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Why pick a packable down jacket?

Updated on April 16, 2014

Fold this into your fashion plan for 2013

I'm on my second Featherweight Down Jacket from J Crew and am a bit disillusioned. The first one had a heavenly silky-soft feel, but its zipper broke after a couple seasons of wear. My second, and current, isn't as silky but has a stylish quilted look. The issue there is it's been shedding tiny bits of down since day one :(

This year I'm going with a different label & a bit of a twist: a packable down jacket. Not only lightweight and soft to the touch, this type folds down, ready to stow in a handbag, tote, backpack or (of course) suitcase. In fact, it often comes with its own carrying pouch.

My first intro to the concept was 5-6 years ago, when a friend showed up in a very cute, lightweight, somewhat shiny black down jacket. "It's packable," she added when I admired the look, but demurred when I asked about cost.

The style was a novelty back then, offered only by a couple of high-end designers, but it looks like it's big for 2013 -- which is great news for those of us with more modest budgets.

Why do I love the idea of a packable down coat? Well, as mom always said, layering is best in the fall and winter. But what do you do with those layers before & after you need them? Answer: Fold 'em down and stash in your bag! Plus, the soft, foldable texture means no stiff-arm syndrome like with those awful snowsuits from childhood :)

("Roll me, crush me, stuff me -- I stay the same" reads the tag from my new jacket, seen here in it's packed-up form. Big promise, but these babies are designed to deliver...)

BCBGeneration Women's Reese Packable Down Jacket, Black, Medium
BCBGeneration Women's Reese Packable Down Jacket, Black, Medium

This is my new addition! As I'm somewhat straight up and down in the torso, I was drawn to the side stretch panels that visually shrink the waist. I was also encouraged by reviews suggesting this style is good for long arms like mine. Turns out this is pretty much the most flattering down coat I've ever owned. I'd worried a bit about the thumbholes (they're cool, but what about when I don't want to use 'em?), but the way the cuffs are, those are really optional. The sleeves stay put either way. All in all, one of my fave buys of the year so far. Also: True to size, I think; I'm almost always an S, and this was no exception. Warmth factor: The lowest our temp has dipped so far is 40 degrees, and the Reese was plenty cozy for that. Will report back as the mercury drops.

Coatology Womens 2 In 1 Down Moto Jacket, Black, Large
Coatology Womens 2 In 1 Down Moto Jacket, Black, Large

I hadn't heard of this label until recently, but they're putting out some of the most fashion-forward packable jackets, like this moto design with a slightly asymmetrical zipper. And--ooh, ah--a nicely hidden zipoff sleeve converts this to a vest, if you're so inclined.

Calvin Klein Performance Women's Packable Down Filled Pullover, Black, X-Large
Calvin Klein Performance Women's Packable Down Filled Pullover, Black, X-Large

Okay, so this one is a pullover rather than a jacket in the strict sense, but I think grabbing it in the yellow, pale green or orange would be a perfect way to fight off early-spring chills. Or black's always good :)


~ How I packed my jacket ~

Click thumbnail to view full-size

My BCBG cutie came with its own pouch for packing. Given my tendency to misplace things, I was a little bummed that this wasn't attached somehow to the coat -- the way it is for some of the others on this page -- but I'll live :) All I did was lay the coat flat, face down; fold it like I'd fold a dress shirt, but a bit "skinnier" lengthwise, roll it up; and stuff the rolled coat into the pouch. Took maybe 10 seconds. Not bad!

~ Where does it fit? ~

Click thumbnail to view full-size

First things first: My new jacket is pretty darned light. We don't have a scale sensitive enough to weigh it (okay, we don't have a scale at all), but testing it out with my own very own scientific method, I found it's heavier than a small cotton cardigan but lighter than a hooded cotton sweatshirt. That should give you some idea, anyway.

The dimensions for my stuffed-in-its-pouch jacket are 10 inches long by 5.5 inches wide by 4 inches "deep." So does it fit in my sidewalk-sale wristlet? Nope. My LeSportsac Kasey? Closer, but no dice. My fave broken-in H&M olive drab bag? Absolutely. Same with my American Apparel La-z Girl and Envirosax tote, where it would gobble up just a fraction of the space available.

Duck Duck Goose

Is duck down really better

than goose? And what the

heck is "fill power"?

Find out here.

Coatology Womens Down Peacoat with Ultrasuede Trim, Black, Small
Coatology Womens Down Peacoat with Ultrasuede Trim, Black, Small

I've had a thing for peacoats since childhood and have a dark red wool one in my closet right now, waiting for the chill. A classic look. But this version turns the style on its head -- in a good way.

Kenneth Cole New York Women's Piped Packable Down Jacket, Concord/Black, Medium
Kenneth Cole New York Women's Piped Packable Down Jacket, Concord/Black, Medium

Kenneth Cole was a pioneer in injecting down coats with some style. A full-length K Cole puffer I got years ago become one of my most complimented wearables ever (just don't try to drive in it...I repeatedly separated the zipper at bottom that way, and it finally broke...). The label doesn't disappoint here, with great shades like this winey hue or two trendier neutral-and-bright color contrast options.

Coatology Womens 2 In 1 Chevron Down Jacket, Black, Small
Coatology Womens 2 In 1 Chevron Down Jacket, Black, Small

Like princess seams, belts & ruching, chevrons are a handy waist-defining trick. I'd wear this longer look on a winter hike with my family but wouldn't hesitate to wear it out to dinner over a dress, too.


~ poll! ~ - What hue for you?

I've never managed to buy a down coat or jacket in a color other than black. How 'bout you?

See results

Warm enough?

That will depend on the maker & materials used, mainly filling but to some extent the outer shell too. This one feels warmer than my 2 previous featherweight down jackets, which I wore routinely on gusty 20 to 50 degree Chicago days. It's been fine so far for 30s. But I'll rely on a bigger, non-packable coat for the really painful temps. Go here for more input on this topic.

Have you tried a jacket like these? Would you recommend to others?


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