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Best Puffer Jackets Rab Mythic Ultra

If warmth is what you’re looking for, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat the Rab Mythic Ultra. Photo: Ryan Salm

The Inertia

Whether you find yourself in the mountains, at the beach, or in the city, if you want to stay warm while adventuring, there’s no better way to do it than with a solid puffer jacket. They provide the most warmth out of any type of insulating layer, can pack down the smallest for easy transport, and with today’s latest material technology, can even repel a bit of rain while doing so.

This winter, we got our hands on the top men’s puffer jackets on the market, gave them a run for their money out on the slopes, at the campground, and on our way to and from the surf, and here compiled our favorites to help you make an informed buying choice for your winter and year-round insulation. For ease of comparison, we broke the options down into Lightweight, Midweight, and Heavyweight puffers. When deciding which jacket to purchase, take a second to think about how you plan on using it the most, and for more information on those categories, as well as buying advice, scroll to the bottom of this article.

Jackets on Snow Best Puffer Jackets

A small selection of jackets tested. These were some of our favorites. Photo: WS

What are the Best Men’s Puffer Jackets?

Most Versatile/Best Midweight Puffer Jacket: Patagonia Down Sweater ($279)
Warmest/Best Heavyweight Puffer Jacket: Rab Mythic Ultra ($475)
Best Lightweight Puffer Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 ($360)
Best Down Alternative: Ibex Wool Aire ($285)
Best Budget Puffer Jacket: REI 650 Down Jacket 2.0 ($100)
Most Sustainable Puffer Jacket: Jones Re Up Recycled Down Puffy ($300)

For the best women’s puffer jackets, click here. Looking for other gear to keep you warm this winter? For surf booties, check out our guide to the best wetsuit booties. Learn more about women’s wetsuits here and men’s wetsuits here. Hitting the slopes? Check out our top picks for snowboard pants and snowboard jackets, as well as merino baselayers.

Patagonia Down Sweater

Most Versatile/Best Midweight Puffer Jacket: Patagonia Down Sweater ($279)

Pros: Updated 22/23 design features interior drop pockets, recycled materials, and an included patch kit. 
More of a focus on casual wear/style than lightweight performance. 
5.0 oz of 800 fill-power down.

The Patagonia Down Sweater is iconic for a reason. This packable puffy jacket brings incredible coziness and top-notch sustainability with an 800-fill Responsible Down Standard lining, a PFC-free water-repellant finish that wards off light drizzles, and more. It’s pretty light, super toasty, and quite hard to take off.

My first down sweater was a hand-me-down from my dad when I was in my teens. After a decade or more of campfire burns, skateboard tears, and general hard use, I finally got my hands on the latest version and am stoked on the updates this timeless classic has received since my first down sweater. The jacket now sports three internal pockets – two drop-in and one zippered chest-pocket (which it packs into for easy storage), as well as the two external handwarmer pockets. It’s also made from recycled fishing nets, and an included patch kit is ready for whenever the first tear occurs. The only downside is the price, but it helps to know that this is an item that is easy on the planet and will stay in your closet for years to come.


Rab Mythic Ultra

Warmest/Best Heavyweight Puffer Jacket: Rab Mythic Ultra ($475)

Pros: Insane warmth paired with lightweight packability. 
Too warm for active pursuits. 
8.5 oz of 900 fill-power down.

Pulling on the Rab Mythic Ultra is a (dare I say it?) life-changing experience in hyper-cozy warmth. Once you’ve donned this lightweight cloud of a jacket, no other puffer will feel the same. The jacket sports 8.5 oz of 900 fill-power down, but weighs just 18.9 oz, making use of a lightweight (but still quite durable) recycled Polyamide material for the outer and inner lining. The inner lining also sports a heat-reflecting material for even more warmth. The down inside the jacket is treated with a Nikwax hydrophobic treatment for increased performance in wet conditions, and the included stuff sack packs this jacket down to the size of about 1.5 Nalgene water bottles, a true disappearing act.

