8 Best Ultralight Down Pants for 2021 (& How to Choose) - Greenbelly Meals

The 8 Best Ultralight Down Pants


Published: December 8th, 2020


down pants used at camp© Alina

Winter is fast approaching, meaning it’s about time to bust out the cold weather gear like shell jackets, gloves, and of course those ultra-warm down items.

In this post, we’re talking all about down pants. A super toasty bottom layer that’s a great layering piece for braving those arctic climates or plummeting temps.

At first, these poofy styled pants may seem a bit goofy looking, but what they lack in style they make up for in warmth, coziness, and winter weather functionality.

For the best down jackets, go here.

Price Weight Fill Power Down Weight
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer $250 9.6 oz 800 N/A
Rab Argon $200 13.2 oz 800 5.6 oz size L
Montbell Light down Pants $210 7.1 oz 800 3 oz
Stone Glacier Grumman $230 16 oz 850+ 4.2 oz
Feathered Friends Helios $250 13 oz 900+ 4.4 oz
Goosefeet Gear down Pants $170 6.7 oz 850 3.5 oz
Western Mountaineering Flight Pants $315 12.5 oz 850+ 4 oz
KUIU Super down ultra-pants $250 8 oz 850+ N/A

In a hurry? Skip straight to the reviews.


Who's It For?


Down pants are a real asset for those hiking year-round, heading into polar climates or facing sections of a trail with especially cold conditions. They can be worn as a midlayer during many outdoor activities like hiking, mountaineering, ice climbing, or while skiing/snowboarding. Besides being used during strenuous outdoor undertakings, a pair of insulating down pants can also be beneficial to sedentary pursuits like hunting, ice/wade fishing, or snowmobiling.

Back at camp, down pants can be an additional piece to wear while relaxing around camp at night. And on especially chilly evenings, you can wear them straight to bed which can give around 20F of extra warmth in your sleeping bag or quilt.


Why Down Insulation (vs Synthetic)?


Down's the real stuff that comes from goose or duck, while synthetic is designed to act like the real stuff.

Synthetic mimics down by weaving together polyester fibers that imitate the pattern found in down. Although the two are similar in many ways, down has its notable pros and cons.

Down pants pros and cons

PROS:

✔️ Ultra-lightweight – down is lighter in its warmth-to-weight ratio than synthetic, which means the two products could have the same temperature rating, but the down item will be anywhere from a few ounces to a pound lighter.

✔️ Compact – A down pair of pants compresses better than a synthetic pair. Where a down item can pack to around the size of a water bottle or smaller, synthetic items are slightly bigger once compressed, and they have a harder time retaining their shape. Keep in mind the compactness of an item can vary greatly depending on its fill. The higher the fill, the smaller the item packs.

✔️ Durable – One of the best things about a down product is that as long as you take care of it, it will last for decades. The down can be repetitively compressed without losing its insulating properties, whereas synthetic doesn’t hold up as well and will lose its heat-trapping abilities over time.


CONS:

Expensive – On a budget? Buying Synthetic’s less of a hit to the wallet. It comes in costing around half that of down, being that it’s more readily available through mass production.

Vulnerable to water – Heading out into a damp or rainy climate? Might want to go with synthetic. It’s the more water-friendly of the two, and it can keep its insulating properties and loftiness when it gets damp. Down, not so much.

Difficult to wash – Synthetic materials can be washed and dried fairly easily, and most of the time can be handled just like regular clothing. This is a big plus since down items require special detergents, in-depth step-by-step washing instructions, and sometimes even a trip to a specialized dry cleaner.

Down pants used while backpacking


Considerations


TOTAL WEIGHT: KEEP IT UNDER 14 OZ 

What makes down products so incredible is the amount of warmth they provide while remaining extremely lightweight and packable. The secret is the way the down clusters together creating loft, which traps air and body heat that insulates and warms. Just like with down jackets, your pants don’t have to weigh much. A pair weighing around 14 oz or less should easily keep you good and toasty.


FILL POWER: 
750 FILL POWER AND UP

This is a unit of measurement used for down that tells how lofty, or “fluffy” the down is. The higher the number, the loftier the down will be, which also means the loft will provide a higher level of insulation. Fill power can range between 300-900. Down pants with a fill power of 750+ will do the job.


FILL WEIGHT: 
AT LEAST 30% OF TOTAL WEIGHT

There’s often a “fill weight” measurement with down items, and this number refers to the item’s overall warmth. The higher the number, the warmer it will be. A good rule of thumb is to have the fill weight in a down product account for at least 30% of the weight of the overall item.

