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.
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.
Montane Icarus Jacket
Columbia OutDry Ex Gold Down Jacket: This jacket’s bonded baffling prevents fill travel and eliminates cold spots. And if that doesn’t make sense, just know that it does make a difference – you’ll be warm, basically. Of even more note here is the OutDry of it all. This jacket is fully waterproof. Like downpour, blizzard, or guy spraying you with a hose waterproof.
Columbia Titanium Outdry Ex Gold Down Hooded Jacket
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.
Patagonia Nano-Puff Jacket
Sierra Designs Whitney 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.
Sierra Designs Men's Whitney DriDown Hoodie
Outdoor Vitals Ultralight LoftTek Jacket: If you demand superior wind resistance, then demand an OV Ultralight coat. Or better yet, just buy one. The fabric blocks the chill of even cutting gusts while its high collar and snug hem and cuffs keep air from creeping in the sides. And thumbholes prevent the sleeves from sliding back.
Outdoor Vitals Men's Ultralight Down Jacket
Cotopaxi Fuego 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.
Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket
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