While the jacket is certainly too warm for active pursuits like skiing (and would likely produce a “Michelin Man” effect under most shell jackets) for more stationary activities like snow camping, belaying in the cold, or just walking around town, you’ll be hard-pressed to find its equal.

CHECK PRICE ON Backcountry

Ghost Whisperer

Best Lightweight Puffer Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 ($360)

Pros: Great warmth for an ultra-lightweight down jacket.
A bit boxy of a fit compared to other lightweight puffers.
3.0 oz of 800 fill-power down.

The Ghost Whisperer has been a staple in the ultralight insulation category for years, and with good reason. It’s very lightweight at 8.8 oz, but still packs the heat – plenty enough to keep you warm, but not so much as to overheat during high-output activities. That, along with a robust set of features like zippered pockets, an elasticated hood, and adjustable hem (some ultralight jackets cut down on such features to reduce weight) make this our top pick for lightweight puffer jackets.


Ibex puffer

Best Down Alternative: Ibex Wool Aire ($285)

Pros: Merino wool insulation provides comparable warmth and loft to down, with the insulating-when-wet performance of synthetic materials.
Merino insulation is a bit heavier than down. 
2.82 oz of merino wool.

Last year, Ibex debuted their Wool Aire Hoodie, a lightweight puffer jacket that uses merino wool instead of down or polyester as insulation. The merino wool tufts loft in a way similar to down (with a bit of added weight), but like synthetics still insulates when wet, and is quite breathable to boot. While not a true “ultralight” jacket with the slight uptick in weight from the merino wool insulation, this jacket is a great insulator for active pursuits like skiing and hiking, or as a light insulating layer for warmer climates. The jacket sports an athletic fit, three zippered pockets (it stuffs into the chest pocket for packability), a cozy hood and elastic cuffs and hem. Bluesign certified, it’s made with PFC-free materials, and there’s no doubt that shearing a sheep is less harmful to the animal than taking the feathers from a goose. Responsible Down Standard (RDS) insulation means the geese from which the down came were treated humanely, in other words not live-plucked or force-fed, but the geese are still being slaughtered (for their meat as well as their feathers) to produce the fluffy material.


REI 650

Best Budget Puffer Jacket: REI 650 Down Jacket 2.0 ($100)

Pros: It’s a $100 dollar down jacket. That’s hard to beat. 
Not the warmest, boxy fit without an adjustable hem.
Category: Mid/lightweight
3 oz of 650 fill-power down.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a down jacket for $100, especially one that has been responsibly produced with recycled materials and RDS-certified down. That is, unless you swing by REI. While the popular outdoor retailer carries plenty of premium brands, with price tags to match, their own line of clothing and equipment can go toe-to-toe with the big boys, while maintaining a staggeringly low price-point. The 650 Down Jacket 2.0 is no exception, with a decently warm 3.0 oz of 650 fill-power down, and features like zippered hand pockets, interior drop-in pockets, and it can be into the left-hand pocket for easy storage. While it’s certainly not a leader in warmth or weight, has a bit of a boxier fit (a pro for layering but a con if used by itself), and no hem adjustment, you simply can’t beat the price tag.


Jones Puffer Re Up

Most Sustainable Puffer Jacket: Jones Re Up Recycled Down Puffy ($300)

Pros: Very warm for the weight.
Hand warmer pockets dont zip.
750 fill-power down.

The Jones Re Up Recycled Down Puffy is a bit of a game changer, released this fall with 100% recycled materials – even the down insulation. Jones Snowboards, founded by pro snowboarder and Protect Our Winters activist Jeremy Jones is a company committed to sustainability, and it’s awesome to see them leading the charge with a fully-recycled puffer jacket. Even Patagonia, often the leader in sustainability practices, doesn’t use recycled down for their insulation. And the jacket itself doesn’t take a hit in performance, with a full feature-set of hand warmer pockets, interior drop-in pockets, and an internal, zippered chest pocket which the jacket packs into. In testing, I found it to be noticeably warmer than the Patagonia Down Sweater, although there’s a decent chance some of that uptick in warmth comes from the slightly more streamlined fit – the Patagonia Down Sweater is a good bit boxier. The only downsides are the price, $300 compared to Patagonia’s $279, and the fact that the hand warmer pockets don’t zip, an interesting choice.


