OK let’s jam through the basics. A puffer jacket (AKA simply puffer and sometimes called down jacket, but that’s no longer all that accurate what with the down alternatives out there) is a warm jacket designed to be layered with a parka or rain shell in some conditions and worn as the exclusive warm garment in others (think Arctic, East Coast, and SoCal, respectively).
Any puffer worth consideration is flexible, compressible and packable, and offers water resistance if not outright water proofing. Also, it will keep you warm. But not all conditions merit the same level of warmth, nor do all people, thus the crowded puffer marketplace.
Note a prospective down coat’s fill power and know that the higher the fill power, the warmer the coat. 200 fill? Not that warm. 800? Crazy warm. 500 to 600? Sweet spot. When it comes to synthetic insulation, that’s rated in grams. 40 grams? Not too warm. 120g? Sizzling hot. Got it? You got it.
For the record, I currently own six puffers and my wife has three or four more. Because obsession. But that little issue aside, you can trust me when I talk about these things. So let’s talk.
Arc’Teryx Nuclei FL
This is my personal favorite puffer. It’s extremely lightweight, so lightweight you don’t expect it to keep you warm, but it does, even at blisteringly cold temps. It can literally fold up into the size of a grapefruit if need be, has a hood, tailored arms, and sides, so you don’t look like the Michelin Man.
Fjallraven Kiruna Liner Jacket
This jacket was designed with layering in mind, and while style-wise you can absolutely make it outerwear, it is best when tucked under a rain shell in moderate winter conditions or under a parka when things get brutal. It’s fitted but flexible and plenty warm.
Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket
Uniqlo’s puffer is ultra-light, boasting a refined design and low price point, too. It’s made with 90% down, has a water-repellent coating to keep out drizzles, and can pack down into its own pocket.
Montane Icarus Jacket
This is the puffer to bring along if you’re pretty sure you’re going to be stranded on a glacier. Warm and breathable, windproof and water resistant. And as all of the insulation comes from PrimaLoft’s ThermoPlume synthetic fill, it maintains the majority of its insulating power even if completely soaked.
Patagonia Nano-Puff Jacket
The Nano-Puff is one of the lightest puffers around, but still plenty warm. It is an ideal layering piece because it’s not all that puffy in the scheme of things. And it’s superlative for an alpine ascent when gear weight matters, or for more casual travel. The jacket packs down as well as any warm coat I’ve ever seen. I once fit a Nano-Puff in the front pocket of my jeans.
Sierra Designs Men's Whitney DriDown Hoodie
Hate being cold? Then don’t be. This coat has an 800-fill power rating, so you’ll stay warm to the core even when Old Man Winter does his damnedest to chill your bones. Details like elastic cuffs and a generously stuffed hood help.
Allbirds Trino Puffer
Allbirds launched clothing so you can be decked out in Allbirds from head to toe. The Trino Puffer is a little, well, more puffy than most, but that’s in style right now. Plus, it uses natural materials to leverage the sustainability practices Allbirds is known for.
Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket
Add a pop of color to your winter wardrobe with this coat, which will also, of course, keep you warm. It has two exterior zippered hand pockets to keep fingers warm and two internal stash pockets to keep stuff safe. Its large, scuba-style hood will keep your head warm and can be worn over a helmet to keep that noggin safe, too.
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