Macpac vs Kathmandu Down Jackets: Which to Choose?

You probably already know that down provides the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any material. This is why it’s used in the jackets worn by everyone from Himilayan mountain guides to arctic explorers.

Choosing a down jacket, however, can be a bit of a challenge. You need to consider things like fill power, water resistance, and whether the down is RDS certified.

To help you in your search, we’ve created this comprehensive comparison of Australia’s two favourite down jacket brands: Macpac and Kathmandu.

Jackets used in this comparison

With the aim of creating the most helpful resource, we’ve included three of the most popular jackets from each brand.

All these jackets are available in both men’s and women’s models.

Comparison categories

We’ve then split the jackets into two categories: Heavyweight and Lightweight.

Heavyweight down jackets

These jackets are a good option as your main warm layer for camping, hiking, or other activities where you’re outside in cool temperatures.

Here are the jackets compared in this category:

These are the jackets from our list that weigh more than 500 grams (Men’s size M).

Lightweight down jackets

Lighter-weight down jackets provide warmth without the bulk. They are good for layering in cold conditions or using as an outer layer in warmer months.

These are the jackets from our list that weigh less than 500 grams (Men’s size M).

Click here to skip to the Lightweight down jacket comparison.

Macpac vs Kathmandu: Heavyweight down jackets

Down jackets included in this category:

Macpac Halo

Macpac Sundowner

Kathmandu Epiq

Kathmandu Federate

View at Kathmandu

Down

Down JacketMacpac HaloMacpac SundownerKathmandu EpiqKathmandu Federate
Fill type80/20 Duck Down80/20 Duck Down (HyperDRY)80/20 Duck Down85/15 Duck Down (DownTek)
Fill power600600600650
Fill weight219 g263 g180 g144 g
RDS certifiedYesYesYesYes

RDS

All Macpac and Kathmandu jackets use Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified down. RDS is a voluntary certification by an independent third party and is the global standard in the ethical sourcing of down.

Water resistance

Two of the jackets in this comparison feature water-resistant down: the Macpac Sundowner with HyperDRY and the Kathmandu Federate with DownTek.

Down and water don’t mix. When it gets wet, down will clump together which means it loses its loft along with its insulating properties.

Fill power

Fill power can be viewed as a quality rating for down. The number refers to how many cubic inches of loft is produced by one ounce of down.

Higher numbers are better as they mean better loft which means better insulation per gram of down.

Of the heavyweight jackets, only the Kathmandu Federate has 650 fill power while the rest have 600.

Note: The two numbers in the down fill type row on the table (e.g 80/20) tell us the ratio of down to feathers. A higher down % is generally considered better.

Fill weight

Fill weight refers to the actual weight of the down in the jacket. Where fill power relates to quality, fill weight relates to quantity. This is an important metric for determining how warm a down jacket will be.

The Macpac Sundowner is the clear winner here with 263 g of down. If you want a jacket that will keep you warm in winter conditions, this is the one to go for.

Kathmandu’s Epiq 600 and Macpac’s Halo are fairly similar on this metric with 180 g and 219 g of fill weight respectively. This makes sense, as they are designed for a similar purpose/target market.

Other materials

Down JacketMacpac HaloMacpac SundownerKathmandu EpiqKathmandu Federate
OuterRecycled NylonRecycled NylonRecycled NylonNylon, Elastane
InnerRecycled NylonRecycled NylonNylonNylon, Elastane
DWR finishYesYesYesYes
Jacket weight560 g680 g640 g640 g
Bluesign approvedYesYesYesYes

Outer and Inner

All jackets in this category feature a nylon outer and inner.

The Kathmandu Federate also incorporates elastane which we presume has something to do with the baffle fabric design.

Also worth noting is the stitchless design on the Federate which minimises down leakage.

DWR finish

All of these jackets feature a durable water repellent (DWR) finish.

DWR provides water resistance, so light rain will roll off the surface, but it does not make the item waterproof. Note also that DWR finishes tend to wear out over time.

Jacket weight

If you’re interested in lightweight hiking gear (like us) then the total jacket weight is an interesting metric, especially when compared with the fill weight.

Keep in mind that when out on the trail, your jacket will often spend the day inside your pack, and can weigh almost as much as your sleeping bag.

When comparing down fill weight to total jacket weight, we can see the Kathmandu Federate weighs the same as the Epiq 600 but has much less down (144 g vs 180 g).

For interest’s sake, we’ve calculated the down fill as a percentage of the total jacket weight for each of them:

  • Macpac Halo: 39%
  • Macpac Sundowner: 39%
  • Kathmandu Epiq 600: 28%
  • Kathmandu Federate: 23%

Features

Down JacketMacpac HaloMacpac SundownerKathmandu EpiqKathmandu Federate
HoodOptionalRemovableOptionalYes
Outer pockets2222
Inner pockets1121
Soft lined hand pocketsYesYesYesYes
Soft lined chin flapYesYesYesNot stated
Stuff sackPacks into pocketPacks into pocketYesNot stated

There are no deal-breakers here, with most things coming down to personal preference.

