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Review: REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket

Big, puffy jackets tend to have big, puffy prices. This one from REI improves on its predecessor for a little extra coin.
REI CoOp 650 Down Jacket
Photograph: REI
REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket
Multiple Buying Options Available

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Excellent value. Reasonably lightweight. Regular fit leaves room for layering. Recycled materials. Plenty of cavernous pockets. Packs down small for storage.
$30 more expensive than the outgoing model.

REI Co-op—the house brand for outdoor retailer REI—consistently strikes an impressive balance between quality and price. The latest example is the 650 Down Jacket, which is lightweight, made of recycled materials, and warm.

The previous version of this jacket is the 650 Down Jacket 2.0, so while that technically makes the current version 3.0, it's now just called the 650 Down Jacket. REI made several nice changes, like adding a drawstring hem cord to cinch the waist and prevent heat loss at the bottom of the jacket. The good news? It remains one of the best puffy jackets you can buy.

Version 3.0

The most noticeable change is the move from a square grid pattern to horizontal tubes. It's still a stitch-through pattern, which isn't as warm (or expensive) as baffled box construction, but that's to be expected on a jacket at this price. The vertical stitching in the old model kept the down from shifting internally and creating cold spots. If it does shift during wear with the new construction, you can knead it back into place.

Photograph: REI

The smooth nylon taffeta material has been swapped for Bluesign-approved ripstop nylon. Ripstop nylon has a gridlike structure that prevents holes and tears from growing larger. That's a great move on REI's part, as it improves durability without adding significant weight. You'd think outdoor clothing would be tough and durable, but a lot of technical outdoor garments are fairly fragile. To save weight and room in a pack, down jackets typically sacrifice durability. Rugged clothing from brands like Filson or Carharrt, by contrast, tend to use heavier materials.

The only downside is that this jacket costs $30 more than the old one. That said, at $129 the 650 Down Jacket remains the best deal in down jackets today. The price of goose down has risen in recent years, due to increased demand, and even bargain jackets tend to cost more.

The Down-Low

The 650 Down Jacket has a 650 fill power. Fill power is a way to measure and compare the warmth-to-weight ratio of goose down materials (we have a broader explainer about fill power here). The 650 rating is typical for a jacket at this price.

Compared to synthetic puffy jackets, goose down has a few advantages and a couple of disadvantages. Ounce for ounce, goose down is warmer. You can compact it and crush it into a smaller space, which is great for backpacking and traveling. The main downside is that goose down doesn't insulate you to keep you warm when it's wet, and it takes longer to dry out than synthetic insulation. Finally, some people avoid animal products, which includes goose down.

Like digital cameras and their megapixels, it's best not to get caught up in fill power numbers unless you have specific needs. Anyone looking for the absolute warmest-per-ounce down jacket for a hiking or climbing trip can find plenty of 800- to 900-fill jackets out there, like REI Co-op's own Magma 850 Hoodie ($249), but they're not cheap.

For casual day hikes, day-to-day trips around the city, or as a layering piece under a shell jacket when you're working in the field or yard, the 650 Down Jacket will be more than capable of keeping you warm and toasty. I don't love cold weather, but I can throw this jacket on over nothing more than a cotton undershirt and take a walk when the temperature's in the 30-degree Fahrenheit range, and I'm toasty. With a warm shirt and a waxed cotton shell, I've worn the previous 2.0 version of this jacket down to 12 degrees Fahrenheit and stayed warm.

REI has coated the 650 Down Jacket with a durable water-resistant (DWR) coating that helps repel moisture caused by splashes, raindrops, humid air, and sweat. If I were traipsing through wet snow on a multi-day trip, I'd choose a synthetic jacket, but in colder, drier, outdoor conditions, the 650 Down Jacket had no problems with dampness.

Photograph: REI

Two zippered hand warmer pockets on the exterior hold plenty. Inside, two enormous open pockets can swallow a pair of gloves and a scarf with room left over. I've yet to run out of storage room on any all-day outing. Zippers are one spot where manufacturers try to shave pennies off their cost, but I had no issues here. These zippers are smooth and don't get caught up.

REI struck a path right down the middle when it comes to the fit of the jacket. It's neither as slim-fitting as the Patagonia Micro Puff nor as cavernous as the Black Diamond Belay Parka. Wearing my normal size, I can comfortably throw the 650 Down Jacket over a long-sleeve base layer, long-sleeve shirt, and chunky sweater. I can also throw it over a thin cotton shirt without feeling like a child swimming in Dad's gigantic coat.

There aren't many pieces of gear I recommend heartily for both a hike in the woods and a trip downtown, but when I reach for a warm jacket to throw on, more often than not it's the 650 Down Jacket. It nails so many things right for a middle-of-the-road winter jacket. Sure, it's a little plain, but among the competition in its bracket, it's the best value I've stumbled across.