Down pants by Montbell


DOWN QUALITY: 
GOOSE VS DUCK DOWN

Goose is most commonly used in down items, although Duck has been on the rise in recent years because it’s cheaper and easier to get. The two are comparable in insulation, warmth, durability, and how compressible they are. Their major difference lies in the price (Goose is more expensive and its cost is continuing to rise), and fill power (Goose can reach a fill power of 1000, while duck only goes up to 800). Duck is also a hint heavier than Goose.


DOWN SOURCE: 
RESPONSIBLE DOWN STANDARD

RDS stands for the “Responsible Down Standard” which is a voluntary, global standard that ensures the down taken from geese and ducks is sourced ethically, and that no unnecessary harm is done to the animals. Companies can independently certify their products to the RDS through an on-site audit. Once the audit is complete, a report gets printed and a decision to certify the company is made by an inspector and an official certifier.


DWR: 
WATERPROOF COATING

It’s no secret that moisture and down just don’t mix. No matter if that moisture comes from rain, sweat, or a damp climate. If the down gets too wet, it’s pretty much useless. Luckily, down items designed for outdoor use are treated with a DWR agent, which is a water repellent finish. In recent news, manufacturers have begun using forms of DWR internally on fibers to help them dry out and keep their loft faster. A few common DWR brands are Nikwax and downTek.

Goosefeet Gear down pants


OUTER MATERIAL: 
CHOOSING THE RIGHT DENIER

Down pants are made from Ripstop Nylon, which is the same outer shell material used in many sleeping bags and down jackets. The higher the denier of the item, the more durable the fabric is going to be (which still isn’t much). One consideration to think about, which many who design UL down products do, is that the higher the denier of an item the more it will weigh. Because of this, many manufacturers forgo a higher denier level to cut down on the item’s weight.


BAFFLES: 
AFFECTS LOFT AND RISKS OF COLD SPOTS

The size of the baffles and their spacing changes how a down piece looks and can impact whether the heat is evenly distributed across the item. For example, down items with larger baffles look “puffier,” and are better designed for holding greater amounts of insulation since they allow more room for loft. But this can also lead the down to move around easier, which can cause cold spots. Smaller baffles make for a less puffy appearance and are better at holding down in place, which helps to reduce the risk of developing cold spots.


SEWING: 
SEWN-THROUGH IS THE STANDARD

Most down items and garments are sewn-through. What it means is that both the internal and external layers of the fabric are sewn together with the down enclosed in-between. This stitch creates small, individually sealed-off “pockets” for the down so it doesn’t shift around as easily.


FIT: 
ENOUGH ROOM TO LAYER AND MOVE FREELY

It’s best to leave a little breathing room in a pair of down pants since they’re going to be worn over top of a baselayer or another bottom. You also want to have enough flexibility in them to comfortably bend your knees, squat, etc. without ripping them. Shoot for an athletic fit that allows for an easy range of motion, and enough room for adding a thin layer or two underneath if necessary.

Down pants for climbing© Anna Liina Laitinen


Extras


Down pants can come with pockets, snaps, and zippers galore, or they may be straightforward designs that cut out these extras to save on weight. When it comes to which is better, it’s all about personal preference, but here are a few reasons some hikers find these features beneficial:


FLY: 
HELPS TO PUT THE PANTS ON/OFF

A zippered, snap or another enclosure fly will make the down pants seem more like regular pants and make it easier to get them on/off. For those who find “shimmying” in or out of garments a regular occurrence, this detail may be favorable.


SIDE ZIPPERS:
FOR PUTTING THE PANTS ON WITHOUT REMOVING YOUR SHOES

Side zippers make temperature regulation and switching between your camp shoes, hiking/mountaineering boots a heck of a lot easier. Some pants have half-zips while others have full-length. The full-length zippers make the pants easier to get in and out of when you want to put on or take off the pants without removing your boots.


BELT OR WAISTAND:
KEEPS THE PANTS IN PLACE

An adjustable belt can help to secure the pants fit. Although, more pants are dropping the belt in place of a combination of a waistband and drawcord to save weight without sacrificing the ability to personalize the fit.


STUFF SACK: 
TO EASILY COMPRESS AND PACK YOUR PANTS

Many down pants come with a stuff sack or are built to be packed inside their own pocket (if they have one). On average, a pair will condense to about the size of a Nalgene or smaller.


