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What to Look for in a Puffy Jacket

A puffy down jacket is an essential piece of gear in any outdoor arsenal.

patagonia micro puff jacket
Joe Tornatzky

A puffy down jacket is an essential piece of gear in any outdoor arsenal. But details about materials, weight and other specifications can make choosing the right jacket a dizzying prospect. Here are the most important details you need to know when you’re picking a puffer.

Natural vs Synthetic Down

Natural down insulation is made from the soft, warm and light feathers a duck or goose has under its exterior coat. Synthetic down jackets emulate this, usually with strands of polyester, for a warm but slightly heavier end result. Synthetic down boasts advantages in durability and water resistance that can outweigh the downsides if you don’t care about a few ounces here and there.

Fill Power

Fill power is a measure of how efficient natural down is. The higher the fill power, the more air the down can trap per ounce of weight. Premium goose down can reach a fill power of up to 900fp, while duck only gets to 800fp. Synthetic down’s warmth is measured not by fill power, but by weight in grams. Typical synthetic jackets fall between 50 and 130 grams of fill; the more, the heavier, the warmer. But unlike natural down, you can’t easily compare one formulation of synthetic down to another.


An RDS (Responsible Down Standard) badge applies to natural down and signifies certain animal care standards along the jacket’s supply chain—among them, no live plucking and no force feeding. Jackets with Bluesign certification, meanwhile, meet various standards prohibiting the use of hazardous chemicals and minimizing emissions during production.


The average weight of a down jacket is between 8 ounces and a pound. That is to say, from slightly heavier than a typical windbreaker, to about half the weight of a leather jacket or peacoat. Synthetic fill jackets tend to run a few ounces heavier for comparable warmth. A good benchmark for weight for an everyday jacket is between 10 and 20 ounces.


Down performs poorly when wet, so jackets need an outer fabric made of nylon or polyester, which are durable, strong and lightweight. Nylon is stronger and stretchier, while polyester is slightly more abrasion-resistant. With either fabric, look for water-repellent treatments like DWR. Some activewear-oriented styles will also feature spandex to help maintain flexibility and stretch. Synthetic down stays warmer when wet, but you’ll still want water-repellent coating.


A down jacket can cost anywhere from $99 to $400. Synthetic coats run the same range. You may balk at the notion of a jacket that costs as much as a beginner bike, but top-tier jackets are designed for the harshest of alpine environments where durability is essential and every ounce is a burden.

For a daily driver, err on the side of budget options. If you’re looking for a daily driver that will keep you warm on hikes, bike rides, camping or a walk to the store, the more affordable offerings will treat you well.

Nano Puff® Hoody

Patagonia patagonia.com
Filling PlumaFill synthetic insulation
Fabric NetPlus (recycled fishing nets)
Weight 9 ounces
Certification Fair Trade Certified
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Matthew Stacey

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