The Ultra Thin Down: Stylish But Hardly Warm For A Cold Winter’s Night

If you live any where in the world where you have four seasons and one of those seasons includes winter, you know the temperatures drop down to levels that’s downright freezing. The coming of winter makes people feel more inclined to want to stay in, snuggle up under the covers, and maybe read a book as you sip a steaming mug of hot cocoa or tea. But for those who do have to step out into the biting cold, you need to dress warmly and that usually means sporting a winter jacket. Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more people shirking the bulky and puffy down jackets for the super sleek, ultra thin down jackets.

I personally love wearing a beautiful jacket when the temperatures become cooler. It acts as an accent or compliment to what I’m currently wearing, while keeping me warm at the same time. Despite being more of a jacket wearing person, I’m not a fan of winter or having to wear puffier jackets. I often feel like I’m a walking bed comforter or marshmallow whenever I wear these jackets. Despite what I feel about these winter jackets, I’ll wear them if it keeps me warm. I like being able to walk around on a cold winter’s day or night without feeling like I’m going to freeze my little butt off. A lot of these jackets may not be as flattering on your figure, but I’m willing to sacrifice looking super cute during the winter, instead of wearing a jacket that’s more flattering on my frame but does nothing to ward off the cold.

Uniqlo's Ultra Light Jacket
Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Jacket

When department stores started carrying a solution to the “marshmallow effect” in winter jackets by selling what has been dubbed the “ultra thin down” or the “packable down,” it sounded like something I really needed. These jackets are certainly not as puffy as your average winter jacket and they look much nicer on the body. There’s only one problem with this jacket––it’s not warm.

I bought one of these ultra light and packable down jackets from Uniqlo a few months ago. The description on the tag claimed that it’s a slimmer fit jacket and is stuffed with the warmest down feathers you’ll ever find. Wearing this jacket in the winter is supposed to keep you warm no matter what winter activity you may be doing. If you’re traveling to a place where it’s cold, you can take it with you on the go with their handy little pouch that will take up less space in your suitcase or carry on bag.

Sure, this winter jacket is a little shapeless but at least this one will keep me warm.
Sure, this winter jacket is a little shapeless but at least this one will keep me warm.

The ultra thin jacket does avoid the walking comforter problem and it’s convenient for packing if you’re on the go, but this jacket isn’t as warm as it claims to be. Not by itself anyway. An ultra thin jacket means less stuffing and feathers. The less you have, the less warm your jacket will be. There’s a reason why winter jackets are as puffy as they are––all the feathers stuffed into one jacket is doing the job it’s meant to do which is to keep a body warm. I can wear a light long sleeved or short sleeved top underneath my puffy jacket and still feel warm in 20 degree weather. Can I do that with my stylish Uniqlo ultra thin down? Nope, not at all.

Unless the cold hardly bothers you, the ultra thin down jacket requires you to layer up and a lot! One or two layers underneath the ultra thin down isn’t enough. I would guess you would need at least three or four layers to be able to wear just this jacket alone. I haven’t tested this theory out myself and I doubt I will because I hate feeling really cold when I’m outside. This is why I thrive better under fall or spring like temperatures. Too bad those seasons tend to be the shortest of the four.

The ultra thin down may be a popular sell in just about any department store I walk into, but it’s hardly a reliable winter jacket for those cold days in the middle of January. I need a jacket with more heft and enough feathers to keep me warm on those walks around the city. I’ll take looking like a petite marshmallow during the wintertime over looking cute and having a flattering figure in my ultra thin winter jacket. There’s only a few more months left of winter. I’ll get my chance to wear my pea coats and biker jackets then, and it’ll be glorious.

Have an ultra thin down jacket? What’s your opinion on this current trend?

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16 thoughts on “The Ultra Thin Down: Stylish But Hardly Warm For A Cold Winter’s Night

  1. Yup, I’ll look like a marshmallow if it keeps me warm! Sacrificing fashion is a small price to pay for not freezing to death. It’s too bad the ultra thin doesn’t ward off the cold better, though! However, if I want a form-flattering coat that’s also warm, I go for a totally different style than this — something thick, maybe a little bulky, but with a waistband. I never thought of these puffer jackets as super flattering for the figure, even though I love them too.

    But then, it doesn’t get that cold where I live. I wish it did, though! That’s one thing I miss about living in London… being able to wear a coat almost year round. Maybe we should trade places for a while… =)

    1. Haha, I’d love to trade places if it meant I’d get nice mild temps instead of near freezing temps! 🙂 When winter comes around, looking cute and fashionable goes out the window. I’ll be wearing something nice underneath the jacket, but I may not be strutting my stuff in a puffer jacket when I feel like a marshmallow. Good thing I’m not outdoors for too long anyway and I can shed the jacket once I’m inside!

  2. I’m with everyone else — marshmallow is the way to go! 😀 Though my winter staple has been a long, black, wool coat that I’ve had for many years. It’s shaped and very flattering. (Even when I moved to warmer places, it moved too — no way I was going to toss a classic!)

