How To Layer With Down

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 will help you get the most of it. We interviewed Alex Lauver, our director of commercial innovation, and Charlie Berg, senior product manager of outerwear, to find out how to layer—and how not to later—with a down jacket.

Down makes a great midlayer in a bigger system.

Our shells are intentionally fitted to work with our lightweight down jackets as a midlayer, Alex says. Our lightest down layers, in the Helium Down Collection, will be the easiest fit, says Charlie, but jackets in the Transcendent Collection can also work with a shell—they just may require sizing up with the shell. 

To pick the right shell for layering with your down jacket, Charlie recommends thinking about what activities you’ll be doing.

A woman catches raindrops on her tongue while wearing a rain shell over a down jacket.A woman catches raindrops on her tongue while wearing a rain shell over a down jacket.
A climber wears a rain shell over a down jacket while carrying a bouldering pad.A climber wears a rain shell over a down jacket while carrying a bouldering pad.

Just make sure the down has room to loft inside your 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 maximum warmth.”

Underneath, layer however you like. 

“I’d recommend a base layer and another midlayer,” Alex says. Ultimately, the best choice comes down to your activity. Are you just trying to stay warm? Something from the Trail Mix Fleece Collection might be perfect.

Or are you managing moisture and using the down when you take a break and chill off? The thermo-regulating ActiveTemp™ in our Vigor fleece layers works with the grid fleece fabric to wick sweat and allow total breathability. Check out the Women’s Vigor Full-Zip Hoodie (also in men’s).

Underneath it all—with or without a midlayer—we recommend a synthetic base layer, like the Echo Collection, or merino wool-blend option like the Enigma Collection

SHOP WOMEN’S BASE LAYERS or MEN’S 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 on top is great,” Alex 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 of your layers as you can. Let your under layers manage moisture and act as close-to-skin barriers for warmth, and the down at the outside like the final layer of insulation.”