The best puffer jackets really bring the heat

The best puffer jackets for men are harder to find than you might think. Of course, in the death of winter, puffer jackets are everywhere you look: slung over the backs of office chairs, draped over bar stools, piled high on restaurant banquettes, whizzing over snow-covered streets. But consider the countless ways to go wrong with a puffer. Too bloated and you’ll look like you’re wearing George Costanza‘s infamous Gore-Tex coat. Too bare bones and you’ll wish you were after a jacket with more down filling. And even if you get the fit right, most sad winter jackets fail the Kondo test: They inspire literally zero joy.


The best puffer jackets at a glance


But best puffer jackets for men are the antidote to the dull, shapeless sleeping bag you probably already have in your closet. They come in unique silhouettes, they’re made with innovative fabrics, and they feature some eye-catching colors that will actually make a winter pass instead of sabotaging it. If you play your cards right, they can also be the best piece of outerwear you own when the weather is cold well past the hibernation season. But first some useful information…

Down Fill Powers Explained

Once you get the vibe from a puffer jacket, you may have clicked into the product details only to find way more numbers than you were prepared for. 500 fill? 650-fill equivalent? These refer to something called Down Fill Power, a numerical rating that indicates the quality of down insulation. Basically, the higher the number, the better the insulation. High-fill powers tend to be 700 and above. But just because you have a 900-fill power jacket doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be the warmest. The amount of down insulation in a jacket also matters. While a lightweight jacket might contain 900-fill down insulation, a 600-fill jacket with twice the amount of down would actually be warmer.

But not all down is created with actual down feathers. Down alternatives, such as recycled polyester and natural kapok, have become increasingly popular among more earth-conscious and animal welfare-conscious consumers. While friendlier options are welcome, it also makes the rating system more confusing. Because there are so many different materials used as down alternatives, each one has different insulating properties that don’t often directly translate to a down filling effect. Some brands will label their jackets with a ‘down fill equivalent’ to approximate the warmth level of the more conventional system. (You can think of this as comparing wattage between LED bulbs and incandescent bulbs.) Sometimes you get a temperature rating that tells you how cold the jacket is rated for. It can be useful in some ways, but you should know that these ratings are based on laboratory controlled environments. In the real world, other factors come into play, such as the level of physical activity and whether you run hot or cold.

Other details to watch out for

DWR coating: A DWR coating, or Durable Water Repellent coating, helps keep the garment waterproof. In the heat of winter, you may encounter rain and snow, which could instantly nullify any warm qualities your jacket may have had.

Waterproof seams: Even with the best DWR coating, seams and zippers provide opportunities for water to penetrate. So jackets with heat-sealed seams and waterproof zippers significantly improve a puffer’s weather resistance.

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