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The Best Puffer Jacket for Every Winter Adventure

Insulation and a quilt-like stitch pattern give these jackets their shape.

a collage featuring puffer jackets from aritzia, the north face and huckberry

"Puffer jackets, down jackets. What's the difference?" you, probably. Well, all down jackets are puffers (for the most part) but not all puffers are down jackets. Down refers to the material each little quilted pocket is stuffed with. Puffer is merely an aesthetic descriptor of the puff created by particular stitching patterns. Some "puffer" jackets aren't stuffed but simply designed to look so.

History of Puffer Jackets

Eddie Bauer designed the first puffer, the Skyliner, in 1936 after he nearly froze to death on a fishing trip. Like sleeping bags, his padded jackets insulated the wearer, trapping in heat and keeping them warm (and in Eddie's case alive). A few decades later the style made its way into the fashion sphere, courtesy of womenswear designer Norma Kamali (with her Sleeping Bag Coat) and luxury label Moncler (with its colorful Alpine coats).

Nowadays the style's everywhere: hidden in collab collections between Drake and Nike, worn like a uniform by British rappers, and trusted by every college-aged adult in America living on a campus where even the cold can't stop the party.

What to Look for


Some brands favor straight-across stripes, which create stacked pillows down the jacket. Others opt for squares, which give jackets a quilted look. Plenty create their own patterns, too, like ultra-thick puffs or Chevron-like lines. No matter the differences in their intricacies, all of the jackets on this list share a primary function: to keep the wearer warm, and they do it with down.


Down is sourced from underneath the rougher outer feathers of ducks or geese. This cross-section keeps them warm all winter, and it works pretty well on humans, too. That being said, moisture is the undoing of down, which causes it to clump up and lose its heat-retaining abilities. Down is stuffed inside these sewn pockets to keep moisture out, thus keeping you warm.

And while most good down is made from the under-feathers from duck or geese, we must note that while down-sourced by big brands such as Patagonia and The North Face is done so ethically, animal cruelty does happen across the industry. That's why synthetic counterparts exist, and while they're animal-friendly, they aren't all that sustainable. And when you compare natural down to its synthetic counterpart, down insulation performs best.

How to Style a Puffer Jacket

Nowadays, puffer jackets have a streetwear slant, which means they're often comically puffy and most commonly paired with sweatpants and sneakers. (In the UK, it's known as the "skin fade and North Face jacket combo.") That's probably the best way to wear one, in my opinion — I'd never wear a puffer with dress pants, for example. Try to keep your outfit casual — maybe even a little sporty. Puffers are comfortable, so keep the rest of your outfit consistent.

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How We Tested
collage of three men in puffer jackets
Gear Patrol Staff

Several Gear Patrol staffers put popular puffer jackets to the test through peak winter weather. We assessed how the jackets fit and felt but also how warm they were and whether they were even too warm for some situations. Our insights informed this list, which features a few puffers we've reviewed in full.

Best Overall Puffer Jacket
The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse Jacket
Best Upgrade Puffer Jacket
Nobis Supra Puffer
Best Affordable Puffer Jacket
Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Parka
best Retro puffer jacket
Rocky Mountain Featherbed The Heritage Down Puffer Jacket
Best Fashion Puffer Jacket
Aritzia The Super Puff
Goldwin Pertex Quantum Down Puffer Jacket
Relwen Quilted Tanker Jacket
Lululemon Wunder Puff Jacket
Columbia Ballistic Ridge Oversized Puffer
Globe Prime Down Jacket
Patagonia Jackson Glacier Down Jacket
Rains Puffer Jacket
More Jackets for Keeping Warm
Chase Pellerin

Explore the following guides to find more of our top jacket recommendations.

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