STRETCH HEM: 
HELPS WITH INSULATION AND TEMPERATURE REGULATION

Stretch hems will lie at the ankles of the pants, and they’re there to keep snow, cold drafts, and other unwanted things out while keeping body heat locked in. They also work to turn your pants into instant capris in case you get a little too toasty.


POCKETS: 
YOU WON'T NEED THEM

Again, personal preference, but chances are you won’t miss not having pockets all that much given that most of the time down pants are worn as a midlayer, anyway.

Down pants for hunting© Courtesy of Stone Glacier


Best Models


Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

ghost down pants

Price: $250

Weight: 9.6 oz

Fill Power: 800-fill RDS-certified

Down weight: N/A

These down pants are quality constructed using the same technology as Mountain Hardwear’s best-selling down jacket. They have a close-knit quilt pattern which aids in even heat distribution and makes them one of the least visually poofy pants on our list. The Ghost Whisperers come in a standard fit and have two deep pockets, zippered, snap and drawstring closures at the front and drawstring ankles. When not in use, the pants pack into their own pocket. They have a knee-high external leg zipper, and their roomy design allows ease of movement, making them a great option for trekking through the backcountry, climbing, skiing, or snowboarding. A men's and women’s version is available.

🛒 Available at Amazon


Rab Argon

argon down pants

Price: $200

Weight: 13.2 oz

Fill Power: 800 RDS Certified

Down weight: 5.6 oz size L

A bargain buy coming in cheaper than many other comparable down pants, the Rab Argons have a removable/adjustable belt and a two-way zippered fly with a snap enclosure. They come in a regular fit and are made to keep any climbers or mountaineers hanging around a base camp well and warm. The Pertex Endurance exterior fabric protects against light weather, and the goose down is treated with a special Nikwax product that keeps the down insulating even in the chance that it gets damp. The pants are a straightforward design. They don’t have any pockets or side zippers. The lack of zippers can make them tricky when getting in/out of boots. The Rab Argon’s are available in men’s, and they’re said to run small. Sizing up is suggested.

🛒 Available at Amazon


Montbell Light Down Pants

montbell down pants

Price: $210

Weight: 7.1 oz

Fill Power: 800 Fill Power EX down

Down weight: 3 oz

This is the new and improved version of Montbell’s previous down pants that were popular back in the early 2000s. With this new design, they improved the construction and stripped the pants to their basics, making for an ultra-warm, ultra-light, ultra-packable, and no-bells-and-whistles straightforward design. The shell of the pants is made from 10D Ballistic Airlight Nylon Ripstop, which is a special material said to be 3X stronger against tears than nylons that are 20% heavier. Another major difference of the Montbell Light’s compared to other down pants is they have diamond-shaped baffles instead of horizontal. The baffles are sewn-through, and this design is a measure to keep insulation evenly distributed. If you want a lightweight but still warm minimal pair of pants for hiking, this is it. They have no-fly, snaps, or enclosures. No zippered legs or pockets and the waist is held up by elastic and a drawstring. Available in men’s and women.

🛒 Available at Montbell


Stone Glacier Grumman

grumman down pants

Price: $230

Weight: 16 oz

Fill Power: 850+ Fill Power Goose down

Down weight: 4.2 oz

There are a few cool features about this pant like the full-length zippers which make temperature regulation and taking them on/off with boots a breeze. Another cool feature is the additional shell textiles, which provide extra durability in high wear-and-tear areas like the knees and the seat of the pants. Externally, the Stone Glacier’s are made with a sleek design from a lightweight 15D shell fabric that’s quiet and windproof—a nice touch for hunters. As for internally, these pants use Stone Glacier's HyperDRY™ down fill which is designed to keep the warmth to weight ratio even in the chance they get wet. Although these unisex pants weigh in as one of the heavier options on our list, they pack small and are an excellent option for backcountry wear or hunts.

🛒 Available at Stone Glacier


Feathered Friends Helios

helios down pants

Price: $250

Weight: 13 oz

Fill Power: 900+ Goose down

Down weight: 4.4 oz

The Helios down pants have the highest level of fill power on our list. The Feathered Friends team designed them with mountaineers and alpine ascenders who will be going up against some of the most extreme conditions in mind. With large vertical baffles, sewn-through construction, Lycra cuffs, and full-length side zippers that separate for ease of taking the pants on/off with boots, the Helios down pants have quickly become a favorite in the alpine climbing and ski world. Although they’re bulky to the eye, they pack down well. The fit is athletic with a double-snap adjustment and elastic waistband for an extra secure, personalized fit. There are no pockets on the pants. Feathered Friends also offers a hooded Helios down jacket, and both are available in men’s.

