The best down jackets and puffers 2023: insulated against the cold

Collage of the best down jackets
(Image credit: Future)

With winter in full swing, there's never been a better time to get one of the best down jackets or puffers. Nothing beats the coziness of an insulated jacket and they look great too. Whether you want one for your outdoor exploits or you're after a warm coat for around town, our selection has a jacket for you.

The best down jackets and puffers use a lofty fill to retain your radiated body heat and keep you warm. An authentic down jacket is filled with either duck of goose down, which is the soft layer of feathers that keeps these water birds warm. Natural down has many advantages: its thermal qualities are excellent, it's lightweight and it's highly compressible, perfect for stuffing into a pack on backpacking expeditions.

The downside to natural down is that it's expensive. Many brands create puffer jackets containing insulation that mimics the effect of down using synthetic fibres. The most well known synthetic insulation is PrimaLoft, though many companies use their own synthetics too, such as Columbia's Omni-Heat. The same kinds of insulation are also used in the best sleeping bags.

So, when it comes to down vs synthetic, the choice is yours. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, which we go into in more detail in our 'how to choose' guide at the bottom of this page. There's also the best women's down jackets to consider, which are designed specifically for the female form.

The very best down jackets available in 2023

Rab Infinity Microlight down jacket

(Image credit: Rab)
A stylish and warm down jacket that even fends off light rain, this jacket is perfect for frigid hikes, damp, chill mornings at camp, cold days on belay and urban adventures

Specifications

Fill: 700FP recycled down
Sizes: Women’s XS - XL US / 8 - 16 UK, Men’s S - XXL
Weight (men's size M): 452g/15.9oz (Size M)
Colors: Ultramarine, bering sea, deep heather, black and more

Reasons to buy

+
Warm with 700FP down
+
Windproof and water resistant
+
Adjustable hood with stiffened pea
+
Three zipped pockets
+
Lightweight and packable with stuff sack
+
Recycled down
+
Comfortable with stretch panels

Reasons to avoid

-
Leaks a little down

Typically, the main argument against down for outdoor adventures is that it doesn’t insulate when wet, but Rab has eliminated that issue by using a water resistant and windproof Gore-Tex Infinium outer so you can still wear this on damp days and stay cozy. This down jacket is filled with 700FP down making it great for adventures as cold as 32F/0C and if you are hiking in it and getting sweaty, it’s breathable too. It’s also ideal for when you stop moving and cool down, hanging out at camp, on belay or even around town when the sun dips down.

The draw cord hood stays up on gusty days with a soft chin guard to protect your skin when it’s fully zipped, while elasticated cuffs and a draw cord drop hem seal out cold drafts. Its stylish, non-bulky cut will please anyone who wants to wear it around town, but there’s plenty of room to move in it too. Rab’s commitment to sustainability shines through with the use of recycled down and if you want to hop on a plane with it, it packs down fairly small into the stuff sack provided. Competitively priced compared to other down jackets we’ve tested, we can’t find anything not to like about this jacket and think you’ll find use for it in every season.

Read our full Rab Infinity Microlight Down Jacket review

Klattermusen Bore 2.0 down jacket

(Image credit: Klattermusen)
Premium goose down and box-wall construction make this meticulously designed 800FP down jacket a hyper-warm outer layer for the coldest conditions

Specifications

Fill: 800+ RDS-certified goose-down
Sizes (unisex): XXS- XXL
Weight (men's size M): 800g/28oz
Colours: Blue sapphire / deep sea raven / raven

Reasons to buy

+
Super-warm box wall construction
+
Premium 800FP down
+
Great eco credentials
+
Hybrid construction for moisture-resistance

Reasons to avoid

-
Down fill not hydrophobic 
-
No dedicated women’s version
-
Expensive

The Bore 2.0 is a real beast of a jacket, designed for hunkering down in winter weather or to throw on during stop-start activities at high elevations. That makes it ideally suited to climbing and mountaineering, and it works well as a belay jacket for alpine routes. The premium 800+ goose-down fill offers superb warmth for weight and good compressibility (it packs into its own pocket), while the box-wall baffle construction minimises cold spots.

To counteract down’s notoriously poor performance in damp weather, the Bore 2.0 has synthetic Primaloft filled reinforcements over the shoulders and arms that make it more resistant to moisture than most of its rivals – though it’s worth noting that the down fill itself is not hydrophobically treated. Klattermusen are also known for their eco-friendly approach to kit design, and this jacket is no exception. The down fill is bluesign approved and certified by the Responsible Down Standard, while the face fabric is made from 100% recycled polyamide, with a fluorocarbon-free durable water-repellent finish.

