The best synthetic puffer jackets 2024: feather-free padding to keep out the winter chill

Collage of eight of the best puffer jackets on white background
(Image credit: Future)

While many outdoor enthusiasts swear by their down jacket, the best synthetic puffer jackets are often cheaper, and more suited to wet conditions. In the depths of winter, having one of the best synthetic puffers can help give you the extra insulation you need for the coldest of expeditions, without breaking the bank.

Of course, a down jacket does the same job, but they are generally much more expensive than all but the very the best synthetic puffers. Utilizing down-mimicking polyester fibres, synthetic puffers boast similar insulating qualities to down at a fraction of the price. Most puffers also retain their thermal properties when wet, unlike many down jackets.

What the best down jackets and the finest synthetic jackets have in common is style. You're just as likely to see a quality puffer on the street as you are on the peaks and ridges, so universal is the appeal of their pleasing warmth and stylish aesthetics.

While all the puffers featured here have street-ready looks, they're also high-performing jackets that won't let you down in the backcountry. You might also want to check out our guide to the best women's down jackets and puffers, which are better suited to the female form.

The quick list

This is our quick list, a brief overview of the best synthetic puffer jackets available today. To find out more about each jacket, see our more detailed write ups further down the page in this guide.

best hiking backpacks: Matt Jones
Matthew Jones

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. 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.

The best synthetic puffer jackets we recommend in 2024

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The best all rounder

best synthetic puffer jackets: Haglöfs Särna Jacket in snowy hills

(Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

1. Haglöfs Särna Mimic Hood

A distinctive and classy puffer jacket that's as at home in the backcountry as on the streets

Specifications

Weight: 476g / 16.7.oz
Materials: Outer: 100% polyester with DWR treatment; Insulation: 100% recycled polyester
Sizes: Men’s: S-XXL; Women’s: XS-XXL
Colors: Men’s: Tarn Blue / Fjell Green / Tarn Blue+Nordic Blue / Autumn Leaves / Steel Blue / True Black / Olive Green+Aurora; Women’s: True Black / Tarn Blue+Frost Blue / Thyme Green+Olive Green / Autumn Leaves / Tarn Blue, Scarlet Red / Deep Pink+Ultra Pink

Reasons to buy

+
Good looking
+
Toasty
+
Retains thermal qualities when wet
+
Insulated hood
+
100% recycled polyester fill

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as packable as down
-
Pockets not ideally placed when wearing a backpack

The Särna Mimic Hood jacket from Swedish brand Haglöfs is a superb lightweight synthetic jacket. The fill is a fully recycled polyester that gives it a down-like feel, hence the Mimic in the name. Crucially, this light and lofty fibre has the advantage that it retains its thermal properties when wet, though it's not quite as packable as natural down. The outer fabric is also polyester, with a DWR treatment for fending off light rain. All the fabrics here are bluesign approved.

Its slanted baffle design gives it a distinctive aesthetic, while the inclusion of a hood makes it a good option for winter adventures. Haglöfs say it's at home on the mountains and in urban environments, something we agree with whole heartedly. Weighing in at 476g, it's neither ultralight nor too heavy. The zippered hand warmer pockets are a nice inclusion, though chest pockets would have been preferable when wearing a backpack. For something more lightweight, the Särna Mimic is also available without a hood.

The best for style

best synthetic puffer jackets: Napapijri puffer jacket

(Image credit: Sian Lewis)

2. Napapijri Alvar Short Jacket

A smart water resistant mid layer jacket that proves synthetic fill can be as warming as down

Specifications

Materials: Polyester and recycled synthetic insulation
Sizes: XXS-XL
Colors: Purple / Dark blue / Grey

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to layer
+
Recycled insulation
+
Avoids animal down
+
Smart looks

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Short on the body

Napapijri have been making Arctic-ready jackets for 30 years, so they know a thing or two about keeping your core cosy. We reckon Alvar jacket is a very good crowd-pleaser of a mid layer – it’s stuffed with synthetic insulation that’s lightweight but traps in warmth quickly, while a water-resistant outer material repels rain. We like the high-cut neck, which adds warmth and feels soft against your face. Good as a standalone jacket in autumn or under a waterproof shell in winter for hiking and skiing, and the sleek and simple cut is smart and flattering enough to wear casually, so you’ll get more bang for your buck.

While good looks shouldn’t be top of your shopping list when you buy an insulated jacket, they’re always a plus – and the Alvar comes in smart neutral colours and with a flattering, sleek fit that make it smart enough to wear down the pub or even as a standalone jacket to work when you aren’t in the great outdoors.

The best for warmth to weight

Nathan Sports BFF Puffer Jacket

(Image credit: Kim Fuller)
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 cuffs create a snug fit around the wrists so wind doesn’t get through.

Read our full Nathan Sports BFF Puffer Jacket review

The best for all day wear

Model wearing Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody down jacket on white background

(Image credit: Arc'teryx)

4. Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody

A great all-day midlayer for winter pursuits that will keep you warm without getting sweaty, thanks to its hybrid construction and versatile insulation

Specifications

Fill: Coreloft Compact insulation
Sizes (men's): XS–XXXL
Sizes (women's): XS–XXL
Weight (size M): 375g / 13.2oz
Colours (men's): Black / Dracaena / Paradox / Rhapsody / Kingfisher / Galactica / Elytron / Dynasty / 24K Black / Squid Ink
Colours (women's): Momentum / Bioprism / Zephyr / Helix / Sundance

Reasons to buy

+
Synthetic fill is quick-drying and provides warmth even when wet
+
Hybrid construction incorporates stretch fleece for excellent articulation

