- Puffer jackets are comfortable outerwear with plenty of insulation to keep wearers warm in the outdoors, whether during late fall or winter.
- When shopping for a reliable puffer jacket, look for those that use a down or synthetic fill, is able to hold up to outdoor activities such as hiking or skiing, and is lightweight enough to avoid feeling like a full-on parka.
- The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody is our favorite men’s puffer, combining comfort and style in an eco-friendly package.
Once worn almost exclusively by the outdoors crowd, the humble puffer jacket became a mainstream favorite for when conditions turn chilly. The name comes from the use of a quilted pattern and thick insulation, which gives it a puffy look.
In the past, these jackets were generally seen as too bulky or unfashionable but now, they’re thinner and more attractive while still managing to maintain a high level of performance. This means they look good, sure, but they also keep the body warm while repelling water and maintaining breathability. This evolution is what made the puffer both utilitarian and fashionable.
The classic puffer is built for winter outdoor activities, such as hiking or snowshoeing in the backcountry, or hitting the slopes. But the modern, sleeker versions of these coats are equally useful when heading out to run errands around town, meeting friends for dinner, or just taking the dog for a walk. Many are lightweight, compressible, and resist water, and that’s achieved through the use of high-tech insulation and fabrics.
Our favorite puffer jackets come from familiar names in the outdoors industry and for good reason. These companies are mainstays in the outdoor gear space and continue to search for innovative ways to improve the performance of their jackets while also reducing bulk and weight. The result is an outstanding lineup of puffers that offer the best in warmth and comfort.
Here are our top picks for the best puffer jacket:
- Best overall: Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody
- Best budget puffer jacket: REI Co-op 650 Down 2.0 Jacket
- Best for outdoor pursuits: The North Face Summit L3 Hoody
- Best ultralight puffer jacket: Mammut Broad Peak Light
- Best vegan puffer jacket: Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody
- Best for boys: Patagonia Hi-Loft Down Sweater Hoody
Updated on 02/27/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated copy to reflect changes to 2020, edited each pick to highlight in-house testing of the jackets, and updated prices, links, and formatting.
The best puffer jacket overall
The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody is warm, comfortable, sustainable, and stylish – ticking all the right boxes.
The Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody is exactly what most people are looking for when it comes to a puffer jacket. Not only is this garment warm and comfortable when worn, it also happens to be good looking too.
Patagonia uses 800-fill goose down to ensure that the jacket maintains a good balance between warmth and bulk. The result is plenty of protection without making it impossible to move.
One of my favorite things about this jacket is its versatility. The Down Sweater Hoody can be worn on the trail all day and then used around town or at the lodge at night. Perfect for travel or as an extra layer while backpacking, it even slips nicely under a shell for added warmth on the ski slopes. Whether you wear it on its own or as part of a larger layering system, this is a jacket that delivers good performance.
The Down Sweater Hoody’s outer-fabrics and inner-lining are all made from 100% recycled materials. Patagonia has long been a leader when it comes to protecting the environment and that extends into the garments the company manufactures. This makes the Down Sweater one of the more eco-friendly down jackets on the market today, which is something that certainly appeals to Patagonia’s core customer.
There aren’t many faults to be found in this particular coat, although at 15.1 ounces, it is on the heavy side when it comes to puffer jackets.
Pros: Versatile and warm, not overly bulky, eco-friendly
Cons: On the heavy side, doesn’t use hydrophobic down
The best budget puffer jacket
Affordable, lightweight, and well-made, the REI Co-op 650 Down 2.0 Jacket is a ridiculously great bargain.
REI’s Co-op 650 Down 2.0 Jacket might appeal to the masses thanks to the approachable price, but most importantly, the outdoor gear retailer managed to create a lightweight, comfortable, and good-looking garment. The Co-op 650 offers solid, all-around performance, while also significantly undercutting the price of the competition.
In order to reach a low price point, it’s clear REI had to make a few compromises when it comes to construction and design. This is most notable in REI’s choice to use 650-fill down as an insulator, which means the jacket isn’t as warm or compressible as jackets that use a higher fill count. REI’s designers also used nylon as an outer shell, which isn’t as durable.
That said, in reality, the Co-op 650 is still a great option for winter hikers and skiers who are looking for an inexpensive mid-layer to add to their kit. Its DWR coating works reasonably well in light rain and snowstorms, while the nylon shell is surprisingly adept at protecting the wearer from cold winds, too. Because of the actual performance, we can overlook the jacket’s deficiencies.
One of the best features of the jacket is its ability to compress down to actually fit into its own left-hand pocket, despite using a lower-fill down. This makes it incredibly easy to store in a backpack or luggage, making the Co-op 650 a good choice for travelers; it also helps that it weighs only 11 ounces.
For the money, this down jacket out-performs expectations.
Pros: Incredibly affordable, lightweight, good looking
Cons: Not as warm as jackets with higher-fill counts
The best for outdoor pursuits
If you’re an outdoors enthusiast who is into winter camping, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, or other cold-weather sports, The North Face Summit L3 Hoodie is made for you.
When you’re climbing, hiking, camping, and dogsledding during the cold winter months, your demands from a puffer jacket are a bit different. Sure, you need something that will keep you warm and is comfortable to wear, but you also want a jacket that is athletic and formfitting but doesn’t restrict your movement too much either. That’s exactly what you get with The North Face Summit L3 Hoodie, which was built with winter outdoor athletes in mind.
For use in alpine environments, this jacket offers protection from both the wind and snow. It is also amongst the warmest jackets that The North Face offers and yet, it still manages to remain fairly lightweight at just 13.4 ounces. Add in a fit that hugs the body nicely, while still providing a surpassingly full range of motion, and you get a jacket that will make the active outdoors enthusiast extremely happy during the long, cold winter months.