Read our full Klättermusen Bore 2.0 down jacket review

Helly Hansen Verglas Glacier down jacket

(Image credit: Getty)
A versatile hybrid puffy that make a great winter all-rounder

Specifications

Fill: 700FP 850/15 Allied Down RDS-certified and bluesign-approved European goose down with PrimaLoft Silver (133gsm) synthetic fill in hood, shoulder and chest panel, underarm and sleeve ends
Sizes: Men’s: XS / S / M / L / XL / XXL; Women’s: XS / S / M / L / XL
Weight (men's size M): 561g / 1lb 3.8oz
Colors: Sparrow gray / bright orange / black

Reasons to buy

+
Zoned down and synthetic fill for improved moisture resistance
+
Excellent hood (though not climbing helmet-compatible)
+
Plenty of practical pockets
+
Packable

Reasons to avoid

-
Mid-range fill power down
-
Down fill not hydrophobic
-
Slightly baggy cuffs

Designed for hiking, camping and other non-technical winter adventures, this super-soft and cozy puffer jacket combines 700FP down with synthetic Primaloft fill to improve performance in damp conditions. This is a stylish but functional-looking down puffy, with a sculpted fit that still allows plenty of room for layers. The midi baffles allow for good mobility and give a fairly trim silhouette, whilst still providing plenty of space for the 700 fill power down to loft, delivering welcome warmth.

The jacket is intelligently constructed for damp conditions too. Though the down fill itself has no hydrophobic treatment to improve resistance to moisture, the fill is zoned, so that areas such as the hood, shoulders, chest panel, armpits and sleeve ends all use Primaloft Silver synthetic fill, in a 133gsm weight. These are all areas that are prone to getting damp, ensuring continued insulating performance in poor conditions.

It’s well-specced when it comes to features. The well-designed, close-fitting hood has three-point adjustment to ensure a close, snug fit. It’s well-insulated with that Primaloft fill and the chin zips up almost to the nose for excellent face protection. Admittedly, the low-profile hood design is not helmet-compatible, but then this is an all-rounder of a jacket, not a dedicated climbing/mountaineering piece for technical use.

Read our full Helly Hansen Verglas Glacier Down Jacket review

Best versatile down jacket

best down jacket: Jöttnar Thorne Jacket

(Image credit: Jöttnar)
This down jacket is built for extended use in mixed conditions, thanks to a tougher ripstop face fabric and moisture-resistant fill

Specifications

RRP: $375 (US)/ £285 (UK)
Weight: 540g/1lb 3oz
Materials: Insulation: 750FP 90/10 hydrophobic RDS-certified goose down with body-mapped synthetic fill (140gsm shoulders, cuffs, collar and hood / 80gsm under arms), Shell: 30D ripstop nylon with DWR
Sizes: Men’s S-XL, Women’s n/a

Reasons to buy

+
Durable fabrics
+
Light
+
Packable
+
Moisture-resistant fill

Reasons to avoid

-
Mid-range fill power
-
No inner dump pockets
-
Hood not compatible with a climbing helmet
-
Only a one-way main zip
-
No women’s version

The Thorne is a 750FP down jacket with a 30D ripstop shell that offers warmth and durability while weighing under 500g. It’s ideally suited to hard use, such as cold-weather hiking and trekking or extended backpacking trips. It also offers superior performance in damp conditions compared to most rivals, thanks to its moisture-resistant hydrophobic down fill and zoned panels of synthetic insulation in the shoulders, hood, cuffs and underarms. In terms of overall fit and comfort, this is one of the nicest puffers we’ve worn, thanks to clever articulated patterning and a silky soft lining. Features work well for general outdoor use, with a head-hugging hood, stretch cuffs, a scooped rear tail and two snug handwarmer pockets.

Read our full Jöttnar Thorne Jacket review

Best down jackets with crossover street appeal

best down jacket: Berghaus Arkos Reflect Jacket

(Image credit: Berghaus)
A warm, protective and functional down jacket, with technical fabrics and a boxy, big-baffled silhouette that also happens to be bang on trend right now

Specifications

RRP: $325 (US)/ £260 (UK)
Weight: 750g/1lb 10oz
Materials: 700FP 90/10 hydrophobic RDS-certified Hydrodown duck down with body-mapped Hydroloft Elite synthetic fill (containing 50% recycled polyester) and Reflect mesh inner, Shell bluesign-approved ripstop nylon with PFC-free DWR
Sizes: Men’s XS–3XL / Women’s UK 8–20

Reasons to buy

+
Warm
+
Good hood
+
Moisture-resistant fill

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the lightest
-
Not the most packable
-
Slightly baggy cuffs

This chunky down jacket features 700 fill power hydrophobic duck down, combined with zoned panels of synthetic fill arranged in a clever body-mapped construction. It also incorporates an innovative heat trapping lining, designed to reflect the wearer’s own body heat back to them. From a style perspective, the jacket’s chunky, oversized baffles are bang on trend, and its contrasting matte/shiny fabrics are also very much in vogue right now. 

