When it’s sub-zero outside – on those cold winter days that make you feel like you’re limbs are literally going to freeze solid and snap off – it’s at this very moment that we say – thank you, Mr Eddie Bauer, for creating the puffer! You’re a bloody legend.
There have obviously been a few modern variations over the years but the concept pretty much remains the same. The key is understanding where you want to wear it, and what for.
First, there are a few things you’ll want to consider, such as how your puffer’s insulation performs in the conditions you’re going to use it in. If you’re buying goose or duck down, then be aware that moisture such as rain and snow can quickly turn you into a shivering wreck without the right exterior shell – so water resistance is really important.
If you’re using your jacket to explore the great outdoors, synthetic insulation offers great movement, warmth and breathability on climbs, slopes or altitude treks. They’re also great for transitions in varying conditions and generally easier to store. Synthetic is less green in an ever more eco-conscious world, however, strides have been made to change this recently, and you can even buy synthetic-down hybrids.
There are also other things to think of, such as do you need a hood to protect yourself from winds? Do you need a hip cut to free up leg movement or something longer if you plan to be less mobile?
Whether you’re out for a statement winter piece or something for your next mountain adventure – here we’ll help you find the perfect puffer to keep you snug and stylish throughout the cold season.
Arc’teryx has been at the forefront of Canadian technical outdoor apparel since 1989 from their native North Vancouver home. They’re closely associated with climbing, snowboarding and hiking related activities so they definitely know a thing or two about the cold. Their Cerium LT Jacket is a versatile, lightweight puffer with exceptional warmth. It can be worn as a mid-layer or on its own whether you’re trekking cross-country or popping into town for a spot of shopping. Arcteryx has used down composite mapping to give a trimmer, insulated fit without losing out on warmth - all protected by The Arato 10 shell.
Belstaff is a British brand with a real heritage going back to 1924 that has recently become popular with hip motorcyclists. But it’s aviation that is the inspiration behind their Waxed Jacket, a ridiculously stylish puffer fit for any occasion. It’s crafted from water-repellant dry wax cotton filled with down feathers. It’s high-collar with slip pockets are pure class, and there’s even a couple of handy vents under the arms for added breathability. It also has a foldable hood, elastic cuffs and a corduroy neck for great practicality.
If you want to brave the winter in Sweden you’ve got to have a jacket that’s up to the task. Stockholm brand Fjallraven has been on the go since 1960, producing expedition level outerwear made to withstand those cutting Scandinavian chills. This Down Lite jacket is a modern take on their classic Expedition puffer from 1974. It’s made for milder climates than the north pole but should do enough to keep you feeling super warm thanks to a duck down and feather fill, a nylon DWR shell (free from PFC), and a zip closure with storm flap for those cutting winds.
Helly Hansen is by far the oldest brand on the list, and definitely one of the best for sports jackets. The company was set up in Norway all the way back in 1877 - earning the Paris Expo Excellence diploma just one year later - and the brand has stayed at the top since. Their Verglas Down Insulator is one of those pieces that can be worn by anyone, anywhere, whether you’re an 18-year-old cross country skier or an 80-year-old cross country walker. It’s extremely soft, warm and snug thanks to Pertex Ripstop down fabric, and can easily be used for layering.
Canada Goose is the puffer jacket specialists. They’ve been producing garments for extreme cold in Ontario since 1957. Their hooded padded jacket is more in line with the urban winter, something sleek and sharp looking, away from the big bulky creations we so often associate them with. Insulation is a mix of feather down and recycled synthetic content with a dazzling nylon outer shell. It features a light hood with thumb-holed cuffs to keep you protected to the max. For such a thin, fine jacket, warm is never compromised, making it ideal if you’re travelling around in autumn or winter.
Founded in 1952 by René Ramillion and André Vincent, Moncler is an abbreviation of Monestier-de-Clermont, the town in which they came from near Grenoble in the French Alps. They initially started making jackets to protect walkers from the cold and have pretty much stayed at the top since. Their Taku Hooded Quilted Down jacket is made for life on two skis, as warm as it is stylish. It has a technical, water-resistant outer shell that is generously padded with goose down. It features a large, comfortable hood with thumbhole cuffs, keeping the snow on the right side of your gloves. With this French beauty, you certainly get what you pay for.
Californian brand Mountain Hardwear has been inspiring outdoor enthusiasts with their clothing solution since 1993. They’re not super expensive and produce some real quality garments, such as this StretchDown piece, a perfect stand-alone jacket or mid-layer. It’s incredibly stretchy making it perfect for treks and climbs, as well as being light and easy to pack. It’s made with a knit fabric that offers more comfort than standard down alternatives and retains maximum loft even when wet. This puffer is a great allrounder for those who love to be outside all winter long.