Other nice features include a warm, protective hood, deep hand pockets, and an adjustable hem to help keep the wind and snow at bay. The 800-fill down is used as an insulator, but curiously it is not hydrophobic as The North Face relies on its durable water repellent (DWR) coating to help prevent moisture from reaching the interior of the jacket.
The Summit L3 Hoodie is also listed as being “packable/stowable,” although it does take a bit of effort to get it into its stuff pocket.
Pros: Warm, lightweight, comfortable, built for spending extended periods of time in the outdoors
Cons: High price, no hydrophobic down
The best ultralight puffer jacket
The Mammut Broad Peak Light is so lightweight that you’ll forget you’re actually wearing it.
Even though most modern puffer jackets aren’t particularly heavy, there is always someone looking to shed a few extra ounces in order to go faster and lighter in the outdoors. For these folks, the Mammut Broad Peak Light is the jacket of choice. At 8.6 ounces, it is one of the lightest down jackets on the market, yet its performance in cold conditions is uncompromising.
The Broad Peak Light is made with water-repelling Pertex fabrics on the exterior and 850-fill goose down insulation on the inside. This gives it an extremely impressive warmth-to-weight ratio while offering durability and compressibility. With zipper pockets, elastic cuffs and hem, and a form-fitting, athletic cut, you end up with a jacket that hits all the right notes when it comes to pursuing your favorite outdoor adventures.
The Broad Peak Light offers an excellent range of motion, which is much appreciated while climbing, skiing, or even hiking. The jacket’s low-profile design also allows it to fit nicely under a shell jacket and over a base layer to create a lightweight yet effective layering system.
Due to its light weight, this jacket isn’t quite as warm as our other top performers. Designed for active pursuits, the Broad Peak Light is actually very good while you’re on the move, but if you slow down or stop for a break, the chill just might catch up to you, which is why it’s great for people who are constantly on the move.
Pros: Incredibly lightweight, built for outdoors athletes, form-fitting cut
Cons: Not as warm as some other jackets due to light weight, expensive
The best vegan puffer jacket
Thanks to its PlumaFill down-alternative insulation Patagonia has developed its warmest puffer jacket to date, the Micro Puff Hoody – and it’s completely vegan.
While each pick sources its down in accordance with the Responsible Down Standard – meaning the down can’t be harvested from live birds and that those birds are never force-fed to encourage growth – down is still an animal product, which can be a point of contention for some.
In its quest to make the best outdoor gear using the highest technology, Patagonia developed PlumaFill, a down-alternative which enabled the brand to make its warmest puffer jacket to date – even warmer than those that use authentic down, too.
PlumaFill is a synthetic feather-like insulation developed and perfected over the course of a decade. It has a high warmth-to-weight ratio, it’s water-resistant and highly compressible, and maintains its puff even after getting wet. These are all advantages of down that couldn’t be mimicked until Patagonia developed this new tech.
The Micro Puff Hoody utilizes this technology to its advantage. It weighs in at 9.3 ounces, making it one of the lightest picks on our list, and it’s compressible to fit in its own front pocket, meaning you can stash it in a backpack if you’re on the go.
Insider Picks reporter Amir Ismael reviewed the Micro Puff Hoody and loved how lightweight it was. He praised the high collar and hood that kept his neck and head warm and was impressed by how well it transitioned through fluctuating temperatures. – Jen Gushue
Pros: Completely vegan, lightweight, Patagonia’s warmest puffer jacket yet
Cons: Not warm enough for temperatures below 35 degrees
The best puffer jacket for boys
Patagonia’s Hi-Loft Down Sweater Hoody takes everything great about the adult version and shrinks it down for kids.
Much like the adult version of this jacket, the kid’s Patagonia Hi-Loft Down Sweater is a high-quality garment for keeping youngster warm in the outdoors. Its outer shell is made from water-resistant fabrics and it uses 600-fill down as an insulator. It even comes with a three-panel hood with a spandex binding to help keep the wind and snow at bay. That same spandex binding is used around the cuffs as well, while two zippered hand pockets provide some extra warmth, too.
Patagonia’s eco-friendly approach apparel extends to its kid’s version of the Down Sweater, as well. This jacket is made from 100% recycled polyester, as well as 100% recycled down.
Other nice touches include an internal chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack, a zipper garage to help protect the chin, and reflective webbing used along strategic points. A tag allows parents to write their child’s name in the jacket to make it more distinguishable from others, while a distinctive quilted pattern provides warmth in all of the important places.
Pros: Wind- and waterproof fabrics, warm and comfortable, included hood, made from recycled materials
Today’s puffer jackets are generally lightweight, highly compressible, and made from water-resistant fabrics. Their insulating properties are provided by either hydrophobic down (down that’s treated to absorb less water) or a synthetic equivalent, which is integrated into the quilted design to provide a maximum level of warmth across the wearer’s core section. Even the style of the jacket’s stitching has an impact on performance, with the quilted regions designed to hold the thickest insulation where it’s needed most.
Regarding down insulation, manufacturers often tout its level of “fill power,” sometimes hinting that the higher the fill power, the warmer the jacket. Though this isn’t always the case, fill power and warmth are somewhat related.
Put simply, fill power is a way of measuring the ability of down to expand after it’s been compressed. In other words, a jacket with a higher fill power rating is more likely to expand back to its previous levels of loft even if it’s been shoved into a backpack or suitcase. In doing so, it continues to provide warmth over the life of the product, thus keeping the wearer more comfortable.