But in terms of performance, the high fill weight ensures it’s also extremely warm, even in temperatures that dip below freezing. Thanks to the zoned synthetic panels, moisture resistant Hydrodown fill and water-repellent face fabrics, it’s also better equipped to withstand damp conditions compared to most down puffers. This adds both practicality and versatility for technical use in the mountains, where you’ll also appreciate the fleecy handwarmer pockets, the cosy hood and the draught-excluding double baffle either side of the main zip.

Read our full Berghaus Urban Arkos Reflect Down Jacket review

Montane Janhukot down jacket

(Image credit: Montane)
A warm and chunky puffer to see you through the winter

Specifications

Fill: 650+ FP RDS-certified, traceable HyperDRY goose down (80:20 down-to-feather ratio)
Sizes: S / M / L / XL / XXL; Women’s: XS / S / M / L / XL
Weight (men's size M): 800g / 28.2oz
Colors: Astro Blue / Kelp green / Black

Reasons to buy

+
Warm
+
Microfleece-lined hand pockets
+
Moisture-resistant down fill
+
Hard-wearing nylon shell
+
Great hood
+
Supplied with dry bag stuff sack

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the lightest
-
Entry level fill power down
-
No scooped tail for added rear protection
-
No women’s version (closest alternative is the Montane Cloudmaker)

Boasting superior wet-weather performance compared to most delicate down jackets, thanks to a water-resistant shell and hydrophobic fill, this chunky puffer is well-equipped to deal with wet and cold winters. 

Stuffed with 650+ FP down (certified by the Responsible Down Standard but at the upper end of what we’d class as ‘entry-level’ in terms of fill power) the Janhukot tips the scales at 800g, so it’s no lightweight. It’s also pretty chunky, with large baffles and a fairly boxy silhouette. You’d struggle to wear it under a shell, so this is certainly not intended to work as a midlayer. Instead, it’s designed as a standalone barrier against the cold. And in that regard, it does a very good job. Indeed, its sheer heft makes it feel extremely cosy. 

The main zip is fitted with a chunky zip pull and backed with a full-length baffle. It is a two-way design, so you can open the jacket from the bottom if required (ideal for wearing with a climbing harness or if you need to access layers underneath the jacket quickly).

The face fabric of the jacket is an extremely tough 40 Denier Pertex Quantum Pro micro ripstop nylon, with a highly water-resistant finish. It’s worth noting here that the down fill inside the jacket is also water-repellent, thanks to a PFC-free treatment. All of which means that this jacket is far better equipped to withstand damp conditions than most down puffers.

Read our full Montane Janhukot down jacket review

Patagonia Fitz Roy Hoody down jacket

(Image credit: Patagonia)
Big, warm and built for intense cold

Specifications

Fill: 800FP 90/10 Advanced Global Traceable Down (certified by NSF International)
Sizes: Men’s: XS / S / M / L / XL / XXL; Women’s: XS / S / M / L / XL
Weight (men's size M): 485g / 17oz
Colors: Smoulder blue / dark borealis green / hot ember / superior blue and more

Reasons to buy

+
Premium down fill
+
Seriously warm
+
Light and packable for a full winter belay jacket

Reasons to avoid

-
Down fill not moisture-resistant
-
Boxy fit
-
Expensive

Designed for technical mountain use, this is a premium 800 fill power down jacket for seriously cold weather conditions. For its class, it’s also lighter and more packable than most rivals – but its Achilles heel is relatively poor performance in damp conditions.  

The Fitz Roy’s boxy silhouette promises plenty of warmth, but clearly shows this is a jacket designed as a standalone outer layer, built for exposed belays and technical mountain use. It is certainly no lightweight, micro-baffled layering piece, and shouldn’t be compared with those styles of puffers. Nor is it designed to be worn during high-output activity – it’s a jacket for hunkering down in when static.

It’s not quite expedition-level warm, as it uses a stitch-through construction rather than box-wall baffling, but the premium 800 fill power down still delivers exceptional warmth for its weight. This is a jacket primarily intended for Alpine-style climbing and mountaineering, but one that works well for any extremely cold day above the snowline. 

The jacket also employs a 100% recycled ripstop nylon Pertex Quantum shell, with a DWR finish – combining durability and toughness with commendable eco-conscious credentials, something we’ve come to expect from Patagonia.