Other Puffer Jackets We Love

TNF Puffer

Retro Style: The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse ($320)

Pros: Warm, with lasting “retro” style. 
On the heavier side. Boxy, overstuffed fit places an emphasis on style over functionality for outdoors activities. 
700 fill-power down.

No puffer jacket review would be complete without The North Face, who have been a leader in the space for decades. Their 1996 Retro Nuptse jacket is a classic, having perfected the boxy, oversized-puffer look that has seen a recent resurgance in popularity. While the jacket isn’t necessarily geared towards high-performance or active pursuits, if the puffer you’re looking for will do most of it’s work looking good and keeping you warm around town or in the city, look no further. The jacket is available in a wide variety of colors from the classic blue/black to a neon yellow, and has a robust feature-set including zippered hand-pockets (it packs into the right-hand one to a surprisingly small size), a hood that packs into the collar, and an inside zippered chest-pocket.


JW Nebelhorn

Jack Wolfskin Nebelhorn Down Hoody ($350)

Pros: Very warm, nice hood, trim “euro” fit with decent room for layering.
Cons: Not a high-performance garment. Interesting sleeve cuffs won’t be everyone’s favorite.
Category: Heavyweight
Insulation: “high fill power” down.
The Nebelhorn Down Hoody from German brand Jack Wolfskin might not be one you’ve seen before, and you might not recognize the brand either (if you’re reading this in North America) but it sure doesn’t disappoint. Jack Wolfskin is a 40-year-old brand from Germany that’s just hitting their stride here in the states, but they have a proven track record for quality across the pond. The jacket itself is quite warm, and has a more robust outer shell than the packable options on this list, translating to higher-than-average durability and weather protection. Fleece-lined hand warmer pockets are quite cozy, and there is an internal chest pocket as well for storage of smaller items. The hood is warm and adjustable, if you’re looking for an “around town” puffer, you can’t go wrong here.

One interesting feature is the internal cuff system, that some will love, others might find annoying, and I’m having some trouble explaining, so bear with me. Halfway down the forearm a thin second sleeve starts, ending with an elastic cuff at the wrist. Worn by itself, the cuff is quite comfortable and does a great job of keeping out drafts and snow, but can get a little bulky with another sleeve underneath it like a sweatshirt. Thinner baselayer sleeves are less of a problem.


Billabong Journey

Billabong Journey Puffer Jacket ($99)

Pros:  Stylish with a soft fleece lining. Great price.
Not the most technical piece of equipment.
Polyester fill

Part of Billabong’s Adventure series, the jacket design was inspired by the “relentless pursuit for adventure and surf exploration around the world.” Coupling function with fashion, the Journey Puffer offers decent warmth, making it perfect for cozying up after a chilly session or heading to your local mountains.

Made from 100 percent recycled nylon, the Journey Puffer features a durable water repellent outer coating and lightweight polyester filling. Additionally, the hooded jacket includes a soft fleece lining, elasticated sleeves, a bungee at the hood opening, a zip-front closure, and inner/outer pockets. The jacket is a little on the bulky side but is still lightweight and packs down for travel. At a price that doesn’t break the bank, the Journey ticks all the essential boxes, but wasn’t a standout in categories like warmth or weight.


Quiksilver Scaly

Quiksilver Scaly Hooded Jacket ($91)

Pros:  Incredible price (can be found on sale for as low as $55). 
Not super warm, synthetic insulation. 
Polyester fill

Style meets comfort in Quiksilver’s Scaly Hooded Jacket. Available in three different colors, the Scaly has a sleek design and the muted earth tones allow it to easily transform from mountain or post-surf adventures to nights out on the town.