The Macpac Sundowner is the only jacket to feature a removable hood, while most of the others are available either with or without a hood.

Macpac Sundowner removable hood

If you’re going to be spending time in cold conditions, things like a fleece-lined chin flap can be a godsend.

Key takeaways

There are no clear winners or losers in this lineup, as each jacket is suited to a slightly different purpose:

  • For cold-weather adventures, the Macpac Sundowner (view at Macpac) rises above the competition thanks to its much higher fill weight. It also includes HyperDRY duck down which means it won’t be rendered useless if it comes into contact with moisture. It also includes nice-to-have features like soft lined hand pockets and chin flap and a removable hood.
  • For a general-purpose winter jacket, the Macpac Halo (view at Macpac) and Kathmandu Epiq 600 (view at Kathmandu) are good options. There’s not much that separates them so maybe choose based on style preference or whether one is on sale. We also put the Kathmandu Federate into this category. It has a lower fill weight so may not provide the same warmth, but includes features like stitchless design and DownTek duck down not found on other Kathmandu jackets.

Macpac vs Kathmandu: Lightweight down jackets

Down jackets included in this category:

Macpac Uber

Kathmandu Heli

Down

Down JacketMacpac UberKathmandu Heli
Fill type90/10 Duck Down80/20 Duck Down
Fill power650600
Fill weight88 g118 g
RDS certified290 g396 g

RDS

As mentioned above, all jackets from these brands use Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified down.

Water resistance

The Macpac Sundowner and the Kathmandu Federate in the previous section both feature water-resistant down.

Neither the Macpac Uber nor the Kathmandu Heli feature water-resistant down, likely due to them being more lightweight and affordable options.

Fill power

Fill power can be viewed as a quality rating for down and tells us how effective the insulation is.

The Macpac Uber has a 650 fill power rating, the higher of any Macpac jacket aside from their Icefall technical climbing jacket.

The Kathmandu Heli has a fill rating of 600, as with most jackets in this comparison.

Fill weight

Fill weight tells us the actual weight of the down in the jacket. It tells us the quantity, whereas fill power told us the quality.

The Macpac Uber has a fill weight of 88 g while the Kathmandu Heli is 118 g, both based on a Men’s size M jacket.

While both of these jackets are lightweight and provide only a minimal level of insulation, the Kathmandu Heli contains more down.

Other materials

Down JacketMacpac UberKathmandu Heli
OuterNylonPolyester
InnerYesYes
DWR finishOptionalOptional
Jacket weightNylonRipstop Polyester
Bluesign approvedNoYes

Outer and Inner

While the Macpac Uber features a Nylon outer and inner, both layers of the Heli are made from polyester.

Both of these materials are lightweight and quick-drying, however, nylon is generally considered to be more durable and weather resistant.

We can see by looking at the line-up of jackets from both brands that nylon is considered to be the more premium material, as it features in all of their more expensive models.

DWR finish

Both of these jackets are coated in a durable water repellent (DWR) finish which provides water resistance but not waterproofing.

Jacket weight

At a mere 290 grams, the Macpac Uber is easily the lightest down jacket in our review.

It won’t provide enough warmth as your main winter jacket but is a handy and versatile layer that can be used as needed depending on the weather.

The Kathmandu Heli weighs in at 396 grams, which sits roughly in between the Uber and the jackets included in our heavyweight category.

Features

Down JacketMacpac UberKathmandu Heli
HoodOptionalOptional
Outer pockets22
Inner pockets12
Soft lined hand pocketsNoNo
Soft lined chin flapNoNo
Stuff sackYesPacks into pocket

These jackets are very similar in terms of features and extras, with them both being available with or without hoods and neither featuring fleece-lined hand pockets or chin flaps.

The Kathmandu Heli packs into an internal pocket while the comes with a stuff sack.

Key takeaways

There’s little that differentiates these two jackets but we think there’s a clear use-case for each one:

  • For a versatile down layer, go with the Macpac Uber (view at Macpac). It’s ultra-lightweight with an impressive 650 fill power and 90% down-to-feather ratio. The Uber can be worn as an outer layer or under a hard shell jacket if needed.
  • For a lightweight, everyday down jacket, the Kathmandu Heli (view at Kathmandu) is a good choice. With a 34% higher fill weight than the Uber, it’s going to provide extra warmth, without having the bulk of the jackets listed in the previous section.

Summary

The Kathmandu and Macpac line-ups include everything from affordable everyday jackets right through to technical outerwear for extreme conditions.

The best one for you will depend on your personal preferences and budget.

Here is our summary from this analysis:

Macpac Halo

Macpac Sundowner

Kathmandu Epiq

Kathmandu Federate

View at Kathmandu

Macpac Uber

Kathmandu Heli

Photo of author

The Adventure Lab

At The Adventure Lab, our goal is to provide high-quality, actionable information and advice to help you plan for your next adventure. Our team of writers consists of professional mountain guides, personal trainers, exercise physiologists and more.