Read our full Patagonia Fitz Roy Hoody review

More of the best down jackets available

Jöttnar Fenrir down jacket

(Image credit: Jöttnar)
Competitive warmth for weight and a superb, tailored fit make this 850FP jacket a highly efficient throw-on layer for winter summit trips and chilly wild camps alike

Specifications

Fill: 850-fill-power water-repellent goose down
Size: Men's: S S- XL; Women’s: XS-XL
Weight (men's size M): 390g/13.7oz
Colors (men's): Nightshadow / Tarragon / Black / Dark Ink and more
Colors (women's): Aegean Blue / Dark Ink

Reasons to buy

+
Superb patterning and all-round fit
+
Synthetic panels and hydrophobic 850FP down for moisture resistance
+
Competitive warmth for weight
+
Light and packable

Reasons to avoid

-
Stitch-through construction can cause cold spots
-
Hood not compatible with a climbing helmet
-
Only a one-way main zip

Despite the Nordic name, Jöttnar is a British brand that has built a reputation for turning out some of the finest technical apparel in the business, epitomised by the handsome Fenrir. This midweight hooded down jacket uses premium materials, including 850-fill-power water-repellent goose down and a 30-denier ripstop nylon face fabric. It also employs synthetic insulation in moisture-prone areas like the neck, hem and cuffs, which when put together with that hydrophobic down fill, makes this a more versatile and weather-resistant down jacket than most. The Fenrir also offers impressive warmth for weight, reflecting its intended use as a throw-on layer for hiking, hillwalking and general mountain pursuits.

Despite its light and packable nature, it doesn’t sacrifice features. So, you get a full-length zip with an inner baffle, plus twin zipped hand pockets and an internal zipped security pocket. There are anti-snag drawcords at the hem, stretch cuffs that fit easily over gloves and an elastic-bound hood, with a rear cinch cord. The fit is also spot on, and this jacket really comes into its own as an extra layer for winter summit trips or chilly wild camps.

Read our full Jöttnar Fenrir down jacket review

Berghaus Ramche Micro Reflect down jacket

(Image credit: Berghaus)
A technically advanced 850FP down jacket that punches way above its weight when it comes to warmth, thanks to its clever body-mapped design combined with innovative fabrics and technologies

Specifications

Fill: 850-fill-power hydrophobic goose down
Sizes: Men’s: XS- XXL; Women’s: n/a
Weights (men's size M): 310g/10.9oz
Colors: Black / Blue

Reasons to buy

+
Very impressive warmth for weight
+
Hydrophobic 850FP down offers improved moisture resistance
+
Reflect mesh lining boosts effective warmth 
+
Scooped hem and big hood offer generous coverage

Reasons to avoid

-
Hood works best with a climbing helmet, not so good without one
-
Mesh-lined hand pockets can leak heat
-
Only a one-way main zip
-
No pack pocket or stuff sack
-
No women’s version

The Ramche Micro is the little brother to Berghaus’ expedition-ready Ramche 2.0 down jacket. However, it still has serious technical pedigree and is a jacket that will appeal to climbers for its streamlined fit, generous coverage, voluminous helmet-compatible hood and highly impressive warmth for weight. The secret to the Ramche Micro’s lightweight warmth is its unique blend of advanced fabric technology, premium fill and clever patterning. It uses an extremely light ripstop nylon face fabric and 850-fill-power hydrophobic goose down, powered by Nikwax.

The design is body-mapped, placing more fill at the core for enhanced warmth, and incorporates an internal Reflect mesh, which according to Berghaus can increase overall warmth by up to 10 per cent. That gives the Ramche Micro the ability to deliver a welcome boost of warmth in even the chilliest and most exposed locations.

Read our full Berghaus Ramche Micro Reflect down jacket review

Columbia Infinity Summit Double Wall Down Hooded Jacket

(Image credit: Columbia)
An innovative puffer that performs well in cold and windy weather

Specifications

Fill: 800 FP RDS-certified goose down
Sizes: Men’s: S / S / M / L / XXL; Women’s: XS / S / M / L / XL / XXL
Weight (men's size M): 510g / 18oz
Colors: Red quartz / black / bright indigo / cirrus gray and more

Reasons to buy

+
Premium down fill
+
No cold spots thanks to double wall construction 
+
Omni-heat inner reflects body heat to increase warmth

Reasons to avoid

-
Down fill not moisture-resistant
-
Slightly baggy cuffs
-
No hood adjustment
-
Boxy fit
-
No inner pockets

When it comes to warmth for weight, there’s no faulting this jacket’s premium 800 fill power down. We’re also fans of the innovative double wall construction, which blocks wind and locks in heat superbly. But other features and the boxy fit mean that this jacket is a mixed bag overall.   

US brand Columbia isn’t a company to turn out the same old stuff season after season. They’ve produced some of the most interesting and unusual outdoor kit we’ve encountered in recent years, across a number of categories – their OutDry waterproof jackets being a case in point. 

Now they’ve turned their attention to insulated layers, and the Infinity Summit Double Wall Down Jacket is just as innovative. The inner face of the jacket employs the latest iteration of Columbia’s Omni-Heat technology – a thermal reflective layer comprised of shiny metallic elements. In this jacket, it’s dubbed Omni-Heat Infinity, consisting of a new pattern of gold dots for even better heat retention. 

