A puffy down jacket is perhaps the linchpin of every outdoors person’s wardrobe and knowing how to properly layer with it can make or break your time in the elements. Learn the tips and tricks on how to layer your down which will ensure cozy alpine starts and comfortable moonlit winter evenings.

We interviewed Alex Lauver, our Director of Commercial Innovation, and Charlie Berg, Senior Manager of Outerwear, to find out how to layer—and how not to layer—with a down jacket.

Down makes a great midlayer within 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 Coldfront Collection can also work with a shell—they may, however, 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.

Layering with a Hard or Soft Shell Jacket

When choosing a down jacket to wear beneath your hard shell or soft shell ski or snowboard jacket, prioritize lightweight and packable options that offer freedom of movement. Consider sizing up in your hard shell to accommodate a bulkier down layer if necessary. A helpful tip is to try on the hard shell in-store before purchasing to ensure it will accommodate layering comfortably.

Pro Tip: 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 with a midlayer and base layer.

“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 Vigor Collection.

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

Shop Women's Base Layers or Shop 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. “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.”

Shop Women's Down Jackets or Shop Men's Down Jackets

A woman catches raindrops on her tongue while wearing a rain shell over a down jacket.

Back to blog