Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

You might be interested in the following Gear Reviews:
Best Ultralight Down Jacket
How to Wash Down Pants

The Best Down Pants for Winter Backpacking, Hiking, Ski Touring and Camping.


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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Sydney, Australia.

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