More remarkable, however, is the face fabric of the jacket, which Columbia calls ‘double wall’ construction. At first glance, this looks like a standard baffled puffer, but pull the fabric taut and you can see that there are no stitch lines at all. They’re hidden behind an additional layer of face fabric, designed to block wind and eliminate cold spots by trapping even more warm air inside the jacket. The fill itself is premium 800FP RDS-certified goose down, while the shell and lining are both made from nylon ripstop fabric.

Read our full Columbia Infinity Summit Double Wall Down Hooded Jacket review

Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket

(Image credit: Rab)
A comfortable and versatile midrange 700FP down jacket with great environmental credentials that is a great choice for use in the damp winter weather

Specifications

Fill: GRS-certified 700-fill-power P.U.R.E recycled hydrophobic down
Sizes: Men’s: XXS–XXL; Women’s: UK 8–18
Weight (men's size M): 466.5g/16.4oz
Colors: Black / polar blue / deep ink / ascent red and more

Reasons to buy

+
Hydrophobic 700FP down fill and DWR-treated face fabric for water resistance
+
Warm enough for most outdoor users
+
Good value

Reasons to avoid

-
Seems slightly prone to down loss over time

As well as being one of the best down jackets you can buy, Rab’s Microlight jacket is one of the most popular around, worn and loved by outdoors types from dirtbag climbers to weekend hill-baggers. Increasingly, it has made the crossover into everyday wear too, and nowadays you’re as likely to see the Rab Microlight being worn by supermarket moms as summit mountaineers. There's a reason for its popularity: it’s a warm, effective and versatile layer.

The current version, the Microlight Alpine, also has impressive eco credentials. It boasts a fully recycled 30-denier ripstop nylon shell and a recycled lining, plus GRS-certified, 700-fill-power P.U.R.E recycled hydrophobic down. Additional features include three zipped, sensibly placed pockets, a handy stuff sack and an insulated hood with a stiffened peak. In fact, it’s mightily impressive that Rab have managed to create a single piece that adapts so well to so many different environments. It’s even a decent performer in classic damp British weather, especially compared to many other down jackets, thanks to its DWR-treated face fabric and a moisture-resistant fill.

Read our full Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket review

The best synthetic puffer jackets

best down jacket: Nathan Sports BFF Puffer Jacket

(Image credit: Nathan)
Lightweight, warm and versatile down alternative jacket

Specifications

Weight: 495g / 17.4oz
Materials: Outershell: 100% recycled polyester; Insulation: sustainable 95% recycled polyester, 5% feathers; Lining: 100% polyester
Sizes: XS-XXL
Colors: Men’s: Dark Charcoal / Peacoat / Aster blue / Black; Women’s: Dark charcoal / Peacock blue / Peacoat / Raspberry wine / Black

Reasons to buy

+
Insulation and outer shell made of recycled materials 
+
Alternative down is lightweight with up to 600 fill power
+
Fill doesn’t clump when wet 
+
Outer shell is windproof and water resistant
+
Zippers on fleece lined front hand pockets and interior chest pocket
+
Very packable with ideal warmth to weight ratio

Reasons to avoid

-
No hood
-
5% feather content in the insulation makes jacket unsuitable for vegans

The Nathan Sports BFF Puffer Jacket is a down-alternative puffy jacket that’s great as a versatile outerlayer. The 600 fill power alternative down is lightweight, recycled and water-resistant, while the Pertex Shield shell is water and wind resistant. An interior chest pocket is zippered so valuables stay safe, and two zippered hand pockets on the jacket are lined with a soft fleece and ideal for keep hands cozy. This alternative-down jacket works well for daily use in colder climates and also as a warm travel companion, but annoyingly, a hooded version of the Nathan Sports BFF Puffer Jacket is not yet available.

While this jacket does have a sporty look when paired with running tights or snow pants, when worn with jeans and even with dress pants, the Nathan BFF puffy comes in classic color options and is versatile enough to wear out to dinner or on the town. When the weather does turn more chilly, the elastic-bound buffs create a snug fit around the wrists so wind doesn’t get through.

Read our full Nathan Sports BFF Puffer Jacket review

Alpkit Kanyo down lacket

(Image credit: Alpkit)
A sustainably produced, great value insulated jacket with Primaloft Silver Eco fill, which makes this a light, packable and versatile layer for spring, summer and autumn adventures

Specifications

Fill: 100% recycled 60gm Primaloft Silver Eco
Sizes (unisex): XS–XXL
Weight (size M): 315g/14.2oz
Colors: Tarmac / Fern / Nemo

Reasons to buy

+
Simple and effective synthetic layer
+
Quick-drying, compressible fill that provides warmth even when wet
+
Eco-friendly recycled fabrics and fill
+
Extremely lightweight and packable

Reasons to avoid

-
Lots of stitching
-
No hood
-
Primaloft Silver fill isn’t the warmest synthetic insulation around

The Kanyo is a synthetic insulated jacket of deceptively simple design. It’s extremely light and packable, enabling you to take it pretty much anywhere. The fill is Primaloft Silver Eco, a continuous filament 100% recycled 60gm insulation that is both highly compressible and very durable. It’s not the highest performing synthetic fill but is still superior to any fleece, with far less bulk. It’s also easy to look after and will continue to insulate if damp, and even it does get a soaking it dries out quickly.