Made from 100 percent polyester, the jacket features Taffeta lining, a three-panel fixed hood with a drawcord, external zip pockets, an internal Velcro pocket, and an elasticated binding on the cuffs and bottom. Landing somewhere between lightweight and bulky, the jacket has just enough fill to keep you cozy while still offering a classic yet comfortable fit. The front zip closure makes layering a breeze, which was much appreciated on extra chilly days. The fact that the jacket is available at an affordable price is just the icing on the cake.


Prana Puffer Jacket

Prana Whitney Portal Jacket ($249200)

Pros:  Stylish and very warm for a decent price
Cons: A bit heavy for technical use.
Category: Mid/Heavyweight
Insulation: 650 fill-power down

Prana hit the nail on the head with its Whitney Portal jacket. Made with the planet in mind, the jacket is filled with Responsible Down Standard certified 650-fill insulation and features a Bluesign-approved matte nylon shell. Thoughtful features include dual entry hand pockets, an internal zippered pocket, silicon taped zippered pull tabs, a hood and hem drawcord system, an internal elasticated cuff, and a zip and buttoned entry for added security. Available in five colors, the combination of buttons and zippers give the jacket a casually cool aesthetic while still remaining ultra warm and cozy.


Patagonia pack in pull over

Patagonia Pack In Pullover Hoodie ($199)

Pros:  A solid lightweight outer layer with plenty of room to layer underneath
Cons: Another non-technical jacket.
Category: Lightweight
Insulation: Polyester fill

Patagonia is always thinking outside of the box when it comes to quality and function — the Pack In Pullover is one of the most unique puffers we’ve come across thus far. Ultra lightweight and comfortable, the Pack In Pullover has a similar feel to your favorite cozy hoodie, but with added warmth.

Like most things at Patagonia, the Pack In Pullover was designed with the environment in mind. Fair trade certified sewn, the shell is made from 91 percent recycled polyester and is lined with 100 percent recycled polyester double knit. Additionally, the hoodie is coated with a durable water-repellent fabric to ensure it’s weather resistant and features a half-zip front design, a kangaroo pocket, an adjustable drop-tail hem, a hidden zippered pocket, and an elastic bound hood for a snug fit. We found that the jacket was incredibly lightweight, breathable, and comfortable and sported a gender neutral design, making it ideal for anyone, or just sharing.

Best Puffer Jackets Patagonia Down Sweater

Taking the updated Patagonia Down Sweater for a spin. Photo: Ryan Salm

Comparison Table

Jacket Price Category Weight Fill Fill Power Fill Weight Notable Features
Patagonia Down Sweater $279 Midweight 13 0z Down 800 5.0 oz Comes with repair kit. Packs into pocket.
Rab Mythic Ultra $475 Heavyweight 18.9 oz Down 900 8.5 oz Packs into stuff sack.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 $360 Lightweight 8.8 oz Down 800 3.0 Very lightweight, packs into pocket.
Ibex Wool Aire $285 Lightweight 11.4 oz Merino Wool N/A 2.82 oz (merino) Packs into pocket. Merino wool insulation.
Jones Re Up Recycled Down Puffy $300 Midweight 13.4 oz Down 750 Not listed 100% recycled materials, even the down. Packs into pocket.
REI 650 Down Jacket 2.0 $100 Midweight 11 oz Down 650 4.2 oz Packs into pocket
The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse $320 Heavyweight 27.3 oz Down 700 Not listed Stowable hood, packs into pocket.
Jack Wolfskin Nebelhorn $350 Heavyweight 25.4 oz Down Not listed Not listed Interior sleeve cuffs help keep out the cold.
Billabong Journey Puffer $99 Lightweight Not listed Polyester Not listed Not listed Solid price with good features and packability.
Quiksilver Scaly Puffer $91 Lightweight Not listed Polyester Not listed Not listed Great price, can be found for as low as $55
Prana Whitney Portal $270 200 Mid/ Heavyweight Not listed Down 650 Not listed Lots of pockets and stylish snaps
Patagonia Pack In Pull Over Hoodie $199 Lightweight 15.8 oz Polyester Not listed Not listed Packs small, casual pull-over style

Buying Advice:

What Makes a Good Puffer Jacket?

