Which puffer jacket is best?
Puffer jackets use either down feathers or synthetic fibers to create an insulating layer that is both lightweight and very warm. For this reason, they are popular for outbound pursuits, such as mountaineering and hiking, and they also look and feel great to wear in cooler climates. The best puffer jackets are not always cheap, but as far as a weight-to-warmth ratio is concerned, you can’t do better.
If you are looking for a well-fitting, premium down puffer jacket, the lightweight, down-filled Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is a top choice.
What to know before you buy a puffer jacket
Different types of insulation
The best puffer jackets use down from geese or ducks as insulating filler, although each has slightly different properties. Goose down has better fill-power and is used in premium jackets, although duck down is equally soft and more readily available, so midrange down jackets usually use this as an alternative. Lower-quality and ultra-compact puffer jackets often use polyester fibers as insulation, with their differently-sized filaments that mimic the loftiness of down. One benefit of this type of filler is that it is more effective in wet or humid conditions, as its synthetic construction does not absorb as much water.
While the insulation determines the jacket’s efficacy, the shell and lining determine its comfort and aesthetics. They are usually made from a good ripstop polyester, as it is durable and breathable. It also offers good resistance against wind chill and stops fine down feathers from poking through. It’s worth noting that puffer jackets are generally not good at protecting against rainwater and are most effective in crisp, cold conditions as opposed to wet and humid climes.
Getting the fit right
The better your puffer jacket fits, the more effective its insulating properties are. While it’s necessary to have room to maneuver and to be able to wear a few layers underneath, avoid baggy-fitting jackets. Different styles can include: an athletic fit, which is tailored to be close-fitting; a relaxed fit, which is loose around the shoulders and hem; and the regular fit, which has a relaxed shoulder and a straight hem. The latter is the most common style, as it has a casual appearance and fits well over sweaters and undergarments without being overly bulky.
What to look for in a quality puffer jacket
Puffer jackets almost always have an elasticated cuff and waist, as these are not only comfortable, but also trap warmth inside the body and sleeves. Some jackets are hoodie-style, with permanently-attached hoods, whereas some have detachable hoods and others are collared. If your jacket has a hood, it will likely have an elasticated opening, or an elasticated shock cord with toggles to cinch it, helping to ensure a snug fit around the face.
High fill power
Down’s insulating properties are measured by its fill power, and this is one of the most important considerations when buying a down-filled puffer jacket. Fill power is determined according to the number of cubic inches per ounce of down, with the higher number having the best insulation. At the lower end of the spectrum are fill powers of 400-600, which usually comes from immature birds. Mature birds produce warmer and lighter down with fill power of 600-900, which are found in premium products.
Zippers should be high quality, as nylon outer shells are prone to becoming trapped in lesser-quality components. Most jackets have hand pockets, and these are often fleece-lined for warmth. If the pockets have zippers, they help keep the contents secure and exclude drafts from entering the lining. If you plan on using your jacket on the move, consider one that compresses into its own stuff bag, as these are compact and convenient to carry.
How much you can expect to spend on a puffer jacket
An inexpensive puffer jacket costs $50-$100, and is ideal for layering with other clothing or keeping for occasional use in temperate climes. Midrange jackets with high fill powers cost $100-$200, and high-end puffer jackets cost upward of $200, with some professional outbound jackets costing $500 or more.
Puffer jacket FAQ
How do you wash a puffer jacket?
A. Care should be taken when washing a puffer jacket due to the delicate nature of its construction. Machine washing is usually safe on a gentle cycle, and you can fluff the insulation in the dryer. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions first.
Are puffer jackets waterproof?
A. Puffer jackets are generally not waterproof, and most are water-resistant at best. Insulation can become waterlogged in heavy rain, and hydrophobic down has been developed to prevent this issue. It’s often a good idea to wear a waterproof coat over your puffer jacket in wet weather.
What’s the best puffer jacket to buy?
Top puffer jacket
What you need to know: The versatile Ghost Whisperer jacket offers superior ease of movement and is ideal for both active pursuits or regular, casual use.
What you’ll love: This ultralight 8.5-ounce jacket has a ripstop nylon shell and is filled with top-quality 800 fill down. It is nicely tailored with an attached hood and is made with sustainability in mind—with materials that are responsibly sourced.
What you should consider: Sizes may run a little tight with extra layers of clothing.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top puffer jacket for the money
What you need to know: This high-quality shell is ideal for physical activities in milder climates or as an additional insulating layer in wintery weather.
What you’ll love: The Calen jacket has 60% recycled synthetic down, making it extremely light and compact when packed down. Additional features include insulated hand warmer pockets and an outer chest pocket for keeping phones, wallets and other essentials handy.
What you should consider: While it’s certainly effective in cool weather, this item does not insulate well enough to be used as a main jacket in colder climes.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: With a host of practical climbing features, the Electron Pro was designed for mountaineers and is highly protective against the elements.
What you’ll love: This high-end jacket has belay-friendly zippers and a helmet-compatible hood for climbers, as well as high side pockets that can be used while wearing a harness. Its hydrophobic ripstop shell has good water-repellent properties and it is insulated with 800 fill down.
What you should consider: While the Electron Pro is ideal for casual use, non-climbers may find some of its features redundant.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Luke Mitchell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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