The Kanyo’s face fabric (also made from recycled materials) is fully windproof and water-repellent too, so it blocks breezes effectively whether you’re hillwalking, climbing or camping. Features are relatively simple but functional, and overall the Kanyo is a very good value pick – particularly since the shell and lining are made of hardwearing nylon rather than less durable polyester, and the whole package is impressively eco-friendly to boot.

Read our full Alpkit Kanyo puffer jacket review

Highlander Lewis synthetic down jacket

(Image credit: Highlander)
A great value insulating layer for hiking, camping and general outdoor use

Specifications

RRP: £100 (UK)
Fill: Tecloft synthetic fill (100% polyester)
Sizes: Men’s: XS / S / M / L / XL / 2XL; Women’s: XS / S / M / L / XL
Weight (men's size M): 350g/12oz
Colors: Grey / Forest green / Maroon

Reasons to buy

+
Great fit
+
Microfleece-lined hand pockets
+
Synthetic fill for improved moisture-resistance
+
Hard-wearing nylon shell
+
Good value 

Reasons to avoid

-
No hem drawcord
-
Hood design not the best
-
Main zip not fully insulated

Simple but effective, the great fit of this versatile jacket means it works pretty well as a standalone puffy or a midlayer, with synthetic fill for good moisture-resistance and a hard-wearing nylon shell for added durability. With a price tag that isn’t too scary, plus a decent warmth-to-weight ratio and a good set of features, it makes a useful standalone insulating layer for chilly days, and an equally practical midlayer when worn underneath a shell for wet and cold mountain adventures.  

This isn’t the most high-performing jacket around, but the Tecloft synthetic fill – a continuous filament insulation made from 100% polyester – still provides a welcome boost of warmth whenever the mercury plunges. 

All the zips are a reverse coil design for added water-resistance, with chunky zip pulls that are easy to grab with a gloved hand. The main zip only has a half baffle at the top of the jacket though. This ensures no chin irritation, but if it ran all the way to the bottom of the zip, you’d get better protection from draughts and moisture. Lastly, the face fabric of the jacket is made from high-tenacity nylon, so in terms of resistance to abrasion, it should outperform cheaper polyester alternatives.

Read our full Highlander Lewis synthetic jacket review

The best puffer jacket for climbers

best down jacket: Black Diamond Belay Parka

(Image credit: Black Diamond)
A classic beast of a belay jacket that feels extremely warm and protective, no matter how wild the weather

Specifications

RRP: $300 (US)/ £220 (UK)
Weight: 845g/1lb 13oz
Materials used: Shell 50D Ripstop woven (80gsm, 100% polyester), Insulation ThermoLite HL Eco-Made synthetic fill (200gsm, 100% polyester), Lining 20D nylon plain woven with DWR (37gsm)
Sizes: Men’s S-XL, Women’s XS-XL

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely warm
+
Moisture-resistant fill
+
Great hood

Reasons to avoid

-
Bulky when packed
-
Relatively heavy

Sometimes, the simplest approaches are the most effective. Black Diamond’s Belay Parka – the latest version of their classic Stance jacket – is a great example. The design is straightforward: it’s a water-resistant ripstop shell packed with chunky, wadded synthetic sheet insulation. So, you get thick 200gsm Thermolite High-Loft fill throughout (including the hood and arms as well as the body), which means this jacket can cope with temperatures down to freezing, and even a few degrees below. 

The generous cut makes this a great over-layer to throw on over everything else you happen to be wearing. It’s fuss-free and effective, especially once you cinch in the hood, which works very well whether you’re wearing a climbing helmet or not. You also get a practical two-way main zipper and large inner dump pockets to stash your gloves or a flask. And if you’re not belaying a partner, you’ll also love sticking your hands in the wonderfully cosy fleece-lined pockets.