When it comes to buying a jacket, not all puffers are created equal. Since the puffy jacket will be your warmest outer layer, you want to make sure you’re purchasing one that’s going to get the job done.

For ease of comparison, we divided this review into three categories: lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight puffer jackets. Lightweight puffers are best for high-output activities like backcountry skiing, winter trail-running, or as a light outer layer for spring, summer and fall depending on where you live. I find myself reaching for a midweight puffer to layer over a sweatshirt or fleece for colder nights at home in San Francisco, or as my main insulating layer for colder resort-skiing days. Heavyweight puffers truly shine in low-output activities in the cold, like snow or winter camping, belaying, and exploring colder cities like New York or Chicago, but my favorite use for them is for post-surf warmth, when I need some insane insulation to stop the shivers so I can safely drive home.

Down, Synthetic, or Merino Wool Insulation?

Puffer jackets used to be available in just two options: down or synthetic insulation. Down simply refers to the duck or geese feathers that provide the thermal insulation, which is a great insulator, effectively trapping heat while remaining lightweight, and extremely packable. Synthetic insulation is made with polyester fibers that are designed to mimic the qualities of down. Although heavier and not quite as warm as down (which also translates to increased breathability), synthetic retains heat even when wet and dries much quicker as well.

Merino wool is a new fill material that just hit the market in the past couple of years, to incredible success. The most popular merino wool puffer, Ibex’s Wool Aire Hoodie, was our top pick for lightweight puffer jackets, packing plenty of warmth into a relatively lightweight construction. Merino wool insulation seeks to bridge the gap between down and synthetic options, bringing the packability and low-weight of down, as well as the warm-when-wet performance and breathability of synthetic materials.

Rab Mythic Ultra

The cozy hood on the Rab Mythic Ultra locks in the heat. Photo: Ryan Salm

Fill Power vs. Fill Weight

As with most outdoor gear, the devil is in the details, and when it comes to puffer jackets, especially down puffers, that could not be more true. Fill power is perhaps the most touted number when it comes to down insulation, but probably the least useful. Fill power speaks to the quality of the down inside the jacket. Higher fill-power down lofts better than lower fill-power down, meaning it takes up more room and insulates better than the same weight of lower-quality down. Fill weight refers to how much of said down is stuffed into the jacket by weight, but is often not listed. If it is listed, be sure to take a look at both numbers to get a sense of the relative warmth of the jacket.

Fit is also an important consideration for warmth, a boxier fit will allow for easier layering, but can be a bit drafty if worn by itself, while a jacket with a more streamlined fit will keep you warmer, but can be a pain for layering underneath. Overall weight is another good number to look at, but this can be skewed by heavier or lighter-weight shell and lining materials as well as features like hoods or zippered pockets.

Best Puffer Jackets Jones Pockets

Roomy drop-in pockets are a top feature on the Jones Re Up Recycled Puffer. Photo: Ryan Salm

What Other Features Do I Want in a Puffer Jacket?

If you’re spending 200+ on a jacket, it’s worth taking a second to decide what features matter to you, and how you plan on using the jacket. Packability is a big one, if you’re looking for a puffer for any sort of technical application like backpacking or backcountry skiing where space in your pack matters, you’re going to want a jacket that packs down. Pockets are another consideration, I’m a huge fan of jackets with internal drop-in pockets for stashing hats and other items, but that’s certainly not a deal-breaker for everyone. Skiers and snowboarders probably don’t care about hoods, and might explicitly be looking for a jacket without one for easy layering under a shell, but campers, climbers who will be standing and belaying, as well as those looking for an around-town puffer jacket, will certainly appreciate the uptick in warmth a hood provides.

Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

outerknown puffer
The Best Women's Puffer Jackets for Surfers
Winter outdoors activities require insulation, and puffer jackets provide lightweight warmth and a bit of style, too. Here are our top picks for insulated puffy jackets, both down and synthetic. Read more…


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