The Best Women's Puffer Jackets
Down and synthetic technologies have come a long way (and wool is even making a place in the insulation marketplace). While the majority of the parkas in this test are down, The North Face Hooded Thermoball Parka performed exceptionally well and I was surprised when it almost took our Best In Class. In fact, Columbia’s Hexbreaker beat out the Thermoball for BIC in the warmth mini-rating due to its Omniheat technology, not necessarily its lofted insulation.
The parkas in the test were under 1.5 lbs and between $199-350, with Eddie Bauer at the bottom of the pricing scale and Patagonia at the top. The ratings used were comfort/fit, quality, warmth, features, and style.
I am 5’8” with a average size chest and a curvy lower body. This makes longer jackets a tricky fit as I am between a M and a L. The jackets in the test were all a size L (except for the Mountain Hardwear which was a M), and all except the Mountain Hardwear and The North Face were big in the chest. The North Face Thermoball was the only jacket that nailed the fit for my body type. I recommend going up a size if you are between sizes, because a tight fit in the lower body does not allow insulation room to loft—resulting in poor performance from a warmth perspective.
Lastly, this test uniquely tries to quantify the balance of style and function. In order to assess style, I used my ten years of experience in the fashion industry and my assessments of the uniqueness and creativity applied to the functional aspects of the parkas (i.e. baffling, wrist cuffs, hoods, etc.). There are some exciting things happening on the design front in the lifestyle/travel category of the outdoor sphere—a welcome change from the purely technical designs of yesteryear. The Mountain Hardware and North Face jackets were the most fashion forward pieces in the test. The North Face was my favorite jacket from versatility standpoint.
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