Read our full Black Diamond Belay Parka review

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Best down jackets comparison table
Down jacketList priceWeightStyleBest use
Rab Infinity Microlight$280 (US) / £240 (UK)452g / 15.9ozHigh performance down jacketWinter and shoulder seasons: winter hiking and backpacking
Klättermusen Bore 2.0$790 (US) / £650 (UK)800g/28ozHigh performance goose down jacketExtreme winter conditions: winter and alpine mountaineering, high altitude climbing, polar expeditions
Helly Hansen Verglas Glacier Jacket$340 (US) / £260 (UK)561g / 1lb 3.8ozHigh performance down jacketWinter and shoulder seasons: winter hiking and backpacking
Jöttnar Thorne Jacket$375 (US) / £285 (UK)540g / 1lb 3ozHigh performance down jacketWinter and shoulder seasons: winter hiking and backpacking
Berghaus Arkos Reflect Jacket$325 (US) / £260 (UK)750g /1lb 10ozHigh performance down jacketWinter and shoulder seasons: winter hiking and backpacking
Montane Janhukot down jacket$290 (US) / £220 (UK)800g / 28.2ozHigh performance down jacketWinter and shoulder seasons: hiking, backpacking, climbing, winter and alpine mountaineering
Patagonia Fitz Roy Hoody$399 (US) / £380 (UK)485g / 17ozHigh performance down jacektWinter and shoulder seasons: hiking, backpacking, climbing, winter and alpine mountaineering
Jöttnar Fenrir$395 (US) / £295 (UK) / €335 (EU)390g/13.7ozHigh performance goose down jacketWinter and shoulder seasons: hiking, backpacking, climbing, winter and alpine mountaineering
Berghaus Ramche Mirco Reflect£300 (UK) / €340 (EU)310g/10.9ozHigh performance goose down jacketWinter and shoulder seasons: hiking, backpacking, climbing, winter and alpine mountaineering
Columbia Infinity Summit Double Wall Down Hooded Jacket$240 (US) / £225 (UK)510g / 18ozHigh performance goose down jacketWinter and shoulder seasons: hiking, backpacking, climbing, winter and alpine mountaineering
Rab Microlight Alpine£195 (UK) / €230 (EU)466.5g / 16.4ozHigh performance recycled, hydrophobic down jacketWinter and shoulder seasons: hiking, backpacking, climbing winter and alpine mountaineering
Nathan Sports BFF Puffer Jacket$200 (US)495g / 17.4ozSynthetic insulated jacketAll year round: hiking, backpacking, hut-to-hut trekking, winter walking, climbing
Alpkit Kanyo£100 (UK) / €114 (EU)315g / 14.2ozSynthetic insulated jacketAll year round: hiking, backpacking, hut-to-hut trekking, winter walking, climbing
Highlander Lewis synthetic jacket£100 (UK)350g / 12ozSynthetic insulated jacketAll year round: hiking, backpacking, hut-to-hut trekking, winter walking, climbing
Black Diamond Belay Parka$300 (US) / £220 (UK)845g/1lb 13ozSynthetic insulated belay jacketWinter and shoulder seasons: cold climbing days

How to choose the right down jacket

As with almost all outdoor kit, the best down jacket or puffer for you will depend on a number of factors – not least, when and where you’ll be wearing it. In addition, though the primary function of a puffer jacket is to provide insulation – ie to keep you warm – this can be balanced with other factors such as weight, bulk, breathability and pack size.

As a rule of thumb, the bigger and heavier the jacket, the warmer it will be. But if you’ll be moving fast or tend to run hot, bear in mind that most insulated jackets will be too warm for active use, unless expressly designed to offer breathability. Jackets usually achieve this by employing a hybrid construction, blending air-permeable and wicking fabrics alongside lightweight fills for warmth.

We've got an in-depth guide explaining how to choose a down jacket or puffy jacket, but here's a breakdown of what you need to look out for

Fill

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The fill or insulation contained within the jacket is what makes a classic puffer, well… ‘puffy’. This is what provides warmth. This fill can be comprised of natural goose or duck down, synthetic fills (usually polyester), other natural fibres like wool, or a blend of these materials.

Down is the fine plumage that lies beneath the outer feathers of wildfowl like ducks and geese. It is nature’s best insulator, and in terms of warmth for weight, premium down is still superior to even the best man-made synthetic fills. Down is also highly compressible, soft and comfortable. It is, however, expensive to source.

In terms of insulating performance, some synthetic fills are getting closer to matching natural down. The main advantages of synthetic insulation are that it is more resistant to moisture than down, retaining its warmth even when wet. It is also fast drying, easy to care for and relatively cheap.

best down jacket: Columbia Infinity Summit Double Wall Down Hooded Jacket promo shot

The Columbia Infinity Summit Double Wall Down Hooded Jacket features premium 800FP RDS-certified goos down (Image credit: Columbia)

Design

While the fill weight and type of insulation used is what primarily dictates the warmth of a puffer jacket, factors like construction and overall design also have an impact.

Natural down and synthetic loose fills (sometimes called ‘short staple’ insulation) are made up of tiny individual clusters of fibres. This means that in order to provide effective insulation, they need to be contained in baffles, which are stitched panels into which the fill is blown. The shape, size and arrangement of the baffles all affect the capacity of the fill to loft or trap air, which is how a puffer jacket provides warmth. In addition, how they are constructed is important. The warmest expedition-style down jackets use box-wall construction. Basically, each baffle is a self-contained brick shape. Lighter jackets employ stitch-through construction, where each baffle is a sort of fabric sandwich, trapping the down between stitched seams. This is an easier method of manufacture that saves fabric and therefore weight, but it can also reduce loft and lead to cold spots at the stitching points.

