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

What is a Puffer (or Puffy) Insulated Jacket?


So you have decided that you need a warm coat for winter. Next you need to determine when you will wear the jacket most. Are you looking for a layer to toss on any time you walk outside? Do you want a jacket that seamlessly transitions from dog walks to work to a nice evening out? Or are you looking for a puffy to keep you warm while you eat lunch on a windy mountain summit, before you hike or ski back down?

If you are in the market for an everyday coat to be your main defense against cold, this is the category for you. The longer styles of puffer jackets, which can be filled with either down or synthetic insulation, are fantastic for errands and commutes in the cold of winter. These thigh-length casual parkas provide additional warmth through increased coverage. By covering your rear with insulation, more of your body is protected from cold and wind, keeping you warmer all over. These parkas also offer a lot of style and class. The only downside is that the longer hem restricts leg mobility. Most designs compensate for this by having two-way zippers, so you can unzip from the bottom to allow for a longer stride and wider range of movement.

Most casual women’s parkas come with fleece-lined hand pockets, hoods and cozy sleeve cuffs. Note the extra details that will make living in your jacket more comfortable and pleasing.

There are no items in this category.