    I bought a new basic winter jacket last year that’s on the thinner side, but it’s not an ultra thin. I tried a few off those on, and while they were very comfortable, I couldn’t imagine them being any good in 20 degree weather. Springtime, maybe. *Maybe.*

    1. The popular consensus is to look like a marshmallow in winter! 😀 I bought the ultra thin down because I did like the look of it, but knew right away that the jacket won’t be good in 20 degree weather at all. The ultra thin down feels more like a fall/spring jacket more than anything else.

  3. Thanks for writing this!! I totally agree — packable down jackets just don’t do it. I bought three jackets to compare, and the ultra light down always disappoints. Even if a jacket is stuffed with high-loft premium down, the moment you lean on something, it squashes down to nothing and loses all of its warmth!

  4. I recently purchased the jacket for my daughter who travels in the city, she was looking for a slimmer version of the puffy coat as well. We did some shopping around and had a few discussions on this style of coat. As a mother this coat will never keep a person warm but as a older teen this is the best coat ever according to the manufactor. Long story short, do not purchase this coat if you will be in temperatures below 40 degrees, you will be cold and if its raining wet as well.

    1. I agree. The slimmer down jacket isn’t so great in warding off the cold when it goes below 40 or less. Maybe if someone wore a heavy sweater or a ton of layers, it might be possible to remain warm with this jacket alone. Still, I’m personally sticking with my puffier downs to keep me warm in the winter.

  5. There are warmer thin down jackets but they cost a lot more than $70. I have one from Patagonia and recently wore it to Chicago. The temp was 15-20 F. I was comfy wearing layers – regular dress shirt, thin wool sweater and my jacket. I would not stand around in that temp for an hour, but I was warm working there for two days.

    1. Usually the best quality jackets would require you to pay more than the cheaper options you have in department stores. Buying the more expensive down jackets will cost you, but it is a good investment in the long run when it keeps you warm and looking really good in the winter. Unfortunately, it’s an investment I can’t make myself due to other expenses that are higher on my list of priorities. I don’t doubt there are warmer slim down jackets than the one I’ve bought. You just have to be willing to pay more for them.

  6. These type of ultra-thins are actually meant to be a replacement for a fleece jumper. They’re mid-layer pieces, and when worn alone would only be suitable in Autumn for around town (as opposed to mid/high energy activities such as hiking). Whoever told you it could replace a down anorak or parka is sorely mistaken.

    Although on the pricey side (450-550$ mark), two coats I would recommend that have a slimmer profile, and actually look very nice on, are the Patagonia Tres Parka and the North Face Suzanne parka. With both, you can separate the liner from the outer waterproof trench to be able to use them as a separate down and rain coat, or together. With the Suzanne, the inner liner is also reversible. The Suzanne is longer and slightly bulkier and heavier, but noticeably warmer I think. The Tres, as someone who is on the shorter side (5’2″) was more flattering on me. Where I live, the local North Face shop has 10% student discount, and although no discount, Patagonia has the Iron Clad warranty, where they will repair (and in extreme circumstances replace) any damage that occurs on the product. They both have 2 way zippers.

    I have yet to test out my new Patagonia, but these are my initial perceptions of both. I know they’re pricey, but I think they’re both great options in cold, wet climates. I think the Suzanne is better as an all-round winter coat, but for me, personally, I got the Patagonia for the transitional season (late autumn, early winter as I get cold very quickly–> I have a hardcore duvet style CG to deal with the New England winter!) as I don’t personally feel comfortable in too many layers (max 3- thermal base, mid wooly jumper, and outer).

    1. Thanks for the coat recommendations! It’s worth looking into. Spending a little more on a really good winter jacket that will last a good long while is a good investment.

      I have seen a few people wear the ultra thin down in the winter where I live, but I presume those people are wearing tons of layers underneath the jacket. By itself it’s not a practical coat for keeping warm. As you said, it’s much more suited for the autumn and spring. What is good about these thin down jackets is it’s easier to fold and pack on the go. It’s not bulky like regular down jackets and it takes up less space in your suitcase or bag.

  7. ˆjust wanted to add, that sometimes in winter, I will replace the mid-wooly with an ultra-light down gilet, just to show how it gets used.

  8. I just bought the big marshmallow puffer down coat from The Gap. Yes, its straight and no waist to speak of, but its still kinda cute. It feels so light it feels like I’m wearing a cloud. And super warm. I quite like it and have no problem with it….most other people wear them too. Here in Vancouver it does get down to freezing in the winter, and even when its just raining, the cold and the wind can get you in the bones. I need the warmth for sure. It’s called the Faux fur collar chevron down puffer. I got it 40% off….they seem to have sales all the time now. http://www.gapcanada.ca/browse/product.do?cid=1029256&vid=1&pid=534089013

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