Synthetic sheet insulation (sometimes called ‘continuous filament’ insulation) is a layer of polyester wadding housed between a face fabric and a lining. This is the method that is usually used for traditional belay jackets, which climbers use to stay warm when static, e.g. when belaying a climbing partner from a fixed position. Though some stitching is needed to keep this layer of wadding in place, it can usually be constructed in a much simpler way and is typically more windproof than a stitch-through jacket. It is not very breathable though, and also limits freedom of movement, making it less suitable for active use.

Many modern puffer jackets also now utilise a zoned or hybrid construction. This means that insulated areas are used alongside panels of more breathable or stretchy fabric – typically fleece – to make a puffer jacket more comfortable and provide better articulation for active use. You might find fleece inserts used along the sides or under the arms of a puffer jacket accordingly, with the insulation placed around the core. Hybrid construction can also enhance breathability, making for a more versatile garment that can be worn in a greater range of temperatures or for active as well as static use. Be aware, however, that if your primary need is for outright warmth, hybrid jackets are usually less windproof and less warm overall, since they have less insulation.

best down jacket: Kim Fuller wearing Nathan synthetic puffer

Many modern puffer jackets also now utilise a zoned or hybrid construction (Image credit: Kim Fuller)

Fabrics

The face fabric of a puffer jacket is almost always made from a synthetic fibre, either nylon or polyester. These are both synthetic fabrics that are windproof but breathable. They are also comparatively quick drying and can be made water-resistant by applying a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. Their tight weave is also good at preventing the fine insulating fibres or down clusters of a puffer jacket from escaping. Generally, puffer jackets employ these fabrics in lighter weights than waterproof shells to ensure good packability. This limits their durability and toughness, although modern innovations such as ripstop threads can improve these characteristics. But generally, a puffer jacket is a more delicate layer than most other bits of outdoor clothing, and as a result it should be treated with greater care.

Features

Since your hands and head tend to get cold as well as your core, most of the best down jackets have insulated hoods and handwarmer pockets, which are both useful features. They’re less important if you’re wearing a puffer jacket as a midlayer with a shell over the top, since your shell is likely to have its own hood and pockets will be less accessible anyway. Some users prefer a puffer jacket without a hood, as this can make them easier to wear as part of a layering system, and in any case, most hikers and climbers will carry or wear a warm beanie. But roomy pockets into which you can stuff hats and gloves when you’re not wearing them are worth having – as is a chest pocket, ideally inside the jacket, for keeping valuables or a smartphone safe.

best down jacket: another Columbia Infinity Summit Double Wall Down Hooded Jacket

The Columbia Infinity Summit Double Wall Down Hooded Jacket's 'double wall' construction is designed to block wind and eliminate cold spots (Image credit: Columbia)

Weight and pack size

Since puffer jackets are often carried as extra layers to throw on when things turn chilly, weight and pack size can be important considerations. A heavy and bulky puffer jacket that takes up almost all the space in your pack and weighs you down is not particularly practical. That’s why warmth for weight and compressibility (or packability) are seen as so important for puffer jackets. The highest-performing fills offer superb warmth for weight ratios and are also very compressible to ensure a small pack size. Most jackets are also provided with a stuff sack or sometimes have an integrated pack pocket so you can stow them away neatly and efficiently.

Fit

The thermal efficiency of a puffer jacket is greatly influenced by how it fits. Size it too big, and you’ll have plenty of dead air inside the jacket to try and warm up. Loose fitting cuffs, hems and hoods can also leak vital heat. On the other hand, a jacket that is too tight may not allow the fill to loft effectively, limiting its warmth. This can also have a bellows effect, when the movements of your body effectively push trapped warm air out of the jacket.

Generally, a puffer jacket should allow room for a baselayer and a fleece underneath. If you plan to wear it as a midlayer, it should be trim enough to fit underneath your windproof or waterproof shell. If you plan to wear it as an overlayer, similar to a climbers’ belay jacket, you might want it to be a little more accommodating.

Matthew Jones

An outdoors writer and editor, Matt Jones has been testing kit in the field for nearly a decade. Having worked for both the Ramblers and the Scouts, he knows one or two things about walking and camping, and loves all things adventure, particularly long-distance backpacking, wild camping and climbing mountains – especially in Wales. He’s based in Snowdonia and last year thru-hiked the Cambrian Way, which runs for 298 miles from Cardiff to Conwy, with a total ascent of 73,700 feet – that’s nearly 2½ times the height of Everest. Follow Matt on Instagram and Twitter.

With contributions from