🛒 Available at Feathered Friends


Goosefeet Gear Down Pants

goosefeet down pants

Price: $170

Weight: 6.7 oz (L)

Fill Power: 850 Goose down

Down weight: 3.5

Goosefeet Gear is all about customization, as they don’t believe in the “one size fits all” mentality. This means each customer can design pants to their exact measurements and choose the color, fill (2.5-8.5 oz), and even the external fabric (offering 8D-20D nylon options.) There’s also the choice to add in pockets, zippers, buttons/snaps, etc. Though these pants are specifically designed per customer, there are a few features that remain the same. The pants have a cinch top waist and elastic ankle cuffs and, depending on the fill selection, the pants can rate anywhere from 40F to -20F. Once the order is placed and paid for, the Goosefeet Gear team gets to work on constructing, and the pants typically take around three weeks from the order date. The customization options here make these pants perfect for anyone with special sizing needs.

🛒 Available at Goosefeet Gear


Western Mountaineering Flight Pants

western mountaineering down pants

Price: $315

Weight: 12.5 oz

Fill Power: 850+ Goose down

Down weight: 4 oz

The Western Mountaineering flight pants have full-length side zippers and extra-tough 20D polyester Windstopper fabric in the seat and knees to keep these high-use areas dry and protected. There’s also an adjustable waist belt and ankle cuffs with Velcro enclosures. As their name suggests, they’re a great option for mountaineers, but also any outdoorsy-folk that are looking for some serious protection against the cold. The pants come in a regular fit and have a stretchy, adjustable waist to keep them fitting snug. These bad boys are extremely warm, comfortable, and offer a good range of flexibility. The pants don’t include pockets or a stuff sack. They come in a unisex option.

🛒 Available at Amazon


KUIU Super Down ULTRA Pant

kuiu down pants

Price: $250

Weight: 8 oz

Fill Power: 850+

Down weight: N/A

Made for the hunters and fishers out there, these down pants are designed to keep wearers warm while performing activities where long spells of remaining still are of the utmost importance. The Polish goose down clusters used in the KUIU Super down pants are treated with DWR, and the external material used on the pants is a 12D Stunner Stretch ripstop, which is stretchy, lightweight, and most importantly, noiseless. The pants are constructed for a comfortable midlayer fit and appear surprisingly thin and light for their warmth. They pack down to around the size of a softball, and each pair comes with a lifetime warranty. They have full-length side zippers, adjustable Velcro at the waist, and come with a self-stowing pouch. They’re offered in men’s only.

🛒 Available at KUIU


Care & Storage


How to wash and dry?

It’s good to wash down items at least once a season. If you’ve never washed down before, it can seem intimidating, but by following these few simple guidelines you can wash your item safely and effectively.

  • Close up all zippers and fasten all snaps before washing

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions for anything noteworthy

  • “Spot clean” any stains with plain water or a little mild soap by dabbing the area with a sponge or washcloth.

  • Use a detergent-like Nikwax or Granger down wash. These are made especially for down items.

Don’t let your down dry out in the sun as this can harm the fabric. It’s okay to put down in the dryer as long as it’s on a low heat setting. Be sure to check the jacket every 20-30 minutes so it doesn’t overheat, and toss a few tennis balls in to revitalize its loft.

How to store?

Down does best when it has some room to breathe while in storage. Like, for example, hanging up in a garment bag in a closet. This helps keep the loft from clumping together which leads to unwanted cold spots.

How to repair?

There’s a fairly good chance that at some point your down pants will get torn, punctured, or maybe even a bit singed. As long as the damage is minimal, you should be able to repair your item with some specially made nylon repair tape, or, if you don’t have any of that with you, a strip of duct tape can work nicely.

 

Read next: 10 Best Ultralight Hiking Pants



greenbelly meals logo small square

By Katie Licavoli: Katie Licavoli is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast who specializes in articles, blog posts, gear reviews, and site content about living the Good Life spent exploring The Great Outdoors. Her favorite days are ones in nature, and her favorite views are any with mountains.
About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

Affiliate disclosure: We aim to provide honest information to our readers. We do not do sponsored or paid posts. In exchange for referring sales, we may receive a small commission through affiliate links. This post may contain affiliate links. This comes at no extra cost to you.



the best backpacking meal - greenbelly