Reasons to avoid

-
Fleece panels not windproof
-
Slightly baggy hood
-
Expensive

Arc’teryx’s Atom LT Hoody has been a staple of the Canadian brand’s product range for multiple seasons. The secret to its enduring popularity is its versatility. It isn’t the warmest synthetic jacket around, but instead balances a general sense of cosiness with surprisingly good breathability. That’s down to its hybrid construction, with zoned panels of Coreloft Compact insulation combined with air-permeable side stretch fleece panels. There’s a soft but durable face fabric with a water repellent treatment too, making it a bit more resistant to external precipitation. But it really comes into its own when used as a midlayer for stop/start activities – which might include anything from winter snow sports to cold-weather mountaineering. In that context, it’s a superlative wear-all-day layer that manages to keep you warm without overheating. The super soft fabrics and accommodating fit also give high levels of comfort and articulation. All in all, it’s a very wearable layer, and we suspect many outdoorsy types would stick this on for more casual use too.

The best value

Highlander Lewis synthetic jacket

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

Specifications

Fill: Tecloft synthetic fill (100% polyester)
Sizes: Men’s: XS-2XL; Women’s: XS-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 for mountain missions

Páramo Torres Activo puffer jacket on white background

(Image credit: Páramo)
Warm and protective yet reasonably lightweight and packable too, the versatile Torres Activo works for a multitude of uses, from light belay jacket to cosy camping layer

Specifications

Fill: 60g Nikwax Insulator fill
Sizes: S–XXL
Weight (size M): 469g / 16.5oz
Colours (men's): Midnight / Puffin’s Bill
Colours (women's): Midnight / Carmine

Reasons to buy

+
Synthetic fill is quick-drying and provides warmth even when wet
+
Block insulation minimises cold spots
+
Lighter and more packable than comparable jackets

Reasons to avoid

-
Overall fit is broad, even slightly baggy in the chest
-
High pockets are awkward to place your hands in
-
Polyester face fabric comparatively less durable than nylon

The Torres Activo can be regarded as the little brother of Páramo’s oversized Torres Medio jacket, a classic synthetic belay-style jacket that is designed to be thrown on over all your other layers, including a waterproof, providing instant block insulation in tough conditions. The Activo isn’t quite as warm or as heavy, but that makes it slightly more versatile, so it can be employed as a reasonably lightweight and packable extra layer for mountain missions, wild camps or cold days on the trail.

The 60g Nikwax Insulator fill has all the classic benefits of synthetic insulation: it is hard-wearing, quick-drying and stays warm when wet. You also get a great ‘halo’ peaked hood with a cutaway profile for improved peripheral vision, zipped side pockets that are placed high up so as to be harness or hipbelt friendly, and long arms with Velcro cuff tabs to really cinch in the sleeves, even over a pair of gloves. The windproof face fabric adds to the general feeling of all-round protection from the elements and is treated with a PFC-free Nikwax DWR to add weather resistance.

The best for climbers

Black Diamond Belay Parka

(Image credit: Matthew Jones)
A beast of a belay jacket that feels extremely warm and protective

Specifications

Weight: 845g / 1lb 13oz
Materials: 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

The best eco option

Man wearing Jack Wolfskin Routeburn jacket

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
A lightweight puffer made with recycled synthetic material that fuses fashion with functionality

Specifications

Weight: 395g / 14oz (men's medium)
Materials used: Fill: Texatherm Pro Fluff Primaloft (100% recycled polyester) / Shell: Texashield (recycled polyester (95%) & elastane (5%)
Sizes: S-3XL
Colors (men's): Pacific blue / Dragon fire / Black olive / Cold coffee / Black / Dark sea / Wild brier / Greenwood / Blue Coral
Colours (women's): Graphite / Grapevine / Sangria red / Blue coral / New magenta / Dark maroon / Sea green

Reasons to buy

+
Underarm fleece inserts allow excellent freedom of movement
+
Good warmth to weight ratio
+
Recycled materials
+
Stylish design
+
Suitable for vegans

Reasons to avoid

-
No thumb hooks
-
No hood (on the men's version)
-
No pack sack

This stylish puffer jacket shields the wearer from the wind and supplies thermal protection that continues to work even when wet, thanks to the synthetic ‘Texatherm Pro Fluff’ fill, which is comprised entirely of pre-used polyester arranged in baffled panels across the coat to avoid clumping. The low bulk and trim cut means it works well as a warm midlayer, worn beneath a waterproof shell jacket in properly rainy or snowy conditions, but it also looks great and performs brilliantly as an outer layer in less soggy scenarios. 

The length is good, providing coverage to the top of the bum region, and the hem can be easily adjusted and tightened to keep chilly drafts from creeping in. Strangely, the women’s version has a hood while the men’s doesn’t, but the high neck provides protection from drafts right up to chin level, and a zip garage guards against painful skin or beard snagging. The cuffs are elasticated, but there are no thumb hooks. Storage is reasonable on this coat, which has a pair of hip pockets and an angled chest pocket on the left breast, all of which securely zip shut.

The Routeburn’s real point of difference to other good synthetic puffer jackets, though, is the inclusion of stretchy fleece panels under each arm, which makes it ideal for dynamic activities such as scrambling, climbing and hiking over rocky and technical terrain. This material is also more breathable than the shell fabric, which adds to comfort levels in warmer conditions. While the Texashield shell fabric boasts water repellency, however, these fleece panels do absorb and hold water, so an outer layer is required in seriously soggy conditions.

Sustainably made with 100% recycled synthetic fill and shell material, this bluesign certified coat is perfect for environmentally conscious people who’d prefer not to wear garments made with animal products. Colorways differ depending on whether you’re in the US or the UK, but there’s a good selection on both sides of the Atlantic.