Even though Napapijiri carried the Norwegian flag for its logo, and its name sounds like something from India, they are in fact Italian. The brand came about in 1987 near Mont Blanc, the biggest mountain in the Alps, when a team of climbers decided they wanted to move away from producing bags and into mountain wear. Their Ari Back Log Jacket is great value for money, and perfect for keeping you warm around town. It’s filled with synthetic thermo-fibre insulation, covered by a water-resistant polyamide shell. It features a press stud closure, two front pockets and a funnel neck.
The North Face
US outerwear giant, The North Face, has been specialising in climbing outerwear since 1966 when Douglas and Susie Tomkins opened their first retail store in San Francisco. They’ve put their years of experience in some of the world’s most inhospitable climates to great use, and now create pieces for that can be used by mountaineers and city slickers alike, such as this 1996 Retro Nupse Jacket. Although it uses 100% duck down it has a DWR (Durable Water Repellant) shell that offers great protection from the wind and rain. It also features a stowable hood and high loft baffles that create a boxy silhouette.
London brand Olebar Brown has come a long way since exploding onto the scene in 2007 with their stylish shorts. Their collections now cover all types of men’s clothing, including killer winter jackets. This Hilgard Technical Jacket has a shell weaved from woven Korean fabrics that are both water-resistant and highly durable for warmth and peace of mind. 650-fill power down insulation means you won’t lose heat when the temperature plummets - whilst a chin guard and hood protect your face and head from sideways rain and snow.
Kelly Slater’s Outerknown label may have only been around a couple of years but they’re making big strides with sustainable clothing. This fall (US) they’ve come up with a light and stylish puffer for those who are neither rich nor cheapskates, sitting somewhere comfortably in the middle. This mid-layer jacket is ideal to use outdoors and as a fashion piece thanks to its small baffles and military green hue. As you would expect, its insulation is made up of recycled polyester with a natural DWR coating. It’s also super compact and easy to throw in a backpack or carry-on for a weekend away.
Patagonia is a standard-bearer in the world of winter outerwear. For nearly 50 years they have been producing innovative layers for some of the planet’s most testing conditions. Their Nano Puff jacket is all the best things the brand offer rolled into one nice, compact package. The ripstop shell is made from 100% recycled polyester with DWR properties and a brick quilted pattern. Excellent warmth is assured thanks to 60g Prima-Loft Gold Insulation, which is a blend of highly compressible, recycled fabrics that also offer water resistance. It’s also bluesign and fairtrade certified, meaning it’s not only made from sustainable fabrics but it’s also ethically produced.
Ralph Lauren Polo
Ralph Lauren has entered the puffer market with a very reasonably priced jacket for such a major fashion house - and it looks great. Yes, we associate Lauren with jumpers, polos and suits, but this El Cap Down Filled puffer is perfect for winter protection. It’s nicely coloured for a start, bright without being flashy, with a synthetic water-repellent shell. It’s filled with down feathers to keep you snug and features a detachable hood and two side pockets. There’s also a drawstring hem to keep blustery winds out whilst holding heat in.
Inspired by the Great British explorer of the same name, Shackleton was set up in 2016 to produce high-performance winterwear for expedition type extremes. They use materials that have been tried and tested in both Arctic and Antarctica conditions. Their Black Wild Down Jacket weighs on 700g and is packable to an impressive 1.5 cubic litres. Shackleton has used power goose down sourced in Europe for insulation, with a fantastic windproof and water-resistant shell. There’s also a removable hood, with drawcord for further protection. This bad boy will keep you cosy in anything up to -20°C and is the ideal winter travel accessory.
Stone Island was founded in Italy by Massimo Osti in 1982 and has become a leader in high-quality sports casual wear - made for dapper chaps in jeans and sneakers. Their Crinkle Reps Down Jacket slightly reinvents the classic puffer style and is somewhere between a bomber and a ski jacket. Either way it looks great, and a full down fill with nylon shell will keep you warm and cosy. It also features a packable hood, three front pockets and ribbed cuffs and hem.
Japnese high-street giants Uniqlo have made their name from simplicity, getting the basics right and creating well-made clothing for those with a tighter budget. Their Ultra Light Down Puffer Jacket is a great way to stay warm when you’re on the go, whether you’re on your way to meet mates or a chilly morning commute. It’s insulated by 90% down and 10% feathers and comes with a water-repellent (for light rain) nylon shell available in six snazzy colours. It has elastical cuffs for added comfort and is light and easy to store once you’re back in the warm.