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How To Layer With Down

Author: Outdoor Research

August 20, 2018

A puffy down jacket is perhaps the linchpin of every outdoors person’s wardrobe—keeping you cozy on alpine summer nights and winter trailside breaks. Knowing how to best layer other shirts and jackets with a down jacket with help you get the most of it. We interviewed Alex Lauver, outerwear produce manager here at OR, to find out how to layer—and how not to later—with a down jacket.

Down makes a great midlayer in a bigger system. “We intentionally fit all our shells with the illuminate line as the down midlayer option in our assortment,” Alex says. That means any of our shells should coordinate with an Illuminate Down Jacket underneath.

Check out our Interstellar Jacket—designed to coordinate, fit-wise, with the Illuminate Down Jacket.

Just make sure the down has room to loft underneath the shell. “Down insulates best when it can loft to the maximum of the designed garment,” Alex says. “So if you layer down, you don’t want to squeeze it into a layering system without some ease above to allow for lofting or you won’t get max warmth.”

Underneath, layer however you like. “I’d recommend a base layer and another midlayer,” Alex says. “Maybe a hard faced fleece, something more active like an Ascendant or one of the Vigor jackets. Ultimately, it comes down to the activity.  Are you just trying to stay warm or are you managing moisture and using the down when you chill off?” The thermo-regulating ActiveTemp™ in Vigor fleece layers works with the grid fleece fabric to wick sweat and allow total breathability, and the Vigor Hybrid Hooded Jacket provides hybrid-mapped insulation where you need it and breathability where you need it for more high-exertion activities.

For a lighter weight base layer, we recommend the new Alpine Onset base layers.

Just think of down as the final insulation layer before the weather protection. “Down is not the best in wet weather, but if you have to, a light shell is great,” he says. “Something with some ease off your body so the down garment isn’t too compressed. You want to wear the down as close to the exterior as you can.  Let your layers manage moisture and act as close-to-skin barriers for warmth, and the down at the outside like the final layer of insulation.”

Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research® is dedicated to inspiring the journey ahead with award-winning technical apparel and accessories. Based in Seattle since 1981, we are committed to improving our customer’s experience through innovative materials, purpose-driven features, and versatile products that are backed by our Infinite Guarantee®. We rely on the real-world testing of our athlete ambassadors, mountain guides, and local adventurers involved in our core sports: alpinism, rock and ice climbing, hiking, backpacking, paddling, trail running, and backcountry skiing and snowboarding. We’re here for the fun, adventure, excitement, and For the Journey Ahead™. Get to know us at or follow along on the journey via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.