The Best Men’s Puffer Jackets
When cold weather rolls in and you need a thick outer layer to keep you warm, a puffer jacket (sometimes also called a puffy jacket) should be your first choice. A typical puffer jacket is thick and toasty and is the style that is ideal for keeping you warm in winter weather even if you are standing still. These parkas are best for activities ranging from the mundane, such as shoveling the driveway and walking the dog, to the more extreme, like belaying while ice climbing or rock climbing in winter months, car camping, winter camping, overnight ski-touring and mountaineering.
A puffer jacket can be insulated with down, synthetic, or a combination of the two. Down is a naturally occurring insulation that has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any insulation, meaning you can find an incredibly warm down jacket that weighs little and compresses very small. The fault of down is that when it gets wet, it clumps and does not insulate as well, though some new treatments to down help mitigate this. Synthetic insulation is more tolerant of getting wet and still insulating, but tends to be bulkier and heavier.
We most recently tested the best men’s puffer jackets on mountaineering and ice climbing trips from the Rockies to Chamonix. In that test, the best warm winter jackets for men were:
Brooks-Range Mojave Down Jacket
Marmot Greenland Baffled Jacket
Mountain Hardwear B’Layman Jacket
Sierra Designs TOV Dridown
Mountain Hardwear Nilas Jacket
Helly Hansen Odin Belay
The Best Women’s Puffer Jackets
Everyone needs a winter jacket: a warm layer to throw on when you head outside during the months between November and March, whether you are planning a dawn patrol skin up a local peak or simply grocery shopping. This category includes the long casual parkas ideal for keeping warm in winter weather during everyday tasks and chores. These fashionable jackets can be worn for any winter activity that involves walking out the front door: from running errands, shoveling the front walk, to stepping out to meet a friend for coffee or attend a dinner party. The extra length of these parkas, which typically extends to mid-thigh, adds more coverage and therefore more warmth. However, this length limits leg mobility, making jackets of this style less than ideal for athletic activities and more suited to casual wear.
Many quality winter jackets are filled with down insulation, which provides significant warmth at a comfortable low weight. One version in our test was filled with more water-resistant synthetic insulation.
We recently tested the best women’s puffer jackets in the winter of 2016 during Midwestern winter storms and everyday life in the Rocky Mountains. In that test, the best women’s parkas were:
Columbia Women’s Hexbreaker Long Down Jacket
The North Face Hooded Thermoball Parka
Mountain Hardwear Nitrous Hooded Down Parka
Patagonia Lightweight Fiona Down Parka
Eddie Bauer’s Astoria Hooded Down Parka
The Best Men’s Lightweight Insulated Jackets
The lightweight insulated jacket is the perfect packable layer for high-heat activities when you are moving and sweating but need an insulation layer when you stop or if the temperature drops. This is the versatile layer preferred for activities such as backpacking, fast-packing, multi-pitch rock climbing, single-day backcountry skiing, and cold-weather trail running.
These lightweight jackets come with either down or synthetic insulation and most can pack down into a pocket or stuff sack. A down puffy makes for an excellent compressible, ultralight layer, so if you are worried about gear weight, that is probably your best choice. If you plan to do a lot of recreating in a wet environment or want to wear your insulated jacket as a midlayer underneath a shell jacket, you may be in the market for a synthetic insulated jacket. Synthetic insulation does not suffer the same vulnerability to moisture as down insulation, so it can handle a little precip or a sweat-soaking while retaining its insulating ability. Jackets filled with synthetic insulation also offer more abrasion resistance, and are therefore less fragile than down jackets.
Some of the models we evaluated are hybrid jackets that combine soft-shell materials with insulation or feature an insulated core with thin, mobile sleeves. These hybrid models are designed to be more breathable and therefore should be worn while on the go, weather that is approaching a multi-pitch ice climb in the dead of winter or keeping you warm on your dark morning runs.
We most recently tested the best men’s lightweight insulated jackets in the winter of 2016 and spring of 2017 while guiding and climbing in central Mexico. In that test, the best lightweight insulated jackets were:
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded Jacket
Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody
Outdoor Research Uberlayer Hooded Jacket
Brooks-Range Mountaineering Alpha Softshell Jacket
Black Diamond Equipment First Light Hoody
Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid
Arc’teryx Proton AR Hoody
Marmot Isotherm Jacket
Rab Generator Stretch Jacket
Smartwool PhD Smartloft Full-Zip Jacket
Ibex Aire WI Sweater
The Best Women’s Lightweight Insulated Jackets
The lightweight insulated jacket is the ideal warm layer for winter aerobic pursuits when you are moving most of the day but require a warm jacket for breaks and bad weather. This compressible and packable insulation layer, which often stuffs into a pocket or an included stuff sack, is best for sports such as backpacking, hiking, snowshoeing, cool weather trail running, day-trip ski tours, and multi-pitch rock climbing. If you want a jacket that can handle just about any winter mission that you can dream up, a lightweight insulated jacket is what you are after.
Our test of women’s lightweight insulated jackets includes two distinct types, which are both useful, but in different scenarios: the down insulated jacket and the synthetic insulated jacket. Down is lighter weight for the warmth provided and stuffs down very small, so a jacket filled with down is best for ultralight activities in dry climates. Modern synthetic insulation is making gains on down insulation in terms of low weight and compressibility. There are lightweight synthetic insulated jackets on the market that are comfortable, functional and do not suffer an aversion to moisture. This water resistance and better abrasion resistance makes a synthetic jacket tougher than a down option, so synthetic insulated pieces are better for wet climates and trips that are hard on gear.
We recently tested the best women’s lightweight insulated jackets in the winter of 2016 during Midwestern winter squalls, during cold weather in the Colorado Rockies, and during winter and spring sports around Lake Tahoe, California. In that test, the best women’s lightweight insulated jackets were:
Rab Strata Hoody
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (Women’s)
Patagonia Nano Air Hoody
The North Face Thermoball Hoody
Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody
Arc’teryx Cerium LT (women’s)
Montbell Frost Smoke Parka (Women’s)
Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic
High Sierra Molo Hybrid
Columbia Powerfly (Women’s)
Patagonia Hi-Loft Down Sweater Hoody (Women’s)
Marmot Jena Jacket (Women’s)
Sierra Designs Super Stratus Jacket (Women’s)